The fringe element moves into mainstream, and tassels and trims take over interiors

August 29, 1993|By Charlyne Varkonyi | Charlyne Varkonyi,Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

American interior design is going on a fringe binge.

Heavy, rope-like bullion fringe graces the bottom of chairs, ottomans and sofas. Fine moss-edge fringe outlines throw pillows and the seams of furniture where plain cord used to be the norm. Draperies and swags are adorned with tassel fringe and tassel tiebacks.

Fringe elements can create an elegant or nostalgic mood. And the look can be emulated by everyone -- from the money-is-no-object crowd who can afford to completely redecorate to the money-is-tight folks who only have a couple hundred bucks to update old furnishings.

"Fringe is certainly a growing fashion statement," says Nancy High, spokesman for the Furniture Information Council. "In the last decade of every century, there is a return to classicism. We are seeing the signs of elegant draping in design, and fringe is a natural companion to draping."

Ruth Clark, vice president of design and styling for Pearson furniture, is one of the designers who has used fringe to soften the lines of a piece or to provide a textural element.

You may have seen one of Pearson's most elegant designs in magazine advertisements for the Viceroy Collection, a marriage of Asian and English influences reminiscent of the Raj period in India. The focal point of the ads is the star ottoman, done in elegant cranberry and gold fabric accented with gold cording pTC and a shiny gold bullion fringe.

"We tried to capture something that was traditional without being too formal," Ms. Clark says. "It's comfortable with a touch of elegance. We use the trim in a discreet way for a specific emphasis. We don't use it to show off."

Trims of the '90s don't show off, unlike their predecessors of the look-at-me '80s. If fringe is the icing on the cake, these days the cake comes from Safeway, not Patisserie Poupon.

And, in keeping with the new rules in this back-to-basics decade, you don't have to go out and spend $3,000 for a fringed sofa or $1,000 for a fringed ottoman. Fabric stores are reporting that more and more consumers are buying trims and giving a face lift to old pieces to emulate the looks they see in the decorating magazines.

"The look is a bit homier, a little warmer," says Rosanna Flynn, manager of Calico Corners in Boca Raton. "Many customers are looking for 100 percent cotton. It's more subtle, more homey and not as shiny as the acetate and rayon."

Interior designer Lyn Peterson, president of Motif Designs in New Rochelle, N.Y., sees use of decorative trims as a way to update home furnishings.

"We don't dispose of our clothing wardrobe every year," she says. "It's too expensive, but yet we all have the need to be current. It's the same with your home wardrobe. How do we make it fresh? It's in the details. Fringes. Buttoning. Cord. These are things we can do in an instant. We can be possessed at 10 at night and start a project."

Two of her home projects illustrate how easy it can be, even if you have the sewing skill of a 3-year-old.

Ms. Peterson took what she described as an inexpensive, ordinary piece of white wicker and quickly transformed it into a piece that looks as if it had survived generations. First, she spray-painted the love seat black. Then she cut a piece of foam to fit and wrapped fabric over the pillow, pinning underneath with safety pins. (Honest, she swears the fabric won't budge when you sit on it.) To highlight the Victorian curves, she used a glue gun to add shiny rayon fringe and two buttons from her late mother-in-law's button box.

In a more time-consuming project, she resuscitated old kitchen chairs with slipcovers. The rehabbed chairs became worthy of any dining room after she added slipcovers with rayon fringe and perked up contrasting throw pillows with tassel fringe. She also tied a tassel around the corners of the coordinating tablecloth.

"Really, there are no set rules," says Berta Scheidegger, manager of Woodland Decorating & Design Center in Delray Beach, Fla. "You can do whatever you like. It's easy, and it doesn't have to be expensive."

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