ATLANTA -- The ostentatious 1980s and back-to-basics 1990s clashed resoundingly in the jam-packed home-product display halls at the annual home builders convention here this week.

About 1,000 exhibitors from throughout the country sought to capture the eyes of the dwindling number of builders with construction projects planned or underway.

They hawked construction supplies, appliances, bath fixtures, kitchen cabinets, carpet and a myriad of other such goods, each hoping their products would help builders find the key to unlock a sluggish market.

Side-by-side exhibits at the National Association of Home Builders' gathering vividly demonstrated a housing market in transition: Bath fixture manufacturers offered the opulent and quirky mix of colors, styles and patterns typical of the expensive trade-up homes of the past decade, while manufacturers of kitchen appliances rushed to introduce separate lines of 1950s-style, all-white refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers.

Many displays, in the Gilded Age manner of the 1980s, aimed at helping homeowners flaunt what they own.

"Having pride in one's home is a part of human nature," said Nancy Deptolla, a spokeswoman for the Kohler, Wis.-based Kohler Co., who quickly added that Kohler also offers products in the affordable price ranges.

"People like to make statements in the design and equipping of their homes," she said.

Among the more upscale of the Kohler products displayed at the convention was a combination shower and foot whirlpool designed to simulate the experience of dangling the feet in a pool of water.

Another unique product was a porcelain, zebra-patterned sink and toilet, part of Kohler's "Personalities Collection," in a style called "The Loon."

Other manufacturers went for the homey "Father Knows Best" look in kitchen fittings.

General Electric Co. added two new "white-on-white" ovens, Honeywell introduced a line of white thermostats and humidistats and Whirlpool weighed in with its "DesignerWhite" collection of refrigerators.

Others exhibitors tried to help people secure what they own. A Utah-based firm called Fort Knox Security offered a line of large floor safes ranging in price from $475 to $2,969 with ample room for cash or valuables and a partition designed to hold guns.

It also sells a door safe that allows a family to turn any windowless room into its own private vault.

Rising crime and the instability in the banking industry have been good for the safe business because people believe they need to protect what they own, according to the firm's sales representatives at the convention, who said that sales have been rising 40 percent to 50 percent a year recently.

"We don't pray for crime, but we live in a world where junkies with $400-a-day drug habits can't earn that much and need to go out and steal it," said T.J. Jones, Fort Knox vice president.

With attendance down about 10 percent at the annual event, dropping from about 61,000 last year to 55,000 this year, some manufacturers tried to find a gimmick to capture attention.

Overton, Md.-based, Nevamar flew in a California crew from a firm called Sand Sculptors International to fashion a trio of Victorian homes made of sand.

The sand artists worked diligently on the sand castles throughout the four-day exposition, attracting many interested passers-by.

"It's a great attention-getter," said Jan Adkins, vice president for advertising and merchandising for Nevamar, which makes decorative surfaces for items such as cabinets and vanity tops.

"Traffic at the show is expected to be down, so we knew we needed to do something dramatic to get their attention," Adkins said.

Other companies offered merchandise designed to help builders create a sense of more in a house while actually spending less.

One company, for example, Illinois-based PROPS, makes plastic boxes designed to look like stereo equipment, to be used in model homes.

"These finely detailed look-a-likes create the illusion of high-tech electronic equipment for a fraction of the cost," PROPS said a brochure. "Expertly crafted from durable plastic, these authentic looking facsimiles represent the state-of-the-art in electronic props."

At least one company sought to help builders create double-duty rooms that serve as living room-bedrooms or office-bedrooms.

Minneapolis-based SICO Room Makers, for example, offers Murphy beds -- once a popular feature in small apartments -- that fold up into wall panels. The cost: $1,200 to $5,000.

Closet organizers are an increasingly popular product as well, with many companies displaying steel, plastic or wooden shelving and basket systems that allow homeowners to more efficiently store their belongings when space is at a premium.

"Housing costs more so people want to get as much as possible into as little space as possible," said JoAnn Riley, marketing manager for Schulte Corp. of Cincinnati.

"It's in multifamily {housing}. It's in upscale. It's everywhere."

The manufacturers of bathroom equipment, meanwhile, also found themselves caught somewhere between the ostentatious display of the 1980s and the environmental movement growing in the 1990s.

Several companies, for example, presented water-conserving toilets that use only about half the water per flush at the same time their dramatic gushing and gurgling water displays ran all day, releasing clouds of water vapor that dissipated into the air.