India is a paradise for home decorators

DESIGN LINE

January 17, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

Q: I'm planning to travel to India soon, partly in order to acquire some brightly colored and unusual artifacts for my home. Can you suggest what sort of items would add the most interest to a nondescript living room that has white walls, a beige carpet and off-white upholstered furniture?

A: It's in circumstances like these that one can actually be thankful for having a nondescript living room. If you're blessed with an adventuresome spirit and a good eye, you'll no doubt find a trunk's worth of artifacts that will transform the look of a rather drably colored interior. Before you go, however, be sure you know the exact dimensions of your living room, including the amount of space available for wall decorations.

India is probably the most colorful country in the world. As such, it abounds in wonderful fabrics such as crewel embroidery for upholstering, silks for curtains and pillow covers, and applique and patchwork for wall hangings and bedspreads.

You also won't have any trouble finding accent rugs. Indian dhurries usually feature simple but brightly colored geometric patterns that will work well in a contemporary Western setting. Look, too, for Kashmiri crewel work, a chain-stitch type of embroidery that, when done on felt or wool, can serve as either a hanging or a rug. It's as durable as it is beautiful. And with its nature forms of flowers and leaves, a piece of crewel work will instantly soften a stark interior.

Papier-mache trays, decorative boxes and carved wooden tables make perfect accessories or occasional pieces of furniture. They can be juxtaposed very effectively with modern furnishings built in accordance with the functional theory of design.

My other bit of advice is that you find out, before departure, whether there are any dealers in your own area who specialize in the crafts of India. If so, do consult with them about the availability and prices of various items. You may discover that certain pieces can best be bought at home, on account of the cost and difficulty of shipping.

I think you would also be wise to read Dinah Hall's "Ethnic Interiors," published in the United States by Rizzoli. This beautifully illustrated book describes a variety of ethnic arts, and explains how they can be adapted.

The photograph, for example, shows delicate Indian carvings that have been combined with solid woods and other materials to produce new and functional designs. Here, an old wooden frame is used to enclose a mirror, while a column base has been turned into a low pedestal. A fragment of an iron gate now serves as a fireplace screen, and oil lamps have easily become candlesticks.

A final word of caution: Unless you're thinking about opening a retail outlet upon your return, do exercise some restraint and selectivity as you make your purchases. An Indian

market can be very seductive in both price and design. But you may find that not every exotic ethnic item will retain its allure when transplanted to another continent.

An object's size often poses a problem that was initially overlooked. That need not be a disastrous mistake, however, since I've learned that it's possible to accommodate something special, no matter how out of scale it may be with other furnishings.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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