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You can call it portable English country


Q: I happen to love the English country house look but live in a modern apartment with wall-to-wall carpeting (left by the previous tenants) and totally plain walls. There aren't even any moldings around the windows.

We don't own the apartment, so I can't think about built-ins. What else can I do?

A: Invest in furnishings you can take with you: bookcases that look like built-ins but aren't, for one example. Another: Large case pieces like armoires and secretaries, pieces with real visual "heft," are hallmarks of the English country look, which draws much of its charm from warm woods and a melange of patterns and textures.

The room we show here offers an innovative idea you might adapt. Never mind that it's not in an apartment (it's from the Masco show houses designed by Miller and Jedrziewski, a creative team from Salt Lake City). The two large cabinets are linked by a window seat to create a complete "architectural unit" that gives presence to the entire wall.

The window seat, with its heaps of pillows, could be carpenter-made, or it could be a low chest topped with a long cushion. Without it, you can imagine, you'd just have two big cabinets; with it, you have the look of built-in character.

Best of all, of course, all three elements can move on when you do.

Q: The kitchen in our new condo has a pass-through to the living-dining room, but when I'm working on the counters along the opposite wall, all I see are cabinets. They're white-painted wood but, still, I feel closed in and out of the fun.

Is there anything I can do?

A: Consider having the back splash between the cabinets and counter tops covered in panels of mirror. It will be too low to reflect the view, of course, but you'll be surprised at how mirrors open up space, both visually and emotionally.

Q: My husband wants to build a wall at the head of the bathtub to hold a shower rod so we can add a shower to the bath. We don't have enough money now for major remodeling, but I think his idea will make this already small bathroom look squeezed.

We'll go by your opinion. Is it worth it?

A: I prefer baths myself, but surveys show that men love their showers, perhaps even more than a more spacious-looking bath. Because you're right: A solid wall will indeed cut your room into tight little units.

There is a way to have your wall and your space, too: Build it of glassblocks, the clear kind that let the light through, and anchor your shower rod to them.

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Manhattan Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas.

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