The next step after cast-offs and director's chairs

By , Staff correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Leslie Warren, a young New Yorker who works as a public affairs director for a city corporation, recently decided to transform her one-room apartment into a home far more to her taste and liking. The result, after a revamping project that cost $2,000, is a light, bright garden effect.

She describes her studio, located in one of Manhattan's more gracious older complexes, as "my first all-by-myself apartment." She graduated to it three years ago after a shared arrangement with two roommates, during which she lived with their collective assortment of family hand-me-downs.

She moved into her own domain with many of the same odds and ends, borrowed bed, crates, and canvas director's chairs that are the lot of most singles when they stake out their very first dwelling place.

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"For two years I didn't invite in many friends and I always murmured 'Don't look around; it's really not decorated yet, you know' to those who came. I had decided everyone must be thinking that I was chronically lazy, broke, or without ideas. I didn't like the feeling."

She had also delayed settling in because she kept thinking she would find a larger one-bedroom apartment. Tight housing and soaring rents soon made that dream seem like a fantasy. That was when she decided, "It wasn't so much the physical room change I needed as much as a change in the room I already occupied."

So she decided to leave behind the basic brown and rust color scheme that had long since become dull and boring, to work an entirely new room arrangement and to purchase whatever she needed to complete the plan. "I had changed, and my taste had changed," she explains. "And I wanted now to live with pretty things that I loved, not other people's cast-offs."

With that resolve, she gathered her forces, rallied a few friends, and began to put it all together. "I knew that I was, at last, making a home that I could love and be proud to show people."

She started with a list of "musts" which included, "Must get rid of those old grape crates and also grandma's old wire TV stand. Must get a wall bookcase unit that will tidy up all my books, records, bric-a-brac, and house my TV and stereo. Must have a proper desk to write and work on. Must get some grown-up items like end tables and good lamps and a real rug. Must find it all cheap."

The renewal project was accomplished, essentially, with 15 king-sized sheets, a new 9-by-15-foot red rug slashed with other primary colors (her most expensive purchase), a modern desk made of two chrome sawhorse bases and a clear plate glass writing surface, one mirrored cube table, and one new see-through Lucite plastic coffee table. Added to these were her vintage rocking chair, the narrow harvest table that enables her to entertain in the entryway, and her old twin-size sofa bed which is now slip-covered in quilted French blue sheeting.

Since storage is always a problem in one-room living, her collection of baskets in many shapes and sizes enables her to tuck needlework, hobby supplies, personal papers, magazines, and mail.

Having decided to go the sheet-decorating route, Leslie selected the Martex pattern called "festival" because it was splashed with big impressionistic flowers in pink, red, blue, green, yellow, and orange on a white background. She bought 10 patterned king-sized sheets to shirr, floor-to-ceiling, on three walls and three more to cover the two tall three-panel folding screens that now frame the double windows.

She divided the two parts of her studio couch, arranged them at right angles banquette-style in one corner, and piled them high with 20 toss pillows, which she covered with plain and patterned sheeting material. Couch covers, like the slipcover on the sofa bed, are made of quilted blue sheeting. Two large floor cushions, which seat extra guests are covered with the floral pattern.

If you shirr sheets to cover a wall, she says, you should multiply the width of the wall by 2 1/2 times to find out how much fabric you will need. Friends helped her measure, sew top and bottom casings in the sheets, and run cable cords through in order to gather them. They then tacked thin wood firring strips across the top and bottom of each wall, and stapled the shirred sheeting to the strips, starting at the top and drawing them down gently to attach to the lower strip.

As for the wall shelves, a handy friend measured her possessions that were to go on the shelves, designed the arrangement, had the lumber cut to size for a total of $125, and then put it together. This was a boon, since no store-bought units quite fitted the need.

As a final fillip, Leslie framed her favorite Fred Astaire dance poster and arranged a hallway gallery of personal photographs, bought a potted tree, clustered some plants, and put grandma's patchwork quilt on the back of the sofa. Now the place feels and looks like home.

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