Making the most of metal, inside and out

RITA ST.CLAIR

November 18, 1990|By RITA ST.CLAIR

Metal furniture has always been in vogue, but never -- in my recollection -- so much so as today.

So-called campaign stools, beds and tables -- all made of metal -- are often seen in paintings that depict the battles of Napoleon. This original type of furniture, because it could easily be folded or even dismantled altogether, has been popular since the 19th century among those who move frequently from a camp or home. And even though contemporary metal pieces seldom have those qualities, they are still much in favor among the more mobile segments of society.

The metal furniture found on today's market is usually machine-made and cast in aluminum or fabricated in a tubular metal. Such pieces, whether reproductions or contemporary brass-and-chrome interpretations, are generally lightweight and meant to be used outdoors as well as inside the home.

I personally prefer to use metal furnishings as occasional pieces for the interior of a house. There's something clean and casual about a decorative metal table, for example. I have found that an item like this works especially well in a small room or in transitional spaces such as entrance halls.

The Moultrie Manufacturing Co. of Moultrie, Ga., has reproduced for its Old South collection many heirloom-style metal pieces. Among them is this lavishly detailed, aluminum-cast table with glass top. Itadds warmth and interest to a simple entrance hall while allowing the space to retain an airy, open feeling.

Metal furniture can also be used quite successfully in informal dining areas and dressing rooms as well as on sun porches. Lately, it's become more acceptable to furnish formal spaces, too, with metal tables and seating pices. I often see metal used alongside high-quality wood and upholstered furniture in both contemporary and traditional settings.

It's possible now to find metal furniture in all sorts of shades and sheens. Some of the baked-on colors in rubbed and antique-like patinas strike me as especially attractive. Brass and even rusted finishes have their own charm as well.

Depending, of course, on one's taste, metal is certainly worth considering as the material for a cocktail or sofa table that needs to have a certain decorative flair. It can also be surprisingly appropriate as the choice for a headboard. Desite its great popularity, metal's possibilities are far from being exhausted.

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