Business: New Furniture for Old

On the seventh floor of Chicago's fortress-like Furniture Mart one day last week, a grinning salesman pushed a button in the back of a sleek modern sofa.

In 18 seconds the $369 mechanical sofa whirred out into a standard-size double bed. "It does everything for you," bragged the salesman, "except put you to sleep."

For the record 24,000 buyers who packed Chicago for the two-week winter furniture market, the industry displayed thousands of items, from French provincial tables to $43.50 teakwood rocking stools and $350 sofas slung airily on rubber webbing instead of conventional frames. With a bold paintbrush and imaginative use of...

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