Latest furniture designs get modern shine from high-gloss surfaces

Patricia Sheridan

Art-deco and mid-century styles offer endless possibilities for manufacturers seeking to re-energize and refine what "modern" means today in home furnishings. Stainless steel, chrome, acrylic and lots and lots of lacquer are the hallmarks of these reborn looks, which were everywhere at the Spring International Home Furnishings Market in North Carolina.

Lexington Home Brands introduced the deco-styled Aquarius Collection, which featured some stunning lacquer pieces in aquamarine, cloud white and Mandarin red.

Century Furniture, which is celebrating 65 years in the business, relaunched its Chin Hua Collection. The first Chin Hua was introduced in 1975, riding the tsunami of interest in all things Chinese after President Richard Nixon normalized relations with that country. The new collection adds rich veneers such as malachite, sapphire and garnet and new materials including stainless steel and acrylic.

"Lacquer finishes have become a very important trend in the home-furnishings category," said Comer Wear, whose grandfather started Century Furniture. "The high-sheen nature of lacquer coupled with metal accents creates a sleek transitional look that is fun yet very sophisticated. It's like a gemstone set in platinum or sterling." And likely enough to make your neighbors covet your cabinet.

Lee Industries was no exception to the trend. However, its designers looked to clear acrylic to update a hide-and-hair bench with a button-tufted zebra pattern. "The clear acrylic legs are an instant update," noted one admiring buyer. Also showing off their acrylic legs were Century and Lilly Pulitzer, which used them on benches as well.

Nobody understands the "Mad Men" decade better than Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. The designers' Caffery dining table in oak and stainless steel and Gage upholstered dining chairs with stainless-steel frames are all about shaken, not stirred. Looking glamorous in high-gloss white lacquer with drawer interiors painted red was the company's Westwood Collection. It is trimmed in solid open-grain ash in an ebony finish for a striking contrast.

For a cool addition to any midcentury motif there is Tozai Home's Starburst mirror done with No. 2 pencils by Dransfield and Ross.

Going deco delicious were the Keno Bros., who are known for the way they bring out the beauty of wood in their products. The streamlined Chic tray table uses maple and louro preto veneers trimmed with stainless steel. Their Dual Curves accent table sits on gleaming steel legs with a top crafted from rosewood veneers and outlined in steel.

Bungalow 5 used marble tops and nickel-plated hardware on a variety of new lacquer chests. Though shown on the floor in black or white, they also come in red, orange, Kelly green and aqua lacquer finishes. Not to miss out on the great polished steel rush, Bungalow 5 showed its upholstered Lever lounge chair floating on a flat stainless-steel frame in vintage brown leather.

One who bucked the sleek trend was Maria Yee, preferring metal with an industrial look. Hot rolled steel is the focus of her coffee table.

"I really liked the natural design created on the steel by the cooling process," the designer said. The table is trimmed in environmentally friendly Nordic pine.

But Yee was in the minority when it came to shiny vs. matte metal. Polished stainless was a 3-to-1 favorite among manufacturers like Bernhardt Interiors, which used it on the curved chrome arms of its Markham lounge chair in cream leather and as the base for many other tables, including the petrified wood drinks table, the Henley teak-topped table, the cagelike base of the Orly occasional table and the reflective metal covering the Bolton nightstand, which featured an avocado-colored interior. The frame of the Jace club chair upholstered in a persimmon fabric was also polished stainless.

Like a form of alchemy, stainless steel, lacquer finishes and acrylics are transforming traditional silhouettes into fresh products for many furniture makers.


    -- Bernhardt Interiors:

    -- Bungalow 5:

    -- Century Furniture:

    -- Keno Bros.:

    -- Lee Industries:

    -- Lexington Home Brands:

    -- Maria Yee:

    -- Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams:

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