The finishing touches of a room -- like the lighting, ceiling fans, accessories and electronics -- are the icing on the cake. They refine the mood of the room created by the walls, floors, doors and furniture. And they generally add the fun and further define the season or the person who inhabits a given space.
Lighting and fans
Lighting is much more than simply functional today. Lamps and chandeliers provide illumination, of course, but they also give you a glimpse into the soul of the homeowner. When you walk into a room and see their choice of lighting, you learn about them as a person.
"Contemporary-looking crystals on chandeliers and lamps are very popular," explained Benson Littman, co-owner of Littman Bros. Lighting at 845 S. Roselle Road, in Schaumburg (847-895-5155). "We are seeing designers do some very edgy things with crystal balls, for instance, hanging at funny angles from the ceiling. In one chandelier you see bulbs in a pan at the ceiling, shining down upon the crystals hanging below."
Sheer shades over chandeliers are also quite popular.
"People want the clean, 'less is more' look today. And they still prefer brushed nickel, bronze or wrought iron. Manufacturers have tried to introduce other metals, but these are hard to get away from. The nickel goes with black, white and gray room tones while the bronze goes with the earth tones. So, between the two, you cover the gamut," Littman explained. "Brass is trying to come back and it may become hip again.
"I have found that people like things that look unique," he continued. "They still like the pendant lights, for instance, because they are lighting that also happens to be art."
That is also true of ceiling fans. Today's fans hardly look like fans at all, Littman stressed. They are more like lighting/art that also happens to move air.
"Every year the manufacturers are trying to outdo themselves by making fans cleaner, more contemporary and more minimal. I have even seen one fan that only has one blade and many that only use two blades," he said.
These contemporary fans often resemble flying saucers on the ceiling. At the other end of the spectrum are the highly popular, very ornate fans with hand-carved blades.
"In the past, the blades or paddles were an afterthought. Now people are interested in how they look and many are very ornate, furniture-quality, hand-scraped wood, enhanced with scrollwork and other designs. They are expensive and they look fantastic," Littman stated.
Accessories that adorn walls and furniture make a house into a home, a room into a haven. Crate and Barrel stores have supplying these finishing touches to Chicago area homes for 50 years.
"Decorative accessories this year are trending toward the warm metals, particularly brass and copper," said Beth Pergande, general manager of the Crate and Barrel store at Deer Park Town Center (847-438-0031). "These accessories complement a traditional environment or a midcentury modern look and are coming in a variety of finishes from shiny, to matte, to etched, to antique. But these new brass pieces are marked by clean, contemporary lines. They are not your old, traditional pieces. Some are even made of recycled brass.
"We have something for everyone, ranging from brass hurricanes to bowls, chandeliers and side tables. Much of it comes from India because they do such detailed, beautiful work. These pieces can really freshen up a room," she explained.
Designer Aaron Probyn is also using warm metals, mixed with multicolored glass, in his beautiful, contemporary bar pieces which quickly become conversation pieces in any home, according to Pergande.
His "Welcome" dinnerware in grays and sage is elegantly casual and can easily be dressed up for the various seasons from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah, Christmas, Easter and beyond. Serving pieces in various metals, woods and terra cotta complete the look.
"Art glass is also popular, but it doesn't look like Frank Lloyd Wright's glass. It, too, uses neutral colors like the handmade smoky gray chiseled and cut bowl, made in India, which we are selling this season," Pergande said. "Only 500 were made, so it is expected to become an heirloom which sparkles and keeps people talking for years."
Textiles and leathers also dress up a room. Crate and Barrel offers rugs of various sizes which double as artwork for the floor. One features patchwork pieces of leather in different soft grays, cut in long rectangles and sewn using contrast stitching.
Pillows, bedding and throw blankets using globally inspired patterns which are almost tribal in nature are also hot and are usually appearing in grays, blues and other neutrals like flax. These age-old patterns are being re-invented to bring a new clean look to any room, Pergande explained.
Silk floral arrangements like those custom made at Silk 'N Things in Deer Park Town Center (847-550-1118) remain popular for dressing up spaces year-round and add a pop of color and a touch of nature to any room.
At this time of year, the owners of Silk 'N Things concentrate their efforts on holiday items, according to Rose Picket, co-owner of the shop with her husband, Al.
"This year we have three themes in the shop: Forest Frost, Urban Lodge and Elf on the Shelf," she explained. "Forest Frost gives you the feel of what it is like to walk in the forest after it snows. There are gorgeous owls, snowflakes, icicles, snow houses, deer -- all with crystal glitz. There are lots of items made of wood and bark and they not only go on trees, but on mantels, bookshelves, tables -- anywhere. It is really more of a winter look than a holiday look."
The Urban Lodge theme is sleek and uses lots of silver, black and red. It involves lots of red stars, ornaments in the shapes of purses, stilettos and pianos and its tree looks like it has fireworks coming out of the top. Packages made of gold mesh, accented with ribbon and floral accents, are lit from within with Christmas lights for a unique, outstanding accent.
The Elf theme is the traditional Christmas area featuring lots of playful, friendly faced elves. The predominant colors are red, green and black and it features whimsical elves and other traditional Christmas motifs in mirrors, clocks, runners, pillows and more.
Children's rooms are always a celebration. Personalization of everything and anything is a hot trend, according to Debbie Romanek, assistant manager of Pottery Barn Kids at Deer Park Town Center (847-438-4433). Use of a child's name, initials or monogram on the wall, for instance, using wood Harper letters as large as 30 inches tall in a variety of colors to coordinate with the room, is rampant. Similarly, personalization of blankets, stroller packs, Christmas stockings and organizational totes is so hot that the Deer Park store now has its own monogramming machine so that the work can be done on-site, while the customer waits.
Mirrors, especially those cut into whimsical shapes like butterflies, lions and whales, have become a very popular way to lighten and enlarge children's rooms and make them more playful.
"We also offer transitional mirrors that can grow with a child like the circle blossom mirror," added Kimberly Terry, director of public relations and marketing communications for Pottery Barn Kids in San Francisco.
Parents who understand that children grow quickly, and their tastes change just as quickly, are opting for wall decals as a great way to personalize a room in a temporary way, according to Romanek. Pottery Barn Kids offers decals of all sizes that are easy to apply, and later remove, and look just like they have been painted on the walls. Decals range from huge world maps to cherry blossom trees and branches to super heroes and motifs that match nursery bedding.
"They provide a very custom look and parents like the fact that they are able to let their older children be involved in applying them," Terry said.
Super heroes accessories portraying Spiderman, Batman and Star Wars are still popular for little boys. Their likenesses come on everything from clocks to lamps to decals.
"We have found that our wide range of lamps using footballs, baseballs, trains, railroad crossing signals and much more are very popular," said Romanek. "Parents like our mix-and-match shades and bases."
The Deer Park store's free design services are also quite popular. Clients can confer with a designer at home, in the store or over the computer for up to one hour to design the perfect room for their child, she added.
Deer Park Town Center (www.shopdeerparktowncenter.com) is located at Long Grove Road and Rand Road (Route 12) in Deer Park. It features 70 shops and restaurants, including nine that are housewares-related. It has been open since 2000.
Both children and adults are always anxious to explore the latest and greatest electronics that they can enjoy in the rooms of their home.
The hottest products this year offered by Microsoft allow people to do everything from design a custom piece of art or holiday card, to stay fit and in touch with their heart rate and muscle use, to produce multiple holiday gifts and ornaments, to run movies, play games, listen to music and even complete homework.
"Many of our customers are already familiar and comfortable with the Microsoft operating system and products. Inviting them to upgrade their technology on a familiar platform is reassuring," explained Lisa Seigneur, manager of Microsoft at Woodfield Mall (847-466-2830).
"We find that families are searching for new solutions the entire household can participate in. Xbox, MakerBot and applications like Fresh Paint for Windows 8.1 are very alluring to them," she continued. "Students are drawn to tablets with 8.1, that offers the best in getting educational projects done with Office 365 and consuming media content with great applications like Netflix and Hulu Plus."
Microsoft's top offerings this year fall into four categories.
The Surface Pro 2 tablet is so versatile, it's practically a laptop. It can run virtually all the programs a family loves, including movies, Xbox games and apps on its HD display. When playtime is over, Seigneur said, you can fire up Microsoft Office and click in the fully functioning keyboard to get homework done. You can also add on Fresh Paint for Windows 8.1 which allows you to design artwork.
Xbox One will allow users to listen to their custom play list, find a film on-demand with Xbox Video or play games. It gives instant access to live TV, games, music, movies, sports and Skype, all in one place. They will also soon be able to purchase Xbox Fitness which uses precision Kinect technology to read their heart rate without a monitor, see which muscles are most engaged by measuring the power, force and transfer of weight in their body, and track the quality of their performance by measuring their balance, tempo and form.
Microsoft also offers 3-D printing at home using Windows 8.1's plug-and-play support for 3-D printer. It is now as easy to use as printing a Word doc to a paper printer.
Finally, anyone can step away from their desk and work in the spot that most inspires them using the Asus Transformer Book T100 with Windows 8.1. It is a fully functioning laptop and detachable keyboard through which anyone watch movies or use fun apps like Fresh Paint.