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Virginia Woolf Would Approve: A Room of One's Own

Trend maven Faith Popcorn says that women who work out of the house need their own furniture.

October 26, 2000|CONNIE KOENENN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Trend forecaster Faith Popcorn, who gets big bucks for helping major companies market their products, is promoting a product of her own: a line of home office furniture for women.

"That doesn't mean frilly or ruffly," she emphasizes. "They are elegant and very functional." The upscale pieces feature such practical details as a jewelry tray tucked into a desk drawer, a locking compartment for purses, and a pint-sized desk to keep a child amused.

The furniture was inspired by research on her newest book, "EVEolution: The Eight Truths of Marketing to Women" (Hyperion) written with Lys Marigold.

The energetic Popcorn, who introduced "cocooning" into the language more than a decade ago, is founder of BrainReserve, a New York-based marketing consultancy whose long string of clients includes such corporations as Procter & Gamble, GE and McDonald's. Her new book poses the question: Since men and women are different, why do we market to them the same way? The question is an important one, she adds, because women have become the dominant economic force in the country.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday October 27, 2000 Home Edition Southern California Living Part E Page 4 View Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Web site error--Thursday's Southern California Living listed an incorrect Web site for Faith Popcorn's Home Office Cocoon furniture collection. The correct address is http://www.hookerfurniture.com.

It was the reality of women's growing economic clout that inspired Popcorn's new enterprise. "I wanted to see if I could license a trend," she said in an interview, ticking off statistics: American women own 8 million businesses, and their collective buying power is greater than the economy of Japan. Women are leaving corporate America at twice the rate of men and starting businesses at twice the rate of men.

"With so many women working at home," said Popcorn, "I am thinking, what do their desks look like? Not much attention has been given to their home working environment."

So she sent out hundreds of disposable cameras to women, asking for photos of their home work environments. The results, she said, were often chaotic messes of stacked papers on fax machines and books piled on the floors.

Several commonalities ran through the photos: A perching of coffee cups, rickety pitchers of flowers, photos of the kids push-pinned into the wall, and frequently, the kids themselves were nearby. Most women removed one earring for phone comfort and sat with their legs crossed. "It was amazing that women were generating billions of dollars out of these nooks, corners and ramble-scramble places," said Popcorn.

She took her idea to Hooker Furniture Co. in Martinsville, Va., a leading manufacturer of wood furniture.

"We are a consumer-driven company, and Clyde Hooker, our chairman, who is 80, got it immediately," said Hooker spokeswoman Kim Shaver. "It was a match."

Designer Carol Wheelis worked with Popcorn to come up with two collections--La Cocoon, a French country look with antique finishes, and Satellite, in a sleeker contemporary style. The approximately 18 pieces include computer hutches, credenzas and cabinets, stand-alone desks, work stations, bookcases, lateral files and swivel chairs. A child's desk with a lid to hold crayons and paper can double as a step stool.

Both collections feature such details as built-in vases, jewelry trays and cup holders, a higher desk for more leg room and a fabric-covered back panel for a hutch for posting notes or photos. And both offer a functional kitchen work center with the look of a handsome baker's rack.

"It's been in retail stores since January and exceeded our expectations," said Shaver. "The design itself is very feminine." The best-selling items, she said, are the French country-styled pieces in antique cherry finish including the half-round hunt style desk with scroll work details.

Prices range from $799 to $999 for a desk, the icon piece of any home office, to about $1,300 for a hutch and $1,700 for a credenza. Hooker also features the collection on its Web site http://www.hookerfurniture.com.

Popcorn, whose own 29-staff office occupies the first three floors of her New York townhouse, has plans for a cocooning chair and is looking into a children's collection. "I've gotten a million tips from women who have bought the furniture," she said. "I am realizing that women are just not marketed to specifically enough."

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