Design Solutions for a More Beautiful Home

By Lori McLaughlin

We asked several area designers for their tips on perplexing home decorating questions, including selecting the perfect window treatment, arranging cozy seating areas and dressing up the walls. Here’s what they had to say:

Window and Door Treatment Options

Design Expert: Sandra Kuhns, K&H Custom Window Treatments, Trexlertown

We have a large, two-story bank of windows in our great room that faces the neighbor’s house. We love the light during the day and the open, airy feeling, but are there any suggestions for shades or blinds to cover then at night?

Shades are the best choice, says Kuhns, design director and president of K&H. The windows she sees most often have distinct upper and lower sections, separated by wall space or mullions. Ideally, choose shades that can be operated using remote control for the upper windows, and manually-operated shades for the lower section. It’s more expensive, but the battery-operated remote makes it a snap to adjust how much light comes in, without unsightly wires. “There are products that have a long cord or pole to open and close the shades, but the remote control is the easiest,” adds Kuhns. “I use them in my own home.”

I want to use different shades in different rooms of the house. Some are white and some are bamboo (natural). Do I have to worry about how the different colors will appear from the street?

Yes, you do. “I try to keep the front of the house more uniform,” says Kuhns. Focus on the first floor, which draws the eye of anyone approaching the front door, using sheers or shades in the same color. Line drapes with the same fabric if they show from the outside. Windows on either side of the door need the same treatment, unless they are of different sizes; then you can mix treatments as long as you maintain the same color scheme. That said, mixing horizontal and vertical blinds is a big no-no. “I have white flat blinds across the front of my house that have the same color and horizontal line to make things uniform,” she adds.

What is the best way to mount drapery hardware on a window?

If you can, mount shades and blinds inside the window trim, advises Kuhns. Drapery rods and valances are best mounted on the wall above the trim to support the weight of the hardware and fabric. If you have the wall space to install hardware above the window, do it. Don’t be afraid to go up to the ceiling, she says. It makes the room feel loftier and the impact is dramatic.

What are options are available for treating French and sliding glass doors?

Choices for sliding glass doors are limited because you can’t mount something on them. “Get something that slides to the side, just like the door does,” says Kuhns. Draperies and cellular shades can be made to move sideways but “sheer verticals” (vertical blinds loosely veiled in sheer fabric) are most popular.

French doors are easier because you can put something right on them. Blinds and sheers are good choices because you get to see more of the door frame, usually a nice wood. Exciting new products include cordless blinds and Roman shades. With no exposed cords to tangle or possibly injure a child, they’re a practical choice.

Furniture Arrangements and Accents

Design Expert: Gail Gray Dunn, Gail Gray Home, Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley

Do you have suggestions for furniture arrangement to create separate living spaces in my great room?

“If you are lucky enough to have a large great room, you can use multiple seating areas,” says Dunn, proprietor, owner and interior designer at GailGray Home . The most space will likely be devoted to TV-viewing. Elsewhere in the room, Dunn says she “likes to arrange four upholstered chairs in a circle for conversation . . . or even two chairs with a round table for intimate dining, morning coffee, or a glass of wine.”

How do I pick the right size area rug for my living room?

Decide first if you will cover the entire room or just different seating areas. Whole room? Select a size that leaves 15 to 18 inches around the perimeter for “breathing space,” advises Dunn. Multiple areas? The rug needs to be large enough that legs of upholstered pieces sit completely or with the front feet on the rug. “This helps to ground the room visually while keeping the furniture from moving when you sit,” she adds. “Have you ever walked into a room with a rug only under the coffee table and thought something was wrong? It is better to go bigger, than smaller–much cozier.”

We have lots of room above the cabinets in our cathedral-ceilinged kitchen. How can I fill that space?

“Think large,” says Dunn. Don’t make the common mistake of filling the space with lots of little curios. “Small items get lost and look like clutter on top of cabinets. One or two large items, with a plant to soften look best. I like to hang a large clock or artwork over the cabinets to fill in the space.”


Design Expert: Kathi Mello, CertaPro Painters of the Lehigh Valley

How does paint color affect room size? I want a low-ceilinged room to appear larger.

Paint the ceiling a lighter shade of the wall color, suggests Kathi Mello, corporate creative director for CertaPro, parent company to CertaPro Painters of the Lehigh Valley. Light colors make a room feel more spacious. The best guide for pairing wall and ceiling colors is to stick to the choices on a single sample paint strip—go dark for the walls and pale for the ceiling.

Any advice on painting an accent wall in our all-white living room?

Believe it or not, accent walls are on their way out. According to Mello, the new hot wall treatment is “refined faux.” Not sponge painting, but creating a textured look with paint. Try this simple technique for a dramatic striped effect: Cover an entire wall with a matte-finish paint; next paint stripes over that background using the same color but in a satin finish. Mello is using this approach with black paint for the space below her dining room’s chair rail.

I like painted trim and my husband prefers the look of stained woodwork. How do we decide what to do?

“It’s a personal decision,” says Mello. Flip a coin to decide the winner but whatever comes out on top needs to carry through the entire house. “Trim is the ribbon that runs through a home,” she explains and it’s challenging to make the transition from one room to another with mixed finishes. If your goal is a modern aesthetic, go with paint. If you like the Craftsman style and old-home charm, go with stain.

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