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FURNISHINGS : Pieces That Draw On Rockwell's Art


Over the years Norman Rockwell has been warmly welcomed into the American home, first with his art on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post, then with the trinkets and wall calendars and framed illustrations.

Now there's furniture. And fabrics, accessories, lamps, custom window treatments and area rugs.

The traditional American and country-style pieces inspired by the beloved illustrator are in the Saturday Evening Post-Norman Rockwell Home Furnishings Collection.

The collection, available in late January, was introduced at the fall furniture market in High Point, N.C., to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Rockwell's birth. His first Saturday Evening Post cover appeared when he was 20. Thereafter, he contributed about 10 a year, plus illustrations for many other publications.

Rockwell died in 1978 at age 84, but he's plainly not forgotten. Last year, about 375,000 people visited the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass.

While Rockwell's images of Americana are well-known, they're based on people more than possessions.

"Except maybe for roll-top desks, you don't see a lot of furniture in Rockwell's paintings," Bill Cubberley says. Cubberley is marketing vice president for Stanley Furniture Co. of Stanleytown, Va., a major force behind the home furnishings designs.

So the company engaged in some creative thinking and came up with pieces it imagined people in the illustrations might have owned.

"We figured we needed to do furniture that the people in Rockwell's paintings could have had," Cubberley says. "We thought that they were probably from small towns in New England and lived in a Cape Cod house or a saltbox colonial."

The signature piece in the collection is a drop-front desk with prints of Rockwell's "Four Freedoms" illustrations. They first appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1943, and the originals toured the country to help boost sales of war bonds during World War II. The desk will sell for $3,750 in a limited edition of 2,500. The illustrations also are on a block of commemorative U.S. postage stamps.

Other items in the collection include a wing chair done in a "Rosie the Riveter" motif on an American flag background and den furniture with a golf theme based on Rockwell's "Important Business" illustration. List prices range from $525 for a small occasional table to about $4,500 for a china cabinet.

Other companies marketing Norman Rockwell home furnishings include Capel Inc. for area rugs, Carole Fabrics for custom bed and window coverings, Palacek for accessories, Ridgeway for clocks and Sedgefield by Adams for lamps.

About 150 stores around the country made early commitments to carry the furniture, which is nostalgic yet conforms to today's taste for cherry and darker wood finishes.

The seating is bigger and cushier than so-called colonial pieces would have been and the proportions, sizes and units are updated.

The furniture reminds Norman Rockwell's son Peter "of the kind of furniture that I was brought up with: well-stuffed chairs and couches and good wood furniture from the 1930s and 1940s in traditional styles with a few fairly valuable antiques."

Peter Rockwell, a sculptor living in Rome, recalls his father as a "workaholic and a dedicated artist who was not above throwing a picture out in fury, and then two hours later getting it back. He never stopped working, but it never upset him to have us wandering in and out of the studio."

The life of the Rockwell family was a curious mix of small-town America, as depicted in the posters, and sophistication. After a start in New Rochelle, N.Y., they settled in New England, except for a few winters in Hollywood during the 1940s, where Rockwell worked for the film industry.

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