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DESIGN NOTES THIS WEEK'S FAVORITE OBJECT

A special piece of furniture in the front hall or foyer can really dress up a home. It can be an antique of some sort, a hand-painted chest or something far more contemporary -- a slab of stone set on an interesting base, for example.

When choosing furniture for the hallway or foyer, consider how functional you need it to be. Perhaps a piece with drawers will work best, if you are constantly clearing keys, mittens and junk mail off the surface. Perhaps you want to hang a mirror above it and a lamp on top. Or perhaps you want a piece on legs so you can slide a catch-all basket underneath -- or something narrow enough to allow space for an umbrella stand or small chair next to it.

Either way, the thing to remember is that a hallway table or chest is one of the first things guests see when they step inside. It also very likely sets the tone for things to come.

Design tip

If you are looking for a creative way to add storage space to your child's room, consider investing in a clothes tree. Buy it either finished or, if you choose, unfinished so you can paint it a shade that matches the color scheme of the room.

But don't limit it to its original purpose. Instead decorate the clothes tree with your child's collection of baseball caps, sports award ribbons, dolls (sew a small loop on the back) or stuffed animals, recommends the Orange County Register. As the child grows, he can change the collections to suit his interests.

Fancy stuff

Architect Michael Graves is well-known for the sleek stainless steel teakettle he designed with the little blue bird on the spout. Now he has created another teakettle, but this one isn't found at specialty stores or museum shops.

No, this new teakettle is coming soon to Target stores -- along with other products designed by Graves, including clocks, utensils, small appliances, picture frames, lawn and garden ornaments and more.

The new line collection, which is called the Michael Graves Design Collection, ranges in price from $3.99 for a black nylon cooking utensil with blue holder to $479.95 for an Indonesian hardwood patio set with four chairs.

The teakettle with red coach's whistle on the spout costs $34.99; a clock with stamped steel base and contemporary dial, $14.99.

Says Graves at the beginning of the brochure introducing his new collection: "At last we can afford to buy some of the things we design."

Furniture from far away

Furniture collections named for vacation spots and exotic places is a common theme these days. Pennsylvania House has introduced a collection named Old Havana. Century offers Silk Road, which is China-inspired.

Bassett calls its cottage-style collection "Summerhouse"; Lane headed to the beach with "Ebb Tide."

Travel themes, in fact, have been coming on strong for some time now. Last spring, designers at Drexel Heritage dreamed up "Mandalay," which takes its cue from global travel and the countries of Southeast Asia (Mandalay is a city on the Bay of Bengal).

In recent years, Hickory Chair introduced its West Indies collection, designed by the late Mark Hampton and inspired by styles from colonial plantations. And Lane Co. stayed closer to home with its Hudson River Views collection by Blake Tovin, a designer motivated by the weekend cottages and villages built in the scenic Hudson Valley during the 19th century for prospering merchants.

From the home front

"When furnishing your home, cost is an important consideration. But, if you invest a good percentage of your decorating dollars in one eye-catching piece of furniture -- a focal point -- you can easily decorate around it with less expensive items and still achieve a designer look."

From Decorate With Paint magazine, by the editors of Country Sampler Decorating Ideas

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