Furnish French. New collection's `feel' for southern France countryside allows buyers to ...

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

FRENCH Country is one of the most enduring of styles. It has warmth and richness, romance and rusticity, and time to enhance its popularity.

The sturdy and homey furnishings, which seem to distill the flavor and feeling of the countryside of southern France, are part of an overall ``country'' trend that has been gathering strength for years.

And this trend shows no signs of abating.

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For 20 years, the Pierre Deux import shops have been credited with helping to popularize the French Country style in the United States.

With their array of Souleiado cotton prints from Provence, and genuine French Provincial antiques, pillows, boutique items, linens, glassware, and flatware, the stores offer appealing home design items.

The Pierre Deux shops were founded in 1967 by Pierre Moulin and Pierre LeVec - the two Pierres who gave the company its name.

The shops can be found all over the US, from New York to Newport Beach, Calif., Boston to Dallas, Atlanta to Kansas City, Mo.; Scottsdale, Ariz., to San Francisco.

A ready audience of customers started to appreciate the Pierre Deux shops for their earthy honesty of unique and colorful products from rural France.

Now, the well-known ``Pierre Deux look'' is going even more national and will be available to far more people.

Through a licensing agreement between Pierre Deux and Henredon Furniture, a manufacturer in Morganton, N.C., a new line of 48 wood pieces and nine upholstered pieces will be introduced. The collection will be called ``Pierre Deux French Country by Henredon.''

The dining, bedroom, and occasional pieces will be made in walnut and cherry and will be given the authentic patina that comes from using original finishing techniques and from 200 years of wear.

Many pieces will be hand-carved by skilled craftsmen.

Fifty French fabrics, including Souleiado prints, Toiles de Jouy patterns depicting 18th-century events and scenes, vividly colored floral prints, plaids, tapestries, and Jacquards will also be part of the collection.

Since French antiques are becoming ever more scarce, the Henredon reproductions and adaptations will make great pieces available to many more people.

And while the prices will be far less than the cost of genuine antiques, they will rank ``high.''

An armoire in solid cherry will retail at about $16,000 and a carved bed for $4,000. Sofas will begin at $1,500.

A triple dresser (a style concession to demands of today's life styles) will also sell for about $4,000.

The pieces will span the Louis XV and Louis XVI periods.

Style direction and specifications of manufacture will come from Pierre Deux, but Henredon will help in presenting and marketing the French Country Collection.

The reproductions will be introduced at Bloomingdale's in New York around the end of this year.

Later they will be available at all Pierre Deux shops, at Henredon's in-store galleries, and at selected stores such as Jordan Marsh in Boston, Colby's in Chicago, Brittain's in Houston, and Breuners in California.

In the stores, they will be handsomely displayed in French manor house settings, with an ambiance created by glazed terra-cotta tile floors, light walls, and an abundance of baskets, dried flowers, old pewter, and bright French Country prints.

``The total feeling of French Country will be presented,'' comments John Jokinen, vice-president of Henredon.

He says this collection is one of the most exciting things that has happened at the company in the past 15 years.

Henredon, Mr. Jokinen explains, is making a long-term commitment to the collection and will update it with new pieces and fabrics from time to time.

``We expect it to be on retail floors for years to come.''

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