Q: We want to make an apartment over our garage for my son and his wife while he's finishing medical school. Later we can rent it to other tenants, which will be a nice supplement to our retirement income. My question is about the sitting room space. It's tiny, and there's a slanted wall on one side. How can we (a) cope with that slant, (b) give such a tiny space a little grace? I have a few antiques I can contribute.
A: That slant can offer you an attractive new angle, as you can see in the photo we show here of a sitting room -- also tiny -- designed by Ann Lind Bowers of Far Hills, N.J. She has used it to create an intimate nook for seating that's visually embraced by the angled ceiling on one side and balanced by an added-on bookcase on the other. Between them, the sofa becomes the focal point of the room, which Ms. Bowers says she envisioned as "a little hideaway in Paris." Hence, her accent on Old World elegance when she chose its furnishings and artworks. Other charming -- and space-making -- tips from this professional designer:
*A new soffit with recessed halogen lights bridges and unifies the seating alcove.
*Wall-mounted swing-arm lamps replace end tables.
*The narrow bookcase is painted to blend with the darker stripe in the wall covering.
*The wall covering itself is boldly striped, making the ceiling look higher.
*Some of the furniture is deliberately overscaled, a trick, Ms. Bowers says, that actually makes the room look larger because there's less furniture in it.
*The ceiling (you'll have to take our word for it) is painted the same blue as the lighter wall-covering stripe, another trick that creates the illusion of more space.
*The sisal rug (inexpensive, durable and handsome) is run wall to wall, always a room-expanding idea.
Q: I have a modular sofa in my family room which is almost 12 feet long. It's in front of the fireplace and I have a large cocktail table in the middle, but it's not really long enough to reach if you're sitting near either end. There's no space for side tables. What can you suggest?
A: Substitute several smaller, movable tables for the large one. In a showhouse room he created in New Jersey, New York designer Tom Britt -- known for his baroque scale and dramatic touches -- marched a series of little tables across the front of three large sofas around the fireplace. The nicest surprise: The tables were made of the same material -- mother-of-pearl inlay -- but some were low, some tall. In all, a lot more interesting and flexible than one clunky big table predictably in the center.
Q: I'm doing an all black-and-white study for my husband and am dying to put a zebra rug on the floor.
Our ecology-conscious fifth-grader won't hear of it. She says zebras are endangered. What would give the same effect?
A: I have a suggestion: Why don't you make a "zebra" rug that would save everyone's skin?
You could stencil-paint it on the floor.
Animal prints are very much in fashion -- your daughter's not the only one who's ecology-conscious today. You can find zebra-striped broadloom, cut it into shape with a carpet knife (draw the pattern on the back first) and have the edges bound in black.