Think globally, look locally
The BC Workshop collection includes a bronze Thebes stool, $1,800; Equus console, $12,500; bronze, studded lamp, $2,200; 19th century engravings, $450 each; and an Italian club chair, $6,500.
#1 - 'New Angeles': Bel-Air goes Manhattan
What it is: Park Avenue posh redefined for the California casual lifestyle. The look departs from last year's high-glam Hollywood Regency style to a more subdued yet still moneyed classicism. Furnishings from a wide range of periods and styles — industrial lighting, 19th century antiques, framed anatomical renderings and streamlined midcentury seating — mix easily with highly detailed reproductions such as a console table with sculptured horse-leg supports and ottomans with bronze hippo feet.
Why it's hot: "With all the magazines and television shows showing us how to do it, the clean, spare look is just too easy to knock off now," says interior designer A.J. Bernard. "It isn't unique enough to satisfy the movers and shakers in this town. The way to promote your individuality is through antiques and pieces where you can tell at one glance that there has been great care and time put into making them." As an early proponent of this high-end East Coast-West Coast hybrid, Los Angeles antiquarians Blackman Cruz have launched their first furniture collection, BC Workshop, which includes classical forms and Modernist upholstered furniture. Bernard is particularly taken with the pieces that feature animal legs. "When you live in L.A. and can see deer grazing in your yard, it's wonderful to have furniture that looks like it might get up and walk over to greet you."
What to look for: The BC Workshop collection, left, includes a bronze Thebes stool, $1,800; Equus console, $12,500; bronze, studded lamp, $2,200; 19th century engravings, $450 each; and an Italian club chair, $6,500, at Blackman Cruz, Los Angeles, (310) 657-9228. For more modest budgets, scour flea markets or try the selection of 1940s modern and institutional furniture and art at Empiric in Los Angeles, (323) 634-7323.
#2 - The California crafts renaissance
What it is: Handmade works — from rustic to whimsical, abstract to figurative — in wood, metal, clay, glass and fiber produced from World War II to the 1970s. Influenced by Modernism, Danish design and Japanese aesthetics, California artists made household objects that were functional and decorative and set trends in the crafts community, says Jo Lauria, coauthor of the forthcoming "California Design: The Legacy of the California Design Exhibitions, 1954-1976" (Chronicle).
Why it's hot: "There is a revival of arts and crafts, not necessarily as a revolt against the mass-manufactured product, but because handcrafted objects give you a connection to real people, not to machines," says Lauria. Some of the artists, such as ceramists Otto Heino and Barbara Willis, who is the subject of the 2003 book "Classic California Modernism" (JaBa Books), are still at work, and others are beginning to get long-deserved recognition. Octogenarian Annemarie Davidson's copper enamels are on display at the Long Beach Museum of Art; this spring the Pasadena Museum of California Art presents a craft show, "Good Wood."
What to look for: Laura Andreson pottery, Evelyn Ackerman tapestries. At right: Robert Maxwell lidded vases, $100, and figural pot, $1,600, at California Living, Los Angeles, (323) 930-2601. Bob Stocksdale walnut bowl, $2,500, and small Doyle Lane pots, from $300, at Reform, Los Angeles, (310) 854-1033.
#3 - Austrian-Hungarian design reform
What it is: Furniture and decorative arts from the late 1800s to the 1930s, a period that followed a simple design mantra: Decorate what you build, do not build decorations. Though part of one empire, Austria and Hungary maintained distinct aesthetics, says Wendy Kaplan, curator of "The Arts and Crafts Movement in Europe and America, 1880-1920" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through April 3. In Austria, the Arts and Crafts idea of simplicity "means furniture is pared down into a visually satisfying rhythmic geometry that looks modern but doesn't hide the fact that it is handmade," Kaplan notes. The Hungarians "looked back to their own folk traditions" and later developed a streamlined Moderne look that linked Deco and Bauhaus styles.
Why it's hot: For Arts and Crafts enthusiasts and Deco-weary designers, the exuberant flourishes in Austrian and Hungarian furniture are an alternative to the typical curves and angles of early 20th century furniture and echo the sophisticated silhouettes by such midcentury designers as T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings and Edward Wormley.
What to look for: Many of Austrian Josef Hoffmann's iconic bentwood designs are still in production and available online (www.eurofurniture.com). For vintage Austrian and Hungarian designs, try Szalon, the showroom of interior designer Judith Hoffman, which also stocks vintage glass and porcelain and period-inspired rugs. Hungarian bar with mirrored interior and cocktail table, right, $14,600 at Szalon, Los Angeles, (310) 657-0089.
#4 - Bossa nova Moderne
What it is: Chairs and tables that are as lithe as the girl from Ipanema. The look — as defined by designer Shelley Marie Badauy, above, of the made-in-Brazil furniture line Atmosphere, which recently opened a shop in Los Angeles — distinguishes itself from contemporary Italian minimalism with stitched-leather detailing and natural wood veneers on structural steel furniture bases.
Why it's hot: The first American retrospective exhibition of the midcentury Brazilian designer Sergio Rodrigues at R 20th Century in New York this fall focused attention on South American Modernism. According to the trade publication Home Furnishings Now, the "heavy Old World aesthetic" of South American furniture is giving way to contemporary designs "mixing traditional woods and sleek metals."
What to look for: Vintage Brazilian design can be found at Los Angeles Modern Auctions (www.lamodern.com) and many 20th century furniture galleries on La Cienega Boulevard. The Kalup chair, $4,360, and stool, $2,500, above, are at Atmosphere, Los Angeles, (310) 854-9100.
#5 - Contemporary Scandinavian design
What it is: As documented in "New Scandinavian Design" (Chronicle), there are hundreds of functional and fun furniture designs and brilliantly colored whimsical home accessories, not only at the Swedish superstore IKEA, but from Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland. The trend-setting fashion retailer Anthropologie introduced Scandinavian country chairs (think Pottery Barn for the fiords) to its line. "The Scandinavians know how to reduce something like a bird or a flower to pure design," says ceramist Jonathan Adler, who notes a Danish influence in his new Menagerie and Utopia lines.
Why it's hot: While the "Danish modern" look of the '50s and '60s is staging a revival and midcentury furniture designs by Hans Wegner and Finn Juhl post record auction prices, new furniture remains surprisingly affordable. Tabletop accessories, including reissues of classic vases by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, are particularly accessible. Even the venerable Dansk is reinvigorating its offerings with a new collection, Ang.L, by Michael Graves.
What to look for: Iitala tableware at Show, Los Angeles, (323) 644-1960; furniture and lighting at Lampa + Möbler, Los Angeles, (323) 852-1542. Dansk cutlery on Page 1 from Fitzsu Society, (323) 655-1908. At right, Michael Graves designs, prices at http://www.dansk.com ; fish plate, $20, at Jonathan Adler, Los Angeles, (323) 658-8390.