Originally created 12/30/98

Comfort is the in item for '99



Put on your woolly slippers and snuggle down: 1999 may be the most comfortable year of the century.

At least that's the prediction of the trend watchers, futurists, magazine editors, consultants and book authors we questioned to see what was in store for us as the 20th century ends -- not with a bang or a whimper, say our experts, but with a soft "aaahh."

We'll eat comfort foods such as mashed potatoes. We'll wrap up in cashmere sweaters. We'll buy recliners that do everything but walk the dog. If we get any more relaxed, we may not be awake to welcome 2000.

What's new for 1999 is that coziness has been refined. A little more elegance is creeping in to our lives, a bit more shine and sparkle.

"It's high design and comfort," says Suzanne Slesin, design editor of House & Garden. "1999 will be the year of feeling good and looking good."

Think of these as little luxuries. People will be investing in velvet cushions, small decorative objects and "home jewelry" -- the newest term for elegant drawer pulls, tiebacks for curtains and the like.

As happens so often, fashion will be setting the pace. On the runways this fall, shapes for spring were oversized and comfortable but often done in luxurious fabrics such as organza, taffeta and crepe de chine.

In the kitchen, cooks will still be making comfort foods like beef stew, but they'll also be investing heavily in infused oils and other exotic ingredients. One trend maven, Stacy Morrison of Modern Bride, predicts the re-emergence of the baked potato with caviar as 1999's hot appetizer.

People will be using sensual ingredients that come from around the world -- pomegranates, vanilla beans, gourmet sugars and honey flavored with such things as truffles -- to enhance the taste of their dishes, says New York-based food consultant Dianne Keeler Bruce.

Globalization will affect every part of our lives in 1999 and on into the 21st century. Futurist Susan Iverson credits in part the rising affluence of aging baby boomers who are doing more traveling.

"The world is getting smaller," agrees Slesin. That translates, for instance, into a growing interest in both Moroccan food and Moroccan design (such as bone boxes, twisted cone turban shapes and the ogee arch). We'll also be seeing globalization in the garden. Nona Koivula of the National Garden Association points to the exotic varieties now available in the seed industry. In 1999 even more gardeners will be growing French lettuce mixes and Japanese daikon radishes.

As Americans look forward to the 21st century, they're realizing that there are a lot of good things about the 20th. Nostalgia will continue to be strong. Trends don't come and go as quickly in home as in food and fashion, so expect to see more of what we saw in furniture showrooms in 1998, says Nancy High of the American Furniture Manufacturers Association. Designs will reflect 1930s minimalism, 1950s postwar modernism, Shaker and Arts and Crafts.

For every trend, of course, there's a counter trend or a trendlet or maybe just a hot new product. What, we asked our experts, will be the balsamic vinegar, the animal print, the sleigh bed of 1999? Is there anything completely new in store for us?

"People are pretty much on hold," warns Judy Hirsch, divisional vice president of Trend Forecasting. "With the millennium they're waiting for a major answer, some big thing to happen. It's not going to happen that way."

Still, we did get our trend watchers to make some more specific predictions for 1999. Needless to say, they won't be held responsible if their crystal ball-gazing doesn't pan out.

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In the home, look for:

-- The return of English country. "I really believe in it for next year," says home-trend forecaster Michelle Lamb.

-- Danish modern.

-- Asian influences.

-- Wool.

-- The use of many small lamps in one room.

-- Chintz, with its luster.

-- Handmade pottery.

-- Black and white photography.

-- A fabulous cashmere throw.

-- Colors that are lightening and cooling. Earthy, spicy tones are giving way to iced pastels. For instance, rose is emerging. Paprika is out.

In general, "color will be embraced," says Darryl Savage of DHS Designs in Annapolis.

In fashion, the news will be:

-- Luxurious hippy chic, says Plum Sykes at Vogue magazine.

-- Zen-inspired fashion, white and boxy.

-- Pucci-inspired prints.

-- Scalloped hems.

-- Less makeup or none at all.

-- Lower hemlines. Skirts of all lengths between the knee and ankle will be seen.

-- Flat shoes, even in the evening.

-- Boxy jackets with hoods.

-- More sweater sets.

-- Pink and icy blue will be hot colors.

-- Less constructed clothes and less of the suit look for working women, says Sally Jones of Jones & Jones.

-- Dresses for daytime will be back.

-- Belted waists.

-- Fantasy looks: delicate fabrics and embroidery.

-- Waxed cotton coats.

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In food, we'll be eating:

-- Fast-food health food.

-- More prepared meals being delivered to the home.

-- Indian food.

-- One-dish meals. Gourmet magazine will start a new column devoted to them in 1999, says executive editor Zanne Stewart.

-- With the growing interest in Asia, rice will edge out pasta as the hot starch.

-- Pan-American cuisine.

-- Upscale beef jerky.

-- Shelf-stable milk and cream that taste like the real thing.

-- Fat is back, according to Barbara Fairchild, executive editor of Bon Appetit: big steaks, real butter, the cheese course.

-- Comfort foods will extend to desserts, cobblers, shortcakes, sundaes, real pudding (not mousse).

-- Artisan breads will continue to be popular.

-- Chimichurri will be "the condiment of the moment," says New York restaurant consultant Rozanne Gold. (This is the thick herb sauce from Argentina.)

-- The new balsamic vinegar will be Shanxi, Gold says. It's a Chinese vinegar made from three different grains.

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In the garden, we'll see:

-- Plants that take care of themselves. Nobody wants to deadhead anymore, for instance, so seed companies are developing varieties that don't need to be pampered.

-- Heirloom varieties and old-fashioned perennials like cosmos. They're part of our millennium-inspired nostalgia.

-- Casual landscaping.

-- Water features, such as ponds and fountains, for the Zenlike peace they inspire, says Joel Albizo of the American Nursery and Landscape Association.

-- Encore azaleas. They bloom twice in a season.

-- Riotous color, especially in annuals.

-- The tropical look. Unstructured spaces filled with vines, banana trees, cannas, hostas and, in general, more foliage plants.

-- Crape myrtles.

-- We'll be creating mini-habitats for animals and insects, not just beautiful landscapes, predicts Georgia Raimondi, whose book "The Passionate Garden" will be out this February.

-- Tall plants, a foot or more.

-- Layering, just as in fashion -- accenting larger trees with smaller ones, for instance.

-- Succulents.

-- Zinnias, from 3-inch Thumbelinas to 3-foot Splendor varieties.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service