From a bad back to piles of tilesWhen Paddy Dugan had to...

ON THE HOME FRONT

January 03, 1993|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,Staff Writer `

From a bad back to piles of tiles

When Paddy Dugan had to stop working as an interior designer because of a back injury, she started painting ceramic tiles and dishes in her kitchen to keep herself busy. But it's turned out to be a bigger business than her design work, and something she enjoys even more.

Ms. Dugan coordinates her painted ceramics with the rooms they'll be in. For instance, people give her a sample of the wallcovering, and she picks up a motif and colors for a tile backsplash. Or customers work with her to create a unique design for china. Left to her own devices, she says, "I paint my dishes in bright Caribbean colors, with crazy fish, perhaps."

The business has expanded so rapidly that Ms. Dugan iplanning to buy her own kiln. She's also looking for potters to make greenware for her, so she can paint handmade ceramics rather than using plain china.

Ms. Dugan's prices start around $20 for a plate and as low as $8 for a tile, but they depend on the complexity of the design. For large jobs, she's willing to do a sample so the customer can see exactly what he or she will be getting. Call (410) 472-0636.

Animal motifs in fashion and home design have been hot for a while, but the attention has been focused on exotic prints like leopard and zebra. American country continues to gain popularity, though, so we're seeing more and more barnyard animals. And nothing has caught on quite like the black-and-white cow. "Cows are wonderfully graphic," is how Peggy Kennedy, editor of House Beautiful, explains it. "It's an endless play of black and white."

The furniture market at High Point this year had plenty ocow-print fabrics to go with the country-Western craze. Actual hides were used in upholstery and as floor coverings.

But you really see the cow motif in whimsical home accessories: they're friendly, they're cozy, they're fun. Baycraft General Store in Greenspring Station has several fine examples. A black-and-white porcelain cow in three sections, for instance, serves as three canisters. You can also find cow oven mitts, creamers, cookie jars and chalkboards here. Owner Kathy Karantzalis says her favorite cow novelty was a mailbox -- alas, she no longer has any in stock.

Although Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton is closed for the winter now, it received spectacular play in nine pages of December's HG, the prestigious home design and garden magazine. Douglas Brenner, arts editor for HG, points out that there is great interest in European-style gardens and how to make them work in the United States.

"Of course, Ladew is on a scale few people could attempt," he says, "But still, it shows how an American landscape can be combined with European and British elements." The photographs of Ladew's clipped-yew topiaries have a festive quality, he feels, making the gardens an appropriate subject for the holiday season without being overtly Christmasy.

Writer Adrian Higgins says he chose Ladew as the subject for his article because it avoids the pitfall of topiaries -- it isn't Disneyesque. "Ladew is successful," he says, "because of its horticultural integrity. It's not flippant. The standard of design care and sophistication keeps it from falling into the abyss."

If you can't find a copy of the December HG, you can call (800234-1520 to get one. But if you want to visit the gardens themselves, you'll have to wait until April 18. Only from California: A company that provides two different growth encounters, and they have nothing to do with therapy. Of course, you could probably buy some lettuce seeds and potting soil at Hechinger's for a quarter of the cost, but there's something very appealing about Rocket Farms Lettuce Farm-in-a-Box and Herb Farm-in-the-Box (each $34 plus $5 air shipping). You get the wooden farm box, the water pan, 12

seedlings, plant stakes, 8 quarts of Majestic Growing Medium (which they say is better than soil), slow-release organic fertilizer and, for those of us who don't have a green thumb, complete instructions.

We're not talking iceberg here. You get four varieties of lettucfrom this list: arugula, green or red leaf, butter, romaine, escarole. The list of herbs is even longer, from cilantro to dwarf basil. Rocket Farms also sells replenishment plants when you've eaten up the original ones. And coming March 1: Edible Flowers Farm-in-a-Box, Gourmet Catnip Farm-in-a-Box and Exotic Lettuce Farm-in-a-Box. Call (800) 635-6177 for a catalog or to order.

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