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STYLE / INTERIORS : Westward Home

May 16, 1993|BARBARA THORNBURG

Outside, this 1955 ranch-style house in Woodland Hills is surrounded by a rustic, hand-hewn fence. Inside, furniture designer Jerry England and his wife, Joyce, have corraled an extensive collection of Western trappings. There are spurs, saddles and Indian rugs, plus a library of more than 2,000 books and 250 videos, all about cowboys. The piece de resistance is an Indian-style birch-bark canoe hanging from the living-room rafters.

England has long been fascinated by the Old West: As a child, he listened to his grandfather's stories of cowboying on the Montana plains and his mother's tales of a 400-mile wagon ride from Montana to Idaho. As a teen-ager, England rode horseback through the Sierra foothills and daydreamed of cowboy heroes such as Buck Jones. Later,he took up woodcarving and collecting relics from the frontier.

But it wasn't until 1989, during a visit to Cody, Wyo., that England caught a pre-sentation of Thomas Molesworth's 1930s cowboy furniture. He returned home inspired and crafted a Molesworth-like headboard out of lodgepole pine, complete with a trail herd carving, a chair, a mirror frame and a blanket chest for a guest bedroom. Original creations for the rest of the house soon followed, and England high-tailed it out of the real-estate business to work on his furniture.

Today, England produces more than 30 pieces, which are available by mail-order through his Valley-based company, Lure of the Dim Trails. There are silhouetted scratch-relief cowboy and cowgirl chairs, Indian-head blanket chests (Whoopi Goldberg has one), intricately carved writing desks, magazine racks and more.

"It reminds people of a freer, simpler time, " England says of his nearly indestructible lodgepole and sugar-pine furniture. And for other buckaroos who remember Hoppy and Roy, it's perfect for sitting back and watching the sun go down.

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