Copyright (c) 1996, Roanoke Times

DATE: Sunday, February 25, 1996              TAG: 9602280004
SECTION: HOMES                    PAGE: D-1  EDITION: METRO 


In the mid-19th century, manufacturers were fascinated with creating furniture of amazing complexity. There was, for example, a piano that concealed a bed. Some of that same spirit of adventure is alive among designers of furniture for home computers.

Sligh Furniture of Holland, Mich., has a pedestal desk with a pullout bed in the back. The two pedestals can be moved to either side as nightstands when the bed is pulled out. The unit, in cherry, has a suggested retail price of about $3,000. Jeff Pulver, manager of product development, says it is designed so you don't have to choose whether to use the spare bedroom as a guest room or home office.

Pulaski Furniture Corp., Pulaski, Va., is toying with another fanciful piece. What appears to be a leather steamer trunk opens like an old-fashioned Wooten desk, full of cubbies and cavities. An early version was shown at the fall furniture market but was withdrawn for fine tuning, according to Randy Chrisley, vice president of sales.

The point is, now that home computers are no longer an oddity and home offices number in the millions, mainstream manufacturers are designing computer furniture that is both attractive and functional.

``We think that the accent on home office furniture should be on the word `home' not the word `office,''' said Linda Jones, a consultant to Masco Home Furnishings in Thomasville, N.C. ``If you work at home, you need furniture with office technology that looks like it belongs in a home.''

Although a lot of ideas are surfacing, most of the pieces follow the lead of today's entertainment cabinets and armoires. Pulaski, for example, has a four-door wood cabinet in a Chippendale style with a pediment bonnet. The top doors have leather inserts printed to look like book spines. Inside is space for an electronic office, including a file cabinet, bulletin board and a writing surface.

The piece, part of the Croquet Collection, has a list price of about $4,000. It is one of a dozen styles of computer centers that Pulaski makes to coordinate with bedroom and living room pieces.

Lexington Furniture Industries of Lexington, N.C., a division of Masco, has computer cabinets in its Old Salem and Bob Timberlake furniture lines. In addition to the chameleon pieces are accessories such as old-fashioned bookcases with glass doors known as lawyer's cabinets. They are meant to store the volumes of documentation that come with many software programs.

Even furniture companies known for ready-to-assemble computer desks are getting more creative. Bestar, Inc. of Lachine, Quebec, recently introduced ``The Boss,'' an acronym for business office super station. The U-shaped computer work station for home or office features a sliding monitor shelf, hutch and shelf, locked drawer, file drawers and tackboard. When assembled, it fits into 10 square feet and comes in real oak and plastic laminate.

As a new category, home computer furniture has yet to find a niche in many of the nation's traditional furniture stores. Retailers specializing in office supplies are taking up some of the slack.

Materials include fiberboard, metal, resin and wood with surfaces of printed wood grain, solid colors and wood veneers. Prices range from $50 for a simple folding computer table to $900 for an executive desk in wood veneer. Most of the pieces are strictly utilitarian. But there are exceptions, such as a maple and black laminate ensemble in an Art Deco style. From the Neoclassic Collection, it's $300 ready to assemble.

LENGTH: Medium:   73 lines
ILLUSTRATION: PHOTO:  1. The top doors of another Pulaski piece have leather 

inserts printed to look like book spines. Inside is space for an

electronic office, including a file cabinet, bulletin board and a

writing surface. 2. Pulaski Furniture's Croquet Collection makes the

most of pieces that do double duty, such as this wood cabinet that

opens into a home office/computer center. color.

by CNB