Championship furniture collection Home: Arnold and Winnie Palmer team up on winning designs in a collection for the Lexington company.

January 21, 1996|By Pamela Sherrod | Pamela Sherrod,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE Sun intern Tom Collins contributed to this article.

Forty-one years ago, championship golfer Arnold Palmer persuaded a young Winifred Walzer to "Come on, walk with me to the next hole."

Mr. Palmer's wife, Winnie, tells the story today half talking, half laughing at her husband's "pickup line" during a tournament in eastern Pennsylvania.

Today, Winnie and Arnold Palmer are walking into another stage of their lives in a partnership with Lexington Furniture Industries Inc. The furniture company wanted to tap Arnie's popularity and Winnie's background in design to develop a winning line.

The result: the Arnold Palmer Home Collection.

"It's still too early to tell just how winning it is," Winnie Palmer said of the collection, which has more than 200 designs for bedroom, dining room, living room, home office, home theater, patio and clubhouse.

Judging by the response of some of the furniture dealers in the Baltimore area, the collection is headed for success.

"I think that it's going to be really something," said Pat Rogers, national sales consultant for Jarrettsville Furniture, which is expecting its first shipment of the line in March. When the line was introduced recently, she said, "Everybody was talking about it." Its "formal-casual antique look" and the variety of choices within the collection give it broad appeal, she said.

Henry Shofer, president of Shofer's Furniture in Baltimore, who also expects to have the collection in his store by March, was equally impressed.

"It was a highlight of the October market without question," he said, citing the attractiveness of its "18th-century style" and its moderate pricing.

For more information on the Arnold Palmer Collection for Lexington, call (800) LEX-INFO, or (800) 539-4636.

Winnie Palmer seems unfazed by the celebrity status accorded her as a result of her husband's career. "There's more to life than golf. Family is very important to me and Arnie," she said, noting that she and her husband live in the same Latrobe, Pa., house they bought in 1958.

"Arnie has been offered homes in Palm Springs if he did endorsements. He was tempted in the early days, but Latrobe is home," she said. "In Latrobe, Arnie is not a celebrity, he's just another person, and that has made all the difference for us."

This is a safe collection when it comes to design. It keeps with traditional themes that have been seen and that have worked before, such as the Chippendale ball-and-claw dining armchair with a jewel-tone serpentine upholstered seat, $845; the mahogany bedroom dresser with inlaid wood, $1,807; a plantation-style cocktail table with a cane top, $1,027; and the stuffed and plumped easy chair, $1,235, and ottoman, $689, that seem like a perfect place to snuggle in for bedtime stories.

It has some variety. The collection is divided into four groups: Traditional, in antique and distressed mahogany finish; British Isles, based on English, Irish and Scottish originals in lighter finishes such as pine; Woods and Irons, in wood, metal and/or leather; and Country Club, inspired by antiques from the Palmers' favorite clubs around the world.

The Woods and Irons group is the only one that sports golf motifs. The name gives reference to the game, and there are golfers in full swing in some upholstery patterns.

"Both Arnold and Winnie made it clear from the outset that they wanted their collection to reflect the traditional surroundings they are most comfortable in at home and on their travels," said Geoff Beaston, Lexington's senior vice president for marketing. "It is their personal experience and Winnie's expertise that have given focus to this collection."

But the man who won one U.S. Open, two British Opens, four Masters titles and the PGA Championship made it clear at the collection's opening night at the furniture design show in October in High Point, N.C., that his wife was the leader of the Palmer design team for Lexington.

"She's really the one who's responsible for this," said the 65-year-old champ.

Said his wife: "I knew from the beginning that it wasn't going to be the kind of thing where someone wanted to pay him so they could use his name to put on barbecue sauce and that would be that. I knew we would have a hand in it and that our involvement would be encouraged.

"I've been interested and dabbled in design for a long time," said the former interior design, business and economics major at Brown University in Providence, R.I. "We liked what they had in furniture, and Arnie and I thought a partnership with them would work."

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