Stylemaker Secrets: 7 Furniture Pieces Every Home Needs

Stylemaker secrets
Stop wasting money on throwaway furniture and start investing in the good stuff: quality pieces that can move from room to room, house to house, for decades. Designers Suzanne and Lauren McGrath share their their picks for the most flexible pieces no home should be without.

The Piece: Side Table

Why you need it: "Every sofa needs to be served by at least one side table," Suzanne says. "You can't go wrong with a matched pair, but two different shapes, materials, or colors is even better." (If you mix styles, both tables should be the same height: slightly taller than the sofa arm, never shorter.)

Where to use it: Living room, family room, bedroom, bathroom.

What to look for: The most flexible side tables are between 24 and 36 inches high. "Look for one you can see through," Lauren says. "If it has a back, it will only look right next to a bed." 

The Piece: Love Seat

Why you need it: "There's no other sofa capable of taking on so many roles," Suzanne says. "On its own or as part of a grouping, it has a unique ability to 'fit in' in any room."

Where to use it: Starter apartment, living room, dining room, foot of bed.

What to look for: "Tight backs look neater than loose cushions," Suzanne says. And, Lauren adds, "A skirted love seat usually looks right only in a bedroom, so we prefer exposed legs." Sixty inches or less is the most flexible size.

The Piece: Occasional Chair

Why you need it: Besides flexible seating, occasional chairs can bring an unexpected shape or an interesting style contrast to a room, especially one full of upholstered furniture. "They're fantastic, accessory-like pieces," Lauren says.

Where to use it: Foyer, living room, dining room, pulled up to a desk or breakfast table, bedroom.

What to look for: "We prefer chairs with open-work backs to let light through and add a graphic element," Suzanne says. They should be lightweight and easy to move. Dining chairs can often fulfill this role. 

The Piece: Bench

Why you need it: "A bench is a workhorse," Suzanne says. "It adds character, color, sculpture, and extra seating anywhere you need it."

Where to use it: Foyer, porch, living room, pulled up to a dining table, foot of bed.

What to look for: "Backless benches are more versatile and easier to find," Lauren says. "We like them upholstered because you can cover them
in a fun fabric without as much risk as, say, covering a sofa." 

The Piece: Demilune table

Why you need it: "The demilune takes you where your average table doesn't," Suzanne says. "It adds another usable surface, but it's shallow so it tucks out of the way. The rounded shape just makes a room better, more interesting."

Where to use it: Foyer, living room, staircase landing, home office, bedroom as a bedside table or dressing table.

What to look for: "A table with no center leg is much more versatile because you can pull up a chair," Lauren says. Suzanne adds, "If you find a pair, grab both and use them on either side of a fireplace or doorway." 

The Piece: Slipper Chair

Why you need it: "People don't often think of buying these, but they're the most versatile upholstered chairs," Suzanne says. "Plus, they're a great shape. The fact that they're armless makes them comfortable for anyone from a child to a 6-foot-4 husband."

Where to use it: Bedroom, living room, family room, dressing room.

What to look for: "Smaller is better," Lauren says. "If a slipper chair gets too big, it looks less appealing and isn't as easy to move around." 

The Piece: Dresser

Why you need it: "Dressers add character and storage anywhere, not just the bedroom," Lauren says. "We like to use them in dining rooms to store linens or as a bar in a living room."

Where to use it: Foyer, living room, dining room, hallway, bedroom, bathroom.

What to look for: "The most versatile dresser is no more than 18 inches deep, 36 inches tall, and 50 inches wide," Suzanne says. Pairs of low, straight-sided dressers are an especially "good get" because you can put them side by side. 

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