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Modern sensibility

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Sleek, clean lines and understated glamour appeal to today's furniture buyers

With an abundance of traditional furniture and home-design styles like Country French available locally, Tulsa's furniture market may appear limited upon first glance.

Not so. Unbeknownst to some area residents, Tulsa is home to a sizable smattering of contemporary furniture and design stores, including locally produced work.

One such local designer is Mark Hawley, who has been outfitting Tulsa (and other cities') homes and businesses for the past 25 years with original contemporary pieces. Hawley and partner Christine Booth said the demand for modern furniture and home accents is growing, thanks in part to a renewed interest in home improvement and the influence of design programs on networks such as HGTV (cable channel 31 in Tulsa).

The sleek, clean lines and understated sense of glamour are what make contemporary design a hit in other metropolitan areas -- it's a favorite subject for home magazines, too -- and Tulsa is no exception, according to Booth and Hawley.

"A lot of people are fixing up their houses to make them more enjoyable and livable," Hawley said. "We want to show (local homeowners) that there are many different options available."

Hawley, whose first creation was a coffee table built from a salvaged waterbed, recently opened a new showroom, Hawley Design Furnishings, 702 S. Utica Ave., where his original works are showcased along with contemporary pieces by other designers. Hawley's showroom is one of several area businesses offering a unique take on contemporary furniture -- some other local stores that provide modern designs include S.R. Hughes and Urban Furnishings -- and a chance for Tulsans to expand their interior design choices.

The goal of Hawley's showroom is to introduce Tulsans to a whole new world of furniture and accessories that they otherwise might not know about, as well as offer them the opportunity to create an interior style that's uniquely theirs.

"Too often people will settle on what they think is out there in the marketplace and end up buying a piece that is too long, too short or whatever," Hawley said. "They end up compromising on a piece that isn't exactly what they want and doesn't fit their space."

Prices for contemporary furniture vary depending on the types of materials used and whether a piece is a mass-produced or a custom design. A coffee table at Hawley Design Furnishings, for example, can range from $250 for one with a simple design to about $2,000 for one that includes lots of granite.

Hawley's showroom's offerings include an elegant mix of pieces ranging from rugs, tables and armoires to living room furniture, such as a set of sofas, club chairs and a matching rectangular coffee table/ottoman in a rich cherry-red leather. Kitchen and bathroom features also are popular with local homeowners.

Contemporary furniture and interiors encompass many design elements, but one noticeable trait is an absence of frilly, over-the-top details. Clean, pared-down looks are key, but that doesn't mean contemporary designs lack elegance or interest.

Fun features, such as no-fingerprint glass -- a specially designed glass that resists scratching and smudging -- are big trends in modern design, Booth says. One of Hawley's signature pieces is a rectangular entertainment center fronted by frosty, no-fingerprint glass panels. The piece also includes a rich brownish-black finish on its ash frame, as well as brushed-metal drawer pulls and a hydraulic system that allows for smooth opening and closing of the bottom storage compartment.

A round tabletop made of crackled glass sandwiched between two smooth layers of glass offers a chic take on the dining room table. It also works well as a coffee table, Booth said.

High-quality, rich woods are often used in modern design, too -- Hawley Design Furnishings offers more than 50 types of wood for its furniture, including traditional types, such as oak and exotics like zebra wood. The use of updated materials such as Mystera -- a solid-surface countertop material produced by Catoosa-based Hudson Surfaces -- and features that differ from the norm also are hot in modern design.

Unusual features include Elkay's stainless steel "Mystic" sink, in which the faucet and drain are at opposite ends of the shallow, elongated, wavy-shaped bowl. The design of the sink makes it appear as though the water is flowing in an outdoor stream. Hawley placed the Mystic sink in a funky, split-level kitchen island topped with creamy Mystera.

"The kitchen and the bathroom have become so much more important to homeowners -- they're integral parts of the house," Hawley said, adding that today's bathrooms are larger, and kitchens are being incorporated more often with the family room or great room. "A lot of people are fixing up their houses, and they want to make them more enjoyable and livable. Kitchens and bathrooms are big investments."

Glass tiles and tumbled river rocks are a hot pick for modern kitchen backsplashes, according to Booth and Hawley. Both offer a chic alternative to traditional tiles or granite.

Lighting is another design area where homeowners can make a modern splash, Booth says. Contemporary light covers and shades often are made from materials like Murano glass and are an ideal choice for kitchens, dining rooms or wherever homeowners want to add a little pizzazz.

Hawley's showroom includes a chandelier featuring bullet-shaped shades made of variegated, amber-colored Murano glass and strung from a simple, round metal frame. A track-light set suspended over a kitchen island includes tiny Murano shades, each a different shape sprinkled with rich colors.

The wide variety of materials and features in contemporary pieces offers many design possibilities, but some homeowners may be a little leery of going all-out modern. They can still add contemporary flavor to their interiors without making it the main focus of their design plan, Booth said.

Combining traditional pieces, such as a contemporary sofa with a Country French coffee table, is a popular practice with many homeowners.

"Eclecticism in design is a big trend now," Booth said. "A lot of designers are mixing many periods together -- old, new and everything in between."

For more information, call Hawley Design Furnishings at 587-0510.


Megan Miers 581-8310

megan.miers@tulsaworld.com

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