Furnishings go Asian

Decor: Versatility's the big hit at the spring wholesale furniture show in North Carolina.

May 06, 2001|By Allen Norwood | Allen Norwood,Knight Ridder / Tribune

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Asian looks dominated the new collections introduced at the recent spring wholesale furniture market in High Point, thanks in part to the wide availability of exotic materials and the continuing interest in feng shui.

Big names including Thomasville, Bassett and Broyhill introduced Asian-inspired collections, and woven fibers adorned everything from hassocks to headboards in other showrooms.

Straight, spare lines make the Asian look versatile, allowing it to blend with a wide range of other furniture styles. "It mixes well with a lot of looks," said David Salinero, a spokesman for Thomasville Furniture of Thomasville. "It's really eclectic."

Many of the new collections, from Asian to traditional English and French, are crafted of pine and finished in soft, low-luster sheens. That gives even the more formal styles a casual contemporary appeal. The dominant upholstery color remains bronze, in every possible shade and permutation.

Accent colors include yellow and red -- and purple in all its permutations. "Lots and lots of shades of purple," said Ed Tashjian, marketing director for Century Furniture. "Lilac, lavender, amethyst."

Upholstery that isn't chenille is likely to be leather -- and there's some sobering news: If you plan to buy a leather sofa or chair, you ought to know that the prices are likely to go up.

The foot-and-mouth disease that's ravaging cattle herds in Europe probably will drive leather costs higher, furniture executives say. Century's Tashjian estimates the average cost of a leather sofa will go up about $100. Allison Pennell, vice president of merchandising for Broyhill, gave a matching estimate.

The wholesale furniture market, the world's largest trade show, drew about 80,000 exhibitors to showrooms in High Point and nearby Thomasville.

The show came at a time when the economy is shaky and manufacturers are closing plants and laying off workers. But the American Furniture Manufacturers Association predicts shipments will increase 4 percent to $25.8 billion next year, after dipping 2.7 percent to $24.9 billion this year.

Furniture introduced at the market typically appears in retail showrooms in about six months. Here's a look at what to expect:

Asian influences. Thomas-ville's "Visaya" collection consists of 34 pieces reflecting a blend of Asian and American contemporary influences. It combines oak in a tobacco brown finish with leather, stone and bakbak, woven fibers from the Philippines. Signature pieces include a bed with leather-padded headboard with windowpane stitching -- creating what Thomasville spokeswoman Kara Thompson called a "Shinto house feel" -- and a dining room table with sleek glass top resting on a bakbak covered cube.

Broyhill, a Lenoir, N.C., company, also describes its "Eastwinds Tapestry" as a fusion of Asian and western. Pieces are crafted of cherry veneer in midtone ginger finish, and include bundled reed corner carvings and orchid leaf legs. The dominant piece is an armoire.

Bassett Furniture of Bassett, Va., christened its new 80,000-square-foot High Point showroom with an Asian-inspired collection called "Focus," 45 pieces in ash solids with a blond finish called cashew. Tables have crushed bamboo veneers on tabletops for style and durability. Signature pieces include a lighted apothecary chest that can be used in the bedroom or dining room, and a round dining table with lazy susan.

Vive toile. Toile, that French scenic pattern born in the 18th century, is young again. After gaining popularity in the fashion industry, on trendy purses and pedal pushers, it's elbowing for space amid the furniture industry's plaids and paisleys. Toile brightened a half-dozen of the major showrooms. And Highland House introduced a new toile pattern based on antique blue-and-white porcelains.

Striking contrasts. Century Furniture of Hickory, N.C., turned to Australia for inspiration for its "Matilda Bay" collection.

It's a combination of rough-and-tumble and elegant, Tashjian said. It's designed to appeal to those who match cashmere sport coats with jeans or choose exotic sound systems for their SUVs. The centerpiece of the collection is the "Kangaroo Kouch," which combines leather with two upholstery fabrics. The patterned upholstery trim includes images of unique Australian animals. (Yes, including kangaroos.)

In the collection, ornately carved dining chairs are combined with simple parson's tables featuring simulated plank tops. Even the finishes offer contrasts: One finish on the alder wood is a rich chestnut called "Burnt Umber," while the other -- "Aged Ochre" -- is an antique finish with hints of yellow, red and green peeking through a textured top coat.

Eclecticism. Alex-ander Julian introduced two new collections for Universal Furniture of High Point.

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