Design ideas for the un-shy


"Pad: The Guide to Ultra-Living" (Chronicle, 2000) takes a no-holds-barred approach to home decorating that emphasizes projects made of cheap, unlikely materials and day-glo colors. Not for the timid, "Pad" is an idea book aimed at funky, creative hipsters looking to spruce up their places with elbow grease, flea market finds and a certain flair for the bizarre.

Splashy photos profile homes and give the reader something to shoot for -- such as the padded-cell theme in one man's zebra-striped office -- while step-by-step instructions tell exactly how to do it. But duplication is not the goal of "Pad" -- inspiration is.

"What's interesting about any home," reads the book's intro, "is what it says about the individual who created it." And "Pad" seeks to bring out the individual in its reader. By picking projects that appeal to you, the result is bound to be a singular and personal message. For example, "I need severe psychological counseling," screams a toilet seat lid decorated with an ex-lover's photo, ribbon trim and a plastic spider.

The guide to flea markets throughout the country promises to keep readers in raw materials for years to come, and, if nothing else, the book makes for an entertaining read. Available at major booksellers for $24.95.

Two-fisted furniture

The bachelor pad of yesterday: ratty recliner patched with duct tape, milk crate dresser and a mattress on the floor. The bachelor pad of today: streamlined sofa with attached accessories, inspired shelving and playful leather-topped tables with golf club bases. Not quite your son's place? It will be if a trend toward guy decor takes off.

Several manufacturers have begun designing products aimed at the single, professional male.

Cassina, USA (800-770-3568) developed the "Lazy Working Sofa," a fully-loaded couch with its own lamps and tables attached (above). Vanguard Furniture (828-328-5631) has created a "Stetson" line that features American West-inspired furniture, such as a black, mahogany gentlemen's chest, and a "PGA Tour" collection that might appeal to the 26.5 million U.S. golfers (right). Thomasville's (800-586-2595) newest additions to its Ernest Hemingway line simply reek of macho chic with manly leathers and dark woods.

So, gentlemen, there are no more excuses for laying a board across two concrete blocks and calling it a coffee table. -- T. B.

Moving into the world

You're a college graduate with a degree to show for it -- and a futon, card table and stereo. Those fit the bill as essentials in school, but the real world suggests your bath towels should match and your drinks have coasters., a new online general merchant, is the one-stop shop for twenty-somethings looking to furnish their first place.

Featured is the latest gear in apparel, linens, electronics and housewares interspersed with street-smart editorial pieces that deliver a sassy spin on current events and product reviews. --T. B.


* The Irvine Natural Science Center in Stevenson asks that you get down and dirty with them this morning from 9 a.m. to noon at the first of its monthly gardening workshops. A 15-minute lesson about butterflies and bugs precedes volunteer work in the gardens, where you'll get to practice what was just preached. Admission is free. 8400 Greenspring Ave., 410-484-2413.

* Cherry Hill is home to the 2000 Harbor View Festival July 14 through 16. The fair opens Friday in Reedbird Park to the sounds of steel drums and jazz, followed Saturday by a parade of steel drum bands, which begins at 1 p.m. at Cherry Hill and Waterview roads. The procession ends in the park, where vendors and craft artisans wait to show off their wares. Friday: 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday: 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is free; call 410-485-9536.

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