When a homeowner is furnishing an entire house, Anne Hildreth recommends they start with the room they use the most -- the family room -- and proceed from there.
"Most people know what they want in the family room, in terms of comfort. So we try to start with the sofa, which is the largest piece of furniture in the room, and gradually develop a style from there," said Hildreth, a designer at Steinhafels furniture store in the Vernon Hills.
"I stress to my customers that they should not be afraid to mix and match. Mix leather with fabrics, woods with metals -- like silver and pewter," Hildreth said. "You don't want to go in and buy an entire collection of furniture and have your house end up looking like a page from a catalog. You want your home to look like you have accumulated the pieces over the years, but have developed a cohesive look."
Most importantly, however, you want the rooms of your house to reflect your lifestyle and your personal style.
Steinhafels' Vernon Hills store has four in-home consultants like Hildreth who are available to help homeowners make their choices.
"Many people come in and they just don't know what they want to do. They bring in magazine pictures and items they saw on Pinterest, but they just don't know how to pull it all together to achieve their dream of creating an interesting room," she said.
Since Steinhafels charges an hourly fee for their design services, their designers are not "trapped within our walls" when advising clients, Hildreth said.
"We will go shopping at other stores with our clients to pick up finishing touches and interesting items. We don't just sell our products and that sets us apart from other furniture stores. I am in different stores with my clients all the time and they love having that option," she said.
The designers also ask questions, like how much abuse do you expect the furniture to take from children and pets? Are you furnishing an apartment or your dream home?
These kinds of queries help both the consultants and the homeowners zero in on the desired price and durability levels of the furniture to be considered.
"If you are furnishing an apartment that you plan to keep for a few years and then move into a house, you probably won't want to spend a lot on your furniture. But if you are moving into your dream house, more high-end furniture is probably in order," Hildreth said.
When furnishing the more formal areas of a home, like the living and dining rooms, she continued, it is wise to keep your base items like couches and chairs neutral. That way, you can change the rooms with pillows and other accents to coincide with the seasons and you can make more substantive updates every five to seven years without replacing big ticket items that are still perfectly fine.
Steinhafels is a third generation family business that was founded in Milwaukee in 1934 as Mueller-Steinhafel Furniture. The Mueller family was bought out in 1944 and it has been Steinhafels ever since. Today, the company has seven furniture stores in Wisconsin and one in Illinois. It also has nine mattress stores since it manufactures its own line of mattresses.
"Our store in Vernon Hills opened in 2011. They decided to expand into Illinois because they were getting so many Illinois customers coming into their Kenosha store," Hildreth said.
Steinhafels is at 569 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Vernon Hills. For more information, call (847) 281-0050 or visit www.steinhafels.com.