Back to basics is a bore

August 22, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

Again and again during the past few years I've been told that Americans are going "back to basics." The claim is repeated so often that I have, of course, come to doubt its veracity.

Just what is meant by the "basics" to which everyone is supposedly returning? Is it mashed potatoes and crisscrossed curtains? I certainly hope not.

Perhaps this journalistic jargon is intended to suggest that consumers are no longer interested in consuming for its own sake. If so, that's a most welcome development, since good design is never a matter of piling up expensive pieces or slavishly following the dictates of fashion freaks.

So, now that I've had my daily eruption, let me tell you why it's a mistake to get hung up on "basics." Sometimes, to be beautiful is reason enough for a piece of furniture to exist -- and certainly reason enough for it to be bought. Not every item in the home needs to be functional.

Must each chair in the living room be perfectly contoured for extended relaxation? I don't think so. Only my mattress meets that criterion.

A painted chest, a carved table, a brightly upholstered pull-up chair -- any or all of these could be an important part of an attractive design. Besides, the pleasure of seeing a wonderfully decorative setting is good for the soul.

But even if you're part of the putative minority that shares my attitude, it won't be easy to find a decoratively beautiful table. The many consumers who have to have it all seem not to have heard about the trend back to basics. They're still out there, buying up those kinds of tables and forcing up the prices.

Most affordable tables are plain affairs, built to be decorated, if at all, with lamps, accessories and collections of "smalls." With luck and persistence, however, you'll eventually come across a great-looking table that's simply impossible to resist.

This particular piece was manufactured by Milling Road, baseon a design by West Indies cabinetmaker Peter Thurland. It features a veneer mahogany top and a pineapple motif on the pedestal column. Four feet in diameter, it can serve as a dining-room or multi-purpose table in either a formal or a casual setting.

If you do insist on going back to basics -- to the exclusion of any extravagance -- I'm not going to denigrate you as a Puritan. I

suspect, though, that anyone with so pallid a palate will eventually hanker for some spicy treats.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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