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Hooray for the red, white and blue!


Like other towns all over the country, High Point was hard hit with patriotic fervor this spring. Trees and mailboxes sported yellow ribbons. "Welcome Back Troops" signs popped up like dandelions. Folks said Stormin' Norman should run for president, even though America's Persian Gulf hero wasn't home yet. But no matter. On opening day of the International Home Furnishings Market, the sentiment clearly felt was "Hooray for the red, white and blue!"

If the spirit of national pride continues, is it safe to believe that consumers will salute new collections with propitious names such as American Sampler, American Declaration, American Heritage, American Frontier and American Legacy?

The emphasis was on down-home American design, craftsmanship, hardwoods and values with still more companies entering the Shaker and Mission lookalike contests. Spring introductions also were top heavy with tried-and-true 18th century reproductions, including an inspired collaboration between Henry Ford Museum and Century Furniture. In the same vein, Charles Dickens Heritage Ltd. licensed Hekman Furniture to manufacture adaptations of 11 pieces from the English novelist's family home.

On the contemporary side, clean and classic designs came from designers Vicente Wolf at Henredon, Joe Duke of Arc International and Peter Koepf of Linsy in their High Point debuts.

An aggressive takeover

Pennsylvania House moved aggressively to take the lead in the Country/eclectic category with American Sampler, a collection of 80 accent pieces. The furniture was housed in a barn that had been rebuilt on the third floor of the Pennsylvania House building, and the exhibit highlighted Early American crafts that are now considered art forms.

Wood carvers, blacksmiths, textile weavers, quiltmakers, potters, basketweavers and decorative artists demonstrated their skills while country fiddlers provided folk music. Artist Susan Caudell, who also paints scenic pieces for Simply Southern Furniture, created the designs and painted patterns on all decorated case goods in the group.

Among the prominent wood pieces with either decorated, crackled or distressed finishes were a wedding armoire, pie safe, cannonball bed, butterfly end table, William and Mary gateleg table and a corner cabinet. In wicker were a loveseat, right- and left-facing chaise lounges, entertainment armoire and a rocker. Iron was the material of choice for a sofa table, cocktail table, baker's rack and 6/6 bed in verdigris finish accented with brass finials and ivy metalwork at the head and foot.

Celebrating the artist

Jasper Cabinet also celebrated the American artist in its showroom where staff artists were at work. The company is one of the largest U.S. manufacturers of hand-decorated decorated furniture. At least 15 percent of its products carries a hand-painted design, said Tom Jahn, one of five company artists. Throughout the year, Jasper sends pairs of artists to retail stores throughout the United States and Canada, where they spend three days at a time custom decorating Jasper case goods. The most popular design is rural French flowers and ribbons, according to Jahn.

A bookcase and a rolltop desk, both in oak and cherry, were among the spring introductions. Hardwoods are plentiful around Jasper, Ind., and the company operates its own rough mill and kilns. Cherry and oak are the main species used, as well as mahogany. For laser-cut marquetry designs, Jasper uses exotic veneers including mozambique, kekele, imbuya, wenge and koa.

Marching to a different drummer

At CollingWood, the question asked was how to make classic, timeless American Traditional furniture that would be unique and different. The company's strategy is to be slightly out of step with the rest of the furniture industry, according to Terry W. Lail, vice president of sales.

American Declaration was the solution. "If the Americans of 1776 could bring together many diverse cultures and heritages under a common declaration, it was logical that furniture from equally diverse heritages could be brought together..." Furniture found in 35 towns and villages of the original 13 colonies, plus Vermont and Maine, provided the design sources. Chippendale, Queen Anne, Sheraton, Hepplewhite or Hessian-inspired, the pieces are not exact reproductions, and only three bedroom pieces were made to match (at the request of retailers). The collection is pulled together by a hand-rubbed, deep patina finish called "Constitution Cherry."

A Princeton, N.J., circa 1740 classic Chippendale clothes press was originally filled with shelves for linens and garments. CollingWood's 1991 version features an interior with tray drawer, jewelry tray and shirt dividers that can be removed for audio or video equipment. It was a best seller at the market, Lail said. An 11-drawer, Newport, R.I., high chest, circa 1730, has carved Queen Anne legs with elongated C-scrolls inside the knees and acanthus leaves outside, crown with dentil and lamb's-tongue mouldings and chamfered lamb's-tongue posts.

Capitalizing on Columbus

Looking even further back in time, while still keeping an eye on 1992, Richardson Bros. and designer Taylor Haynes developed the New World Collection to mark the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America.

In solid birch, New World has an Old World look of crystal knobs and convex glass in the china cabinet doors and a sunburst window at the crown. The dining table has self-storing leaves and five legs at each corner. Chairs are steam bent. The company will launch an expanded collection next year to appeal to the diverse ethnic groups that make up America, according to president Joe Richardson III.

American Legacy

"Pure, no-frills country" is how Simply Southern's Kay McEntyre described American Legacy, a pine group that includes a double door jelly cupboard, bowback chairs and other occasional pieces for kitchen and bedrooms. These can be finished with any stain or in darker paints - red, black or blue. Unlike most Simply Southern case goods, they are not decorated with artwork.

Also new in April were a panel bed, a cherry entertainment center with handpainted hunt scene and pine cabinets for six or 12 guns. The cabinets have crown pediments and glass doors and are available with pistol racks. One was shown in a light finish, decorated with waterfowl, another with a whitetail deer. The most scenic piece of furniture at the market probably was a large armoire that depicts pairs of animals and birds boarding Noah's ark. It is signed by the artist, Susan Caudell.

Cherry sails in with flying colors

Tell City Chair Co. has tooled up for Tidewater Cherry, a 66-piece collection in solid cherry that features steam-bent aprons, posts, splats and grillwork, and complex carving and finishing. Solid brass hardware; three lacquer topcoats; one-piece, single-width drawer fronts; and fully finished drawer interiors are construction details.

"We are using high-end refinements for a middle-price-range program," said Doug Fenn, president. "These pieces are designed to last for generations." Fenn said Tell City's Midwest location gives the company a strategic advantage in serving retailers, since most cherry has traditionally come from the Northeast, Virginia or the Carolinas.

With the introduction of Heirloom Cherry, 57 dining and bedroom pieces in solid northern black cherry and Queen Anne styling, Virginia House president George "Punch" Greer said, "We've been training for the marathon. Now race day is here." Later, Greer said the collection did extremely well. "It was our best dollar market in history."

The collection includes a rice-carved four poster canopy bed with side rails that can be adjusted six inches, an extra tall night stand to accommodate the higher bed height, and a flip top server with a dull black serving surface, cathedral paneled doors and chamfered corners with lamb's-tongue details.

Kincaid Furniture introduced Commonwealth Cherry, 50-plus pieces for bedrooms and dining rooms in hand-rubbed solid black cherry, at a higher price point than its other cherry lines. The collection's designer case goods include a Queen Anne highboy with full bonnet pediment and a chest with serpentine front.

Wood shows its true colors

Paul Koepf is the owner/designer of Linsy, making its first appearance in High Point. The Chagrin Falls, Ohio, company which makes limited production office furniture is "going for the residential market to see what happens," Koepf said. "So much contemporary furniture is made of glass, steel or stone. We believe there are customers out there looking for wood."

Two lines of contemporary wood furniture were introduced, Karambola for the bedroom and Fawn for the dining room. Fawn includes a table with a seven-ply top, a narrow sideboard table, a wall-hung china cabinet and a credenza in redwood burl and mahogany. The sideboard, china cabinet and credenza are topped with an ornamental bowed rail. Table legs are slender, tapered and slightly bowed as well. Door pulls are stainless steel semicircles.

Arc International is a nine-year-old American company that produces furniture for the architectural and interior design communities. The collection is designed by several well-known and talented people from varied disciplines: Patrick Naggar, Stanley Felderman and Robert Venturi, who have an architectural background; Robert Grahma, Robert Mapplethorpe and Kevin Walz, fine arts; and Wendell Castle, Bob Trotman and Joe Duke, furniture makers.

Duke, who is also president and design director, presented his Etruscan Masterworks series which is made of quilted mahogany veneer, columnar mahogany legs, ebony details and pure silver inlays. The Biedermeier-influenced pieces also are available in lacewood with wenge details and tagua nut inlays.

J. Hibbard Sanders, a custom cabinetmaker from Hinton, W. Va., tags his creations "Works of Nature" because they are one-of-a-kind, handcrafted pieces emphasizing the beauty of solid wood. Particularly striking were spalted maple pedestal cabinets. "Sound and solid spalteds are hard to find," Sanders said. "Spalting is a process that begins when a dead tree is invaded by spores and microorganisms and starts to decompose." No two, patterns are ever the same. Sanders' secret is drying the wood before the process goes too far.

Cuban-born New York designer Vicente Wolf creates contemporary pieces with classical references: an end table with columns, a refrectory dining table, a table base influenced by a 19th century urn. Wolf said, "As long as furniture has design integrity, whether traditional or contemporary, it stands well wherever it is placed."

The real thing

While it is possible a few manufacturers may become a trifle cranky these days when asked, "How's business?", the L. & J.G. Stickley Co., makers of bona fide Mission reproductions, are experiencing "phenomenal" sales. "Even with a second shift, we can't keep up with production requests," said Michael Danial, director of sales training and education. He added that 150 persons were recently hired. As more people become acquainted with the Arts & Crafts movement, consumers begin to look closely at what they get for their dollars, he said. "No one builds better furniture endeavoring to reach a mass market."

Even Stickley can't resist change, however. Because of the trend toward smaller living quarters, a number of this year's introductions have been scaled down. A drop leaf table, corner cabinet, spindle settle and cube chair retain all the elements of original Mission furniture without the mass.

PHOTO : Inspired by a 1905 Gustav Stickley original, this newly-designed desk from L. & J.G. Stickley is made of solid quarter-sawn white oak. The deck with vertical letter compartments and two drawers is optional.

PHOTO : An eclectic grouping from Century Furniture's Henry Ford Museum Collection includes a

PHOTO : cupboard typical of 19th century Mennonites in Soap Hollow, Pa., a Federal sideboard, two Windsor arm chairs and a Queen Anne dining set.

PHOTO : Animals and birds stand out against a tempestuous sky and roiling foreground in artist Susan Caudell's interpretation of Noah's ark. It is painted on a custom cabinet introduced by Simply Southern.

PHOTO : Henreden's new three-drawer, 38-inch-high chest is crafted in ash solids and veneers and has a wire-brush finish. Designer Vicente Wolf said he inset the rear legs to create a floating appearance.

PHOTO : CollingWood's American Declaration Collection includes an 18th century clothes press recreated from a Princeton, N.J., original.

PHOTO : Cantilevered top, ebony mouldings and graduated drawers accent the quilted mahogany veneer Etruscan high chest designed by Joe Duke of Arc International. Legs are solid mahogany.

PHOTO : Artist Tom Jahn, who has been with Jasper Cabinet 21 years, adds a detail to the Chinoiserie decoration on a black-lacquered, double bonnet secretary displayed at the Market.

PHOTO : The Portobello armoire from the Pennsylvania House American Sampler Collection has squared pilasters, intricate crown moulding and handcarved shell motifs. Ivy is handpainted on front, side panels and inside the unit.

PHOTO : Charles Dickens' writing desk was copied exactly for Hekman's registered reproduction. Casters were added to his Chippendale-splat chair.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Vance Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:American wood products design
Author:Garet, Barbara
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Jun 1, 1991
Previous Article:Southern pine.
Next Article:Pride in our heritage.

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