It's better to be dramatic than discreet

September 23, 1990|By RITA ST. CLAIR

The success of an interior design depends, to a large extent, on the personal attitude of the designer. By that, I don't mean whether the individual is open or reserved. I'm referring more to a person's spirit -- to her or his willingness to be flexible and, on occasion, to take a chance.

For example, many people try to meet today's demand for multipurpose spaces by purchasing dual-use furniture. They set off in search of coffee tables that can also be used for dining, sofas that fold out to become beds, cabinets constructed to hold entertainment equipment as well as clothing.

More often than not, however, this kind of furniture proves to be something of a disappointment. After a while, its workaday appearance tends to grow a bit stale, and many of these pieces never seem to function in quite the way one had hoped they would.

A possible alternative, then, is to try something unusual with the selection and placement of furniture. But that solution can be achieved only with the proper attitude.

A lively imagination was clearly at work in the living room shown in the accompanying photo. It's part of a contemporary beach house, complete with landscaped central atrium, that is often used for entertaining.

It was decided, not surprisingly, that the house should be done in a generally pale and cool color scheme with lots of whites and naturals. More unexpected was the decision to extend this approach even to the piano, which has been lacquered in a sand color.

To accommodate the occasional overnight guest, the obvious move would have been to include a sleep sofa. But that option isn't in keeping with the room's overall design, which calls for more relaxed, lounge-type seating pieces.

So, instead of a pull-out sofa, we see an upholstered box spring and mattress with bolsters and pillows, adorned with a richly quilted cotton fabric. The effect is that of an art deco divan. And when the piece is actually being used for sleeping, as is the case here, the bed is covered with highly decorative sheets, duvet covers and pillow cases.

Such bold statements in bed linens are a lot more fun, and certainly much more inviting, than ordinary sheets and pillow cases that are quickly tucked away. These particular patterns are from Sheridan, the Australian bed linen company. They were created by Ken Done, an Australian artist-designer known the world over for his gaily colored portraits of life down under. The pattern shown here is called "Coral Reef."

This setting illustrates my point that, in general, it's better to be dramatic than discreet when putting together an interior design. That's especially true when it comes to choosing furniture for a multipurpose room. The designer of this setting obviously shares my belief that the functions of such a space should be flaunted rather than camouflaged. And it's evident, too, that a tongue-in-cheek attitude can be entirely appropriate in these circumstances.

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