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Use space effectively to add room

Q: We are appalled to find ourselves living in a neighborhood of tear-downs. Our house -- like many of those being razed -- was built a half-century ago when the area was working class.

We also need more living space, but can't decide how to add it. Do you have any suggestions?

A: Arm yourself with a good architect. He or she can survey your options and make professional recommendations on how to best enhance your specific property.

Meanwhile, you're to be congratulated for standing firm in your "working-class" footprint. After the bloated size and embarrassing aesthetics of America's McMansion phase, we are rediscovering the truth -- that less is indeed more.

Here's inspiration from the pages of a new book that celebrates the smaller, smarter home, "The Simple House" by architect Sarah Nettleton (The Taunton Press). Subtitled "The Luxury of Enough," her book shows why and how to think through one's space intelligently.

The pictured room is an addition to a small home similar to yours. Long and loft-like, the new space parallels the old, cascading through several activity areas down to the sitting room, which is on the same level as the outdoor garden. Architect Taal Safdie of Safdie Rabines orchestrated the addition so it connects the new and old house through open "windows" hung with shutters.

The long storage wall is as practical as it is attractive -- with open shelves and closed cabinets under columns that define the stairway as they evoke a feeling of the out-of-doors.

Q: Remember when paper dresses were the latest?

A: No, but I've read that disposable paper clothes were big news back in the 60s, the epitome of the now obsolete idea of "throwaway chic." Even artist Andy Warhol turned fashion designer, coming up with pop art to wear once and toss.

Nobody bought the idea back then, but it was deja vu for visitors at Heimtextil 2009, the giant textile show in Frankfurt, Germany. York Wallcoverings, the American manufacturer, filled its booth with mannequins wearing "clothes" copied from the latest Vogue and InStyle; only these high-fashions were concocted from York's designer wallpapers -- it's reported -- hand stitched into gathers, ruffles and flourishes with "all the detail devoted to haute couture."

Q: We have a large entryway stair hall with a curved wall by the stairs. There's enough space for a narrow love seat, but will it look funny with its back against the curve?

A: Not necessarily, especially if you provide a logical backdrop for the furniture grouping, which could also include a lamp table or an area rug to focus it.

Take a look at the design book of Harry Heissmann (of Albert Hadley Inc., New York), who was charged with dressing the inner staircase of the Manhattan mansion where the Holiday House designer show house was held (benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure cancer fund).

Heissmann backed his hallway arrangement -- seating, tables and lamps -- with an impressive eight panel, 8-foot mirror that ironed out the curved wall and anchored the seating area. Pure glam, too.

Don't fret if you don't have such a show-stopper: You can create the same effect with panel doors, hinged together and covered with mirror tiles, available at any home store.

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