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On the Couch


Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. Just ask Shari Leonard of Walnut Creek, whose eyesore of a couch has become quite a thing of beauty.

Leonard's patchwork orange sofa is the winner of Strouds Ugly Couch contest, netting the retired real estate saleswoman a $1,000 shopping spree at one of its stores.

"We were given this couch by my husband's parents. . . . It is very sturdy and will probably last another lifetime. Help!" Leonard wrote on her entry.

Leonard and her husband, Doug, recently built a Victorian house and decorated it in creams and burgundies. Her in-laws thought the couch would match perfectly. "It doesn't really fit into our scheme, but it's a well-made sofa bed," she says.

She plans to buy a slipcover and use the Strouds' spree for towels and other items for the home.

"My husband says [the shopping spree] will be like a wedding shower. We can get what we want," Leonard says.

Second prize, a new slipcover from SureFit, which sponsored the contest for Strouds, went to Sam Kingsland of San Francisco for the most original entry. Kingsland's girlfriend sent in a shoe box full of things she found in the couch, including a walnut, lip gloss, bubble gum, a Christmas ornament and a chopstick.

There were several notable entries from Orange County, including the one from Barbara Boethling of Huntington Beach, who wrote of her sofa, "I've seen couches at the curb waiting for the garbage collector that look better [than mine], and I've been tempted to trade."

Some of the couches entered in the contest were, well, less than conventional.

Jane Vaughan of Laguna Beach is proud of the couch her great-grandfather, who used to drive a school bus, made from a back seat of one of the vehicles.

"Not everybody could get away with having a bus seat for a couch. To me, just knowing it has a history makes me feel special," she says.

Then there's Lynn Bullard of La Mesa, who wrote: "Attached you will find a photo of my boyfriend's ugly couch. Please note that the legs are cut-down heavy-duty cardboard tubes."

Basket Cases

When you want something extra special for a housewarming or other affair, consider letting Gift Baskets International do the gathering.

The New York-based company specializes in deluxe baskets that go beyond the usual fruit and flower arrangements.

Among the items included in the baskets are exotic bath lotions and soaps, foods from around the world and handy electronic products.

Most of the baskets start at $65, and custom orders are accepted. For a catalog, call (800) 435-8339, or visit the company's web site at

Cottage Style

The subtle colorings and simple lines of homes in the English countryside are the inspiration for Waterworks' latest tile designs, the Cottage Series.

Within the series is the Normandy collection, featuring a border of a raspberry vine that winds along the tile. A coordinating 6-by-6-inch base tile features moldings punctuated by a row of trefoil rosettes. The Eaton Park collection, with scalloped details, celebrates the architecture of Gothic England.

Hand-painted border tiles range from $12 to $20; Deco tiles cost $22 each, and field tiles range from $11 per square foot for 4-by-4-inch tile to $13 per square foot for 3-by-6-inch pieces.

Call Waterworks at (415) 431-7160.

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