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Favorite item of the week

Unless there's a living-and-breathing creature of the canine variety waiting for them, visitors often find a door knocker to be the first thing they encounter when approaching a home.

While the traditional brass knocker, engraved with the family name or initial, is always appropriate, even more interesting are the novelty designs - a lion's head, for example, or a bird knocker with a beak that goes tap, tap, tap.

"Door knockers come in all shapes and sizes," said Mary Gorenflo, of Touch of Brass, Williamsville. And while there are architectural styles of knockers - Federal or Queen Anne, for example - a knocker does not necessarily have to reflect the style of the home, she added.

Some people may choose a pineapple design - a symbol of hospitality - while others prefer a knocker that reveals something about themselves and their interests. A nautical theme, for example, or a cat. Look, too, for frogs, dragonflies, ducks, Celtic images and more.

Design tip

Don't settle on a rug, fabric or paint color before following this advice from local interior designer Karen Fick Arrison: Look at the colors in the plane in which they will be installed.

In other words, "don't look at a paint sample as if you're reading a book. Look at it on a vertical surface if it's going to be on the wall or tape it up above you if it's going to be on the ceiling," she said.

"Similarly, put the carpet on the floor; don't stand it up against the wall. Stand up the fabric swatches as they are going to be, and you will be amazed at how the colors change," she added.

Pretty crafty

If you're wondering what in the world to do with the kids during the long days of winter ahead, check out this new book from Better Homes and Gardens: "501 Fun-to-Make Family Crafts" (Meredith, $24.95).

The book, which includes painting, sewing, stamping, decoupaging and other projects, is divided by season. There are nature projects, pumpkin projects, sports projects and more.

Among the projects designated for fall: apple-print linens; nature boxes; autumn wreaths; leaf-laden flowerpots and book covers.

Nail it

A trend to watch for these days: nail heads on furniture.

"Originally used for bona fide upholstery reasons, nail heads are now a decorative device that gives a crisp line to almost any piece of furniture, adding sparkle without being gaudy," reports the October issue of HomeStyle magazine.

Picture this: brass nail heads on a bright red wing chair by Mitchell Gold or lined up along the edge of a round game table by Century Furniture.

From the home front

"There is both joy and melancholy in the raking of autumn leaves. On the one hand, you experience an exuberance at being outside in the fresh air, listening to the wind and seeing the vivid colors of the season. On the other, you feel sad because another year is coming to an end, and because you're reminded of the transitoriness of all things in the natural world." Gary Thorp, in "Sweeping Changes: Discovering the Joy of Zen in Everyday Tasks" (Broadway, $10.95)

By News Style Reporter Susan Martin, compiled from wire services and other sources.

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