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Everything you always wanted to know
about shopping
and weren't afraid to ask Corky.

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Antique andSemi-Antique Rugs

We've finally put aside money to buy an antique rug -- but what stores can we trust?

PrimeTime Live's journalists once did an exposé of the rug industry and discovered that of thirteen rug dealers they investigated, twelve misled them regarding the age, country of origin, materials, or condition of the rug. Since antique carpets are such big-ticket items and the methods of foolery are legion, I turned to the experts.

Graham Head, managing director of ABC Carpet & Home (888 Broadway, at 19th Street; 473-3000) and a walking encylopedia on rugs, takes a no-nonsense approach: "Buy the rug that makes your heart flutter. Don't sweat it. It's only a bit of decorative fluff." All old rugs, Head says, have had a bit of cosmetic surgery (after all, they've been stepped on for years). Buy from a retailer who's been in business for a long time, whose rugs are ticketed, and who will take them back if, say, the red clashes with the red in your sofa.

Interior designer Mark Charbonnet, a traditionalist, often buys at Christie's East (219 East 67th Street; 606-0400) and Sotheby's Arcade (1334 York Avenue, at 72nd Street; 606-7000). The carpets have been vetted by the houses' experts, and he's managed to get some fantastic buys (the downside: there are no returns, and there are often hidden costs, such as delivery charges and the 15 percent buyer's premium on the hammer price). Another Charbonnet favorite is the Goodarzi House of Oriental Rugs (969 Third Avenue, near 57th Street, second floor; 754-6862), purveyor of fine old Persian carpets at fair prices.

Modernist DD Allen (partner in the design firm Pierce Allen ) deals only with dealers she's learned to trust, and her list is short. High on it (if clients can afford the tab) is Doris Leslie Blau (724 Fifth Avenue, near 56th Street, sixth floor; 586-5511). Blau has an unassailable reputation and the rarest, most exquisite rugs. Allen turns to the Mark Shilen Gallery (109 Greene Street; 925-3394) for tribal and nomadic flat weaves and for Shilen's exhaustive knowledge. Shilen travels to India, Nepal, and Pakistan to handpick his cache, and his prices are a bright spot -- lots in the $2,500-to-$5,000 range.

For kilims, it's Marian Miller (148 East 28th Street, fourth floor; 685-7746) for her impressive stash, both old and new.

"If it's too good to be true, it probably is," a rug dealer once told voguish designer Victoria Hagan, and the maxim has guided Hagan's buying since. Doris Leslie Blau tops her list, too, but she also likes the dealer antique shows (for their rather different inventory than rug galleries). Hagan suggests that if you view a rug as decorative, and you like it, and the price seems right -- buy it.

Nursery Furniture

I'm having my first baby in December, and I need everything, but nursery stuff is so pricey and we're on a budget. Where can we shop and not do major credit-card damage?

My first stop would be Albee Baby Carriage (715 Amsterdam Avenue at 95th Street; 662-8902), a sprawling kiddie emporium that's chockablock with all the basics. Everything from infant monitors to strollers to activity quilts is stashed on shelves or piled on floors. And there's a large supply of major-brand cribs, dressers, and changing tables. It's noisy and chaotic, but owners Carla and Michael know exactly what parents-to-be will need. Prices are good, and Albee offers free delivery and crib setup in Manhattan.

Even if you live uptown, a trip to Schneider's (20 Avenue A; 228-3540) is worth the fare. This Alphabet City institution offers the lowest prices in town. The display may leave much to be desired -- cribs are simply lined up in the middle of the store, changing tables, high chairs, and dressers against the walls -- but Schneider's carries many major brands, and a full range of nursery needs. There's a $10 delivery fee, and crib setup is $10.

It's moved uptown from 20th Street, but Baby Palace (1410 Lexington Avenue, near 92nd Street; 426-4544) has maintained downtown prices. The new location is spacious, organized, and filled with mostly moderately priced cribs, changing tables, and strollers (all with safety features). A real plus: scores of fetching bumpers, sheets, and comforters for baby's crib. Delivery and crib setup are free.

Fall Footwear

I like the ultralong skirts, butwhere can I find the right shoes towear with them?

For fall it's ballet flats and Mary Janes and anything in fabric, as long as it's gray (Cynthia Rowley's Mary Janes fit both prerequisites). Fashion gurus also have a passion for go-go boots (Miu Miu has them in pale patents with square toes), and a svelter version of the Beatle boot (think Kenneth Cole, Guess, and Bruno Magli). The mod boot of the sixties has inspired Ralph Lauren, Miuccia Prada, Calvin Klein, and Manolo Blahnik to come up with refined interpretations. But monkstraps, and even man-tailored oxfords, look great with this season's longer silhouettes.

Audio Equipment

I got the dog, but my ex got the stereo. Where can I go for a new audio system and not be made to feel like an airhead?

The experts at Innovative Audio (150 East 58th Street; 634-4444) love customers who haven't a clue about stereo equipment. No, not because they want to take advantage of them. Such customers "trust what they hear and are not swayed by brand names or the advice of friends," says Elliot Fishkin, who, after 25 years in Brooklyn, has opened a Manhattan outpost with five elegant listening rooms. It's the friendliest, least forbidding of the city's stereo shops. Tell the staff your budget (no amount is too piddling) and they'll pick out, play, and help you decide on components to match it. Innovative is also the purveyor of equipment by well-known companies (Pioneer, Sony, B&W) and more esoteric ones (Spectral, Naim, Wilson Audio).

If you don't know the difference between a woofer and a tweeter, Andy Singer and his staff at Sound by Singer (18 East 16th Street; 924-8600) can help. Their store is a quiet haven with ten homey listening rooms outfitted with systems for those on a limited budget and those where the sky's the limit. In addition to carrying Elite and Pioneer, Singer has such technically advanced names as J.M. Lab, Linn, and Eggleston Works.

Little has changed in solid-state gear over the past few years, and most audio equipment doesn't really age that much, so you might want to stop by Stereo Exchange (627 Broadway; 505-1111) where used high-end components, expertly repaired in-house, are for sale. The savings are 60 to 70 percent over what they might cost you new.

The hautest, and the haughtiest, of the audio emporiums is Lyric Hi-Fi (1221 Lexington Avenue, at 82nd Street; 439-1900). Lyric's the place to buy the Mark Levinson or the Burmester (the stuff of audiophiles' dreams), but it also stocks all-in-one integrated systems for under $500 that are ideal for city apartments (fewer things on the shelves), and the staff of experts can put together components for as little as $1,000. Most of their energy, however, is geared to high-high-end equipment.

Baking Equipment

My husband and I love to cook, but we've never tackled baking, and we've vowed to give it a try this fall. Where can we go for good quality cake pans and the works?

If you're really serious about baking, go where the pâtissiers go, to J.B. Prince (36 East 31st Street; 683-3553). It's as spotless and orderly as a medical lab and a great source for commercial-weight cookware. Cake rings short and tall, individual and oversize angel-food pans, plain and fluted tartlettes, classic and extra-deep tart molds -- it's all very French and geared to the professional. But, amateur baker that I am, I'd love to own the decorative stencils that can be used as a template for powdered sugar and cocoa, the Silpat nonstick baking mat for sheet cakes, and the plastic pastry brushes with bristles molded directly into the handle (no place for bacteria).


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