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Elegant entrances

Who would have thought the Americans with Disabilities Act would have led to some of the niftiest new door hardware around?

Levers are being installed in commercial buildings because opening doors with them is easier for those with limited use of their hands. The general public has become more familiar with them, so there's more acceptance in the residential market. And designers of residential hardware love the possibilities inherent in a lever's curves and curls; the selection of high-style designs is better than ever.

Locally, homeowners are still devoted to brass and the traditional Colonial look of knobs, according to Walter Neese, one of the owners of Designer's Hardware on Read Street in Baltimore. But even traditionalists will appreciate another new trend in door hardware: exterior door sets with a finish that has a lifetime guarantee. These locks are about 25 percent more expensive than ones without the new finishes, but in the long run they could save you money.

"Eco and ethnic." That's how Victoria Herbert Doolittle of the Pantone Color Institute describes the hot colors for home furnishings in 1994. Environmental concerns have led to a continuing interest in the naturals, in washed and bleached neutrals, in earthy shades and greens of all description. And she points to Caribbean sun-drenched colors, indigos and olives as examples of ethnic influences.

Margaret Walch of the Color Association of the United States also forecasts two separate directions for color in 1994.

We'll be seeing lots of clear, light, pale colors -- soft peaches, pinks, celadon greens, she says. At the same time there will be rich, intense, saturated colors like brick red, deep forest green, imperial purple and indigo. What they'll have in common is warmth.

"Colors in general will be warmer," she says. "Even the cooler colors -- green will be going yellow, for instance."

She believes that the ethnic traditions which delight in lavish color are a big influence: "From the southern hemisphere," she says, laughing. "We're not adopting Greenland's colors!"

Faithful reproductions

There are many different definitions of reproduction. But when Classic Revivals Inc. reproduces an historic fabric, it's not just a matter of replicating the design. The fiber content is the same, the method of manufacture is the same, the scale of the pattern is the same. When the company creates a period wallpaper, it's printed using the hand-block method and the background is painted by hand. And needless to say, we aren't talking acrylic inks on vinyl here.

Classic Revivals' clients include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but the Boston-based company doesn't just supply the historic market. Its wallpapers, fabrics and carpets are available through designers to residential customers interested in historical authenticity. Classic Revivals reproduces everything from homespun dimity to hand-cut silk velvet, from every period up to the '50s.

The most historically accurate isn't always the most expensive. Rolls of wallpaper -- roughly equivalent to American double rolls -- start at $125 for designers. Be warned, though, that there are disadvantages: Williamsburg wallpapers, for instance, are painted with tempura as the originals were. Don't try to wash them!

Classic Revivals Inc.

1 Design Center Place

Suite 545

Boston, Mass. 02210

(617) 574-9030 One of the fast-growing areas in the home-furnishings industry is office furniture, according to the American Society of Interior Designers. More and more people are working in home offices and designers are responding by creating rooms that are different from commercial offices.

Keli B. Cwynar, for instance, designed an office for a client in downtown Baltimore that was relaxed, with the feel of a den. "It had a warmer, homier feeling," says the designer, whose firm is Taylor/Siegmeister, "With lots of built-ins for books and accessories, a TV, and a sofa and chairs in front of the desk."

Gail Whiting, a New Jersey designer, concealed computer equipment with bookshelves that have a drop-down bank of drawers. She used a file cabinet that looks like a dining room credenza.

California designer Douglas Hiatt added a fireplace and oak paneling for warmth in the home office he created.

Many furniture manufacturers have shifted to home-office products that are distinct from their commercial lines. Units might, for instance, be made of residential-looking oak and cherry.

"Our home customers need to feel at ease and relaxed," says Steven Tomlinson of Kimball International Inc. "Away from the more sterile surroundings of an office. After all, they're working from home."

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