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Home design makes room for comfort, informal settings

Rochester Business Journal
February 28, 2014

Rochester-area design professionals have different takes on this year’s home decor trends, but they agree that most clients value ease and comfort nowadays.

As interest in formality has waned, more walls have been painted in neutral colors, high- and low-end home goods are more often mixed in the same room, and china cabinets, ornate draperies and matching suites of furniture have been mothballed.

Though they are agents of change, interior designers worth their salt do not shoehorn decor trends into rooms for their own purposes.

“Sort of the golden rule of interior design is that you are … bringing your client’s vision to life,” says Robin Muto of Rochester-based Robin Muto Interiors. “You’re listening to them. You’re trying to do something for them that is … special and represents their personality and their lifestyle.”

“That being said, you know, most of our clients are hiring us because they’re busy with their jobs, and they don’t have the awareness of all that’s available,” Muto adds.

Whether they hire an interior designer or create a new look on their own, consumers are eager to refresh their living spaces.

According to 2012 research from Global Industry Analysts of San Jose, Calif., the worldwide home furnishing industry is expected to reach $700 billion by 2015. The bed-and-bath furniture market alone could come close to $28 billion next year as demand for swank beds and mattresses continues to climb.

Factors fueling the international home-goods market include the wider availability of products and a rising interest in organic and alternative furnishing materials, the research shows. Television shows focused on home renovation also are helping the market grow.

In the Rochester area and elsewhere, homeowners are veering away from cookie-cutter furnishings and choosing repurposed and recycled options, says Leona Piro of Leona Piro Interiors in Mendon. Paint and upholstery can help to give an extreme makeover to a good piece of furniture found at a garage sale.

“It’s a fun trend, and it encourages people to mix things up a bit rather than stick to … rooms that look like they just came out of an Ethan Allen showroom, where everything matches and … everything is part of a set,” Piro says.

She adds: “There’s two reasons why I think it’s popular, and one is that people feel like they’re being green by recycling or repurposing, and the other is because it’s very affordable.”

Furniture and accessories that have an industrial aesthetic also are on trend in residential and commercial settings, Muto says.

“There just seems to be a lot of interest, especially in the probably 40 and younger crowd, of having furniture and pieces that have more of a weathered, old, distressed look.”

Examples that “look like they have been on the beach for five years and have kind of grayed out” are particularly hot, Muto says.

Gray also has become popular for walls. Sun-deprived Upstate New Yorkers might be skeptical about the color until they see its wide range of shades.

“So it doesn’t need to be a deep gray that in Rochester might be too cold and moody,” Piro says. “It actually can be a warm color.”

Accent pieces such as vases and lamps in bright colors go a long way to balance gray’s neutrality. Macrame, a hallmark of 1970s decor, has returned to figure in settings that sometimes have a bohemian look, Piro says.

“It’s being used in area rugs and in wall hangings because they look like sculptures,” she says.

Wallpaper also has regained popularity, but Piro says she has seen that trend more often in magazines than in local homes.

Muto says she rarely makes rigid statements about what is passe in home decor, but opulence and all the fussiness that goes with it have faded. People who own Tudor or Georgian homes in Brighton, for instance, are getting away from really elaborate window treatments, “the kind where you have the swags and the jabots and the tassels and all that stuff.”

Mixing high-end furniture with affordable pieces, however, is on trend. Even famous interior designers with affluent clienteles will place a side table from West Elm or Pottery Barn next to a luxury armchair, Muto says.

When Rochester-area consumers shop for floor coverings nowadays, they typically involve their whole families in their purchasing decisions, even the kids, says Reza Nejad Sattari, president and co-owner of the Oriental Rug Mart Inc. in Victor. More than ever, customers want area rugs to help define spaces within rooms, such as where they play musical instruments at home, he says.

Oriental rugs have become increasingly available and affordable, Nejad Sattari says. His own business has expanded into manufacturing a line of rugs in Nepal that takes its design inspirations from the artwork of a late painter from New York City.

For those who need to power down after using technology all day long, good design can help do that, Muto says. A living space with reclaimed-wood furniture, for instance, offers a non-visual sensory experience, given that the wood often has a tactile grain and a certain smell.

No one wants to be a slave to what they own, Muto adds.

“For a lot of my clients, even that are a little more formal, when it comes to a kitchen table, I always say, ‘You know, let’s get one that has a distressed finish so you don’t have to worry about … the first nick or the first scratch showing,’” she says.

Sheila Livadas is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

2/28/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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