Ask the Experts

By staff April 1, 2005

Q. I've inherited six Biedermeier dining room chairs. What kind of table should I pair them with?

A. Elizabeth Rice, who owns a gallery full of vintage Biedermeier, gets this question all the time. "Avoid anything Victorian, ornate or heavily carved. Biedermeier furniture has clarity of sculptural form that for its day (1820-1830) was very modern, and the furniture designers were quite forward thinking. I wouldn't put the chairs with a Biedermeier table, either, because that would look too much like a matched set and it isn't the way we compose rooms today. We want our spaces to appear to have evolved over time; we want those spaces filled with things that we have lovingly collected.

"I would like to see a glass-top table with your chairs. An oval shape would reference the soft curving lines of the chairs. The glass would recede so that the eye focuses on the artistic quality of the chairs. A glass rectangle shape with a stone or metal base would work just fine, too. My other choice would be an Art Deco table of mahogany or a richly grained dark African wood. This would contrast nicely with the Biedermeier woods, which are usually either walnut or cherry. The Art Deco designers of the 1920s and '30s were heavily influenced by the Biedermeier artisans, so the two styles are quite compatible. And don't be afraid to put contemporary accent pieces in the room. Modern works well with Biedemeier." Elizabeth Rice Fine Art & Antiques, 1467 Main St., Sarasota. (941) 954-8575.

Q. I want to introduce a serene yet stylish Asian influence to the clean-lined, low-slung furniture in my modern living room. Can you recommend accent pieces that will do the trick while keeping the total look understated?

A. Lolly Baerveldt has advised many homeowners on how to do just that in homes both modern and traditional. She says, "If you want just a gentle addition of Asian attitude and color, I suggest a celadon green planter, lamp, vase or bowl. The milky green color is restful but will provide nice contrast against the neutral furniture.

"Another option would be a Korean chest or scholar's desk. The desk is low to the floor because the scholar sat on the ground. These pieces are plain but have appealing hardware, usually in a brushed brass in the shape of a gourd or butterfly. The wood is warm medium brown. A rosewood Ming-style end table, side cabinet or coffee table would be suitable because the Ming style is sculptural and not ornate.

"And you can't go wrong with a folding screen. I'd suggest a four-panel carved rosewood one that you can see through. Put it in a corner and it works like fine art. These screens are usually six feet high and 72 inches long, but they can be custom ordered in any size you want." ,i>China Trade, 2300 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota. (941) 923-5966.

Q. Can you suggest some environmentally friendly floor solutions for a home we are renovating?

A. Matt Ross,, a frequent lecturer at Florida House Learning Center, has several to consider. "The most popular option currently is bamboo. I have it in my own house and I know that it's durable, moisture resistant and quite beautiful. The new advance in bamboo is that it now comes in wide planks and can be installed by the floating method, which means no glue, which means no toxins. Bamboo matures for harvesting in five years instead of the 40 that it takes hardwood. It comes to us from China and is about $7 a square foot installed.

"Another option I like is cork, which is a super healthy floor and especially good for people with allergies. Because of the tongue-and-groove floating installation, no glue is needed. It's comfortable to walk on and really nice for kitchens. The cost is about $8 a square foot installed. Another viable natural floor covering is wool carpet, which is durable but expensive. I like sisal and sea grass for area carpets instead of wall-to-wall because they stain easily. And many people have good luck with carpeting made of recycled plastic soda bottles that are processed into yarn. This kind of sustainable carpet looks and wears like nylon; it's really tough. New to the market is palm flooring made from the trunks of old coconut palm trees. It's about $14 a square foot installed. And we're seeing lovely plantation-grown teak from Costa Rica. It comes in gorgeous colors and is about $8 a square foot installed.

"You can see lots of environmentally friendly flooring options in a display area I'm doing for the new Lakewood Ranch Welcome Center; and, of course, these flooring options are all yours to compare and contrast at Florida House." Matt Ross, Eco-$mart, Inc., Florida House Learning Center, 4600 Beneva Road, Sarasota. (941) 377-9460.

Q. I love the look of mirror-clad furniture and want to include some in my bedroom, which is French traditional with a soft green, ivory, and petal-pink floral pattern on the bed and in the window treatments. Can you help?

A. Design professional Marcia Boyle both collects and sells mirrored furniture. "Mirrored furniture is quite popular right now because it works in both modern and traditional settings and adds sparkle and depth to any room, but I'd stop at two pieces per space. After that the eye gets confused. For your French-inspired bedroom, I can think of two examples that would work, both from the Amy Howard Collection. She's a designer with an artisan factory in Tennessee, who got started refinishing antiques and realized she could reproduce fine old patterns with a modern flair by making them a bit bigger and more functional.

"One of my favorites is the Carnivale table, a round European- style bedside table that's 33 inches in diameter and 30 inches high. The legs are tapered and squared off and the entire piece is clad in smoky, vintage-looking mirror. It's very soft and inviting, and because it appears old and distressed the mirror finish doesn't show smudges. This table is wonderfully versatile for holding a lamp, books and photos and can easily go from the bedroom to a living room or study. It retails for $3,530. Another fine option is a European writing desk that can be used as a dressing table. The top is a hand-painted faux finish marble, and the two drawers, sides and legs are all mirror clad. The drawer pulls are round glass knobs. This piece is highly elegant and retails for $5,375.

"To care for fine mirrored furniture, use a damp cloth for smudges and a bit of window cleaner for general maintenance." Parker Robinson, 1521 Main St., Sarasota. (941) 366-3343.

TRENDSPOTTING: Damask is back in vogue. The luxurious fabric, named for the ancient city of Damascus, is achieved by weaving a pattern in satin onto a ground of silk, wool, cotton or linen. The new damasks are definitely for the masses. Target offers towels and bedding in champagne-colored damask as well as plum. A very elegant pillow retails for just $20. Also check out innovative damask wallpaper and contemporary upholstery damask that's being paired with modern furniture. It's a fresh take on an antique textile whose time in the limelight is here and now.

Filed under
Show Comments