Lounging in Historical Hipness: Rosenthal Contemporary Furniture Has Long History of Being Moodern

By Lavender March 28, 2008

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Home & Yard Blvd. Section

The irony, of course, is that, despite its location in Downtown Minneapolis, a place founded in 1895 on design is sometimes hard to find. “People who drive by can’t find our store, because the light rail hides the whole front of it,” Rosie Lebowitz, who describes herself as Rosenthal Contemporary Furniture’s check-signer, laments.

Photos Courtesy of Rosenthal Furniture

The operative word in the last sentence, incidentally, is “contemporary.”

“Contemporary furniture is nice and clean,” Lebowitz defines. “Contemporary furniture is made of simple lines in all sorts of variations. It’s lighter-scale-feeling. It’s simpler fabrics. It’s geometrics. It’s plain stripes. A lot of the contemporary furniture that we’re doing today is on legs, so that it’s not flush to the ground. That gives it a lighter, airier feeling, instead of a heavy feeling, when you walk in the room. Things on platforms are also becoming popular.”

Like anything else that enjoys mass popularity, contemporary furniture also suffers from its share of negative stereotype.

“A lot people think it’s George Jetson-y,” Lebowitz confides. “That’s what a lot of people associate contemporary furniture with—George Jetson-y points and angles—but that’s more of a retro look. The contemporary look is nondated.”

Another facet of contemporary furniture is…well, its facets. Many modern trappings are as functional as a Swiss Army Knife.

“There’s a lot of multiuse furniture,” Lebowitz reports. “We have a cocktail table that raises up to be a small dining room table that then opens up to be a large dining room table. Here in the store, there’s a sofa table that goes against the wall as a console that slips out to be a dining table.”

Even the unconscious can partake of myriad, simultaneous furniture options.

Lebowitz says, “You’re seeing the lighter-scale platform bed, which is a bed that doesn’t use a box spring or a headboard, but rather its own base for support. It’s low-profile—let’s put it that way. Lower things look better in taller places.”

Part of being contemporary is staying contemporary…which is harder than it sounds.

“Trends always cycle,” Lebowitz muses. “The coasts always get it first—Minnesota’s always one of the last. Here in Minnesota, white furniture is back. White and black lacquer are coming back in different forms: tables, entertainment centers, and more. But on the West and East Coasts, they’re already tired of them.”

A more abstract hue has colored 21st Century trends specifically.

“Green is becoming really big in furniture,” Lebowitz notes. “We have a lot of product made out of reused, recycled wood. We’re looking more toward going green.”

This tree-hugging has bled into the current aesthetic, as well.

“Natural fabrics are becoming a trend,” Lebowitz explains. “That’s because of the green factor. We’re becoming very green-conscious here at the store—reusing things, recycling things. Also, we don’t buy anything from China, because even though it’s a lot less expensive, it’s not representing anything green or natural because of all the fuel it takes to get it here.”

Sometimes, the trends revolve around not just one color, but lots of colors.

Lebowitz relates, “Contemporary flowers started in Italy—the abstract floral patterns and bouquets. Those are really big in contemporary. It looks like a fabric with a chandelier on it. So, you’re seeing these natural fabrics, and these unique pillow and accent fabrics.”

Ultimately, people looking for furniture may be gratified in another way, as well.

“I guarantee that anyone who walks in will find something they like here, and walk out with a smile,” Lebowitz promises. “It’s that kind of atmosphere.”

Rosenthal Contemporary Furniture
22 N. 5th St., Mpls.
(612) 332-4363
www.rosenthalfurniture.com

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