High Point trend in a word: simple

May 06, 2006|By CHARLYNE VARKONYI SCHAUB | CHARLYNE VARKONYI SCHAUB,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- Furniture manufacturers are betting we're so fed up with technology and mass-produced goods that we will want to put our money on the Simple Life.

This yearning for a vanishing lifestyle has nothing to do with Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton.

It has everything to do with the Arts & Crafts Movement that made Gustav Stickley, Frank Lloyd Wright and Greene & Greene household names.

The most repeated mantra at the International Home Furnishings Market that ended here Wednesday was the simple lines and fine craftsmanship of Arts & Crafts and Mission furniture. Nearly 25 percent of the manufacturers introduced this style at the market, according to a Furniture/Today and Home Accents Today survey. Among them are Hooker's Simply American, Magnussen Home's Oak Park, Copeland's Prairie by Frank Lloyd Wright and Stickley's additions to Pasadena Bungalow and Historic Mission.

When Arts & Crafts first came in during the late 1890s and early 20th century, it was a reaction against industrialization and the overly carved furniture of the Victorian period, says Kim Shaver, vice president of marketing and communication for Hooker. Some of the same factors are in play now.

"What was happening was the depersonalization of society," she says. "All of a sudden there was a dearth of the one-of-a-kind, handmade, handcrafted items that was the staple of life before. Arts & Crafts was more personal, down to earth with a handcrafted feel. It is practical, sturdy with very simple lines compared to the Victorian or the excessive carving we have seen out of China the past few years."

Shaver says the timing is right from both a cultural and style standpoint. We are once again hungering for simplicity in a world of high-tech gadgetry. She pointed to the success of Real Simple magazine and the coming fall launches of a new Organization TV network and Simplify magazine.

Hooker's Simply American Collection is betting on the hunch that Gen X and Gen Y consumers, who demand quality in everything from their cars to their cocktails, won't mind paying extra for craftsmanship such as quarter-sewn white oak, cedar-lined drawers, hand-rubbed finishes and exposed mortise and tenon pegs.

Magnussen Home describes its Oak Park Collection as "classic Mission styling reinvented for the 21st century." Named after a Frank Lloyd Wright neighborhood in Chicago, the collection also is designed to appeal to Gen X and Gen Y. Although the styling has been softened from the original, it also relies on historical details such as seeded glass and mortise-and-tenon details. It's crafted of quartered oak veneers with a Mission oak finish and oil-rubbed brass hardware.

One of the most interesting pieces is the 54-inch-tall Oak Park Shaving Stand ($430), which has drawer and door storage and a removable tilting mirror. The collection will be in stores in the fall.

Stickley, which is celebrating its 17th anniversary of the reissue of Mission furniture, is thought of as the prime manufacturer that Arts & Crafts advocates went to when they couldn't find the original pieces.

"Seventeen years ago no one had a clue what Arts & Crafts meant," said Michael Danial, corporate historian for Stickley. "They thought it had something to do with candle-making. Now you are going to see Arts & Crafts isn't going to go away. It is going to become a part of American style."

Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub writes for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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