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BUILDING ON BOOKS: A LIBRARY OF DECORATING IDEAS FOR GIVING OR KEEPING

BOOKS ON style are bound to please. Sure they look lovely on the coffee table, but this year's batch of books offers more than pretty pictures.

Readers can track trends everywhere from Miami to Manhattan to Majorca. They can turn back the pages of time and bring Victorian touches into their homes. Or they can look ahead to new waves in style.

Hint: Black is out. White spiced with bright colors is in.

There are books for dreaming, including House Beautiful's "Weekend Homes" (Hearst Books, $29.95), which features such getaways as an ancestral farmhouse planted smack in the middle of the Napa Valley.

Books for learning, such as the newly published "Spanish Style," by Suzanne Slesin and Stafford Cliff (Clarkson N. Potter Inc., $45), the eighth volume in a series called "Style Library." The seventh, "Indian Style," was published in July.

And books for do-it-yourselfers, including "Decorative Style," by Kevin McCloud (Simon & Schuster, $39.95). The imaginative McCloud, a former set designer in London, shows how such materials as paint, paper, fabric, replica molding, even photocopies can be used to create one-of-a-kind interiors that simply will wow your guests. How about a Swedish stairway or Biedermeier bathroom?

As usual, publishers have turned out a heap of holiday-related books.

For those who feel that life is hurtling past them with breakneck speed, for example, two new books recapture the art of domestic bliss.

"Mrs. Sharp's Traditions," by Sarah Ban Breathnach (Simon & Schuster, $29.95), is packed with nostalgic suggestions for seasonal pastimes.

Readers can pick up pointers on creating harmony at home ("I always put my things away, that I might find them another day," sums up a section titled "In Praise of Order"). Other tips include how to create a Victorian sugarplum tree or plan a New Year's Eve good riddance party.

"A Victorian Christmas: Joy to the World" (Workman Publishing, $17.95), by Cynthia Hart and John Grossman, also recaptures the charms of a bygone era.

If such sweetness leaves a sour taste in your mouth, other holiday offerings include Phillip V. Snyder's "The Christmas Tree Book" (Penguin, $12.95), a handy history of the Christmas tree and antique ornaments.

Similarly, William C. Ketchum Jr.'s "Holiday Ornaments and Antiques" (Alfred A. Knopf, $50) offers an authoritative guide not only to Christmas decorations but also to Thanksgiving, St. Patrick's Day, even Mardi Gras paraphernalia.

Also in keeping with the spirit of things, "Country Living Country Christmas," by Bo Niles and the editors of Country Living magazine (Hearst, $21.95), is a must for readers who delight in decorating their homes with vintage toys, teddy bears and other country collectibles.

Here is a roundup of some other new books -- for giving and for keeping.

"American Country Classics," by Mary Emmerling (Clarkson N. Potter Inc., $40), is an introduction to country style for the 1990s. One room brightener: Take a dried flower arrangement and tie it onto a curtain.

"A Sense of the Country," by Susan Conder and photographer Linda Burgess (Little, Brown, $35), is a seasonal guide to decorating your home with flowers, fruits and natural objects.

"In the Oriental Style: A Sourcebook of Decoration and Design," by photographer Michael Freeman, Sian Evans and Mimi Lipton (Little, Brown, $40) celebrates Eastern elegance as a decorative style.

"The New Moderns -- Architects and Interior Designers of the 1990s," by Jonathan Glancey and photographer Richard Bryant, with foreword by Charles Gwathmey (Crown Publishers, $35), presents the work and philosophy of the newest wave of international architects and designers.

Some hallmarks of the New Modern style: Lighting fixtures are often subdued or hidden altogether, and spaces can hold a range of styles, from antique to contemporary.

"Period Style," by Mary Gilliatt (Little, Brown, $40), focuses on restoring or redecorating a home with period schemes, from Georgian to Empire, modern to art deco.

"Swid Powell: Objects by Architects," by Annette Tapert (Rizzoli, $35), is the story of Nan Swid and Addie Powell and their work in persuading such architects as Michael Graves and Richard Meier to design household accessories.

"Miami: Hot and Cool," by Laura Cerwinske and photographer Steven Brooke (Clarkson N. Potter, $35), shows how beachcombers translate their casual lifestyles into home and garden design.

"Manhattan Style," by John Esten with Rose Bennett Gilbert and photographer George Chinsee (Little, Brown, $45), begins with the notion that in Manhattan, it is never enough merely to decorate a room.

As in all good design, a statement must be made.

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