For more than two decades, John Brooks has been the go-to showroom for Arizona’s residential interior designers and architects looking for high-end products from lines like A. Rudin, Holly Hunt, Liaigre, Phillip Jeffries, Rose Tarlow, Vladimir Kagan, Clarence House and Berman Rosetti.
Originally founded in Denver in 1993 by business partners Marvin Wilkinson and Art Ellsworth, John Brooks opened in Scottsdale in 1999, located in a 36,000-square-foot space where their 60-something manufacturers can be artfully displayed. Satellite showrooms are located in Aspen, Salt Lake City and, since July, Bozeman.
The name? “It’s our middle names,” explains Wilkinson, whose background is interior design and interior architecture. “After we named the showroom, we found out that Art’s great-great-grandfather was actually named John Brooks and was a weaver from England. We had no idea, but the name is part of our heritage.”
Keeping his pulse on what designers and their clients want is second nature for Wilkinson and a key to the success of the showrooms. “Today, more than ever, there is an emphasis on the home,” he says. “People want to gather in the home, to create community. It’s important for them to have a comfortable, inviting setting.”
Recently, Wilkinson shared his observations on trends and what furnishings Arizona designers are specifying for their residential projects.
“People want quality, especially when it comes to pieces like case goods,” Wilkinson says. “They’re not just buying things to fill up a house.”
As such, he says that many of the pieces are still being ordered with lighter finishes and interesting textures. If a designer specifies a darker piece, it’s often used in contrast with a lighter background.
Consoles are ever popular, Wilkinson notes, and coffee tables are often multiple pieces, grouped as one. Free-form shapes are also on-trend for coffee tables and side tables, as is a mix of materials such as stone, metal and wood.
“We are seeing a lot of custom case goods with creative approaches,” he says. “They’re being used as ‘art’ statements or stand-alone pieces.”
Homeowners are returning to entertaining, Wilkinson observes, and, as such, the dining room is a big focus in current home design. “We are seeing a lot of round tables being ordered,” he says. “It’s also not that unusual for clients to want a table that can accommodate 12 or 14.”
The looks are cleaner, he says, but table bases have become more interesting. Finishes? Light to medium are popular, ranging from pale greige to soft pecan.
“The sectional is king,” declares Wilkinson, “and we’re seeing multiple sectionals installed homes, in places like the great room, living room, library and family room. Sectionals are the gathering place for the family. It’s a spot where they watch TV, work on lap tops, read, nap.”
Wilkinson is also seeing larger sofas—nine, ten or 11 feet in length—being ordered to reflect the often-voluminous scale of today’s great rooms and other spaces.
Upholstered swivel chairs for easy access are often must-have pieces for homes. Another trend? A statement or art chair—something with a unique fabric, lines or design to serve as an accent to those sectionals and swivel chairs.
Sleigh beds and canopies? Not so much, says Wilkinson, “but to each his own.”
What he is seeing, though, is the popularity of upholstered beds, with cushy headboards in streamlined transitional to modern styles.
Bedding, he notes, has come a long way from the overwrought styles of decades past that involved endless layers of pillows, shams, bolsters, coverlets, bed skirts and throws, which turned the simple act of making the bed into a major event. “People are more active now, and they want something that is easy to maintain,” Wilkinson says. “You don’t need a million pillows. Bedrooms are quieter—they are an oasis.”
“In the past, designers used a rug or fabric as a starting point for an interior,” Wilkinson says. “Today, lighting is often the pivotal element for a design.”
As such, he’s seeing “statement” light fixtures installed in entries, dining rooms, great rooms and powder rooms, in a wide variety of styles and finishes. “It adds a little bit of theater to a setting.”
Patio furniture, as it was then called, was often left to the landscape designers, architects or homeowners, explains Wilkinson. Today, with an emphasis on indoor-outdoor living, interior designers are doing complete plans for outdoor living and dining areas, private patios and pool side, right down to outdoor rugs, planters and carefully placed accessories.
“We’re seeing orders for multiple outdoor sectionals, seating areas and dining spots in a mixture of styles—not all one look,” he says. “It’s not that unusual today for an order of outdoor furnishings for one house to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Yes, outdoor rugs are on-trend, as are area rugs for indoors. “Everyone is doing hard-surface flooring,” Wilkinson points out, “so area rugs are the soft landing spot for great rooms and bedrooms. They also help define the space.”
Looks are modern, colorations are lighter and the patterns tend to be more abstract, all meant to highlight the furniture. High-low rugs are back in style, and Wilkinson says that hair-on-hide rugs are flying out the door at the Scottsdale location.
Like his pronouncement about sectionals, Wilkinson declares bouclé “king” when it comes to textile trends. “It seems to be all about texture these days.”
Performance fabrics are big sellers, now that the variety has increased significantly. Particularly, designers are specifying them for vacation homes and family gathering rooms, where wet swimsuits, post-golf plop-downs, kids and dogs are facts of everyday living. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Wilkinson is finding that many homeowners are asking designers for natural fabrics, such as cotton and linen, be used in master bedrooms or small sitting areas.
Colors? “We’ve been hanging out in neutral land in Arizona for years,” he says, “but I’ve been seeing spa hues like light blues cropping up, as well as richer tones like blues, greens and red used in bold ways, venturing into sofas, beds and dining chairs.”
Forget about grandma’s floral on the bedroom wall. “Wallpaper has taken off in the last ten or so years,” Wilkinson says. “It’s like somebody flipped a light switch.”
Looks range from clean and textured as backgrounds to bold, geometric patterns that draw the eye. Hand-painted choices or custom runs are increasingly sought, and wallpapers are being used everywhere from accent walls and powder rooms to dining rooms and libraries—even full houses.
The minimalist, zen-like settings may have had their day, Wilkinson believes, and more designers are reaching for accessories to personalize and finish off a home.
“Ceramics, bronzes and sculpture are important today,” he says. “Candles are never going to go away because they add so much ambiance to the home. Pillows? They’re usable for seating and not overdone.”
“After all, it’s the accessories, along with the rugs, the chandeliers, the wallpaper and the draperies that help embrace the house,” he adds. “And that’s what a good home interior is all about.”