Romanticism, not grunge, prevails in decor

August 29, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer Los Angeles Times Syndicate

"Grunge" and "deconstruction" may be the current buzzwords in the world of high couture. But in the world of interior design, at that same level and in this particular season, the operative adjective seems to be "romantic."

It didn't take an expert eye to detect romanticism in the rooms featured in this year's Kips Bay Designer Show House. That high-style event in New York City is widely regarded as the annual trend-setter for American design and decoration.

For those interested in what the taste-makers are up to, it's important to understand that romanticism is not itself a style, but rather a mood that can be conveyed through many different styles and a variety of period looks. At the moment, we seem to be especially taken with a smoky sort of romanticism of a 1930s and '40s vintage.

This is an immediately recognizable type of moderne, which originated in the darkly sophisticated Paris of the '30s. It then traveled to New York, where it picked up some Broadway glitz, and from there on to Hollywood, to be softened by lots of white, mirrors and banana leaves. It's a look familiar to any fan of Jean Harlow movies.

In its contemporary adaptation, the style includes some new products, but it has lost little of its original soft allure. Certainly, it remains a treatment much more suitable to bedrooms than to family rooms.

I am pleased to be witnessing what is probably the comeback of the romantic boudoir, if only because it represents the antithesis of the standard bedroom design of the past 30 years. It's about time, I say, that less attention be paid to functional factors. And how nice that color and decorative effects are showing up in bedroom elements other than those wildly patterned -- and by now cliched -- designer sheets.

A bedroom from this year's Kips Bay Show House designed by David Barrett is one example. The pale colors, the white lacquer furniture, and the silver and glass touches on the shiny surfaces and accessories marked the room unmistakably as a nostalgic rendition of a romantic bedroom from the '30s and '40s.

The sense of a soft, inviting enclosure was created by the abundant use of pleated fabrics for the window-covering and the bed canopy. A Hunter Douglas loom-woven honeycomb shade added texture to the design and further ensured privacy while concealing an unromantic view of the city. But the opaque

window treatment simultaneously permitted the room to be LTC flooded with natural light, an indispensable ingredient in a setting that's supposed to be airy as well as romantic.

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