How-To - Ask Us

Design solutions: Desks and trim paint

Senior design editor Margot Austin offers painting advice for small homes and picks the perfect multitasker for an apartment.

Q: I need a home office space in my apartment, but I don’t have a separate room for it. Do you have any suggestions for a desk that would work but isn’t too officey looking? -Sophie Henry, Toronto

A: I'm a big fan of writing desks. They've really made a comeback thanks to the widespread use of notebook computers. One of my faves is the Parsons two-drawer model (shown above) from West Elm. It's affordable and chic, and will do double or triple duty in any small space. It's a great entryway piece, since you can stash keys, a cellphone and gloves in the drawers, but it could also act as a sideboard in a dining room. Or use it as a bedside table and tuck a pretty stool underneath. If you're going to spend long periods of time at the desk, choose an ergonomic chair with wheels instead of a stool. You may also want to invest in Wi-Fi and a wireless printer. That way you could keep the modem and printer out of sight in a closet so they don't clutter your living space.

Q: I live in a small home, and I've had decorators suggest that I paint out all my off-white trim to make the rooms look larger. How do you know when it's a good idea to paint the trim white or cream, or to paint an entire room (trim and walls) one colour?-Joanne Morrissey, Kingston, Ont.

A: The answer, as with so many things in life and decorating, is it depends. Here’s what it depends on: 1 How architecturally significant is your trim? Painting trim a different colour draws attention to it -- nice if you've got detailed trim, but not a great idea if you have the 3" builder's-basic stuff. It's often better to paint that type of trim the same colour as the wall. 2 How dark is your wall colour? Pairing dark or midtone walls with light-colour trim creates high contrast. That can be a beautiful and crisp effect, or the eye may perceive it as busy, which can make a room feel smaller. Where one lands on this question is partly in the eye of the beholder and partly determined by how the room is used. You may not want this busy effect in a TV room or a bedroom (where you want to keep things calm), but it might be lovely in a living room, entry or dining room. 3 Is your home open concept? If so, you'll likely want the same colour on the trim in rooms that are open to each other, to increase the sense of flow.

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