features
#013 / 1998

a review by Matthew Quetton of HOM Furniture and Design

San Francisco Furniture Fair

photo of Matthew QuentonThe San Francisco Design & Furnishings Show This small trade fair, geared to the design and retail trade, was held in the Concourse Exhibition Center. Presenters were West Coast manufacturers and importers - heavy on the importers - who specialized in large, antique Asian dark wood cabinets. A tiring plethora of these wrought iron-clad beasts were juxtaposed with a scattering of very modern manufacturers of casegoods and upholstered seating. A few "first timers" doing semi-production craft work, including one lamp maker who caught my eye, were showing beautiful but simple handmade table and floor lamps in solid cherry, walnut, mahogany and maple. These were arts-and-crafts inspired but quite current and original.

Of particular interest to me were displays by two small West Coast manufacturing companies, Max Design and Ten Design. Max Design is based in the San Francisco area and was showing examples of a casegoods line currently placed in about a dozen stores nation-wide including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Calgary and New York. Modern with an Asian twist would best describe these mid-range veneered particle board pieces. Shown almost exclusively in cherry, their configurations followed the current tall and skinny trend. Based in Los Angeles, Ten Design offered modern maple cabinets of surprising quality for the price. Like the HOM Furniture cabinets, they feature mitred case construction and were shown with mitred finished backs. The cabinets seem to come in a dizzying array of inventive combinations with attractive additions of glass. Initial visits to San Francisco retailers left me with the impression that these two companies had made significant placements in the mid-range boutiques.

California Summer Market This second show is a four-day "to the trade only" extravaganza of department-store-bound Americana and takes place in the permanent showrooms of the San Francisco Mart. It was eleven floors of "colonial oak" bedroom suites and overstuffed recliners. There were a few interesting things to see but they were eclipsed by a sea of mediocrity.

California Summer Design Days The third show was held at the San Francisco Design Center with a theme of Under the Spell: The Fusion of East/ West Design. This was also a collection of permanent showroom exhibits but housed in a number of converted industrial buildings opened to coincide with the other two events. The dealers in these showrooms offer an impressive range of items, some the finest money can buy. It is here that interior designers come with their clients to shop for custom and hard to find items, all heightened with the cachet of international designer names. Of the contemporary design dealers, Agnes Bournes is the crème de la crème. She shows an amazing array of upholstered and casegoods pieces by designers such as Ted Boerner. I spoke with Mr. Boerner at the ICFF in New York and was impressed with his overall approach to making and selling furniture. Seeing his work in San Francisco confirmed those impressions.

The West Coast has its own flavour which was reflected in the three different venues. In San Francisco the retail furniture stores were very strongly price-sensitive and everywhere you encountered a strong Asia Pacific influence.

update 2005: Hom Furniture and Design closed in 2005. Hom designs are now manufactured under licence by BermanFalk, Langley, BC

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© furniturelink and Matthew Quetton 1998 (text and images)