''Country,'' as interpreted at the fall Southern Furniture Market, is a style , an ambiance, and a look of warm and homey comfort. It turned up in dozens of showrooms here, depicting a clear yearning for the more tranquil and rural settings of l8th- and l9th- century America.
For years, the country look has been put together by people who shopped flea markets, village auctions, and antique shops. But it was probably Mary Emmerling , author of ''American Country: A Style and Source Book'' (New York: Clarkson N. Potter) who helped encourage the current wave of ''country'' assemblages throughout the home furnishings industry.
The style elements which Miss Emmerling felt most symbolized rustic and rural American roots included rough-hewed pine furniture, painted chests, corner cupboards, brass beds, quilts, baskets, rag rugs, and specimens of folk art. Commercial adaptations now make ''country'' easily available at almost every price level.
At Thomasville, the collection of bleached pine country pieces is called ''Replicas l800.'' At the Lane Company, the group of reproductions and adaptations of pine and seating pieces from New York's Museum of American Folk Art is called simply ''The America Collection.'' The Henredon assortment of ''Irish cottage, Welsh farmhouse'' designs called ''Bantry Bay'' are actually chic high country pieces that, for all their stripped finish and rough-hewn aspects, look as good in sophisticated city apartments as in Britain's rural keeping rooms.
At the other end of the price scale, Pulaski's ''Autumn Harvest'' collection of old-time oak kitchen furniture includes pieces such as a pie-safe cupboard that could be placed anywhere in the house.
The country look has spawned a multitude of plump, cottage-style sofas and chairs covered in quaint prints, replete with ruffled pillows and ruffled skirts. Broyhill showed prime examples, as well as an extensive new group called ''French Country'' - another provincial look that is being supported by several other manufacturers as well.
The second most dominant look at the Southern market was traditional 18 th-century furniture, with heavy emphasis on Chippendale and Queen Anne styles. Mahogany and cherry are the prevalent woods, and many of the finishes present a return to shiny, high gloss effects.
The most exciting entry in this category was the introduction of Baker's new collection called ''Furniture Treasures from the Stately Homes of England and Scotland as Selected by Sir Humphrey Wakefield, Bt.'' The Baker Company even flew over the dukes, duchesses, lords and ladies of the manor houses and castles from which the 30 original pieces were selected. They were astounded to see some of their choice pieces exquisitely replicated by modern craftsmanship and technology. Drexel Heritage termed its 18th-century English mixture ''Old World'' and gave the pieces a distinctly imported flavor.
Oriental influences ranked as a third strong influence, followed by modern and transitional developments such as Century's new ''Celebration'' group. This has a two-toned light and darker finish, and blends Oriental and European 18th- and 19th-century elements in a cosmopolitan mix.
Mauve, in its many deep-to-light hues, was the most prevalent color at the market, followed by old rose, shell pink, pale turquoise, fuschia, and soft terra cotta colors, ranging from peach to rust. Taupe, fern and jade greens, dark cranberry reds, and bright blues are strong once more. And bottle green, after a long absence from the home scene, is enjoying a revival, particularly in art deco settings.
The usual controversy arose over which scale of furnishings is best for smaller rooms. Acres of new scaled-down apartment and condominium-sized furnishings would argue that small is best. All those little traditional wing chairs and down-scaled dining tables and buffets seem to make a lot of sense for today's compact, low-ceilinged rooms. One observer, noting all the mini-sized pieces, termed them ''shrunken furniture to fit the shrunken dollar.''
Other designers insist that big is best, and the most spatially economical in the long run. They proceeded to introduce the most enormous ''maxi'' wardrobes and armoires seen around in years.
In fabrics, traditional flamestitch patterns are back, but in far more subtle colors than previously. Velvet is as popular as ever, but now has a new dimension called ''action,'' which means the addition of tiny flecks, dots, checks, and diamonds.
Trends toward modern are most notable in seating pieces, which today are all gentle curves and rounded and petal shapes, with scarcely a straight line to be seen. Milo Baughman, in continuing the rounder, softer curvilinear forms of the Moderne look at Thayer Coggin, said, ''The purist, rectilinear, sharp-edged look has been with us for too long.''
Most companies are trying their best to hold the line on prices, inching upward with 4 and 5 percent increases. Current economic conditions and the slump in new housing starts and home sales have adversely affected the sale of home furnishings. Herbert J. Broner, president of Mohasco Corporation, put it this way: ''We are going to have to learn to live and prosper with a cyclical housing industry. Prices will go up gradually. But we are trying to overcome increasing costs by putting more of the company's funds into product development and engineering so we can give more value for the money.''