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Decorating with little but ideas

By Marilyn HoffmanStaff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor / January 7, 1980



New York

Decorating on a shoestring budget is an endlessly intriguing subject to people without much cash or who are frequently on the move. Likewise, putting a home together with ingenuity, imagination, and personal style is a matter of fascination to a great many people.

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One recently published book are aimed at helping these cost-minded but creatively inclined people find some innovative ideas for solving their own decorating problems is "Your Space: How to Put It Together for Practically Nothing," by Jon Naar and Mary Ellen Moore (New York: St. Martin's Press. $12.95 cloth, $6.95 paper).

These authors say they are chiefly concerned about "mobility, crowded schedules, and soaring costs." They interviewed dozens of people who designed their own places for practically nothing. Mr. Naar photographed the results of their efforts and Miss Moore describes in words what she calls "alternative approaches to decorating." She also refers to these novel do-it-yourself jobs as "anything goes," "underground," and "anti-traditional" decorating.

Mr. Naar says he photographed rooms that would never be seen in slick magazines, and he is absolutely right. The rooms he photographs have one thing in common: Each is permanently unfinished. They ever evolve and change as new additions of "found, recycled, and homemade objects" are added. The whimsical and sometimes bizarre decorating schemes they cover tend to include such titles as "art wrecko," "cheap chic," and "the flea-market factor." "Found furniture" is just that -- other people's discards and trowaways, found usually on curbsides and in trash rooms.

The authors tell people to look at things with the idea that the items could be something other than what they are. Old office and dental lab furniture, for instance, finds infinite new storage purposes in these apartments. Mr. Naar and Miss Moore advise readers not to rush into decorating, but to relax, take time, and get acclimated to new surroundings before trying to arrange things to suit themselves.

The authors say that the overriding lesson they learned from their explorations is this: "Don't let anyone tell you something can't or shouldn't be done. Just do it. It's your place. And try to use things that you can take with you or items that you don't mind throwing or giving away or leaving behind for the next tenants when you move. Always be free with your imagination and stingy with your cash."

The book is, of course, full of easily adaptable ideas. One couple bought 13 patterned sheets at $3 from a discount store and, using a staple gun, concealed flaking walls and got sound insulation to boot. Another placed a mirror cater-cornered and set a few plants in front of it to get the reflected effect of a veritable forest. Another couple used flawed lace tablecloths to cover windows, ceiling, furniture, and radiator.

The authors' basic conclusion is that you can express yourself in decorating your own place and be fun, cheap, and ingenious about it. Yet they don't toss out all the rules. They advise: "Be organized where you work in your home. Plan your kitchen for maximum efficiency, and make sure your living room is comfortable."