1990 furniture spans globe with mission, prairie, dacha, African colonial looks

October 28, 1990|By Knight-Ridder News Service

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Arts and crafts style -- the early 20th century crop of sturdy, honest architecture and furniture for the common man -- blooms again.

The field is so full that designers are distinguishing between twarts and crafts categories. Mission style is heavy, straight, no-nonsense oak. Prairie style, most often associated with Frank Lloyd Wright, is also mostly straight-lined and horizontal, but the scale is lighter and the designs more varied.

But the real news here are arts and crafts' 1990 hybrids. Would you believe Shinto mission? Texas Biedermeier? Painted prairie?

One neo-prairie winner is a batch of living room and bedroom furniture called Springfield by T. Copeland and Sons. Among its attractions are what are called affordable prices -- $995 for a sofa, $595 for a double bed.

The styles are a blending of Eliel Saarinen, the Cranbrook architect who designed curving blond furniture, and Frank Lloyd Wright -- a few gentle curves, a lot of straight lines, some restrained extra ornamentation. It's a handsome example of 20th century style that also would blend in a traditional mix. The 1990s wild card here is an optional paint finish -- teal green.

A company called Taylor Woodcraft has another fine choice -- the Bannister collection. This is mission-style furniture that's painted glossy white and is reminiscent of a summer cottage. The bedroom furniture is especially appealing.

Timeless Design, a 4-year-old Seattle company run by a handful of people under 30, has a handsome line called Shinto mission.

"The arts and crafts movement used the same principles as Shinto temple construction," said CEO David Gremmels, 29.

The monolithic Lane Company, which does an excellent job of spotting and producing new styles, has a major new line of missionesque furniture. Lane's price range is high-middle; it's widely available. Lane's subsidiary, the Hickory Chair Co., has a style called Texas Biedermeier. Texas refers to the straight, missionlike slats that frame the chair. Biedermeier refers to the big curving arms they added.

Lodge style: Our heritage isn't calico and teddy bears. This yearlog cabins, saddle blankets and antlers.

Call it the two-income, middle-class family's Ralph Lauren look. In the battle for your nostalgia dollar, giant Lexington Furniture Industries has stomped into the furniture market with a full-blown hunting lodge and trumped the competition's ruffled little aces.

The mantra of furniture makers today is, "Americans want to get back to their roots."

Take "Grandma's Room" in the Bob Timberlake collection. There's nice stuff here -- a lot of it, and it's far cuter than real life. There's a four-poster bed with 7 1/2 -foot posts. There are two wing chairs, one upholstered in tapestry and one in flowered chintz. There are a rag rug, a chunky Queen Anne highboy, lots of throw pillows, flowers, old-looking jars, lace curtains, even a spinning wheel.

The world of Bob Timberlake deserves to be the hit of thnostalgia genre right now. It's a bold idea, a huge collection, from furniture to unusual accessories, most from Mr. Timberlake's possessions -- his quilt collection, his primitive carvings, his birdhouse collection.

Besides the most rustic group -- Wildcat Lodge -- and "Grandma's Room," there are Timberlake collections on the theme of a beach house, a sun room and a farmhouse.

Lexington Furniture Industries is owned by Michigan's MascCorp. Price range there is what's called high-middle. A 15-drawer cherry collector's bureau is $1,950. A sofa upholstered in Indian blanket fabric might be $2,000.

Russian style: Call it the glasnost gala, call it the RussiaRevolution, call it opportunism -- the newest flavor of the month at the furniture market is Russian.

For the John Widdicomb Co., Russian furniture is already a three-year-old project. It has this furniture market's finest, longest-established Russian collection. It's from Widdicomb's talented young designer, Detroit native Chad Womack. Today this Russian collection is 20 percent of Widdicomb sales.

If you like country and rustic styles, you'll prefer the Russian peasant look -- tables, chairs, chests with somewhat heavy lines and carved wood. An example of this style is the "Dacha" (country house) collection from CollingWood furniture.

For the average home decorator, the most satisfying new part of Russian design will probably be new fabrics.

The colorful, geometric Russian designs -- with European, Byzantine and folk motifs -- are producing beautiful new fabrics. At the more expensive end are heavy jacquard weaves; at the affordable end are prints.

Out of Africa: A sprawling category of eclectic furniture and accessories suggests the colonization era in Africa and India. Some is fanciful: wicker furniture painted with tiger stripes from Garcia Imports carried by Englander's. Some comes from the native cultures: African masks, Indian water bags. There are authentic African designs, some Moorish looks.

Country inns: Thomasville Furniture has a new line of furniture and accessories copied from real-life country inns. Styles range from the dark Victorian parlor look to a light farmhouse look. Eleven companies contribute pottery, fabrics, pillows, lace and so on. You can buy every item in the room, down to the smallest accessory, meant to appeal to time-pressed consumers.

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