Q: We have a high ceiling in our Great Room that slants away on both sides of the beam in the center of the ceiling. I can't figure out how to hang paintings and things on the wall because it comes to a point in the center. Do I follow the angle or ignore it?
A: Your choice. You can simply work out your arrangement as you would on a wall with a straight ceiling line, or you can take a tip from the room we show here, where designer Karen Robertson has hung her new collection of marine art, so it follows the line of the ceiling.
Her informal, asymmetrical arrangement adds visual life to the room. Real life, too: You're looking at one-of-a-kind treasures from the sea, such as conch and triton shells, sea fans, and what the artist calls "shell grotto work" after the fashion of l8th century grottos.
Beachcomber Robertson puts on her Wellies -- "always with a dress (I only wear dresses)"-- and gathers materials on beaches where members of her family have homes in Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Then she organizes them into works of natural art (see more at karenrobertson.com).
Nature, natural beauties and natural curiosities were a major trend throughout last month's High Point Market, the world's largest source of furniture and decorative furnishings. Artist Owen Mortenson focused on the inside story, quite literally. He "skeletonized" actual leaves and arranged them into delicate works of art, and mounted bison skulls -- some sun-bleached, some stained -- as wall art that even Georgia O'Keeffee would envy (owenmortensen).
At Pheromone, Christopher Marley does much the same with exotic insects. He frames them, like glowing jewels, that fool the eye till you realize you're looking at a convention of brilliant butterflies, say, or iridescent beetles (formandpheromone.com).
Also taking his cue from Mother Nature, master woodworker Robin Wade must love high windstorms. His organic furniture is wrought from fallen trees found within a 60-mile range of his Alabama studio. The centerpiece of Wade's Market display was a simply magnificent, 55-inch wide table he'd coaxed from what used to be the shade tree at a Baptist Church (robinwadefurniture.com).
One-off pieces made from fallen, found and reclaimed wood also showed up at the Phillips Collection (phillipscollection.com), where founders Mark and Julie Phillips live up to their motto, "Every piece is a conversation." Massive teakwood roots become a table base; monkey wood makes a free-form coffee table; gnarled branches are organized into real room-makers.
Still, when it came to reclaiming pieces, this Market's trophy goes to Ralph Lauren, who introduced a new version of old furniture. The company's RLH collection of antique reproductions was shown by invitation only, which didn't include most journalists covering the Market.
In fact, one had to sneak into the sneak preview, held in a rented fourth-floor loft behind black burlap curtains and was, as you'd expect from Lauren, rather more elegant than that sounds. The collection is based on European antiques -- many with French and English lineage -- with some pieces copied from antiques used to furnish Lauren stores around the country. There are tables, chests, bureaus, chairs and upholstered pieces covered in vintage fabrics with exposed stitching. Most of the wooden pieces are heavily distressed, often incorporating reclaimed timer and heavy on patinaed looks.
Prices? Lauren's people weren't talking, but the trade paper Furniture Today says price tags will range from under $1,000 for individual chairs to as much as $8,000 for bureaus and case pieces.
Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Manhattan Style" and six other books on interior design.