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Designing Dilemma February 2004

Dear Designing Solutions: We have a 300-year-old log cabin that we have completely redone except for the master bedroom. It desperately needs to be re-done. The room is 12x18 with a 6'1" ceiling height. We have heart pine wood floors to refinish. We would like the room to look more spacious and inviting. The ceiling is falling in. It is old horsehair plaster and lathe, as are the walls. The walls are presently covered with a green paneling. In the other rooms we took all of this out, then insulated the walls and installed drywall. We are planning on doing the same in the master bedroom. One wall of the room is a long closet, as there was no closet; and the outside wall has two large windows. We would like to make the bedroom seem larger (not closed in) and inviting. Thank you for any help you can give. Debbie

Dear Debbie: Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Light it up - Install lighting, either wall sconces or recessed- around the room perimeter to brighten and visually expand the sense of space in the bedroom.

  2. Paint the Ceiling - if using drywall on the ceiling, paint it a pale sky blue- in contrast to whatever wall color you choose. This will help give the effect of a taller ceiling.

  3. Use mirrors. On the wall, an antique or colorfully framed mirror serves as both accent and space expander. Try to place mirrors so that they reflect something worth seeing twice- like a window or another piece of art on your walls. For closet doors, use mirrored doors.

  4. Go up. If you can't heighten the ceiling up to the attic (which is definitely worth looking into), choose furniture pieces that are taller than they are wide. You'll leave more open, uncluttered floor space making the room seem less closed in.

  5. Leave legs bare - Choose a bed and any seating with exposed legs instead of skirts. Being able to see the floor underneath gives a more spacious look to your room.

Dear Designing Solutions:I reside in Temple Hills, MD and I love the house that I purchased in Nov 2001. My home is a rambler built in 1955. My design dilemma is the dining area. Itís approximately 13'L x 9'W x 8'H. The room is paneled in "knotty pine." Two windows allow light to filter into the room during the day. The previous owners constructed a sunroom adjacent to the family room. The view from the dining area is the sunroom's siding-covered wall. I like the paneling. The walls are in very good shape. There is no furniture in the room. I want to create a "wow" factor for the room. What can I do to make the room more inviting? Ms. Mack

Dear Ms. Mack:Since you want to keep the paneling, and the view through the window is nothing special, you can get your "wow" in the furniture, lighting and accessories, as well as in painting the ceiling and in camouflaging the outside view with light filtering window treatments. Low voltage colored glass pendants, in a group of three to five, arranged randomly over your dining table would be a "wow". Decorative painting on your ceiling - from a simple glaze to a garden scene to a stucco look - in a color of your choice to complement the knotty pine would also work. You can keep the light coming in through the window and take away the view of the sunroom siding by using light filtering window treatments- like a soft fold Roman shade in a filmy gauze or a woven reed and grass blind. The furniture should also make a bold statement -there so many choices. You can find the "wow" and still choose something that fits your style and budget.

Dear Designing Solutions:I'd like to paint my powder room in a pumpkin and brown stripe. Is it ok to use one of those colors on the ceiling as well? What about the inside of the bathroom door? I'd also like to paint my formal dining room in a very warm jade green color with the faux suede technique. Any disadvantages to carrying that through to the ceiling as well? Lastly, if you could also answer this question that would be great! The front door to our house is black on the outside. Is it ok to carry that color through to the inside of the door, if it coordinates with my decor? Lisa

Dear Lisa:Love the idea of pumpkin and brown stripes in the powder room. If the powder room is small do horizontal stripes instead of vertical stripes. Use pumpkin on the ceiling. Itís more flattering to flesh tones than brown. For the door, if the powder room is large and bright enough, you can stripe it too! Or you can paint out the molding and panels in one color and the flush perimeter in the other. If you'd like the powder room to appear more spacious when the door is closed and you're in it, why not mirror the back of the door? Donít hang a mirror; call a glass company (we use Bel Pre). They'll take the door with them, mirror it completely, put the doorknob back on top of the mirror and re-hang the door when they return. They look is so great- clients say it's worth the expense and the temporary loss of the door (you'll have to redirect guests to another bathroom temporarily). On your dining room ceiling- go a complementary shade, like pale yellow or apricot. The jade green is a strong color and will be overwhelming on the ceiling as well. Keep the ceiling light and airy looking. Even a very pale blue would look great. Finally, you can paint the inside of your front door any color you like - if it indeed goes with the decor in the front hall/foyer. Go for it!

Dear Designing Solutions:We've just bought a small house built in the 1940s. The bathroom wall tile is a horrifying aqua trimmed in pink, the fixtures are white, and the floor is speckled gray vinyl. It will be a while before we can redo this room, so we're wondering how we can play down the colors in the meantime. Enid

Dear Enid:The key to living with room features you don't like and you can't change is to divert attention elsewhere- to things you do like.

Start with paint- the easiest and most economical decorating investment. You can use multi-colors that blend with the aqua and pink to make a lively stripe on walls and ceiling. Even a strong solid color- like gray, brown or medium blue, will help break up the tile colors and focus attention on the painted walls. Add interesting prints and wall art for additional eye candy. Accessorize! Bath and linen departments are overflowing with colorful and even whimsical shower curtains, bath rugs, hand towels and wastebaskets. You can even find extra-long shower curtains that hang from the ceiling for more dramatic effect. Pottery Barn has bath items in vibrant stripes and patterns that would blend with almost any tile color. Floor camouflage will not only cover up the vinyl, but also prevent slipping on a wet floor. A cotton area rug with a rubber backing provides floor coverage and safety with practicality- it's machine washable too. Choose the largest possible size to cover up as much of the vinyl flooring as you can.

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