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The form, function and fantasy of furniture

When selecting site furnishings, shopping center owners and designers demand beauty and expect durability. Whether fountains, waste receptacles or garden benches, site amenities must be built to stand the tests of time and constant use. And whether the material used is iron, wood or plastic, the craftsmanship must be of such quality that the amenity's durability is surpassed only by its good looks.

D.M. Braun & Co. of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., achieves both attractiveness and durability with its furniture and amenities, which are crafted from a variety of materials including wood and metal. "Wood imparts a feeling of warmth, beauty and comfort, without compromising its ability to withstand use," says Daryl M. Braun, president.

"Our wood furnishings have a durability that is achieved with mortise and tenon joinery, epoxy adhesives and the workmanship of skilled craftsmen," he says. The company offers mall furnishings for both indoor and outdoor applications, including the Victoria Square series of indoor/outdoor furniture made from durable Jatoba hardwood slats and aluminum frames.

D.M. Braun products, such as the St. Charles Bench, can be custom-stained to match a customer's sample, or manufactured to meet specific design requirements, according to Braun. The St. Charles Bench is offered in clear kiln-dried, hard maple or Honduran mahogany for indoor use, and is followed by a clear satin finish. Maple products also can be supplied with a high gloss white polyurethane finish, and mahogany is available with a clear oil/resin sealer, Braun says.

Gordon International of New York, N.Y., manufactures seating exclusively for the indoor environment. Metal seating options range from the classic cane chair, popular for food court applications, and made from polished chrome and heavy gauge steel to the Alpina and Kyle stacking chairs, made from tubular steel finished in polished chrome, and black, white or red epoxy. Wooden seating includes the Laura slat back chairs and benches, made from solid beech finished in natural, walnut or matte black lacquer with upholstered seats, and the Chelsea and Area chairs, also with upholstered seats and solid beech frames.

These are but a few of the styles offered by Gordon. "Having a variety from which to choose provides our customers a selection that suits their needs," he says. "Every shopping environment has its own particular needs, and it's important to provide the furniture that suits those needs."

Victor Stanley Inc. of Dunkirk, Md., also manufactures commercial grade site amenities, including benches, litter receptacles, ash urns, tree guards and tables. "Our products combine architectural designs with strong, durable construction," says David Skalka, sales and marketing coordinator. The company's variety of construction materials also is attractive to the mall owner and designer. "The product line is used extensively in a wide variety of public space projects," Skalka says.

Fort Walton Beach, Fla.-based CSL Inc. Environmental Products' offerings include aesthetically designed cigarette receptacles with an environmental twist. The company's Smoker's Outpost model features a funnel with a rounded chamber at the bottom that restricts oxygen and quickly smothers butts. Made of high density polyethylene, the product is practical for outdoor use and is easy to clean via a lift-out galvanized liner. Other models include the fiber-reinforced concrete Classico and a new table model for patio areas.

DuMor Inc. also provides products in a variety of materials for its customers. The Mifflintown, Pa.-based company manufactures everything from benches and tables to receptacles and bicycle racks. DuMor uses wood, steel, recycled plastic and aluminum in its products.

"Certain site conditions may dictate the use of different materials, so it's important to offer them in our products," says Steven R. Richard, sales manager. DuMor offers Douglas fir and redwood as standard wood options, but mahogany and ipe wood also are available. The high-density polyethylene raw material used in the company's recycled plastic furnishings is derived from post-consumer bottle waste. The resulting product is more than 90 percent recycled and extremely durable.

The all-steel Model 58 bench by DuMor has a seat portion welded into one unit with a classic park-bench design and cast iron supports. Available in extended lengths in multiples of six and eight, the bench also can be custom lettered on the side panels. The companion receptacle 102 features a hinged door design for easy removal of the liner and a 32-gallon capacity. DuMor's bench 57, popular for indoor applications, features cast iron supports with wooden slats made from clear all-heart redwood, free-of-heart center redwood, clear Douglas fir or ipe, all with clear preservative treatment.

Smith & Hawken site furnishings take their inspiration from around the world and across the decades. "English Victorian parks and gardens, French bistros, Italian markets and cafes, and American resorts all have inspired our furniture," says Marian Kwon, director of business development for the Mill Valley, Calif.-based company. "Our furniture favors ergonomics and clean lines over style for its own sake and shares a respect for the human form that is never out of style," she says.

Smith & Hawken specializes in teak furniture, but also offers furnishings made from other materials that meet the company's specifications, sturdy construction and value, as seen in its folding metal chairs and armchairs. The company's long association with teak remains because, as Kwon says, "Teak is one of nature's most stalwart creations." Long used for shipbuilding due to its ability to withstand salt spray and equatorial sunlight without rotting or splitting, teak is equally ideal furniture destined to confront arid Sonoran deserts, biting Rocky Mountain frosts and Seattle deluges. Teak benches continue to offer a welcome seat in venerable locations more than a century after fabrication, she says. The company's teak is guaranteed for 75 years of normal use.

Some of Smith & Hawkens' most popular benches, the Giverny line, are adapted from those in Claude Monet's garden outside Paris. The Giverny benches have arching backs and contoured seats.

Iron is the specialty material of Stewart Iron Works Co. of Covington, Ky. Since 1886, the company has been making gates, railings, fences, fitments and furnishings. Today, its site amenities are as popular as its trademark fences, says Mark B. Rottinghaus, partner. "Over the past 110 years, the Stewart shield has heralded ironwork of award-winning design and superior quality," Rottinghaus says. "Whether a piece is forged with hammer and anvil or welded and lasercut, our products are built with the structural integrity to last a lifetime," he says.

In addition to historic ironwork, the company also produces site amenities, visual merchandising display fixtures and architectural furnishings for the contract market, Rottinghaus says. "Many Stewart products are created using our own original designs and patterns, and we maintain an extensive on-site reference library of our historical drawings and catalogs for use by our designers and clients," he says.

Stewart's materials run the gamut. Complete casting services are available for bronze, zinc, aluminum and cast iron. Wood is used in combination with many of these materials for certain products. Also, custom restoration is available for carved or cast stonework, metal and resin cast piecework, Rottinghaus adds.

Brass is the material of choice for the Architectural Brass Co. of Atlanta, which supplies planters, receptacles and other amenities to the retail industry. But the company isn't limited to brass. "All Architectural Brass products are made from genuine raw materials of solid brass, bronze, copper and stainless steel," says the company's Jeff Fibus. "Our metal products come in many finishes, including polished, satin and hammered," he says. The company offers many colors and textures of powder coatings and chemical patinas, as well as marble and granite products.

Expertly crafted planters, trash and ash cans are designed to bring a rich ambiance to any public space, says Fibus. "Available in dozens of sizes, materials, metals, textures and finish combinations, any of these products provides for a commanding presence in every environment," he says.

Roman Fountains of Albuquerque, N.M., prefers to mold water. The company has been specializing in the design, manufacture and supply of fountain components and systems for more than 35 years. According to Kathy S. Wilson, sales and marketing director, Roman Fountains can prepare a fountain design suitable for any project, as well as provide construction and installation documents.

"We provide an analysis of the client's proposed fountain design, with constructive advice on how to enhance the fountain for the most efficient, cost-effective performance and operation," says Wilson.

Water features go beyond the traditional fountain, says Wilson. Stream cascades, submersible lighting, clusters of cascade nozzles, fountain pools, foam aerators, waterfalls, floating fountains, bubbler nozzles, water archways, interactive fountains, sunken pools, rain curtains, spray geysers and vertical water streams are among the water features available from Roman Fountains. "Water elements accent the surrounding buildings while providing interesting sculptural elements," Wilson says. Many water features also allow the pedestrian to interact with the water element, she says, creating additional interest.

Whether highlighting form, heightening function or fueling fantasy, furniture and amenities in the shopping center industry have never been better. And malls are reaping the benefits of giving shoppers an interesting environment in which to linger.

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