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THE GOODS : Cheap--Not Cheesy

November 25, 1994|BETTY GOODWIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Taste and money. Inevitable partners? Not at all. With a wish for fabulous Christmas gifts and decorations, and a tiny budget, we invited two people with a professional eye for beauty to go shopping with us. Nancy Goslee Power is a Santa Monica-based garden designer who is creating the landscaping for the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Gronk is a Los Angeles painter and conceptual artist whose work is being exhibited in a retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. We went shopping with Power and Gronk at Pic 'N' Save and Woolworth.

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Turn her nose up at bargains? Never.

"This is a game I play," said Nancy Goslee Power, merrily pushing a cart through the aisles at Pic 'N' Save on Lincoln Boulevard in Venice. "This is what I did when I didn't have any money."

Her eyes locked on such varied stocking stuffers as a multicolored plastic thermos with mercury glass lining, kids' animal-motif plastic dinnerware, and a children's gardening set containing plastic wheelbarrow, tools and watering can.

As they say at the head office, trucks arrive at L.A.'s 93 Pic 'N' Save stores carrying 30,000 new manufacturers' overruns and such each week. That's music to the ears of discount hunters, enlightened consumers and avowed junk junkies.

Power's seal of approval went to objects with garden themes and to the playful. Many were inexpensive copies of items she finds at pricier shops, but they easily met her standards. "It's a design issue," as she succinctly put it.

One tip: Don't go for subtle. Grabbing a handful of fabric flowers, made in China ($1.99 per bunch), Power opined, "Go for the brightest ones. Pale is too good-taste."

Her favorites included:

* Great, big padded slippers shaped like strawberries for adults ($6.99) and multicolored padded slippers in children's sizes ($3.99), both by Totes. "Aren't these divine--good design," Power remarked of the strawberries.

* Gold-painted, papier-mache stars, made in the Philippines. "Five bucks--I can't believe these. Aren't they fantastic? Pile them in a container or a gorgeous basket. In New York at Treillage, my friend Bunny Williams' shop on East 75th, they sell similar stars in metal for $25."

* Plastic ostrich eggs in varying sizes and colors (99 to $1.99), made in China. "Don't you think that's good design? I think they're yummy." (The checkout clerk said they reminded him of something from "Jurassic Park.")

* A galvanized metal bucket ($3.99). "I've bought galvanized buckets for years," Powers said when she stumbled across a good looking one, made in Mexico, next to some dust pans and brooms. "You can put plants in them with a big bow. Can you imagine one of those filled with ice and champagne bottles?"

* Iridescent, jewel-toned votive candleholders, made in Taiwan. "I love these. Two bucks. I don't think Christmas ornaments and stuff should be expensive, and there's a gaudy side in all of us. Neiman Marcus has the same things in brass for $25."

* Calico fabric covered stacking boxes ($4), made in China. "Any kind of stacking box is always wonderful. I'd buy these just to put presents in."

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