In Ellicott City, more for the floorA...


In Ellicott City, more for the floor

A year ago this month Leslie Meilman opened Rugs to Riches, one of the most extensive collections of handmade rugs in the Baltimore-Washington area. The variety is impressive, ranging from stenciled floor mats to antique loomed rugs.

While the store, measuring 1150 square feet, was big by Historic Ellicott City standards, it wasn't big enough. This November, just in time for the holidays, Rugs to Riches will expand its space by 320 feet, making room for more floor coverings, wall hangings and rustic crafts.

Ms. Meilman has plenty of holiday gift ideas, including hand-woven throws starting at $47; handmade quilts starting at $200; and braided rugs and stenciled coir mats that can be used as doormats in a range of prices.

Rugs to Riches is located at 8006 Main St., Ellicott City, in the old Patapsco Hotel. It's open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, 12 noon to 5 p.m. The phone number is (410) 750-8767.

Leather is back, if it ever really left. There's been a resurgence of its popularity in furniture as a result of the Western influence on current styles -- and because there are so many new looks to choose from. Affordable new looks. "Not too many years ago," says Barbara Weathers, communications director for National Home Furnishings Association, "leather furniture meant a black or brown pub-style sofa with a stuffy-looking chair to match. Now color and style choices are almost unlimited."

Buyers can choose from "naked" leathers, vegetable-tanned or natural alkaline leathers, suedes, Ultrasuedes and Nubucks. The new leathers may be embossed or textured, and they come in every conceivable fashion color.

Companies like Henredon are offering the classics, such as tufted leather club chairs, along with European contemporary shapes. "The fact that new engineering has made Ultrasuede easier to care for and stain-resistant is one reason for its renewed popularity," says Henredon designer Andrew Gibson. "But the new color range including ultra-brights is another."

Cara Davis, publisher of Interior Design magazine, may have the final answer as to why leather is so enduringly popular: "No material speaks more clearly of quality than a fine leather or a convincing substitute."

For the past few years, the Butchers Hill Association took part in house tours with other neighborhoods. But the residents feel their area has a unique character, which is amply demonstrated in their own house tour, "Homecoming to Butchers Hill." It takes place this afternoon from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Fifteen homes are featured, including some works in progress. "We like for people to see the potential of this neighborhood," says chairwoman Susan Noonan. Houses in the area date from pre-Civil War to the 1930s; their interior design ranges from appointments 150 years old to 1993 conveniences. You can visit a 9-foot wide home -- "Even though it's tiny, it's nice, airy and bright," says Ms. Noonan -- and multiple-family dwellings. A large part of the appeal of this house tour is how different homes are within blocks of each other, with features from elegant original fireplaces to an ultra-modern glassed-in kitchen, from old-growth pine flooring to modern decks with spectacular views.

Tickets ($6 apiece) will be available at the White House, Lombard Street and Patterson Park Avenue, at the start of the tour.

The recipes are, frankly, somewhat ordinary. But if you consider Raymond Waites' Festive Tables not as a cookbook but as a source book for holiday decorating, it's well worth the $24.95 Little, Brown and Co. is charging for it. Loaded with gorgeous photographs, the book gives detailed directions on how to set spectacular tables. There is, for instance, a materials list and step-by-step advice on creating a splendid harvest centerpiece.

Mr. Waites is an international designer who combs flea markets and antiques fairs for objects to decorate his tables. A duck decoy may become the basis for a centerpiece, or a basket balanced on an antique candlestick.

The pages of Festive Tables glitter with his ornate creations. At Thanksgiving, he uses gilded fruits and miniature pumpkins and turns reproductions of traditional fox-head stirrup cups into napkin holders. A poinsettia pressed on a golden doily under a clear glass service plate becomes a splendid setting during the Christmas season. The book is chock-full of ideas if you like affordable opulence; even if you don't want to carry them out in your own holiday decorating, you'll love just looking at the glorious photographs.

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