Once upon a time, a starry-eyed young couple fell in love and got married. To save money, they rented a tiny apartment with barely room for two, except for the basement, which they intended to use as a bedroom. They placed their mattress on a plywood island near the furnace, water heater and racks of clothing, and resolved to clean up . . . or something . . . as soon as they returned from their honeymoon.

Unbeknown to them, their friend and fairy godmother, designer Cheryl Duvall, could not bear to allow the newlyweds to return to the basement as it was. As a surprise wedding gift, she and six friends from Duvall/Hendricks, an architectural and design firm, pooled resources, and talents, and spent four weeknights and one Saturday waging a successful battle against the basement uglies.

Using only a staple gun and 30 yards of leftover drapery lining remnants (50 cents a yard), the designers covered the ceiling with billowed scallops of fabric. Sixty-six yards of lightweight seersucker at $1.38 a yard was hung from the water pipes that were all around the room. Since the pipes couldn't be removed, fitted with shirred fabric and then rehung, another solution to covering them needed to be found. The use of Velcro was considered, but the cost was too high. So Ms. Duvall sewed pockets by overlapping fabric, then closing with buttons and buttonholes. To keep the fabric from billowing dangerously close to machinery, two dowels were purchased and shirred with fabric.

Storage areas and racks of clothing were placed out of sight behind folds of fabric. All furniture in the room was pulled from the odds and ends found in the basement by the designers.

If this sounds like a fairy tale, the most magical part is yet to come. The total cost for this transformation was $120. "The less money you have," says Ms. Duvall, "the freer you are to reach for creative solutions."

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