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When home buyers demanded bigger and bigger houses sporting cathedral ceilings and appropriately named great rooms, furniture designers responded with massively proportioned couches, tables and beds.
Not everybody has an enormous house with 20-foot ceilings and the floor space to match, however.
Loft-dwellers and other householders who are short of space but not style are creating a market for scaled-down pieces that offer versatility.
Decorators and manufacturers maximize impact with color, the use of clear materials and customized multipurpose designs.
Large pieces haven't disappeared, but the trend toward scaled-down pieces is getting broader since it emerged two or three years ago, said Ellen Gefen, of Gefen Productions in High Point, N.C., who tracks furniture industry trends.
The appetite for customized furniture is growing.
People want their own look when it comes to their homes; they want surroundings to be personal, she said.
Manufacturers at last month's High Point Furniture Market showcased tables and chairs that incorporated glass, acrylic glass and mirrors to give them an airy feel.
"We saw great bursts of color, whether it was going to the turquoise or the deeper reds. Greens are coming in; gold is coming in," Ms. Gefen said. "And like fashion, there is a color for everyone."
The market's exhibits also included multipurpose pieces, said Jay Weinberger, of Weinberger's Furniture Showcase in Martinez.
Vendors showed children's furniture, living room credenzas and cocktail tables that concealed storage compartments to accommodate video and other tech equipment.
A piece that caught Mr. Weinberger's eye is a desk from Hekman/Woodmark, of Grand Rapids, Mich., that offers hookups for charging cell phones and PDAs or to power a laptop. The power pack includes a surge protector.
It all comes down to choice and variety for those wanting scaled-down pieces, said Ginger Andrews, of Andrews Gallery.
"People had to search for smaller furniture before, and often had to have it made," she said.
Sometimes a homeowner looks to smaller pieces out of necessity rather than style.
Many seniors want good arm support but not a seat so deep that it is difficult for them to rise, Ms. Andrews said.
Lofts in urban settings might have a small footprint in terms of area, but they can still have high ceilings, said Lisa Kerlin, of Lofty Ideas, whose customers range from college graduates setting up their first "real" home to dealers and decorators.
She suggests hanging large oil paintings or stacking furniture, such as a pair of credenzas, to balance high ceilings without overpowering the room or the floor space.
Stacked furniture also can provide needed storage in a loft, said Mrs. Kerlin, who likes pieces to be versatile.
Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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SIGNS OF THE TIMES
An ottoman that doubles as storage and an end table that works as a desk are part of a trend toward scaled-down customized furniture that can hold its own in a living room, bedroom or home office. Such pieces:
- are proportioned for smaller places
- can float; that is, they are finished on the back to look good from any angle
- are constructed with glass, acrylic glass or mirrors
- are big on color for impact.