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Funky furniture
Rubberized furniture designed by Dutch firm, Six Inch. (Ramin Talaie for the Boston Globe)

Tagged, these chairs are it

Designers apply graffiti and vivid vynyl to vintage styles for a pop art look

NEW YORK -- Some exhibition visitors have been downright testy with designer Douglas Homer this week at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.

Homer's booth, which features pieces from his latest furniture collection, looks like it has been vandalized. A vintage dining room set and matching highboy is sprayed with pink, yellow, and aquamarine graffiti on every surface. Nearby, a classic Harry Bertoia diamond chair is sprouting strands of sponge cork. It appears that the chair has been bathed in Rogaine.

"One woman was quite angry that we hired graffiti artists to tag the table and chairs," Homer says. "She said she has a set at home just like it that she loves and has been trying to give it to her daughter. But her daughter doesn't want them. I asked if her daughter would like our version, and she said 'Definitely.' "

The moral of Homer's story could be seen throughout the fair. Companies are adapting traditional chairs into works of pop art to draw younger customers, or consumers who are ready to replace their somber Barcelona chairs with high-gloss orange club chairs that appear to be upholstered in patten leather. These chairs look incredibly modern partly because of the devil-may-care attitude designers have taken toward furniture history.

There was a constant crowd of gawkers around a collection called Plastic Fantastic by Belgian designer Jasper van Grootel. Traditional Italian dining chairs, arm chairs, club chairs, even side tables are sprayed with several layers of a vinyl coating. The details of the chair can still be seen underneath, but it looks as if it has been sculpted out of foam rubber. The chairs sell for between $1 , 000 and $2 , 000. Custom vinyl-sprayed sofas are available for $6 , 000. Lekker will carry the chairs in Boston.

"What I like about the combination is the new and the classical," van Grootel, 28, says. "I really wanted something that felt old, but reinterpreted into something I, or my friends, would want in their home."

Amuneal, a manufacturer that primarily produces furniture for the hospitality industry, introduced chairs that can become art of any kind. Both the fabric and wood can display digital images. The idea is that restaurants or hotels can customize the chairs, but interior designers are also interested. The company was displaying designer Gilberto Santana's version of the chairs, featuring three photos from a 1947 magazine.

All around, the traditional chair was reinterpreted into a leather-patched fashion statement or a metallic Queen Anne. Capdell was showing a dining-room chair that was a canvas for limited-edition art, featuring an illustration that resembled the poster for the film "All About My Mother."

"This is so incredibly lovely," says a clearly smitten 24-year-old Jennifer Ramsdale from Los Angeles. "This is the first time I've ever coveted a dining room set."