LIKE THE argyle pattern, the paisley print seems to drift in and out of popularity. It's not surprising that those who dress houses instead of people should simultaneously rediscover paisley for both wallpaper and upholstery.

Paisley, a pattern that began in the East, came West at the turn of the 19th century, when East Indian shawls -- both embroidered cashmere and woven -- from Kashmir were first seen in Europe. The paisley design is derived from the form of a fish, outlined with decorative lines and patterns. Over time the fish has been obscured, and only the abstract amoebalike form remains.

The paisley shawl, often seen as a piano cover in the 1920s and '30s, is now enjoying popularity again. It was made famous not by the Indians who originated the pattern, but by the Scots in the city of Paisley, near Glasgow. There, the textile industry blossomed as the shawls that were woven there soon became known as paisley. Today's paisley fabrics are either direct copies of fine

antique paisleys in

colors that appeal to

today's marketplace, or

are freehand intertions of those patterns.

Curtains or wall

coverings can be fashioned of paisley. And

the intricate pattern

often reflects great activity rather than standing out as a distinct pattern, making it possible to combine it with other patterns. The paisley pattern has become associated with fine traditional interiors and is a motif that will continue to fascinate homeowners and designers alike.u PICTURED from upper left corner, clockwise: all- cotton raj paisley by Fonthill Ltd.; all-cotton Flora Bellagio (in rose, ecru and gray-green) by Scalamandre; all-cotton red diba paisley by Rose Cumming Chintzes; all-cotton Cachemire paisley by Jack Lenor Larsen; cotton and rayon Izmir textured paisley (teal blue with red and gold) by Brunschwig & Fils, Inc. All fabrics are available to designers and architects through The Washington Design Center; Rose Cumming Chintzes fabrics are at Duncan- Huggins Showroom; Fonthill Ltd. fabrics are at Donghia Showrooms; each of the other fabrics is available at its manufacturer's showroom at the Center.