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And We're Off!

October 20, 2008

High Point, N.C. from the Autumn 2008 International Home Furnishings Market:

I admit to arriving yesterday late afternoon with some apprehension. Among my Market party invitations had been two - in the color black. Century’s printed on all black, Baker’s heavily bordered in black. What were those two companies forecasting? Was this an omen?

Although attendance is clearly down, as it turned out, both companies were far more upbeat on the economy and their opening parties more joyful than the color of their invitations might have suggested. Both are offering a variety of new and exciting furnishings for their upscale customers.

Baker introduced the Tony Duquette Collection of eyepopping accent pieces based on designs and personal property owned by the fabled interior designer at the time of his death.The showstopper: t he undulating Biomorphic Mirror and Console, ca.1965, originally created for the Bel Air residence of a famous client, recreated by Baker in molded resin and finished in matte gold. The glass top gives the illusion of floating on the console base.Also included: the Marsan chair, wide seat and back on very low and lacquered cabriole legs, was first exhibited at the Louvre; the Elsie Tabouret named after Duquette’s mentor, Elsie de Wolfe, the "First Lady of Interior Design", also known as Lady Mendl, covered alternatively in a "water melon weave" or spotted leopard.Last but not least, several accessory pieces, such as the Regency Pagoda and Ghost Snail double as exotic light sources.

"Simply Baker" by contrast is an innovative new upholstery program "developed to better respond to the increasingly diverse needs of Baker’s clientele through simplicity, availability and affordability , " according to Rachel Kohler, group president,Kohler Interiors. The program is built around three levels . Level One: stocked frames and fabrics for immediate delivery; Level 2: Choice of 50 fabrics and 16 Baker finishes with an unprecedented 21-day delivery policy ; Level 3:Customer choice from the full spectrum of 1500 Baker fabrics and any Baker wood finish with timely shipping based on in stock and c.o.m.fabrics as orders are received.

Upholstery colors, except for last season’s white on white tour de force by Thomas Pheasant , which remained on view, this time were more subdued and on the dark side. Deep anthracite gray blended at one time with a tonal amethyst, at another, taupe was paired with a deep lapis blue. Black and dark espresso brown were part of the rich mix.

Century’s most impressive effort is its Milan Collection. Contemporary but with more than a nod to Mother Nature’s very own design capabilities. Taiwanese Cham Cha wood, a relative of mahogany with distinctive grain patterning , is used both as a veneer on case pieces and accent tables but most dramatically when, for a dining and console table, the wide slabs of lumber were left to make their own design statement, their rough edges finished but untrimmed and the glory of grain used to full advantage.

Following Nature’s Path even further, a second collection, appropriately named "Nature," organic in feeling and execution, uses texture as its main design message. Textiles woven to look like cork by Jenke and worsted wool by Holland & Cherry serve as a warm and comfortable embrace for upholstery. Texture is echoed on case pieces with an applied crackle finish and in seeded glass tops used for tables.

Anne Hood, Century’s Vice President of Upholstery Fashion, pointed out textiles she and her team selected for this Market’s introductions: Texture in near neutrals - hints of palest gray-green among them, wool for the first time, quilted and printed leathers, an abundance of silks, some of them in high profile weaves as in a sunny yellow damask to several versions of natural raw silk to mohairs and velvets which remain best sellers.

She likes pattern as the occasional dramatic anchor for a room, such as in a large scale and brightly colored Dragon-floral framed in black lacquer and the mixture of blue-and-white prints in a refreshing bedroom on one hand and a recast traditional American living room on the other, where she combined traditional ticking stripes, a Jacobean linen floral and pillows with monogram embroidery.

Overall, Century, always a reliable fashion indicator for where textile trends are headed, also heavily emphasized browns. Its demise or replacement by gray clearly exaggerated. Black was often seen here as an accent, on seating frames and leather upholstery , but blue-and-white was its most important textile story.

More from High Point tomorrow…