Washingtonians want practical, sensible, multipurpose furniture with splashes of vibrant color, according to area designers and furniture retailers.

"People are going back to the basics," said interior designer June Shea, of sheastudio.com/">Shea Studio Interiors. "I guide my clients to invest in the things that will last and get longer life by keeping them neutral. Add the pizzazz with accessories."

Call it the balance between "wow" and "whoa," as in: "Wait a minute, do I need that?"


As homeowners downsize and shed their supersized lifestyles, they want design with less pomp and more purpose.

"I see more of a trend toward people that are getting older and know they will eventually be downsizing," Shea said. "Items that have more than one purpose or can be repurposed and that can expand and contract are the most practical."

Overstuffed mammoth-sized sofas are out. Streamlined, portable, adjustable furnishings are in.

People are moving into smaller spaces, and "it's more important that furniture that is made to fit these smaller spaces function for that space," said David Schaefer, owner of urban-essentials.com/">Urban Essentials home furnishings and design store on 14th Street.

One of the top sellers for urban-essentials.com/">Urban Essentials is a storage bed that has a lift mechanism. "The whole mattress raises up and down, like the hood of your car, and it's got a hydraulic lift," Schaefer said. "The entire space beneath your bed is air-tight storage. It's beautiful, but it's functional."

Perhaps fueled by the studio-loft-buying Login Circle crowd, multipurpose sleeping furniture is a big hit.

"We have four convertible sofas that our customers are really gravitating toward," said Lisa Scroggins, retail market manager at Room & Board on 14th Street.

"These sofas offer great flexibility and can effortlessly transform from a sofa to a lounge to a bed," she added.

Scroggins said that "everyone should live in a space that is functional, beautiful and meaningful."

That includes versatile work spaces at home. The home office that emerged in the 1990s is disappearing because people can use smartphones, iPads and laptops anywhere. "A lot of people work at home. They just don't want a whole room dedicated to that," Schaefer said.

Instead, they want customizable case goods that can serve as bookshelves, desks and buffets, if needed.

"Any space can be transformed into a functional, beautiful and organized home office," Scroggins added. "Discreet filing drawers, storage cabinets and office armoires easily blend in with surrounding furnishings."

To liven up all this functional form, furniture retailers are using vibrant colors on upholstery, like Room & Board's Murphy Sofa in Pantone's Color of the Year, emerald green.

Scroggins said bold color, luxurious fabrics and texture, along with new performance fabrics that are family-friendly, join menswear and button-tufted fabric as sought-after trends in upholstery.

"The tailored look is becoming more of a mainstay, she said.