Updating Furnishings for Spring
Trends & tricks that won’t break the bank
Theresa Cassagne photograph
As spring arrives and the cityscape is replenished with green leaves, blooming flowers and lush lawns, the changing look of the season often spurs changes within the home. And whether you’re looking for a simple way to make a room new or you’re ready for an entire overhaul of the home, there are a number of ways to approach your project.
According to several home designers, there is one very easy way to renew a room: “Paint,” says Carlos Hernandez, designer/buyer at Razzle Dazzle Home. “Wall colors will change the mood of the room,” he says. In addition to wall color, Hernandez suggests another – even easier – way to update a room, and that is with new accent pillows. While a change in paint color will more than likely be a lasting change, pillows provide a way to change colors and brightness with the seasons. Razzle Dazzle Home, located on Magazine Street, offers a full design center of decorative items, new and estate furniture and gifts.
Erin Jacobs, co-owner of Abode, echoes that sentiment. In her experience, people often want a long-term master plan with basic colors and textures they won’t tire of; this way, they can add trendier, less expensive flourishes that can be replaced over time. Items such as artwork, pillows and rugs can come and go, while built-ins such as cabinetry, vanities and stone are pricier to replace or rework. A growing trend is the use of bold, bright artwork regardless of overall palette, according to Jacobs.
“I like a collected look,” she says. “I tell my clients to pull in some interesting things they’ve collected or something old and unexpected.” When reworking a space, Jacobs recommends starting with a clean slate and returning to the room only items that you absolutely love.
There are always trends in color; for example, several experts, including Estella’s manager/buyer Ramona Nelson, mentions trends are moving away from silver and toward gold accessories and fixtures. Whites and neutrals continue to be popular. According to Nelson, colors are always changing.
“We still see a lot of French Blue and a variety of neutrals, grays, beige and all shades of off-white, usually with a splash of a favorite color,” she says. “Just because the trends are one color or one style doesn’t mean that is the right way to go. Be yourself.”
Reworking furniture placement is always a consideration, and sometimes it takes a designer to help you see both literally and figuratively “outside the box.”
“Don’t place all your furniture on the walls,” says Penny Francis, owner and principal designer of Eclectic Home. “It happens in shotgun houses here in the city all the time. Because of the layout, one room after another, homeowners get stuck thinking that the traffic pattern has to be down the center of the room, thus placing all the furniture on the outside walls,” she says. Instead, Francis suggests creating groupings grounded with rugs (seating, dining, etc.) to define the spaces – especially with an open floor plan – and then traffic will be diverted around those spaces rather than through them.
The environment should reflect the person, says Francis, and she encourages homeowners to take risks. When it comes to social media, she suggests that one uses it for inspiration and reinterpretation, not for duplication. Design consultations can be extraordinarily helpful in that regard.
Furniture can be one of your larger-ticket items when it comes to a room or home update, so finding pieces you intend to hang onto can help save money in the long run.
“Since we’re in the antique business and have been around long enough to see trends/fads come and go, our No. 1 piece of advice would be to invest in classic pieces that will stand the test of time,” says Laura Roland, owner/designer/buyer at Fireside Antiques. Antiques have a variety of design benefits while being highly functional, too. From a sturdy, majestic armoire to a statement-making mirror that reflects the room’s light, antique pieces add elements of history and warmth to a room. Roland suggests mixing in contemporary pieces – artwork and objects – if you don’t want an entirely traditional look.
While antiques are an important inclusion in the home, you may be looking for a modern piece for a certain space or usage, and a new trend in furniture is bringing the fabrics and technology of outdoor furniture inside the home.
According to Chris Piazza, store manager and In-house designer at The French Mix, outdoor furniture manufactures have refined their fabrics to the point that they are nice enough to use indoors. The benefit of such technology is its stain-resistance, which is especially useful for people who have active lifestyles, children and pets.
“It’s useful in all facets of the house,” says Piazza. Easy-to-clean with a quick launder or even use of bleach and water, these items are becoming more available and popular as brands like Sunbrella expand lines and styles.
Piazza has also noticed a rise in the popularity of natural fiber rugs such as jute, sisal and seagrass. Piazza emphasizes customers’ ability to “tackle more with their budget at one time” at The French Mix, as prices are marked underneath suggested retail value.
Also noting a trend toward natural elements is Tom Cianfichi, co-owner of Hazelnut, a Magazine Street destination for gifts and home accessories that mixes the “Old World charm of New Orleans with a chic metropolitan twist.” With a New Orleans passion and years of New York experience, Cianfichi opened Hazelnut with husband and New Orleans native Bryan Batt.
“There is a definite trend toward natural elements – for example quartz and stone, also cork and bark. Yet it is being done in a more luxe way as opposed to outdoorsy,” says Cianfichi. “It’s a great trend for New Orleans as it marries well with antiques but can also be very modern.”
Texture and finish are another important consideration, and according to Tara Shaw, decorative finishes are crucial in adding layers of depth to a project.
“High-gloss walls and furniture add elegance when mixed with a natural finish and aged patina,” she says.
Tara Shaw Maison is Shaw’s line of antique reproductions as well as modern classic iron, acrylic and upholstered pieces. Her affinity for natural finishes and aged patinas is apparent in her work, which includes items ranging from tables and candelabras to chairs and mirrors.
The way light is handled can also completely change a room, and window treatments are another component of a room that can be updated simply by changing the materials. While color and texture is a consideration for the fabric, so is the amount of light (or privacy) they offer.
Katie Koch, owner of Katie Koch Home, has been designing drapery and window treatments for 18 years and, in addition to that work, recently opened her store, which features a curated collection of home items such as furniture, lighting and decor.
A first consideration is typically privacy or shade. Once the desired level of privacy or shade is determined, the design of the home and furnishings will come into play. When privacy is a concern, Koch recommends a sheer shade lined with batiste. Other popular options are mechoshades, or for a more organic look, woven wooden shades. And don’t forget the drapes – a new fabric, color, or pattern will always change a room.
“I love a shade under a drape, the window is polished off and finished. It can function in a lot of ways – you can have your shade down giving you some privacy; you can shut your drapes and have black-out at night.”
When it comes to trends and tricks, the concept of storage within a home often depends on more of the latter, and the trick is to take advantage of every bit of space. According to Don Wise of Louisiana Custom Closets, the most important first step in planning or adding storage is knowing exactly what you intend to store. Wise suggests taking an inventory of what you plan to store, whether it be for a clothing closet, shared closet, pantry, linen closet, or other storage area.
“Many New Orleans homes have high ceilings, and it is important to capture that space,” says Wise. “Install a second, or even third, hanging rod or shelves up high to be used for off-season clothing, luggage, etc.,” he says.
When the change you seek is larger in scale – when you want more than a new paint color or fabric to update the home – you may be in need of an architecture and interior design team. Brother/sister duo Monica and Patrick Melancon of Melancon Ortega Designs have a combined 30 years in home design.
In new construction and home renovation, Monica advises highlighting the space’s strengths.
“Try to capitalize on architectural and design focal points that accentuate something unique to the property: a grand window framing an existing, aged oak tree or a coffered ceiling accenting grandly scaled walls and light fixtures,” she says. A current trend is creating light-filled spaces that bring the beauty of the exterior, gardens and lush vegetation, to the interior.
Joey and Kristine Flynn mak e up the husband/wife architecture and design team Flynn Designs, and they are well-known for their self-described “over-the-top” renovations.
“The ‘befores and afters’ are incredible,” says Kristine. “We are always up for a challenge and are excited to take on the renovation projects no one wants,” she says.
One of Flynn Designs’ large-scale recommendations for expanding your home is something many people are unnecessarily afraid to consider: adding a second floor.
“It is amazing to see the transformation that can occur when a second floor is well thought out,” says Kristine. Flynn Designs offers interior design services on a small scale, as well, with the intent of helping customers achieve a space that fits their needs and wants.
The idea of customization and of tailoring to you comes up frequently in design, whether that means utilizing your own collection of art and furniture, buying a specific antique to build around, going bold instead of neutral or opening/expanding a space to fit your lifestyle.
The French Mix