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Home sweet homes in the making 

Bill Owen, a graduate student living in Rochester between his semesters at Goddard College in Vermont, wanted to put music on his walls. Instead of buying posters of favorite bands or concerts, he bought records.

            "I thought it would benefit the world to have one fewer copy of these records in circulation," Owen says. And so, he made the records unplayable. Within a week, LPs of Barbara Streisand-Kris Kristofferson, Loggins-Messina, and a storytelling nun named Sister Catherine were adhered to the wall of Owen's East Avenue apartment, never to see a turntable again.

            "I wanted some music-related decoration in the apartment, but not standard music-related art," Owen says. The idea of using records brought him to Volunteers of America, where records were selling three for a buck. He drove to Michaels next, buying silver spray paint and bright acrylics on clearance. A Japanese writing ink selling for 50 cents a container, Sumi Ink, rounded out his purchase.

            Owen then destroyed the records' value as a music-producing media, spraying all but three of them silver. He filled in the grooves of the three he'd left black, creating a colorful spiral effect. Over the discs he'd made silver, Owen haphazardly dripped shots of blue, red, and orange. "I went Jackson Pollack on them," he says.

            Once they dried, he hung six silver with the three black in a satisfying, symmetrical diamond shape. It now takes up a large portion of his wall. How does it look? Much cooler than any band poster.

Some students eke beauty out of small amounts of cash.Take Tiffany Siu, for instance. She used patterned fabric, netting, and lights in reds, pinks, and oranges to turn her single dorm room into a small palace.

            While Siu, a senior at the University of Rochester, lives in one of the "super singles" on her sorority's floor, she's still only working with 10 feet by 14 feet. As a conscientious college decorator, she deserves an even larger space to play in.

            It's a space she tried to split in two for a more apartment-like feel. A deep purple divider from Target trimmed with a feather boa of the same color achieves this room-division, which is Siu's favorite effect.

            "A lot of times in college we need separate spaces for rest and work," Siu says. "The divider keeps me from watching TV from my desk." Beyond this practical purpose, the divider serves as a place to store miscellany with several kangaroo pockets facing, of course, the "responsible college student" section of the room.

            In the "relaxing college student" section, a princess-pink futon lazes beneath a partial canopy of netting. Siu purchased the silky futon cover at Target, and found netting in pinks and lavenders to build a canopy much cheaper than the 50-dollar ones she'd found in stores. She succeeded, pulling three-and-a-half-yard lengths of pastel mosquito netting from a fabric store at a steal --- 99 cents per yard. Her homemade quasi-canopy, which is gathered on the ceiling around a white paper lantern and hangs almost to the ground around the futon, cost about $15 to construct.

            Even the lantern doesn't lack her personal touch --- Siu dotted this, along with two similar lanterns in the room, with glittery silver paint. She then twisted a silver star garland around each of the paper globes, giving them a cool, celestial feel. The three lanterns were cheap, on a seasonal super sale because of their apparently outmoded color.

While UR medical student Sheri Kardooni has lived in her apartment on Portsmouth Terrace for a year, UR senior Mary Del Balso has only lived there since August. You'd never know it. Del Balso has added plenty of bright colors to Kardooni's silvers, blacks, and lavenders. The women's front door opens onto beautiful color, well-planned decoration, and practical furniture. And, of course, the cows.

            Kardooni's cow collection, which includes a Hallmark series that lines a two-tiered shelf in the living room, is as much a part of the apartment as the carpets, floors, or ceiling. You may have seen enough exploited farm animal miniatures in your lifetime to be skeptical that anything in this vein can be tasteful, even trendy. But the colorful Hallmark cows match the bright décor of the living room and Kardooni's more standard black-and-white cattle arranged in her black-, lavender-, and silver-themed bedroom.

            Which room belongs to Kardooni, which to Del Balso? Once you enter the apartment's front door, you know the answer. Black letters from IKEA spell "Sheri" and "Mary" near the entrances of the appropriate rooms; "grub" declares the identity of the kitchen. Still, "loungin," which dubs the women's living room of sorts, is the apartment's masterpiece.

            The entire presentation of this room exudes color and symmetry. Two black daybeds from IKEA support four brightly colored pillows each. The pillows match the bright stripes of fabric that hang from the ceiling to the wall (Del Balso paid $30 for the fabric at Jo-Ann fabric store). Two rugs designed with a brightly colored checkerboard pattern sit directly in front of the daybeds --- Del Balso says they were the basis for the color scheme of the whole room.

            "Rochester can be so dreary and depressing --- I wanted bright colors," Del Balso says. Bright colors didn't dictate all her purchases, though. Sales at the Burlington, Canada IKEA, where she and Kardooni made a trip during the summer, helped decide what each room would look like.

            "We went there not having any idea what we wanted," Del Balso says. "Our apartment is based on what was on sale that day."

            And so, any must-haves that were reasonably priced were purchased (in many cases, regardless of their color). The girls were not afraid to paint. Anything that didn't work at the end of the big day of shopping was made to work. Both Kardooni and Del Balso spent time painting, matching a TV stand, picture frames, and mirrors to their color scheme. After getting the okay from their landlord, Del Balso painted her room a light yellow.

            Because Kardooni's cat liked a particular sofa chair in the apartment --- one that she pulled off the side of a road --- she spray painted it silver. The chair, once dark green cloth and brown wood, now works perfectly in Kardooni's room as she has it: situated between two full-length mirrors, near a hanging vanity license plate, and supporting a curled-up black cat.

            Del Balso's room is much brighter than Kardooni's sophisticated purples and silvers. The centerpiece is a bright red-and-orange sun Del Balso constructed above her bed with a wood-rimmed, round mirror and thick, warm-colored ribbons. She used double-sided tape to stick the ribbons around the mirror, crimping them rather than adhering them flat to add an extra dimension. The bed her creation hangs over was purchased at Big Lots, and shelving for shoes was bought at Lowe's.

            "People assume that just because you're a college student you won't have a nice home," Del Balso says. "My home is my sanctuary."

            Where did she come up with much of the imagination to create her hip haven?

            Her mom, Del Balso says, often inspires her decorating methods and money-saving tricks. "My mom was always very attentive to the house. It rubs off on you," she says.

In This Guide...

  • In with the old

    It's possible that the rumors are true: They just don't build things like they used to. As you'll see in the following pages, people are restoring old homes, reclaiming old records for art, picking up old furniture from the side of the road, and essentially tossing that whole "new is better" thing out the window.

  • Reversing time

    The ticks and whirs of dozens of clocks --- a gentle but bustling presence --- follow you as you walk through Fran and John Sadden's 1830 cobblestone house. When asked how many there are, Fran looks around and sighs: "a lot."

  • Seeing possibilities in mansions and cupboards

    There is much to adore in Mark Siwiec's 6,000-square-foot house, but his second favorite room (after the porch) is a cupboard under the stairs that he has converted into an audio closet --- with shelf upon shelf of CDs and a stereo whose speakers are tucked away into corners of the living and dining rooms.             "Techno Harry Potter," observes his partner, Duffy Palmer.

  • There was treasure beneath the Marlite

    Even after all the work Philip and Harriette Greaser put into unearthing, stripping, and cleaning the woodwork in their house, they are very forgiving of the people who at one time tried to cover it. "It was the style," Philip says.


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