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Cool Asian Design Now Seems Hot

November 15, 2001|JULIE KLAVENS | BALTIMORE SUN

We don't deliberately don the hat of amateur sociologist and anthropologist when window-shopping and perusing catalogs, but as we've noticed the increasing popularity of items from Asia or with clear Asian influences, we can't help wondering whether their attraction during these chaotic times lies partly in their successful blend of complexity and tranquillity. Consider, for example, a clean-lined vase adorned with an intricate pattern.

At the very least, we'll argue that ancient cultures, particularly those that gave rise to Buddhism and Hinduism, can teach the comparatively adolescent Americans and Europeans a thing or two about contemplation, unity and beauty.

Lounging around: For those occasions when one feels like Goya's "Maja Desnuda," Manet's "Olympia" or the latter-day masculine equivalent, sumptuous bed linens are a must. Sari-inspired pillows, shams and quilts, $39 to $449, at http://www.thecompanystore.com.

You're in luck: Share these Indian lacquer-and-rhinestone pens--reminiscent of Indian bangles that are said to bring luck to the wearer--with friends. Set of eight pens, $20 at http://www.eziba.com.

Sipping serenely: For centuries, graceful teapots have been created by master ceramicists from Yixing, considered the pottery capital of China. Follow tradition and brew tea for one in one of these tiny treasures (each 3 to 5 inches tall), or line them up on a ledge to create a perfect still life. $55 to $75 at http://www.eziba.com.

The nature of things: The Torii Gate--a Japanese symbol for leaving the physical world and entering the spiritual world--seems an appropriate model for an object that encourages one to sit quietly and observe the natural world. The 7-inch-tall feeder is made of cedar and comes with a bag of black Russian sunflower seeds. $48 at http://www.redenvelope.com.

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Julie Klavens writes for the Baltimore Sun, a Tribune Co. newspaper.

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