Creating a quiet haven

To be at home in '81 means being in a place of haven and peave, and of protentous promise and possibility. All the signals point to the likelihood that Americans will increasingly become homebodies in the years to come. They will spend more time at home, entertain more at home, and more and more join in the gourmet cooking movement at home.

"In the '80s," says one trade publication, "consumer attitudes are shifting again, making home fashions a prime retail growth area. The energy crunch, inflation, and demographics all are contributing factors. People are seeking new ways to enhance their environment, and home decoration has clearly become a means of self-expression. And let's face it, with 63 percent of the women between 24 and 40 years old currently working, more and more couples are content to simply spend a quiet evening at home."

"Consumers," confirms Wallace W. Epperson Jr., vice-president of Wheat First Securities Inc., "are finding foreign travel, motor homes, boats, autos, and other such major expenditures of decreasing importance as the home becomes an increasing focal point in their lives."

Although Bride's magazine projects 26 million marriages in the 1980s, single-person households (those made up of unmarried, divorced, or widowed, young careerists, and the elderly) are sprouting at more than twice the rate of those with two or more persons, according to Celanese market research. By 1990, Celanese predicts, single-person households will account for an estimated 21 percent of total US households.

Many of these households in coming years will be coping with less space and fewer amenities, at higher prices. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the median area of homes built in 1980 in the US was 1,595 square feet, 50 square feet less than the median area of homes built in 1979.

In March of this year the median sales price of a new single-family house in the US was $66,700, a figure 7 percent more than the year before. In the most expensive Northeast region, that median went above $76,000.

As for color, House & Garden's color specialists say pastels are the newest trend in fabrics, wall coverings, linens, and paints. Seaform green, lavender, apricot, pale jade, buttery cream, mauve, and rose pink are growing. Natural tones such as grays, beiges, taupes, and browns are taking on new and subtle casts as "tinted neutrals."

The prolific English novelist Barbara Cartland is doing her part in promoting pink, exclaiming, "Pink is the wonder color because it gives people soft glow and makes them appear both lovable and amenable." Miss Cartland's cheerfully light-hearted designs (she says she has always been an amateur artist as well as a writer) for china, fabrics, rugs, pillows, towels, bedspreads, and other furnishings are now being produced by 15 American manufacturers, all of whom agree that "people are starved today for beauty, color, and romance and they certainly don't want nanny gray, beige, brown, and other drab colors."

While "the country look" has been the buzz phrase of decorating circles, there has been a resurgence of traditional French, English, Oriental, and American styles. "Traditional-style brass beds and accessories are like grandma's antiques -- they have a definite go-with-anything look," declares Richard A. Singer, president of Berkshire Furniture Inc..

Contemporary styles continue to strengthen, and the latest commercial nod to art deco is Thayer Coggin's lush "ocean- liner moderne" furniture based on sleek interior furnishings of the sea queens of the 1930s and '40s.

New York's haute interior designers, who showed at this year's Kip's Bay Boys Club Decorator Show House in Manhattan, indicated the current importance of bleached hardwood floors, printed chintz, silver Chinese tea paper ceilings, handpainted canvas floor cloths, lacquered chests and screens, and plump, overscaled ottomans, sofas, and chairs.

Gray, pale terra cotta, and shinny black were some favorite background colors. Designers were already showing spaces for personal computers, and Scruggs- Myers & Associates of New York devised the most ingenious room of all, with fabric walls that converted, electronically, from celadon green for daytime to dusky blue for after dark.

Nathan S. Ancell, chairman of Ethan Allen Inc., says, "Because of the ravages of inflation and the substantial increase in the cost of furniture and home furnishings, consumers will be buying more and more of good quality furniture on the premise that a sound, long-term investment will eliminate the need to replace major furnishings over the short term."

Mr. Ancell also sees a trend toward better service in stores, more practical but professional decorating help, more attention to solving consumer's problems. People, he too has found, are looking for better quality, more comfort, and durability.

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