Simplicity with verve is the '90s look


November 10, 1991|By RITA ST. CLAIR | RITA ST. CLAIR,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

The dramatic changes taking place in today's world will eventually affect all of us in ways both great and small -- the look of our living environments, for example. Economics is only one of the factors that cause styles to change.

At the moment, simplicity seems to be in fashion. Its preferred form isn't rough-and-ready rustic, however, but a more tailored and conservative look. The glitzy excess of the '80s has given way to a softer, less decorated kitchen that also eschews the dark wood cabinetry, beamed ceilings and baskets typical of the country motif. Today we see natural wood or light-painted cabinets in combination with lots of glass and light.

The photo shows a kitchen that's very much of the moment, even though it is actually an adaptation of an American design popular in the 1920s. The original would probably have featured a linoleum floor and fluorescent lighting, with little attention given to the layout of the major appliances.

In choosing this illustration, however, I do not mean to suggest that certain items are hopelessly "out" while others are so "in" that they've got to be added to your kitchen at once. In fact, some of the most functional kitchen elements are not at all new.

Plastic-laminate counter tops, for example, remain as cost-effective as ever. They're probably still the best buy available in terms of durability and ease of maintenance.

Vinyl sheet goods, such as the flooring shown in the photo are likewise a smart investment. Comfortable to walk on and easy to keep clean, this "Solarian II" flooring from Armstrong has a self-wax surface that will prove forgiving to many of the fragile objects dropped on it.

But what makes this kitchen so comfortable and cheery is not just the cost-efficient quality of the surfaces, but the thought that has been given to the selection of the major elements and accessories alike.

This room's clean and unpretentious lines are complemented by stemmed lighting fixtures hung from the ceiling and bits and pieces of fabric. White, chrome and black have been combined with highlights of primary colors on the plates, flowers and table-top serving accessories.

To achieve this look, a single color should be used for the walls, ceiling, floor and woodwork, including the cabinetry. A high-gloss white would be wise for this background, especially if it is to be accompanied by bright accents of the type shown here. Counter tops should also be in one color and as plain as possible.

Such a design must not be executed in a tentative, play-it-safe manner. Pastels and neutrals won't work in the simple yet stylish kitchen of the early '90s.

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