CUDDLE, caress, cherish, confort -- the new furniture, not just the love seats, wants to love you and make you happy. Chaise lounges, sofas as big as king-size beds, all are aiming at seducing you into sinking out of sight of the world and it problems. Once you succumb, you may never come up again. Call them comfortable comtemporary.
For years, you could take your choice: have a sleek, good-looking comtemporary living room or a dowdy comfortable one. Even Frank Lloyd Wright admittted, "I've been black and blue all my life from bumping into my own furniture."
The original modern designs, mostly from Bauhaus, were marvelous beyond words: sleek, streamlined and beautiful. But only comfortable if you were willing to sit Prussian style -- rigid and at attention. This year, it's "Furniture to Watch the Late Show By."
The new furniture without form, or at least without backbone, began in 1969 when Kroll introduced the first unstructured foam furniture, designed by an artist.
This year, the idea had been redefined by many manufacturers into beautifully wrapped (often in leather) hunks of softness. At all price levels, furniture has a squashy feel, as though you're sinking into a big feather bed. The simile is apt, because much of it is stuffed with down.
Comfort, elegance, versatility, quality -- these words reoccur when you think about the new furniture.
Not all furniture this year is designed to be slept in. Coffee table are especially different-looking this year. Desks seen to mostly Art Deco in style, with one futuristic exception.
New York is the design capital of the United States. What's new happens there first. Furniture is now coming into the Washington stores from the late fall previews.
You may find some of the furniture at local fine furniture stores. But all are available from your own interior designer. If you don't have one, now's the time to choose a consultant. All the furniture stores and big furniture stores have have design studios with staffs happy to help. The American Society of Interior Designers' local chapter will be gald to give you a list of independent designers. The Soft Touch
Joe D'Urso, the young American interior designer, had desinged a huge 48-by-96-inch sofa system for Knoll International. To those who say, "My apartment is too small for D'Urso," the thought comes back -- with this sofa, you don't need any other seating. Every one can climb in together.
The sofa seat cushion is contionuous, "eliminating artificial boundries," says Knoll. Which means you might be able to snuggle closeer on the sofa, and at least you won't lose so many dimes and cookie crumbs down it. The arm-ends extend beyond the seat. Lots of square pillows (D'Urso suggests suede pillows on a leater sofa) allow you to push and punch them around to make yourself more comfortable (or use them for pillow fights).
"Le Bambole" by B & B Italia, designed by the Italian architect Mario Bellini, has a remarkable ability to conform to the human body. Though it seems formless, "Le Bambole" does have an imbedded tubular steel frame. The designs can be covered in any fabric. The shapes are splendid. One of the chaises, called "The Bambolongue," has an unusual form: high in back, lower to fit the rump and higher where the knees will be. Another chaise, "Bamboletto" is a conventional but low shape; still another unfolds to make a bed. One design is a bed.
At Atelier International, "Leonardo" a new side chair comes with either plain straight wood legs or a rather awkward-looking swivel alligator-textured base.
Harvey Probber's "Channel" seating group is ribbed upholstery on an ebonized or chrome clad plinth base. Probber's "Turkish" seating had belts-bands gathering the fullness. The "Arc" sofa has oblong sections at each end. Both are handsome.
Stendig always has some of the most imaginative furniture going. Nonstop Lounge Seating reminds me of the famous visionary design "The Endless House," marrow but fat sections that hook together to make all sorts of curves and curlicues. Stendig is still making its old favorite, the "Joe" baseball-glove chair by DePass, D'Urbino and Lomazzi.
Castelli introduced a funny sitting system called "Petalo." The cushinons are shapek like a bed pillow with an exaggerated seam. It sits on strange little knobs. Available as a chair, stool or table. It would be perfect for a rich child. Castelli's "Alky" is a handsome, fully upholstered, rather anatomically shaped chair that would be delectable for dining.
Rosentahl, best known for china, is now into furniture as well, for Turner Ltd. The "Leger" sofa and chair by Chiara Pampo has a back and seat independent of the frame so it can be shifted to suit your anatomy.
Rosenthal's treeless hammock, a hilarious contraption on wheels comes either with or without a matress. Rosenthal's "Dondola," by Burkhard Vogtherr, is a rocker that looks like it has eaten too much strudel: a giant fat cushion. For people who are so in rythym with each other they can rock together, there's a loveseat rocker. If you love only yourself, there's a single size with a pocket for your book.
Beylerian, the manufacturer we usually associate with the best of plastic whatzits (trash baskets, a step on garbage can that actually works, rolling caddies, grid systems, and so on), makes furniture as well. Its most charming design is "Pecorelle" (little sheep) sofas and chairs -- fat little foam cushions that do look very much like sheep.
For those whose age, knees and dignity don't work well with the low soft seating, there are a few possibilites.
Helikon's new armchair is in a classic shape, available in ash and walnut, in what is called a bullnosed-shaped wood frame. The handsomest covering is suede.
More structure is available in Jack Lenor Larsen's wicker furniture. Larsens, the textile designer who is a foremost exponent of texture, showed the versatile Wickerwork system, designed by Peter Rocchia and handmade in the Mediterranean. These pieces are a long way from grandmother's front porch, with a sleek bench and chaise as the best-looking. Surprise! A bar stool is included. Working Furniture
The computer today is changing the office in a way hardly anyone has come to grips with. The old style L-shaped desk will not accommodate the new systems. Herman Miller is trying to come to grips with the problem with the Bruce Burdick Group, planned -- and priced -- for executives. The hired help will have to wait.
The backbone of the design is an L-shaped 7-foot aluminum beam supporting your choice of places to hold the computer terminals, dictating machines, telephones, microfiche viewers, reading stands, microscopes, books, files, vases of flowers, your coffee cup and doughnut, and some things that haven't been invented yet.
"Wire managers" enclose electronic cables below the beam and along the leg, so you won't stub your toe and fall into the glass surface. The whole thing sounds distinctly Rube Goldberg, but it's fun to look at. Burdick himself uses the beam and a glassy top as his dining table.
At the other extreme is the Veneer Ring Series, a collection of desks by Bob Becker for Helikon. The Art Deco shapes are complemented by a band at the top of contrasting wood, laminated with 30 layers of veneer.
Another Art Deco desk is made by Dunbar, with matching credenza with a marble top. The streamlines are attractive.
Metropolitan Furniture Corp. has a sensible chrome-based "Series 10" seating system for waiting rooms designed by Brian Kane with a few components offering many layout possibilities. The cushions, remarkably enough, can be easily recovered on the spot.
Those of us who have tripped and fallen over computer cables and extension cords in our offices would recommend highly the new "Tricircuit ERA-1" by Haworth Inc. Despite the name, it has nothing to do with equal rights, except the equal right not to be tangled up in dangling cords. It's a wiring system that can provide power for ordinary electrical convenience outlets, equipment such as computer terminals, and lighting circuits. Each raceway carries three separate 20-amp circuits. It's all hidden behind a neat raceway, which forms a baseboard in Haworth's handsome Unigroup movable wall system.
The Hilton System for Atelier International by L. Acerbis-G. Stoppino has 12 basic components, which fit together to make a good looking set of cabinets. Four units work like the old Globe-Wernke bookcases, with doors hinged at the top that swing out.
Niels Diffreint's chair is, like his name, different. It is, if you can believe it, a sensuous office chair. The design looks as though it were molded from somebody's body. A control in the arm allows you to move the chair up or down.
Beylerian's Minette Grid Chair, by Jan Ekselius, an adaptation of the Harry Bertoia chair, has just won the Roscoe prize for casual seating.
The wire grid, which makes its seat and back (it looks like the wire grids you hang on the wall), is available in colors or chrome. The chair would serve at a desk or dining table, inside or out -- wherever you want to stay awake. Tables
Innovative glass furniture new for the Pace Collection from Fiam in Pesaro, Italy, may well be the most unusual and beautiful of the new furniture introductions. The glass is actually structure, not just a top. Fiam uses an intense heating process to bend the etched glass into sculptured shapes only found before in plastic. The stools are by Vittorio Livi; coffee tables with embedded wire by A. Cortesi; dining table and desk bases, and vitrines by Enrico Tonucci. Tonucci's dining table base becomes, in another variation, a glass sculpture valet -- of all things.
D'Urso also has designed two groups of mobile tables for Knoll, great for buffets or races. The best looking ones are the low, square, rolling tables with mirror-finished stainless steel frames and frosted glass tops, or clear industrial wire glass, or painted white, black or red orange. The line also includes a high-legged rolling table.
Eileen Gray was, it can be argued, one of the best designers of the Art Moderne period. Recently, she has been given her proper due in a splendid show by Stewart Johnson at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Now Stendig is reproducing her useful design, a bedside or cigarette table that rises or lowers to suit. I could use about five.
Larsen's wicker tables are topped with glass, a boon for anyone who's ever tried to clean spaghetti off a wicker top.
Lella and Massimo Vignelli, who seem to design everything, have done a handsome table for Rosenthal-Turner Ltd. Six cylinders have slots to support the top.
The rolling metal-grid cube, a close relation to Beylerian's Minette chair, looks as though it would be a great thing to keep your chicken in.