Expert design solutions
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).
Q: 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.
Q: My bathroom has dark blue wall and floor tiles, but I'm a renter, so renovating is out of the question. I also have a wood-grained toilet seat. What can I do to perk up the space a bit?
-- Lynn Robinson, Summerside, P.E.I.
A: Plenty! First, switch the wood-grain toilet seat to a white one. Next, treat yourself to a new shower curtain, coordinating towels and accessories. I think the latest collection from GlucksteinHome at The Bay, (above), would look great. The blues and tans would make your tile look more up to date. You may also want to paint the walls a light neutral colour like Benjamin Moore's Manchester Tan HC-81, a designer favourite. Add style to your toilet tank with a dark wicker basket. If you're feeling ambitious and it's OK with your landlord, install shiny chrome towel bars, a tissue holder and robe hooks.
Q: I'm completely redoing my kitchen and adding an island, which will include a sink and dishwasher. Where should I put the appliances for the best functionality and use of space? -- Curt Webb, via e-mail
A: If you want to move plumbing and appliances and add new appliances, then you should meet in person with a kitchen design professional and a contractor. The kitchen design pro -- you can make an appointment with one at The Home Depot or any kitchen cabinet showroom -- will be familiar with proper clearance measurements and can help you evaluate your storage needs, making recommendations for the best configuration. A contractor will assess the feasibility and cost of moving plumbing, and whether or not your home's existing electrical systems can handle added appliances.
Before you arrange to talk to these experts, scour decorating magazines, books, showrooms and Internet sources to research looks and materials you love. Bring pictures of every angle of your kitchen to the meeting, along with any inspirational pics. Also, measure every inch of the space. The pros will come and measure it again to verify, but it's good to know the dimensions for your initial appointment. Good luck!