DESIGN LINE: Interior Design Q&A
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
Q. Can I use cork as a ﬂooring for my kitchen?
A. I love cork. For one thing, cork is a rapidly renewable material, so that helps saving natural resources. But not all cork companies are created equal. My favorite cork comes from a Canadian company called Duro Design. Their cork is comprised of 100% post-industrial recycled content from wine-stopper production, which makes it even more “green.” I like cork for a kitchen because it is easy on the feet and the dishware (when you drop it), unlike ceramic tile.
It also stays warm and can provide nice acoustical qualities too. Duro’s pre-ﬁnished cork is extremely durable, and you can buy the click-in tiles so that you don’t even need to glue it down. As far as durability, the cellular structure of cork is similar to the honeycomb in a bee hive. The cells have strong, yet ﬂexible walls. Even better, the waxy chemical inherent in cork makes it waterproof, air tight and extremely resilient. Lastly, there are myriad colors and styles to choose from and you can easily create a pattern to match your space.
Q. Are there rules about matching different wood tones?
A. Yes. And no. I don’t believe in too many design rules. In a modern, high contrast interior, design success many times comes from mixing light and dark elements, which means wood tones are usually pretty dark. This is one approach. I tend to design more warm interiors which create contrast in ways that aren’t quite so stark, so I mix wood tones a lot. The key to mixing, I believe, is looking carefully at the grain of the woods and trying to ﬁnd the lights and darks within one or two pieces that you can use to pull in tones in other pieces. As an extreme example, zebra wood has light and dark tones, so play with a mix of those two. I also would recommend not mixing too many tones in one space. Pick a few, and try to have them all relate to each other in some way. In one recently completed house, we chose light maple and mahogany. The entire ﬂoor was maple, so we designed or purchased pieces that either incorporated both wood tones or used one or the other.
Q. I’m designing my living room--But where do I start?
next stop. Figure out the size of the rug you need and look around for something you love. Once the base of the room is there, it is much easier to narrow down your color palette and coordinate other elements like fabrics, drapery, pillows and accessories that can pick up or accent the colors of the rug. If the ﬂooring desired is wall-to-wall carpet, that look will then drive the rest of the space. Remember that your ﬂoors and your ceilings are the two largest spaces, so if you start there, the rest of your search will come much easier.
Q. How do you deal with a bay in a living room besides adding a window seat?
A. This is a great question. As you say, many people build in a window seat. But many Rhode Island homes are old, and have gorgeous bay windows right in the living space where a window seat is not necessarily the most functional choice. I would suggest placing a long narrow “console” table in front of the bay. These tend to be 15-18” deep by 60” long by 30” high. Then put a sofa or love seat in front of it (depending on how long your bay is). The table helps to square up the bay and provides a nice place behind the sofa for photographs, vases and other accents.
Q. Should I design my space differently because of my pets?
A. Pets come in all shapes and sizes and attitudes! Pet hair is obviously a big concern. Leather upholstery is great for ﬁghting pet hair because it is simply easier to remove. Unless you’re going to keep your animals off of the sofa, you will probably want to take this route. Floor color choice is also important here. Dark ﬂoors show every piece of hair, so try to keep ﬂoors to a medium tone to hide it. Claws are another common problem. I’ve seen many wood ﬂoors be torn up by dogs, so you have a couple of choices: if you’re replacing the wood, make sure you use a very hard wood. Rift or quarter sawn oak is the perfect choice for this. White oak can be stunning with a straight vertical grain.
Kitty claws can tear up a rug. One of my clients had special mats on the corners of her Tibetan carpets that shock the cat as it’s climbing on (beware: they shock people too). Aluminum foil works nicely as an alternative on the edge of the carpets. Another client installed an invisible fence in her house to keep pets out of places they shouldn’t be. This would be a luxury, but it works!
Q. Can I use different furniture styles and how do I bring them together?
A. Absolutely! Layering different eras and styles creates a unique space that is truly yours and will never be replicated in a catalog. This is incredibly complex and a lot of the success of this effort comes down to how much time you have and how well you can dissect individual pieces to match them well with others. I will echo what I said earlier about playing off of different materials and tones and using speciﬁc parts of speciﬁc pieces to bring in new ones. If a retro modern chair has a lot of chrome, buy a chandelier that mimics that. And then add some more simple pieces so that those two objects are the focal points. If you have an antique love seat, have it reupholstered with a modern fabric so that it speaks to the new lucite table. Objects do not have to match (and I prefer it when they don’t), but they do need to speak to each other.
Q. Is wallpaper outdated?
A. If anything, wallpaper is making a come back. I don’t use a lot of wallpaper, but I love it when I’m designing a simple room that needs to be surrounded with texture or in a bold room where the walls can be the graphic star of the show. There are things you should know, though. Wallpaper is really not good for a bathroom with a shower. Vinyl is a four-letter word in my vocabulary, so I never use it. But even vinyl wall covering will lock steam-produced moisture behind it and eventually lead to mold in places you’ll never see, but that you’ll breathe.
Paper wall covering in a living or dining room, or in a grand foyer can transform a room from being somewhat plain to complex and that depth makes design better. Use your wall covering sparingly, but deﬁnitely use it. Phillip Jeffries makes beautiful paper wall coverings which are some of my favorites right now.
- DESIGN LINE: 10 Ways To Freshen Up Your House On a Budget
- DESIGN LINE: How To Hire (and Work With) An Interior Designer
- DESIGN LINE: 10 Kitchen Upgrades On A Budget
- DESIGN LINE: Framing Dos + Don’ts For Every Room
- DESIGN LINE: Best Paint Colors For Interiors
- DESIGN LINE: 7 Steps To a Great Home Renovation
- DESIGN LINE: 10 Window Shade Treatments
- DESIGN LINE: Selecting Stone Counters