Some Thoughts on New Years Eve, 2009

This is the time of year when we get flooded with retrospectives on the past years events (and WHAT a year it was, right?).  We also get inundated with predictions about the year to come...which of course, is all guesswork because nobody really knows what this new year will bring.  We know the year will be full of challenges.   We know it will be a year of tremendous change as we work together to chart a new course for this country (one that may, heaven forbid, require us to sacrifice!).   We know that things like buying furniture, decorating your home, and other domesting pursuits may seem trivial in light of all this upheaval....but maybe that just makes the homey things that much more important.

We all have our own wishes for the new year, beyond mere expectations. I am wishing for our world a less dangerous place for our children to flourish, one that culivates creativity, equality, and a respect for the earth.   On a more local (and selfish) scale, I hope we all get some confidence back in our economic futures.   Certainly, we have learned this year how interconnected our economy is and how much of an impact our mindset has on our economic prosperity. Here at Carolina Rustica, we wish you nothing but peace, prosperity, and happiness for you and those you love.  

From Furniture Style Magazine: A Great Article About Area Rugs

This is from Furniture Style magazine, a great trade resouce for furniture retailers that also has many excellent articles on home styles and fashions.   I have not yet asked for permission to reprint this article by Nancy Robinson, but I will do this shortly and hopefully they will let me keep it up!

Retailers explain why area rugs are hot sellers
Nancy Robinson

No lifestyle merchant’s product lineup is complete today without a healthy offering of area rugs, the single most important accessory in furniture stores from the standpoint of both consumer demand and sales volume. In fact, it’s common for area rugs to generate more dollars than any other category, except furniture. Retailers who have successfully developed the rug business say those who underestimate its volume potential are missing out on a robust market that’s been in a major growth mode.

“The biggest driver is the amount of new hardwood flooring going into homes in the last 10 years, as opposed to wall-to-wall carpet,” explained Bob Price, Vice President of Merchandising for Art Van Furniture. “Hardwood flooring has continued to increase and is probably the biggest single reason for the increased need for area rugs.”

Bob Batt, Vice President of Nebraska Furniture Mart, also attributes much of the category’s growth to improvements in design, coloring, manufacturing methods and even price points, all of which have conspired to transform a somewhat traditional and stodgy market.  “Fifteen years ago, the business was still somewhat crude,” Batt noted. “In the last 10 years, the changes due to innovation have been total and huge.”

For these reasons, as well as the product’s pivotal role in room design, the rug category is key at Nebraska Furniture Mart. In fact, “it isn’t just one of the best accessory categories—it is the best,” Batt said.

“Area rugs are much more important components to decorating a room than a lot of people give them credit for,” Price noted. “Think about all the things rugs can do. They add design, they add color and in larger sizes, they can even become the focal point in a room.”

Because of this, the need for coordination with other home furnishings categories at the front end is of paramount importance. Unlike many other accessories that can be bought independently, area rugs must work well with the furniture that’s being shown from the standpoint of color, style, size and price point.

“As the merchandise manager, one of my roles is to make sure we’re buying related merchandise, so that when it gets on the floor, it looks like we have one point of view,” Price explained. “When we put in a new furniture item—a new sofa, a new bedroom or a new dining room—we actually plan a specific rug to that group so they work in style and color.”

To that end, Art Van’s rug buyer is included in buying meetings to view furniture drawings and fabric swatches, etc. “That way, it’s all coordinated before we buy rather than scrambling around trying to find something to put with the furniture when it comes in,” Price said. “Four critical components have to be right: color, pattern, style and size. When those components are in balance across the entire assortment, that’s when merchandise turns.”

IKEA takes a similar approach to buying and merchandising rugs, which is a key reason for the category’s success, according to IKEA Textiles Sales Leader Patti Crawford. “Our rugs are totally coordinated and developed to the furniture offer we have in our stores, so you can complete your room’s whole look in one stop,” she said, adding that the pricing structure is such that that it’s possible to get both a rug and a sofa “at IKEA for the same price as just a sofa at other retailers.”

Indeed, rug buyers emphasize that in addition to complementary design and color stories, it’s essential to hit the right price points. As the buyer for a major East Coast furniture discounter explained it, retailers have to find the right ratio between the price of the rug and the furniture. It’s been his experience that consumers aren’t of a mindset to pay more for the rug than the furniture in the room.

And that is a change from the previous generation of rug buyers, many of whom viewed rugs as major investments. “With exceptions, the days of the $8,000, $10,000 and $12,000 rug purchases are not around anymore,” observed Nebraska Furniture Mart’s Batt. “People today don’t buy rugs to hand down to their children. I’ve had rugs for 25 years, but that’s not what my daughter wants. Her generation wants contemporary fashion, but without spending much. We call it ‘urban disposable.’ These are very hot, very contemporary looks with a short shelf life. The hardest thing an older buyer has to learn is how to market to consumers younger than 30.”

So, what are the magic price points when marketing to these consumers? While prices vary according to size, of course, the volume price points are well below $1,000 in most middle-market stores.

At Art Van, the sales graph takes the shape of the typical bell curve. As the size and price of the rug gets bigger, the demand for the rug gets smaller. The vast majority of business is done in sizes 5 feet by 8 feet and 6 feet by 9 feet. The volume price points: $399 to $499 for rugs measuring 5 feet by 8 feet and 6 feet by 9 feet; and $699 to $899 for rugs measuring 8 feet by 11 feet and 9 feet by 12 feet.

“As with furniture, I don’t think people are buying these products as investments to last 40 years,” Price concluded. “That’s one of the biggest differences we’ve seen as younger buyers come into the market. 

My Favorite New Thing

I have been working on Lexington Home Brands' Hancock Park group, and I want to give this collection a shameless plug.  It is of the most exciting new styles I have seen in awhile.  It is very hard to do anything different in the furniture world...its almost all been done before, to a certain extent.  What we see today is a rehash of what was sold yesterday, whether that yesterday was 10, 20, or 50 years ago.

Hancock Park is different.  Certainly there are stylistic echoes of the Deco movement from 60 years ago.  But that influence is slight.  What they have done is taken some classic forms and blended them with modern twists to create a unique and limited collection of select pieces from
 the home.   

I'll be honest. When there is a style or grouping that I'm not wild about, I'll tell you.  But just because its not my cup of tea doesn't mean its not yours.    After all, you live in your home, not me.  And if you invite me over, I will never ever say anything about your furniture!  Your dog,  maybe, but not your furniture. 

Anyway, Hancock Park is totally my style, reflecting the kind of lifestyle I wish I had: Cool, Elegant, Understated..full of social possibilities as you entertain your erudite friends as you sip a martini.   My actual life consists of picking up play-doh, changing diapers, and waiting in line to pick up my daughter in a station wagon with 70,000 miles on it.    I bet you didn't know owning a furniture store was so glamorous!

One of my favorite pieces is the Palm Drive Drum Table shown at right.  It is everything I like about Hancock Park, with the ribbed exterior, Cognac finish, and slightly retro funkiness.   I would like to have a home that could carry this kind of furniture.  In my house, the drawers would quickly be filled with My Little Ponies.   There is no escaping them!

Another piece from the collection that I really like is the Paramount Bunching Chest shown at the left. This is the perfect chest for your foyer, but what I really like about it (besides the awesome veneer) is that it could also be a bedside chest or an end table.   Its got a traditional style to it, so it would definitely be at home in your parents house, but the hardware and bowed front give it an artistic touch that appeals to younger homeowners.

I also like how Lexington has limited the scope of this collection, focusing on pieces that can be used in multiple applications.  They've given that usability a lot of thought.  Enjoy browsing this collection for a diversion from the Holiday Shopping Madness!

Some Truly Useful Lighting Tips from Hinkley Lighting

Hinkley Lighting is a relatively new supplier to us, although they have been around for years. They are a high-end designer and manufacturer of indoor and outdoor lighting. They have rapidly become one of my favorite lighting suppliers because of the quality and timeless style of their designs. In fact, my entire driveway is lined with the Hinkley Pueblo Large Outdoor Post Mount Lantern...six of them all in a gentle curve as my driveway arcs across the property to our house. Its very striking and gives me a thrill everytime I pull up to the house. Part of the reason is that I installed the lights entirely by myself, from digging the trenches to the actual wiring. It became this huge, impossible project that I finally finishes last summer. I'll post an image as soon as we take the Christmas lights down!

As far as Hinkley goes, there isn’t a room in your home that wouldn’t benefit from a Hinkley fixture, and we’d like to help you identify the perfect fixture for your specific needs. The right lighting helps you perform tasks more easily, makes you feel safer and more comfortable, and allows you to enjoy your home to its full potential. Lighting adds beauty and drama to any space. It can make small rooms look open and airy, and larger rooms feel cozy and inviting. Lighting can create a stimulating atmosphere for a night of entertaining, or a quiet feeling of relaxation after a long, tiring day. In so many ways, lighting can make a difference. If you are looking to make a change in appearance to a room or exterior of your home, start with lighting first!

Lighting should be planned to complement your lifestyle. First, you need to develop a plan to suit your individual needs and those of your family. When planning your lighting, consider the activities taking place in each room, the atmosphere you want to create and the decorative elements you wish to emphasize. Keep in mind that light can be absorbed and even wasted in dark-colored rooms, or reflected and intensified in light-colored rooms. Also, take note of areas serving more than a single purpose, such as a living room, as those areas will require more than one type of lighting.

Lighting and Your Home:
To select lighting for your home, you must first consider the room you're trying to illuminate. In a living or family room for example, you'll want to include general lighting for entertaining and watching television, task lighting for reading, and accent lighting to highlight artwork, plants, and other items of interest. In the kitchen, you'll require task lighting for cooking and other chores, and also general lighting for gathering with family and friends. In the bedroom, you'll want to create an overall atmosphere of quiet relaxation, while providing some task lighting for reading and other activities. Similarly, in the bathroom, you'll require task and general lighting.

Foyer or Hall Fixtures:
Hall and foyer fixtures can create a welcoming atmosphere, while providing you with the general lighting you need to greet guests and assure safe passage into other areas of your home. Use flush and semi-flush fixtures, large chandeliers or pendants and sconces in hallways, stairways, and foyers.Click Here for Hinkley Hall and Foyer Lighting

How To Size a Foyer or Hall Fixture:
To determine the overall height of a hall or foyer fixture, always keep in mind the bottom of the fixture should be at least 7 feet from the floor. This will determine whether you use a flush, semi-flush, or if you have a tall ceiling, a multi-tiered chandelier.

When sizing a chandelier or pendant for your foyer, add the length and width dimensions of the foyer area together and convert the total into inches. Example: The area is 18 feet by 14 feet. Added together this equals 32 feet. Then convert your sum to inches: the chandelier's diameter should be approximately 32 inches in width.

In a two-story foyer, if there is a window above the front door, center the chandelier so it can be seen from outside. If the foyer is extra-large, you may also want to install sconces in the foyer. Sconces should be installed 60 inches from the floor and 6 - 8 feet apart

Since a standard ceiling outlet box will only hold a maximum of 50lbs., some large chandeliers and foyer pendants require special mounting hardware. Hinkley fixtures weighing more than 50lbs. are marked in this catalog for your convenience and will come with additional heavy duty support hardware and complete installation instructions.Click Here for Hinkley Chandeliers:

hinkley-lighting-stowe-5-light-chandelierChandeliers add sparkle and style to your dining room or foyer and provide general lighting needed for dining and entertaining. While chandeliers are traditionally hung in a dining room or foyer, a new trend is to hang chandeliers in other rooms such as the bedroom, living room and larger bathrooms. Mini-chandeliers are particularly great for adding drama when used in unexpected places like a powder room, hallway, or walk-in closet.

How To Size a Chandelier:
To size a chandelier for your dining room or bedroom, you'll need to measure the length and width of the room and add those figures together. The sum, converted to inches, will equal the diameter of the correct size chandelier. In the dining room, if this measurement seems inappropriate due to the size of your table, size your chandelier three quarters the width of the table. The bottom of the chandelier should be approximately 30-32 inches above the table top.

Sizing a Chandelier

Hinkley Pendants:
Hinkley provides many different types of pendant fixtures. Large inverted bowl pendants can be used in the foyer or dining room for general decorative lighting. Mini- or mid-pendants can provide task lighting when clustered over a kitchen island or a pool table. Think about using a pendant over end or night tables. They free up space usually occupied by table lamps. Outdoor pendants on a covered porch create a welcoming glow and provide security and safety outside your home.

Hinkley Ceiling Lighting:
Oxford Flush Mount by HinkleyCeiling Fixtures (Flush Mounts and Semi-Flush Mounts) can provide decorative general lighting. They are practical in busy areas such as hallways, bedrooms, kitchens, baths, laundry rooms, playrooms, dens, or areas where the ceiling is too low to accommodate a chain-hung fixture.

Hinkley Decorative Sconces:
Wall-mounted fixtures, such as sconces and vanity lights,can easily provide general, task, or accent lighting. Many sconces are designed to match and complement chandelier or foyer families. Sconces can be used in all areas of the home and are often used as accent lighting above the mantle and fireplace, above the buffet in the dining room, or lining the stairway or hallway.

Hinkley Lighting Bath Fixtures:
Bath fixtures supply task lighting in addition to supplementing the general lighting provided by ceiling fixtures. In the bathroom, you need plenty of even, shadow-free lighting for shaving, grooming, and applying makeup. In small powder rooms, single-light sconces will illuminate the entire room, but in larger bathrooms, an additional pendant, mini-chandelier, or flush-mounted fixture is needed for general lighting. Hinkley offers a wide variety of bathroom fixtures in several families to complement any and all decorating styles.

Hinkley Outdoor Lanterns:
Hinkley-Lighting-Pueblo-LanternOutdoor lighting enhances the beauty of your property, makes your home safer, more secure, and increases the number of pleasurable hours you spend outdoors. A well-lit front entrance enables you to greet guests and identify visitors. Wall lanterns on each side of the door will give your home a warm, welcoming look, while assuring the safety of those who enter. Under a porch or overhang, use a pendant or outdoor flush-mount fixture.

A separate rear or side entrance can be lit with a single wall lantern installed on the keyhole side of the door. For the safety and security of family members using the garage at night, you can install a wall fixture on the face of the garage. We have installed the same Pueblo Large Wall Lantern on the outside of our garage which matches our lamp post lanterns, and the effect is quite dramatic.

When it comes to choosing your outdoor fixtures, less is more. For a dramatic effect, use lower-wattage lamps. If additional light is required to light the surrounding area, consider using low-voltage landscape lighting.

Steps, paths, and driveways should be illuminated to make sure family members and guests are able to move about easily and safely after dark. You can install path lights, post lanterns, or attach lights to the side of the house. Low-level path lights which spread circular patterns of light will illuminate your walkway while highlighting nearby flower beds, shrubs, and ground cover.

Decks, porches, and patios can be converted into evening retreats by concealing low-voltage lights

How to size an outdoor lantern

How To Size an Outdoor Lantern:
One of the biggest challenges of outdoor lighting is selecting the right-sized Outdoor Lantern. The height of a lantern should be based on the height of the door. If a lantern is only used on one side, it should be approximately one-third the height of the door. When two lanterns are used on either side of the door, they should each be approximately one-fourth the height of the door. In either case, if you choose a fixture with a long tail or top scroll, be cautious of the overall bulk of the fixture as the height should approximate one-half the visual height of the door.

The lanterns should be mounted so the filament of the bulb is approximately 66 Inches above the threshold of the door. Depending on the outlet box location, different mounting arms (on the top or bottom) can be selected to place the filament correctly.

Undersize Your Lanterns: As a rule of thumb, lanterns will appear about half the size from 50 feet away. Visualize the front of your home as guests and neighbors would view it from the street, and when in doubt, always go larger.

Special Classifications of Hinkley Lighting

Energy Star (EST)
Hinkley's Energy Star certified lighting fixtures meet strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Energy (DOE). Each fixture combines a compact fluorescent bulb and socket together with a photocell that prevents the fixture from staying illuminated during daylight hours, maximizing its energy saving potential. Click Here to Shop Hinkley Energy Star Lighting

Energy Saving (ES)
Hinkley's Energy Saving fixtures utilize a compact fluorescent bulb to conserve energy consumption. Hinkley's Energy Saving (ES) lighting fixtures support "Title-24", a government-backed program that helps businesses and individuals protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. Click Here to Shop Hinkley Energy Saving Lighting (same category as Energy Star)

Dark Sky (DS)
Hinkley's Dark Sky (DS) fixtures minimize light glare and the amount of light produced in an upward direction towards the night sky. Click Here to Shop Hinkley Dark Sky Lighting. Originally mandated in California, many more states and municipalities are mandating Dark Sky compliance as the awareness of light pollution grows, particularly in suburban areas with less density.

Energy Saving and Dark Sky (ESDS)
Hinkley's Energy Saving, Dark Sky (ESDS) fixtures combine the capability to address the Dark Sky ordinance and decreases energy consumption by using fluorescent technology. Click Here to Shop Hinkley Dark Sky Lighting (same category as Dark Sky)

General Lighting Tips: Types of Lighting

There are three basic types of lighting that work together to light your home: General, Task, and Accent. A good lighting plan incorporates all three types of light into an area according to function and style.

GENERAL LIGHTING: General Lighting provides an area with overall illumination. Also known as ambient lighting, general lighting radiates a comfortable level of brightness, enabling one to see and walk about safely. Hinkley can help you accomplish general lighting with a variety of chandeliers, ceiling (flush), or wall-mounted (sconce) fixtures, as well as lanterns for outside your home.

TASK LIGHTING: Task lighting helps you perform specific tasks such as reading, cooking, homework, hobbies, games, paperwork, etc. Task lighting should be free of distracting glare and shadows, and should be bright enough to prevent your eyes from straining. Try Hinkley mini or mid-pendants, or chandeliers with down lights to accomplish task lighting.

ACCENT LIGHTING: Accent lighting adds drama to a room by creating visual interest. The large number of decorative sconces offered by Hinkley gives you many different options for accenting the decor of any room you've created. Choosing to use sconces with cloth shades, blown glass globes, or hand-painted glass shades can greatly change the effect accent lighting can have. Another popular use of accent lighting is landscape lighting. You've made an investment in the landscaping of your home, and you should enjoy the investment as late into the evening as you choose. Not only does landscape lighting deliver an impact and further extend your living area into the yard, but it also adds a level of security to your home.

Some Favorite Design Magazines

Back to the subject at hand here at The Daily Designer...

There are some stunning home design magazines out there, absolutely filled with an abundance of home decorating ideas.   It can be a little overwhelming, in fact, because there is so much creativity and thought put into these arrangements.   If you are like me, you probably think "we could never get that look".   My main reason is that I have two very energetic little girls and my wife and I both work full-time, so home decor tends to take a back seat to things like throwing out dirty diapers and hunting down 3-day old bowls of Cheerios (mortal enemy of clean homes everywhere).  So right now, we are not worrying too much about having a designer home, but still, we do enjoy looking through our wish books.    Its even nicer when I come across a product line that we sell, or even better, an actual mention of Carolina Rustica.  An example of the latter is the Fall Edition of Oprah at Home.  Surprisingly, there is no online version of this publication, but one of our writing desks was indeed included in this edition. 

Another favorite is Domino Magazine, which has some impossibly creative interiors which only a professional could achieve.   The magazine is definitely targetted to our demographic, and it makes me happy to see product we carry in their magazine, such at this bed by Corsican Furniture (not on our site, but available nonetheless). 

Sometimes these magazines go overboard, however, and its important to recognize that avante-garde design can also get pretty silly.  One of my favorites was in Domino, where they focused on a Long Island Hampton get-away.  The designer was raving about his wallpaper, which consisted of nothing more than pages torn from a field guide to shorebirds, tacked to the wall!  Huh?

Finally, setting the bar impossibly high for clean and green living is Dwell, which has some of the most incredible contemporary homes and designs on the planet.   Talk about a wish book.   I could live in almost any home featured in Dwell, except for the ones that this company recycles out of shipping containers.  I am a minimalist, but not that extreme.   Well, maybe I am.  When I tell my wife what my dream room would look like, she suggests that a nice prison cell has the same features.  Not really the look I'm going for...

We Are Finally in Dummies!

Its finally happened! We are in a "Dummies" book! My wife said this is long overdue. I'm not sure what that means exactly, but I am certainly excited that Carolina Rustica was cited as a case study in Web Marketing for Dummies, Vol. II.

Jan Zimmerman's second edition of this incredibly user-friendly "Dummies" book shows you how to make your site search engine friendly, create an online marketing plan, and use analytical tools to see how your website is performing. Owner Richard Sexton, and Carolina Rustica, are used as a case study in Part V, "Maximizing Your Web Success". Richard explains how Carolina Rustica uses all of the free tools provided by Google Analytics to make subtle changes in the website and enhance the user experience. The popular "Dummies" format makes it even easier to understand how to run your online business (Hint: there are no shortcuts!). We found it helpful ourselves...after all, its always good to return to the basics. So there is indeed something for everyone in this book. Click here to buy this helpful book on Amazon!

If you don't want to buy the book and just want to see where Carolina Rustica is in the book, you can click this link

I will be posting some of the other little mentions we have received over the last month. We try to keep our name out there as much as possible, whether it is for e-commerce commentary, small business advice, or happenings in the furniture world.

There's a Recession??

The Rocket Scientists at the National Bureau of Economic Research announced today that we were in a recession.  Whoa!  I've been telling anyone who will listen (my kids, sometimes, my wife, less,  my parrot, most of the time) that we have been in a recession since November of last year.   The NBER called it for December '07, so I was a month off.  But I've been saying this for a year!! I bet if they had asked any small business owner they would have gotten the same answer, and a lot quicker.

Not that calling a recession a recession makes any difference.  Well, okay, it did make a difference to the stock market today, which plummeted almost 700 points.  But if you are like me, you've already lost so much money that its beyond the point of mattering.  We will now all be working until we are 80.  Fries with that?

Anyway, calling it a recession just makes people more nervous.  We have been noticing that business has been slowing, and customers are more jittery, for a good 12 months.   Orders are slower, customers are more likely to cancel or return a purchase (no problem there), and pricing seems to be the #1 consideration in any purchase.   All told, we are probably about 7 to 10% off from last year.  Try getting that much honesty out of a publicly traded company!   The 10% isn't even bad relative to our industry (furniture), which is off at individual stores by as much as 70%! That is all anecdotal from various furniture reps and the buzz from the furniture market, but if its even half-true, then I am grateful for our small decline.

Back to my main point: Calling it a recession is just a label.  What really matters is how comfortable or uncomfortable you are with your situation right now.   If you are very nervous, don't do anything that will keep you up at night.  Coffee, okay.  Hedge-fund investment, not okay.   Big furniture purchases...up to you.   As real estate salespeople, car salesmen, and other big-ticket item vendors like to say..."there's never been a better time to buy".  That may be true,   but its never a good time to do anything with your money if it gives you a knot in your stomach...during a recession or any other time

Thanksgiving Trade-Offs

This year, there is a certain desperation and uneasiness lingering about the Thanksgiving, which may be a good thing.    Retailers (and we are one of them, don't forget) are starting their sales pitches earlier than ever in an attempt to generate some enthusiasm for holiday spending.  We are all nervous about the shopping season because we know the smart people will be holding back on spending.  I personally have cut back on a number of little items, and I know our own Carolina Rustica customers certainly have.  So, we are sending out email offers like crazy (BTW, you can sign up here and I promise it is worth it) and trying to get our customers in the holiday (i.e. spending) spirit.

But as I said, maybe this uneasiness is in fact a good thing.  With folks holding back on purchases, and everyone reducing their holiday spending plans, we might have more time to concentrate on the important things, like visiting with family and friends, doing some charity work, self-improvement, whatever.  

I live far from my family and my wife's family, but we have a family of our own with 2 little energetic girls, and I know I will be spending as much time with them as possible.  Being the owner of a retail store, I don't get much of a break over Thanksgiving, but I do treasure the time I have with them.    Even though our business is very slow, I try to remember that it is in fact giving more people time to spend with their loved ones, so its not a bad thing.  Its a trade-off I'll take. 
(it would be nice to see SOME improvement sometime soon, though).

Happy Thanksgiving All!

Top Five Fashion Trends for Home by Lexington

Lexington Home Brands is one of our largest and most valued suppliers. They carry Tommy Bahama, Bob Timberlake, Trump Home, Liz Claiborne, Nautica and their own house brands.

Its a little self-serving (this blog is not a running advertisement for our store) but here are their Top Five Fashion Trends, posted to their blog on Oct. 15th.    

Fashions in home furnishings can change as often as trends in haute couture. In fact, the looks you see in fashion magazines often find their way to the home. Here are the top five fashion trends for fall, with corresponding Lexington Home Brands furniture that will help you dress up your interior design.

1. Autumn Hues
Purples, reds, greens and golds are perennial favorites for fall, but this year the colors are richer and more saturated. Deep golds glow against the wood frame in the Worth Wing Chair from Trump Home's Mar-a-Lago collection.

2. Return to the Classics
Crisp white shirts, tailored lines and fedoras are all the rage on the runway, recalling timeless design. Classic lines on Hancock Park's Melrose Buffet offer a fresh modern twist on traditional styling, while the Vine Mirror reflects a concave shaping.

3. Exotica
Fashion designers find inspiration from Moroccan bazaars to India's colorful markets for this key trend. The Indian influence is apparent in the exotic metal details on the Tortola Chest from Tommy Bahama Home's Kingstown collection. The chest is leather-wrapped and sprinkled with nailhead trim that resembles pearls strewn across a tabletop.

4. Florals and Stripes
There is something so fresh and appealing about this mix of patterns, with a little menswear look complemented by feminine touches. The blend trend is perfectly captured in the Abbott couch, shown here as a sneak peek into Lexington's newest collection Barclay Square. Available soon at retail, the sofa's media mix includes crocodile-embossed leather.

5. Gold Jewelry
Nothing glints like gold, particularly against fall's palette of deep colors. The custom-designed gold hardware softly gleams on the Berkeley Chest. Part of Lexington's soft-modern Zacara collection, Berkeley is uniquely fashion-forward with its stacked-box design

Negotiating Your Purchase

One of the national morning shows today had a piece on how to save money shopping for the holidays.  Hey, we all want to save money, right?  However, their advice was to negotiate every purchase, no matter where or in what context.

I can't tell you what a horrible idea that would be if people ever put it into practice.  There are commonly acceptable items to negotiate, we all know that.  Houses, automobiles, horses, furniture, etc.   Its part of the give-and-take of commerce and we all accept it.  As a retailer, I know customers are price-shopping and weighing out their final, total cost (I'll get to that part later).  

But it is pure folly to think that you should negotiate on absolutely everything.  Can you imagine the disaster you would create in the grocery store if you said "I'm not paying $4.00 for a gallon of milk.  Whats your best price?".  First of all, its a little inconsiderate to other customers in line behind you. Second of all, grocery stores operate on razor thin margins of 2-5%, and they are not responsible for price increases.

A better idea?  Clip coupons, take advantage of manufacturer rebates and shop on double or triple-coupon days.

Negotiating on everything you purchase has another effect, particularly with small businesses.   We are all just scraping by right now.  No retailer I know of is making excess profits...they simply can't, in this competative environment.   The internet has levelled out pricing for many items, and most of us are at the minimum allowable pricing allowed by our manufacturers.  Sure, we all have price match guarantees,  but for the most part we are charging the minimum we need to get by.   Driving down the price at your local retailer using the internet as a lever will eventually put that store out of business, and consolidate business to a few mega-retailers or mega-web-sites.   Then we have added to societal and economic cost of unemployment and a failed business. 

A better idea?  If you are really that price-sensitive, go to Craig's List, and outstanding resource for gently used (and sometimes new) items for the home.  

Negotiating on some purchases is perfectly fair, but on other items, the total cost may not be worth it at all...its always best to search out other avenues.  And remember, asking for a discount always goes better when you say the magic words. ..."please".

Revisiting the Blogosphere

Maintaining a useful blog that folks actually want to read is hard work, especially when your main business is selling furniture and lighting to in-store and online customers.  I am going to give it a try, again, and offer small bits of design advise that can be used in any capacity.   I will try not to make it one long advertisement for Carolina Rustica but obviously that is where most of my experience comes from.

My name is Richard Sexton, and I am the owner of aforementioned company.   I won't relate all of our company history, because you can just click this link to read it yourself on our site.  I will say, however, that after 13 years in the business, this is as tumultuous a time as I have ever experienced.   Companies that were once leaders in out industry are falling by the wayside, and there are many furniture and lighting retailers out there on very shaky ground.  I wouldn't say our ground is shaky, but it definitely has a few tremors.   We are all going to emerge from this with a new appreciation for our business and customers.