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I am taking the opportunity this week to answer some readers’ design questions. From a kitchen that needs freshening, to a home that just needs a few added accessories to really make it look great, there are simple solutions for everyone.
So let’s roll up our sleeves and get into it.
Katie has a small, cramped kitchen and wants to open it up. With no desire to really get into construction or serious renovation, she asked what she could do to open up the kitchen.
My advice is this: remove the upper cabinets and install shelves. By replacing your bulky upper cabinets, you really open up the space and make the kitchen feel lighter. Use either stainless steel shelves that have a restaurant or industrial feel, or use wood shelves painted or stained the color of your cabinetry.
Now, you just have to keep the shelves neat! But this gives Katie the chance to show off her pretty pottery or colored plates and glasses. Stacked dishes can actually be quite pretty on an open shelf in a kitchen.
Allison asked about painting her living room. She wanted to know what accent color to paint on one of the walls. While describing what colors she really wanted to use as an accent, I had to cut her off. Put down the remote control, I advised.
No matter how many times those design shows on TV tell you to paint one wall a different color, do not listen to them. This is simply bad decorating. Truthfully, accent walls painted a different color than the rest of the walls in the room just make it look as if you couldn’t make up your mind on the color, that you weren’t daring enough to paint the whole room in that color, or that you just ran out of paint.
To add interest to the room with an accent color, fight the urge to paint just one wall, and instead paint stripes on the ceiling with an accent color. Alternate it with the color of the walls, perhaps in different finishes (eggshell for one color, high gloss for the other). This will catch your eye in a surprising way, without drawing attention to just one wall of the room.
Emily is a young professional who has already decorated her home, but wants to add some fun accents to really take it to the next level. I say, bring in some faux animal pattern!
Take a cue from Elsie de Wolfe, the first interior decorator, who, in the early 1900s, took dark and dull Victorian interiors and created striking and gracious rooms using light furniture and soft colors. She loved using leopard prints as an accent on footstools, floor pillows, carpets – anywhere she felt an animal print would be daring, generally in an unexpected way. Used sparingly and smartly, leopard or zebra patterns add a sense elegance and boldness to a room, and can really complement your design scheme. What is more fun than an 18th century footstool covered in a smart leopard print?
Bill is looking for artwork to hang on a large, expansive wall over his sofa. This is the perfect opportunity to search antique stores and flea markets for a large map. Cut it up into equal pieces, frame them, and then recreate the map as you hang it on the wall. Florence or Paris never looked so good on a wall.
Anne recently received a set of antique plates from her grandmother’s old china collection. She has no room to store them in her hutch, but she also wants to show them off because of their exquisite beauty. She has an upstairs hallway that has a large, blank wall, so why not turn the plates into art for that space?
I recommended that Anne buy plate holders from the hardware store and create a motif on her upstairs hallway with the plates. Hang them in an oval shape to give them movement on the wall. This gives her a great opportunity to display the plates, show them off to her guests and make use of a large, empty wall space – and how unconventional to find plates in the hallway! Most importantly, walking past them every day will allow Anne to stop and admire them each time.
With some simple solutions, every home can be tweaked and fine-tuned, turning it into an elegant and sophisticated haven. Just remember that quirky design solutions can actually be quite stylish.