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One-room wonders

Designers offer suggestions on how to transform limited space into luxury, single-room suites

Susan Zevon I Associated Press

In a recurring dream, I walk down a hallway in my apartment and discover a whole wing that I never knew existed.

Fantastic! I now have a spacious dining room, library and guest suite.

I suspect that many people living in cities where space is the ultimate luxury share this dream. And while many make do with limited space, living in just one room is particularly challenging.

It’s not just city dwellers coping with that challenge, but also students, seniors and those decorating a pied á terre.

Designers have some guidelines for making the most of living in one room. The first step, they agree, is assessing how you live.

Do you work at home? Do you like to entertain? After a thorough editing, how much stuff do you have left to store – clothing, books, shoes, DVDs, etc.?

On page one of her book “Design Rules” (Gotham, 2009), decorating diva Elaine Griffin writes: “Whether you are a studio apartment dweller or are gifted with a sprawling suburban domain, the design rules for the public spaces are the same.”

Except that the rules are even more important when you must make the most of one room.

The biggest issue in designing for one-room living is separating public and private space, says Kenneth Brown, a Los Angeles interior designer who appears on “reDesign” on the Fine Living Network and HGTV.

“Nobody at a dinner party wants to be staring at a bed,” Brown says.

For a one-room project featured on his show, he used a bookcase as a room divider to separate the public and private areas of the room, as well as to store books and provide a stand for a swivel TV.

He is a fan of the new-style Murphy beds, which he says are both sleek and comfortable. He masks them with custom finishes such as paneling, antique mirrors and art work to blend with the architecture of the room.

One that he especially recommends, from Zoom-Room, rolls down from behind a panel where you can hang a flat-screen TV.

While each room differs according to how his clients want to live (how much space they want devoted to entertaining, to a home office, etc.), Brown says there are rules that always apply:

•Don’t be afraid of big pieces. Lots of small ones will clutter a space.

•Select furniture on legs so you can see under the piece.

•Don’t float the furniture in the center of the room.

•Try lining the walls with two large sofas.

•Select a coffee table that may double for dining.

•Commit to one color and bring in different textures. That way the walls recede and the eye is not stopped by an accent wall.

•Create zones in your room with lighting. For example, hang a chandelier over the entertaining area.

Brown believes that concealing stuff in pretty boxes is key to living artfully in one room. He is a fan of the Container Store for finding creative storage solutions.

Ron Marvin, an interior designer who appears on the HGTV show “Small Spaces, Big Style,” has designed two one-room apartments for himself, in San Francisco and New York City.

“First, think about what you need the space to do,” he advises. “Think of your room as a beautifully appointed hotel room.”

Marvin believes in allowing for the luxury of a queen-size bed. In San Francisco, he did not work at home and so was able to create a separate space for entertaining, using a large antique sideboard to store serving pieces and other items.

“Open shelves only work if you are neat,” he says.

For his apartment in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, where his home doubles as an office, Marvin tucked the bed into one corner and a desk with storage boxes underneath it in another.

He loves lamps: “They are sculptural and make your eye move around.”

Marvin believes lamps have a cozier effect than overhead lighting, and has 13 of them in his apartment.

As for wall color, he advises, “Don’t be afraid of the dark. Dark colors make the walls recede.

“It is only one room – experiment with wall color. If you don’t like it, paint another color the next weekend.”

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