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Designing Dilemma April 2004

Choosing Paint Colors to Unify Space

Dear Designing Solutions: I have a very open space between my kitchen, family room and morning room. It's really like one big room. The morning room has French doors and palladium windows. It sits to the back of the kitchen area. The kitchen opens into the family room. My dilemma is how to paint them. I want to add color but don't really want all 3 rooms to be the same color. I'm sort of leaning towards earth tones. Any suggestions as to how I can bring all 3 of these rooms together to compliment one another? Hope this makes some sense. Color-challenged Linda

Dear Linda: Start by choosing three complementary colors- like a sage green, golden yellow and pale terracotta- that look good together and give you the effect that you want. The most simple thing you can do is to paint each of the three spaces in one of the three colors. Use a creamy white on all the trim throughout the space and paint the ceilings the same color- try "Cumulus Cotton" from Benjamin Moore. By matching the ceiling and trim colors, the three spaces will flow together and complement each other.

Another option is to choose an accent area in each room- perhaps there’s a niche, or a fireplace or simply a wall that stands alone. Choose your accent color and use it to paint the kitchen and the accent walls in the other two rooms. Then paint the remaining two rooms with the remaining two colors you haven't already used. For example, if you use the pale terracotta in the kitchen and on an accent wall in each of the other two rooms, paint one room in golden yellow and one in sage green. Paint all the trim and the ceilings as above.

Yet another fun option is to do some simple decorative painting. Use your accent walls to do some striping in all three colors. This can be as simple as dividing the wall into thirds, horizontally, and painting each third in one of the three colors. You can make it more complex, depending on your skill and confidence, and add thin stripes that rotate between colors. Got a fireplace or built-ins in one of these three rooms? Paint the mantel or the inside of the bookcases in a contrast color. If the wall is golden yellow, paint the mantel or bookcases in the terracotta or sage green.

Finally, if using three colors is more than you bargained for and what you really want is a more serene look, choose one color in three different intensities. This is easy to do, as paint manufacturers often provide color samples in five or six intensities on the same sample card. Use one intensity in each of the three rooms, saving the boldest color for the brightest room. To make it more interesting, you can follow the all of the advice above using the three intensities of the same color. If you divide an accent wall into thirds for horizontal striping, use the boldest color on the bottom. Or an accent wall in each room can have a different intensity of the same color. Mix up the intensities as you would three completely different colors. Use the same trim and ceiling color, just as recommended above, to keep the space unified.

Cat Resistant Fabrics

Dear Designing Solutions:I have cats that have used the sofa and love seat as scratching posts. I want to recover them and would like suggestions regarding fabric that would be the most durable. Thanks, Ellen

Dear Ellen:It's hard to come up with any fabric choice that would be impervious to constant cat scratching. Eventually, everything will show scratches and wear from this kind of pet abuse. Until you can get your pets an alternative scratching post (we recommend a visit to your local pet superstore), here are a few suggestions:

  1. Leather: Choose a "family friendly" leather that's been coated with a protective sealant to help prevent staining and scratching. When shopping for leather, try this test. Run your fingernail on the leather sample. If it doesn't leave a mark, the leather has more than likely been glazed or coated with a protective finish.

  2. UltraSuede and UltraLeather: These are synthetics made from polyester and polyester/nylon blends that come in hundreds of colors and they are both equally suited for high traffic use. The higher the quality you choose, the more real the product looks and feels. Both products, either the suede or leather, are as good as it gets when it come to cleaning, maintenance, stain resistance and scratch resistance. There are also many versions of synthetic suede and leather- check with several fabric sources that cater to both commercial and residential use to find the color, quality and price that you want.

  3. Solution-Dyed Acrylic: Sold under the trade name "Sunbrella" as well as by fabric designers including Laura Ashley and Scalamandre, these outdoor fabrics offer great protection from heavy wear, moisture, staining and fading. Their biggest attraction over our other recommendations is that they come in a vast array of prints and patterns in both traditional and contemporary styles. You won't be limited to choosing solids- you would be with leather, UltraLeather and UltraSuede.

Choosing Window Shades for Light Control

Dear Designing Solutions:We have three casement windows in our family room that gives the look of a Florida room. During the day we like to keep the windows uncovered for a view of the yard. However, at night, we want the option of privacy. There is one large window with two smaller ones on either side, essentially covering the whole wall. Above each window is a transom window (without grills). The room gets heavy evening sun. What kind of window treatment options other than full drapes would you recommend that will give us a daytime view, sun blocking when needed, and nighttime privacy when desired. Bill and Mattie

Dear Bill and Mattie:We have two suggestions for you- Silhouette shades or Duette shades from Hunter Douglas. The Silhouette shade mimics a horizontal Venetian or wooden blind, but in soft sheer fabric. The fabric vanes are suspended between a front and back layer of sheer fabric. The fabric vanes tilt to allow you to control the amount of light and privacy you want. When the vanes are in their full horizontal position, you can keep your outside view while filtering light. The vanes flatten to block the view and give you privacy at night. Duette shades are honeycomb shades that will block your view when down, but filter the sunlight and give you privacy as well. When privacy and light control are not needed, the Duette stacks up at the top of your window- out of sight. Duette shades also come as bottom-up shades, allowing you to cover just the bottom of your window, for privacy and light control, while leaving the top of your window uncovered. Both shades come in a variety of color and fabric options. From what you described, we think you should match the shade color to the window trim color. The shades will be far less noticeable this way. You can learn more about these two options by visiting www.HunterDouglas.com.

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