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Old-Fashioned Comfort Is as Soft as Chenille

November 29, 1991|LIZ GARDNER

Chenille bedspreads and bathrobes, staples of middle-class American homes in the '40s and '50s, are leading a charmed life of late. The once humble fabric is being recycled for everything from baby buntings to child-size chaise lounges.

Laguna Beach-based Frank Ballotta crafts jackets and rompers as well as buntings from vintage chenille for his Kokonuts line of children's clothing. They are priced from $70 to $80 and sold at the Brenda Cain shop on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica.

Children's furniture designers are reviving chenille too. Designer Lorelyn Eaves and retailer Barbara Bartman cover child-size chaises as well as club chairs, ottomans and sofas with the soft-tufted fabric. Ronnie Wells creates antique chenille pillows with images of Scottie dogs or pink bows. Both labels are sold at Auntie Barbara's Antiques in Beverly Hills.

Peggy Meyer, an artist who specializes in children's fashions and interiors, offers children's bedding sets with zip-off bumper covers at the Santa Monica Antique Market. They are priced from $125 to $295 per set.

The clothing and upholstery are made from vintage bedspreads and robes found through antique dealers, flea markets and estate sales. Floral patterns dominate in colors ranging from powder-room pastels to kitschy fluorescents, some with popcorn-like textures or plush fringe.

"Somewhere in our lives, someone had a chenille bedspread. I think it brings back memories," says Bartman, who sold two of Eaves' $475 chairs just after opening her new Auntie Barbara's shop.

The appeal goes beyond cozy. Says Meyer: "We're in a society that's trying to get back to basics. We're into recycling. And with vintage fabrics, we're doing exactly that."

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