HOME FURNISHINGS. Home entertainment centers and popular `Eurostyle' dominate trends at the Southern Furniture Market

WHAT is influencing furniture trends today? VCRs (video cassette recorders) for one thing. That much was evident at the spring Southern Furniture Market in North Carolina. As one manufacturer said, ``People could live with the television set sitting in the living room, but now that we have VCRs, who wants all that clutter showing? We had to devise new cabinets that could conceal the different elements.'' So now almost every company offers ``entertainment centers,'' all of them designed to accommodate an expanding array of audio and video home equipment, and sometimes computers as well. Styles varied from l8th-century versions at Hickory Furniture Company and Hickory Chair Company, to ultramodern, to a piece which looked like a country French armoire at Century Furniture Company.

The Riverside Company, for instance, offers a multifunctional computer work station that can also be used as a home entertainment center. New ``entertainers'' at American Furniture Company, Martinsville, Va., feature disappearing pocket doors, pullout swivel TV shelves, a pullout drawer with separate electrical outlet and cord hole for computer or video cassette recorders, and plenty of album and cassette space.

What the industry now terms ``electronics furniture,'' which had its beginnings only a few seasons back, is today a major category of home furnishings.

Modern European design was another strong influence at the Southern Furniture Market. The word ``Eurostyle'' was on many lips. It means that more and more American manufacturers have yielded to trends developed in Munich, West Germany; Milan, Italy; and Paris, from upholstery with softly wrapped cushions to avant-garde table and cabinet designs with exotic finishes.

At Swaim Originals, designer John Mascheroni explained, ``All my new designs are an expansion of the Euro look, lighter in appearance and more sculptural in feeling.'' New Eurostyle sofas at the Flair division of Bernhardt Industries Inc. are simply described as ``a natural evolution in this country of contemporary Italian design.''

At Thayer Coggin Inc., designer Milo Baughman diluted his 1984 Memphis-inspired (Italian) geometric designs somewhat by presenting them at the market in stark black and white. Mr. Baughman, like many other designers, has turned his attention to 1950s modern, commenting, ``I liked its lively look then and I still like it today. It is refreshing to turn again to what is trim, lighthearted, and light in scale.''

So the decade of the l950s is another style-determining influence. It is bringing back many pale blond finishes, chests with a hint of Swedish modern about them, and tailored, lighter-scaled sofas that are set on legs to allow air space. Bauhaus Designs Canada Ltd. of Weston, Ontario, terms its streamlined new collection a ``retrospective of 1950s styling'' and it includes unusual serpentine and trapezoid seating forms, elevated on tubular steel legs. The new ``Compatibles'' group from Drexel Heritage Furnishings Inc. has the simplicity of the 1950s. Many modern classics produced in the '50s are due for adaptation or revival.

Smaller-sized rooms also influence trends. Scaled-down apartment-sized groups are definitely increasing, although they are often called ``condo collections.'' Hickory Chair and Lane Company Inc. were among the companies that had put some new thinking into innovative apartment groups.

``Yuppie purchasing power'' has just become a hot trend influencer. The word ``yuppie'' was heard in most every showroom, as exhibitors delighted in a new term to describe their efforts to appeal to 25- to 40-year-olds who supposedly are prize consumers blessed with taste, awareness, honed intellect, and money.

Watch for Scandinavia to become a more important trendsetter, both through imports and general style influence on American manufacturers. The Scandinavian look is fresh, innovative, and full of practicality, as seen in the very good knock-down furniture which comes in a carton and can be put together at home.

Well-established trends that showed strongly at the spring market included the vast popularity at all price levels of lacquer finishes. Black and almond and gray lead the color range. Trends also included high-sheen finishes on wood veneers, and an inclination to such faux finishes as faux goatskin, faux marble, faux travertine, faux slate, and faux ostrich skin among the many imitative painted effects.

In fabrics, lustrous silks and floral glazed chintzes were everywhere. The increasing use of leather was in evidence, particularly in modern seating pieces where it has not been so widely used before. As for colors, purple tones are still riding high, mauve in particular, and an important new jewel tone is teal blue. Directional's new sherbet colors include peach and lavender.

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