A single world of furnishings is fast emerging at the twice-annual Southern Furniture Markets in North Carolina, now a sort of Paris of home fashions. Each spring and fall, thousands of store buyers and merchandise managers from every state and more than 60 foreign countries converge here to view new merchandise made in the United States and abroad.
The European presence was seen, heard, and felt at the latest gathering as numerous new foreign exhibitors from Sweden, Spain, and France joined Canadian exhibitors in many impressive displays, particularly of ingeniously designed knock-down or quick-assembly furniture.
Import collections, which reflect the special skills of craftsmen in many different areas of the world, continue to be introduced by more and more American companies. These extraordinary pieces, sold as individual items, supplement made-in-USA collections and add decorative richness and variety to offerings.
Style trends, two-thirds of which are still traditional in feeling, are also inspired by many periods and far-flung places.
Henredon researched the Ming and early Ch'in dynasties to rediscover the ancient art of Chinese joinery and carving now apparent in the company's new Folio Sixteen collection. Oriental themes are also evident in Pulalski's Orient Express collection of occasional and accent pieces.
Century added new pieces to its Chinese-inspired Chin Hua collection, which has now been a continuing favorite for 10 years. It also introduced luxurious Capuan, with neoclassic lineage from early Roman, Greek, and Egyptian art and architectural themes.
The new classicism is also seen in the Empire styles from Weiman, the ''reinterpreted classics'' at Casa Bique, and interpretations seen in at least a half dozen other showrooms, including Thomasville and Broyhill. Accessories include an abundance of urns, columns, pedestals, and tables with bases shaped like sphinxes and griffins.
Hickory's new Georgian Treasures collection is strictly 18th-century English elegance, as is Hickory Chair's Trafalgar collection of Regency-inspired pieces. This market probably exhibited more rice beds, or graceful four-posters, and camel-back sofas than we've seen in years.
As for specifics, shiny lacquer finishes remain popular, particularly black and almond. Gary Ash, merchandise manager of the Lane Company, predicts that black, white, and gray will be the direction for lacquer finishes in the coming seasons.
As a new alternative to lacquer, Flair by Bernhardt introduced a group called Cirrus featuring aniline-dyed bird's-eye maple veneers in colors such as raspberry, charcoal gray, and topaz.
Country styles continue strong, and new regional variations continue to come to the market. The American Collection, produced for the Museum of American Folk Art by the Lane Company, introduces 17 new pieces based upon the pared-down, simple forms of the Shakers, including the traditional slat-back Shaker rocker. A painted white finish is new here.
Country Shoppe by Bernhardt offers a clean, ''dressed up'' look for country furniture, a fresh-looking alternative for customers who want a more sophisticated look. American Drew is showing American Heartland and Americana Oak as its new country collections.
A new American country collection by Drexel again picks up the regional arts and architecture of the Southwest in its new Mesa collection. Reminiscent of adobe houses and Indian pottery, it features desert color schemes.
''There's a growing interest in home fashions that reflect the environment of the Southwest, with its ingenuous warmth and historical character,'' explains Fred N. Isenhower, vice-president of Drexel Heritage Furnishings Inc.
Brass beds are another element of the country look that appear to grow stronger with each season. Bella Ross, president of J/B Ross, confirms that Americans are still enthusiastic about brass, but she has added 20 contemporary styles to her line of antique reduction beds.
As for color, old rose pink, plum, mauve, and peachy and clay pinks are everywhere, but watch for gray, too, as it emerges more and more as a prime home furnishings color.
John Saladino's new modern collection for Baker Furniture ought to stir up excitement when it is introduced in stores in 1985, but a new adjustable contemporary leather chair designed by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche was attracting attention in the showroom.
The new chair, by the designer of the Porsche 911 sports car, will be manufactured in Europe but sold through Baker to retail in stores for around $4, 000. Mr. Porsche's experiences in automotive and aircraft designing, he says, were of great help to him as he combined art and engineering to create a chair that allows an almost infinite number of upright and reclining positions and adapts to most body sizes.