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Baby Boomers Warm Up to Cozy Decor

May 18, 1991|PATRICK MOTT | TIMES STAFF WIRTER

Somewhere in the world there are people who can afford to change the interiors of their homes about as often as they change the interiors of their clothes closets, but let's ignore that for a moment and explore a significant question: Would you rather live in a museum or in a place where you can put your feet on the furniture and spill Jiffy Pop?

If you're the comfortable, slouching popcorn sort, rejoice. In the world of interior design, you are currently In. If you're the stark lines/stark colors, cutting edge, designer item, museum-quality, don't-let-kids-near-it type, the wheel has turned. You're Out.

The baby boomers--members of the generation that has, for better or worse, defined tastes and trends in the United States for at least the last two decades--have struck again. But this time, said Dana Eggerts of Creative Design Consultants in Costa Mesa, the result appears to be a return--at least in part--to balance, proportion, humanity, sanity and enduring value in interior design.

Yes, she said, interior design styles change. Not with the often breathtaking speed of fashion in clothing, but change they do, sometimes subtly, sometimes not, and sometimes not for the better. But, said Eggerts, the current trends in interior design will probably stress practicality and livability over showmanship and transitory glamour.

"People don't want their home to be a museum," she said, "they want to live there. The largest buying segment of the population is getting older and they have kids now, families. You can't live in a black and white environment, for instance, with children."

Before the patter of little feet and a greater feeling of home and hearth arrived, said Eggerts, the homes of the upwardly mobile could be conversation pieces rather than cozy environments.

"The reason they had their homes," she said, "was as a showcase. They worked so hard and they had achieved so much and spent so much they wanted to point to their homes and say, 'See?' "

Now, she said, balance--which may be the most indicative word in today's interior design market--is returning. And the economy and the social politics of the time have much to do with it.

"That's always an influence," said Eggerts. "Buyers don't want to give up quality, but they have less money. Conspicuous consumption is definitely out. People don't have the money to change all the time, so they want a grand plan as to what they're going to do. Then they can add pieces to it as they can afford to."

The basis of the grand plan--1991 version--is a kind of selective eclecticism, said Eggerts, borrowing harmonious bits and pieces from past styles (some in the recent past) and incorporating them into a thoughtful whole.

"The trend is coming back to traditional with a new flair," she said.

There are several elements, but the first among them is:

* Color. "There was always something of a light beige, and that's still being used, but with darker colors for accents," said Eggerts. "A few years ago, everything was dark. Now everything's light, with richer color in the background, a mix of traditional with contemporary. The sofas could be contemporary with a rolled arm and the accent pieces could also have a contemporary European flair. That's very big."

The idea, she said, is to think of the light carpet and the light-colored walls--a cream or taupe color rather than the formerly ubiquitous beige--as a kind of canvas on which to place darker accents, such as pillows on a light sofa or darker art work on the walls.

Those darker colors, said Eggerts, are likely to appear as shadings that only a few years ago were widely known as "earth tones" and used on nearly everything. Today, however, the colors are more subtle, used more sparingly and are called for by names such as bronzes, metallics and moss greens, said Eggerts. They won't show up only on walls and floors, she said, but also on:

* Furniture. Here, said Eggerts, there will be a thirst for the real McCoy. Synthetic materials, she said, are likely to take a back seat to finishes in real wood, real stone (such as granite) and real ornamental metals.

"We're seeing more and more special finishes on wood," she said. "It'll still be wood, but it'll look different, like crackled old world wood, maybe."

And, she said, the preference for special wood finishes also will be seen in antiques as a way of integrating then into a more harmonious blend.

"There's a big boom coming (in antiques)," said Eggerts. "The antiques with special finishes can be put in a more contemporary environment. For a lot of people, having antiques won't be a hobby, it'll be more like having a piece of art that'll be with them for a while."

But before they buy that perfect antique chest they've had their eyes on, said Eggerts, almost all homeowners will turn their attention to:

* Electronics. Specifically a phenomenon Eggerts calls a "media wall," a section of a room devoted specifically to a stereo, television and likely a VCR.

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