by Bernhardt Furniture spokesperson Lauri Ward
Are you traditional? Thoroughly contemporary? Or, when it comes to decorating, would you like to mix and match different pieces? Putting together comfortable, beautiful rooms that reflect your personality is a talent that evolves gradually over time.
If it’s time to replace a piece of furniture, buy something that you really love. You’ll be living with it for a long time. Experiment with different decorating styles or periods-don’t limit yourself. After all, the fun of decorating is adding new pieces that have personal meaning for you.
Discover Your Decorating Personality
Which colors do you prefer for the living room or bedroom?
A. Rich deep reds and greens, berry, camel, tans
B. Soft muted reds and blues, earthy browns
C. Vibrant blues, yellows, reds, greens, white
D. Off white, black, sienna brown
Your favorite fabrics include:
A. Damasks, silk brocade, and chintz
B. Patchwork, gingham, and floral mini-prints
C. Plaids, prints, and textured colors
D. Hand-loomed ethnic textiles
Your perfect sofa would be:
A. A tailored, formal sofa
B. A plump sofa with lots of pillows
C. A rolled arm, skirted sofa
D. A leather modular sofa
What type of rug or carpeting do you prefer?
A. Oriental rug
B. Bare floors
C. Sisal rug
D. Wall-to-wall carpeting
What would you most like in your dining room?
A. A wood sideboard with a carved, marble top
B. A pine hutch filled with glazed pottery
C. A contemporary sideboard displaying a Victorian tea set
D. A sleek buffet with clean lines and minimal hardware
Scoring: Tally your answers to find the letter you picked most often. If you chose:
Mostly A’s: Traditional style combines period furniture, sumptuous fabrics, and rich colors that reflect good taste. Heirlooms, art and antiques, the hallmarks of traditional style, breathe luxury that defies trends and time. Traditional furniture includes such classic 18th- and 19th- century styles as Queen Anne, Chippendale and Victorian.
Mostly B’s: Country style—American, English or French—is warm, charming and unpretentious. Stripped pine, painted chests, stenciling, needlepoint pillows, and old quilts with soft, muted hues define this relaxed style. Deep, comfortable sofas in natural fabrics or flowery chintz and linen beautifully update country decors.
Mostly C’s: Eclectic (which literally means “borrowing from many sources”) style integrates old and new, mixed prints, and florals, different types of wood and wood finishes and also different materials, like iron and stone. The mixture of textures, colors, and patterns creates a vibrant, layered look with plenty of warmth, interest and personality.
Mostly D’s: Contemporary style is sleek, stark, and spacious, favoring simple, uncluttered designs with clean lines and minimal detailing or trim on furniture. Some people add a touch of traditional design with deeply cushioned sofas and chairs in an otherwise spare room. The emphasis: a new vision of luxury based on high-quality materials and exceptional craftsmanship.
No matter which decorating style you prefer, the primary design goal for living rooms is to achieve a usable and inviting space, according to New York City interior designer Lauri Ward, author of “Use What You Have Decorating.” Says Ms. Ward: “There are certain fundamental pieces that every home, large or small, opulent or simple, should have. They’re what I call ‘must-have’ furnishings that will create the most comfortable conversation area possible.” Elements of style include:
- An upholstered or leather sofa or two love seats
- Two upholstered armchairs
- Reading lamps
- A coffee table or piece of furniture that functions as one (e.g., an ottoman, a tray with legs or a hinged wooden trunk)
- A small table in easy reach of every seat
Back to Basics
Color, pattern, and texture determine a room’s overall mood or feeling. These tips will help pull all the pieces together.
Color: Unsure how to select a room’s color scheme? It’s easy. Just pick three major colors from your sofa. Then, use each color at least three times throughout the room. Add color with throw pillows, carpeting and paintings. Have a neutral-colored sofa? Choose three favorite colors and use them in curtains, lamps and other accessories you plan to display in the room.
Pattern: Stripes, checks, florals, and plaids are just several options. Go ahead and mix them as long as all patterns share at least one color.
Texture: Use a variety of textures—metal, glass and soft materials—to keep the room interesting. Matte fabrics like chenille and velvet look dimensional, thereby adding depth to the entire decorating scheme.
Four Common Decorating Mistakes
Ever felt uncomfortable at home? You may have committed a decorating gaffe and not even known it. Here are some common mistakes and Lauri Ward’s quick-fix solutions:
- Creating a room with no focal point
“A wall unit, a favorite sofa with art above it, fireplace, spectacular view or even a grand piano can serve as the dominant fixture in the room, providing a visual anchor that helps hold the room together.”
- Buying poorly made upholstered furniture
“Think of a sofa as a long-term investment piece. You want one that will not only continue to look stylish as time goes by, but will be durable as well. It’s worth saving up for and buying the best sofa you can afford.”
- Being stingy with the space around furniture
“If your sofa is placed off the wall, leave a minimum of 2 feet to 3 feet of walking space around it. A bit less space is needed in between chairs and the sofa. This will create a traffic pattern that lets you enter and walk around the room easily.”
- Hanging pictures too high on the wall
“Hold your art at the place on the wall where you think it should be—then lower it by three inches.”
Living in a Material World
Fabric is the heart and soul of decorating. It adds an important element of comfort to every room by bringing texture, pattern and color to living spaces. Fabrics come in different weaves and fibers that influence their look, feel, durability and function. The strongest fabrics are tightly woven, perfect for heavily used furniture.
Washed rayon chenille is one of today’s most versatile fabrics. This luxuriously soft but highly durable material looks right at home in spacious, contemporary lofts, but also achieves an opulent feel for those who prefer the grandeur of traditional, antique-filled rooms. Bernhardt’s complete line of fabrics also feature soft hues that are casual in nature, elegant, yet informal and practical.
Another option: genuine top-grain leather. Leather resists cracking and tearing, and is the longest-wearing upholstered material. Even better, leather ages gracefully, providing wonderful character and depth. And it’s easy to maintain—just clean with a damp cloth.