Attending the annual exhibitions and furniture-buying markets held for the trade each year is like visiting a festival of coming attractions: You see what's ahead, what may set styles.
Here's what this year's shows revealed:
At the San Francisco furniture market, the "California Look" in home furnishings was emphasized, especially by West Coast suppliers. On display were over-scaled upholstery in a variety of fabrics and leathers, white-washed wicker and rattan, light-finished wood furnishings, white or off-white stone and faux stone tables, polished and unpolished travertine tables and accessories, Southwestern-styled accent furnishings, accent pieces made of metal with "weathered" finishes and a variety of furnishings featuring unusual faux finishes. More traditional furnishings were shown but it was the California Look that prevailed.
The largest home furnishings exhibition and market in this country is held in April and October in High Point, N.C., where more than 1,500 manufacturers from around the world displayed their newest furniture, lamps and accessories. One major point at High Point:
Case goods, an industry term for wood furniture, will reflect a range of international styles.
In describing the High Point market, Furniture Today, a major furnishings trade publication, said: "Style directions ran the gamut from traditional to Oriental, to French to contemporary to country. Country is the biggest style theme, but many companies are going with the more sophisticated, more formal country French look. With a trend toward a more formal and sophisticated look, traditional is drawing attention with Henredon, Bernhardt, Dixie and Pennsylvania House among those bringing out traditional, 18th-Century collections. They're using a variety of woods--cherry, maple and mahogany with a trend toward mid-tone, lighter finishes, rather than dark ones."
Other important case goods at the show were reproductions of museum-quality furnishings from historic Charleston, S.C., Williamsburg, Va., and Great Britain's National Trust, by manufacturers such as Kittinger, Baker and Century.
Another of the most versatile and popular case good categories was American Country, ranging from pure Shaker in scrubbed pine or oak to "farm-style" pieces.
High-style contemporary case good designs moved from slick lacquer finishes to faux, or simulated, finishes that have the appearance of such materials as goatskin, marble, stone, malachite or other natural materials.
Another medium that remained a favorite is wicker and rattan. O'Asian of Compton introduced an Art Nouveau collection of sculptured rattan called Scultura. It featured a whitewashed finish that gives it a contemporary appeal. For the Ralph Lauren wicker collection, O'Asian has introduced chairs, chaises, highboys, lowboys and beds--all with that special patina and traditional appeal synonymous with Lauren's designs. Palecek created a collection that combined natural wicker with trim colors of light-blue and rose, as well as a group that included chairs, chaise lounge, love seat and tables available in a palette of colors called "dusty" shades of jade, yellow, plum, gray as well as white and black. And for Century, designer Jay Spectre's wicker and rattan Steamer Seating collection, which included sofa, love seat, arm chairs and chaise lounge, featured wicker woven on a diagonal with a border of wicker "rope."