HIGH POINT, N.C. -- No matter where your gaze traveled at the recent High Point Furniture Market, it landed on a bust. Not the kind that comes in cup sizes, but the portraits sculpted since antiquity to memorialize the memorable or the wealthy.
From the 3,300-year-old Nefertiti to the more commonplace Winston Churchill, busts are bigger than ever as a design element. Showroom designers who do their best to highlight new collections of tables, chairs, chests and chaises were using them as accent pieces everywhere.
Wesley Hall had one in front of a fireplace while Century, Hickory Chair and Bernhardt had busts on top of chests or tables. But it was Stanley Furniture's new showroom that really went to town with this classic accessory.
Los Angeles designers Ron Woodson and Jaime Rummerfield were called in to do the Stanley showroom. They had busts grouped on top of breakfronts, placed on a desk or in front of mirrors. Busts of the known and unknown populated the space, adding a certain gravitas to an already impressive collection of home furnishings.
"We designed this space with a colonnade of Greco-Roman busts. The sculptural quality and the crisp white stone against the emerald-green walls is such a dynamic contrast. Busts are a wonderful and unexpected accessory, adding personality to a space," said Rummerfield.
In room settings from contemporary to conflicted, the classic bust thrives.
"We were inspired by the idea of using classic accessories in a modern setting and vice versa," said Ron Fiori, Bernhardt's showroom designer. "In this particular case, we wanted to use the nobleman bust -- a traditional design element -- in a modern setting, playing on the idea of classic with a twist."
The bust Fiori used was a porcelain depiction of an Almoravid nobleman by Tozai Home that retails for $695. The Almoravid were an 11th-century Moroccan dynasty.
Versatility is one reason for the revival of this decorative accent. The classical bust strikes a dynamic contrast in a contemporary setting, while a less traditional version, such as the resin Augustus Caesar bust in neon green or yellow by the Phillips Collection, peps up a tired space.
"Caesar is a figure that has long adorned homes around the world for the austere and stately image he represents," explained Jason Phillips, president of Jason Phillips Designs and creative director of the Phillips Collection. "Usually represented in a classical material like marble or stone, we have dressed him in bright, glossy colors as well as silver leaf. We think this appeals to a larger audience since it represents a traditional figure but with a modern twist."
While some are looking to surprise, the folks who do the French Heritage Showrooms embrace the beauty of classic on classic. A solid-wood hand-carved bust of a woman wearing pearls enhanced the Bombay chest and elaborately carved mirror behind her. She was a one-of-a-kind find, as was the copper-and-bronze head of artist Maxwell Simpson wearing a laurel wreath and exhibiting the patina of time.
Added Oomph!, an accessories store in North Carolina that had a space in the Antiques Hall during the market, was offering a set of three French haberdashery heads made of heavy-duty plaster for $987.
Studio A, Noir and Bliss Studio all sell busts in a variety of materials and subjects. Studio A has an oversized Siddhartha in solid marble. "It took four people to move it in the showroom," said Erin Davis of Global Views, the parent company. "It's a very impressive piece."
Noir showed several busts, including a driftwood version of Medusa, which sells for $3,300. It also offers heads in fiber, cement and onyx, as well as a desk shaped like a face for $1,050. Bliss Studio's artist bust is done in a rough-textured cement and has the look of a unique piece.
For a mass-produced collectible, there is the Mao bust from Van Thiel.
Freeing interiors for the masses from the humdrum is Restoration Hardware with its reproduction bust of the Greek goddess Ariadne or the cast resin bust of the goddess Artemis. However you look at it, this is a trend that's busting out all over.