Consider a wicker wonderland indoors

DESIGN LINE

December 26, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer Los Angeles Times Syndicate

In designing an interior, as in so many other of life's activities, it's important not to be misled by preconceptions.

A certain type of furnishing, for example, ought not be rejected solely because it is associated with a look that's not to our liking or that seems inappropriate for a style we are trying to create. Every element, regardless of the assumptions that surround it, should be judged on its own terms.

Some wonderful surprises will result from this method of evaluating objects. On the other hand, the tendency to pigeonhole pieces into strict categories leads to predictable, boring interiors.

Let's take the example of wicker. The word seems immediately to conjure images of casual or tropical interiors. Generally regarded as more suited to a porch than to a conservatory, wicker is seldom considered seriously for indoor use except in homes located near the beach.

Now, I grant that a room full of white wicker may not be a wise choice for a 19th-century, Federal-style townhouse. But in less stately surroundings and when accompanied by the right kinds of colors and simple detailing, one or two wicker pieces can easily transform a dull room into a cheerful and airy environment.

Wicker is a material, not a style. And it comes in a variety of colors, not just white. I have seen wicker used on many occasions to complement high-style furnishings in both contemporary and traditional interiors.

Some of the most interesting and intricate uses of this material are to be found in Victorian-era furnishings.

Until fairly recently, however, one had to scour obscure and funky antique shops in order to come across such examples. Even then, these pieces would sometimes look as though they were held together by the paint that had been applied to them.

Today, plenty of Victorian wicker reproductions are commercially available. Many of them are quite well-made and expertly detailed. They go handsomely with contemporary-style furnishings as well as with antiques. The photo shows how a traditional sitting room was made brighter and more casual by the introduction of unexpected colors and materials, including wicker. Even with these additions, the room's design remains consistent with its architecture.

The walls, molding and fireplace surround were all painted white. No surprise there, but what about that dhurrie rug in pale colors? It's not a typical choice, and neither, certainly, is the white-painted wicker rocking chair and accompanying wicker table. But they readily mesh with the more classically styled furnishings in the rest of the room.

Perhaps preconceptions do play a useful role, after all. This setting, for instance, might not be seen as fresh, casual and charming if those very same attributes were not automatically ascribed to wicker.

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