IT'S the eternal decorating problem: You've found the size and shape of sofa you want. It's the fabric you are concerned about. Will a bold stripe conflict with the style? What accent fabric will look best for pillows?
At a growing number of retail furniture stores, consumers can touch a computer button that: "paints" the photo of a sofa frame with their choice of fabric; calls up a half-dozen fabric swatches that are color-correlates for accent pillows; and gives instant price and delivery dates.
"[Designing with computers] is a very hot area right now. Some retail stores have had significant increases in business because of this," explains Bill Peterson, founding editor of Furniture/Today, an industry trade publication. "Most of the high-end is custom order, and that's where matching of fabric and frame electronically can really help."
"We found that there was a large group of customers not finding what they wanted on the [showroom] floor," says Al Stevens, national sales manager for Charles Custom Furniture, a Council Bluffs, Iowa, manufacturer exhibiting here at the spring International Home Furnishings Market. The company, which offers more than 100 styles of furniture and 1,000 fabrics, has developed its own "Custom Vision" computer software for use at retail locations.