For first apartment, pick sofa, then paint

07/26/2008 12:00 AM

07/26/2008 6:40 PM

Q. My partner and I have just moved into our first apartment and have very little money to fix it up. Can you give us some tips, please? We have hardwood floors and both like earth tones.

You will be amazed at what you can accomplish with a little imagination.

Paint will set just the right backdrop for your style, but start by picking a sofa and one or two comfy chairs. There are inexpensive options that will make an inviting setting, and you might discover a red sofa or pure-white wing chair that you can't resist.

Your wall color can easily be changed, so don't be afraid to experiment. Look at warm grays, golden browns and tangy shades of green. A few simple storage solutions, baskets and boxes, will keep you organized. Create a focal point on one wall with a group of prints, photographs or a collection of artifacts you've brought home from a trip.

Even the most minimal wall display will personalize your room, and this is the key to a home that makes you happy.

Angled ceilings

Q. I live in a century-old home that has been modernized over the years. I'm fixing up the bathroom and master bedroom. There's a lot of wasted space in both rooms due to angled ceilings. I prefer dark wood floors; is this a good choice for a small room? What about wallpaper in the bathroom and one wall of the bedroom?

I love the idea of dark floors, and no, they won't necessarily make the space look smaller. They'll give it a contemporary feel.

The thought of the old (slanted ceiling) with the modern dark floors is brilliant. Try one of the cool new wallpaper patterns on a wall. What about painting the wall but covering an old chest of drawers with a printed paper? Or try paintable wall coverings on one wall.

Hanging prints

Q. I have an open staircase leading to a loft. I have three prints I would like to hang. How do I position them?

There isn't any one way to hang your prints. Look at the visual space and dimensions of the wall and staircase. Your challenge is to come up with a pleasing balance.

Small prints look amazing in an oversize frame with a large mat. I would try a vertical line. Before you hammer, experiment with paper pieces cut to size and stick them in position with low-adhesion tape.

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