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Ways to Capture Far East Flavor

August 03, 1991|CARLETON VARNEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Americans can't resist the mystique of the Orient. But while many enjoy seeing beautiful silks and elaborate vases when they're in a museum, decorating magazine or even a movie such as "The Last Emperor," they shy away from them when home decorating.

Even if you're not interested in re-decorating your entire house over in this style, you can use some of the beautiful colors seen in the Far East.

Colors such as jade, paprika, rose and aqua are characteristically cool and have a subtle glow. There is no harsh white in this scheme, but there is ivory and sandstone. Everything has a gleam.

China was first known as "the land of the silk people" by the Greeks and Romans. Silk takes brilliant dyes, allowing for those boisterous colors: saffron-yellow, deep purple, turquoise. No pastels or earth tones here.

Lacquer was made from the sap of the precious Rhus Vernicifera tree, and the strong, clear lacquer colors include slate-blue, wine-red, plum, dark purple and cinnabar. The simplicity and sheen of lacquer is most appealing--think of the Shanghai lacquer red used with black and gold on the beautiful temples and houses of China.

But perhaps the most popular colors are the rug colors. The restrained but rich dyes used in Oriental rugs are still largely made from vegetable sources.

For those who want to take the plunge and try this decor, consider putting a saffron Thai silk fabric on the walls and paprika carpeting on the floor. At the windows, hang a fabric with a pink, turquoise, red and black Chinese figure pattern on an orange-gold background. You might place an ornately carved bed in the middle of the room, dressed in a soft kumquat orange and offset with russet chairs. Two large jade lamps could sit on the black teak chests with brass accessories placed on either side of the bed.

On the opposite side of the room, place an Oriental-style settee with a wood frame, its seat cushion covered in a cinnabar red. Oriental-style trunks, lacquered in cinnabar red, could sit on small stands. An exciting ceiling fixture would be a pagoda-shaped light made of black lacquer and frosted panels.

At the entrance to the room, a pair of carved teak wood pedestals with marble tops would be a welcome sight. Above the sofa, hang a panel inlaid with mother-of-pearl, ivory and semiprecious stones such as jade and blue quartz.

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