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BEDDING FOR THE RICH--AND THE REST OF US Makers offer linens in rainbow of colors


Manufacturers of bed linens tend to introduce new patterns and products in the spring. Perhaps they hope we'll take a good look at our linen closets and vow to replace worn sheets this year.

If new bed linens are on your shopping list, you'll find a wealth of variety, colors, patterns and prices. Some of the new introductions are so pricey you can buy them only through interior designers. Others, with familiar names and more affordable, will be found in the linen department of your favorite department store or in specialty linen shops.

Here's a peek at some of the new linens, including a line from Switzerland that's making its debut in this country.

You've heard of Porthault and Pratesi, the most luxurious linens available to well-heeled consumers. Now there's Bischoff Royal Embroidered Lace bedding from Switzerland, a line of embroidered lace trimmed sheets, duvets, pillowcases and shams of satin-finished, high-tensile, 280-count, virgin Egyptian cotton.

Switzerland's oldest manufacturer of fine embroidered lace, Bischoff makes extremely durable products because of the strength of the fabric and attention given to thread preparation and hand-finishing. Every inch of Bischoff lace is examined with a magnifying glass, resulting in a Swiss look of clean perfection.

The collection includes seven original designs inspired by antique lace patterns dating from medieval times that are in Bischoff's museum in St. Gallen. The bedding is offered in white and champagne in all designs plus platinum in three designs.

The cost? Fasten your seat belt. A full flat sheet ranges from $500 to $640, depending upon the design. A king-size duvet ranges from $700 to $800. A twin size dust ruffle ranges from $758 to $1,140.

Looking for linens that match your mood? Consider Lady Pepperell. This manufacturer offers themes ranging from Southwestern and French to English and contemporary.

Lady Pepperell's collection for spring 1991 has a clear, vibrant palette, ranging from soft neutrals and pastels to deep, rich crimsons and teals.

The names of the patterns are nice, too. "Nicolette" is described as "a lush, vibrant floral as deep and dense as a summer garden in full bloom." "El Paso" offers desert pastels of lilacs, turquoise, sand and rose quartz in patterns of large hexagons, small spaced diamonds or narrow strips punctuated by geometric motifs. "Sweet Lizzy" is an English country style, and "Cinnamon Creek" is a blend of homespun plaids.

Lady Pepperell linens are sold in sets at such chains as K mart and Wal-Mart.

Esprit Bath & Bed offers an alternative for consumers who don't want to sleep on sheets that remind them of an English country garden. Esprit's spring collection includes dramatic awning stripes, pin stripes, geometrics and checks.

"Veneto," for example, is a cool composition of black and gray on bright white, a collage of stripes, checks and fine lines with European style. "Southpark" has a clean, country look in cut-paper sprays of blue, green and tan on white, and thin and wide stripes in pale blue and white. "Solaria" and "Brio" are other patterns in the Esprit line. (Some of these striped sheets would make great curtains, too.)

Martex celebrates international design and America's cultural mix in its spring 1991 collection.

The company says the designs reflect "the glories of French design, the elegance of 18th century England, the exoticism of the Orient, the

fine hand of Italian couture, the wild soul of a Spanish Gypsy, the colorful spirit of a Mexican fiesta." Wow! We can't wait to see these sheets! There's even a pattern, "Mazurka," that reflects "lively Russian designs inspired by centuries of magnificent folk art and craftsmanship" with patterns of Russian shawls and native costumes.

Revman Industries has a star-studded collection ranging from romantic florals by Mario Buatta to the striking geometrics of Katja. Others include Laura Ashley, Josie Natori, Osborne & Little and Marimekko, as well as the Revman Studio Collection.

The Laura Ashley Collection remains close to the roots of its late founder with "Geranium Stripe," inspired by a fabric of the Victorian era, and "Cheveley," inspired by an early 19th century English chintz.

Sheridan, an Australian retailer, has a new collection inspired by the cultural richness of the past, from the early Roman Empire to Renaissance and Baroque times. Luxurious prints, cheerful florals, crisp stripes and smart geometrics team with solid-colored linens. Sheridan also has a design called "Tropikee," an underwater snapshot of the colorful fish life of Australia's beautiful Great Barrier Reef.

Here's a curious cultural note: Bed linen manufacturers used to send out publicity photos showing beds made up in a pristine manner. Now the trend seems to be the unmade bed -- comforters and duvets thrown back as though a warm body just exited, pillows piled helter-skelter.

The reason is to show that many linens are reversible, but for consumers who -- out the door in the morning without making the bed, there's a certain comfort about these haphazard beds. Some of the rooms are messy and cluttered, too -- just like real bedrooms.

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