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Designing Dilemma June 2004

What Kind of Paint to Use on Ceilings, Walls and Trim

Dear Designing Solutions: My husband and I are painting our home ourselves. We followed your advice on color, but we’re wondering what kind of paint to use and where. In what order should we paint? Do you have any suggestions about when to use flat paint and/or semi-gloss paint? Kim and Ted

Dear Kim and Ted: We do have some guidelines for you to follow. When painting, start with your ceilings, then walls and finish with the trim. Here’s what we recommend for these surfaces:

Ceilings: No matter the color, keep the ceilings in flat, matte acrylic paint. The goal is to prevent light from reflecting off the ceiling and keep your attention on walls and furnishings at eye level. Painters once used semi-gloss finishes on kitchen and bath ceilings, thinking it would hold up better and show less staining from moisture and cooking, but today’s flat paints work just as well and look better.

Walls: In newer homes with few imperfections in wallboard, you can use an "eggshell" finish to give a glow to your wall color and to keep walls surfaces scrubbable. The slight sheen reflects light and gives a brighter look in darker rooms, but it also highlights wall imperfections- so make sure your paint choice isn’t calling attention to nail pops and settlement cracks. Flat paint is perfect for older homes that need good wall camouflage. Benjamin Moore’s "Regal Matte Finish" gives that coverage with a scrubbable finish equal to an eggshell finish. It’s a perfect choice for cleaning ease and covering imperfections, but without any reflective properties. Need industrial strength wall coverage in your family-friendly home? Try Benjamin Moore’s "AquaPearl". The slight pearlescent finish gives incredible durability and cleaning ease with a low sheen. It’s also a perfect base for decorative painting. All the wall paints above are acrylic-based.

Trim: Wood trim will look best and last longest with oil-based trim paint in either a low-luster, semi-gloss or high-gloss finish. The higher the gloss, or sheen, the more noticeable the trim will be, including any imperfections. Painting the trim the same color as walls, or one shade darker than your walls, will give a more quiet, contemporary look to your room. Using a contrast color on your trim calls attention to both walls and trim. White trim gives a bright, traditional look to rooms.

Updating Plain Window Curtains

Dear Designing Solutions:My husband and I are trying to decorate the older home we just purchased, but on a tight budget. The living and dining rooms have full curtains that came with the house and they’re in good shape. But they’re so plain! They’re in a solid cream color and I’m planning on using blues and reds for wall color. Any ideas for jazzing up my curtains without the expense of replacing them? Joanne

Dear Joanne:You can dress up your plain curtains with trim and tie-backs. Once you’ve chosen your wall colors, take paint samples with you to your favorite fabric store. Choose a decorative tassle trim that coordinates with your paint colors and sew the trim on the inside edge of your curtains. Select a pair of tie-backs that coordinates with your tassle trim to pull the curtains back and give a colorful, updated look to your windows. Even a fabric trim sewn on the inside edge of your curtains will add color and pattern. The fabric can be repeated in throw pillows and accent pieces that you are using to furnish the rooms. To add more fullness and color to your windows, consider adding a top treatment over the existing curtains. A new fabric valance or swag, layered on top of your curtains, will add fullness, color and pattern to the plain cream fabric that came with your home. Update your window hardware. A new, decorative curtain rod with matching brackets and finials may be just enough to transform the old curtains. Hardware now comes in metal and wood finishes with all kinds of colorful, decorative finials. Check with your favorite fabric store or on-line for choices, sizes, styles and finishes.

Sound Insulation for Family Rooms

Dear Designing Solutions:How can I get rid of the echo in my family room? Claire

Dear Claire:We’re not acoustical experts, but adding soft furnishings to rooms will greatly reduce echoes and give rooms a quieter, softer feel and look. Look at your room’s perimeter where sound is literally bouncing off the walls and identify areas to add soft fabric. Windows with fabric draperies or shades that have been lined and even interlined with fabric will soften the echo you hear more than a hard window treatment of wooden blinds, verticals or shutters. Do you have a lot of art in glass-covered frames or mirrors on your walls? Mix in some textile wall hangings- either small kilim-style rugs, needlepoint work or fabric stretched on a frame- to give some sound absorption to your wall display. Look at your floor to determine if it is contributing to your sound problem. Hardwood, tile or any exposed hard surface increases acoustical noise and incidental noise from walking. A large, thick, area rug, or several smaller area rugs will make a tremendous difference. Now focus on the furniture in the room. Add soft, fabric covered toss pillows to a leather sofa. Consider skirting glass or stone-topped tables. Replace metal lamps and lampshades with fabric-covered shades instead. Rather than doing everything on the list, try softening one thing in each area that may be causing your echo- the windows, walls, floor and furniture. Each change should make a noticeable difference without replacing everything in your room.

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