The era of Matchy-Matchy seems to be coming to a close. Not much more than 10 years ago, consumers didn’t express confidence in selecting complementary lighting and furniture choices for their homes, therefore manufacturers helped them by offering “families” of coordinating lighting fixtures, for example, that kept the design scheme cohesive. And customers were grateful for the help.

That all began to change with the emergence of DIY TV shows like Trading Spaces, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Design on a Dime, and countless others. Homeowners started getting comfortable with two notions:
1) the idea of mixing different looks/finishes and 2) personalizing their spaces, especially with objects that have special meaning either by referencing a favorite place, hobby, or that address an aspect of their personality. 

Over the past several years, consumers’ comfort level has gone up a notch. Now clients are seeking customization beyond what they see presented in their favorite stores. While interior designers – especially at the high-end – have always been tapped by clients to find unique objects, fabrics, and furnishings for their homes, today’s homeowners in all price segments are searching for an eclectic mix that feels “personalized” for their lifestyle.

This consumer shift has led more manufacturers to start expanding options – for example, finishes and sizes – that go beyond the standard palette and measurements listed on each spec sheet. Where they can, factories are now trying to offer variations (within limits) that give the customer the feeling that a product is being made just for their space.

Bramble & Company is one of the furniture/lighting/accessories factories that has been boasting its capability at recent markets with prominent signage that reads: “Customization options for over 1,000 pieces of furniture…help our consumers make every piece uniquely their own.”

Another lighting/furniture/wall art/mirror/rug manufacturer that does an incredible amount of personalization for customers – both large and small – is Renwil of Montreal, Canada. A feature story on their business is in this issue, starting on page 58.

As manufacturers go this route, it’s up to retailers to follow through by presenting complementary merchandise in vignettes and displays so that consumers quickly understand the coordination. (Note: you can still order a style as a family if you prefer, just don’t group them all together on the showroom floor). Ask your factory reps about any customization that can be done in size or finish and be sure to pass that information along to your customers. They are looking for a curated mix of products that speak to their specific personality and lifestyle; your role is to be the style curator.

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