News & Politics

2006 Great Home Design: International Furniture

A chest from China? A bed from Brazil? These shops sell treasures from around the world.

Foreign Flaire


A 2,500-square-foot Alexandria warehouse wasn’t enough to hold all its Asian imports, so Abaca opened two showrooms, on Royal and North Fayette streets. (Customers still can ask for a warehouse tour.)

The high-end collection includes new and antique imports from Indonesia, China, and other Asian countries. Pieces range from rough-hewn benches to refined teak dining tables (starting at $850) and ornate painted cabinets (from $1,000). Treasures include century-old, painted Tibetan chests ($2,500) and new art deco–inspired Warisan chairs ($600). Abaca is also a great source for traditional outdoor furniture.

Customers can contemplate purchases in the Royal Street location’s tea shop and get good tips from the owner, who offers a 30-day test drive of any purchase.

Abaca Imports, 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria, 703-684-2901; 1120 N. Fairfax St., Alexandria, 703-683-5800. Abaca Home, 524 N. Fayette St., Alexandria; 703-299-0400;


A lost lease forced Arise from its longtime Takoma Park home. Exotic new and antique Asian furnishings and discounts as high as 50 percent reward those who track down the new College Park warehouse. (Check the Web site or call for directions; Mapquest and Yahoo steered me wrong.)

Bestsellers are the round Tea Wheel display units ($1,400) and Vietnamese rattan screens and furniture. Many of the antiques are unrestored but are good values, with iron-handled cedar dressers around $1,000.

Collectors are drawn to carved Bubsadon altars (starting at $400), golden reclining Buddhas, and other statuary. Arise is a great source for accessories—silk table runners, Vietnamese lamps, stone lanterns, garden goods, screens, and the country’s largest kimono collection.

Arise Gallery, 5114 Roanoke Pl., College Park; 301-486-1230;


This huge showroom is spectacular—chairs hang in globes over a dramatic staircase. The collection bears the character of its birthplace: Brazil.

A single designer creates the entire line, but styles range from low-slung white leather-and-chrome sofas ($7,800) to traditional wicker chairs ($600) and rustic cowhide rugs ($2,900).

Exotic woods distinguish these furnishings, such as headboards made of coconut wood and dining tables in burly imbuia wood ($2,000) and ebony veneer ($3,500). Rich-hued natural fibers upholster some pieces, all of which can be customized. The two-week delivery on in-stock items is quick. The showroom’s collection changes annually, so bargains abound in the late-summer sample sales.

Artefacto, 3333 M St., Georgetown; 202-338-3337;


This Old Town Alexandria gem specializes in Colonial pieces from Europe’s Asian conquest. The simple, western styling of the antiques is echoed in the new furnishings as well.

The most sought-after items are antique British Campaign teak chests, distinctive for their iron handles. Dutch colonial pieces, such as an exquisite teak sideboard from the 1920s ($1,995), offer hues and styles lighter than the British tastes.

Asian art deco figures largely here. A 1920s coat tree was a recent great buy at $645. The more ornate Asian pieces, new and antique, include large cabinets and lacquered chests. Popular among the new furnishings are Indian pieces with distressed finishes. Unusual accessories, like sculptural cast-iron mounted ox cartwheels ($245), make great conversation pieces.

Banana Tree, 1223 King St., Alexandria; 703-836-4317.


Great finds abound here but take work to find—both in locating the shop in the warehouse-filled lot in Rockville and in picking through the stacked-to-the-rafters goods. The wholesale prices make the toiling worthwhile: 150-year-old painted cabinets are as low as $600, trunks $350, and small tea chests $45. (Haggling might bring prices even lower.)

The Chinese collection is in good condition, though none of it is restored. Customers like the scars of age and the proof of authenticity. China Luban is also good for inexpensive accessories, like new paper lanterns and old wooden crates that make great magazine racks.

China Luban, 15229 Display Ct., Rockville; 301-838-8638.


Fans of colorful, ornate Chinese and Tibetan antiques are likely to follow Dragonfly from Reston to its new Logan Circle spot. The shop specializes in China’s late Qing Dynasty (1800–1910), and the pieces include multihued Tibetan chests with folk-art flavor as well as simply elegant chairs, wardrobes, and tables.

Imports from Thailand and Myanmar complete the collection. With the move, the store has brought in Tibetan rugs.

The well-arranged shop shows off its fine pieces. A pair of northen-elm armchairs “for ladies before marriage” recently went for a reasonable $1,090, while an elm cabinet circa 1900 was $1,260. Accessories include jade figurines and rustic urns for the garden. The helpful staff offers instructions on how to care for all that old wood.

Dragonfly, 1457 Church St., NW; 202-265-3359;


Mary and Joe Arnold travel to Asia several times a year to stock their three-floor McLean store with traditional Asian decor—no Westernized colonial pieces here.

The antiques, from China, Japan, and Korea, are bought in a raw state to ensure authenticity. Most are then restored in China or Korea; Joe does the Japanese furniture himself. Prices reflect all that care: a red lacquered Chinese cabinet is $10,000. A small “sexy leg” table from the 19th century was $2,950, and a stair chest (a cabinet built into a set of steps) $7,000. An extraordinary selection of accessories includes vases, ivory and jade figurines, even a sharkskin saddle.

East & Beyond, 6727 Curran St., Mc­Lean; 703-448-8200;


Fans sorry to see Ancient Rhythms shut its shop in Bethesda last year can rejoice in its reincarnation—and lower prices—on Kensington’s antique row.

In this upscale collection from Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam, one-of-a-kind items are tagged with fascinating details about their functions and origins. Beautifully restored antiques mingle with new pieces—accurately described as “fabulous fakes.” Ornate traditional wares mix with go-with-any-decor designs, such as an elegant black lacquered Chinese dining table ($1,525).

Marco Polo’s Treasures, 4263 Howard Ave., Kensington; 301-530-3420;


This Southeast Asian collection fits into the hip Logan Circle scene, with its modern aesthetic and eco-friendly materials.

Pieces are crafted from rapidly renewable resources like bamboo or from recycled teak. Traditional Filipino and Indonesian influences mix with contemporary elements, like a concrete-topped buffet ($1,075). There’s a wide selection of platform beds.

Exotic materials such as roots and natural fibers reinforced with steel are used in imaginative designs. Some are downright bizarre, like the Chiquita Stool ($520), which uses rattan poles for a surprisingly comfortable seat.

Light, neutral upholstery and clean lines keep all the dark wood from getting heavy. Some pieces are relatively light on the pocketbook, with dining tables around $1,200, but other items, like sectional sofas, can run as high as $5,000.

Muléh, 1831 14th St., NW; 202-667-3440;


Qi (pronounced “chi”) carries the usual Asian imports, but a gorgeous collection of drapes and bedding and a wide selection of tasteful garden ornaments, fountains, and planters—priced below most nurseries—set Qi apart.

The shop keeps furniture prices low by buying directly from Chinese manufacturers. These new pieces, which make up most of the stock, can be customized, but special orders can take six to nine months. Some antiques are also offered along with some Southeast Asian pieces.

The collection overall is traditional in style with one odd exception: Italian leather-and-chrome sofas. At around $1,900, they sell for less than most European imports.

Qi Home and Garden, 722 N. Henry St., Alexandria; 703-838-1600;


No musty antiques here. This airy shop displays fine pieces painted in soft whites and pastels from 18th- and 19th-century Scandinavia. The distressed finishes—authentic or restored—are rustic but refined.

Settees range from $2,800 to $15,000, dining tables $2,800 to $4,400. A pair of 19th-century doors ($2,200) can be hung as wall art, and a century-old rocking horse ($3,200) is a lovely sculpture. The shop carries exquisite china (check out the white ironstone), silver, paintings, and mirrors.

Tone on Tone, 7920 Woodmont Ave., Bethesda; 240-497-0800;

More finds for foreign flair–Online-Only Content
In the March issue, writer Gretchen Cook chose her favorite stores for home furnishings with international style. Here are other places worth a look.


Kosmos imports its wares almost exclusively from artisans in Bali and Java. The pieces, made of teak recycled from ships and old buildings, feature interesting details such as carvings and original paint.

Dark, rough-hewn woods rule here, like the Nico dining table ($1,575 to ($1,995). Some pieces have graceful lines and smooth finishes, like a wine rack/cupboard ($835).

As with all its new pieces, the rack is made of environmentally friendly, renewable plantation teak. Accessories include colorful cushions and chic Italian-designed Tri-Chain lamps from Indonesia ($167).

Kosmos Design and Ideas, 1010 King St., Alexandria; 703-837-1955;


The furniture is South Pacific, and the dark, earth-toned pieces suit world travelers who’ve already picked up a few such pieces abroad—or those who want to look like they have.

The Fijian furnishings are made of sustainable coconut palm wood reinforced with steel and upholstered with Italian leather. Prices run from $4,400 for a bedroom suite to $10,800 for a living-room set.

Pacific Green, Tysons Corner Center, 703-734-8288; Tysons Galleria, 703-734-1333;


Heavy leather-upholstered sofas, headboards, and club chairs dominate Pasha, where the pieces are Italian-designed but made in China and Indonesia, keeping prices moderate. Although the Pisa leather sofa is $1,950 and the Siena arm chair $990, a solid mahogany dining table runs $495, an unusual leather coffee table $490.

The Asian influence is most pronounced in wood and iron pieces, such as tables, buffets, cabinets, and dining chairs. A wide range of accessories, including Peruvian glass and pottery, offer ethnic accents. The shop may be small but is stocked by two area warehouses for fast delivery.

Pasha Home Fashions, 4865 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, 301-657-1120; 46970 Commuity Plaza, Suite 109, Sterling, 703-433-0390;


Much of this new furniture is made in China and Japan, with ornate styling. Sleigh beds are priced around $2,500, cabinets $1,000 to $4,000.

But the bestsellers are contemporary. The “Japanese-style” line is made of rich, dark willow. A popular dining set has benches upholstered in shimmering copper fabric (table $1,995, benches $995). The shop also offers Japanese screens and traditional stair cabinets made in Korea.

Zen, flagship store in Tysons Corner Center, 703-883-9880; also stores in Dulles Town Center Mall, Sterling, 703-421-9977; Landmark Mall, Alexandria, 703-813-5788; and Montgomery Mall, Bethesda, 301-469-1999;