Shared from the 2/17/2018 Charlotte Observer eEdition

Fabulous Functional Furniture

Gone are the days of neutral, minimalist furniture. Say hello to the colors and styles of 2018.


Many people are moving away from large sectionals in favor of smaller pieces of living room furniture.

Photo courtesy of Loftus Design


Photos by April Waltz Photography /Courtesy of Brooke Adle


Gray, slate gray, “greige”—for the past few years, these slight variations of the same hue have been the hottest shades in home décor. Every trendy home on Instagram has featured white-painted floors, gray walls and neutral-colored furniture. And while the serene, restored farmhouse look is far from out of style, it is slowly being replaced by styles that embrace more pops of colors, interesting patterns and floral touches. Of course, neutral colors will never go out of style, but many furniture stores and designers are embracing pieces with a bit more color, or at least with decorative accents to liven things up. It’s a trend that, in moderation, could do wonders for your style (and maybe also your serotonin levels!). Also making a comeback, custom pieces with hardware and finishes that allow for the mixing and matching of formal and casual. It’s not uncommon for designers to go to Hickory or High Point in search of that unique statement table—or call on one of the many talented artisans here in Charlotte, like Josh Utsey. He says creating handcrafted pieces, like accent tables or larger dining tables, made from North Carolina hardwoods is what attracts clients to his South End studio. “It adds an additional layer of texture along with keeping the room light and airy,” he says. “I’ve seen lots of mixing of materials like metals, stone and wood.”

These styles are infiltrating every main room of the house, so we asked our design experts to give us a room-by-room “tour” with their picks for the top furniture trends of 2018.


If you’re in the market for dining room furniture this year, chances are you’ll see lighter woods with more metal hardware and accents. According to Meg Consolino and Mollye Bell, co-owners of M Squared Interiors, pared-down dining room tables will be a big trend as well. “Metal and acrylic-based tables are a more casual take on the traditional, and it’s no longer the formal look of the past,” Consolino says. “Instead of Chippendale chairs, it’s clean lines and lighter wood stains.”

In keeping with this casual trend, designer Brooke Adler points out the use of performance fabrics on dining chairs. “I’ve also seen chairs with a pop of interest on the backside, such as wood fretwork, caned backs and contrast fabrics,” she says. “Arms on chairs and sofas are getting thinner, making way for more seating space—back rail heights are getting lower on many chairs, as those make sense in open concept spaces.”


If a modern look is your goal, designer Katie Emmons recommends round tables wherever possible. “Round tables work best in a square room or square space. They are great options if you want to make a dining room feel fresh, as it keeps a setting from feeling too stuffy and formal,” she says. “Round tables also encourage closeness and more relaxed conversations. Along those same lines, I am seeing more mixing of styles in dining rooms. Although a table may be formal, we may select less formal upholstered dining chairs.”

While breakfast areas remain a go-to for casual family meals, this space is getting a modern spin as well. “For breakfast areas, people are opting for larger islands with seating,” says Holly Taylor, a project designer at Sheedy Watts Design. “In place of a breakfast nook, I love a big settee with oversized pillows where you can curl up and have your coffee.”


“Offices are getting so much better, design-wise,” Taylor says. “There’s more boldness and personality in office furniture—it’s no longer just a room with a desk and a computer.”

Consolino agrees. “Desks aren’t big, bulky pieces anymore,” she says. “They have a cleaner look and make more of a statement. Swivel chairs will always be popular too.”

For anyone on the hunt for a new desk this year, Adler recommends looking for features like portals for cords, filing drawers, a hidden shelf to hide things like a modem or printer, a drawer to hide the keyboard and a pullout surface for a mouse. This way you can leave the working space with a much cleaner look. “I recently installed a Stanley desk at a client’s house, and the amount of thought behind clever storage and hiding of cords was amazing,” she says. “At the same time, it was the most beautiful piece in the room with an oak finish and carved Greek key detailing.”


In master bedrooms, Adler says the upholstered bed trend will continue, with tufting and nailheads to dress them up. “Bed benches are a must, and create a great look as many beds get lower to the ground and move away from footboards,” she adds. “People are opting for only one large dresser, as the trend of custom closets that maximize storage continues. This makes room for things like chairs, oversized mirrors and benches in the bedroom.”


Photo by April Waltz Photography /Courtesy of Brooke Adler

If you’re a lover of current trends but don’t want your bedroom to look dated in a few years, Emmons suggests incorporating some modern pieces, but in moderation. “I like to balance those elements with timeless well-placed classics or antiques,” she says. “It not only makes a bedroom more interesting to mix the two, but it also allows the client to have a few pieces that will be more lasting.”

And if it’s a one-of-a-kind piece you’re after, getting exactly what you want may be easier than you think. “People think custom can be a scary word, but creating the right shape for their space can change the way you live and entertain,” Utsey says. “Don’t feel trapped to standard sizes. Make your furniture work for the way you live.”


The living room is one area where the days of neutral-on-neutral blandness are fading into the pastthey’re less gray and rustic, and more fresh and bright. You’ll see more pops of colors, whether it’s a pattern on a chair or a bunch of throw pillows in an array of patterns and colors.

While the name of the game has been minimalism, there’s a resurgence of traditional elements on pieces of furniture, but with a modern, fresh touch. For instance, couches and chairs are starting to feature more feminine touches and embellishments, such as tassels, fringes and ball fringes.


Photos courtesy of Loftus Design

Bridget Loftus Gasque, owner of Loftus Design, says living rooms are becoming slightly more formal—a place to entertain guests instead of eating popcorn on the couch with family. For this reason, she is seeing more separate pieces of smaller furniture, such as a couch and a few armchairs, as opposed to giant, comfy sectionals (those are being moved to the entertainment room).


The guest room is a fun place to play around with trends, infusing a few pops of color without committing to changing a master suite. Upholstered bed headboards are very in style right now. There’s also been a rise in the popularity of beds that are completely upholstered throughout the entire frame.

This look prevents the need for a dust skirt (often inclined to get, well, dusty) and having an entirely upholstered bed frame can make a room look neater and more tailored. It’s a style that’s not limited to the master bedroom, and can instantly elevate the style of a guest suite.


Gasque says more families are opting to put more than one kid in the same room in favor of having a spare room to be used as a dedicated playroom. This is a departure from years ago when having a room for each child was more of a priority. Now, parents want their kids’ rooms to be a place primarily for sleeping, so they can keep toys better organized in the playroom. More people are investing in bunk beds for their children’s rooms, says Gasque, instead of twin or full beds.

Wallpaper is another popular choice for children’s rooms, often on just one accent wall. And while color never really went out of style for children’s rooms, there’s more pattern mixing and use of colors that don’t necessarily have to match like they used to. For instance, an on-trend children’s room could feature a purple headboard coupled with green curtains and yellow lamps. The whole look is a little more whimsical, and less restrained to a strict color scheme. It’s a brighter, more fun look that opens the door to a whole new realm of possibilities. H | D

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