It's not a fad. Wicker has remained a universal favorite for the past two decades, and wicker pieces have taken their rightful place in homes furnished with a succession of "trends," from Bauhaus Modern to Mediterranean.

In fact, the basic problem with wicker is that its popularity has resulted in its severe scarcity. The young homemaker, eager to acquire a 19th-century wicker chair or table from her grandmother, will probably be disappointed. Most grandmothers have long since sold off or given away their wicker rockers or wicker sewing boxes to those who were willing to pay what must have seemed like an exorhibant price for something that originally sold for $10 or $15 at most.

But take heart, Victorian lovers. Today there are good reproductions of porch chairs with fat, wicker arms, armchairs with a built-in wicker book or magazine rack on the side, pedestal tables on conceled casters and rolling tea tables on wheels, with a lift-off tray and a handy shelf below.

Wicker can be easily blended with modern furniture. There were many pieces of furniture designed in the 1920s that combined traditional woven wicker with metal frames; the widely popular Thonet chair is one example.

In a tiny living room, where the dining area was really part of the room, I decided to use a fabulous antique wicker settee as the focal point of the dining end of the room. This settee, in Empire style, featured an asymmetrical shape, with a curlicue back and arm on only one side; it seats two comfortably.

With this beauty, I used a very simple dining table, a white laminate top on a polished, thick, chrome pedestal and base, for a very dramatic combination. To fill out the owner's sedating requirements for four, I teamed the table and settee with a modern classic: two chrome and wicker armchairs. The natural woven wicker reinforces the antique piece, while the chrome frame works with the base of the modern table.

To give focus to the ensemble, I set the group against the terrace end of the room, in front of a pair of multipaned French doors reduced to their natural wood finish, to match the thick molding at the ceiling. A dark floor and ceiling contrast with the furniture and are sparked by chrome lamps and trees in huge wicker baskets, making this marriage of old and new elegant and fresh.