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VALENCIA, Spain-An emphasis on practicality, as well as sleek, spare looks rendered in high-contrast tones, highlighted last week's Valencia Furniture Fair, held from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2.

By all accounts, Spain's furniture industry has grown steadily over the past few years. According to a study commissioned by the Spanish Furniture Technology Institute, furniture represents a 946 billion peseta (U.S. $7 billion) business for the country, up from 860 billion pesetas (U.S. $6 billion) in 1993.

In addition, Spain's furniture exports have soared 200 percent in the past five years, from 65.67 billion pesetas (U.S. $.5 billion) in 1993 to nearly 190 billion pesetas (U.S. $1.4 billion) in 1997.

Lifestyle looks in cherry wood and beech, complete with nickel accents and displayed with accents of apple green, were prevalent throughout the show -- certainly a familiar sight to U.S. visitors who've shopped High Point for the past two markets.

Signaling a distinct design departure, however, were those Spanish firms which took the lifestyle concept to the next level, offering sleek, contemporary looks in contrasting shades of dark wood (primarily wenge wood, from Liberia) with lighter beech, ash or maple.

Such was the look at Innova, the five-year-old contemporary division of Martin, which has been producing classic Spanish designs for 30 years. The Valencia-based firm, which hopes to enter the U.S. market, showcased a line of dining, storage and occasional pieces designed by Pepe Escribano in wenge and maple. The collection incorporated spare lines, sliding frosted-glass panels and open storage cubes, all perched on thin metal legs.

One of the highlights was the firm's two-piece bar set, consisting of a tall L-shaped piece on casters, that swivels to be positioned either flush with, or perpendicular to, a smaller, two-drawer storage unit with frosted glass.

Colors in upholstered furniture at the fair were equally stark, primarily shown in solid shades of white, chocolate brown and gray. Visitors to the Juanes Diseno showroom, for example, were greeted by a sea of thoroughly modern sofas, chairs and chaises, all rendered in high-contrast brown and white.

Augustin Garcia Ruiz, the firm's commercial manager, said the coloration represented a reaction to the light, frothy shades of the past few years.

Functionality was the key at Valencia-based Punt Mobles, which sells to many contemporary U.S. stores, including S.E.E. in Manhattan, Current in Seattle and Limn in Berkeley, Cal. Among the firm's offerings was a round glass coffee table with three elliptical-shaped wooden "wings" underneath, designed by Oscar Tusquets. To offer additional space, the wooden pieces swing out, extending the table surface.

Also new was a space-saving sofa bed designed for Punt Mobles by Jorge Pensi. The sofa's wooden armrests flip down to form coffee tables; when fully extended, however, the piece becomes a sleek platform bed complete with wooden headboard and built-in bedside tables.

Nuestro Mueble of Valencia concentrated on truly practical pieces for the recibidor y entrada, or entryway, of the home. These wall units offered a choice of convenient configurations, including shelves, coat rack, umbrella stand, enclosed shoe storage, cabinets, drawers and mirrors.

"In Spain, the entryway of the house is a special room, and is often furnished this way," explained Alberto Perez, the firm's export manager, noting that the units could work equally well in bedrooms or dressing rooms. (At least one New York visitor, however, was prompted to think of how convenient these pieces would be for small city apartments back home.)

Perez noted, however, that with many Spanish homes becoming smaller these days, without such large entrances, the firm will expand the concept next year, offering similar models designed specifically for the living room and dining room.

Pared-down homes were also the inspiration at Leroa, which offered a range of compact home office/sleep/storage combinations for children and adults. Customers can choose from a variety of options, including sliding wooden doors, built-in shelving units covered with a fabric curtain, several desk configurations, and pullout or loft beds.
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Author:Pfaff, Kimberly
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Oct 12, 1998

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