Investing in quality rather than quantity Design: When the budget is too tight for major refurbishing, you can give a room a new look with a good rug and a fine piece of furniture.

March 30, 1997|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

A friend of mine buys a dozen white cotton T-shirts every May and then throws them all away every October. I guess his routine makes some sense. White cotton T-shirts don't cost very much, and they look good only when they're in pristine condition.

At the same time, I have trouble relating to such indiscriminate disposal. There's something about the use-it-and-then-lose-it mentality that seems slightly sinful.

Clearly, though, frugality is becoming less common -- even in my own field. The throw-away impulse now applies to household furnishings such as chairs, tables and rugs that used to be kept until they literally started falling apart.

At the risk of sounding contradictory, I have to acknowledge that this is not an altogether negative development.

Which is preferable, I ask myself: to hang onto a ratty old sofa for sentimental reasons, or to get rid of it after the kids are grown and gone? If I'm honest, the answer is obvious.

The same candor should be applied in the case of most cheap rugs -- and I do mean cheap, not inexpensive. They look like what they cost, and they sure don't get any prettier with time.

And please don't bring up the example of broken-down lamps. It's a miracle more people aren't electrocuted by those dangerous "antiques."

I realize, of course, that most of us can't afford to be surrounded by beautiful heirlooms and new furnishings of only the highest quality. In fact, such a setting is often impractical even when budgets are bountiful. But let's also be frank: A run-down interior is seldom an enjoyable place to be.

So what's the solution for a person with a limited budget when it's clearly time to do some permanent housecleaning?

The first step is to concentrate one's resources. Instead of buying several bits and pieces, invest in a couple of major items that will give an entire room a whole new look.

I'd start with a rug. As with any type of construction, it makes sense in interior design to build from the bottom upward. A rug will establish a color scheme that can be then carried through on the walls fairly easily and inexpensively.

I would also treat myself to one very good piece of furniture. And don't make the mistake of assuming that it has to be a century old to have value as an inheritance for one's children. A brand-new piece may well increase in worth in a relatively short time.

Something as well-made as the dressing chest shown in the photo will surely be treasured in years to come. Indeed, this piece from Baker's Archetype collection recently won an award for the quality of its design.

The European sycamore veneer and silver tassel-like pulls make for a most elegant composition. If there's such a thing as a modern heirloom, this may be it.

Pub Date: 3/30/97

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