Design solutions: Colour trends and low-VOC paints
Q: We’re trying to be more green in our house renovations. Can you recommend some brands of low-emission paint? Mike Carruthers, Kensington, P.E.I.
A: This is a hot topic in the decorating world. Paints that are labelled “eco friendly” or “low emission” have a lower than normal concentration of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs lurk in everything from nail polish remover and furnishings to adhesives and lacquers. These compounds – formaldehyde, toluene, benzene and methane among them – are released into the atmosphere, causing unpleasant odours (hence the term “off-gassing”), and health problems that range in severity from eye irritation to liver damage to cancer. Interestingly, there’s still no legislation in Canada defining what constitutes low, medium or high levels of VOCs in common consumer products. However, in April the Canadian government announced plans to implement regulations similar to those existing in the United States. In the meantime, I recommend you consider the three national paint lines featured above, which have either no or low VOCs.
Q: I’m about to redecorate and am thinking of putting up wallpaper. I like dark, rich colours, but I don’t see them much in magazines like STYLE AT HOME. Are they passé? Is it not a good idea to commit to a dark colour in wallpaper? Rosanna Santilli, Toronto
A: I think the reason you haven’t seen the dark colours is actually not because they’re passé but the opposite – the next big thing. If you want to know the upcoming trends in decor, look no further than the fashion runways and racks. Sooner or later those colours find their way into our homes. The deep plum Chrysanthemum wallpaper shown at left, from British company Graham & Brown, is a great example. The line is by the English fashion brand Monsoon, purveyors of what I call a high-end romantic boho look. Amethyst, fig, merlot and sapphire are some of the fashion colours we’ll be seeing in decorating. To make this look work, finish your space with eclectic furnishings. Take inspiration from this photo: combine Moroccan side tables with Granny’s hand-me-downs done up in jewel-tone velvets and shapely plucked-from-around-the-globe accessories. Graham & Brown papers are available through grahambrown.com and at The Home Depot.
Q: We inherited this Gibbard dining room suite and are very happy with it. However, I find that the chairs aren’t suitable for our family; they’re somewhat small, and we’re always cautious when sitting in them (my husband is 6'4"; I’m 5'10"). Should I buy new chairs, and if so, what style would work? Or should I have these chairs made stronger? Heidi Beck, Guelph, Ont.
A: You are lucky indeed! The Gibbard Furniture Shops is Canada’s oldest furniture manufacturer. Based in Napanee, Ont., the company has been owned and operated by the Gibbard family for five generations, since 1835. The Gibbard name is synonymous with quality construction. Testament to that fact is the number of stamped Gibbard pieces that have been handed down through generations or sold at antique shops. Despite their quality, antique dining chairs can be too small in scale for today’s dinner guests. Also, the straight-back, wooden dining chairs of yesteryear often don’t suit the more casual way we entertain today.
I suggest switching to fully upholstered modern chairs that will work with your other Gibbard pieces. Check out designer Karen Kayne’s gorgeous dining room in “Love at First Sight”, in the October issue of STYLE AT HOME. Chairs like hers would be perfect for you. Also, I love how she used a different style of chair at the heads of the table – steal that idea, too. The other bonus of fully upholstered chairs is that they’ll break up all the wood in your dining room, adding some softness.
That said, don’t get rid of your Gibbard chairs! Instead, reposition them throughout your house and enjoy them as sculpture or for more occasional use. Here are some ideas: move your corner cupboard and place one chair on either end of your sideboard, put the armchair in the adjoining living room, and add a chair to a bathroom, bedroom or entryway.
Q: I’d like to repeat the drapery fabric from our master bedroom in the ensuite bathroom. How much fabric should I order? Should the curtain itself be lined, even if I hang a vinyl liner? I’d love any other hints about custom-making shower curtains and trims. Clara Lakewood, Tillsonburg, Ont.
A: I’m a big fan of custom shower curtains. A fabric curtain adds welcome softness to a room full of hard surfaces. Of course, with anything custom made, the sky’s the limit. Remember the ex-Tyco CEO who was vilified in the press for his $6,000 shower curtain? Yours needn’t cost that much, but the extras can add up. Here are some design tips.
LENGTH Choose a length that suits the space. If you have a plain acrylic tub skirt, conceal it with a curtain that goes to the floor. Conversely, if your tub skirt is pretty, show it off with a shorter curtain (as I did).
FABRIC Standard shower curtains are 72 inches square and require five yards of fabric. If yours will be larger or if the fabric has a large pattern repeat, you’ll require more yardage. The sewing pro handling your job can tell you how much fabric to get. Midweight cotton or linen is best for shower curtains and won’t require lining.
DETAILS Finish the top with pleats and drapery hooks or buttonholes rather than casual grommets. Repeating flourishes in your master bedroom draperies, like pleated headings and trim, is a nice way to harmonize the two spaces. In a small bathroom, don’t go for too much fullness, or the excess fabric could prove bulky.
TRIM Some ideas to consider: flat woven tape applied as a border; ball or bead fringe near the top or bottom hem; grosgrain ribbon sewn to the side or bottom edges in a box-pleated ruffle design.
LINERS Skip off-gassing PVC vinyl and opt for waterproof polyester fabric instead. Look for a liner that’s mildew resistant and machine washable.