Wit, dash, grace, daring, or deco
High Point, N.C.
IF furniture designers have their way, we will be living with more lacquer finishes in a rich range of hues, along with a daring dash of Italian New Wave modern in bright colors and avant-garde shapes.
For contrast, we will also be offered more 19th-century neoclassicism, more 18th-century traditionalism, Oriental and art deco themes, and more regional, provincial, and country groups that look comfortably familiar.
If that sounds rather all-encompassing, it is because the Southern Furniture Market, attended twice yearly by thousands of retail store buyers, makes sure there is something here for every style preference, taste, and budget.
The colored lacquer finishes have now been picked up in many popular-priced groups, and the competition is on to see who can deliver the kind of high-gloss look that best survives nicks and dents. Roy Mitchell, a vice-president at American of Martinsville, says his company has developed a 26-step finishing process ''that provides a gleaming smooth lacquer surface that can be readily repaired if needed.'' A metallic pewter gray is a great new lacquer color here. Shoppers should inquire about the nature of the lacquer on any given piece and get exact instructions on how it can be repaired.
The Lane Company's new ''Illusions East'' collection, designed by Roe Kasian, is termed ''contemporized Oriental.'' It features onyx black (the color the company finds most popular with consumers), taupe, and deep red lacquer finishes. Over the past 10 years, Lane has made a major investment in developing the facilities and technology to apply a durable polyester finish that is 80 percent as hard as glass. Lane president R. Stuart Moore comments, ''Lacquer is enjoying a surge of popularity among those who like its elegance and stylishness and who are finding that it mixes very well with pieces they already own.''
Bauhaus Designs, in a new program called Total Colour, is even coordinating its lacquer colors with its upholstery fabrics and leather colors to get a symphony of perfect matches.
It is designer Milo Baughman who took the plunge into the Italian New Wave modern that has its debut in Milan in 1981 and has been widely controversial. He says of his ''Prisma'' collection for Thayer Coggin Inc., ''I liked the irreverent spirit of the Memphis New Wave movement, and its spontaneity, wit, and unpredictability,'' he explains. ''I was influenced in my own collection to utilize elements that were eccentrically shaped, sometimes funny, and always provocative.'' No volume sales are anticipated, but for Mr. Baughman and his manufacturer, ''Prisma'' represents a stimulating and amusing change of pace.
A&B America also brought out a New Wave furniture collection of 30 pieces that were designed and manufactured in Sweden.
In quite a different and more formal mood is Baker Furniture's new ''Palladian'' collection, which features the strong neoclassical architectural forms and elements of Biedermeier, Directoire, and Empire styles. This group is in sharp contrast to the company's graceful 18th-century ''Historic Charleston Reproductions'' and to the 12 new and sumptuous reproductions from the ''Stately Homes of Ireland'' collection.
Henredon expresses the classic characteristics of 18th-century Italy in its new ''Villa Borghese'' collection, with its symmetry of form, splendid use of paint, marble and gilt accents, and strong carving.
As for new regional looks, Thomasville introduces ''Santa Fe'' - a style the company describes as ''American Country West,'' but which is sophisticated enough to be at home in Boston, New York, or San Francisco.
The pieces are made in a highly grained and distressed pecan wood with warm brown finish, although it is the antique white and turquoise painted finishes that seem best to capture the feeling of the Southwest. New Mexican authenticity is implied more in the Indian pottery and rugs and spiky cactus plants used to accessorize the settings than in indigenous style motifs. Yet ''Santa Fe'' is a pleasant addition to the country-casual repertoire.
''Carmel,'' named after Carmel, Calif., is American of Martinsville's effort to capture a breezy California living style in a group of contemporary oak furniture.
Drexel went to England for the inspiration behind ''Chatham Oaks,'' a collection that, according to company vice-president Fred N. Isenhower, ''connotes England and Colonial New England at the same time. It includes robust 17th-century styles as well as more refined 18th-century Queen Anne and Chippendale details.''
According to Mr. Isenhower, English and American traditional styles remain all-time top favorites of customers. Leslie Flippo, vice-president of Hickory Furniture Company, concurs, saying that 70 percent of American furniture being made today falls into traditional style categories, while the rest is contemporary.
On a practical level, the proliferation of home electronics equipment is continuing to inspire an array of computer furniture and home entertainment centers especially designed to accommodate video-cassette recorders and other components.
Shimmery silks and silklike fabrics and natural wools appear in many lines, indicating a growing trend toward the use of natural fibers.
The color black, which started a few years ago at the high-priced end of the market, has now penetrated every level and is everywhere.