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The Word / The Web

Information really is at your fingertips, whether thumbing through pages or tapping at the comptuer keyboard. This column will help direct you, both at the bookstore and on the Internet, to sources that will make life easier in and around the home.

October 24, 1998|MARK CHALON SMITH

The Word

Countrified: According to designer Katrin Cargill and her book "Easy Country" ($27.50, Bullfinch Press, 1998), many folks start thinking country when they start thinking of renovating their homes. This 160-page hardback touches on just about every style imaginable if you're one of those who believe a simple, more rustic look is the way to go.

Cargill certainly believes so, stressing that "the popularity of this approach is due to the fact that it offers the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of the working day and the increasing stress of modern living."

Heavy wood furniture and earth-toned paints can do all that? Cargill and photographer Simon Upton work hard to make a case for the style's appeal--the many pictures of homey rooms borrowing elements from rural America, England, Scandinavia, the Mediterranean, South America and India do seem inviting.

The displayed homes tend to be warm and airy, some with a quirky edge. A slightly goofy favorite is the living room in a "fisherman's cottage," complete with a small, weather-warped rowboat standing in for a coffee table.

Planting presents: You can go to the yard and gather a casual bouquet or create something more elaborate with help from Gill Dickinson's "Green Gifts" ($28, Fulcrum Publishing, 1998).

Dickinson's 128-pager offers dozens of suggestions on how to mix plants, flowers and herbs, and attractive ways to showcase them. She breaks sections into the four seasons and flowers into arrangements for holidays, such as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Once you've decided on which plants to use, the author has ideas for painting and decorating flowerpots and using materials around the home for gift wrapping, gift tags and other accessories.

The Web

A homer: LivingHome (http://www.livinghome.com) is a clever, nicely constructed site that covers a lot. There's stuff here on remodeling, decorating, interior design and gardening, all divided into easily navigated departments.

For instance, the "Garden Plots" page has an article (with photos) on bonsai cultivation. In "Object of Desire," there's a feature on Vietri, an Italian company specializing in handcrafted ceramics.

Various chat rooms (called "forums") focus on subjects such as roses, kitchens and baths, housekeeping, tools, even the best ways to hang paintings.

Green room: Garden Escape (http://www.garden.com) is good when you're trying to decide which plants or flowers could complement your environment. It's basically a fancy garden catalog online, with dozens of photos and details on cultivation. Currently, the amaryllis is spotlighted, with tips on how to get the most out of this fancy bulb. They can be a little temperamental so the info is useful. There's also a fairly large section on turning your plants and flowers into gifts.

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