Technology

interior

How to Easily Break up Your Open Living Space

A relatively new trend in residential construction and design, the open floor plan started to catch on in the United States in the latter half of the 20th century. Prior to the 1950s, most American homes featured a much more divided layout dominated by smaller spaces and a main hallway connecting them. In this traditional floor plan, the kitchen was typically located in the rear of the home. This is because it was viewed as a utilitarian space that was off-limits to guests.

Today’s open-plan concept, which started growing in popularity around the 1990s, brought the kitchen into the center of the home alongside the dining room and living room. The merging of these three areas creates an open, casual living space that is great for entertaining and socializing as a family.

While an open floor plan comes with several advantages, it is certainly not without its drawbacks. In addition to largely eliminating private living spaces, an open layout can appear cluttered and be more difficult to keep clean.

Combining the kitchen, dining room, and living room into one shared space also leads to design challenges. Without physical separation, an open floor plan can look and feel a bit chaotic. Fortunately, creating clearly defined spaces can be quite simple with a little creativity and the right furniture and design elements. Here’s how to do it:

 

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Embrace Symmetry

When separating areas in an open-space layout, it’s wise to start by creating a balanced look using your largest furniture pieces. The classic living room design featuring two matching sofas facing each other is perfect for open floor plans because it uses symmetry to clearly define the space. Complementing the area with a large dining room table and matching chairs adds to the design while enhancing functionality.

Alongside the large furniture pieces, you can create even more symmetrical definition by adding matching chairs and paired-up accessories such as lamps, mirrors, and framed art. Be sure to avoid cluttering the area and don’t hinder the traffic flow from one living space to the next.

 

Use Rugs to Establish Conversation Spaces

In an open floor plan, rugs can be your best friend. In addition to complementing your layout, area rugs are the ideal solution for demarcating conversation spaces while also adding warmth and character to what could otherwise be a large, empty, and cold area. Rugs also guide foot traffic and create subtle visual boundaries that don’t interfere with eye-level design elements.

When using multiple rugs in an open living space, you can opt for matching pieces or go with a more eclectic layout by mixing colors, patterns, and textures. Don’t forget to carefully consider the look of your furniture and the overall design scheme of the room when deciding which rug(s) will work best in the space.

 

Choose Color Wisely

An open layout gives you the opportunity to use color in creative ways. Color can be used for two distinct purposes: to create a cohesive look or establish clearly defined spaces. If you’re looking to create definition with color, don’t be afraid to go bold with colorful accent walls, furniture, and accessories. You can tie everything together with a unifying neutral background that flows from one area to the next.

If you find it difficult to determine when to start and stop applying color, you can instead choose to keep all walls and architectural elements the same hue. Another option is the tone-on-tone approach. This enables you to add subtle contrasts while sticking with a coherent color palette.

furniture

 

Invest in Open Shelving and Room Dividers

Room dividers provide an easy solution for those who want to break up their open living area. While products such as folding screens and curtains can be used for this purpose, you can get creative without comprising the overall flow of the space. Consider using open shelving and other see-through storage solutions to define a room’s boundaries while preventing the area from feeling too closed in.

Other clever options include multipurpose partitions that double as a space for planters. For added texture and character, use see-through wooden partitions with striking geometric patterns. Whatever the style, it’s always a good idea to choose freestanding dividers that can be moved as needed.

 

Don’t Cut Corners

One of the best things about an open floor plan is that it gives you the option to divide the living area as you see fit. When delineating the space, don’t overlook the corners because they can be used in a variety of ways. If your great room’s current layout seems lacking, consider creating a cozy corner reading nook or perpendicular dining area.

A corner can also provide a small conversation space or study area. Even if your corners can’t be used for these purposes, try to get the most out of the space by adding shelves, artwork, or extra storage to often-overlooked corner areas.

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business

Traditional Marketing Actually Matters in the New Digital Age

While it’s important for today’s furniture retailers to market via social media and other digital channels, doing so should not come at the expense of traditional marketing efforts. Of course, most prospective customers are spending a significant amount of time online, but they are still reading the newspaper, watching television, and tuning into the radio. In fact, the average person spends 112 minutes each day listening to the radio and five hours each day in front of the TV. Also, while online and satellite radio services are increasingly popular, more than 90 percent of Americans still listen to AM/FM stations and all of the advertising they broadcast.

People are also exposed to visual advertising each day when they drive past billboards on their way to work and return home to find flyers and brochures in their mailboxes. It’s true that the ways people consume information have changed, but the types of advertising and promotion that worked prior to the digital age are still effective at spreading a brand’s message among potential customers. The fact that radio, television, and print media remain an integral part of most people’s daily routines is exactly why furniture retailers should continue to include these channels in their marketing campaigns. Read on to learn more about traditional marketing methods and find out how you can make them work for your business.

 

Traditional Marketing Channels for Furniture Retailers

Direct mail and printed ads—In a largely brick-and-mortar industry like furniture retail, direct mail can be very effective at generating sales. This is particularly true of small retailers that rely on local customers to remain in business. Flyers, brochures, and even postcards are especially useful for advertising in-store events and other special offers.

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Direct mail is also perfect for delivering coupons, which are great tools for getting customers into a store. In a recent survey of furniture shoppers, 70 percent of respondents said that a coupon or ad delivered to their mailbox had led them to take action on a purchase within the last year.

While the main goal of direct mail campaigns is to increase store traffic, they also work for retailers looking to simply boost their brand awareness. In fact, studies have shown that brand recall is much higher among those who received direct mailers as opposed to digital advertisements sent via email.

 

Outdoor advertising—Falling under the category of out-of-home (OOH) advertising, billboards are common, hard-to-miss sights along highways and freeways across the United States. Like direct mail, billboards are strongly effective at promoting brand recall among those who notice them, and they are great tools for advertising sales, new product lines, and store grand openings.

Advancements in digital technology have led to billboards with giant LED screens that bring an advertising message to life using vivid colors and eye-catching movement. It’s also important to note that OOH advertising isn’t limited to billboards. To promote their store, furniture retailers can also use smaller signage on bus benches, public transport, and vehicles.

 

Radio and TV spots—Although radio and television advertisements are more expensive than other traditional marketing channels, they are also among the most effective. Retailers on a budget may want to forgo the TV commercials and opt instead for a radio ad, which is a more affordable option that still has the ability to reach a large number of people. While the exact figure varies among industries, radio advertisements have the ability to generate up to $17 in revenue for every dollar spent on the ad.

Despite the expense, the main benefit of advertising on television is that it gives retailers the ability to use sight, sound, and motion to showcase their products while attaching personality to their business. Consumers also trust TV commercials more than other forms of advertising, which is great for retailers looking to build credibility in their community.

 

Tips to Consider

Now that you know about the traditional marketing channels available to furniture retailers, how can you use them to spread your business’ message? Here are a few quick tips for creating an effective advertising campaign:

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  1. Target the right audience.

For direct mail campaigns, it’s important for retailers to understand their customer demographics and find ways to target those who will most likely come into their stores. Tools like the U.S. Post Office’s Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) program can be helpful in accomplishing this goal.

 

  1. Run multiple advertisements.

Whether it’s in a newspaper, on the radio, or on TV, a single advertisement alone isn’t very effective at attracting new customers. Running different ads simultaneously in several formats or running the same ad for an extended period will do a better job of boosting business awareness.

 

  1. Be creative.

Just because they’re labeled “traditional” doesn’t mean that billboard, print, radio, and TV ads should hold back on the creativity. Advertisements with eye-catching logos and designs, and well-crafted photos, videos, and ad copy will attract more attention and potentially more business.

 

  1. Reach out to the community.

Along with using creativity in the content of their advertisements, furniture retailers should be creative in the other ways they communicate their brand locally. Donating products for local contests and raffles or sponsoring sports teams, community groups, and/or events offers retailers the opportunity to fulfill marketing objectives while showing potential customers they are committed to their community.

pinterest

What You Should Know about Using Pinterest for Social Marketing

In the world of retail marketing, visual content is just as important as written content. In fact, it’s often more important. This is particularly true for product categories such as furniture. Next to the fashion and beauty industries, few areas of retail rely more on visual presentation to connect with consumers than home furnishings.

Within brick-and-mortar furniture stores, retailers use thoughtful visual merchandising to highlight each product’s best features and demonstrate how customers can use the items on the showroom floor in their own living spaces. Outside of physical stores, furniture retailers leverage visual advertising to draw customers into their shops. Despite the fact that many furniture retailers understand the important role that visual presentation plays in their advertising efforts, many are missing a great opportunity to spread their message even further through social media.

While almost all social media platforms support photo and video posts, few are as visually focused as Pinterest. And now that many consumers are actively using Pinterest to search for products and ideas, all furniture retailers should be thinking of ways to reach out to potential customers via the platform. Those who do so will find that Pinterest can be an ideal tool for showcasing their product offerings.

 

pinterest

 

Why Furniture Retailers Should Take Pinterest Seriously

Within the last several years, Pinterest has become one of the largest and fastest-growing social networks. The platform has over 200 million active monthly users. The visual nature of Pinterest has made it the go-to network for users to share and discover new interests. Through new features such as visual search and in-app purchases, the platform is also quickly becoming a preferred shopping tool for many social media users, including a large number of millennials who are on Pinterest more than any other age group. According to recent statistics, Pinterest is the top shopping platform among millennials. Over 55 percent of all Pinterest users turn to the site to buy various items.

Even those who do not use the platform to directly buy products use it to plan purchases. In fact, a recent study found that 93 percent of people in the Pinterest community have used “pins” to plan purchases, and 87 percent reported that Pinterest pins have played a major role when they made purchasing decisions. What’s important for furniture retailers to note is that among the various topics available to browse on Pinterest, home decor is one of the most popular. People are now on Pinterest to not only find decorating and design ideas, but to also browse for and buy home decor products, including furniture.

 

Tips for Using Pinterest as a Marketing Tool

The good news for furniture retailers who are just getting started on Pinterest is that the platform is very easy to use. It has many of the same sharing and community-engagement features of other social networks. However, marketing on Pinterest requires a somewhat different approach than on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Following are few tips for retailers to consider.

 

  • Create a visual experience.

Anyone who has been on Pinterest knows that it is full of visual content. Furniture brands and retailers looking to make a marketing impact on the platform should focus on creating a visual experience with pins containing high-quality product photos. In addition to photos of the products themselves, it is also a good idea to pin “lifestyle” pictures that show products in a naturalistic home decor setting. These types of photos will also help users to find product photos via Pinterest’s visual search function, which supports approximately 600 million visual searches each month.

 

  • Don’t forget about searchable keywords.

Unlike other social media platforms, Pinterest is a powerful search engine that handles more than 2 billion searches on a monthly basis. A large number of Pinterest users even prefer the platform to traditional search engines such as Google. With so many people using the network to search for products and ideas, it’s critical for retailers to include keyword-focused pin descriptions alongside their product photos. Searchable descriptions should include trending keywords related to the featured product’s style and design, material, and/or function. It’s still important, however, to keep descriptions short and let the photos speak for themselves.

 

  • Use Pinterest’s specialized pins.

Pinterest offers several solutions for retailers to promote their products and drive traffic to their store website. The solutions include Promoted Pins, which are essentially paid Pinterest advertisements. According to Pinterest, over 60 percent of users have discovered new products or made purchases after seeing a Promoted Pin. Additionally, Pinterest reports that over 70 percent of users have said that Promoted Pins and other business content make the platform more helpful. Along with promoted advertising, retailers can take advantage of Rich Pins, which provide more context about a product, and Buyable Pins, which enable users to purchase products directly through the Pinterest page.

Your Easy How-to Guide for Protecting Your Patio Furniture

Unless you live in a locale that offers warm year-round temperatures, there inevitably comes a time when you have to retreat to the indoors after enjoying your outdoor living areas throughout the spring and summer months.

More and more people today are bringing the indoors outside with the help of modern and stylish patio furniture and accessories from retailers like Ashley HomeStore. These quality products are durable and built for the outdoors. However, there are still several actions you can take to keep them looking their best season after season.

Take some extra time now to prepare your outdoor furniture for the snow and cold winter weather. Doing so means your chairs, tables, sofas, and accessories will be ready for you when the temperature starts to rise once again. Keep reading to learn what to do to prep your outdoor furniture for winter time.

 

How to Get Started

Before you do anything else, it’s a good idea to start the winter-prep process by organizing and cleaning your outdoor living areas. Put away anything you’re not using and clear some space on your patio or deck so that you can give your furniture a good cleaning. Furniture pieces that are left dirty over the winter can be very difficult to clean later. They may even become damaged from mold or mildew growth.

You can avoid these issues by spraying your furniture with a hose and scrubbing down any stubborn spots. A mild solution of dish soap and water is typically safe to use on most materials. However, you should be sure to check with your furniture’s manufacturer for specific instructions. Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned everything, let it all air dry in the sun before moving on to the next steps.

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Protecting Materials against Moisture and Cold Temperatures

Although manufacturers design most outdoor furniture pieces to be weather-resistant, they may feature paints, stains, and protective coatings that can degrade over time. If these layers of protection start to fail, your furniture can become vulnerable to damage from harsh weather conditions. Here are some tips for protecting outdoor furniture materials from the elements:

 

Metal

Aluminum and wrought iron are two of the most common metals used in outdoor furniture. You can periodically apply a coat of automobile wax to extend the life of the protective coatings on both these metals. If you see any scratches or rust, gently brush or sand the area and apply a rust-inhibitive paint to keep the damage from spreading.

 

Wood

Even treated or rot-resistant wood won’t last forever. Fortunately, there are plenty of things that help ensure that your pieces look good and remain functional for many years. Like a wood deck, outdoor wood tables and chairs need to be treated with a water-repellant stain every other year or so. This protects against cracking and eventual failure. If you want your wood furniture to maintain its color, you’ll also want to regularly apply a new coat of paint after the original begins to fade.

 

Plastic

Plastic furniture is generally easier to care for than metal or wood pieces because it doesn’t absorb water. It is prone to cracking in cold temperatures, however. For this reason, most manufacturers recommend that you either cover or move plastic furniture indoors during the winter months.

 

Cushions and Fabrics

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Staining is the most common issue that you’ll have to deal with on your outdoor cushions and upholstery. Keeping these items clean may require more than one washing a season. It’s also important to make any necessary repairs to holes and ripped seams. In most cases, it’s best to store your outdoor cushions indoors or somewhere under cover when they aren’t being used.

 

Don’t Forget about the Accessories

In addition to outdoor furniture sets and individual pieces, you likely have at least a few accessories that you’ll need to prepare for the winter. Like pillows and cushions, umbrellas will need to be cleaned with mild soap and water. Your umbrella may also need to be repaired from time to time. As long as it is collapsed, a patio umbrella can withstand some harsh weather conditions. However, you’ll definitely want to put it away before the snow starts to fall.

Don’t forget about other items you may have in your yard, including hammocks. If you have a cotton hammock hanging somewhere outside, it’s especially important to bring it indoors because the fall and winter weather will likely ruin it. Hammocks made of synthetic materials are more durable than cotton hammocks, but they are also prone to damage. It’s probably best to just to take them inside during the colder months.

 

Cover and Store

Cleaning and maintaining your patio furniture will go a long way toward protecting it. However, the best protection comes when your furniture is properly covered and/or stored away from the elements. If possible, put your pieces away in a shed or garage under cover to protect them from dust and mildew.

If you don’t have the storage space, just do your best to properly cover furniture with commercial furniture covers or even a waterproof tarp secured with a rope or bungee cord. Remember, any extra protection you can add will help ensure that your outdoor furniture lasts as long as possible.

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Your Complete Guide to the 2018 NEXT Conference

NEXTlogoThe time has come again for furniture retailers and other industry professionals to gather at the NEXT Conference, a three-day interactive forum focused on marketing, technology, and business strategies that can help them to earn repeat customers. The 2018 event will take place from September 24-26 at Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater in Austin, Texas. In addition to prominent speakers in the area of retail, marketing, and consumer relations, the 2018 NEXT Conference will feature a range of educational sessions and networking events to help attendees enhance their professional knowledge and skills while making new connections with others in the retail industry. If you plan to attend, read on to learn how to prepare and what to expect when you get there.

How to Register

Registration for the 2018 NEXT Conference is a simple process. Retailers, manufacturers, suppliers, and other prospective attendees can visit Next.PBMConferences.com and click on the “Register Now” button on the home page. Doing so will take you to a registration page where you will enter personal information, including your name, address, and job title, before paying any applicable registration fees. Alternatively, you can choose to register on-site from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the opening day of the event. Registration rates range from $499 for retailers to $999 for manufacturers, suppliers, and other attendees.

 

Where to Stay and How to Get Around

NEXT Conference organizers have reserved a block of hotel rooms for attendees at Hotel Van Zandt, which is located only minutes from the conference venue. Rooms start at $239 per night and can be booked through the NEXT Conference website or by calling the hotel directly. Of course, attendees also have the option to stay at one of the many other hotels in the Austin area.

Moody Theater

Image courtesy Todd Dwyer | Flickr

Those flying into Austin will likely arrive at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS). At AUS, attendees can pick up a rental car, take the Super Shuttle, or hire a taxi to travel to their hotel or the conference venue, which is located approximately 10 miles away from AUS. Transportation services will not be provided during the event, so attendees will have to walk, rent a car, hire a service, or take public transportation to travel between their hotel and The Moody Theater.

 

Lineup of Speakers

Each year, the NEXT Conference features a lineup of prominent speakers with diverse backgrounds in marketing and advertising, retail sales, and business leadership. Over a dozen big-name speakers will speak at this year’s conference, including Gay Gaddis, Steve Dennis, and Phil Gwoke.

A Texas-based marketing executive, keynote speaker Gay Gaddis oversees The Think Tank (T3), which she launched in 1989 after cashing in a $16,000 IRA. Gaddis, who has worked with some of the country’s top companies, will take the stage at the NEXT Conference to discuss how attendees can harness their personal power to make their own way in business.

Opening speaker Steve Dennis is the president of SageBerry Consulting. Before assuming his current position, Steve Dennis served as the chief strategy officer and head of multichannel marketing for the Neiman Marcus Group. He has used his extensive experience to write and speak on retail innovation. His presentation at the 2018 NEXT Conference will focus on helping attendees to stay fresh in today’s retail environment.

On the morning of September 25, Phil Gwoke will address the NEXT audience. Gwoke, a former high school teacher and small business owner, is a respected expert in generational intelligence. He will leverage his expertise to discuss the four generations that comprise today’s retail market and provide insight into how salespeople can be successful in reaching each age group.

In addition to gaining insights from the three featured speakers, attendees at the 2018 NEXT Conference will have an opportunity to learn from a number of other marketers and retail leaders, including Jasmine Jaco, Casey Miller, Tim McLain, and Shrenik Sadalgi. Bill McLoughlin and Catherine Silver from Furniture Today will also present at the event.

 

What Attendees Can Expect to Learn at the NEXT Conference

Beyond the presentations on personal power, retail innovation, and generational demographics, NEXT attendees will learn how to harness creative marketing and modern tools to drive the growth of their companies. Conference sessions will focus on how retailers can create compelling stories to promote products and brands while reaching new customers through technology and experiential merchandising. Speaker Seth Weisblatt will also discuss how attendees can use social media, data mining, and other digital marketing tools to stand out from their competitors.

 

Opportunities for Networking and Socializing

Outside of the educational programming, attendees will have an opportunity to socialize and establish new professional connections during several networking activities. The conference will include daily networking breaks, as well as special events such as luncheons and cocktail parties. On September 25, Catherine Silver, the vice president of the parent company of Furniture Today, will host a ceremony recognizing the winners of the Impact Mentorship Award and the Impact Innovator Awards. Before traveling back home, attendees can also take part in networking excursions throughout Austin on the morning of September 26. More information about all the activities at the 2018 NEXT Conference is available at Next.PBMConferences.com.

business

9 of the Most Successful Entrepreneurs Who Started with Little Money

A recent study conducted by Harvard Business School found that 50 percent of all new businesses in the United States fail within the first five years, and over 70 percent of companies never make it to their 10th anniversary. While these statistics are quite discouraging, they didn’t prevent the most successful entrepreneurs from launching their own enterprises with nothing more than a good idea, a commitment to hard work, and a strong motivation to succeed.

Some of these entrepreneurs have become well-known public figures, while others remain relatively unheard of, but they all prove that it is possible for anyone to attain success in today’s competitive business environment. The following is a look at 9 successful entrepreneurs who launched businesses with very little money:

 

  1. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Image courtesy Andrea Omizzolo | Flickr

Now a household name, Steve Jobs cofounded Apple Computers with Steve Wozniak in 1976 using $1,350 the two college dropouts made by selling some personal items. This initial investment quickly grew to $200 million thanks to sales of the user-friendly Apple II computer. Driven by Jobs’ later innovations, including the iMac, iPod, iPad, and iPhone, Apple is currently valued at an astonishing $1 trillion.

 

  1. Henry Ford

Anyone growing up in the United States is likely quite familiar with Henry Ford. The father of the assembly line, he launched the Ford Motor Company in 1903 using cash supplied mostly by relatives and friends of Alexander V. Malcomson, an early investor in Ford’s designs. In addition to streamlining the auto-manufacturing process, Ford was known for treating his employees very well. His high wages attracted reliable workers and helped him take his company to the top of the automobile industry.

 

  1. John Pemberton

John Pemberton

Image courtesy justiny8s | Flickr

The founder of one of the world’s most iconic brands, John Pemberton created Coca-Cola based on a non-alcoholic version of his French Wine Coca nerve tonic. The Georgia pharmacist developed the soda-fountain drink with little financial backing and initially sold the product for a mere 5 cents a gallon. Although Pemberton died before Coca-Cola really took off, his invention would go on to become a globally recognized product.

 

  1. Roxanne Quimby and Burt Shavitz

Although this entry technically counts as two entrepreneurs, they are listed together because they are both responsible for creating the successful Burt’s Bees line of personal care products. Using Quimby’s creativity and leftover wax from Shavitz’ honey business, the couple began creating and selling homemade candles. With $200 made during their first craft fair, they launched a candle-making operation that made $20,000 in its first year. After adding other products, most notably lip balm, Burt’s Bees became a very successful company. In 2007, Clorox acquired the brand for $925 million.

 

  1. Sam Walton

Initially the owner of several Ben Franklin franchises, Sam Walton took out a loan from his father-in-law to open his first store in Newport, Arkansas, in the mid-1940s. The location’s success allowed him to quickly pay back the loan, and he was soon operating stores in two additional states. During his early career, Walton established the retail practices that would come to define Walmart, which he launched in the early 1960s. Today, Walmart brings in over $500 billion in annual revenue and employs 2.3 million people worldwide.

 

  1. Daymond John

FUBU founder Daymond John launched his business empire selling handmade wool hats on a street corner in Queens. His first batch of hats netted John $800 and encouraged him to continue pursuing the endeavor. Later, John’s mother mortgaged her home to finance his pursuits, and he began to expand his line to include hip-hop-inspired T-shirts, sportswear, and accessories. To date, FUBU has generated over $6 billion in retail sales. Daymond John is worth an estimated $300 million.

 

  1. Sophia Amoruso

Sophia Amoruso

Image courtesy TechCrunch | Flickr

Not your typical entrepreneurial success story, Sophia Amoruso never intended to launch a business. At 22, she started an eBay store that grew into the Nasty Gal clothing brand. Amoruso eventually stepped down as CEO of Nasty Gal, which at its height was worth $350 million. She currently leads Girlboss, a community and media company that supports the endeavors of working women.

 

  1. David Packard and William Redington Hewlett

Another two-for-one entry on this list, William (Bill) Redington Hewlett and David Packard met each other while studying engineering at Stanford University in the early 1930s. Encouraged by a Stanford professor, the pair used a $500 loan and a second-hand drill press to launch Hewlett Packard from a small garage in Palo Alto. The two men developed a wide range of innovative tech products over the years and helped give rise to what became known as Silicon Valley. The garage where Hewlett and Packard started their business is now a California Historic Landmark, and Hewlett Packard is worth approximately $27.4 billion.

 

  1. Kevin Plank

Although Kevin Plank grew up in a prominent Maryland family, his success as an entrepreneur stemmed from his own hard work and determination. As a student at the University of Maryland, he launched Cupid’s Valentine, a company that sold roses on Valentine’s Day. With the $17,000 he made from the venture, Plank developed and started selling the first products that would make up his Under Armour brand. Today, Under Armour generates close to $5 billion in annual revenue.

sideboard

8 Tips for Putting Your Sideboard to Good Use

A sideboard, also known as a buffet, is a long, low-profile storage and service piece that first began appearing in homes during the late 18th century. The earliest versions were based on a design by Scottish architect and furniture maker Robert Adam, and they were primarily used in the dining room to serve platters of food and to store cutlery, napkins, dishes, and other table items. While they still have their place in the dining room, these versatile pieces of furniture are essential storage solutions that can be found in nearly every room of a home. Whether you already have one—or several—or you are simply considering if it’s the right piece for your needs, check out the following eight tips to learn how to put a sideboard to good use.

 

  1. Keep It in the Dining Room

If you entertain often or gather regularly for family meals, a sideboard is definitely a piece of furniture you’ll want to use in your kitchen or dining room. Here, you can use it to store silver cutlery, fine china, tablecloths, candleholders, and just about anything else you’ll need to host a fabulous dinner party for your friends and family. The sideboard surface is also ideal for serving both hot and cold foods. However, you may want to invest in a natural stone or tempered glass top to protect it from burns, spills, and scratches.

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  1. Make It the Focal Point of Your Family Room

Outside of the dining area, the first place that many people use a sideboard is in their family room. Due to its long and narrow shape, a sideboard works great as a design piece for holding lamps and vases. It also works perfectly as a media center that can hold a TV, speakers, game console, and other essentials, while keeping cords, wires, CDs, and DVDs out of sight in the drawers and cabinets below.

 

  1. Use It to Create a Cleaner Workspace

Those who work from home or maintain a separate area for paying bills or helping their children with homework can use a sideboard to keep clutter from overtaking their workspace. If you’re tired of files, stacks of paper, and odds and ends such as paper clips and boxes of staples taking over your desk, a sideboard can be the perfect solution. It also provides a convenient space for a printer, scanner, and other office gadgets.

 

  1. Give Your Hallway a Boost

Tight spaces such as hallways and entryways can be difficult to furnish. However, it’s often nice to have a spot in these areas to hold items such as your keys, hats, gloves, and lamps and extra storage space for things that don’t get much use around your home. If your hallway is wide enough, consider investing in a sideboard to add some extra style and functionality to the space.

 

  1. Create a Cocktail Bar or Entertainment Area

In addition to serving food, a sideboard can be easily converted into a casual bar for instant entertaining. Use the surface for bottles, ice, and garnishes, as well as to keep mixers, tumblers, trays, and glasses stored safely in the cabinets below. Be sure to store glasses on a non-skid liner, and if you want to add an extra touch, consider investing in a suspended storage unit to hang stemware above the sideboard surface.

 

  1. Break Up An Open Living Area

While an open design concept can work great for many families, it can sometimes be difficult to define multiple spaces. Along with providing a spot for both functional and decorative items, the long and low sideboard can be just the piece you need to show where one living area ends and another one begins. The sideboard is particularly well-suited to sit behind a “floating” couch in an area that combines a living room and eating area.

 

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  1. Display Your Collections

If you collect knickknacks, pottery, small art pieces, or other decorative items, a sideboard may provide the perfect spot to display them. You can simply arrange them on the surface or find a sideboard with glass cabinet doors that give you the ability to show off your collection without having to worry about anything getting broken. A sideboard can also be used below your favorite painting or photograph to ensure that it stands out among other items in a room.

 

  1. Create Extra Storage

As functional as they are stylish, sideboards can be used for extra storage in any room of your home. Consider putting one in a playroom or multiple-use area to keep toys, books, art supplies, and other children’s items neatly tucked away. You can also bring a sideboard into a bedroom to provide extra storage for clothes, blankets, and linens. With their sleek design and narrow profile, sideboards can be particularly helpful for those who need to stay organized in a condominium, apartment, or small home.

smart-home

Top Trends to Watch for in “Smart” Furniture Tech

As wireless and mobile technology continues to advance, homeowners are becoming increasingly reliant on gadgets to improve the home environment. The Internet of Things (IoT), which refers to the billions of everyday items worldwide that are connected to the Internet, is leading to a new level of interconnectedness between people and their devices. Modern tech has made it possible to adjust a thermostat remotely using a smartphone app or start a favorite playlist with a simple voice command, but these actions only scratch the surface of what is happening in the area of home automation.

Consumers’ demand for the latest technology is leading many furniture manufacturers to create products that integrate tech-driven features into their design. While “smart” furniture is still in its infancy, it makes up a rapidly growing market in the home furnishings industry. In fact, a recent report projects that the global smart furniture market will reach $916 million by 2022. This growth correlates with an expanding IoT network that experts estimate will comprise more than 20 billion devices by 2020.

So, what can consumers expect in terms of furniture that makes their lives more efficient, productive, and entertaining? Here are some smart furniture trends to watch for:

 

Seamless Connectivity

Much of today’s technology is developed with a focus on improving people’s lives, and smart furniture is certainly no exception. In addition to connecting to the Internet, furniture pieces with Wi-Fi capabilities can connect with other items in the home to make everyday tasks easier. Tech-loving consumers can expect to experience greater connectivity as manufacturers create more products with the ability to “talk” to one another through the latest technology.

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Some of the most seamless connectivity today exists in the kitchen, but connected bedroom and living room furniture is becoming more popular. Many of these products use smart technology that combines Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, cloud-based artificial intelligence, and voice control to connect with speakers, smartphones, and other devices. Integrating Internet-connected touchscreens into coffee tables and cabinet doors is also an emerging trend.

 

Tech-Hiding Furniture

While the trend toward smart furniture is the result of an increased use of technology, it’s also driven by a desire to make tech less visible in one’s living space. Recent tech-inspired furniture is sleek and minimalistic. Rather than prominently showcasing their tech features, these modern pieces are designed to keep them out of sight.

New items, such as sofas with built-in surround-sound systems, reduce tech clutter while maintaining the look of a traditional sofa. Even furniture pieces without built-in technology are designed with tech in mind. These include cabinets with built-in charging ports and electrical outlets, coffee tables with hidden drawers for computers and other devices, and end tables that keep cords and wires neatly tucked away.

Wireless Charging Capabilities

Most people today remain connected to the world through their smartphones and other mobile devices. Until recently, charging these devices required unsightly cords that could get in the way of a clutter-free lifestyle. Thanks to innovations in wireless charging technology, consumers can now ditch the cords for stylish lamps and side tables with built-in wireless charging units.

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Today, a number of furniture manufacturers are offering these products, which use an electromagnetic field to charge phones and tablets. As wireless charging capabilities improve, charging tables and standalone charging units will likely become commonplace in homes and businesses. In the near future, developments in this technology could make it possible to keep a phone or tablet charged without ever using an outlet.

 

Intelligent Mattresses

With the average person spending approximately one-third of his or her life sleeping, it’s not surprising that people are always looking for ways to improve upon the traditional mattress. For several years, manufacturers have been offering basic intelligent mattresses for use in the healthcare industry. More recently, other companies have created smart, interactive beds with various features designed to support a good night’s rest.

These intelligent mattresses include sensors that monitor sleeping habits and biometric information such as heart rate and breathing rate. Some also incorporate voice recognition technology that enables users to adjust the mattress and turn on components with a simple voice command. Other smart mattress technologies to watch for include climate-control systems, motion-activated ambient lighting, and automatic air-suspension units to prevent snoring.

 

Smart Furniture in the Workplace

In addition to offering benefits in the home, smart furniture is finding its way into the workplace as employers look for ways to improve employee well-being and productivity. Standup desks and adjustable monitors have been popular for several years, but companies have recently introduced desks that can remind an employee when it’s time to change from a seated to a standing position.

The desks feature connected sensors that provide reminders via a smartphone app. Along with helping employees monitor their daily movements, the app can automatically adjust a desk to an employee’s preferred height. Connected desks can also give employers better control over how their office space is being used throughout the day, which is especially helpful in a hot-desking environment.

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Spotlight – Social Media Best Practices for Furniture Retailers

Along with providing a space where users can chat with friends, catch up on news, and follow the latest celebrity gossip, social media channels can be a great source of business information. Alerts about upcoming sales, pictures of the newest product arrivals, reviews, and helpful shopping and design tips are all available on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. With so many people using these and other sites on a daily basis, social media is playing an increasingly important role in many retailers’ marketing strategies.

According to Social Media Examiner’s 2018 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 92 percent of marketing professionals say that social media is important to their work. Many marketers and retail professionals, however, still struggle with implementing the right strategy to reach their target audience. This problem is particularly prevalent for many retailers in the home furnishings industry, which has been somewhat slow to fully embrace new technologies, including social media.

The good news is that leveraging social media to attract and engage customers does not have to be an overly complicated task. Read on to learn more about social media and the marketing channels available to your business.

 

Why Use Social Media?

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The easy answer to this question is that these platforms are extremely popular. An estimated 2.62 billion people worldwide use social media, and this number is only expected to climb in the coming years. Ensuring that your business has a presence on prominent online channels can help you reach the many people who use social sites every day to connect not only with friends and family, but also with local businesses.

Studies have shown that while price is the leading factor in determining where an individual shops, knowing and trusting a business is also very important to today’s consumers. When used effectively, social media provides a way for retailers to build trust and brand awareness while showing the personal and sometimes light-hearted side of their business. Although boosting profits is the ultimate goal of all retail marketing strategies, social media offers the unique opportunity to drive sales by starting a conversation, building a community, and making personal connections with customers.

 

Mastering Facebook

Although it has been the recipient of negative press recently, Facebook still reigns as the top social media channel in terms of the number of daily users. The platform is also the top choice for marketers looking to reach consumers through social media.

Retailers wanting to get the most out of their Facebook page may want to start by rethinking the size and content of their posts. A recent study conducted by social media analytics company Quintly found that posts with fewer than 50 characters resulted in the most interactions. Posts with no text at all came in second place. Quintly also found that visual content is extremely effective at driving Facebook interactions. Video is the best way to boost engagement, but posts with images are also popular.

Using the Quintly study as a guide, retailers may be able to improve the effectiveness of their Facebook page by avoiding wordy posts and embracing video content, which still appears to be underused as a marketing tool. Retailers may also want to minimize the number of posts that include links. Although posts with links to products are pervasive on Facebook, they are less effective than videos, images, and status updates at boosting online interactions.

 

Embracing Instagram and Twitter

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Facebook may have the most active users, but it certainly isn’t the only social media platform that retailers should be using to reach their customers. While these platforms require a somewhat different approach, Instagram and Twitter are also effective tools for driving consumer engagement.

Because visuals are an important part of most marketing messages, more and more companies are using Instagram to build brand awareness. This is especially true in the home furnishings industry where design, color, texture, and functionality all come together in each product. To boost your Instagram account, include more product videos and consider posting user-generated content that highlights items found in your store. Don’t overdo it, however. For an Instagram account with less than 10,000 followers, one post per day should be sufficient.

Due to its character limit, marketing on Twitter can pose some challenges. However, it is the perfect platform for promoting discounts and sales events. Retailers can boost sales by creating special offers for followers. They can also drive engagement and attract more followers by using target keywords and hashtags to reach specific audiences.

 

Final Tips

In addition to focusing on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, retailers looking to reach the largest possible audience on social media should maintain a presence on other platforms, including Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, and Tumblr. While retailers should treat each platform differently, it’s important to post content that starts a conversation and is worthy of a customer’s time.

Overall, the tone of social media posts should be friendly and conversational rather than salesy and promotional. It’s also important to monitor conversations and respond to customers’ questions, concerns, and even negative comments. Be genuine and add personality to your posts, and don’t forget to use social media accounts to show your company’s involvement in the local community.

kitchen

You Need to Know about These Kitchen Décor Trends

As the saying goes, the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s not only a gathering place for family, friends, and guests, but also an opportunity to showcase your personal design aesthetic. So, whether you’re planning a total kitchen overhaul or making only a handful of changes, you can pair your own style with the latest trends in décor to make the space truly shine.

Read on to explore a few of the kitchen décor trends that you can use in your next remodel:

 

Colorful cabinets

Though white cabinets remain a favorite among homeowners looking for a clean, bright aesthetic, colorful cabinets are beginning to come into their own. Blue, in particular, has been one of the biggest color trends in recent years. From light baby blue to deep cobalt, this color can add a splash of drama to any kitchen.

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More recently, however, another color has begun to take the spotlight: green. As more kitchen design schemes maximize natural elements, green has emerged as a top pick for cabinet remodels. Cabinets painted in this color complement warm metallic fixtures and marble countertops.

 

Statement shelving

Open shelving isn’t a new trend, but it is one that gained traction recently due to new interpretations of its usage in the kitchen. Typically, homeowners use open shelving to showcase their best dishware or most expensive food items. A true statement piece, open shelving also presents the perfect opportunity for homeowners to add their own creative flair to their kitchens. Between accessories and plant life, they are using these shelving units to create unique centerpieces.

There is an even more revolutionary trend influencing the use of open shelving in the kitchen, however. Instead of swapping out this type of shelving for their built-in cabinets, homeowners are turning their open shelving units into interesting kitchen focal points. Where some are choosing to put their open shelving in the corner of their kitchen, others are adding shelves to the tops of their windows.

 

Banquettes

A popular kitchen design trend from the 1980s, banquette seating is coming back in a major way. Long gone are the highly embellished cherry and oak banquettes of the past. Instead, homeowners are opting for seating arrangements with a more modern aesthetic. More recently, banquettes have left behind busy details in favor of cleaner lines.

The latest banquette trend has also changed the arrangement of banquette seating, doing away with the stuffy, narrow booths of the past. Banquettes now include other furniture pieces such as benches, side chairs, and separate tables. Many homeowners are also choosing to accessorize their banquettes with stylish pillows and vibrant greenery.

 

Pastels

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The pastel trend is perfect for homeowners who want to add some color to their kitchens but aren’t ready to commit to some of the brighter shades of paint. From pink to yellow to blue, pastel colors of all kinds add exciting highlights to any kitchen. These colors stand out the most against greys and wood accents. However, it’s also become popular for homeowners to add elegant pastel accent walls to brighten up their kitchens.

 

Islands with a purpose

Kitchen islands are becoming less of a small counter space in the middle of the room and more of a large, functional centerpiece. Homeowners are now using these additions to serve numerous purposes in their kitchens. More islands are featuring ample storage space of their own, with room for everything from cookbooks to wine racks. Many also equip their islands with built-in appliances and sinks so that they serve a more functional purpose in the kitchen. To top it all off, an increasing number of these fixtures are beginning to feature bar seating to accommodate guests. With all of these features, kitchen islands are truly doing it all.

 

Dark accents

There are more ways to add drama to the kitchen than using bright colors. Homeowners are also incorporating dark accents. Black fixtures, for example, are becoming a very popular choice for kitchens because they complement nearly every color scheme. From lamps to faucets, these dark accents lend a sleek, modern look to any kitchen.

Dark appliances are also set to overtake stainless steel as the number one choice for appliances. Some of the biggest manufacturers now offer ranges of microwaves, refrigerators, and ovens in dark grey and black.

 

Concealed hoods

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“Seamless” is one word that can describe many of the latest trends in kitchen décor, and nothing fits this label better than concealed range hoods. Where homeowners once preferred to make these vents the centerpiece of their kitchens, more people now prefer to hide them. From an aesthetic point of view, concealed hoods blend into the wall or upper cabinets to simplify the look of the entire space. As such, they attract less attention while still remaining functional.

 

Built-in sinks

In recent years, stainless steel and farmhouse sinks have been the dominant trend in kitchen sinks. However, these old favorites have been losing ground to a new trend: built-in sinks. Unlike more traditional models, these sinks are composed of the same materials as the countertops that surround them. Sometimes, they are even part of the counters themselves. This makes the kitchen look much sleeker by eliminating the visual separation between countertop and sink. Popular materials for built-in sinks include stone, marble, and concrete.