There is a fresh breeze of sophistication blowing through High Point's furniture showrooms this season - and in some unexpected places. When was the last time you spent an entire day in exhibitors' showrooms feeling excited, even exhilarated, and having fun with furniture? I experienced all of the above Sunday after watching the market fill in with attendees after a light opening Saturday.
Exhibitors this time around seem to feel liberated from the strains of the recession and are serving up innovative, stylish and useful design solutions to ease the challenges of the day-to-day and making life - yes - more beautiful in the process.
I started with Century, where I was greeted by exuberant color on statement pieces drawn on the spirit of a collection introduced as long ago as 1975 called "Chin Hua" (where I grew up, the name was "Chinois" but in 1975 High Point wasn't that sophisticated). However, while the name is a carryover, this introduction is no warmed over oldie. It is as bright and right for now as if it had been born yesterday. The original Asian design inclination has been subtly modernized and bright aniline dye finishes of rich garnet, jade, brilliant yellow and a dazzling malachite leave no doubt that this collection is meant for today, especially when paired with lucite bases.
There are 19 finishes offered across the Century line with the intention of confirming the company's expertise in choosing the appropriate finish to guide its dealers and interior designers aiming for exclusivity for any of the many wood species it uses in its collections.
Fabrics on upholstered pieces were also brightened - strongly so when coordinated with Chin Hua or in a cooler more feminine palette of pale blues and greens chosen especially for bedrooms. Patterns here as in many other exhibits throughout the High Point show came in a variety of fretwork, Greek key and other geometric designs including the omnipresent Morroccan tile motifs. Florals or large leaf patterns were accents rather than central players.
A white on white canvas patchwork with unfinished edges was an eye-stopping addition to Bob Timberlake's upholstery.
Off to Schnadig I went to review both the new Lauren and Caricole lines.
Lauren took a surprise turn with a rustic modern collection, Saugatuck, rough hewn and sand-washed in color and of substantial scale. .Double jack bases on dining and coffee tables made their bold presence felt in this architecturally geometric collection but very light blond wicker and sea grass accessory pieces with glass tops lightened the look so as not to fall into Restoration Hardware territory.
Caricole, a dealer and consumer favorite for the past two years, continues to delight with its innovative and unique pieces, each of them named with a great sense of humor. In reviewing those pieces and names, it is clear that the creative team at Schnadig is having a ball with this line.
New additions draw on louvered designs - the armoire is named "Shutter to Think." the correlated bed "Shelter Island," both in a grayed rustic and wire brushed finish called Seagull. A more refined group of pieces adds ivory colored shagreen to wrap drawer sections and sides to enhance wood pieces and makes generous use of mother-of-pearl cloverleaf hardware and other accents - magnified on a bed named "Dreamweaver."
Outstanding are metallic pearl finished pieces, several of them extractions of the Art Deco period. A settee in particular, finished in silver uses explicit Art Deco motifs whereas two different small chests, both of them oval and finished in blue silver or a golden hued pearl, will add glamour and utility to any bedroom.
Attention to detail extends to upholstered pieces with leather piping on linen and attractive sofa backs. One unusual entry is a dining chair with deep drop down seat skirts.
There are now 177 pieces in this much-loved collection, 57 of them new introductions. On offer are 37 wood finishes, nine paint finishes, eight different metal finishes and 16 unique materials.
More good design news and surprises ahead.