Ask The Experts

By staff November 1, 2001

Q. I'm decorating my first home. Is there a "must-have" accessory I can enjoy for many years?

Randy La Bolle of August Third answers: A handsome mirror is one of your best long-term investments because it is not place-specific. You can move it from room to room in this home and confidently take it to your next. A mirror gathers light and reflects objects you want to highlight. It makes a space look bigger and will always match what you have. Paint the frame if you get tired of the finish. The glass in nearly all mirrors is of good quality today, so what you pay for is the frame. It's either a composite, metal, or hand-carved wood. The more craftsmanship and the bigger the mirror, the higher the price. The trend in frames right now is a warm silver, which is silver leaf or paint washed lightly with gold. It looks right as a counterpoint to modern or contemporary furniture and harmonizes with traditional or transitional decor. The right mirror will have you and your home looking good for years.

Q. Crystal chandeliers are so beautiful, but where should I hang them and how do I clean them?

Gwendolyn Sears, ASID, of The Palmer House Collection answers: In my gallery, we use regular rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle and a soft cotton cloth to make the crystal sparkle. Some huge chandeliers [like those in the new Sarasota Ritz-Carlton ballroom] operate on remote control and can be lowered and raised for easy access. Also, specialty companies will come into your home to clean chandeliers. Some use an ultra-sonic method. As for where to hang a chandelier, I'd say anywhere you want to see one-over the bathtub, in an entrance foyer, in the bedroom or living room. Traditionally, one goes over the dining room table. Size is the tricky part, because you need to consider the volume of the room, the height of the ceiling and the size and style of the object the chandelier will hang above. When in doubt, larger is better than smaller. But the best idea is to ask a professional to help you choose the size and shape.

Q. I'm going to slipcover my sofa and club chairs and I intend to change out the colors in a couple years or so. So I'm interested in the "now" colors and fabrics. Fill me in, please?

JoAnn Calleia, ASID, of JoAnn Calleia Interiors answers: In general, decor mirrors fashion. So check out the runways for color trends. I'm seeing a lot of sage, cream, goldy-yellow, rust, orange, light blues and brown tones from caramel to coffee-bean. The most durable and best-looking fabrics for slips are cotton, sailcloth and cotton-polyester blends. They're light and can be fitted for a tailored look. Chenille is wonderful but will give you a more casual shabby-chic look. Brushed velvet is comfortable and glamorous. Silk (especially nubby textured silk) is elegant, and some lightweight tapestries will work just fine. Linen will wrinkle, just like clothes. The most popular slipcover? A pale cream color worked in cotton. It's timeless.

Q. How can I tell if my room has a focal point? If it doesn't, how can I make one?

Anne Folsom Smith, ASID, of Anne Folsom Smith Interior Design answers: The secret of a focal point in a room is architectural details. If you do not have any architectural details, they you must create them. Such a detail could be a sculptural ceiling, a beautifully designed floor, a fireplace or an art niche. You may also use applied details such as gorgeous cabinetry. Once you create a focal point, it should be enhanced by wonderful lighting.

Q. What are the rules for using Oriental rugs?

Susan Mignone of Panache Interiors answers: Use Oriental rugs whenever and wherever you can. In Florida, where we like hard-surface flooring, Orientals warm a space and provide comfort underfoot. Be sure to use a non-skid pad under your rug. I encourage clients to put Oriental carpets in the bath, kitchen and entrance foyer as well as the usual more formal rooms. A quality hand-made vintage or new Oriental is durable, and dirt won't show because of the complex patterns. Turn rugs occasionally, have them professionally cleaned every few years and know that Orientals only get more beautiful as they age. If using one under a dining table, be sure the rug is large enough so that all the chairs fit on the carpet with a nice wide border to spare. For a truly glamorous gesture, the next time you have a dinner party on the patio, bring an Oriental rug into that outdoor space. You'll be surprised how gorgeous the surroundings will look and your guests will be impressed with the grandness of it all.

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