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Painted countryYou'd have to call it whimsical...


Painted country

You'd have to call it whimsical when you have pigs on your dining room chairs, but for the most part, John and Tracy Porter's painted wood furniture is sophisticated and elegant. Their chairs and children's sets can be found at Gazelle, the craft gallery in the Village of Cross Keys. What isn't on display -- armoires, entertainment centers, dining-room furniture and beds -- can be ordered through the store from the Stonehouse Farm Goods catalog.

The look is contemporary country, or perhaps romantic rustic; some pieces are painted with woodland and farmland fauna, and some with clusters of fruit. These subtle, beautiful pieces would look right on a sun porch or in a formal setting. Each is a work of art, signed and dated. Prices range from $250 to $3500; the chair pictured costs $450.

Gazelle, which has four locations around the country, specializes in American decorative and wearable arts. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday. Comfort decorating, a buzzword in interior design these days, doesn't just mean overstuffed sofas and lots of soft pillows. A big component of the trend to comfort is motion furniture, which includes everything from swivel chairs to sofas that have drop-down tables and telephones. The ultimate is a massage recliner with 10 separate motors that vibrate and soothe in five different places.

Sixteen percent of people who bought furniture last year bought recliners, according to Barbara Weathers, director of the National Home Furnishing Association's Consumer Information Bureau. Only stationary sofa sales did better.

As motion furniture moves out of the den and into the living room, styles are keeping up with overall design trends. In fact, John Glossner, manager of Aslan Valley Furniture in Lutherville, says that often a company will make the same style in a stationary and a motion piece. Aslan carries the high-end Motioncraft line, with hidden buttons and handles. "Nobody would ever know it's motion furniture," says Mr. Glossner.

Call a business Federal Hill Interiors, and Baltimoreans assume your specialty is traditional interior design. But Tom Williams and Robert Hale are as comfortable with European contemporary as turn-of-the-century. Their design for Cal and Kelly Ripken's house wasn't at all traditional; in fact, says Mr. Williams, "I believe Baltimore is full of closet contemporaries."

So when they moved their business and decorative accessories shop from Federal Hill to Ruxton this month, they renamed it Hale-Williams Interior Design. The space was previously occupied by Kathryn Rienhoff Interior Design; Mr. Williams and Mr. Hale plan to expand her library of fabrics and wall coverings -- and add their eclectic selection of small furniture, lamps, art, silk floral arrangements and other accessories.

A specialty of Hale-Williams is custom porcelain, made for them by a company that can, for instance, replicate customers' wallpaper on the china.

Hale-Williams is located at 7625 Bellona Ave. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Do you remember to shock-treat your pool weekly? Do you even know what shock treating your pool involves?

It may be a bit early to be diving in, but you should at least have a pool start-up checklist at hand. The Pool Care Hotline, (800) 222-2348, sponsored by Olin Corporation, can send you one -- and its pool care experts will answer any questions you may have about everything from algicides to water testing.

The hot line is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Three brochures are available at no charge by calling the 800 number: the Pool Care Planning Calendar, Guide to Maintaining and Entertaining: Is Your Pool Ready to Party? and Guide to Poolside Matters.

By the way, a "shock" is an extra dose of chlorine that cleans the water of contaminants. You should shock-treat a pool once a week with a chlorine-based product that sanitizes and oxidizes.

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