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From past experiences come today's design trends

Plain pine is out and decoupage dining tables are in. Replace all that floral chintz with floral tapestry, add an oil painting of a dog, tie some tassels on your throw pillows, and you've got the decorating mood of the '90s.

At least that's the major trend of the displays shown during retailers' market week at the newly remodeled L.A. Mart in Los Angeles. The Mart, which houses 4,000 lines of home furnishings, showed samples of everything from sheets to sofas that will be available within a few months at retail stores.

The trend, said Barry Jaquess, chief executive officer of the L.A. Mart and a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, is to traditional furnishings, with a lot of emphasis on romance and comfort.

"You'll be seeing a resurgence of silver tea sets and candelabras and oil paintings that are copies of the old masters," Jaquess said, "as well as big overstuffed sofas filled with down for people to cocoon in.

"Yesterday's chintz is today's tapestry."

Tapestry fabric is so popular that you'll see it used not only as upholstery fabric but also as an accent in table linens and throw pillows. And accenting it will be a lot of rich fringe and tassels, which cost up to $100 a yard.

Small needlepoint pillows, also trimmed in fringe and tassels, are tossed on chairs, sofas and beds. And the furnishings are eclectically arranged with oxidized iron tables, small tables with angelic decoupage designs on top and chairs and picture frames trimmed in gaily colored Mardi Gras beads.

Other romantic ideas for the '90s are a return to dressing tables swathed in silk flowers and tulle and elegant floral tapestry-covered settees for two.

Artificial flowers are found adorning chair backs, picture frames and also wreaths, which have gotten less cute and more elegant this year. Clusters of roses have replaced the mixed country garden bouquet, and dinner dishes are often a mixture of fine china and pottery, solids and florals.

Mixing and matching is seen in a variety of other designs, such as wood-topped iron tables with enamel-painted chairs sporting madras cushions.

"There's a new emphasis in antique reproductions, particularly ball-and-claw and Chippendale styles," he said.

Canopy beds are back, sans ruffles. Now they're made of iron and have fabric draped on them, but not completely covered.

The Victorian-inspired white cotton sheets, plus comforters and bed skirts continue to be strong, he added.

Clutter is fine on coffee tables, but in the '90s you'll see bigger and bolder items. Ditch the ash tray. Replace it with a large ceramic plate filled with potpourri or pine cones. The requisite coffee table book is still allowed.

You may see a ceramic rabbit, but not a wooden duck. And while dogs are the animal of the year, statues of them are not hot.

Dogs will appear in needlepoint rugs, pillows, tapestries and paintings, in hunting scenes or family portrait styles, Jaquess said.

But the interior design market outlook isn't all needlepoint and fringe.

Observing a growing number of mature single men households, Jaquess predicted a fresh interest in the Old West. This new audience, and others, will take comfort in rugged log cabin furnishings, including bucking bronco lamps and dinnerware, barbed-wire wreaths, cowhide chairs and beds made of rattan that look like logs, covered with patchwork quilts and Indian blankets.

Whether it's cowboy or Chippendale, we've returned to our past. And it's a safe place to be during a recession.