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Adventures with a basic box.

WHEN YOU CAN'T afford the home of your dreams, what do you do? If you're a first-time home buyer, you do what San Francisco interior designer Christopher Pollock did: improvise.

Pollock had always hoped to buy a run-down Victorian cottage, then fix it up. But the reality of high house prices, even for fixer-uppers that needed expensive reinforcing, made him reorganize his priorities. He decided to purchase an anonymous but well-laid-out 615-square-foot studio condominium on the top floor of a six-year-old building, then add the architectural personality and sense of history himself.

Though the unit was a basic box with a typical open floor plan, its main attraction for Pollock was the cathedral ceiling over the living area. It became the starting point for his redesign. First, he converted the living area into a self-contained space--adding a nonstructural wall to separate it from the adjoining kitchen and bedroom. (Openings in this new wall connect all three spaces.)

Then he emphasized the verticality of the living area by nailing battens over the gypsum-board walls. The effect recalls the surfacing technique often used on the exterior walls of rustic 19th-century cottages and churches. Using this treatment gives the interior an outdoor feeling and, coupled with the white paint, creates an airy effect. To make the ceiling appear to float, Pollock painted it pale blue, like the sky.

For a more finished look and a sense of elegance in the living area, Pollock trimmed window and door frames and the tops and bases of the walls with built-up stock molding. He painted these molding strips and battens a semigloss white and the wall itself a flat white for a subtle variation in texture.

Light, prefinished, prefabricated plank birch flooring adds warmth. A sisal-like 9- by-11-foot wool area rug--its black border made from electrical tape--effectively frames the conversation zone, increasing the sense of spaciousness. A baseboard along one wall hides TV and stereo cables to minimize clutter.

Pollock fashioned one end of the living area--where the ceiling is flat--into a dining-study alcove. Beside the table, he made a built-in bookcase out of two inexpensive particleboard kits.

The sleeping area, which opens to the dining alcove, was treated very simply: the walls were painted the same flat white as the rest of the condominium.

Pollock did all the work himself over six months of weekends. In all, he spent approximately $5,000 for the building materials.
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Title Annotation:interior decoration
Author:Gregory, Daniel
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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