See-through furniture: clearly hip

Tables, chairs and other glass or plastic pieces make a strong statement

December 16, 2006|By Valerie Finholm | Valerie Finholm,Hartford Courant

An acrylic see-through table draped in a transparent "tablecloth" seems to float through the air. A huge clear glass tub and a glass sink turn a bathroom into a showroom. A clear Lucite coffee table in a regal apartment shows that the owner is confident enough to poke fun at tradition.

Trendsetters are replacing some of the wood pieces they collected in the 1990s with clear furniture made of plastic or glass, experts say.

"People who decorate with clear furniture do it to make a strong style statement," says Maxwell Gillingham Ryan, a New York interior designer who's behind the Web site

"It wouldn't have been cool five years ago, when people were more into solid furniture and even, dare I say it, natural furniture," he says. "Now people are into the manmade ... unnatural. More space-age modern. It's very, very hip. There's something sort of sexy about it ... revealing."

Jocelyn Hutt, editor of homeport, a Web site of premium home-design products, finds a gracefulness in many clear pieces, especially those made of glass.

Hutt says she has seen stunning chandeliers made of clear glass, and another favorite is a mirror framed in clear-cut crystal made by the French master glassware company started by Rene Lalique.

"It brings an incredible feeling of elegance without being overwhelming, because it's clear," she says.

Brian Ogan, co-owner of TheMaga, a Web site that features clear furniture in its collection of modern furnishings and accessories, says transparent furniture works well in small and large homes alike.

He says that, initially, people who ordered transparent furniture lived in small houses or apartments where clear furniture gave the impression of more space. That has changed as people in larger homes buy transparent furniture so they can "show off or highlight" a particularly grand sofa or a beautiful space in their home.

Gillingham Ryan says his clients are attracted to the look because clear materials "don't really have their own ego."

"They sort of pick up whatever else is in the room, absorb whatever else is around to create an airy quality," he says.

Handmade pieces of clear glass furniture can be costly - the Lalique crystal cactus table, for instance, is priced at $86,000. The Ghost chair, an accent chair made by Fiam Italia out of a single piece of glass, costs $5,240.

But many pieces made of clear plastic are more affordable. For instance, the Illusion side table by Essey, handmade in Denmark of clear acrylic, costs $235 at And Gillingham Ryan - who says that most of his clients seeking clear furniture are interested in coffee tables - purchases them at CB2, where the Peekaboo Clear coffee table costs $229.

Meanwhile, the Lalique cactus table and several other designs in the high-end line are on display - and for sale - through Jan. 1 at the Lux Bond & Green store in West Hartford, Conn.

The cactus table, a thick, round glass-top table supported by eight crystal "cactus" branches, "would be elegant in a dining room or in an entrance hall," says Lux Bond & Green assistant manager Laurie Durant.

The store also is showing less-expensive Lalique items, such as table vases and figurines. A clear glass wall shelf held up by a serpentine piece of glass, for example, is $3,000.

Hutt cautions that a little bit of clear furniture goes a long way in home decor.

"It would be a very cold look if you overdid it," she says.

Instead, she suggests finding "one sweet spot" to place a piece of transparent furniture.

Valerie Finholm writes for the Hartford Courant.

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