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Decorating with little but ideas

(Page 2 of 2)

If they hate having anything ever be finished, it is because "being unfinished means not being stuck with a certain look." It is a kooky book that professional designers will abhor and adventurous young homesteaders will no doubt like.

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A second book on decorating on a limited budget is Catherine C. Crane's "What Do You Say to a Naked Room?" (New York: Dial Press. $19.95 cloth, $12.95 paper.) With the aid of words and photographs, the author unfolds a discovery trip that helps people recognize those colors, textures, and objects that they innately like best and want to live with as constant companions.

"Help!" is what most people exclaim at their first glimpse of an empty room, but the author shows them how to get initial help by asking the right questions of the room.

These include such questions as how many people will live there? Where is it located? What are its bad features which must be camouflaged and its good features which must be emphasized? Is it light and airy, or dark and gloomy? It is small and confined, or large and spacious? Is money limited and therefore an important factor in its decoration?

Even an unfurnished room talks back and yields answers, Catherine Crane says. She sets forth decorating options, and actually shows people how they can best reflect themselves in their homes. The young author describes her own present Manhattan apartment as a case in point.

"I had been living in a lousy walk-up apartment which my Yankee upbringing and thrift kept telling me I had to endure," she says. "Then one day a friend reminded me that because I worked at home and spent so much time there, a good apartment was not an indulgence but a bona fide expense.

"So I walked down my four flights of stairs, past the garbage cans, and signed a lease for a new apartment, complete with lobby, doorman, view of the East River, and, best of all, an elevator. I was jubilant the day I moved in and started talking to my 12-by-25- foot studio apartment, with entrance hallways, alcove, bath, and kitchen. The decoration that has emerged is my own look."

She says proudly, "It is wonderful to feel you live in a place where something good is going for you, and I have become a firm believer in the positive power of a pretty home."

To attain her present look, Catherine Crane has spent almost $5,000. That figure includes blue wall-to-wall carpeting throughout to make it look more spacious, a whole wall of modular sectional bookcase units that look built in but aren't, and three movable seating units that she had a carpenter build for her. Beneath each upholstered sectional seat is a toy-box-like storage space. She had the same carpenter partition off the conversation area of her living room with a waist-high plywood screen. It has a corkboard bulleting board and a Formica-covered hanging desk shelf on the bedroom side.

The author covered the walls and ceiling of her narrow entrance hall in silver Mylar wallpaper for glint and reflection and put silvery thin-slatted louvered blinds at the windows.

"Although I think I'd have to be an archaeologist to dig through to the bottom of my round dining table where I work, the apartment is simple and works well for me. It havens me beautifully. Whether you think $5,000 is a lot, or a little, the result has been worth every cent to me."