Q. Blinds or drapery?
"That depends on your budget, your style, the shape of the window and the amount of light and privacy you need in the room. Generally, the clean look of blinds works well in contemporary spaces, and drapery enhances more traditional looks. But a combination of blinds and framing side panels is also a great look, even in contemporary spaces." -- Cynthia Bennett, The Decorating Shoppe, Halifax
Q. How do I determine the right height for hanging a picture on a wall?
"As a general rule, centre the piece according to average eye level, which is five feet six inches. (If you have cathedral ceilings, you may want to change the rules a bit and hang some pieces a little higher.) The space where the art hangs should also be considered. For example, on a large wall, smaller pictures may look best in groupings. If you're creating a photo wall, you may want to mix up the heights of the pictures. These rules are just guidelines, but generally the most common mistake is hanging art too high. You should look at art, not up to it." -- Scott Yetman, Scott Yetman Designer, Montreal
Q. Faux wood panelling - what's the best way to update it?
"If you can't blow it up, whitewash it or paint over it to make it disappear. Faux wood panelling is just wrong, so make it as unobtrusive as possible."
-- Dee Dee Taylor Hannah, Taylor Hannah Architect, Toronto
Q. What's the rule of thumb for hanging drapery rods?
"They should be one to three inches above and beyond the window frame. I like to hang them two inches above and beyond. Whatever you do, don't hang them too high: when the drapes are open, too much wall will be exposed above the window, and the look will be awkward." -- Jacqueline Glass, Jacqueline Glass & Associates, Mississauga, Ont.
Q. What's the best way to minimize the appearance of bulkheads?
"Treat bulkheads like any other structural element, not like a decorative one. If the walls are eight feet or lower, paint bulkheads the same colour as the ceiling; if the walls are higher than eight feet, paint the bulkhead the same colour as the wall." -- Mitchell Freedland, Mitchell Freedland Design, Vancouver
Q. What's the correct height for baseboards, and should they match the floors or the walls?
“Baseboards should be six to 12 inches high; the higher the ceiling, the higher the baseboard. If the look's traditional, baseboards should be lighter than the walls to contrast and highlight them. If floors are painted, the baseboards should match.” -- Scott Yetman, Scott Yetman Designer, Montreal
Q. How can I dress up a plain staircase?
"Paint the treads and the handrail highgloss black; paint the risers and balusters white. If you add a carpet runner, leave three inches of stair on either side and install metal rods for extra punch. The staircase landing and walls are great to display art - they can accommodate large prints. For a contemporary look, add accent lighting to the risers. Mix a chandelier on a landing with wall sconces."
-- Dee Dee Taylor Hannah, Taylor Hannah Architect, Toronto
Q. Matte, glossy, eggshell -- how do you choose a paint finish?
"My favourite is flat. It's easy to touch up, and it hides imperfections. Eggshell has a slight sheen that changes over time so touch-ups are noticeable. In bathrooms, kitchens and halls (especially if you have kids who touch the walls), I like eggshell -- it works in well-ventilated bathrooms and in kitchens, but not too close to the cooking area. Use pearl or semigloss on all trim." -- Jane Hall, Jane Hall It's All About Color, Toronto
Q. What's the secret to good lighting, and what should be avoided?
"Lighting should be soft, warm and welcoming. Keep it closer to the perimeter of the room, so it reflects off the walls and/or the ceiling. Dimmer switches are crucial - add them to any overhead lights and pot lights, as well. Also use light at different levels by combining table lamps and floor lamps. Avoid any bright, direct downlighting, as it causes heavy shadows and isn't that flattering." -- Dan Menchions, II by IV Design Associates, Toronto
Q. Should the ceiling be lighter or darker than the walls?
"Generally the ceiling should be lighter. Dark ceilings can be heavy-looking, but treated properly they can also be dramatic. For example, a dark grey ceiling and walls in a powder room can be offset by crystal wall sconces, mirrors and candlelight." -- Mitchell Freedland, Mitchell Freedland Design, Vancouver
Q. There's a radiator under our window – what's the best window covering in this situation?
“Wood shutters, wood venetian blinds or sheer Roman blinds with side panels to the floor will frame the window and make the rad less obtrusive.” -- Brian Gluckstein, Gluckstein Design Planning, Toronto
Q. How do you create points of interest or focal points in an open-concept space?
“Group furniture into conversation areas in larger spaces – place sofas and chairs facing one another for an intimate grouping, or back to back to create two separate points of view. Anchor one or both ends of a large space with substantial or tall items such as an oversize painting, a mirror or a fireplace with art hung above it.” -- Jeffrey Douglas, Douglas Design Studio, Toronto
Q. What's the best way to lay out a kitchen?
"Follow ‘use patterns.' The best thing to do is live in a kitchen for a while beforehand - if you haven't spent time there, you can't design it. And it may not sound exciting, but if a kitchen doesn't work in a practical sense, then it doesn't matter how beautiful it looks. Some things to keep in mind as you plan: Leave counter space on either side of the stove to place things while cooking. Put the dishwasher beside a sink, so you can move dishes from the sink to the dishwasher without dripping all over the floor. Keep cabinets that hold everyday dishes close to the dishwasher, so it's easy to put the dishes away. If there are small children in the house, give them their own cabinet for dishes and snacks -- it makes them feel like they belong there, too." -- Monica E. Kuhn, Monica E. Kuhn Architect, Toronto
Q. Any design tricks to make a small space feel bigger?
"Mirrors! They create the illusion of space. Options vary from wall-mounted to freestanding styles, from oversize models to a fitted floor-to-ceiling mirrored wall the entire length of a room." -- Dan Menchions, II by IV Design Associates, Toronto
Q. How do you pick the right paint shade for a room?
"Consider natural and artificial light and direction. A yellow that's pale in a south-facing room will have more intensity in a north-facing one. Lightbulbs also play a role: fluorescents bring out a colour's undertones but without depth or richness; incandescents add a warm glow; halogens provide sparkle and enhance colour." -- Allison Pluim, Allison Pluim Interior Design, Edmonton
Q. Any tips for framing photographs?
“A simple wood frame (finished in black or a natural-colour stain) is best for contemporary photos. For a more classic image, try ornate silver or gold. For standard residential purposes, matting should be four inches deep on the top and sides, five inches on the bottom. White mats are best; colour mats should never be used – they distract from the photo. Mats are available in four- or eight-ply (an eight-ply is thicker and therefore more dramatic).” -- Darren Alexander, Darren Alexander Fine Art & Design, Toronto
Q. How many different woods/ wood tones can appear in a room?
“No more than two woods, and they should be shades of the same tone.” -- Brian Gluckstein, Gluckstein Design Planning, Toronto
Q. Is there an easy way to dress up a drab fireplace?
“If the fireplace is heavy and dominates the space, a lighter colour will help. Dark brick looks great painted the same colour as the trim or walls. Adding a mantel with nice brackets at either end can enhance a plain surface and provide a spot for accessories and artwork. Seasonal accessories such as candles, flowers and pictures may be all you need to freshen up the look.” -- Cynthia Bennett, The Decorating Shoppe, Halifax
Q. Any suggestions for walls in a hall with a cathedral ceiling?
“Position four to six black-and-white or sepia photos, then arrange another grid above that and so on. Make sure the photos are the same size and the frames match. Don't worry if details of the top images can't be seen.” -- Brian Gluckstein, Gluckstein Design Planning, Toronto
Q. How do you choose a kitchen work surface?
“Your budget tells you what options to look at, then it's function versus aesthetics. How often do you use the kitchen? Will you need more than one type of surface? I like natural materials like granite, limestone, marble and slate. However, they stain and need to be sealed – marble, every six months, limestone, every year, slate every five years. Granite is more stain resistant than marble, and when sealed it's about as easy to clean as a synthetic product. If your budget leans to laminate, choose neutral colours that complement the cabinetry or flooring. Square edges look best – try to stay away from bevelled edges and wood trim.” -- Allison Pluim, Allison Pluim Interior Design, Edmonton