As we move into the new year, interior fashions are also...

DESIGN LINE

January 20, 1991|By RITA ST. CLAIR

As we move into the new year, interior fashions are also moving in their usual steady cycle. The casual look is now all the rage.

This doesn't mean that countrified styles are back in favor. Instead, the emphasis now seems to be on creating settings that are unstructured but not necessarily understated. I keep hearing this early '90s motif described as "relaxed."

How long is it going to last? No one really knows. For the moment, slipcovers are turning up in some of the most elegant interiors, and not only in the summer.

Mind you, it isn't as though upholstered opulence, fringe and tassels are suddenly and completely out. All that is happening is a change in taste in the material used for this festoonery. Cotton, chintz and denim fabrics have lately become very chic.

It all adds up to good fun, I think, and certainly a welcome relief from the damask-covered walls and velvet portieres of the late '80s. As always, however, this new look will eventually be overdone as well.

I predict that minimalist window coverings will soon be featured in fashion-conscious design magazines. And why not? They'll represent a natural reaction against the drop-dead window coverings that were lined, interlined and puddled on the floor.

But please don't imagine that I'm advocating one style over another. Both looks can be equally effective when used in appropriate settings and equally ridiculous when foisted upon rooms where they don't belong.

It has always been my personal preference, however, to underemphasize window coverings no matter what the style of the room. There's two reasons I take this approach. First, I love the effect of daylight.And, I generally try to accent rather than camouflage a home's architectural features.

Some viewers might consider the interior shown in the photo an example of anti-design. Others might call it "casual" or "nostalgic." To me, it is representative of that relaxed look, which has many of my colleagues excited.

A small porch opens out to a lovely landscape. The home's

owners -- no professional designers seem to have been involved here -- did not want to sacrifice either the view or their comfort in this enclosed space.

So, in order to produce improved climate control while not interfering with the opening to the outside, they chose custom window shades from Joanna in an ice-blue plisse fabric. This material keeps out the heat and cold. To soften the scene, they added crisp white pique curtains and valances from Cameo.

White walls, bleached sisal rugs and traditionally styled, medium-stained wicker furniture round out this cost-effective XTC setting. Ironstone pottery and old lace enhance the cheerfully lived-in look, proving that these decorators are in tune with the times.

'Relaxed' may be the keynote of 1990s design

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