Better quality, elegant fabrics are keynotes at furniture market

``Give us better furniture.'' That is the voice manufacturers say they're hearing from consumers.

According to company executives speaking at the semiannual Southern Furniture Market here, manufacturers are doing just that.

The market attracts over 600 national and international exhibitors and 50,000 visitors - including retail-store buyers and interior designers as well as suppliers and sales personnel. The lines making their debut here represent the best value yet offered by the furniture industry.

New finishes for both furniture and fabrics, improved materials, and advanced technologies make that claim possible for moderately priced furniture, as well as for the most expensive.

Fred Starr, president of Thomasville Furniture Industries, said that companies were giving consumers better design and higher style at all price levels.

Carl Levine, vice-president of Bloomingdale's stores in New York, indicated that most customers today have upped not only their quality expectation, but also their taste level and their fashion consciousness.

Shoppers for home furnishings in months to come, according to market introductions, will be finding far more 1930s and '40s glamour - whether it be inspired by Hollywood movies, as in Jay Spectre's new group for Century, or by the Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles reflected in many groups.

Opulence is the favorite buzzword heard here, as it is expressed in lushness, luxuriousness, and glitter.

Such words describe the plump, overscaled sofas covered with dressy fabrics like damasks, silk moires, jacquards, hammered satins, tapestry weaves, and velvet. They're all frequently trimmed with braid, tassels, and ropes. Real leathers and velvety ultrasuedes cover many of the chairs and sofas that were on display here.

Additions to the Stately Homes of the British Isles Collection by Baker remind us that many Americans really want to live like kings and aristocrats and that they enjoy reproductions of those grandiloquent - and often palatial - furnishings.

Despite interesting new introductions in modern, transitional, and country styles, the dominant theme here is traditional in feeling.

For example, reproductions of great pieces from Colonial Williamsburg, Newport, Charleston, Philadelphia, and James River plantation houses ring a bell of historical authenticity and American ingenuity. They continue strong choices by Americans across the country year after year.

An eclecticism that pervades many collections is obvious in the new ``Grand Tour'' collection at Heritage. It's a blend of Regency, Directoire, Empire, and Oriental influences - including serpentine curves, elaborate carvings, and intricate veneer patterns of highly decorative woods.

New American, English, and French country styles continue to emerge - but the market was the new Pierre Deux French Country Collection by Henredon, which will be in the stores this coming fall.

It combines 50 Provincial French fabrics with reproductions in walnut and cherry of French country antiques that were selected by Pierre Moulin and Pierre LeVec, the two ``Pierres'' of the firm known as Pierre Deux.

The whole exciting collection catches the spirit and flavor of country living in southern France. It is both rustic and refined and is by far the best of the new French collections shown here at the market.

The various styles available and the vibrancy of design today will make shopping for furnishings more fun.

And that will make the Furniture Information Council happy, because it thinks that the furniture industry is still not getting enough of the consumer's discretionary income.

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