In a column in Home Furnishings Business (January, 2007) publisher Amy Kyle confronts the issue of Vanity=Dollars. She confesses:
"But my house does not in any way represent the love and adoration I have for home furnishings."
A lot of audiophiles might paraphrase this as: "My audio rig does not in any way represent the love and adoration I have for music and fine equipment". Read on — the similarity thickens.
She continues: "My decorating style is a bit of a hodgepodge…. I totally buy into the thought process that your home should reflect your personality and should be your refuge, but guess what? Like everyone else I have limited cash and time."
Does this sound familiar? Do you multi-task, reading reviews of audio equipment you cannot afford while listening to music?
Having moved recently, Amy reveals "I'm getting a hankering to do something wild and crazy like have some people over to my place for cocktails…. I want to be a gracious hostess, but even if I could figure out how to produce some food, there's no way I can stand up to the scrutiny about the interior of my home."
"And then the fog lifted," she continues.
"This industry (home furnishings) doesn't need to try and sell me furniture. This industry needs to try and get me to entertain at home, because that would require me to…guess what? Buy some furniture".
You, clever reader, can probably see where she is going from here, but at this point I'd like to add my own twist to the story that not only benefits your goals as an audiophile, but will likely please the most significant other in your life. By creating a comfortable and beautiful listening room, you remove an important barrier to the lavish expenditures you would love to make. Your significant other will look at your hobby as something to show off, giving you both a reason to entertain guests.
Home entertaining, which will likely include playing music on your prized rig, will be a win-win-win-win situation for everyone. Four "wins" you ask? Sure! Your significant other wins because the home is enhanced and you've removed a barrier to entertaining. You win, because you've gained acceptance of your hobby, opening the door to further enhancement of your system. Your guests win because they are enriched by beautiful music and high-end audio. And manufacturers win because not only do you spend more on better equipment, but more people are exposed to the very existence of High End audio. As Ms. Kyle points out:
"Keeping up with the Joneses can't take place if no one goes inside anyone else's house."
With that as my springboard, let me show you a few of the interesting pieces I gleaned from 11 million square feet at the previous couple of home furnishing shows at High Point, North Carolina. While each of us has our own preference for styles ranging from traditional to contemporary, I've selected pieces that stood out as unique or extraordinary regardless of style. For those of you who plead ignorance about interior design, consider that once upon a time you new very little about high-end audio. Explore and enjoy.
I've mentioned the instances in which I carry the manufacturers in my store solely in the interest of disclosure. With large, heavy furniture items, it is always best to buy locally from a reputable dealer who is in a position to take care of any repairs that might be needed. Unlike audio equipment, it is often difficult, if not impossible, to return items to the manufacturer for service.
I loved this German contemporary design from Bruhl, which picks up on the circular theme of CDs and LPs. The arms curve around doubling as small tables for drinks, food, jewel cases or your favorite print magazine. Red creates a throne for the listener; black leather keeps the focus more on the equipment in front of the chair. Ergonomically, this is a chair for serious listening, not one for slouching or napping. They also make a reclining sofa that sits low to the floor for lounging in front of a widescreen TV that was as expensive as it was extraordinary.
For those who like to lean back and occasionally doze off, this chair from Lafer will be much more suitable. The tall headrest is adjustable so you can reach back and pull it forward to keep you head more erect while reclining. A small sheepskin draped over the headrest will minimize reflection off the leather. It is probably offered in microfiber as well for those seeking more dramatic color. I especially like the very nicely finished swivel pedestal.
For John Wayne types seeking a western flair, Marshfield Furniture offers this unique Winchester sofa with nailhead trim, tooled leather, wood baseboard accented with tooled tin trim and commemorative Winchester throw pillows. This was much more comfortable than Marshfield sofas of even a few years ago. Specializing in the use of theme fabrics, Marshfield is particularly strong in the western and lodge looks. They also sell throw pillows in these theme fabrics that can add a touch of the outdoors to your listening room. A Winchester II sofa was introduced this past summer, but I have not tried it, yet.
Clayton Marcus is a line I sell, and for good reason. They make comfortable furniture suitable for long hours of listening. This one is narrower than most, allowing you to flank it with additional seating close to the sweet spot when entertaining. The dark stain on the exposed wood legs is very popular among younger people, and the fabric shown gives it a contemporary or transitional look. It can easily be toned down with a different fabric, or even with a casual slipcover as shown here.
Marshfield is not the only company with theme fabrics; many other companies also carry a small selection. This Clayton Marcus chair sports a very nice coastal theme fabric.
These club chairs from Clayton Marcus revive the paisley designs popular in the 1960's, but with a more mature color palate. You will not have trouble finding this fabric on a wide variety of chairs at almost every price point.
Likewise with this faux leather polyester fabric; it is everywhere, at every price point. It is shown here on a moderately priced Lancer press-back wing chair, another quality brand that I sell. For those who dislike the real thing, this is a way to keep your cow and sit on it, too.
Barcalounger showcased this traditional press-back recliner with a Charles-of-London arm in a very rich looking traditional fabric. The absence of handles on press-back recliners endears this type of mechanism to people who abhor the more common recliner. It does, however, require a bit of arm strength, and it can become tedious if you must constantly get up to flip an LP or insert another CD in your player. If you have evolved into the hard drive format, this becomes a moot point. You need never leave the chair.
Not to be confused with the Lafer chair above, this battery-operated recliner from G.A. Brinkel is to be highly coveted by techno-types. As shown in their top leather, it was priced at $5130 last fall, but starting price is around $3000. Coming from Germany, the Mercedes comparison readily applies. Note the headrest, which also adjusts to keep you facing your loudspeakers even while tilted back. Very cool!
The Dylan sofa from Flexsteel (a major supplier to my business) is their number one selling sofa, company wide. Shown here is a new two-piece conversation sofa variation in a new burgundy leather color. This Chinese built style is supremely comfortable. The conversation sofa design allows a large number of people to sit elbow to elbow to watch a big screen TV or listen to music. The two-piece construction allows this configuration to be delivered through places a one-piece unit cannot navigate.
Flexsteel, in conjunction with the much larger clothing manufacturer, markets the Wrangler collection of furniture for many rooms in your home. I've reported on the hair-on-hide trend in previous editions of this column, and here we have another excellent example available only through select Wrangler galleries. While at first glance you might consider this a very masculine style, consider that there are a lot of cowgirls out there who would look absolutely stunning in this chair and ottoman combination. The dark photo reveals the richness of the top grain leather, but obscures the hair on the outside panels.
For those preferring a low-back style, you would be hard pressed to find a better-built leather chair than this one from McKinley Leather of North Carolina. Subtler in its details with a cloth back pillow, this one will keep the focus of the room on your components and the music. Again, this narrow style will allow you to add additional seating close to the sweet spot when you entertain.