HOME DESIGN : ROOMS with a POINT of VIEW : The Seven Most Sophisticated New Looks for Fall

Virginia Gray is an associate editor of Los Angeles Times Magazine.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS. Furnishing a home calls for perhaps hundreds of them. But when sofas can cost as much as some cars (and often do), operating without a comprehensive design plan is pure folly.

First things first: Decide on a style. Starkly modern or Bloomsbury chic? Nouvelle Southwest or Retro-Wright? Completing a home may take years, but choosing a style and sticking with classic designs will keep early purchases from going out of fashion.

The days of a right or wrong look have disappeared; in general, there's a renaissance of classicism in interior design, a trend toward serious and timeless--not to mention expensive--furniture, both traditional and modern, rather than the frivolity and irreverence of the early '80s. And high style is becoming easier to obtain. Distinctions between showrooms and retail stores are blurring. Showrooms are selling retail; retail stores are obtaining rights to furniture lines once sold only "to the trade."

A few notes on trends: The casual, almost cartoon-like Southwest look is reverting to its true roots of Spanish Colonialism with attention to hand-painted detailing and subtlety in the accompanying color palette. Painterly technique in general is becoming popular, with soft, washed colorations applied directly to classic upholstered wing chairs, ottomans and tables. Galleries around Southern California are showing limited edition "art furniture" designs, the best of which have cosmopolitan flair and sophistication. A renewed interest in ethnic cultures is evident, but with a twist: White walls and natural fabrics are used as the foil for a multicultural mix of luxurious weaves and exuberant colorations.

The Showrooms and Stores

The commercial center of Southern California home design is the showroom area of West Hollywood, and recently this area has attracted retail furniture stores as well. Featured on Pages 24-32 are the following retail showrooms and stores:

DESIGN EXPRESS, 3410 S. La Cienega, L.A.; 8806 Beverly Blvd., L.A. New La Cienega store, designed by architect Michele Saee, has 40,000 square feet of space devoted to contemporary furnishings and accessories. Prices range from $50 for the curving concrete clock on Page 28 to $4,000 for an Italian leather sofa.

K. SPIEGELMAN INTERIORS, 623 N. Almont Drive, W. Hollywood. Beautifully restored (some painted) Spanish Colonial furniture and reproductions. And orchids by Orchids De Oro. Authentic pieces are expensive--small table in foreground on Page 25, for instance, is $970; painted chest on stand, $2,980. Reproductions are about 30% less.

NOMAD, 8590 Melrose Ave., L.A. Proprietor Helen Macgregor collects colorful fabrics and furnishings "dedicated to the spirit and essence of tribal cultures around the world." On Page 27, Kerry Miguel's table, $950; lamps, $415; pillows range from $80 to $200.

MODERN LIVING, 8125 Melrose Ave., L.A.; 4063 Redwood Ave., L.A. (The Melrose store opens this month). Both have exciting names in modern design: Philippe Starck, Enzo Mari, Borek Sipek, Ettore Sottsass, Massimo Iosa Ghini, Massimo Morozzi, Achille Castiglioni and Paolo Deganello for such companies as Driade, Moroso, Zanotta and Leitner. On Page 26, table $1,950; chair, $600. Sofas run $3,500 to $6,000; lounge chairs, $700 to $1,500. Vase is from Wilder Place; teapot from Crate & Barrel.

(di-zin), 2430 Main St., Santa Monica. Owner/architect Akbar Alijamshid offers a variety of classic modern furnishings, mostly Italian, by designers such as Naos, Pallucco, and others. Of particular note: Ingo Maurer's halogen lighting system. Lighting system as shown on Page 32, $1,700 to $2,000; bed by Pallucco, $6,000. Rug is from Diva.

DIVA, 8952 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Diva Lighting, 8845 Beverly Blvd., L.A. Features interesting contemporary furnishings from Europe. Also of note: a collection of artistic area rugs from France. The lighting store has one of the most extensive collections of contemporary lighting in the city. Area rug on Page 32, $1,200; an average sofa here may cost $3,500; a cocktail table, $1,500.

CRATE & BARREL: South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa; Century City Shopping Center, E-150, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A. Good design at a good price: Simple furnishings, Marimekko bed linens and pillows, kitchen and tableware. Pillows on Page 32, $27; teapot on Page 26, $14.

COZMOPOLE, 654 N. Larchmont Blvd., L.A. An avante-garde gallery of furniture representing such artists as Larry Totah, James Ehrenclou, Kevin Gray, Daniel O'Driecoll, Piero Fornasetti, Linus Coraggio and Mark Brazier Jones. Most of these contemporary designs, some one-of-a-kind, others in limited edition, draw from past traditions. Expensive. Chair on Page 29, $5,340; chest, $8,340.

TAYLOR-GRATZER, 8667 Sunset Blvd., W. Hollywood. This gallery sells whimsical art furnishings and paintings, painted furniture by Greg Petty as well as painted screens, canvas chairs and ottomans by artist Susan Seaberry. Table shown on Page 30, $750; wing chair, $1,600; screen, $3,600.

WILDER PLACE, 7975 1/2 Melrose Ave., L.A. A small store carrying an unusual, artful range of handpicked furniture and both decorative and functional accessories. Rectangular clock on Page 28, $135; fountain pen, $60; leather portfolio, $195; vase, $96. Vase on Page 26, $130.

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