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Lost Antiques Can (Almost) Be Found Again Q: How to give our new house some Old World charm? I grew up with antiques (sadly lost in a fire) and my husband grew up in an orphanage. It seems important for us to establish/re-establish family roots for ourselves. How should we begin? A: As you …Read more. Retiring? Ditch the Dark, One Piece at a Time Q: We are planning to retire at the end of the year and move to the lakeside bungalow we bought eight years ago. Suddenly, I realize that our old furniture can't make the move with us — it's all dark wood and the upholstery is dark plaid and …Read more. In-Laws Coming? Decorating Tricks, Quick! Q: I'm embarrassed to ask this question (don't print my name!): What's the quickest way to fill up a room? We've just moved into our first house-house, and my in-laws (who helped us afford it) are coming East to visit for Thanksgiving. We both work, …Read more. Spicing Up a Timid Kitchen Q: We are taking down the wall between our kitchen and the old breakfast room. Our kitchen is all light wood. I'd like to do something jazzy in the new space. My question is, what color wood should we pick for the new table and chairs? Is it OK to …Read more.
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Big Plans for Tiny Rooms

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Q: What to do with a really small room? I mean teeny-tiny, maybe just wide enough to wedge in a double bed. We need a guest room, but would any guest feel welcome in such a stingy little bedroom?

A: If not, you should make better friends. As long as they can stretch out well enough to sleep in a space that's warm and welcoming, what more does any guest really need?

Here's an inspiring case in point: Dena Fishbein, top-shelf designer and author of "The Painted House, "and her husband Dan Fishbein used to handle their thriving design business via computers installed in this sliver of a room.

Then they both got laptops, Deana writes, leaving the space underemployed. They decided to turn it into a guest room, even if there was just a quarter-inch to spare when they moved the bed in.

However, no one loses sleep over the tight fit thanks to Dena's famously freehanded approach to mixing exuberant colors and patterns. The high canopy matches the pillows, which match the bed skirt, which is echoed in the throw and stenciled decorations that pack such an enormous punch of personality into the Lilliputian room.

Also, please note: guests' basic comfort needs are provided for. There are light-controlling curtains at the windows, a handy table at bedside and an efficient reading lamp, all de rigueur in any guest room, however large or small.

This is creative re-purposing at its best. As Dena believes, "Part of what gives a house its vitality is its evolution. If your home grows and changes with you, if it reflects both where you are and where you've been, it will better suit where you're going."

Q: We're building "the house of our dreams" in the mountains.

My husband wants to put in an outdoor shower. We aren't having a pool — not in this climate. Is he crazy?

A: You said, "of our dreams." Obviously, that includes your husband's, too.

By the way, landlocked outdoor showers are not as farfetched as they may seem. James Beard, the pioneering American foodie of the mid-20th century, installed an outdoor shower at his Greenwich Village townhouse. The shower was open to all the back gardens in the West 12th Street neighborhood — never mind that Beard was also known for his corpulence, an obvious occupational hazard.

The world's foodies, now converging on the Beard house for remarkable meals at the James Beard Foundation (www.jamesbeard.org), still giggle as they step past his shower en route to the dining table

Then there's the enviable outdoor shower installed by an ingenuous neighbor of my friend whose family farm lies in mountainous Virginia. High up on the top level of their handsome custom-built house, Henry's al fresco shower certainly boasts a better view than Beard's: the vista down the misty mountain valley is truly breathtaking.

There is one hazard, Henry admits: showering guests who accidentally drop the soap.

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Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Manhattan Style" and six other books on interior design. To find out more about Rose Bennett Gilbert and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.Creators.com.

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