W&J Sloane, one of the biggest retailers of higher priced furniture in the Washington area, is closing its downtown store on Connecticut Avenue.

In a brief announcement issued yesterday, store officials said the store would be closed as part of the company's overall plan to redesign its stores into much smaller showrooms that place greater emphasis on personalized interior design.

"The cost of doing business has become exorbitant," said Dortha Ogborn, Sloane's regional manager.

The newly designed stores also will be about one-fifth as large, about 10,000 square feet compared with the 50,000 square feet in the average Sloane stores now, Ogborn said.

The redesign comes two years after Sloane's parent company, City Stores Co., completed a successful reorganization in bankruptcy. As part of that reorganization, City Store sold off several subsidiaries, incluing Franklin Simon women's wear stores, leaving Sloane's as City Stores' chief retail operation.

Shortly after the reorganization, Sloane's closed its store on the edge of Old Town Alexandria, saying it would return to that area when a new building was built on that site.

However, yesterday, Ogborn said she knew of no plans to reopen a store in Alexandria.

Ogborn said that the company hopes to vacate the downtown store within 90 days. The company that owns the building has agreed to pay Sloane's $2.75 million for the lease which Sloane's holds on the property.

Meanwhile, Sloane's will redesign its two Bethesda outlets and its Seven Corners and upper Connecticut Avenue stores, and then continue operations there. The stores will all be staffed by interior designers, Ogborn said. Also slated to continue will be the five clearance centers in the area.