Dressing up a room with the right accents can make a house feel like a home. Learn how you can add accessories to bring out a room’s true character.
Furniture isn’t just about the sofa. Accessories such as floral arrangements, rugs and wall art add true character to your home and allow for your personality to manifest itself.
So, where do you begin?
Many locally owned retailers and design centers in our region are ready to help you capture your style. When it comes to decor, these experts know how to find the right look for your personality.
Fun with Floral Arrangements
In 1978, Susan Haas wanted to design something a little different from what typical florists were introducing. She began by combining silk and dry flower arrangements – a design that’s commonplace today, but was innovative at the time. Thus was born The Strawflower Shop, 210 W. State St., in Geneva.
“My wife has a talent for making beautiful arrangements,” says Mike Haas, co-owner with Susan of The Strawflower Shop. “She started converging the silk and dry flowers ahead of everybody else, and it looks really stunning. I think that’s what differentiates us from other stores, because our floral department is by far the most unique and largest around.”
Today, The Strawflower Shop does much more than floral arrangements. Its three-floor building houses a design center, furniture gallery, rug gallery and rooms of vignettes with ideas that can tie together a room.
“We really feel like we can help a customer decorate their entire home,” Mike says. “If we’re starting from scratch, we’ll start with a nice rug, then the furniture, and then it’s time to accessorize. That’s where we’re really able to do a beautiful job, because we have a lot of oil paintings and mirrors, in addition to our impressive floral department.”
Always looking for the next creative trend, Susan now combines dried seed pods, succulents and natural birch branches to give arrangements a textured and trendy look. Flowers like lilies and mums have been popular lately, while hydrangeas are used less frequently, Mike says. Susan has also introduced bird feathers, dried magnolia leaves and decorative woodland creatures such as tiny owls and foxes.
The Strawflower Shop offers a variety of baskets and vases to hold floral arrangements, however, customers are always welcome to bring their own containers.
“I think what we offer is a little more unique than a crystal bowl with some glass spheres in it,” Mike says. “It adds something really beautiful to your home that you’ll always notice.”
Flower arrangements add a special touch of holiday cheer this time of year, but done properly, a flower arrangement makes a great accessory year-round. Designers at The Strawflower Shop often visit a client’s home, to get a feel for their style, before proceeding with suggestions.
Besides being placed on coffee tables and end tables, arrangements can look great on top of the mantelpiece or as statement art pieces on the wall, Mike says. Strawflower Shop’s floral team includes designers and horticulturalists, all of whom are capable of arranging a piece for a client’s home.
“I think the word ‘enhance’ is perfect,” Mike says. “Floral arrangements put the finishing touches on a home to make it feel exciting and naturally welcoming there. It’s a great way to incorporate all of the colors that the homeowner is showcasing in a particular room, from the drapes to the rugs. These silk lilies, mums and other flowers really pull a color scheme together and make the room breathtaking.”
Comfortable and Practical
Buying furniture is like buying a reflection of yourself, says Scott Price, owner of Toms-Price Furniture, with five locations around Chicagoland, including one at the Arboretum of South Barrington.
Since 1908, Toms-Price has been providing the region with high-quality furniture. Price, the fourth-generation owner of the family business, finds that a rug is a great way to express individuality when decorating.
“With so many options these days, you’re bound to stumble upon something that showcases your design interests,” Price says. “Our goal is to help our clients reflect their personalities, lifestyles and values, and a rug is a great way to begin that process. I think a rug is like a piece of art. And when you have a climate like ours in Chicago, a rug can additionally be a great way to warm up a space.”
Because hardwood floors are becoming increasingly popular in all rooms of the home, area rugs provide several advantages. Rugs prevent bare feet from hitting the cold ground in the morning, or sitting uncomfortably on the hardwood floor in the family or living room. A rug’s soft surface is both comfortable and practical.
Customers can take charge of their own decorating, but Toms-Price has designers who can travel to a client’s home and present multiple options.
“You can be as involved as much or as little as you want,” Price says. “There are so many choices here that sometimes it helps to have a designer hone down three options for a client that they may not have thought of before. It’s kind of like being an editor – we’re going to work with you and edit your room until it fits what you’re looking for.”
And when it comes to rugs, a full spectrum of styles is available, from traditional Persian rugs with intricate designs to a more contemporary, solid-colored rug that has either no pattern or a basic geometric design. The most popular style seems to be a happy medium.
“The most popular-selling rug in the spectrum is transitional, which is a blend of traditional and contemporary styles,” Price says. “The simpler you go, the more modern you become, and it seems that people want something that’s right in the middle. A transitional rug is more casual and clean-looking, but it doesn’t have that hard contemporary edge. But of course, it completely depends on the person and their style – there are no right or wrong decisions.”
The majority of rugs at Toms-Price are handmade in the Middle East, specifically in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The process from start to finish usually takes a year to complete, with four people working inward from the corners.
“If you look at the back of a handmade rug, you can see each of the individual knots,” Price says. “That’s how you judge the quality – by how many knots it has per square inch. The more knots, the better the quality.”
But quality also depends on the materials used. Nylon rugs fall on the cheaper side, while wool and silk usually last longer. Depending on the materials and how many knots a rug has per square inch, a rug can last from 10 to 500 years.
Price notes that all products at Toms-Price are of exquisite quality, with a goal that each piece can be passed down to future generations.
“Our products should outlast the people who are buying them,” Price says. “A beautiful rug can add flavor to your family’s home for generations. And since rugs really anchor your furniture, I find that a room looks lost when you don’t have one on a hardwood floor. In other words, the furniture looks like it’s floating. A rug can anchor a setting, in addition to expressing style and providing comfort, for years and years.”
Icing On the Cake
At Gustafson’s Furniture & Mattress, in Rockford, no sofa stands alone. The store’s two locations are organized into room vignettes, or displays, that include rugs, tables, lamps and other accessories in addition to the sofa – the core of each display.
“We really think that accessorizing makes a room complete,” says Trina Gustafson, CFO. “It’s like the icing on the cake. You can take a sofa that’s beautiful and just have it all alone, but still, it looks like it’s begging to be dressed.”
This year, Gustafson’s Furniture, 808 W. Riverside Blvd., celebrates its 87th year in business with the opening of a second location at 6651 E. State St. Four members of the Gustafson family operate the business: company CEO Dale, wife Trina, and sons Christopher and David.
“A lot of stores will just focus on the sofa, but we try to find what pieces correspond well with each piece of furniture,” says Christopher, vice president of operations. “If a person wants an eclectic room, or contemporary, or any other type of style, our designers can find the right things to go with your tastes and preferences.”
“It’s common for people to come in looking for a sofa, but they wind up buying five or six more things,” Dale adds. “For that, I have to pay tribute to my wife, Trina. She knows the market well and she sees the trends.”
According to Trina, most people today want their home to have its own individual look, as opposed to a 1965 “Jetsons” era when all furniture looked the same. Instead of making a room “matchy-matchy,” she says, try selecting end tables that differ from each other, wall art that’s one-of-a kind, and sofas that are customized to reflect your personal style.
Trina generally tries to avoid a traditional look, but enduring accents such as botanical plants, pottery and wall decor can make a space look less “typical.” It’s now common to find more obscure, artistic-looking creations on walls, such as metal compositions, sculptures and large clocks.
“Clocks are a neat accessory,” Trina says. “They’re a piece of art rather than just a way to tell time, and they look great in a multitude of rooms, whether it’s your kitchen, living room or even under your stairway.”
Adding “bling,” or eye-catching accessories, is another fun way to dress up a home, Trina says. For some customers, that may mean adding a fancy bowl on the coffee table, but adding wooden, earthy arrangements can also introduce character to the room.
“Bling adds a statement to the room you’re in,” Trina says. “It’s something that catches your attention in an extraordinary way. When we make our vignettes, it’s important to me that we find the right bling to bring out the sofa’s charm. Likewise, it’s important for bling to bring out the beauty in your home.”
Although customers may purchase more accessories than they intended, Gustafson’s Furniture prides itself on having a low-pressure sales team. Its approach is customer-oriented, rather than profit-oriented, says David, the vice president of advertising.
“Most customers who buy here end up buying here again, because they’re so satisfied with how they’re treated,” David says. “And if someone ever has an issue, we try to resolve it within 48 hours of them bringing it to our attention. Our customers can talk directly to us, even if we’re on vacation. Being able to help someone right away means a lot to us, and we really stand behind our customer service and the products that we sell.”