Stepladders move from the garage to the living room

Ladders can be converted into clever decorating devices.Whether old or new they can be refinished, antiqued, or enameled in bright, shiny colors. They can then be hung with plants, stacked with books, or artistically draped with fabric.

Many gift shops and mail-order houses even offer ready-made stepladder-style plant stands in wood or clear plastic, retailing at $9.99 to $16.95.

But a standard stepladder can also serve a decorative purpose. For instance, a young woman in Chicago moved into her first apartment with her suitcase and a few basics. Since she knews she would need a ladder for use in hanging curtains and pictures, her next purchase was a $29.99 stepladder from Montgomery Ward. She enameled it bright blue and decorated it with yellow and white geometric motifs, then placed a small collection of her favorite African violets on its steps, and put it next to her front windows.

As she slowly furnishes her apartment, the blue ladder will be move around to help "furmish" other empty spaces.

A former Navy officer who now lives in California picked up from a salvage store a ship's ladder off a Navy cruiser. It was a nostalgia puchase. He enameled his ladder a Bright yellow and placed it in a kitchen window whre it would catch the morning sun. It is now hung with posts of red geraniums, purple primroses, and light green vines, and the whole family enjoys it.

A woman on the West Coast bought an oriental bamboo ladder from an import shop and attached it to her dressing-room well. She attached hooks to the bamboo rungs and employs it is for her handbag storage.

An old woeden Italian kitchen stepllader which one New York family brought back after living a year in Italy folds down to make a bench.

An inventive homemaker in Portola Valley, Calif., discovered an old ladder with round rungs in a local demolition junk shop. She painted it antique off- white to match the walls of her dining room and propped it atop her antique walnut sidebard. In its new role as a decorative accent piece, it reaches to the ceiling and is hung with foliage plants.

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