Current design fad is for things Russian

August 02, 1992|By Rita St. Clair

Probably it has something to do with the political revolution that swept aside the Soviet Union. But even that historic upheaval doesn't fully account for the current fascination with things Russian, particularly with art objects from the czarist era.

Whatever the reason, Americans are now snatching up all sorts of Russian-inspired creations, from grand-scale exact copies of furniture in St. Petersburg's Hermitage museum, to decorative fabrics based on documentary Russian designs. Some of these items are so rococo that they look like accessories for a royalist counterrevolution. But others, less embellished, are quite charming and better suited to contemporary tastes.

Much of what is categorized as Russian or Slavic design actually has its roots in the arts of Persia and other Asian cultures. Small lattice-like patterns, for example, and intricate leaf and floral forms are reminiscent of arabesque detailing. Today's adaptations of Russian styles also feature bright colors taken from nature, including the sorts of blues, greens and yellows that have not been in fashion in this country for more than a decade.

But major changes seldom come quickly or directly in the realm of home furnishing -- certainly not with the alacrity and thoroughness of shifts in clothing fashions. Years of development and many tentative expressions are usually required before a truly different look and palette take hold among interior and furniture designers.

An attractive example of the new adaptive design can be seen in the photo of a pedestal sink manufactured by Kohler. Its shape and pattern are based on Slavic and Oriental antecedents. Part of Kohler's "Reveries" collection, this is the "Russian Teacup" pattern. It is offered in ceramic tile, faucets and counter top accessories as well as on the sculpted pedestal and basin.

The pattern consists of a delicate latticework of cobalt blue on white, with small accents of black, jade and gold. The sink may be used as part of a coordinated ensemble, but it's also perfectly capable of standing alone against a simpler, less decorative surround. Either way, a sink like this will do much to enliven a standard white bathroom that's badly in need of something out of the ordinary.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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