From wallpaper to lamps, today's home furnishings designs have gone buggy

November 03, 1991|By McClatchy News Service

Home furnishings on the market these days can drive you buggy.

Take one of the designs of artist/designer Helen Verin. She gets her inspiration from some of the darndest places.

"I live in the country, so there are flies on the walls," said Ms. Verin, who lives in a four-story carriage barn in Massachusetts. Hence her charming, if somewhat startling, design for wallpaper called "Fly Paper." It features 2-inch bugs, including flies, moths, ladybugs and bees.

"I wanted it to be random and classic," said Ms. Verin, owner of a company called Fern I. Tchur. "Fly Paper," which sells for $50.40 a roll, has shiny gold bugs -- flies, butterflies, ladybugs and beetles -- printed 32 inches apart on standard-width craft-type, dark blue, deep green or white backgrounds. The paper is handprinted with water-base inks.

"I am working on recycled wallpaper too, but it's difficult because it has to have wet strength. I have six different designs I am working on now. I want to come out with one new pattern every month. I stress whimsy and classicism, not just about a very historical feeling, but updated for now and the future," said Ms. Verin, a University of Wisconsin and Parsons graduate.

She said she doesn't care what she designs, and her career proves it.

"I've designed doorknobs, lighting, furniture with my husband, Rodney Ripps, desk accessories and shoes. I designed shoes for Roger Vivier, AMC and Bernardo [world-class shoe manufacturers] -- I also collect museum-quality shoes. Before that, I was a weaver, I ran an art gallery in Scotland and a shop in Lenox (Mass.). I even sold shoes at Bergdorf Goodman," Ms. Verin said. Her wallpaper is available through the Agnes Bourne designer showroom in San Francisco.

Ms. Verin isn't the only person to have thought of nature as a theme for home furnishings. Many Asian and French decorative-arts motifs include winged creatures such as bats, beetles and butterflies.

Among the reproductions in the Winterthur, Historic Charleston and Henry Ford Museum collections are china, wall coverings, lamps and fabrics with "bugs" on them.

To wit: Winterthur pieces such as the peony garden ceramic lamp whose design was taken from a Chinese wallpaper by As You Like It. Brunschwig & Fils "Reve du Papillon" ("Dreams of Butterflies") cotton fabric and wall covering for Winterthur was copied from a French circa 1780 wallpaper design. Also from Brunschwig & Fils, "Nemours" -- a name associated with the du Pont family, which built Winterthur -- features more butterflies. They also cavort on an Albert Van Luit Winterthur mural called "Cathay Chinois, Fleur de Cathay," taken from an original Ming dynasty (1368-1644) hand-painted wallpaper.

A large orange-red butterfly is the main feature of a reproduction of an 18th century English Staffordshire earthenware pattern called "Gaudy Dutch." The reproduction china is made for the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village Collection by Foreign Advisory of Princess Anne, Md.

The Baker Furniture Co. reproduces copies of a rare, bright-red, 18th century Venetian secretary desk that bears Chinese scenes in gold and black lacquer, scenes that include "bugs." Once the possession of the late Eleanore McMillen Brown, one of America's first interior designers, the original secretary was said to have been a piece she had wanted very badly to purchase at auction, only to find her sealed bid too low.

Years after the auction, one of her interior design clients asked her to see a piece he'd had in the basement, which he was preparing to sell.

The piece turned out to be the long-coveted secretary.

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