PICTURE YOURSELF stretched out on an elegant, deep wine, delicately scaled chaise longue. Across the room inside a cabinet, the television screen behind its magic glass appears or disappears at the touch. Your companion luxuriates in a new type of orthopedic chair that swells or diminishes to support the aching back. The children are too busy to plague you -- each in their own separate skyscraper construction -- bed on top, desk, closet, drawing board, play area underneath.

Such visions of Life in the Elegant Eighties are conjured up by the recent Southern Furniture Market in High Point, N.C.

Today, mass manufacturers have found out about market surveys. And they've decided to improve some of their ways of doing things -- all to the good of the customer.

Certainly, the new introductions show more awareness than ever before of the way people actually live. And there's even hope that more manufacturers will go to the trouble to give you proper labels on furniture, so you'll know what to expect from it and how to take care of it.

Ethan Allen Inc. is considering marketing their furniture by catalogue as well as in their familiar "galleries." And many manufacturers are producing slide shows and company-designed gallery groupings to help explain the construction and use of their furniture.

Here are some ideas you can expect in about two or three months in local furniture stores and departments.

Higher Quality. In a day when the ordinary, and even the terrible, cost so much money, consumers are willing to pay something more to buy good quality. With prices going up so fast, they know that today's $750 sofa will be $850 when the next shipment comes in. When groceries hit $200, and won't last the week, people are more inclined to put their money in a product they hope will at least last out the year.

More Formality. If you're paying that much for furniture, you want it to look expensive. Who wants to pay $750 for a joke? The canny customer is beginning to realize that formality implies a certain stability, a timelessness, that is very attractive in a time of transition.

Country (as in rustic) appeared here and there at the market, as did High Tech, but neither was strong.

Damasks, brocades and other fabrics which put the emphasis on texture are popular again. In cottons, chintz is back. In furniture, richly patterned wood, such a burled, is in favor.

Inevitably, there's more interest in traditional furniture, especially the careful copies, often numbered and inscribed with the name of the purchaser.

Claire Coleman, president of the National Home Fashions League, who spoke recently to the local chapter here, says: "A new interest in decorative, somewhat more formal furnishings is apparently emerging among more affluent young people. Traveled and well-educated, they are rejecting faddishness for more enduring quality.

"Note new collections with surface interest gained from decorative veneers or contrasting wood tones rather than from the more ornate carving of the past . . . correlating fabrics, floor coverings and accessory designs also are cleaned up with many lush velvets and plushes . . . in accessories, a lot of glitter, especially brass, brass and more brass, will add richness to the dresser mix."

Natural fabrics, interesting textures, handcrafting as opposed to synthetics, are promised by Gerald M. Birnback, chairman of the board of Rowe Furniture Corp.

Nature patterns. Country, romantic, naturalistic -- whatever you want to call it -- flowers, fruits, birds and animals are back with us in fabrics, in ceramic figures, in every way you can imagine.

Lighter scale, multi-function. Finally, the manufacturers have realized that most of us no longer have dining rooms that seat 30, or houses that sleep 12. People need furniture that will serve several needs, yet be trimmed of inessentials so it will fit in the tight spaces where most of us live.

Coleman points out that some new furniture is "lighter-scaled, multi-functional and rather architectural in nature because many of the pieces are designed to create visual separations. Look for still more storage units that take advantage of the wall's vertical space. More shelf units such as bookcases will have open backs and glass shelves that tend to expand rather than enclose. Glass, reflective metals and mirrored surfaces are more and more prevalent as they are all space enhancers."

Kroehler Manufacturing Co. figures at least 25 percent of their sofas are convertible to beds. William S. Richman, president of Stratford Furniture, noted that usually a sleeper sofa only costs about $125 more than a non-convertible, so most people opt for it. Such pieces are especially popular, Richman notes, among singles, both parents and nonparents, and married couples with grown children or no children.

Colors are richer, softer. Red is the underlying heart of many of the best colors this year, with its opposite, green, as a natural foil.

But the newest reds, according to a survey by Hercules Inc.'s color consultant, Yale Forman Designs, are not the bright primaries of the Psychedelic '60s, nor the earth tones of the Sedate '70s, but rather rich ripe, shades for the Elegant '80s. The red is burgundy. The green is celadon, Chinese porcelain. Gray is as in gray flannel suits. Purple, once thought a jinx by manufacturers, has emerged as a strong favorite. Likely it is not scientific to say, but the new colors look as though a healthy dollop of gray had been mixed in. Coleman says they look good enough to eat. A Hercules official put it this way: "When things are tough outside, you want it more serene inside."

In the so-called "life style" (which should be called "mobile furniture" for people here today, gone tomorrow) furniture, strong colors remain in favor. fVivid colors, after all, are the best substitute for more expensive materials and designs. Anything that's red enough looks good.

Forms are stronger, simpler, classic rather than innovative. Traditional furniture is less fussy or cutesy. Contemporary furniture is softer, warmer.

Here are a few interesting pieces you can expect to see in Washington area stores around the first of the year. A few sources for some of the products are listed, but these are by no means all. Check you favorite area furniture retailer. For Living Rooms

The award for the most unusual material in furniture this year was won, hands down, by the StavOak Collection. At Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn., the biggest waste comes from the white oak barrels, specially made at a great cost. Jack Daniel only used the barrels once. They could sell only a few to Canadian distillers whose method allowed them to use them twice.

Suzanne Mathis, an advertising brand director with the distillery, came up with the idea of using the high-grade, expensive white oak staves (curved pieces) to make furniture. Jobie Redmond of High Point was the designer. The furniture is actually quite handsome, with a rich dark stain that gives it a quiet look. The forms are not gimmicky, but have an easy, timeless grace. The line is already in Washington at W&J Sloane's.

A number of foreign countries, especially European, exhibited their wares both in New York and in High Point. Four Hong Kong furniture manufacturers were at High Point. Twenty-one furniture makers were from Israel, showing some handsome and sturdy leather furniture. (Scan plans an Israeli furniture promotion in February.) Portugal has entered the market with an interesting collection of maneuverable, lightly scaled wall systems, including one shaped like a ladder. Of the several

Canadian manufacturers, the most interesting was Roger Rougier with its travertine (a hard stone similar to marble not often used for furniture) tables and even headboards. Theodore's, in upper Georgetown, plans to carry the travertine bedroom suite next spring.

A & B America showed Vally leatherseating system, made in Finland by Asko and designed by Bror Boije, witha wide, low back. At $5,200 for three armless seats and two corners, it is not furniture to take lightly. A & B's "Cello" stacking system is made by Ulferts of Sweden, designed by Lennart Magnusson. The components hold a tape deck, drawers and records. Clearly enough, the units are designed with holes in the back for the cords and jacks to go through.

Dux, a great furniture manufacturer whose star is Bruno Mathesson, is still making the chair that looks like a sway-back dinosaur that he designed years ago. But there are other beauties as well, inclulding a sofa made of bullhide at $7,800. The remarkable Avanti wall system has tempered glass doors (and disassembles to its basic elements to go up elevators). Dux is available from Theodore's.

Even antique reproductions are getting smaller. Brandt, a furniture company in nearby Hagerstown, makes a great number of 18th-century reproductions. Among their 30 new small pieces is a 17th-century Italian scribe's desk, $700; a liquor cabinet with lacquer panels, $650; a silver caddy with 10 glass bottles, $200; smalll boxes made in China, lined with leather and embellished with brass hardware. Wellington House furniture expects to carry the entire collection by June. William E. Miller Furniture Co. also carries Brandt.

A useful design for a multi-purpose room is John Mascheroni's French tete-a-tete sofa (an S shsape, facing two ways) for Swaim Originals. (Mascheroni's wall systems for Founders of Thomasville furniture was by far the best design they ever had.) Both are available from Bloomingdale's stores in Tyson's Corners and White Flynt.

Another idea, by Richard Brown for KayLyn, is a fully upholstered bench design, with curving ends, but no back.

Pulaski Furniture Company has devoted its entire 1981 introduction "First Edition" to six groups of designs, all scaled for smaller spaces. A useful piece is the revival of the daybed -- cushions for day, drawers underneath for linen storage. Hect Co., Marlo Furniture and Hub Furniture carry Pulaski.

The "Move Chair" from the Domani Division of Burris Industries with its infinate back adjustments and a plesant ottoman was, unusual for a comfortable chair, even good-looking Scan's carries Burris.

Country furniture, in civilized styling and even solid oak, redwood and pine, is well made in simple, easy-to-like shapes by A Brandt of, where else, Fort Worth. Brandt is carried exclusively by William E. Miller.

Laura Ashley herself, who started it all, is represented in a line of seating groups covered in her famous fabric and built by Lambert furniture makers, already on W & J Sloane's floor. A chair is about $449.

A cleverly designed shelf support system by Rakks, designed by Keivan Towfigh, is cheaper and takes less room than most. It's distributed by raymor/MORREDDI inc., carried by Theodore's and Hecht's.

Design Institute of America has the most unusual cabinets, made of a glass that looks opaque, until you turn on a lighted television behind the door, then it becomes clear. The cabinets, called "Cityscape." (about $9,000) are high and low. Bloomingdale's, Hecht's and William E. Miller carry DIA.

The Design Store's own Upholstery Systems showed a new country style sofa covered in Country Gear fabric and a sofa that comes with its own moveable cover. Design Store's Interlock showed a prewired entertainment system. All the introductions from the High Point showrooms will be exhibited here at Design Store, Tyson's Corner, and eventually in all Design Stores. For Master Bedrooms

Very beautiful, very elegant, is the contemporary bedroom with its four-poster canopy bed by Alessandro for Baker Furniture. Baker is carried in Washington by Woodward & Lothrop, W&J Sloane, Wellington House and others. Bloomingdale's is carrying Baker's handsome dining and bedroom Chinese Collection called Beging. Drexel Heritage in its Woodbriar II bedroom, its largest collection ever (82 different pieces), uses rustic pecan to give simple, contemporary forms a welcome softness. William E. Miller expects to have Woodbriar by January. w

Waterbeds are around in great abundance, even Simmons is making one called "Feelings" with a waveless flotation system. The surprise is the new air bed made by Dial-a-Firm for Restonic. The owner can dial the desired firmness -- in the larger sizes, each side of the bed can be a different firmness.

Thayer Coggin has a new recliner which works in a similar way to Milo Baugham, with help from the American Chiropractic Association. It can be blown up at many different points along the back. Coggin is available from Blommingdale's and William E. Miller.

Simmons now makes a Beautyrest foam mattress which adjusts both at head and foot. Levitz carries Simmons.

Spherical's volptuous "Dragon Fly Bed," named for its upholstery, is a king-sized round bed, surrounded with a series of pillows, held in place by a fabric band like the obi on a kimono. Spherical is carried locally by Woodie's. For Sunroom and Patio

Brown Jordan Company, traditionally makers of sun room furniture, has a new series of chairs with hook-on foot supports. The dining/lounge chairs are $179. The chaise ($319) folds up into an easy-to-carry package so when the sun moves you can, too. The darker rattan group, designed by John Caldwell, has a pleasant East of Suez look to it. The Reent chaise is stripped down to the irreducible minimum -- beautiful. Brown Jordan is carried by Hecht's. Bloomingdale's and Theodore's. 'Mobile furniture'

James David, who makes mobile furniture, now offers eight colors (from red to plum) in their atractive, washable nylon channel-quilted pack cloth covers for chrome frames. Five of the same colors are available on their high-imact styrene case goods and storage pieces. Most pieces are priced under $100, none over $299. Marlo and Hub carry James David. Hecht's plans to carry a big assortment. For the Kids' room

Some sensible furniture for children's and students' rooms might be described as upwardly mobile -- using the height of the room to make up for its lack of width. Landes manufacturers, for instance, showed the Bedfelows collection by Jerry Johnson. The loft bed had optional extras such as side and back panels with pockets, hanging shoe bags, a drawer and shelf unit, desk, curtains, platforms for TV and a place to attach a reading lamp. The price, give or take a few extras, is not child-sized, close to $800 -- but individual pieces are cheaper.

A bedroom suite for more space -- literally, is Lea Industries' "Space Station Alpha," named after the rerun TV show. Nick Ungaro designed the 17-piece collection in white enamel on injected moulded styrene, thermalformed ABS sheets. There's no hardware. The headboard has a lighted control panel, a secret storage nose cone. The cabinet shapes are rounded with bins instead of drawers, with tambours instead of doors. The desk raises, lowers and tilts for drawing. Marlo, Hub and Levitz carry Lea.

Gautier Furniture, a European company, has an interesting wide unit which holds a fold-down, Murphy bed. Since the bed folds up sideways, it's easier, and takes less floor space than the conventional way.