Archive for Sunday, April 15, 2007

Museums, magazine, mogul lend names to new furniture lines

April 15, 2007

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— You'll soon see three new furniture lines from American institutions: The Smithsonian, Better Homes and Gardens - and Donald Trump.

Trump created the most buzz when new looks were unveiled late last month at the High Point Market, formerly the International Home Furnishings Market. He strode the red carpet like a rock star and gave a thumbs-up to more than 300 cheering fans. He even managed to get in a snarky comment about Rosie O'Donnell.

Trump's furniture will be at home in your uptown penthouse or country estate, but the line from the iconic magazine is most likely to fill your suburban great room. A few pieces in the Smithsonian line were surprisingly current, even though they're based on historic artifacts, proving that classic design endures.

Star power

Celebrity endorsements have been important to the furniture industry for more than a decade. The industry said the three lines helped push the trend to a new high at this market, and offered a recent survey to help explain why.

The twice-a-year High Point Market draws furniture makers and store buyers from around the world to the city about 75 miles northeast of Charlotte, N.C.

Styles introduced typically hit retail showrooms in about six months.

Here's a look at the three lines:

l Lexington Furniture launched the new Trump Home line with two full collections. Central Park is sleek and contemporary, with a hint of Deco. It features dark woods and leathers, offering a lush but masculine appeal. Straight handles on wooden pieces are wrapped in black leather and tipped with touches of silver.

A signature piece is a bar with curved front corners that open to provide storage for wines, liquors and glasses, and a frosted glass central door that opens to more storage. In the Lexington showroom the bar was stocked with - what else? - gold-colored bottles of Trump Vodka, introduced late last year.

The Trump Westchester collection is ornately carved and larger in scale. Like the Central Park collection, it's based on furniture in homes and buildings that Donald Trump has built or restored. Lexington designers toured his estates, towers and other properties to create the look. The dining chair, for instance, is modeled after one at Trump's Mar-A-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla.

Designers toured many of his successful properties, Trump said. He got a big laugh when he said, "If I had an unsuccessful property, I told them to stay away from it."

Trump's furniture line will be offered through select Macy's stores and other retailers.

The Central Park bar will retail for about $2,995; an imposing four-poster bed in the Westchester group will be $1,995.

l The Better Homes and Gardens furniture line, produced by Universal Furniture in partnership with publisher Meredith Corp., captures the middle-America look reflected in the magazine.

"It was designed in collaboration with the editors of Better Homes and Gardens, taking cues from 38 million readers," said Universal's Larissa Rolland.

Colors are friendly, and so is the realistic scale. This furniture will be easy to live with and will complement your grandmother's china cabinet.

The line offers furniture for every room, in three categories: Cottage View, Classics Today and Modern Outlook. Magazine editors created a few mix-and-match groupings to demonstrate how easily the categories blend.

Fabrics include bright spring florals, with neutrals, garden greens and teals. Wood pieces offer lots of innovative function: An end table has a sliding top, so you can pull the top across your lap as you sit on the sofa. A round dining table expands with perimeter leaves - and there's a decorative storage pedestal for the leaves when they're not being used. On a night stand, a panel at the rear of the table top flips up to reveal an electric power strip for your cell phone and other gadgets.

History repeats itself

l The Smithsonian collection from Bernhardt Furniture is based not only on pieces owned by the popular museums in Washington, D.C., but also on the structures themselves. The pattern in the glass front of a china cabinet, for instance, is based on a window in the Castle, the original museum dating to 1855.

The sleek and surprisingly contemporary Campeachy leather chair and ottoman is based on an early 19th-century piece that Thomas Jefferson discovered in New Orleans. The Legacy sleigh bed was inspired by a pictured discovered in the Cooper-Hewitt library of the Smithsonian, which houses books on the decorative arts.

A wall mirror is modeled after the stylized sun in the Smithsonian logo, and the image appears on cabinet hardware.

Why a Smithsonian furniture line? "People feel like they have ownership because it is an American institution," said Bernhardt's LeAnna Graves. Most of the wood is walnut, she said, because it's considered an American look.

American feeling

Peter Reid, director of licensing for the Smithsonian, said the museums approached Bernhardt after deciding to offer a furniture line. "The Smithsonian has been about capturing the American adventure and how folks have lived," he said. "It made a lot of sense to collaborate with a fine American furniture company."

A portion of sales proceeds will go to support educational programs of the Smithsonian Institution.

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