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Exploring the Great Indoors

Whether looking for furniture, accent pieces or design ideas, Tustin Marketplace has it all.

November 26, 2000|DENNIS ARP | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

We went looking for a sofa table. We went home with a desk lamp, a comforter, 12 colorful plastic bowls, six tiny shades for a dining room chandelier, a candle inlaid with freshwater pearls, a box of blue Christmas ornaments, a tin of Swedish biscuits and a pint of lingonberry juice concentrate.

Our lesson: When you go furniture shopping at the Tustin Marketplace, you may not leave with exactly what you sought, but you aren't likely to go home empty-handed.

Here the decorating ideas are fully furnished, but just as intriguing are the accent pieces and other attention-grabbers. Trying to find the perfect four-poster bed? What about a poster to go over it?

My wife and I found that our focus was happily diverted as we strolled through several of the 13 home-design and furniture stores lining the southwestern end of the Marketplace. We got more than we bargained--or budgeted--for, and there were times we wished we'd come without the kids. ("Guys, that mahogany armoire isn't meant for hide-and-seek.") But that doesn't mean we didn't enjoy the afternoon.

Starting Big

Like most visitors to the Marketplace's furniture row, we began at Ikea (2982 El Camino Real, [714] 838-9835). The Swedish home-design retailer now has more than 20 stores in North America but still only one in Orange County.

Our boys, ages 6 and 9, balked at being dropped at the baby-sitting area, so we all climbed to the warehouse-size store's second-floor showroom and wound our way through a maze of what looked like sets for a sitcom: living rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms and kitchens full of simple designs with a touch of urban style.

The sofa table we sought would go in an inconspicuous place, so we didn't want to spend a lot. We found several choices for less than $200, but none fit our narrow dimensions. Having struck out, our next move might have been a quick exit, except that at Ikea, there's no such thing. Once you're in, you're in for the long haul.

Not that we complained. On the long and winding road to the exit, the kids checked out the plush toys, hand puppets and bunk beds while we were drawn to a framed poster of a Mark Rothko print ($34.90), six kinds of chrome kitchen wall clocks ($9.95-$39.95) and a seemingly endless array of interesting lights and lamps. Among them: a hanging lamp that appeared to be part origami and part plastic six-pack connector ($9.95) and a table lamp made of a blue bristle brush wrapped around a black fixture ($14.95).

When we came upon Ikea's cafe, we realized that finding everything except what we came for had made us hungry.

Of all the bargains at Ikea, the best might be in its second-floor eatery. The manager's special features 15 Swedish meatballs in a tasty gravy with two red potatoes, some lingonberries, soup or salad, a roll and a drink for $5.95. The children's meatball plate is just $1.95.

There are other tasty choices as well, such as the shrimp sandwich ($3.25) and the chicken Marsala ($5.95). And be sure to save room for Swedish treats, like a piece of apple cake with vanilla sauce ($2.25) or Mazarin (almond-flavored tarts, 92 cents each).

We grabbed a table with a view of the mountains while the kids checked out the toys in the nearby play area. The kids didn't seem to mind that by the time they wandered over, their meatballs were cold. They ate them all--and a few of ours--before we decided to move on. So many stores, so little time.

Ikea is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays.

In Transition

We knew we couldn't hit all 12 of the other furniture and design stores nearby, so we window-shopped to narrow the field. We picked two for further investigation.

Basix Furnishings (2816 El Camino Real, [714] 832-2522), seems to have found a home at the Marketplace after moving from Mission Viejo two years ago. It offers a mix of styles that sales associate Polina Zdjanskaya termed transitional. "We're part traditional but very contemporary," Zdjanskaya said. "We have a big variety."

Basix carries bedroom, living room and dining room furniture by 20 manufacturers, but it also fills custom orders.

"If people see something they like but they want it in a different size or fabric, we'll build it for them," Zdjanskaya said.

Pieces are bold, colorful, loaded with style and not for those on an Ikea budget. Many pieces caught our eye, including some with links to a bygone era. Like a chrome dining table ($289) flanked by red-and-white vinyl booth seats ($495 each). Or a couch shaped like the back end of a '60s-era Volkswagen Beetle, complete with license plate ($3,995). The kids were eager to drive that one away.

Basix is open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.

On the Rocks or Neat

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