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INSIDE & OUT : Radiates Style


Jill Friedman found the inspiration for her work in a scrap-metal yard.

She turns old automobile radiators and heaters into picture frames, mirrors and switch plates for her J. Line Designs collection.

After a stroll through the scrap yard last spring, she began experimenting. Friedman, 31, created a picture frame that she showed--and sold--to a few stores.

"I was just winging it, but I got great response," she said.

A Los Angeles native who lives in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego, Friedman majored in art at San Diego State. Upon graduation, she began her "sideline" company and worked full time at various retail stores as a visual merchandiser.

"I enjoy working as a visual merchandiser, but my collection has always been my creative outlet," she said. "Now, I've decided to devote all my time to it."

Because the radiators and heaters are pliable, yet stiff, Friedman can mold pieces to suit her needs. She recently completed a foyer table that is made of birch and has a two-inch radiator border on three sides.

"You Velcro (the table) to the wall," said Friedman, who offers an assortment of stains--pomegranate, mustard, olive, ebony and indigo--for the rectangular table.

Friedman's picture frames ($25 and up), mirrors ($50 and up) and switch plates ($16 and up) are available in Orange County at Sante Fe by the Sea in Seal Beach, Bas Bleu in Rancho Santa Margarita, Areo in Laguna Beach and the Laguna Art Museum annex in South Coast Plaza.

Italian Touches

Couturiers Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace aren't the only Italian designers using top-of-the-line fabrics and leathers.

Conforto, a furniture line offered by Chic Ferrera of Mission Viejo and his partner, Bruno Conforto of Milan, uses the same mills for its upholstery materials.

"What you see with high-fashion apparel, you see on our avant-garde contemporary pieces," said Ferrera, 52, who has been in the furniture business for 25 years. "We offer the same colors and textures you would find in your better-end clothing."

The Conforto collection features several styles of chairs, tables and sofas, including Valentina ($9,000), a sectional with a movable back.

"The back has the ability to curve over or stand erect, so you can adjust it to exactly what you want," Ferrera said.

The signature piece of the collection is Ortenzia ($10,000), a European queen-size bed with halogen lamps that are strapped onto the lacquered headboard.

The bed's steel frame is upholstered in black leather.

Because the dimensions of the mattresses are slightly larger than a standard U.S. queen, Conforto has them custom-made by a company in Fountain Valley.

The Conforto showroom is at the Stonemill Design Center, 2915 Redhill Ave., Building A, Costa Mesa. For more information, call (714) 850-0450.

Coaster Combo

Meryl Waitz has always been heavy into metal, even though she trained at Parsons to become an architect. And her coasters take a little from both worlds.

Made of cast pewter and cork, the coasters' motifs have an architectural lilt, a theme through much of her work, which includes jewelry and home accessories.

Most of the pieces have a slightly romantic, yet modern look.

"They have a warmth to them, a little naivete, a little charm and a little humor to them," said Serine Hastings, owner of the Loom Company, which represents Waitz, 32, who is based in New York's SoHo district. "They appeal to a lot of people."

In Orange County, the coasters (a set of four for $65) can be purchased at Elements in Irvine. For other stores in the county, call the Loom Company at (212) 366-7214.

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