From lacquers to pastels

Contemporary styling, lacquer finishes, and art deco-inspired pastel colors. These were three important trends noted at the recent October Southern Furniture Market here.

More than 35,000 store buyers from around the country attended. Their mood, though cautious, was generally upbeat, thanks to a definite upswing in the furniture business during the past year. And this, in turn, contributed to a fresh sense of design evident throughout the show.

''Following a recession, manufacturers are often more creative and innovative in their designs,'' said Robert A. Smitherman of Carter Industries.

Many of the recent trends in furniture design have been inspired by furnishings recently shown in such furniture capitals as Milan, Paris, Frankfurt , or Copenhagen. The art deco look of the 1930s and '40s is still an important influence, as is Italian post-modernism. Even Scandinavian modern is being given a rather timorous new viewing.

Many of the new contemporary sofas and chairs are sumptuous in both shape and profile. Their elegance of line is illustrated in the sofa shown here from Directional, a company whose ''1984'' group is up-to-date stylishness at its best. Colors in some of the new directional prints include jungle orchid and fuchsia tones, and jet-black and leaf-green hues.

Lacquer finishes of many hues are everywhere. Andrew Cundiff, sales manager of Weiman Furniture Company, commented, ''Lacquer finishes in the past have been fragile and easily chipped or scratched. Now we offer a high-sheen polyester lacquer that is several times harder and more durable than the former lacquer, and it enhances the charms of this high-sheen finish considerably.''

Weiman is offering the lacquer in 21 colors, including all the popular pastels, Chinese red, and black. Many other companies are showing the polyester lacquer as well.

Although we are generally in a pastel era, the tones are deepening. The entire mauve range (including lilac, all the berry colors, and deep burgundy) are still favorites, but several showrooms made good use of a strong red.

Currently the most fashionable color combination is peach and gray, or pink and gray. The glow of pink is everywhere.

Pastels are not the only colors enjoying a strong following. Black is now an established high-fashion color in home furnishings, found in finishes, fabrics, and accessories. The sofa covered in black moire silk at Thayer-Coggin, for example, is especially handsome. Smooth black leather and silklike black parachute cloth fit like sleek skins over curvaceous seating pieces.

Designers are also working with new configurations. Milo Baughman of Thayer-Coggin is working with sharply defined angles. In his new group, called ''Geometrics,'' he introduces a crisp, straight-line look that is a 180-degree turnaround from his ''soft modern'' approach of recent seasons.

''I believe it is possible to overstuff and fatten things too much and to have too many curves,'' Mr. Baughman comments. He is waiting to see whether the public will agree.

Other companies are offering small geometric collections in occasional tables which can be placed together to make a variety of forms.

As sensitive as some Americans might be to new trends, however, a conservatism prevails, and most of them love the familiar English, French, and American styles of the 18th and 19th centuries. So we see new country French and Italian traditional groups being introduced at Thomasville, splendid and grandiloquent additions to the English Stately Homes series at Baker Furniture Company, and a new 18th-century English oak collection debuting at Pennsylvania House.

A stunning new group that could signal a developing trend is the ''Grand Palais'' collection by Heritage. The group incorporates many of the elements of the neoclassical movement of the 19th-century, as expressed in the Empire, Regency, Directoire, and Biedermeier periods. Its use of exotic materials and classical motifs is ''a reaction against the sterility and starkness of modern extremes,'' says Fred N. Isenhower, vice-president of Drexel Heritage Furnishings Inc.

American country styles as well as Oriental themes remain stable, along with country French. There are also new collections of regional American furniture favorites, including those representing turn-of-the-century tastes in Kentucky and Arkansas.

Manufacturers are also presenting more small dining tables in every style, more entertainment centers to house various components, and more curio cabinets to display the numerous treasures that Americans love to collect.

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