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Modernistic Furniture



MODERNISTIC furniture made in America has acquired a distinct sense of style. Grace and smartness are taking the place of the bizarre which resulted from unsucessful experimentation in the new mode. The American desire that furniture should be intrinsically suitable for the purpose for which it is used, together with dislike of designs too selfconsciously new, have been factors in this evolution.

"We have been getting used to the modern mode for some time," says Paul Theodore Frank], a leading designer of modern furniture, "through the expression of the new spirit in dress silks, in decorative accessories such as pottery and metal ornaments, and in successful exhibitions of modern art in interiors of restaurants and theatres. Modernistic furniture has at last achieved style, that elusive but vitally important part of design which every school of furniture that has lasted any time has always had."

Just what style in furniture is will no doubt be as difficult to define as is style in literature. Graceful suitability to the purpose for which a piece is made might be one defi nition. For a dressing table in the new fashion, a chair, with its pedestal and side arms forrning one continuous curveperhaps inspired by the petal of a lily in bloom-and with just the right contrast of curved molding to the broad surface of the sides, certainly has style. The curves in the seat are repeated in the circular dressing mirror, held up by slender curved supports above a low, oblong base with rounded ends. On this piece the only departure from geometrical lines is taken by the two finials of the mirror supports, which are highly conventionalized peacock heads. Two small opaque spheres of glass on the table illumine table top and mirror, forming an integral part of the design instead of being merely accessory, as are the usual attached electric fixtures.

In the latest of modern furniture there is noticeable a decided tendency toward compactness and intimacy. Low tables or stands, having under their tops a series of shelves of various sizes opening out on different sides, afford convenient space for book, smoking paraphernalia or perhaps an odd bit of pottery. For a living; room these stands are lacquered in subtle colors. For dressing rooms, silver and cream are in fashion, with mirror tops of plate glass. Stands of plate glass, with two or more shelves supported by slender pieces of severely plain silvered metal, are very unobtrusive in even a small room, and yet are extremely useful for holding lamps, teacups or ash trays. Desks and tables are made in three-sided forms to fit snugly into corners. Nests of small tables are shown in a new and decorative manner, and chairs are now specially designed to disappear in the knee hole of desks or under the edges of tables.

Leather upholstery material, especially in bright colors, has of late been coming more into vogue. The softer finishes such as suede provide for the new form of chairs a distinctive type of covering well suited to boudoirs. In addition to the shiny patent leathers in solid colors, which give such a smart touch to many pieces of furniture, the latest use shows unusual skins and hides seen hitherto on women's shoes and handbags. Leather from baby leopard skins with tiny spots, and strangely patterned skins of rare beasts from the other side of the world now make upholstery for modernistic chairs and sofas. The newer leathers often appear in interesting combination-as in a chair whose sides are of brown suede and whose seat and back are of spotted leopard skins.

Much use is made of mirrors, not only in huge disks and semi-circular sheets framed in metal or lacquered wood for walls, but also as unframed pieces placed between the towering sides of dressing tables.

Combinations of many kinds of exotic woods in addition to the use of leather, glass, metal and fabric are characteristic of late examples in the modern mode. Here is a writing desk, for example, with ivory knobs on drawers of rosewood; with legs of rare zebra wood from the West Indies; with a top of California redwood in beautiful grain, inlaid with ebony. Lemon, amaranth, palisander, Macassar ebony, amboyna and other exotic woods are used--not in small bits, as by the eighteenth century marquetry workers, but in large pieces, so that the beauty of their strange color and grain may be fully appreciated.

Another reason why the latest modernist furniture is achieving wider recognition is that there is now available a greater variety of furnishing accessories in the new mode. A room may be arranged from wallpaper to pottery ash trays with everything in scale and with a decorative unity. Screens and carpets, lamp shades or light fixtures, soft pillows and window draperies in the new mode may be obtained to harmonize. Of course, individual pieces of furniture may be used also with traditional period pieces. Interesting results are often achieved in this way. As the new furniture develops the oft-repeated question, "Will it last?" seems likely to be answered affirmatively. Modernistic furniture will probably continue to develop until it reaches a perfection of its own or until the social background out of which it sprang is replaced, as in preceding periods. It has arisen from the needs of our daily life, as has modern architecture with its plain surfaces and feeling for texture, form and engineering motifs; our machinemade kitchenware, with curves and angles scientifically correct; the highly efficient forms of automobiles and fountain pens. Styling-the modern word for what William Morris called beauty-is becoming an essential feature of all these things, and is becoming more evident in the designs of our chairs and tables.



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