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DECORATING : Small Accessories Can Add Loads of Pizazz to Rooms

January 15, 1994|From Associated Press

They're the cream in your coffee, the spice in your apple pie. Accessories are important ingredients in a tasteful room, and they usually don't cut too deep into the budget.

The current emphasis is on finishing touches that look more original than canned. If there's an aspect of nature, so much the better.

Ceramic dishes made to look like vegetables or fruit are a favorite of decorator Howard Slatkin. He puts them on tabletops, on fireplace mantels and dining tables. A collection of plates might also grace a dining room or living-room wall.

"Who doesn't love fruit and vegetables?" Slatkin asks.

There's a long tradition of ceramics in the shape of cabbages, lettuce leaves and the like. They were made in French faience, Italian majolica and by English and middle European potters. Between antiques and copies, pieces are widely available.

If not the look of nature, why not its aroma?

"Scented candles and potpourri make you feel better," Slatkin says. "It's something most people overlook because they use their eyes to the exclusion of their other senses."

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The secret of extracting the aroma from potpourri is to place it near a heat source, such as a lamp light. The heat releases the aroma. Potpourri scent will last about a month. Then, for a quick refresher, spritz it with a very small dose of room spray or a drop of essential oil. The same shops that sell potpourri usually sell room spray and vials of oils. Subtlety is the watchword; too much scent can be cloying.

To keep potpourri fragrant longer, store it in a covered container and take the cover off only when you want to perfume the air. Slatkin cautions against using home fragrance in the kitchen and dining room because it can interfere with the aroma of food.

Decorator Victoria Hagan says her favorite finishing touch is fresh flowers.

"Instead of a grand arrangement once a month, I prefer to have a smaller arrangement each week," she says. "It's part of accessorizing a home for me to buy vases for my clients and to encourage them to fill them with flowers."

Hagan's idea of a small arrangement is a few flowers in a juice glass or an interesting container with a single flower. The latter, she says, is often just as effective as a large, expensive arrangement in a nondescript vase.

"I might have two bunches of different flowers, say separate bunches of daffodils and tulips, on the same table," she says.

Hagan also likes unusual containers. They can be an inexpensive accessory, especially if grouped--small to large in different colors and materials.

"Vases look beautiful without flowers, almost like sculpture sitting on a tabletop," she says. "For example, a cut glass vase that dates from the 1930s sits on a table in my office with nothing in it. It has personality. That's what I look for in vases. I might buy a teapot that's a little chipped and use it for flowers."

Hagan regularly rearranges the vases on display in her home.

"It's a good idea to move them around in a room and to change the type of arrangement--one time a large bouquet, the next time, a miniature," she says. "Having a wardrobe of containers gives you that flexibility."

These suggestions, of course, merely scratch the surface. Taste in accessories is a little like fingerprints--each person's is unique. If the world of nature doesn't seem exciting, almost anything else will do as long as it's personal. Adding a bit of trim to curtains, seating or the wall raises the room above the ordinary.

Slatkin says you might use a hot glue gun to add ready-made tape to a pillow. Or you can add a hand-painted design to pillows.

"It can be a simple stencil, a realistic flower or any number of different ideas," Slatkin says. "The point is to show that there has been thought and care and attention to detail. It's the fact that the design is a unique personal expression that makes the difference."

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