Storage gets creative, thanks to changing decor trends

This paint-decorated Austrian armoire has a surprisingly modern look, but it’s dated 1816. Inside its doors, there’s plenty of hanging and storage room. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers and Cottone Auctions

NEW YORK – Storage pieces are not what they used to be. Changes in home design and technology mean that boxy, old-fashioned armoires, dressers and china hutches are being re-purposed or are making room for cabinets, shelving and sideboards in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and styles.

Today’s decor embraces an eclectic look, and rooms might serve more than one function. Walk-in closets and wall-mounted TVs are hot; formal dining rooms are not.

All of these trends mean there’s more freedom in choosing storage pieces, including “wow pieces” that make a statement, said Sarah Winslow, merchandising manager at Terrasi Living & Scandia Home in Kansas City, Missouri.

“The furniture police have left the building,” she said.

Adam G. Tilley, senior vice president for product and marketing at A.R.T. Furniture in High Point, North Carolina, said his company and others are offering new takes on cabinetry, including interesting shapes, finishes or embellishments that can work within traditional furniture groupings. The units might house barware, electronics or other household items.

A.R.T. offers the “chesser,” for instance, a cross between a chest and dresser. It also has a sofa with a built-in bookcase — not a new idea!

This French Art Deco sofa has a built-in bookcase and side table of burled walnut and macassar ebony. Its styling is reminiscent of furnishings seen on luxury liners of the 1930s and ’40s. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers and King Galleries

“These are fun accent pieces that are orbiting around that center core of a suite of furniture,” Tilley noted.

Many of the new styles offer a mix of storage and display space.

“More and more people desire to spend their money having experiences, and the way they decorate their homes has become a reflection of that,” he said. “They are drawn to furniture that showcases the memories that were made, the knowledge that was acquired, or objects that bring those experiences home.”

For example, the popularity of craft liquors and fancy cocktails has increased sales of swanky bar cabinets, said Adam Young, who with his wife, Emily, owns Brass and Burl, a furniture store in Hackensack, New Jersey, and New York City.

Gio Ponti and Pietro Chiesa for Fontana Arte illuminated bar cabinet, Italian, circa 1940, walnut, mirrored glass and silver-plated brass. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers and Wright

They also sell stand-alone buffets, console cabinets and shelving units, among other items. Customers are drawn to pieces that create interest through metal accents, unusual stains or interesting inlays, and fill them however they see fit — regardless of what the pieces were designed to hold, he said.

“I don’t think people care about convention at all anymore,” Young said. “At the end of the day, people need function — some place to store their stuff.”

Look for shapes and styles you like and don’t worry about what the piece is supposed to be for, advises Linda Merrill, interior designer at Linda Merrill Decorative Surroundings in Duxbury, Massachusetts. If a buffet works in the hall, use it there.

“People have a lot of stuff that they’re trying to figure out how to hide,” she said.

Re-purposing a piece of furniture or using it in an unexpected spot will add to its “wow” factor, said Dinah Baxter O’Dell whose business, 2nd Bloom, focuses on painting and restyling furniture. Many of her clients have pieces of quality furniture that offer great storage options but no longer fit their decor. She transforms them into functional “statement” pieces.

“We paint it and it becomes that piece that pops — a great design element that pulls a room together and creates an updated fresh look,” said O’Dell, of Bexley, Ohio.

Often the restyled piece ends up with a new purpose as well as a new look. Dressers are showing up in dining rooms and entryways. China cabinets are holding books and games in family rooms.

Designed by Gilbert Rohde for Herman Miller, this walnut and burl walnut buffet was manufactured in 1933, but it transcends time and could fit in with any decor or room. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers and Heritage Auctions

Winslow recently helped clients buy a buffet — traditionally a dining-room piece — to use in their bedroom because it was the right height for their television. “It’s unexpected,” she said. “Anything a little bit unexpected will pique your interest.”

Television design shows and social media postings have emboldened people to be more inventive with furniture choices, said Winslow, whose daughter uses a vintage card catalog to store her children’s toys.

“People are less afraid to try things. We’re not limited by rules anymore,” she said.

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By MELISSA KOSSLER DUTTON, Associated Press

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