Many classic furniture styles will never lose their appeal, still furniture designers work hard to make sure today’s pieces fit the needs and lifestyles of 21st-century families. Twice yearly, the furniture industry gathers in High Point, North Carolina, to exhibit their latest designs. Trends that emerge appear in retail stores within a few months, and new classic styles are born. Here's a summary of the most-recent exhibition.
In a culture so dominated by choice—where we can choose from hundreds of ring tones on our cell phones—furniture makers are now offering their customers more custom upholstery options, without budget-breaking price tags. Look for sofas and other upholstered pieces that can be customized with different fabrics, a range of arm styles and various skirt or leg styles. Even better, you won’t have to wait forever for your sofa to arrive at your new home.
“The result for consumers is the opportunity to order upholstered furniture just the way they want it—often without the 10- to 12-week delivery schedule typical for ‘custom’ upholstery,” says Jackie Hirschaut of the American Home Furnishings Alliance.
Take, for example, Norwalk’s new Variations program, that offers dozens of possible combinations for its sofas—including arm styles, cushion options, wood bases, skirts and over 1,000 fabrics. These custom sofas and chairs will be delivered in 30 days, says Norwalk’s CEO, Jim Gerken.
AU, a subsidiary of custom leather producer American Leather, even offers made-to-order sofa sleepers, delivered in 30 days or less. Customers can choose from 25 different fabrics and a range of bed sizes, from king to cot size.
The American Home Furnishings Alliance outlines a few more furnishing trends:
More clean-lined, casual contemporary upholstery is appearing in showrooms as manufacturers aim for younger, metropolitan consumers. Another potential pool of customers is found in the Baby Boomers, who are looking to furnish smaller empty nests. At the upper end of the contemporary casual trend, the look is sleek and elegantly tailored. More moderately priced pieces include sectionals, storage ottomans, pieces with exposed legs and stunning colors.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, over-the-top luxury shows up in large-scale sofas with deep button-tufting, luxurious fabrics and layers of trims and tassels.
You’ll know you’ve found an up-to-the-minute piece if it boasts nail-head trim. The latest upholstery detail, nail-head trim shows up everywhere on sofas, tables and ottomans.
Traditional to Contemporary
Furniture manufacturers are seeing more interest in casual contemporary pieces, yet old classics remain popular. These traditional looks are constantly tweaked, often scaled up to fill the space in today’s larger homes. Choose what appeals most to you—remembering that every piece doesn’t have to conform to a set standard. “The designs invite you to mix and match for a ‘classic’ style all your own,” Jackie says.
One recent line of furnishings from Century furniture incorporates Asian ideals like balance and symmetry. The pieces’ wood finishes are black or a natural white oak accented with steel or black glass. The upholstered seating is luxurious in linen, silk, velvet, suede or leather.
Hickory Chair now offers an assortment of 40 pieces to mix for a luxurious eclectic look. “People seem so tired of trendy furniture,” said Ron Fiore, Hickory Chair’s director of design. “But they don’t want boring iterations of old stand-bys either.”
New iterations are rolling off the lines of manufacturers who base some of their pieces on centuries-old classics. Among these manufacturers:
Stickley, which introduced Antiquities, a line that includes bedroom, dining room and accent furnishings inspired by Old-World treasures from 17th, 18th, and 19th century Europe.
E.J. Victor, which offers the Randall Tysinger Collection of both reproductions and adaptations of European antiques from Tysinger’s collection of early 20th century French furnishings.
Thomasville, which explores great American homes of the 19th century with the Fredericksburg collection, featuring distinctive Federal period architectural details, including elegant moldings, turned columns and intricate veneer detailing.
Of course you want your new furniture to look good, but it should also withstand wear and tear and work well.
Plenty of furniture manufacturers are creating pieces designed as creative storage solutions. From discount stores to designer boutiques, you’ll find pieces meant to contain the stuff of life. You may also notice furniture with small trinket drawers—in night tables, dressers and other less-expected places. “Think of all the little drawers and cubbyholes on old roll-top desks,” says Ed of Century Furniture.
“People think they’re fun. And that’s why we’re seeing them reappear.”
One of the spaces most in need of storage is the home office. Furniture for this room has evolved from makeshift to custom made. “Why should file cabinets have to be metal and utilitarian?” Ed asks. His company, Century Furniture, makes a file cabinet that resembles a classic bachelor’s chest.
New technology demands new furniture, too. Furniture makers are unveiling new cabinetry and entertainment centers to house new, larger televisions and the equipment that goes with them.
Finally, look for durability in today’s upholstery, too. Fabrics that easily withstand kids and pets will prolong the life of your furniture investment. While you’re choosing fabrics, keep in mind the latest trend toward warmer hues, accented with bright colors. “We’ll see lots of tapestries and paisleys in the spicy-brandy-rust-colored families,” says Anne Hood of Century. “And accent colors are getting brighter than ever, with pinks, yellow-greens and oranges livening up America’s living rooms."