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Take the auction/'junque' store route if not in a hurry


Q: We blew our budget remodeling our attached garage into a family room. Now I need some inexpensive ideas on how to furnish it fast because it's our turn to have the family reunion. Help!

A: If you weren't in such a hurry, I'd suggest that you go the auction/"junque" store route and pick pieces you can renovate one by one. That's kindest to your budget but takes both time and patience.

You'll find the same is true of most furniture stores, where what you see is not always what you can get delivered right away. You place your order and wait -- six to eight weeks as a rule of thumb, maybe more for custom upholstery. When you're buying against a deadline, always check out the ETA with the salesperson before you get emotionally involved with a piece of furniture.

Having said all that, I will go on to add that new furniture can be well worth waiting for and not necessarily cruel to your budget.

The room we show here is a happy case in point: Everything came in one fell swoop from an Ethan Allen store, so it all works together comfortably. Some ideas here that you might adapt for your new family room:

* Handkerchief curtains -- budget-boosters because all you need are window-size panels of fabric with contrasting linings.

* Trestle table and benches -- two sit for the price of one chair (in a real budget crunch, you could even let a picnic bench stand in while you save up for the table).

* Wall art -- a dramatic fabric stapled over inexpensive artist's canvas stretchers becomes a room-maker masterpiece for almost no money.

Q: At a designer show house I visited this fall, one of the rooms was completely covered in a toile fabric that was gathered on the walls and tented on the ceiling. I loved the look, but I have two questions:

Is this possible to do yourself? Is it very expensive?

A: I'm saying yes to both questions, tentatively to the first and loudly to the second. Draping an entire room in fabric is a tour de force that requires more than average expertise to do yourself. It might be worth it if your walls are in poor shape, since fabric covers all.

But be warned: You're in for a whopping lot of yardage. I've seen a not-too-large bedroom that scarfed up some 400 yards of fabric (including a bed upholstered to match).

Q: I'm helping my boyfriend decorate his apartment, which is a large loft. He loves the wide-open space, but I think the bed should have a little privacy, if you know what I mean. What can I do that won't actually close it off?

A: Some thoughts: If the light's right for growing, you could create a small forest of potted trees that would screen the bed.

Hang vertical blinds or panels of sheer fabric from the ceiling so they float at bedside. Stand a tall decorative screen or a panel of wooden garden trellis at the head of the bed.

Any of these ideas will create some privacy without breaking up the flow of space.

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

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