Question: I just got my own apartment for the first time, and I want to do something interesting with it but money is scarce. In the past I've read some of your tips about furnishings that don't cost an arm and a leg. What advice would you give me for furnishing the place to look like something other than early attic?
Answer: The most important thing to remember is consistency. Establish your theme and stick with it. The high-tech look is not as popular as it was, but it's a rather inexpensive way to get an apartment looking "together" in a hurry-- and at low cost if your clever.
Color is a basic key to a coordinated high-tech look. And I mean color: red, blue, yellow--the primaries. When set against off-white or light-colored walls, the color provides instant drama.
Think metal. You can have an instant coffee table with the hub of a truck wheel from an auto salvage yard when you top it with a piece of heavy round glass. Steel shelves from a used-office-furniture store make excellent bookshelves, just spray paint them with one of your basic colors.
Metal lawn chairs--some of which were on sale at home centers for less than $5 each this summer--make attractive seating arrangements for the living room. Or if the budget can do better, directors chairs are more comfortable and the covers will carry out the color idea.
Wall hangings are important in a high-tech setting. If you own a bicycle, hang it on the wall for decoration. (This is also a convenient way to store the bike if you don't have another area.) Use metal frames or simulated metal frames for advertising posters. A piece of chain-link fence mounted on the wall will carry out the high-tech theme, and it's as handy for hanging pots and pans or kitchen utensils as peg board.
Because most industrial-type furnishing come in a standard gray or black, be prepared to paint some pieces. To do this, first sand the finished surface with a coarse sandpaper to break the factory finish. Then use an air-drying enamel to finish it, applying at least two coats and sanding lightly between the applications.
If you want to paint unfinished steel, you'll probably have to remove the oily film on it with a light naphtha-type solvent that you can get in a hardware store.
All of this must be done where there is plenty of ventilation; outdoors is the best if you can manage it. Be especially careful with the solvent, because it is flammable. In other words, follow directions to the letter when using all such products.
If you don't use spray paint, you can apply a couple of light coats of enamel with a brush, but keep all your brush strokes going in one direction. Again, apply the enamel only in a very well ventilated area.
Dale Baldwin will answer remodeling questions of general interest on this page. Send your questions to Home Improvement, Real Estate Department, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Baldwin cannot answer questions individually. Snapshots of successful do-it-yourself projects may be submitted but cannot be returned.