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HIGH POINT, N.C. 'Roadshow' antiques inspire a new line of home furnishings



Published: Sun, April 20, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The pieces are more adaptations than replicas.

HIGH POINT, N.C. (AP) -- Coming to a living room near you: faux antique furniture inspired by the popular PBS program "Antiques Roadshow."

Pulaski Furniture, a 47-year-old company based in the Virginia city of the same name, is hoping it can convert the show's devoted fans into consumers of faux antique bedroom and dining-room sets, curio cabinets, grandfather clocks and other pieces.

Echoing the personal anecdotes that participants in the show relate to antique appraisers, each of the 60 pieces in Pulaski's collection comes with a tag that provides a photograph and story about the antique that inspired its creation.

"We've always believed people watch our show to get a peek into America's hidden treasures," said Marsha Bemko, senior producer for WGBH, the PBS Boston affiliate that produces the show, which has 9 million weekly viewers. "It's the thrill of discovery that makes it a unique experience."

Sample piece

A painted trunk is based on a 1859 Dower Chest that was appraised for $2,000 when it appeared on a Madison, Wis., "Antiques Roadshow" episode in 2000.

"Wisconsin had a large influx of northern Europeans after it was granted statehood in 1848, and beautiful pieces such as this trunk illustrate the immigrants' tradition of crafting and hand-painting their furniture based on their heritage," the tag reads. "This particular chest reflects Scandinavian design, later to be termed Pennsylvania Dutch."

Pulaski had the advantage of competing with few other high-profile introductions at this spring's International Home Furnishings Market, industry analyst Jerry Epperson said.

Anxiety over the war in Iraq and souring consumer demand appear to have caused the postponement, and in some cases outright cancellation, of some major line introductions at the world's largest furniture-industry trade show.

Pulaski "saw an opportunity, and they knew a lot of companies were putting off their plans," Epperson said.

Making idea a reality

The idea for the "Antiques Roadshow" collection came from Joie Wilson, a licensing agent who pitched the concept to several furniture manufacturers.

At Pulaski, she met with chief executive John Wampler and showroom designer Greg Louya. "Within three minutes, they were showing such a high level of enthusiasm that I felt very confident we could make it work," Wilson recalled.

Wilson studied historic preservation in college and is a longtime fan of "Antiques Roadshow."

"It's like being at the county fair, with people laughing and talking and interacting with each other," she said. "If you go, you're afraid you'll run into three other people carrying the same thing that you thought was priceless."

Jim Kelly, a senior vice president at Pulaski, saw Wilson's idea as a perfect opportunity for the company. His opinion was reinforced by a marketing study that showed "Antiques Roadshow" to be popular with Pulaski's target audience.

Getting the goods

Pulaski executives met WGBH representatives to negotiate a licensing agreement. Once that was done, WGBH officials handed over a catalog of some 40,000 items that have been appraised by "Antiques Roadshow" in seven seasons on the air.

After Pulaski selected pieces it wanted to include in the collection, its designers set out to adapt the antiques -- not reproduce them exactly. For example, a 1780s Chippendale chair thought to have been handed down from Martha Washington was adapted into a dining-room set.

The "Antiques Roadshow" collection will be in retail stores by late summer and sell at what Pulaski's Kelly described as medium-price points. Part of the sales will help support public television.




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