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Designing Dilemma March 2004

Choosing Paint Colors

Dear Designing Solutions: What color of paint should I use for a 20x24 living room that will make the room look larger, lighter, and highlight black and white photographs? The color of the couch is beige, with dark blue chairs; the floor is oak and the remaining furniture is oak. The fireplace is red brick. The draperies are eggshell color and the rug is beige. The colors I work most with are blue, green and yellow. Valerie

Dear Valerie: Use a medium blue color in a flat finish on your walls. Try Benjamin Moore’s HC-149- "Buxton Blue". It should go nicely behind the black and white photos and it'll warm up the beige sofa and dark blue chairs.

Painting A Brick Fireplace

Dear Designing Solutions:We have a fireplace with a brick hearth, which goes half-way up the wall. The brick is in good condition, but the salmon color does not go with our decorating scheme. Is there a finish or stain to change the look of the brick without getting that "painted brick" look? Covering it with wood or tile would be a problem as the hearth has a rounded step/seat made of brick at the base. Thanks, Kenna and Barry

Dear Kenna and Barry:It's simple to change the look of your brick without a solid painted finish. You can "wash" the brick in a color that let's some of the natural red come through while also toning it down. Try this:

Choose an acrylic base paint in the color of your choice. Using a brush, apply the paint to a small area at a time- no more than 3' x 3'. Have a bag full of clean rags on hand and use them to immediately "rub" the paint off until you achieve the desired effect. You can wipe hard to a very translucent wash or put less effort into it and get a more opaque effect. The choice is yours. It's best to start by rubbing hard and adding more paint if you want more color and a more opaque effect. Be sure to treat the mortar around the bricks by applying paint with a smaller brush and wrapping your index finger in a rag to get into the mortar and wipe it off. Continue doing this in small areas until you've "washed" all of the brick.

You might even consider using a paint color on the brick that contrasts with the wall color to make the fireplace area stand out more.

The Right Window Treatment

Dear Designing Solutions:This may be simple for some people, but not for me! In my dining room, which is still builder's beige, I have 2 side-by-side 34 x 63 windows with about one inch of wall between the trim of the 2 windows. Are full-length window treatments better than shorter ones? And should I do something that essentially treats each window separately (i.e. 2 sets of panels and separate valances) or as one unit? I have dark cherry wood, formal dining room furniture, and am looking for a more formal look without being stuffy. Thanks, Jennifer

Dear Jennifer:To complement your formal dining room furniture, we recommend full curtains. To help camouflage the awkward space between the two window frames, try this:

Use two sets of panels, drawn back with decorative tie-backs in coordinating trim with tassels. For the two panels that meet in the center, use one tie back and pull the panels together so that they meet and cover the one-inch of drywall between the two frames. Then the two windows will look as one. If tie-backs aren't your thing, follow the same advice, using any full drapery treatment. Just make sure that the two centered window treatments meet so that they look as one.

Giving Height To A Ceiling

Dear Designing Solutions:A friend says dark colors give height to ceilings- I say the opposite. Which of us is right? Barb

Dear Barb:You are!

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