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Spring Home Design 2003: Glass HousesNotebook
Stoneware from the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) is part of a fascinating collection of Chinese ceramics on display at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.
The Oldest Art

Ceramics are the oldest tradition in Chinese art, and many fine examples spanning 5,000 years are on display at the Seattle Asian Art Museum in "Glaze, Pattern and Image: Decoration in Chinese Ceramics." To fully appreciate this magnificent collection, you might want to first read "A Cup of Light" (Delta, $13.95), just out in paperback by Portland author Nicole Mones. An art-world mystery and romance, it is a breathtaking exploration of the intricacies of Chinese porcelain through the eyes and hands of Lia Frank. A specialist sent to Beijing by her Sotheby's-like employer, it falls to Lia to determine if a recent find of 800 Imperial pots are real or expert copies. As the story of her research unfolds, so does the compelling history of the collection, its unsurpassed beauty and exorbitant prices, and the details that determine authenticity or ferret out fakery.

Price Points

Victoria Hagan is a New York designer for the rich and famous who recently started her own line of furniture, carried on the West Coast only by the Susan Mills showroom at Seattle Design Center. The pieces are elegant, versatile, graceful and expensive, with an emphasis on dark woods, white upholstery, wingback chairs and sleekly shaped tables. Signature nail studs trim out side tables and chocolate-brown sofas, the familiar parson's table coated in aged leather becomes a thing of luxury.

If you like the look but not the prices ($3,700 for a club chair, $4,020 for the leather table) check out West Elm, the mail-order catalog from Williams-Sonoma, owner of Pottery Barn. The look is simple and modern, with beds, tables and chairs in the darkest and silkiest of woods, and you'll find plenty of white upholstery (as well as citron and amethyst). While nail-stud trim is lacking, there's plenty of rich fabrics and woven textures, as well as lighting, futons, vases and rugs, all at prices from $149 for a set of three nesting tables to a sofa for $679. To order a West Elm catalog, call 866-428-6468.

Cool and Cheap
If the relentlessly upscale tone of the shelter magazines makes you long for a dose of reality, Dwell: At Home In the Modern World offers an alternative view of home and life. While you won't see much wallpaper or any antiques, Dwell has plenty of color photography, an international perspective and an emphasis on how real people live. Or anyway, how real people should live — the tone can become a little preachy when it comes to home sizes, dry gardening or recycled products. But Dwell remains an antidote to stuffiness, offering a fresh perspective on furniture, products and design. Recent issues present a trim, Corian-coated loft in Manhattan's Garment District; a sensor-operated, futuristic glass cube of a house in Stuttgart, Germany, and colorful/affordable spec housing in Texas. The hip is balanced by the practical, with stories on how to organize a garage, a comparison of platform beds and innovative bathroom materials. Instead of idealizing the past or holding the 1950s up as the height of modernity, Dwell offers a range of aesthetics (cozy, funky, minimalist, rural and urban) with an emphasis on homes that do more with less. Dwell actually admits that cost is a factor for most people; cool and cheap can be a winning combination. Dwell costs $19.95 for eight issues a year (877-939-3553 or or $4.95 per issue on newsstands.

It's Easy To Be Green

An online company with an emphasis on recycled and natural products, My Backyard advocates chicken therapy and herbal bath blends. Eco-friendly information is as plentiful as products at While you can order kitchen composters, healing herbs and teacup bird feeders, the site also offers recipes for cooking from the garden, instructions on building backyard habitat and organic seeds to plant a relaxation garden. If you prefer to shop a little closer to home, Emery's Garden Nursery in Lynnwood puts an emphasis on safe and natural gardening, at the nursery and on their new Web store ( You'll find such environmentally conscious products as cocoa mulch that repels slugs as it conserves moisture, bat guano, ergonomic tools to dig out weeds, and old-fashioned fly swatters with wooden handles and real metal screens. Emery's Garden is at 2829 164th St. S.W., Lynnwood, WA 98037; 425-743-4555.

Trading Spaces
The book is finally out, so now you're freed from spending Saturday nights in front of the TV lamenting Frank's country kitsch or trying to figure out how Gen makes such perfect slipcovers. "Trading Spaces: Behind the Scenes" (Meredith Books, 2003, $19.95) gives the real scoop on how the hit show's designers and carpenters transform rooms in two days from basic to stunning, or in some cases bizarre, with only $1,000 to spend. Turns out there are carpenters and seamstresses behind the scenes, and not quite everything has to come out of that $1,000 budget. Since the show is as much about psychology as paint color, the book has more information than you probably need about Parisian-dwelling Hildi's penchant for shoes and Edward's hairdos, but there are also pages of designer decorating tips. If you can get past the hammy photos (caution: Frank loves chickens, and Kia wears a cape) there are lots of great color photos of each designer's best work. For every bathroom with flowers glued to the wall, there's an elegant bedroom, innovative faux finish, fabulous fabric or cleverly contrived lighting fixture.

And if you still need to see the show, you can always tune in with host Paige Davis every Saturday night at 8 and 9 on TLC, The Learning Channel. You can also catch shows at noon on Sundays and 4 p.m. weekdays.

Design Trends 2003

The Seattle Design Center is celebrating its 30th birthday this year. A resource for design professionals and the public (the showrooms are open to all on weekdays between noon and 5 p.m.), the center is in the business of showcasing and forecasting design trends. Here's what's predicted for our Northwest design future:


• Furniture is either moving toward classic simplicity with clean lines, or sumptuous curves and cutout details. The newest pieces, such as a black sleigh bed, go with a range of styles from contemporary to traditional.

• Muted earth tones dominate, with an emphasis on yellow, apricot, gold, blue, green and brown.

• Combining of materials, old and new, wood and metal.

• Rugs in softer weaves and neutral tones.

• More dressy fabrics such as silks and velvets in upholstery and accessories.

• Pattern is subtle, while texture is bold and luxurious, as in chenille, wool and linen.


• We're moving away from sunbrellas, bright colors and nylon strapped chairs to outdoor dining and sitting rooms that are functional, comfortable and elegant.

• Eclectic mixes of materials look new, such as combining stone, teak and stainless steel.

• Fabrics have softer, more interesting weaves and subtle colors taken from the natural environment.

• Outdoor kitchens, sinks, fireplaces and overhead heaters are increasingly popular.

The Seattle Design Center is at 5701 Sixth Ave. S. in Georgetown;

Valerie Easton is a Seattle free-lance writer and contributing editor for Horticulture magazine. Her e-mail address is

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