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NUTS & BOLTS

Sweep Summer Under Plaid Rug

December 21, 1991|PATRICK MOTT

About this time every year, as I try to camouflage the fact that my Christmas tree is starting to petrify by covering it with snow-in-a-can, I get to wondering how they celebrate the Fourth of July in Tierra del Fuego.

Think of it. Languid midsummer rolls around in the northern temperate zone about the same time the little blot of land at the tip of South America starts to crack under an immense mantle of ice.

Could it be that Americans crazy enough to live down there try to disguise it all in the interests of holiday harmony? Do they have softball games and weenie roasts on the permafrost? Decorate their igloos with plastic palm fronds and Beach Boys posters?

I hope so, because the reverse seems to work beautifully here above the Tropic of Cancer. Here in the land of genuine imitation bacon bits (the authentication of a redundancy) we fancy ourselves as experts when it comes to disguising what season it really is.

Right now, for instance, it is Nippy Summer. A couple of months ago, we had Balmy Summer. From June through August there was Hot Summer and from March through May was Early Summer. Winter means wearing Santa Claus T-shirts to the beach. Southern California kids think snow and Cool Whip are approximately the same thing.

The situation screams out for seasonal variety, even if we have to manufacture it.

Fortunately, there are a few people around who are really good at this. Dana Eggerts is one. The owner of Creative Design Consultants in Costa Mesa, she and a few of her staff recently spent a typically balmy December morning playing fast and loose with the seasons by manipulating a bit of furniture.

Their targets were the dinette and living room of a model condo at the new Encore project at the Mission Hill development in Laguna Niguel. Their task: first, through the use of decorative elements, persuade visitors that it's winter even though it's about 82 outside; second, switch a few items and fool them into thinking it's summer.

The trick, said Eggerts, doesn't involve gutting the rooms. You get to keep the basics: sofa, chairs, tables, lamps--the larger pieces. The seasonal sleight-of-hand comes mainly with the use of color and texture.

The dinette table and environs, for instance. Here, the linens and candles are the big indicators. To achieve the winter look, Eggerts used a red, green and gold plaid cloth beneath each setting and as part of each napkin display. Red and gold candles were set in gold candle holders, a gold garland was run around the centerpiece, which included bottles of red wine. In a wall cabinet she placed pewter plates alongside pieces of dark red and green crockery, and a spray of dark seasonal branches was tied under the cabinet.

For a summer appearance, Eggerts covered the glass-topped table with a white tablecloth and used white napkins and white wine. The same candle holders were used, but with silver and gold candles. The centerpiece and the flowers on the wall beneath the cabinet all were substantially brighter and seasonal (a bonus of living in Southern California: summer plants in December). Even the chairs were brightened with the addition of white pillows. The winter plates in the cabinet were replaced with white items, bright flowers and floral patterns on the crockery.

In the living room, the changes were a bit more subtle, but still distinctive. For winter, the neutral blue couch was covered with various dark floral or plaid pillows and the chair with a floral pillow and plaid blanket. The coffee table was set with darker accessories, with the exception of a single bright floral plate for display.

For summer, the couch pillows became brighter and frillier, as did the blanket and pillows on the chair. And on the coffee table, the addition of a white bird cage, a brighter decorative plate and a bright tea set provided the necessary color. Candles were used on both the winter and summer tables, with one simple change: red for winter, gold for summer.

All the accessories are available locally from such stores as Cost Plus Imports, Crate & Barrel, Pier 1 Imports, Bullock's, Laurie's Garden and Ralph Lauren Shop, among others. Each set of accessories for the two rooms comes to roughly $1,000 (the most expensive items being the Ralph Lauren pillows).

A few other tips on "winterizing" a room:

* To add texture, place woven throw rugs on uncovered floors and hang a quilt over a chair.

* Choose deep-colored table skirts.

* Change light bulbs to pink tones and add floor lamps.

* Change the art. Bright summer art can be replaced by natural dry floral wreaths or a tapestry.

* Use pine cones or potpourri for winter scents.

One final tip from me: Cultivate friends in frigid climates. Think of this as decorating with the imagination. For instance, I have a friend in Vermont I call every Christmas. He helps me get into the holiday spirit. He does this by running outside in light clothing, standing on the porch until just before his feet freeze to the concrete and then returning to the phone. His quaking, sputtering voice never fails to make me feel cozy all over.

I return the favor by playing "Surfer Girl" into the receiver on my end and making slurping noises in my Yuletide margarita.

What pals.

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