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Who said things had to match?

Published Oct. 13, 2005

It isn't necessary to be outrageous in order to make a home's design stand out from all the others on the block. It does help, however, to be a bit daring in the use of furniture and other elements of decoration. I offer this advice even though I've never been able to make peace with a cobbler's bench that's been converted into a cocktail table. Similarly, the sight of grandma's coffee grinder doesn't fill me with the urge to wire it and shade it so that it becomes a lamp. At the same time, I've always liked trunks that have been turned into coffee tables, whether they be scrubbed pine, as shown in the photo, or the more elegant mahogany with brass accents.

Coordinated wallpapers offer another opportunity for using decorative features in unexpected ways. Most of these packaged collections include numerous patterns _ large as well as small florals, along with stripes and sometimes plaids. Borders, too, are often part of a coordinated set of wallpapers.

Even though these various patterns are colored and scaled in ways that allow them to work together, it's unusual to see more than a couple of them used in the same setting. And borders, for some reason, are seldom applied anywhere except below the ceiling.

But why be a captive to convention? Daring combinations and applications can produce results that are both dazzling and practical.

Specifically, if a room's height is out of proportion to its other dimensions _ as is often the case with apartments carved out of old houses _ it's worth considering the sort of approach taken in the photo. Here, wall-covering patterns have been deployed in an unorthodox way that serves to diminish the verticality of the room.

The weight and visual direction of this space were shifted by the arrangement of the three different wall-coverings. A mini-dot pattern was affixed to the bottom third of the wall, with the heaviest design used on the middle section. This center array is divided from the lighter-weighted patterns above and below it by a wide and highly decorative border. The entire room was thus transformed through the clever and original use of these "Wall-Tex Country Traditionals" by Wall-Tex Wallcoverings.

There are many other ways to use both mundane and distinctive items to produce dramatic effects. So-called "found objects" such as twigs and stones have frequently inspired the artistically-minded to create lovely centerpieces for tables. A good rummage through some closets may likewise reveal accessory wear that can be put to decorative use in the home. Shawls, for instance, can be turned into bedspreads, and fashionable head scarves can be placed atop vanilla-like table cloths to transform the appearance of an informal table setting.

The possibilities are practically limitless. But rather than continuing to list them, let me instead encourage you to think about new and inventive uses for everyday objects and design elements. The outcome may be as striking as it is surprising.