RULE number one for buying fabricsin Costa Rica? Get the terminology correct.The generic word in Spanish for fabricis tela. Don’t ask for fábrica. That’s a factory.According to the experts (and mostupscale places), do employ someone whospeaks English if your “Spanish forShopping” skills aren’t up to the task – therest is quite subjective.“We all have good taste, meaning thateveryone has their own taste,” explainsSara Urbina of KA International.That said, fabric sellers here do offeradvice and will attempt to steer you in theright direction, or “guide the client in asubtle way,” as Urbina describes it.PRIMARY colors have always beenpopular in lowland areas, with decoratorsin the cooler Central Valley opting formore subdued tones, says Johnny Valverdeof San José’s Distribuidora Selecta.But don’t be surprised to walk into ahome in the capital these days and see abright palm-tree or pineapple design onsomeone’s curtains, says Michael Cava ofFJ Escazú. The trend is just beginning tomove toward bright colors and strongprints, he says, something from whichmost people in this tropical country havetraditionally shied away.The key to being able to take suchintrepid steps with fabric choices is themix-and-match approach that most qualitydealers employ.WALK into KA International’s showroom, for example, and you’ll see fabricsamples grouped by color: the reds, thegreens, the blues, and so on. Tones carrybetween fabrics in color groups. Stickingwith one group for a room helps clientswork their way through the myriad colors.Such a system also makes it unnecessaryto go from store to store.“Textures and prints in the curtains canmatch the pillows, sofa and chair,” Urbinasays.Such a color-based approach allowsyou to plan for future decorating needswith a minimum of muss and fuss, sheadds. It is not necessary to go with a conservativebeige this year just because youknow it won’t clash with something moredaring you might decide to do next year.Urbina recommends buying enoughfabric for the job. Although firms like KAInternational are part of international franchisesthat create their own designs andcan order more of your choice later, it’sbest not to run out. With five or six shipmentsper year, the wait is never long, butcould be a few weeks.HEAVIER fabrics have traditionallybeen the word for the cooler CentralValley, with lighter cottons, linens and chenillesholding sway in warmer climes. ButCava says that is changing with air conditioninghelping to bring parity to the twointerior climates.Blends are the newest word here in fabricsthese days. Viscose can add a bit ofsilky shine to cotton. Jute can add a bit ofrusticity or can loosen the weave to make itcooler.And there’s even no need to recoil fromthe dreaded “P” word.“Everyone hears the term ‘polyester’and thinks of 1970s leisure suits,” Urbinasays. “But polyester is back.”The newer, high-quality synthetic fabricscan be added to wool or linen in 25%blend to impart a certain sturdiness and tohelp it wear longer. And maintenance islow with water-resistant polyesters such asDurapela and Teflon. (No, the couch willfeel more like suede or leather and not atall like a frying pan.)Expect to pay $20-60 per meter forquality fabrics at high-end places.(Upholstering a standard-size couch, forexample, should take 14-16 meters of fabric.)FOR those prices, decidedly higherthan what you’d pay at the mass purveyorswhere the typical family shops, you’llreceive top-notch fabrics with no irregularitiesand a firm that stands by its product.In-store advice is free. House calls andlabor run extra.Contact KA International in San Rafaelde Escazú, 288-2535 or the location inMultiplaza East, Curridabat at 280-6716.Call Distribuidora Selecta in BarrioLos Angeles at 222-7954. Or talk with FJEscazú in San Rafael de Escazú at 289-7364.