How-To - Ask Us

Expert design solutions

Looking for help with a decorating challenge? Need an opinion on paint colours or furniture choices? Ask senior design editor Margot Austin.

Q: We're a busy household of four -- we have two teenagers. My husband and I want to redo the basement family room but have no idea what to do. We have black leather furniture and wonderful deep emerald green wall-to wall carpeting. We need practical ideas for an active family. -- Cindy Mellow, Leamington, Ont.

A: Sounds like you have the makings of a very funky space with a slightly '70s vibe. Here are a few suggestions about how to use colour and accessories to make it sing. (See page three for the accessories) You can also consult these books by two big-name American designers who are masters of the look: Jonathan Adler's My Prescription for Anti-Depressive Living (Collins Design, 2005) and Kelly Wearstler's Modern Glamour (Collins Design, 2004).

How do I make our front hall entrance feel lighter? Our front door is oak, stained a rich mahogany colour. I'd like to put an area rug down but don't know what size. -- Elizabeth Peat, via e-mail

A: Here's my five-step plan to lighten and brighten your entryway. (Click on above images for larger views and shopping information).

1 Paint the door and its trim the same colour as the rest of the trim. The stain may be beautiful, but it's really the main culprit in darkening the space. It's a giant dark rectangle that needs to be tamed.

2 Place a console table along the wall to the right of the door.

3 Hang a very large mirror on the wall above the table. It will reflect light that's coming into the room from the left.

4 Add a pendant light. I've chosen three favourite options that would work in your space (see above).

5 Add a light neutral carpet. Position it in front of the door. It should be large enough to stretch across the entire opening but stop just in front of the new console table. If you have trouble finding one that size, you could have a carpet store custom-bind a piece of broadloom to the correct dimensions.

P.S. When budget allows, replace the stair rail with a wooden handrail painted glossy black and wooden spindles painted the same colour as the trim.


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