Forging furnishings: a new `iron age' of metal chairs and tables

WE are in a new ``iron age'' as far as home furnishings and interior design are concerned. A distinct new fascination with metal - including stainless steel, pewter, bronze, and copper - is apparent everywhere.

Furniture designers are finding that metal - alone or in combination with other materials such as glass, wood, or stone - can be worked in many ways. It is malleable enough to take many shapes.

Leading department and furniture stores have already embraced the look, and companies showing recently at the Southern Furniture Market in North Carolina introduced many new metal groups.

Craftspeople in many parts of the world are displaying their dexterity and imagination in the forging of new furnishings wrought in metal.

Karl Lagerfeld, Parisian fashion designer, is building an entire collection of curvilinear metal furniture made by Andre Dubreuil, a Londoner now selling his unique handwrought iron and copper creations in several countries.

Interior designers are looking for metal pieces with which to enhance both traditional and modern settings.

Designer Mark Hampton chose a handsome wrought iron table and chairs from LaBarge to complement his Hickory Chair collection in settings at B. Altman & Co. in New York.

This year the Woodard Renaissance Gallery, a new division of the Woodard Company, has introduced several new groups of wrought iron for indoor use.

Larry Shaw, vice-president of the new division, says, ``There is an abidingness about iron that is very attractive. Its solid, enduring character appeals to consumers tired of too many fleeting trends and too many investments that don't stand the test of time.''

Mr. Shaw also says people want pieces that have a uniqueness about them, a trace of imperfection that reveals the human touch. He thinks that is why wrought iron is so important right now for both indoor and outdoor furnishings.

``Our heritage of crafting in iron gives Woodard an advantage in producing pieces that can be passed on for generations,'' he remarks.

Woodard's French Country wrought iron group has ornate French styling, while its Classic Impressions group offers accent pieces in six classic styles, and in finishes that include verdigris, aged iron, aged white, and aged rust.

On still another level, there is the metal furniture of Ilana Goor, a sculptress, who was born in Tiberius, Israel, and who has been called ``a natural talent,'' strong in style and authentic and radical in presentation.

She began sculpting in 1965, and in 1985 she designed a table made from the architectural iron rebars left over from the construction of her home. This table became the base of her new line of iron furniture, which includes not only tables, but floor lamps, mirrors, and chairs. Later she added bronze furniture as well.

Metal, she says, has ``fluidity, texture, and patina that is both earthy and elegant.'' Her pieces, both in iron and bronze, are made in limited editions of 100.

Artist Goor says she is personally involved in the completion of her unusual metal furniture, working in foundries, casting, and finishing.

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