The easiest and most affordable way to redecorate is the softest--with fabrics and carpeting.
That means curtains, bed linens, table linens, wall coverings, rugs, carpets and those old standbys, slipcovers and decorator pillows.
Teflon, often associated with pots and presidents, now is protecting fabrics from soil and stains. The Du Pont process is being used by makers of fabrics who supply both furniture manufacturers and home decorators.
Among these are Waverly's classics in its New Traditions II line--the Jacobean "Marlborough" with an accompanying all-over floral "Montchanin," or the leafy "Malvern" and the coordinating stripe "Kennett."
Bloomcraft has a collection of designs inspired by fabrics and wall coverings from the Louvre--a medallion floral accompanied by a chinoiserie stripe, an all-over floral, and a vine and scrolled mini, all in a brilliant lacquer red. Anju Woodridge offers a large Indian-motif medallion, "Morgan," and its coordinating stripe, "MonteCristo."
Shower curtains that have been Teflon-treated are being given full-scale decorator treatments with balloon and swag valances, embroidery, ruffles, appliques, pleats and borders.
The departure from ordinary ring-and-hang curtains may owe to the characteristics of the treated fabrics, which repel soapy water, spilled shampoos and lotions, and discourage mildew. Many of the fabric designs are matched with those used in the bedroom, and accessories such as sink skirts, window curtains, towels, lid covers and rugs can be coordinated.
Floral prints against black backgrounds, animal-skin patterns and paisleys are being used to form a richer palette than that used in traditional bathrooms and bedrooms.
The unified bed-and-bath concept is exemplified in the newest Bill Blass for Springmaid collection. Five new patterns by the designer--"Castleton," "Petit Point Stripe," "Stanhope," "Montgomery" and "Riande"--are being marketed in sheets, comforters, bed skirts, shams, spreads, draperies, decorative pillows, towels and shower curtains.
According to Springmaid, this collection celebrates the 20th anniversary of its collaboration with Blass, who was the first "name" designer to branch out into home furnishings lines.
The ensemble approach also applies to Springmaid's designs by Lynn Hollyn, a designer whose European country look coordinates but does not exactly match. The Lynn Hollyn at Home Collection features rugs from Masterlooms in the designer's muted palette that coordinates with the bed linen line and throws from The Three Weavers.
These area rugs are her versions of classic patterns -- "Oxford Quarters," "Secret Garden" and "Swedish Hearth," among them.
Bordering and inset designs in wall-to-wall carpeting are part of a new trend toward using the floor as a distinct architectural element. Lighter colors can be used with more frequency since much carpeting is now treated, like the fabrics, to resist stains and dirt.
Combined styles for custom-design looks might include medallions, area stripes, borders and other designs. Many of these will be found with Du Pont's Stainmaster label.
For a final soft touch, the home decorator can have designer needlepoint pillows. Mario Buatta, known for his mastery of English country design, has teamed with Thimbelina, the makers of needlepoint designs and products, for his interpretations of traditional motifs--King Charles spaniels, cabbage roses and fruits, available in kits or finished pillows.