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Inside the western home.

FROM THE HOT HUES enlivening a pair of painted pigskin stools to the monochromatic minimalism of a poolside pavilion, interior design ideas on these pages reflect the cultural richness of our region. Influences come from the wild West, from south of the border, from across the Pacific.

We show rooms splashed with broad brushstrokes of color, and rooms in which color is only the exclamation point. Practical tips suggest ways to shop for new choices in both the furniture and floor coverings of the '90s. Interior design in the West has never been more exciting.




WALLS SLIDE out of sight to marry the interior of this house with its surrounding patios and garden. The resulting rooms resemble open-air pavilions. The barrier-free sight lines challenged the owners to choose indoor and patio furniture that looks good in the same scene.

The house, designed by architect Steven Ehrlich for a narrow site against a steep slope, borrows a Japanese principle: joining interior and exterior spaces makes both feel larger. Two walls of the living room (shown on the previous page) and one wall of the dining room (pictured here) consist of floor-ceiling glass panels that slide on tracks, telescoping into wall pockets.

Further borrowings from Japanese design are translucent shoji panels, used as window coverings for the glass walls and as room dividers between dining room and kitchen. These lightweight panels also slide into wall pockets. The natural ash of their 46- by 93-inch frames blends with the bleached tones of oak-strip floors.

The shojis and floors provided an airy white-and-wood framework, carried through in furniture selection.

The curved white lacquer frames of the dining room chairs are compatible with the curving arms, backs, and legs of the patio's aluminum-frame chairs and lounges. Thin, tailored pads of all-weather polyster mesh on the patio furniture tie visually with the sliver-of-leather seats on dining room chairs.

The natural oak of the patio umbrella's pole and spokes picks up the wood detail of the dining chair cleats (right) and the frame of the shojis.

In the dining room, two lucite pedestals support a beveled-glass top to create a near-transparent piece of furniture. Glass also tops the patio table just ouside.



FEW OBJECTS can add more character and pleasure to a home than records of our own past. Yet most displays of family photographs--endearingly irregular in their mix of wedding, school, team, baby, and vacation pictures--end up a visual hodgepodge.

The displays pictured here create effective home galleries that allow expansion. Each puts some of these basic design principles to work:

* Group photographs for impact.

* For a wall display, choose one simple framing style and try to stick with it.

* Hang multiple rows so all bottoms and/or tops align (see hallway above).

* For a tabletop, keep frames all one material--silver, wood, plexiglass.

* For black-and-white shots, use white or pale gray mats, black or white frames.

* For color shots, use white, gray, or very dark mats; black, wood, or metal frames.

* Sepia tones look good in wood frames with warm-toned mats (but not the same tone as picture background).

Design: Joseph Terrell, Van-Martin Rowe, Ron Christensen.





MUSIC is as much a part of many homes' interiors as furniture, floor coverings, or artwork. But few people besides audiophiles want a room punctuated by a pair of boxy speakers perched on pedestals, poking out of bookcases, or functioning as end tables.

Designers and equipment manufacturers are now addressing the task of subtly incorporating stereo equipment--particularly loudspeakers--into a room.

Many stereo stores now carry built-in speakers (they vary widely in quality and price), and some will install them or recommend an installer to you. Make sure the installer is licensed and insured. Better yet, call the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) at (800) 233-4230 for the names of qualified designers and installers in your area.

A home electronics designer knows the range of built-in speaker options available and can help you select the most appropriate model for your room--and your budget. A designer can also make sure the speakers are installed in locations that will yield the best possible sound. Speakers built into the wall generally need to point right at the listening area, so placement is important.

Interior designer often work with home electronics specialists to develop ideas for inforporating an entertainment system into a room. Some speakers, such as the one pictured at left, are designed so their outer frame (or bezel) can be plastered right into the wall. Joint or spackling compound is applied over the frame, sanded smooth when dray, then painted to match the surrounding wall.

Speaker cover options and

custom-made fixtures

Metal and fabric are the two choices for speaker covers.

The standard grille is made of metal and can be painted to match a room. To avoid blocking the grille's holes, spray the metal with a very thin layer of paint or use a brush (preferably made of foam) that's lightly coated with paint.

For a fabric cover, select one that matches the wall's texture or color. Light or loosely woven material is best because it's virtually transparent acoustically.

If ready-made built-in speakers won't solve your design problem, custom speaker enclosures--such as the ones shown in the large photograph above--may be the answer. These speakers were fitted into a floor-level space between windon mullions. The faces of the speakers are angled so the sound carries up into the listening area; hook-and-loop (Velcro) fabric fastener holds the covers in place. To prevent sound from being distorted, the dimensions of the enclosure must work with the size of the speaker.

Installations pictured here were by custom electronics designer Russell Hirschelmann, Marin County, California.




IN THE LAST half-century, hardly a feature of Western housing has been more ubiquitors than the L-shaped living-dining room. On the one hand, it provides a welcome flow of space; on the other, it can toss a challenge when you have to puzzle out furniture placement and traffic patterns.

Facing the 35-foot-long L-shaped space in this Tucson condominium, architect Robert Nevins put his wiles to work in furniture choice and placement.

To define areas without interrupting the space, and to establish diagonals that distract from the room's boxy confines, Nevins combined two floor coverings. A wedge of tongue-and-groove maple floor starts in the entry, zigs across the stem of the L, and zags over to the toe (see plan at upper right). He covered the rest of the floor with a herringbone-patterned carpet. Where wood and carpet meet, he added strips of dark-stained walnut.

Discarding the standard notion that "living" must happen at one end and "dining" at the other, Nevins devoted the center of his plan to living. On one side, enough room remains to seat eight for dinner; on the other, for a baby grand piano. In the toe, he set up a home office.

Nevins chose furnishings that are visually important and versatile. A richly carved coffee table anchors the living area, whose seating pieces--Mexican equipales of cedar and pigskin--bear cushions covered in cotton duck. The hassock repeats the coffee table's low profile.

To define the dining area--and add architectural character--Nevins designed a maple-veneered buffet and installed a rustic cabinet that provides display space above and below. It also stores a bounty of tableware a few steps from a 6-foot-diameter maple dining table.

Nevins continued his selection of maple for the library wall and cabinets that extend into the office (behind a wood partition painted in red automobile enamel).

Choosing chairs for versatility, Nevins outfitted a pair of boldly carved armchairs with cotton duck cushions so they can work in the living arrangement as well as at the desk. Classic Breuer armchairs of chrome and cane move easily between living and dining uses.

Custom cabinetry by Elliot Price.




CHOOSING wall-to-wall carpet is confusing. A first glance at colors and textures presents a staggering array of choices. Fiber types, densities, stain treatments, and costs make the choice even more difficult.

To help you sort through the apparent chaos of carpet shopping, we first examine choices in fibers and carpet types, and how carpet is made. Understanding the basics can help you make an informed choice rather than surrender to a salesperson. We define a few terms you'll be tripping over along the way. And, finally, we offer tips on shopping and care.

Fibers: Nylor dominates, but

wool is still the model

For centuries, the basic carpet fiber was wool. Though it now cammands less than 5 percent of the market, wool is still the standard that synthetics are judged by. It is naturally stain- and burn-resistant and water repellent (though more porous than synthetics). Its scaly, bulky fibers hold dirt high in the pile, making cleaning easier.

Wool is resilient; it won't mat down as readily as some synthetics, and it's soft and luxurious underfoot. Wool also "grows old gracefully," as one industry source said.

Its chief drawback is price; fine wool carpet can be much more expensive than its synthetic counterparts. And synthetics have improved to the point that most of wool's appeal can be matched.

Nylon is the primary synthetic fiber, making up more than 70 percent of all carpet. Acrylic, polyester, and olefin are also used. Synthetics can be blended with each other--or with wool--to produce specific characteristics, such as wear resistance or mat resistance.

Nylon's superior durability has been enhanced by fluorochemical treatments such as Stainmaster, Wear-Dated, Anso V Worry-Free, Scotchgard, and Genesis, which make carpets resist stains (each is the trade name from a particular fiber manufacturer). Keep in mind, though, that no carpet is stainproof.

Although any carpet fiber can generate static electricity, shocks used to be a particular problem with nylon. Now, fine metallic or carbon fibers that dissipate the electricity are incorporated in some fibers.

Synthetic fibers come in two forms, staple and filament. Staple is fiber that's cut into short pieces, then spun like wool int your; it prodices a bulkier yarn that simulates wool. Fibers can also be made in a continuous strand called bulked continuous filament (BCF). This extremely durable yarn doesn't shed, pill, or fuzz; it's often used in commercial and some home carpet.

Yarns come in many thicknesses, with new bulkier yarns increasingly popular.

Carpet types; Demystifying berber,

plush, saxony, and the rest

Pile is the face of the carpet. Every style of carpet pile is made up of loops of yarn, ends of yarn, or a combination of the two. Here are all the basic styles.

Loops of yarn. Level loop is a smooth pile with tightly spaced, uniform loops. It's excellent for high-traffic areas. The yarn is usually fairly tightly twisted, and the loop rows are precise. It's primarily for commercial interiors.

Berber--originally a handwoven wool carpet--now means a looser version of level loop that uses a coarse, thick, color-flecked, multi-ply yarn. It can be wook or synthelic, and is usually set in a fairly uniforn loop (though even some cut-pile carpet is referred to as berber).

Multilevel loop describes pile that sets loops in two or three heights, often to form specific patterns or designs. Carpet with this pile is often referred to as sculptured or carved loop.

Single-level loop wears better than multilevel, which tends to bend and crush until worn to the height of the lower pile.

Ends of yarn. Cut pile is prone to shading, that trick-of-the-eye color variation that occurs when pile is pushed one way or the other. It's most often caused simply by how light hits it, but can also come from wear, so consider this when you're making a selection.

Plus is low and even. The yarn has less twist, so ends blend in a smooth surface. This formal carpet, also called velvet plush, shows footsteps and can mat easily in high-traffic areas.

Textured lishes are generally taller and less dense; one of the more popular is saxony. It twists two or more yarns together, then heat-sets them to lock in the twist. You see each little end of yarn, rather than the continuous, smooth look of plush. Frieze has a really tightly twisted yarn with a low pile. It has a nubby look and is good for areas of high traffic.

Shag (a very small portion of today's market) employs long yarn tuffs of various lengths; it hides soil but can also hold dust. Shag (with its high, loose pile) and plush (with its close-cut, dense pile) are the opposite ends of the cut-pile spectrum.

Combination. Cut and loop is just what its name implies; a combination of cut pile and loop pile. It's manufactured in many different patterns and styples, and is often referred to as high-low because the pile height varies.

Random sheared is also a combination of cut and uncut loops, but all of the same height. It can give a plush effect but is better at hiding footprints and the like.

How is carpet made?

That's a tuft question

More than 95 percent of carpet is tufted rather than woven. On a tufting machine, a row of needles threads yarn through a primary backing material, is pulled back through, and advances to the next row, creating a loop called a tuft. That tuft is either left as a loop or cut to create two yarn ends.

Pile height is the height of the tuft above the backing. Patterns (regardless of color) set in carpet can be a function of how the yarn is fed through the tufting machine. The machine can be programmed to create virtually any pattern by varying needle depth (along with fibers treated differently so they accept different dyes).

Space between needles on a tufting machine and the distance between tufts as the backing advances determine carpet density. A 15-foot tufting machine can have more than 1,400 needless along the needle bar (just over a thousand is most common). Needles per inch across and tufts per inch combine to determine tufts per square inch, the main indicator of density.

Dense tufting increases the support of each individual tuft; when yarns are packed tightly together, they hold each other up. This helps the carpet retain desired texture, crush resistance, and resiliency, and makes it more difficult for dirt to penetrate the carpet.

The primary backing--usually polypropylene--runs through tufting machines. It's light for light colors, dark for dark colors. The secondary backing--usually woven polypropylene or jute--is glued to the primary backing after the carpet is dyed. That latex glue locks the tufts in place.

Today, more than 70 percent of carpet is made with undyed fibers, then dyed one or more rolls at a time to fill orders. Fibers can be pretreated to accept some dyes and reject others, so a multistep dye bath can yield a multicolored carpet set in a specific pattern on the tufting machine.

Most cut piles are finished with a shearing. They're then vaccumed and steamed to remove loose fibers and open the ends of the tufts. Loop piles are brushed and lightly sheared to remove small hairs.

At the store: Making the most

of your newfound knowledge

Measuring. Measure before you go shopping. For nonuniform rooms, base estimates of dimensions on the deepest measurements, rounding up to feet. If you have blueprints or accurate room sketches, take them with you.

Know your budget. Think of amortization of cost; if you're planning on being in your house awhile, the increased investment now means you won't need to think about recarpeting quite so soon.

Density. Buy as dense a carpet as your budget will allow. Good carpet starts around $25 a yard, installed. You can buy different grades (densities) of the same carpet; you may find after comparing samples that the look is identical. Put money in high-wear rooms, halls, and stairs; put the cheaper grade in places like guest rooms.

Check density by bending a sample back to see how much backing shows. Tufts should be closely spaced, the closer the better. As you check density, also check the twist of the yarn--critical to high performance. It should be neat, well defined, not too open at the end.

Assuming fairly equal densities, level loop and frieze are most durable, followed by random sheared and saxony, then multilevel loop, cut and loop, and plush.

Weight. Pile weight is the weight of the yarn in ounces per square yard. Make sure it refers to yarn only and not backing. It's a good comparative measure. Compare the tufts per square inch of equalweight carpet; take the more densely tufted one with the best twist to the yarn.

Color and texture. End use is the key. Traffic patterns, room use, and your color preferences are critical. Will it be a formal or a casual space? Consider children, pets, whether you'll eat and drink in the room, whether you entertain often, whether it has an outside entry.

Don't be surprised to find the carpet you like available in dozens of colors, with very subtle gradations. A good dealer can help you select to achieve the desired effect. You can use different colors of the same carpet to create borders, medallions, or other insets to define spaces within a room or open plan.

Colors look different in different lights. Take samples home (ask for as big a piece as possible). Check it under daylight and artificial light. Walk on it, stand on it, study it. Judge it against moldings, windows, wood, and upholstered furniture. Have swatches, pillows, and paint samples to compare it with. Figure out the nap, tuft, or pattern direction you prefer.

Because of new stain-reduction technology, colors that might have been an unwise choice a few years ago are feasible now. Most quality carpet uses stain-resistant fibers as a matter of course. Very light and very dark carpet are still both high maintenance--light carpets show dirt, dark ones show lint. As a rule, use darker colors or multicolor carpet where stains are likely; small patterns can also mask soiling.

Warranties. Do read the warranty to see which stains aren't covered. Make sure you understand all the information on the label. It will tell you about stain-repellent, antistatic treatment, whether twisted yarns are heat-set (important if you're counting on tough wear characteristics), and what the warranty covers.

Most say the carpet will resist staining or show no more than 10 percent wear for a specified period (between 5 and 10 years), or the fiber manufacturer will replace that section of carpet.

Pads. These are critical. Get a good one; it will enhance and extend the life of your carpet. Synthetics now dominate the market. New urethane is best, but shredded rebonded urethane trimmings are most often used. Get at least 3/8-inch-thick padding; 1/2 inch is as thick as you should go. Pad density is critical and should be in writing on your receipt. Carpet warranties can be void if padding of less than a specified density (usually given in pounds per cubic foot) is used. It shouldn't be too soft or mushy. Make sure pad color is water resistant so it won't bleed into the carpet after a spill.

Take a pad sample home too, and stand on it and the carpet sample. Pad quality and thickness, as well as carpet density and pile height, affect sound transmission--the more the quieter.

Making your purchase: Pay

attention to all the details

Pricing. Find out what a per-yard quote really means: does it include carpet, pad (what quality?), installation, and tax? Does installation include moving furniture, removing and hauling away old carpet, doing stairs, removing new remnants, and cleaning up? Does it include restretching carpet later? Can you keep remnants if you want to?

Get several bids; you should never have to pay list price. Wait for a sale if you have to; ask when it will be.

Seans and pile direction. Most carpet is 12 feet wide. If seams are necessary, they should be away from high-traffic areas. Ask how visible the seams will be. Pulled yarns can occur along incorrectly sealed seams. Make sure the installer will stand behind seaming and will come back to correct yarn pulls along seams. Berber particularly can be difficult to seam.

Patterned carpet requires extra carpet for matching at the seams; find out how much more.

Measurements. ask the dealer to come out and measure before placing the order, diagramming how the carpet will be laid with respect to seams and pile direction.

Installation. Carpet must be stretched tight, or risk acclerated wear on the wrinkles. Insist that power stretchers be used (rather than manually operated "knee-kickers"). High-density carpet is more difficult to stretch; make sure the installer will restretch it if it relaxes after a couple of months.

Closing the deal. Get everything in writing; make sre receipt has style name, manufacturer, fiber content, color name, yards installed, and other pertinent information--particularly warranties. everyone should stand behind it--fiber manufacturer, carpet mill, dealer, installer.

That new carpet smell. It comes from the latex backing (today's carpets don't contain formaldehyde). With proper ventilation, the smell should dissipate within 72 hours.

Maintainnig your investment:

Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum

No kidding, one carpet industry group recommends daily light vacuuming (three strokes--forward, back, forward--over a given area) and weekly heavy vacuuming (seven or more strokes). One fiber manufacturer is more lenient--two lights and one heavy per week. And move the vacuum slowly. Get the picture?

Why? Dirt is what ages carpet; the soil discolors it, and the deep-down grit literally wears it away. Put carpet runners beside cars in garages, outside back doors, anywhere you can wipe your feet before they hit the carpet.

Carpet naturally gives up fiber fragments, especially when new; they're not a problem. Cut off sprouts and snags. If cleaning pulls up an occasional tuft, cut it off, don't pull it out.

You can raise crushed pile (under furniture, for example) by spraying it with a little water, then making pile stand up with a brush or using a dull edge like a coin or a teaspoon while drying with a blow dryer. Don't touch synthetic carpet with hot appliances or irons--whereas wool might scorch, synthetics will melt and fuse into a permanent, blobby scar.

Deep-clean once every 18 months. Make sure the cleaning method is approved for your type of carpet. Some fading takes place naturally with exposure to air and light, but it can also be caused by soil; cleaning may bring back color. With steam or other wet cleaning, take care not to let the carpet get too wet; backing could shrink, bleed into the carpet, or start to smell--and wet carpet gets dirty again faster.

Water is still the usuall first choice; try it first on spills. Blots, don't rub; use clean white rags or towels. Avoid detergents; they can leave a residue that acts as a magnet for dirt. Even spills on stain-resistant carpets are more effectively removed when tretaed quickly. Remove excess material, blot the stain, soak with water, and then blot out flooded surface.

You'll get a wealth of care guides with your carpet; they're worth reading, particularly for details on removal of specific kinds of stains.



WHAT COMES in a box, can be assembled as easily as Tinker Toys, and represents the fastest growing segment of the furniture business today? The answer is ready-to-assemble furniture, known as RTA.

Descended from the cheap and flimsy "knock-down" furniture of a decade ago, RTA has evolved to offer high style coupled with instant availability and quality construction at good prices. Rare now are bags of loose--or missing--hardware, peeling veneers, gaping joints. Increasingly, quality goes in at the factory. And the range of styles has never been broader.

These days, besides discount and office supply stores, retail furniture and specialty stores are displaying RTA alongside factor-assembled furniture. Mail-order companies are getting into the act as well, tending to specialize in smaller storage pieces and outdoor furniture.

Whether you're stocking a new household or a vacation home, filling newly built spaces or updating old rooms, here's what to expect when considering RTA.

Solid savings, instant gratification

Prices for RTA run up to 30 percent less than for comparable factory-assembled pieces. Freight costs account for most of the difference because RTA packs flat. One manufacturer, for example, can pack 28 RTA chairs to a shipping pallet versus 6 similar assembled chairs.

Manufacturers also shop around to sharpen their competitive edge. A dropleaf table's rosewood veneer may come from Indonesia, its hinges from Germany, and the joinery from the U.S.

And, because flat-packed RTA takes less space in a storeroom, a retailer is more likely to have your selection in stock. This means you can assemble and enjoy RTA the day you buy it, instead of waiting weeks or months for delivery.

Broader selection in style and size

Having captured a big chunk of the home office and entertainment furniture market, RTA is rapidly expanding into the living room, dining room, bedroom, kids' rooms, kitchen, and bath. Outdoor RTA, made of enameled metal or solid hardwoods, is engineered to stand up to wind and weather.

RTA makers are also thinking bigger these days: king-size beds, large armoires, mammoth bookcases and entertainment centers. This is good new for homeowners who can't fit large assembled pieces through doors or up stairs.

Improved construction, style, finish]

The commonest materials used in RTA construction are article board and--coming on strong in the last five years--medium-density fiberboard (MDF). You also find elements of solid wood, steel, brass, marble, glass, and other materials.

Both particle board and MDF are cheaper and more environmentally sensitive than solid wood because they make use of more of the tree and can use smaller second-growth timber of poorer quality. Also, they provide a better core for RTA because their uniform composition and density preclude warping.

You'll find solid wood used mainly for chair, bed, and table legs, rungs, spindles, trim pieces, and sometimes underframes and cross-braces. The metals turn up in chair, table, and bed frames; marble and glass as tabletops.

New manufacturing techniques, such as layer-glued (laminated) assembly and compression molding, have freed manufacturers to experiment with rounder contours--as you see in some curvy contemporary wood chairs--and embossed surface detail. At RTA's higher end, you'll find handsome copies of designer furniture for prices that let you indulge in a trendy piece you might not otherwise spring for.

Upholstered pieces represent the newest wrinkle in RTA. Chairs with a platform frame, bolt-on arms, and loose cushions are the most successful in terms of comfort and esthetics. Some larger upholstered items suffer on both counts.

Improved finishes--tough and sometimes downright elegant-looking--are making it harder to tell assembled RTA from conventional furniture. Here's a rundown on common finishes in descending order of cost.

Real woods. The look of solid wood is currently very popular and commonly found in higher-priced living room, dining room, bedroom, and kitchen furniture, as well as in entertainment systems.

Wood veneers, ranging from pine to ash, beech, birch, bird's-eye maple, and exotic hardwoods, vary in thickness from 1/64 to 1/16 inch, but thickness does not necessarily guarantee quality. More important are how well grain patterns of strips match, and how strips meet at edges. Cheapest and least durable are butted edges; most durable are beveled edges and edges where veneer strips butt to an inset block of hardwood.

A coat of clear ultravoilet-cured lacquer can increase scratch resistance.

Lacquers. From high gloss to mat, lacquer finishes are popular on living room and bedroom furniture, as well as on better home office and entertainment pieces.

A smooth subsurface is obtained by bonding a thin laminate to the composition core. Then as many as six coats of lacquer go on. European lacquer technologies, including a two-component (epoxylike) process and a UV-curing technique, product finishes that are extremely luminous and durable.

Lacquer finishes (usually black, but also red, white, and blue) over metal frames yield a high-tech look, most available for living room furniture, kids' beds, and storage units. Two-part epoxy and baked powder-coated lacquers both produce tough, chip-resistant finishes.

Laminates. Widely applied over a composition core, laminate surfaces are popular for storage units, as well as midpriced furniture for every roomin the house.

Melamine, a resin-impregnated materials, is heat-fused on to produce a surface that's comparable to kitchen-counter laminate in resistance to heat, household spills, and abrasion. Vinyl laminates are less tough and lower priced.

Printed foil veneers. Paper-backed foil veneers--mimicking wood grain or in solid colors--appear chiefly on low-end office and entertainment furniture and yield a good look for the price. Their look has improved greatly, thanks to more accurate photo reproduction, and many are now embossed to show grain pattern. They are less durable than laminates because they are rolled on rather than heat-fused; often foil-veneered legs and side panels appears in conjunction with melamine top surfaces.

Most paper veneers are impregnated with plastic for durability.

Easier assembly, first-class joinery

One reason that one in three furniture buyers in the next 30 days will choose RTA is the ease of assembly behind the good looks.

At the low end of the price range, you'll still find pieces you assemble with long screws and an Allen wrench, and holes youcover with plastic tabs. However, built-in and often hidden joinery is fast becoming an industry standard.

Camlock assembly systems, consisting of male and female fittings--in steel or high-impact plastic--are installed at the factory. You simply snap components together, then turn a screw or bolt to lock a tight-fitting joint. A trend toward fewer parts and more preassembled components (such as drawers) also helps make RTA more user-friendly.

Buying and assembly tips

Look for a retailer with space to display assembled RTA, and time to explain it.

If you're buying an entertainment center or personal computer console, check the shelf depth to make sure the piece is scaled to your future as well as present needs. Consider the flexibility of a design--can you add components or doors later to customize further?

If you want furniture for a seldom-used spot (like a guest room) or for a relatively short period (as in a child's room), you may get by with lighter construction or a less durable finish. But don't be afraid to rattle a piece to test sturdiness.

You pay more for hidden closures than for those masked with plastic tabs. Also, some closures do not easily disassemble--important if relocation might be an issue.

Several manufacturers now claim their products can be assembled in 30 minutes or less. Study assembly time estimates and instruction sheets before buying (imported items may bear cryptic or pictorial instructions). Many retailers will assemble RTA for a minimal fee.

Before you buy a piece, ask if there have been customer complaints. How are problems of missing or defective parts handled? Check warranty provisions. Many manufacturers maintain 800 numbers you can call if you need help.

Before you start assembly, make sure your kit is complete and parts are free of scars or defects. A dealer may ask you to return an incomplete kit rather than replace a single part.

To avoid scratching fine finishes, spread a blanket on the floor before you set to work. If a closure doesn't fit, don't force it; doublecheck to make sure you're matching the right pieces.

Furniture picture is from ST[phi]R and The Bombay Company.



HAPPY COLORS found in the folk art and crafts of Africa, Guatemala, Mexico, and the American West weave through the furnishings of this family room. To handle heavy use by both children and adults, the homeowners asked Los Angeles designer Leslie Harris for a room with seating for a dozen or more, and with a lively mood that would evoke memories of favorite family vacations.

Harris laid out a furniture plan with two seatings clusters, located to accommodate traffic through the room. (One side opens off the entry hall, the other toward dining room and kitchen.)

In one cluster, an armless four-seater sectional sofa wraps around a corner. Perpendicular to it, a one-arm sofa, which ties visually with the casual armless pieces, invites stretch-your-legs lounging. A durable red leather armchair and easy-to-move upholstered ottoman complete the seating group.

The second cluster centers on a three-seat armless sofa that fits into a window bay. Flanking it are a pair of low-slung upholstered armchairs.

Harris chose high-quality upholstered pieces but covered them with a vibrant palette of inexpensive fabrics, which can be replaced guiltlessly as changing taste and wear dictate. Solid-hued cotton duck and striped Guatemalan yardage cover the furniture, while cotton duck and African weaves enclose accent pillows.

For each seatings area, Harris designed a geometric coffee table surfaced with black and white plastic laminate. In the window bay, two laminate-covered plywood triangles also form end tables that bear table lamps and pieces of Southwest pottery.

Throughout the room, Harris used gray, white, and black as foils for all the bright colors. A large area rug ties the room together: from several neutral shades of standard, off-the-roll, stain-resistant carpet, she pieced cutouts into a custom-designed patchwork rug.





HOW DO YOU GET greater flexibility, spaciousness, and character into a boxy 1960s house? San Francisco designer Carolyn Van Lang answered, "With spare structural change, streamlined furnishings, and neutral color."

Her living room--a cramped rectangle--had to double as a hall from the entry to other rooms. She borrowed space from an adjacent bedroom and made the enlarged room work harder. It's still rectangular, but it now has space to separate sitting areas from traffic flow. You enter at a corner and cross between two sitting areas: one defined by a fireside window seat, the other by a sofa and armchairs.

One of the house's few distinctions--black metal window mullions--suggested Van Lang's paint and furnishings. To promote horizontal spaciousness, she selected furniture with an eye to how it met the floor: all pieces rise on thin legs, so they don't interrupt the floor plane. She also wanted furniture to complement the new black-trimmed fireplace wall, where a furton can convert window seat to guest bed.

She kept most colors muted--black for metal elements; neutral for fabric and walls; natural wood for floors and cabinetry--and used primary colors for accents.

Upstairs, in a new bedroom and bath, Van Lang maximized space by linking the rooms. A marble slab, a counter holding the sink, and a ceiling-hung mirror function as sculptural space dividers. Warm tones of wood and marble contrast with crisp black and white, and with colored fixtures and checkerboard towels.








TRUE TO its Victorian roots, this 1890s bungalow retains a formal floor plan of defined rooms. But to celebrate its century mark, owners Elaine and Steven Paul updated it with a fresh palette of sunshine, sky, and garden colors.

The newly painted rooms set off the Pauls' furnishings, which attest to their love of fine woods and antique styles.

A framework of oak and white

Shunning the darkness characteristic of Victorian interiors, the Pauls refinished oak-strip floors throughout the house in a natural golden shade. This floor treatment helps give a sense of spaces flowing smoothly from one to another, a sense furthered by the use of semi-gloss white paint on all woodwork, regardless of neighboring wall color.

Hues chosen for wall color draw the eye from one room into the next, and on toward the outdoors. Warm tints of pale sunflower and lemon in the living room, library, and sunroom contrast with cool tones of sky blue and periwinkle in dining room, bedrooms, and kitchen.

For floor coverings in the living and dining rooms, the Pauls ordered large, ready-made sisal rugs from store catalogs. The rugs add texture without adding distracting color that would make the rooms feel smaller. The only room with a decoative rug is the library, where a Victorian-inspired floral design on a black field carpets the floor in wool, enhancing the room's cozy feeling.

Elsewhere--in bedrooms, sunroom, and bath--the Pauls scattered small rag rugs bought from import stores and ordered from catalogs.

Period styles in Western woods

Serious students of antique furniture styles, the Pauls have blended references to England's 18th-century Queen Anne, Germany's 19th-century Biedermeier, and this country's early 20th-century Craftsman styles. What the furnishings have in common is an elegant look, a lightness of line, and a simplicity of design that combine to work well in relatively small rooms.

What the furnishings also have in common is superb craftsmanship in native woods. Biedermeier-inspired pieces in the living room boast book-matched panels of mesquite, graceful curves of cherry, and details of black ironwood. Languid lines reminiscent of Queen Anne pieces mark the dining room's mesquite chairs with tapestry seats that surround a cherry table topped with black marble.

In the library, mesquite and cherry appear again in furniture inspired by the Craftsman forms of Gustav Stickley and Greene and Greene. By casual contrast, sunroom furnishings are import-store wicker--a practical nod to that material's burst of Victorian popularity.

The Pauls have carefully chosen art and accessories. A delicate Victorian bamboo-and-lacquer tray table complements the living room armoire. A contemporary painting echoes the curves of dining room chairs. Mesquite picture frames tie in which furnishings throughout.

Interior and furniture designs were by Arroyo Design, Tucson.




DELICIOUS-LOOKING wafers of color and texture, today's decorative ceramic tiles offer as much enticement as confections on a holiday buffet. Never have consumers faced a wider array of hues (solids to hand-painted designs), glazes (mat to metallic and iridescent), and surface textures (glassy, pebbly, molded, sculpted).

Unlike decisions on paint and fabric, ceramic tile--once installed--is not so easy to change. But as the examples pictured here suggest, tile choice need not confine you to a narrow palette. To try a multicolored scheme, start with a color-pencil sketch of your design.

The risers of the steps shown above use 2- and 4-inch-square wall tiles--installed whole, cut, and broken. In the bath at left, 6-inch-square wall tiles provide the field, a double row of cord-shaped peach tiles the main accent. "Anything goes" guided the choice of other flat and molded strips in many widths and colors.

The fireplace remodel retains a 1930s hearth of earthenware tiles by the renowned Pasadena craftsman Ernest Batchelder. Neutral-toned 4-inch squares, installed checkerboard-fashion, climb to the mantel, where squares, rectangles, and triangles of pastel shades bring the fireplace into the 1990s.

For tips on tile-cutting tools and installation, consult Tile Remodeling Handbook (Sunset Publishing Corporation, Menlo Park, Calif., 1987; $8.95).

Designs were by Kaye Secomb, Van-Martin Rowe, and Liz Armato.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Section
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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