Q: There's space over our three-car garage that we'd like to make over into an apartment for our son, who's attending a community college. Any budget-wise tips would be appreciated.
A: In these tight economic times, lots of homeowners are looking for new living space on the old homestead. So you've asked a good question at the right time.
In fact, when the editors of Home magazine built a brand-new idea house in Atlanta recently, they kept it small, compact and very realistic for the times.
In the photo we show here, there are a number of charming answers to your quest. Actually created over a garage, this is the main room of a space-wise apartment that would be as kind to your budget as to your son.
With its sloping ceilings, birch paneling and dormered windows, the room looks spacious and cozy at the same time. Best, it offers the amenities of a full-fledged apartment: The leather sofa converts to a bed, the twig furniture is casual and inexpensive and the carpet is made from squares (they could be samples from the rug store) taped together in an interesting, asymmetrical pattern.
Note how the standing screen and dramatic wall sculptures -- boards hand-carved into fish store signs -- add vertical lines that help balance the inherently short walls in the room.
Out of the picture to the left is a provincial-style pine table that doubles as a desk or dining table. The kitchen could be tucked into a sliver of space behind folding doors, and the bath behind a partition to save more on building costs.
Q: I want to buy a new dining room set, but it's made of mahogany and I understand a lot of mahogany comes from the rain forests in Brazil. Is there any way I can be sure I'm not helping destroy the forests?
A: Many people are eager to "buy green" these days, a fact that hasn't been lost on the furniture industry.
The Rainforest Alliance, a conservation group in New York, has launched a "Smart Wood" program that certifies that the furniture earning such a designation does not come from wood harvested in the rain forests.
Instead, mahogany (and teak) that wears the "Smart Wood" label was raised on plantations in Indonesia: Cedar furniture so designated was probably cut in community-managed natural forests in Honduras, according to Furniture/Today, the furniture industry newspaper.
Q: I just moved into a new home (a cape). The small bedroom on the main floor was used as a den, and I intend doing the same. However, I am having a problem regarding a window treatment.
The room measures 13 by 11 feet and there is a 6-foot sliding door opening onto a Florida room. Beside it comes 3 1/2 feet of wall space, and then two 36-inch windows at right angles. What can I do to tie the sliding door and windows together?
A: Your first obligation is to choose a treatment that won't interfere with the comings and goings through that sliding door. I'd suggest a shaped, fabric-covered valance over the door and another angled over both windows.
You could use matching curtains hung under the window valance on a two-way draw traverse rod so they meet in the corner when they're closed.