A regional trade show on architecture and interior design opened this week at the Washington Convention Center with an emphasis on handmade crafts, which show officials say is a new trend in interior design.

The Design For Living show, in its eighth year, opened Wednesday with exhibits on interior design, kitchens, architecture, energy use, furniture and construction.

James Barthold, vice president of Shows Inc., an Annapolis company that created and runs the Design For Living show every year, said the bulk of those attending the show are consumers.

"It is a consumer show with a trade aspect," he said. "These type of shows started off as trade only but now we are finding a tremendous interest in them by consumers who want to see a lot of options and ideas in one place."

Attendence on opening day was sparse, but show officials said 20,000 people attended the show here last year and that they hoped to draw similar numbers of decorators, builders and consumers this year. The show runs through tomorrow. Admission for adults is $5.

If such shows as Design For Living are popular with consumers, they are even more popular with the exhibitors. More than 350 companies are exhibiting in the Design For Living show this year and many say trade shows are an excellent way to get exposure.

"Shows can give you exposure to a mass amount of people in a short amount of time," said Ken Reinhard, who was managing a booth for Halo Lighting, an Illinois-based division of the McGraw Edison Co.

"There are more shows than ever in the past few years because they make money for the companies that put them on," said Reinhard, who said the Halo Lighting booth cost more than $1,000 to exhibit, including fees to the show's operators. "But the exhibitors benefit as well or they wouldn't keep coming. It turnout will pick up over the weekend."

This year's theme, handmade crafts, was designed to give consumers a taste of the type of crafts available in the area, said Karen DeWald, a consultant for this year's show. She said she has scoured crafts shows in the Washington area for months looking for artists to invite to the Design For Living show.

"Crafts have become somewhat of a trend in design," said DeWald. "There is a wide spectrum of artists doing unique work. Because each piece is unique and takes time, it's often difficult for consumers to find the exact piece that is right for their home.

"The show this year gives them some ideas," she said.

And visitors to the show said Wednesday they were getting ideas for their homes. Aleta Rohde, who is remodeling her older home in Alexandria, said she was specifically looking for ideas on ways to remodel floors and her patio.

"I've seen some really nice things that may work in our remodeling," she said. "It's nice to have everything in one place."

Jeffrey Oring, who designs and makes clocks, said the crafts theme of this year's show has given him a chance to reach potential customers.

"It's hard for craftsmen especially to reach the public because they usually produce on a smaller scale," he said. Oring said his clocks are sold in some stores and he does a moderate amount of advertising, but he depends on shows such as the Design For Living show for exposure to the buying public.

"To appreciate something like these clocks you have to see them," he said.

This year's Design For Living show also features a retrospective of American furniture. The furniture designs in the show are classics from earlier in the century but the furniture itself is newly made and for sale.