It's easy to design a tri-functional garden room, says interior designer Gerson Coffman of the Chicago-based Child's Dreyfus Inc.

Coffman recently used the atrium theme to perk up an awkward 10-by-12-foot nook.

The once-unused alcove, adjoining the family room, kitchen and utility room, now works as a private breakfast room, greenhouse and entertainment area for groups of six to eight.

To create the indoor-outdoor decor, he let an assortment of potted greens grow on shelves and in corners of the earth-toned room.

Furnishings and flooring include a moderately priced cedar table, several cedar shelves, hardwood floor and steel picnic chairs that bring the forest feel indoors.

Functional accessories include an old-fashioned wooden coat rack that is used to hang wet bathing suits, garden hats or other summer wraps. He also put a variety of baskets, a wagon wheel and knic-knacs in corners and on shelves.

The garden decor is inexpensive, simple and versatile to create, Coffman said. It's very much a do-it-yourself room and there's no way to create the theme.

In fact, before the summer ends, you might want to know how to get the garden effect at home:

Create a roughsawn cedar effect in the room by staining a low-grade building pine and nailing the boards to the wall. Don't buy the best grade pine because cheaper grades have more character, he said.

Cover the floor with inexpensive sisal or tatami matting, if you don't have hardwood planks.

Hang bamboo slat blinds (about $30 at a hardware store) on the windows, instead of plants.

For dramatic lighting, use uplighting by putting canned lights on the floor behind the plants.