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Decades of Decorating

April 30, 1993|GAILE ROBINSON

It seems that each forward leap in design innovation and technology is followed by a revival of designs from the past. But no era has zigzagged between style extremes as much as the early '90s. No wonder so many of us are hunkered down in granny's overstuffed armchair. It feels so secure and familiar. * Era: Early 1900s.

Architecture: The bungalow.

Decor Style: Similar to the square, rough-hewn furniture made by the Franciscan monks for the California missions. Craftsman furnishings and utensils were the rage.

Notable: Pasadena architects Greene and Greene and furniture designer Gustav Stickley, who used common materials and utilitarian design.

'90s Twist: Recent years have seen a revival of the furniture style, dubbed Craftsman or Mission and a renewed interest in the original pieces. * Era: 1915 to late '20s.

Architecture: Euro-revivals--Italianate, Spanish Colonial, Egyptian and Romanesque--quashed the bungalow's popularity. New-moneyed homeowners were attracted to the more ornate facades and historic styles--The bungalow had become the house for "everyman."

Decor Style: Heavily carved and crusty furnishings with lots of gilt, brocades and velvet. Notable: The upscale Hancock Park neighborhood is filled with examples of houses built in these architectural styles.

'90s Twist: Neo-Ancestral furniture--unrestored antiques or thrift-store treasures--is often from this period. * Era: 1930-1945.

Architecture: Streamline Moderne.

Decor Style: Very spare and aggressively modern. Chairs had bent chrome frames with leather upholstery. Foam-rubber cushions and indirect lighting made their debut.

Notable: While not everyone embraced its most radical forms, it did help move both architecture and furniture designs toward minimalist and futuristic styles.

'90s Twist: No '90s flashback; last gasp was in the disco days of the '70s. * Era: 1945-1969.

Architecture: Post-World War II tract homes.

Decor Style: Scandinavian furniture of the late '40s was enthusiastically embraced in the United States and Europe for its simplicity. It was also affordable.

Notable: The San Fernando Valley (need we say more), Naugahyde, shag carpet.

'90s Twist: IKEA * Era: 1970s.

Architecture: Condominiums.

Decor Style: Stark Italian, with slick, reflective surfaces, hard-edged furniture and track lighting (think disco).

Notable: The clubs--no one stayed home.

'90s Twist: The dance parties and fashion are with us again, but the furniture has yet to make a comeback. * Era: 1980s.

Architecture: More tract homes for boomers bearing children.

Decor Style: Southwest began to make an appearance. The fast money of the '80s indulged in the all-white, overstuffed, large-scale Malibu living room. Meanwhile, Italy churned out the whimsical, brightly colored, furniture known as the Memphis school. And before the junk bond kings were clapped in irons at the end of the decade, the focus had shifted to gold-encrusted Roman-numeral Louis pieces, now collected by Madonna.

Notable: It's behind us.

'90s Twist: Gilt lingers, and so does the oversized, overstuffed, all-white sofa.

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