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Coffee Tables Buying Guide
Living Room Furniture: Style Guide
Most often the first room visitors see when entering your home, the living room is the place where you entertain friends, spend time with family or relax in front of the television. The style of furniture you select for your living room defines its function, whether it’s entertaining, relaxing or an all-purpose room for multiple activities. The style you select and how you decorate your room, characterizes your personal taste and what is most important to you. To help you decide which one might reflect who you are, the following is a brief guide to the most popular furniture styles.
A traditional coffee table or entertainment center is typically characterized by carvings, leaf or scroll motifs, and stylized architectural details like ornate moldings. Usually in darker woods with rich, lustrous finishes, traditional styled furnishings have a very formal or stately feel.
Inspired by the fashions, trends and social customs of the past, sub categories include Queen Anne, Louis Philippe, Colonial, Neo Classic, Victorian and French Provincial.
While one type of traditional furniture might resemble any of the other sub styles, the differences can be subtle: a Queen Anne or Sheraton curio cabinet often used broken pediment detailing while Victorian pieces generally did not; a Colonial console table was constructed of lighter woods whereas Regency furnishings were commonly constructed from mahogany; Queen Anne tables feature cabriole legs while Chippendale furniture displays claw-and-ball feet.
Traditional wood cabinets or end tables in the fashion of the Victorian era continue to be a popular choice today because of its graceful curves and carved detailing.
Contemporary style includes the Art Deco, Modern, Retro, Scandinavian and Urban sub groups. Contemporary and modern are often mistaken one for the other, and although they are related, they are distinctly two separate design styles.
While both contemporary and modern living room furniture emphasize geometric form and minimal detail, contemporary sofas or occasional tables tend to incorporate color whereas modern furniture will use neutral palettes.
Contemporary, although simple in design, utilizes a variety of finishes, palettes and materials to create texture and visual interest. Geometric forms are often softened by curved corners. Contemporary living room furniture is constructed of lighter woods, exposed woods or metal. Other popular materials for contemporary furnishings are rubber, stone or concrete.
Modern furniture defines interior space by geometric form, neutral palettes and a strong emphasis on function rather than flourish. Furnishings are frequently asymmetrical, with sleek and polished surfaces; metal and glass are common construction materials. Other materials for both modern living room furniture and decorating accessories include vinyl, melamine, Formica, plywood, fiberglass, steel, aluminum and wrought iron. Modern design emerged in the second half of the 20th century, reflecting the new technologies, materials and philosophies of the Machine Age.
Urban furniture, a sub style of contemporary, is minimalist in feel and smaller in scale, suited to apartment living. The lines of cocktail tables, end tables and sofas are clean. Wood finishes in dark brown or black are typically textured with brushed metal highlights or glass accents.
Rustic, including the two sub categories, Lodge and Southwestern, furniture styles are recognizable by their simple lines, rough-hewn look and practicality. Living room furniture tends to be substantial and over-sized. Distressed or natural finishes are commonly used. Furnishings can feature textured, natural elements like tree knots, twig ends and bark. Cedar and pine are the most common construction materials for Rustic style furniture.
Still substantial looking and made from natural materials, but more refined in appearance, Lodge style furnishings possess a casual elegance. In addition to wood, Lodge furniture uses leather and wool; fabrics are often imprinted with rural or outdoor themes. Plaid is also a popular choice.
Southwestern furniture shares many of the same characteristics of the Rustic and Lodge styles, but specifically reflects the rich history of the Southwestern States. This includes the use of Navajo cultural symbols and themes, predominately in silver and turquoise, as décor accents.
Country furniture reflects the geographic location of its origin. The range of styles is numerous and includes the popular sub groups Cottage, Nostalgic, French Country, Shaker and Mission.
The more traditional old country furniture tended to be heavier and darker. But due to European influences, later trends of country style furniture employed lighter finishes, smaller scale and simpler detail. Having a comfortable feel, country furniture is usually constructed of wood, in milk-painted or natural wood finishes. Colors are typically muted. Formal country can be described as busy, with lots of detailing and flourishes.
Cottage style has that country air, but its lines are more simple and graceful. A common finish for a TV stand in this style would be distressed or weathered; furnishings can include whimsical details such as stenciling. Colors are bright and textiles are more folksy and warm.
While similar to French Provincial, French Country is considered much less ornate. French Country furnishings are more rustic as demonstrated by the use of cane for accent chair backs and seats. Natural materials are more commonly used such as terra-cotta and marble. Other materials used for French Country are wire and wrought iron, typically used for a console table or a wine rack.
Often confused with each other, Shaker style emerged in the late 1700’s, while Mission appeared in the early 1900’s as part of the Arts and Crafts movement. Reflecting their belief that the beauty of an object was found in its usefulness, Shakers crafted their furniture with clean and spare lines, using lighter colors. Clean and spare like Shaker furniture, Mission style is more rectangular in form with darker finishes. Characteristic design features of this style are exposed joints and slats.
Transitional blends elements of Traditional and Contemporary styles, merging them for a less formal appearance than more classic furnishings, while retaining the comfortable feel of contemporary pieces. Lines and forms tend to be simple yet sophisticated. Furniture is of a moderate scale, but upholstered pieces like sofas or armchairs can be overstuffed. Emphasis is on uncluttered detail. Transitional style makes use of texture rather than color; palettes tend to be muted or earth-toned. As shown by the use of straight lines with tapered legs, transitional style also uses contrast to create visual for functionality and comfort. Woods are lustrous with medium to dark finishes. Sub categories of this style include Casual and Eclectic.
Japanese style is typified by a minimal, pared-down look with no architectural detailing, to create living spaces that are harmonized and serene. Natural materials, like bamboo and rice paper, are common materials in Japanese design; use of natural light is maximized; furniture is generally low to the ground. Horizontal lines, which represent man’s relation to the earth, are very prominent in Japanese décor. Color schemes tend to also imitate nature, the grays and greens of foliage contrasted with warm wood tones.
Chinese furnishings are distinguished by their stylized or ornately carved features, with hand painted designs on highly polished lacquered finishes. Dark woods are favored over light ones. Furnishings tend to be large scale. Red is a popular color because it is a symbol of good luck; other bright colors are also used as accents.