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It's Quite a Stretch, Decorating for 'Boomerang' Kids

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Q: We're trying to make a nice home office for our son who is moving back home until he can find another job. His father thinks we should move in some of the furniture that's been in storage, like a small sofa and some lamp tables. They're looking a little shabby to me. I don't want our son to feel any worse than he does about having to live with us. Do you have any ideas that don't cost much?

A: Applause for both your sense and your sensibilities. There are easy solutions that will help take the edge off your son's shame. He's hardly alone, you know. This murky economy has mired many new careers, leaving more than 14 million "boomerang" kids to move back home across the U.S.

Your kindness and your husband's tolerance (am I reading this correctly?) need not cost a lot. Vintage furniture perks up instantly — and inexpensively —with new slipcovers and/or a new coat of paint.

Here's proof positive: The smart-looking sofa and chaise in the photo we show here are wearing new outfits that come ready-made, ready to slip over old upholstery. Thanks to a little Spandex in the polyester fabric, these slipcovers are as formfitting as custom-made upholstery and at a mere fraction of the cost ($199 for both the sectional covers and the chaise).

New from Sure Fit (surefit.com), the stretchy covers are a far cry from the old baggy "schmatta" look you may remember from the early days of one-size (really doesn't)-fit-all, ready-made slipcovers. Now you can even have leather-look covers that fit as snugly as, well, Spandex shorts and are a lot more flattering to old bodies, like your sofa's.

As for the lamp tables you plan to resurrect, think paint. It's magic in a can, whatever color you choose.

Spring for a couple of new lampshades (Doesn't everyone have a few old lamp bases in storage?), add an inexpensive sisal rug, maybe bamboo window blinds, and — Wait! Red alert! — your son might never want to move out!

Q: Need help with decorating decisions but don't know where to ask?

A: Professional help is as near as your computer keyboard in these days of online everything. Mega designer Jamie Herzlinger (jamieherzlinger.com) has introduced a kind of electronic design consultancy that lets you work with her online from wherever you live.

Puzzled about choosing a paint color, for example? Herzlinger can create a choice of two palettes (for walls, moldings, doors and cabinetry) and provide color samples for you to pass directly to your painter. Cost for her advice: $750 per room. But you won't be making more costly mistakes.

More advice at your fingertips comes from Hunter Douglas, the mega-manufacturer of window treatments. The company's just debuted a free iPad app that allows you to preview different treatments on your own home's windows. Take a photo of your window and upload it to test the variety of different ideas offered by Hunter Douglas.

Check out "The Art of Window Dressing" app through a link at hunterdouglas.com.

Q: Do you really love your walls?

A: Just in time for Valentine's Day comes "Smooches" wallpaper. The wallpaper design is pink and red kiss marks — allover — with gold glitter. Check out the "Risky Business II" collection by York Wallcoverings (yorkwall.com).

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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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