Transplanting decorating ideas Design: Light, lifestyle and available materials differ from one region to another. But some elements of Southwestern decor can be used successfully in the Northeast.

September 29, 1996|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

During a recent trip to the Southwestern United States, I became enchanted by the colors and materials found in the region's homes. Now that I've returned to my small apartment in the Northeast, I'm wondering how to achieve this look in my living room. Any suggestions?

It's not easy to transplant an indigenous interior design from one region to another. The look of a home grows organically from the lifestyle of its users, which in turn relates directly to climate and landscape.

Colors, for example, are greatly affected by natural light -- which is very different in the Southwest and Northeast. Similarly, textures depend on the types of materials typically used in home and furniture construction -- which, again, are not the same in New Mexico and New York.

Still, adaptations can be made. And the most successful ones reflect a clear understanding of what constitutes a specific look. In the case of Southwestern design, the single most distinctive feature may be the use of natural, sun-baked materials.

Bleached-wood as well as clay-tiled floors are also characteristic, along with rough textures in fabrics and wall surfaces. White is a standard color choice, often accompanied by accents of turquoise, pumpkin and golden curry reds.

Candles are a common light source in Southwestern interiors, but lamps, of course, are used as well. They're often made from electrified ceramic or metal jugs. Many of the region's homes also are lighted by iron floor lamps and sconces that look like candelabras in black iron or a rusted iron finish.

That latter look, by the way, is very "in" at the moment as a finish for table bases. Theoretically at least, all these elements can be transplanted to your Northeastern apartment. In reality, however, may prove a bit too dramatic. This danger can be avoided by bleaching out the different elements, as was done in the accompanying photo.

Here, the flooring material consists of natural clay tile pavers in various shades of muted terra cotta. Glazed or waxed, they can be used in combination with white walls and scrubbed and bleached redwood furniture.

The hand-carved pieces seen in this model are manufactured by Reed Bros. of Sebastopol, Calif. This sort of simplified design will look good in just about any geographic location.

But even as you pare down the possibilities, don't neglect to introduce some splashes of color and pattern. A rug with a geometric design, perhaps an Indian-style dhurrie, will add some visual interest and help reinforce the regional look, especially if you choose from the Southwestern color palette. Artworks and accessories of the same sort will round off the flavor.

Obtaining these essential items, by the way, might provide you with the perfect excuse for making a repeat visit to the Southwest.

Pub Date: 9/29/96

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