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Looking at Wednesday

October 23, 2008

Well. Things are looking up at the High Point Market. Traffic has increased somewhat — meaning not much but every little bit helps. By staying on the High Road, I can maintain my illusion that this is a relatively normal market. But then, reality hits. Except for the transportation hub outside the IHFC Building, the streets of High Point are nearly empty.

But I am in luck. My first stop this morning is at Mitchell Gold+ Bob Williams.

The team which for years has virtually "owned" the contemporary furniture category in stores across the country, earned its penetration, brand loyalty and respect from dealers and consumers alike by understanding and fulfilling their needs with their stylish missives, trend right collections and overall quality and performance, all at compellingly reasonable prices.

Moreover, by their own example - in their showroom here and now in their own retail stores, they continue to educate their dealers and consumers about comfort and a gracious way to live.

How they address current concerns over the state of the economy would serve the industry well overall. Here are a few excerpts:

Our Stance: Control things within our control.

Our Strategy:… to take a larger slice of market share.

Our Product: In challenging times, product is more paramount than ever.

Our Value: We know customers respond to recognizable value. Not desperation.

Our Mantra: To deliver consistently and consistently on time.

Our Commitment: To flawlessly execute our strategy.

True to form, the pair introduced one of its largest collections of new furniture, textiles, rugs, lighting and accessories.

Always ready to surprise, new furniture bears a hint of tradition: upholstery is smaller in scale, sports rolled arms and defining nail trims. Lapis and berry red velvet adds a touch of formality but is quickly retracted when offered as slipcover.

Wood finishes are darker, richer, a glint of metal highlights table and seating bases, hardware in brushed copper, silver or shiny nickel. Wood grain is given honored place, and texture enhances upholstery.

Linens, geometric wovens and abstracted Middle Eastern prints and a plethora of new anilyn dyed leathers in rich butterscotch, apple green, dusty amethyst, and both an iridescent lapis and copper - all unite in a look that’s "cool, crisp and calm" as promised on the company’s entrance door.

And - oh yes, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams were writing orders as usual.

Next Stop: Bernhardt: As if we needed any more confirmation that the influence of the interior designer on this industry is growing exponentially, Bernhardt introduces Bernhardt Interiors, a collection of nine upholstery groups and occasional companions with the ability to customize and freely exchange 70 gently hued and tactile plaincloths for individual design choices that update and refine traditional furniture.

Aimed squarely at the professional designer, the collection blends classic styling with contemporary elements. Bernhardt describes the clean architectural shapes with soft curves as “New American Style.”

Materials glow with patina. Colors are quiet with soft hints of nature in a tonal muted silvery palette, such as slate, linen, sand, steel, gray/blue and light cocoa. Covers include luxurious cottons and linens creating both visual and textural interest. Finishes are penetrating and reflective. Flexibility of choice is key.

Also new at Bernhardt: Martha Stewart’s Rosebridge Collection infuses the transitional styles of Biedermeier and Art Deco dating back to the early 19th and 20th Centuries, with simplicity and a modern sensibility. The collection, comprising some 30 pieces, is distinguished by bold architectural shapes and dramatic rosewood and walnut veneers that animate surfaces with their organic beauty.

Noticeably absent, however, and perhaps intentionally, to keep attention focused on the new pieces, are the personal touches and individualistic signature accessories one has come to expect from a Martha Stewart introduction. In their absence, Rosebridge must speak for itself.

Moving on: Henredon, too, is opting for customization with 36 different offered on its new French ‘Marseilles" Collection.

This is the first time the company has made such a range of custom finishes available on 25 select pieces and on all exposed wood upholstery frames.

"While researching for ‘Marseilles’ in Paris, we were captivated by the variety and beauty of the antique patinas," said Michael Delgaudio, Henredon senior vp.

Creative Design. The Henredon Custom Paint Program consists of 12 basic colors - ranging from soft pomegranate to greenish greige to sable and weathered black. The colors are available in three surface treatments: Primary (plain), Antique (strie), and Patinaed (distressed and rasped). A final crowning touch comes with gold or silver leaf "tipping" to accent moldings.

Delgaudio suggests thinking of these pieces as artwork. “Like paintings, decorated furniture adds color, variety and interest to a room.”

Here you have it: In the shrinking world of retail, the interior design profession offers a new channel to a clientele appreciative of better quality, more sophisticated product and personalized service.