SPECIAL ISSUE: SPRING HOME & GARDEN GUIDE : Furniture Fashions Flunk Test of Time

Following fashion is fine when you’re buying a wardrobe, but it can be risky business when it comes to furniture shopping. After all, it’s tougher to return an armoire than an overcoat--and much more money is at stake.

“Home design is such a big investment that it’s ridiculous to be trendy. It’s not a seasonal purchase,” says Dorian Hunter, a Fullerton interior designer.

So here are some guidelines, a kind of quick “What’s In and What’s Out” from Orange County interior designers Hunter, Scott Brown, Jason Titus and Lisa Weber.

First, there’s Hunter on lamps: “Unless you want a decorative look, like a piece of art, lamps are outdated.” To Hunter, a lamp looks like a vase with a fedora, kind of odd and unnecessary.


But what do you do if you want to sit in your living room and, say, read a book? Modern technology has brought the design field a multitude of lighting solutions, Hunter says. And chief among them is good-quality track lighting.

Remember the Southwest look? Brown, a Corona del Mar designer, and Weber, who operates out of Fullerton, agree that the chunky log furniture that graces Southern California department stores never worked, even when it was new. In their eyes, faux cactus and similar Indian-printed fabrics fare about as well.

However, says Brown, “there’s nothing wrong with the real thing: ethnic art, slabs of real stone and woven rugs.”

Cluttered English country, that messy look straight from an Agatha Christie novel, is also a thing of the past. Toss those bunches of baskets, herb wreaths and heavy reproduction furniture, Brown says.


“I find it difficult to deal with traditional English and French, particularly the country looks,” Hunter says in agreement. “We’re not living those kinds of lives. But some people buy it. To them, this overly decorated look is a statement that they’ve arrived.”

But what Brown calls “clean country” is fine. With its spare Shaker furniture, simple lines and local heritage, such a style will never be dated.

Then there’s the high-gloss lacquer look that was favored 7 or 8 years ago as cutting-edge contemporary. “You still see it,” Brown says with a grimace, “but I hope no one buys it.”

Enough said.

Titus says he is seeing a shift in his Fullerton firm that has more to do with sociology than style.

Many of Titus’ design clients are in the 50- to-70-year-old range. They’ve had their homes 30 years or more, and they haven’t redecorated in about the same amount of time.

“These people did these interiors in the ‘50s, ‘60s, maybe early ‘70s,” Titus says. “The colors they chose back then have become dated. The vegetation around their houses has grown up. The houses are looking dingy and darker than when the people moved in.”

Such clients are switching to a kind of breezy California look, Titus says: bright walls, light furniture and less pattern in a war against darkness and fading eyesight.