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Computer technology enters interior design, home communications

"Computerization is happening so fast now that nothing can be static any more. The world is going to change, and we have to be flexible enough and creative enough to cope with the changes," says Claire Coleman, outgoing president of the National Home Fashions League.

Mrs. Coleman foresees a compatible marriage of technology with increasing interest in the decorative arts and argues that homes will benefit enormously.

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Leo Yochim, president of the Printronic Corporation in New York, says that even now a whole room can be designed via the computer, including color selections. With such an electronic aid, a client can know exactly what a room will look like as well as how it will be perceived from various angles. A computer can also quickly calculate the proper stereo equipment needed for any given room.

"Teleshopping," or computer-based shop- at-home services, could soon be literally changing the channels of retail distribution, says HFD's Textiles Report. Teleshopping can mean any form of at-home purchasing, including currently used methods of toll-free numbers and credit card combinations.

But the real wave of the future, the report says, is two-way interactive systems, whereby consumers punch orders in a home computer in response to information flashed on their television screens. A logical outgrowth of mail-order shopping, electronic retailing simply replaces the catalog with a television image. Communications experts predict that within the next three to five years many major purchases will be made right from living rooms.

All nonstore shopping methods, including the use of mail order catalogs, are surging forward in direct proportion to climbing gasoline prices and dwindling leisure time.The rising number of women in the workplace and the benefits of time-saving convenience are contributing factors to burgeoning mail-order operations.

Stores for the home, however, will continue to exist and will tend to become more specialized gallery and showcase types and to give more service and decorating to help to customers.

"After many polls," says Gerald M. Birnbach, president of Rowe Furniture Corporation, "we found that customers were clearly and simply asking for more communication from us, for honest information about furnishings, and for reasonable and believable assurances in making their purchases. Since we are now listening more to the people who live in America's 80 million dwellings, we are offering information systems to stores that will help answer their questions regarding style, fabric selection, quality, comfort, and warranties. We see a very obvious return t o basics and a demand for quality and value."

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