Retail therapy

THE spring 1993 catalogues from the major furnishing houses have come out with the daffodils. Unsurprisingly, given the recession, there are few surprises. Retailers have opted for dusting the shelves rather than a full spring clean. Central products and ideas remain, with some seasonal variations to lure new customers.

HABITAT If it were possible to live within the pages of a catalogue, Habitat would be my choice, with its summery emphasis on sun-bleached coral, yellow, green and blue across the home furnishings collection. Simplicity remains the key.

Good Buys Getting away from the uniform fitted look, Habitat offers unusual pieces of freestanding kitchen furniture. Their Butcher's console is a self-contained beech unit with hanging rail, knife rack, rattan drawers and chopping- board with a scrubbed, nostalgic look ( pounds 299). The range also includes the Butcher's trolley ( pounds 199).

LAURA ASHLEY As ever this catalogue ( pounds 3.50) is big on floral fabrics and wallpapers. But a little Laura Ashley goes a long way: try a cushion here or border there. Or splash out, as the catalogue suggests, and mix florals, stripes and checks.

Good Buys Brighten a room instantly with one of Laura Ashley's embossed, reveillon, washable or vinyl wallpaper borders. For children's rooms, try 'Hey Diddle Diddle' ( pounds 7.45 a roll), the colourful 'Carousel' ( pounds 7.45), or 'Changing the Guard' ( pounds 6.45). The 'Vegetables' and 'Orchard' borders (both pounds 5.95) are also fun.

IKEA With its huge range of well- priced, stylish furnishings, it is easy to see why this Swedish company has grabbed a large market share from its rivals. In the case of some of the budget units, you would be hard pressed to buy the timber more cheaply. Ikea doesn't stop at furniture: you can kit out the whole house with bedding, lighting, kitchenware, or nursery goods.

Good buys A Swedish double bed is 3in wider than a UK kingsize. Ikea has even larger beds, too, but you can get away with using a UK- sized kingsize quilt. The Arnadal is reasonably priced at pounds 264 (including mattress), 169cm x 209cm in antique stained pine. A mattress pad is a useful protective

extra.

MARKS & SPENCER Marks's spring catalogue reflects its hope to attract new, youthful customers while hanging on to the faithful. This season sees the launch of more contemporary ranges, such as washed pine, to complement its popular golden pine range. Linen mixes feature in furniture coverings for the first time, and this catalogue sees the arrival of the M & S wedding list.

New ranges of glassware (both cut-glass and standard) make an appearance, as does new crockery, including a formal range from Royal Doulton.

Good buys Marks & Spencer has been quick to jump on the checks and stripes bandwagon. Their 'Club Chair' ( pounds 450) and stool ( pounds 225) display a Bostonian feel with bold chequered upholstery. Both bridge the gap between modern and period furniture. The New England look is continued with a patchwork quilt in white, blue and yellow or white and pink. One size fits single and double bed ( pounds 99.95). A quilt for a 5ft bed is available at selected stores ( pounds 120).

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