TIP SHEET

Knitting needles, brooches and swing skirts aren't the only vintage accessories making a comeback. At May's International Contemporary Furniture Fair in New York--an annual showcase of high-end design for the home--a crop of start-up companies showed off a fresh take on something long associated with Grandma's house: wallpaper. Instead of yellow daisies and toile, there were sequins, fringe and trippy Mylar. "Wallpaper is getting a new lease on life," says Arlene Hirst, a senior editor at Metropolitan Home.

The return of attention-grabbing graphics for walls is only the latest sign that minimalism is dead. Austere, Zen-like spaces, so popular in the 1990s, are giving way to bright colors and witty designs. The ICFF was brimming with examples, like LED lamps that looked like stacks of yellow, orange and blue children's blocks (glide-inc.com), furniture made from loose change (johnnyswing.com) and chandeliers decorated with gilded leaves and flowers (artecnicainc.com).

Plain, painted walls are the last bastion of restraint. "Customers are going for a more complete, decorated look," says Kathy O'Brien, a vice president at home-furnishings supplier F. Schumacher & Co., which has seen an uptick in sales of wall decor over the past two years. But this time around, clients will use the stuff more sparingly, predicts Gregory Herringshaw, assistant curator of wallcoverings at New York's Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Perhaps that's because designers are creating patterns --that are wilder than ever. London-based Tracy Kendall ($180 to $350 per roll; tracykendall.com) stitches or tags buttons, sequins and Post-it-like squares onto paper. Jon Sherman, founder of New Orleans-based Flavor Paper, hand-screens psychedelic 1970s prints onto Mylar ($150 to $250 per roll; flavorpaper.com)--and just installed some in Lenny Kravitz's Creole cottage in Louisiana. Kyra Hartnett of Brooklyn, New York-based Twenty2 also has unveiled new Mylar prints ($111 to $175 per roll; shoptwenty2.com).

Other designers are creating do-it-yourself wallcoverings. Wallpaper-by-Numbers ($114 per roll, including acrylic paints; 2jane.com) lets patrons color in gerbera daisies or flying dogs. Philadelphia-based Jaime Salm of Mio showed panels of sculpted, recycled cardboard ($28 for a box of 12 square-foot tiles; mioculture.com). "You can paint it," he says. "You can rotate the tiles to create new patterns." Up next, says Salm: wallpaper on the ceiling.

Travel: Great Drives

Fill your tank, grab your map and take off along the world's greatest coastal roads. TIP SHEET suggests where and what you should be driving.

Amalfi Coast, Italy: From Sorrento, take Statale 163 to Salerno, thundering around hairpin bends and squeezing onto cliff edges. Wheels: Ferrari 246 GTS Dino

Great Ocean Road, Australia: From Melbourne, steer toward Torquay, passing the glorious rocky islands known as the Twelve Apostles. Wheels: SS Holden Ute

Ring of Kerry, Ireland: Base yourself at Kenmare and drive counterclockwise around the cliffs of Iveragh Peninsula. Don't lean too far to the right. Wheels: MINI Cooper

Highway 1, California: Tour the Pacific coastline, where the road cuts from pine forests to beaches. Wheels: Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Classic

Garden Route, South Africa: Stop for oysters and beer by the Indian Ocean near Cape Town. Wheels: VW Beetle Convertible

Gadgets: Kitchen Wizard>

If you want something to be simple, you have to work extra hard. That's the lesson British designer Jasper Morrison learned while designing a new line of kitchen appliances for the French housewares company Rowenta. The effort paid off. Morrison's coffee maker is slim; his toaster is lever-free--a motorized tray lowers and lifts the bread automatically. Morrison used thicker-walled plastic to give the products more solidity while at the same time banishing any unnecessary bells and whistles. "Consumers don't want arbitrary styling," he says. His only concession to added features? A croissant-warming heater on top of the toaster. The Rowenta coffee machine ($150), electric water kettle ($125) and toaster ($135) will be available in design shops like Moss (mossonline.com) and Conran's (www.conran.com) in July.

Style: No Socks, Sir

Men: Don't spend all summer sweating in loafers. Here are some cooler options.

1. Merrell Rapid Sandals have sticky bottoms for better traction. $60 at llbean.com.

2. Tommy Hilfiger's Formula slides might get you some street cred. $59; tommy.com for stores.

3. Sperry's Top-Sider Thongs are made with antimicrobial insoles for obvious reasons. $60 at eddiebauer.com.

4. Reef's Abreojos flip-flops are a surfer's favorite. $12; reef.com for stores.

5. Chaco's Z/1 Colorado sandals protect your arches while you hike. $90 at rei.com.

In the News: Make Mine Rare

All right, so maybe Atkins wasn't a nut. Two papers recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine report that low-carb diets help patients lose weight faster than conventional plans. In a six-month study of 120 obese people, those on a low-carb diet lost an average of 11.7 kilograms, compared with those on a conventional low-fat, low-calorie diet, who lost just 6.3 kg. In a 12-month study, however, the carb counters lost about the same amount as those on a conventional diet--though they tested slightly better on triglyceride and blood-sugar levels. "The take-home message is that, in the longer term, there isn't a whole lot of difference in weight loss between a low-carbohydrate and a low-fat diet," says Dr. Christine Laine, senior deputy editor at the Annals of Internal Medicine. An editorial accompanying the studies says it's fine to experiment with reduced-carb diets--as long as you maintain weight loss and eat "healthy sources of fat and protein and incorporate regular physical activity." So order a small steak, skip the butter and hit the gym.