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“Wow factor” furnishing

Thoughtful choices amp up hardworking home furnishings, accessories


Sofas get a lot of attention but sometimes it’s the side chairs, tables, sideboards and smaller players in a room that can make all the difference to use, comfort, flexibility and style.

Angela Carroll Ast is an interior designer and owner of ABCA Design Decorating Den Interiors in Milford Township, Bucks County. She said many people don’t give much thought to the pieces that round out a room’s furnishings — and it’s a shame.

“Bedside tables, end tables in the living room or something that is in a foyer or entryway, accessory pieces can have many features, and they’re so hardworking,” Ast said.

From electronics charging stations discretely placed inside end tables to lights and storage, consider how you use your home’s spaces and what secondary pieces will work best in them.

Entry “wow factor”

When you enter a home with a foyer, that space is the first thing that greets you.

Tables made from premium wood or have inlay designs or other special features can stand alone and become the “wow” factor in a large foyer or entryway. Small tables can bring a touch of whimsy — or style — to a living room or foyer.

“When used this way, you can have a chandelier above the table. It’s also a place for flowers or to showcase books,” Ast said. “Round entryway tables are popular and can cost as much as a dining room table.”

Don’t forget antiques

Antique pieces may, in fact, be easier to come by than a custom table.

Consider this when making the decision to buy something off a showroom, or custom order a piece from a skilled craftsperson.

“If you do a new table, you want a showcase piece. It’s supposed to be a piece of art,” she said.

For smaller entry areas, a chest and mirror can do the trick. Avoid “catch all” situations for furniture placed at the front entryway, as this area isn’t necessarily about storage, Ast said.

Height and proportion

When it comes to occasional pieces, including tables, chests, sideboards and other larger pieces keep the character and size of the room in mind when making selections.

This might be an opportunity to add a different furniture style, but make sure there are some common elements that tie it to the rest of the space and don’t “arrest” the eye in a negative way.

Ast recommends sticking with substantially sized objects in large spaces that are durable and less likely to show dust.

Sectionals and chairs

Sectionals continue to rule the living room among buyers, and Ast said large sectionals should be proportional to the space in which they are placed and used.

In high-traffic spaces consider a swivel chair. A “chair and a half” is a great way to provide space for families with young tots to curl up with parents or siblings for reading time or to watch TV.

Square arm chairs are a popular California trend making its way to the East Coast. Ast encourages clients to consider accent chairs with trim or piping, cording or welting in a color to match the sofa or sectional. The main chair fabric would be a contrast color, she said.

Nail heads, trim and curved arms on chairs can create interest and lean casual or formal, depending upon the furniture style, textiles or other embellishments.

In the kitchen

While it may seem counter intuitive, fabrics and upholstered furnishings can work well in kitchens.

Ast likes to use upholstered settees with tufting or wings to create a “type of sectional” or wall of seating as these can play well with curves.

“Banquettes are suitable because many older homes have smaller or slimmer profiles, and they’re perfect for a breakfast or dining nook,” she said.


Fabrics and textiles not only come in a variety of colors and patterns, but today’s performance fabrics, leathers and newer vegan leathers offer countless choices.

“Fabric will dictate the use. If it’s more casual for a family room or if it’s used in a more formal space,” she said.


Top grain leathers will endure and perform. Keep in mind leather is a byproduct of the meat and beef livestock industry, according to Leather Naturally —

“All leathers are not built equally. Top grain leather is what you want. You don’t want ‘bonded’ leather” for furniture, Ast explained.

Bonded leather is manufactured from leather scraps and fibers, and it will not hold up under hard use or over time the way natural leather will, she said.

“Real leather will have imperfections because it comes from an animal. This adds to the charm of the piece, and it’s important for expectation setting” with clients, Ast explained.

She said newer vegan leather products “feel amazing,” and it can be difficult to tell the difference between it and natural leather.

Leather needs routine care to keep it supple and looking good. Invest in high-quality leather products that moisturize and condition it to ensure your investment pieces last.

If you’re looking for a complementary piece, Ast suggests a leather ottoman.

“It will add a little ‘sex appeal’ to a space, and it works with a variety of other fabrics,” she said.

Vegan and faux or “fake” leathers are not the same thing. Manufactured fake leather can be treated with toxic chemicals. Ast recommends doing some homework about the products you’re considering before buying them. Ask where the product comes from and how it was made if it is not natural leather.

“It’s important to know what textiles and fabrics are in your home, how they were made and what they’re treated with,” she said.

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