Unusual ideas to top a cocktail table


C Q: I really enjoy rooms that look different. I mean rooms that don't have the usual kinds of furniture used in the same old ways.

For instance, my living room "sofa" is actually an old iron daybed with cushions on three sides, and my bed head once was a Gothic church pew I had cut to fit the mattress. Of course, I've had everything from a wicker Victorian wagon to tree stumps under glass for a cocktail table. Now I'm about out of ideas. Got any to spare?

A: A bunch, from the sophisticated to the surprising.

In the former category, I put the pleasantly eclectic sitting room in the photo we show here, designed by Leanne Billups of Billups Cotten Design, New York (and featured in the "Showcase of Interior Design," East Coast Edition).

Ms. Billups simply tops a footstool with a tray to make a handsome cocktail table. The same idea works with a large ottoman, round or otherwise, in a traditional or Victorian room.

More offbeat cocktail table ideas:

*Wooden bed steps.

*Stacks of large, "coffee table" books.

*A pair of urns under glass.

*A large wood-framed mirror balanced on one (or two) garden seats.

*A stack of giant wooden blocks borrowed from the kids.

*A low terrarium or aquarium topped with glass.

You get the idea: If it's the right height, sufficiently steady and adds a bit of fun to the room, almost anything beats a ho-hum store-bought cocktail table.

Which, by the way, was an all-American addition to the home, reflecting our lifestyle in the 20th century as surely as the tea table spoke for life in 18th century England.

Q: Our study has only one wall long enough for the sofa bed, and that is covered with built-in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves between the windows. How will it look if we just put the sofa over the shelves, books and all?

A: Fine. You'll want to create an attractive arrangement of books, bibelots and accessories, taking care to balance mass and color all the way up. You might also consider tucking in a tiny lamp or two to serve sofa sitters and bed readers.

Another interesting thought: You could hang a large framed painting or mirror right over the center shelves as if they were a wall, after all.

Q: Does a dust ruffle have to match the canopy on a bed?

A. No, but it certainly makes the bed look more finished if it does. If they don't match, pick a solid color for the ruffle that plays back to the color of the canopy, or vice versa.

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