Taking your decor beyond the ordinary Design: You can make a room stand out by using an unusual item along with mass-market furniture.

March 22, 1998|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

In my field, I constantly encounter highly talented individuals who build cabinets, weave rugs, blow multicolored glass into beautiful shapes, paint textured patterns, and create furnishings and decorative accessories that look more like artworks than the everyday objects that fill most of our homes.

This is not to suggest that there's anything wrong with what I call off-the-shelf furniture. Pieces from the local showroom can be good-looking, and they generally provide value for money. But a house loaded exclusively with mass-market furniture can be pretty boring and anonymous-looking. And if interior design strives toward one single goal, it's to transcend the ordinary by avoiding cookie-cutter outcomes.

So if you're contemplating a room redesign, don't think only about functional issues; also give some thought to how you might create a sense of individuality in that particular space. Even when a budget necessitates using lots of prefab furniture and decorations, one should always try to introduce an element of surprise -- that special something no one else has.

I'm about to furnish a larger bedroom for my adolescent son. My aim is to have the room reflect his personality and be a fun place for him to spend time. Do you think I should install a space-saving bunk bed, or would that be too much like every boy's bedroom?

Kids' bedrooms are fun to furnish, especially for a parent who fantasizes about the room she or he never had. But it's essential that this not become an adults-only undertaking. Before any design decisions are made, children themselves should be brought into the process. This will be an opportunity for your son to express his personality -- and, not incidentally, to learn something about the art of design.

You can begin by asking him about his favorite colors, his preferences for play and work space, the location of shelves and other storage units, and -- maybe most important of all -- the room's social aspect.

Kids generally use their bedrooms as multipurpose spaces, with the entertaining of friends being a particularly prominent purpose.

Your son's room should thus be designed as not only a workshop, a play area and a place to sleep, but also as a gathering spot for his peers.

I understand why you regard a bunk bed as a predictable element. But you're also quite right about its being a space-saver, and the simple fact is that most kids do love bunk beds.

If you decide to take this approach, try to make the bed stand out from the crowd.

Drawers can be built under the bottom section, and, ceiling height permitting, you might even be able to add some sort of superstructure above the top bunk.

The photo suggests how to create a functional and decorative environment around a standard wooden bunk bed.

This model is taken from Karen Howes' book, "Making the Most of Bedrooms," recently published by Rizzoli International.

Here, a pair of tall pedimented cabinets have been installed as a means of separating the sleeping area from the rest of the room. These custom-built cabinets stand like guardhouses in front of the beds, providing abundant storage space for books, games and whatever else kids collect.

This room is furnished in a simple manner with pine pieces and decorative accents of red, white and blue. And although almost all these elements can be found in any well-stocked furniture store, the room nevertheless looks different because of those pedimented cabinets.

Pub Date: 3/22/98

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