Fashionably Functional

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Today's furniture blends fashion with function, and brings a designer's touch to office furniture.

Functionality was the key to design for many furniture introductions at the International Home Furnishings Market, held last fall in High Point, NC. Discreet storage, multifunctional use, and a designer accent on office furniture dominated the offerings. "People like the creativity of using pieces in imaginative new ways," says Carolyn Kinder, president and CEO of Carolyn Kinder Inc. "For example, a planter topped with a piece of glass becomes a dining table or an occasional table." A screen can transform into a room divider, and an accent chest with a divided velvet liner can double as a jewelry box.

Via an agreement with Magnussen Home, Kinder unveiled a collection that is rich in texture and materials. It includes Havana, Harlow, Mojave, and Gilford, and its styles range from exotic to glamorous. Gilford's tapered, alligator-embossed black metal storage table features a pull-down front that opens to reveal two shelves. Handles on each side give it a vintage trunk look. With the addition of a glass top, it can be easily transformed into a casual dining table. Mojave's Corner Baker's Rack adds spice to the bedroom, bath, or living room. This versatile piece features a mirrored back and a black slate base, and has two glass shelves and nail-head-studded strip details. Available now at Linder's Furniture in Los Angeles, CA; Wolf's in PA; and Jerome's Furniture Warehouse in San Diego, CA, suggested retails range from $99 to $999.

Talk show host and media sensation Cristina Saralegui and Pulaski Furniture partnered to introduce a furniture collection that aims to capture America's booming Hispanic community, one that is 39 million strong and plans to spend $7 billion on furniture between now and 2010. The Latin-inspired collection fuses European design elements with a Mediterranean style. Island influences also are part of the mix. Inspired by Saralegui's Miami home, the Casa Cristina collection is accented with leather, nail-head trim, and wrought iron. Since this demographic tends to place a strong emphasis on the family, the dining table can be extended to 116 inches with the addition of two 18-inch leaves that are easily stored in the table's drawers. The Island with Stool pulls out for extra workspace and features felt-lined drawers, wine storage, and two adjustable shelves. Available in the spring at El Dorado in Miami, FL; Star Furniture in Houston, TX; and Linder's Furniture in Torrance, CA, suggested retails are $6,599 and $1,599, respectively.

National Geographic unveiled its exotic South America and Marrakech collections. The Marrakech collection blends design elements from North Africa with contemporary European ornamentation. It features durable woods carved with elaborate geometric patterns. Some pieces incorporate the Moroccan Star, a symbol of good luck. The region surrounding the Andes Mountains serves as inspiration for the South America Collection. Merging mysterious native traditions with classic colonial influences, the collection aims to capture the enchantment of spacious terraces, vistas, and terracotta tiled roofs. Elegant woodcarvings, finely tooled leathers, softly woven textiles, and wrought iron details are reminiscent of local artisan craftsmanship. The Platform Bed features large, sweeping panels of artistically carved wood. Intricate carvings feature fan patterns across the headboard and footboard and a complementary design on the legs. The posts are removable and can be used to create three different looks. Available in April at retailers nationwide, suggested retail is $999.

Hooker Furniture unveiled Intimate Home, a romantic collection introduced in collaboration with Nancy Lindemeyer, a former editor of Hearst and Meredith magazines. "As an editor of books and magazines for two decades, I have listened to the hopes and dreams of American women," says Lindemeyer, who is recognized as an authority on romantic style. "Today, more than ever, I sense a new yearning among consumers for intimacy in the midst of their fast-paced lives." The collection redefines "romance" by adding a modern touch that includes clean and classic lines. Among the offerings is the Cane Bed, which features curves and soft carvings. It is offered in buttery cream, which presents a nostalgic, romantic look, or warm cherry, which takes on a more traditional look. Available in the spring, suggested retails are $1,799 (queen-size) and $1,999 (king-size).

Artist Jill Rosenwald and Laneventure partnered to introduce Rosenwald's abstract art on a collection of outdoor décor that includes throw pillows, a settee, lounge chair, and ottoman. The collection will feature 20 fabric designs that were derived from the artist's contemporary pottery designs. It includes: Aura, a soft yellow; Beachy, a beige, white, and pale green grouping; Snowcone, a blue shade; Honeydew, a subdued lime; and Harmony, a combination of neutral hues. Available in the spring, suggested retails range from $299 for the I-Pad to $1,485 for a settee.

Bernhardt and Martha Stewart Signature introduced 43 skus, including additions to each of its three case goods collections—Skylands, Turkey Hill, and Lily Pond. Among them is the Office-In-A-Box, which will be available nationwide in March; suggested retail is $1,999.

Industry designer and catalog entrepreneur Bringier McConnell and giftware and tabletop textile company Park Designs announced a licensing program that will feature products from McConnell's European Country Collection. The collection aims to capture the ever-increasing demand for this style across multiple product categories including kitchen, textiles, and tabletop. Global Licensing & Trademarks was appointed the exclusive licensing agency for the collection. Targeted categories include casegoods and upholstery, outdoor furniture, lighting, accessories, rugs, and soft home products.

Pamela Scurry entered into a consulting agreement with Marathon Marketing, LLC, to further develop and expand her branded merchandise program. She has a passion for creating an inviting, comfortable environment, and her licensing program will reflect this. Scurry currently holds licenses with Bassett Furniture, Mohawk Home, Gatehouse, and Troutman Furniture.

Office Options

As employees are spending more hours working from home, manufacturers and designers strive to deliver office furniture with a more design-conscious appeal. According to Michelle Lamb, senior editor of The Trend Curve, a few years ago pieces were versatile and could be used in more than one setting, but today's designs are outrageously clever with hidden storage and other clever functionality.

Office Depot and Christopher Lowell recently introduced the second edition of their theme-coordinated office furniture and accessories that launched in November 2003. The collection is divided into four categories: Town, Country, Shore, and City, and includes desks, credenzas, chairs, lamps, clocks, and even foliage. The new City collection offers a media center, executive desk, and computer credenza, as well as other cosmopolitan office pieces. Says Lowell, "We wanted a high-end, designer look and incorporated beautiful hardware in the ready-to-assemble (RTA) category." The goal: to bring fun and fashion to a typically corporate look. Available now at Office Depot, suggested retails range from $99.99 to $599.99.

Cosco Home & Office Products announced a licensing agreement with Discovery Consumer Products to develop a line of Trading Spaces step stools and ladders. Z-Line Designs is producing a line of home office products under the Lexington brand for sale through office superstores. The Lexington collection was unveiled this winter. Bob Stec, Lexington chairman and CEO, says the alignment of the Lexington name with the RTA marketplace is an indication of the major strides in RTA construction and design and the growing importance of the category among a particular segment of consumers. "Our analysis of the home furnishings marketplace shows many new and evolving segments," says Stec. "Among these are ready-to-assemble furniture and nontraditional furniture channels." To many of today's consumers—and not just the budget-conscious—this furniture fills a basic need in their home.

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