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A new take on Oriental.

With typical finesse, designer Ray Sobota and Century Furniture revise the shape, proportion and finish of traditional Oriental furniture for a fresh light look. The Cinnabar collection earned second looks at the Spring International Furniture Market.

Furniture designer Raymond K. Sobota and Century Furniture just keep on wowing folks.

At the Spring International Home Furnishings Market in High Point, Century introduced Sobota's Cinnabar, an Oriental-inspired collection of living room, dining room, bedroom and occasional furniture with simple lines and complicated carvings. Refined and elegant, this is one of the freshest looks of the season.

What is unique about the Cinnabar line is that the designer bypassed the hard-edged, black-lacquer look typical of Oriental furniture, and a good deal of its geometric fretwork. The Cinnabar collection has gently curved bombe bases with lotus flower carvings for a graceful, somewhat feminine feeling. A light wash finish (bisque) on maple solids with randomly-matched white ash burl veneers adds to the new softer appearance. Hardware is solid brass, also with a lotus motif.

The bombe shape, most commonly used in French Louis XV period and Italian furniture, actually originated in the Far East, according to Sobota. He said it became popular during the Ming dynasty, when arts of all kind flourished. "Cinnabar is faithful to the Oriental taste for simple lines and purity of form," he added.

Ornamental carvings

Century introduced about 40 pieces in the Cinnabar line, including armoires and two entertainment centers, at the April market. The chinas and one entertainment center have convex pillow cornices topping simple cabinets. Sobota said the tops were intentionally understated to add emphasis to the bombe shape beneath them. Bases, which have a chow foot and flower-and-leaf carved apron, function almost as display stands for the pieces they support. The entertainment center has canted side cabinets with glass doors and can accommodate a 40-inch TV.

Cinnabar's two-poster bed features a headboard with a curved and deeply-carved lotus leaf crown rail and lotus bud finials. Another bed has a panel headboard with a scrolled rail. Storage pieces include a marble-topped bachelor's chest and an ample, nine-drawer dresser. The only fretwork to make an appearance was bordering a mirror.

Dining tables, rectangular or 44-inch round with three leaves, have parquet veneer tops. The sideboard, finished front and back, can be used anywhere in a room. Dining chairs have curved and carved splat backs. The china, focal point of the dining room, has a bowed crown top, glass doors and side cabinets. The breakfront features bombe center drawers, side doors and end panels. Lotus flower and leaf carvings accentuate the curve of the base apron.

Occasional tables include a large storage cocktail with working drawers and shaped apron, a glass-topped table and a traditional Chinese altar tabletop with elaborately carved apron and scrolled ends.

Machining with flair

Sobota and Century are trendsetters in the furniture industry when it comes to complicated and detailed carvings. The company was among the first to produce ornate designs using CNC routers.

While it is possible for some designs to be cut on a spindle carver, it requires cutting-edge CNC technology to make ornamental carvings on configurations like curved end rails, back splats and case bottoms. This type of carving takes more capabilities than even a three-axis router affords. Century uses a five-axis Shoda router that allows the cutting head to rotate to any angle, left to right, front to back, up and down. This action provides depth to a 3-D design and permits intricate carving with a smooth finish, much like fine hand carving. In addition, all five axes can be programmed to move simultaneously.

Cinnabar was a fairly difficult line to machine, according to Roger Jones, case goods manager at Century. At first glance, "nothing in the designs was overcomplicated -- until you try to make it," he said. Sobota's new designs continue to push the limits of what can be done with CNC routers, and the Century production crews outdo themselves with every new line, Jones added.
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Title Annotation:Oriental furniture designs by designer Ray Sobota and Century Furniture Co.
Author:Garet, Barbara
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:May 1, 1993
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