"Think spring," we said.

And this is what they answered: Electric colors. Nostalgia. Florals. Eclectic mixes.Furniture store representatives say customers are lightening up, looking for comfort and becoming more practical.

You might as well start getting used to bright blue, yellow green, soft lavenders and yellows. The newest green is not chartreuse, but a bit toned down. Pastels are showing up in pillows, candles, frosted glass vases and other accessories.

"You have to get used to it, like anything else," says Jan Allred of Thomasville. "But these new colors bring light into the house. Especially to the lower levels, which usually get the leftover plaids from the family room."

"Florals are always popular," says Ron Olshwanger of To The Trade, a popular resource for St. Louis interior designers. "And we're selling a lot of muted colors. Also animal prints."

Lighter looks are in, especially for spring and summer.

"From butter to banana, yellow is big," says Debra Pottinger of DeBasio Furniture Co. "The color palette is reflecting the optimism the country has right now. And people are choosing lighter wood finishes. Light oak, clear cherry, pine."

Even leather is lighter. "We just got a lavender leather sectional," Pottinger says. "Not everybody wants brown."

"Many homes look traditional on the exterior to fit into their neighborhoods," says Allred. "But inside you'll find glass and open spaces. People are willing to reach out a little more to more contemporary looks.

"Area rugs help redefine the spaces we acquired when we took the walls away. They anchor these big, two-story spaces," she says, "so we don't feel like a bird in a cage."

New furniture is geared towards making our lifestyles easier - literally. "Sofas are deeper so we can snuggle into the pillows," Allred says.

Comfort also translates into what the trade calls motion furniture: recliners that prop up your feet and give you a massage, coffee tables that pop up to a height convenient for eating or writing.

Customers also like furniture that reminds them of their childhood, Olsh-wanger says. A pink-and-white gingham chair made by Century is one ex-ample.

"They say, `That reminds me of my childhood; it's like something my mother or grandmother had,' " Olshwanger says. "And their designer will say, `But that's not the look you want.' And they say, `I don't care, that's the chair I want.' "

Round dining room tables are popular, probably because they make conversation easier. "A lot of clients with big families say the only time they're together is around the dinner table," Olshwanger says.

We may be nostalgic, but we're also practical, squeezing space out of unused rooms for home offices.

"A lot of us have retreated to the lower level of our homes," says Allred, and in some cases, pool tables have been replaced by desks and computers.

"We have a great, U-shaped desk that makes you feel so much more in control," Allred says. "You feel a little more nested."

Candles are one of the hot (no pun intended) accessories, Allred says. Olswanger mentioned pillows. "There's something about a throw pillow that catches people's eye. We can toss some pillows on a sofa that's been sitting in the showroom awhile, and the sofa sells immediately.

"It's an impulse thing. They walk by with their designer and say, `That's exactly what I want.' "

The same pillows will make a sofa in your living room more attractive.

Put this all together and what do you get? Whatever you like.

"The word is eclectic." Allred says. And that includes light wood and dark woods, furniture styles and fabrics.

"People aren't matching anything."