Ask the Experts

By staff October 1, 2002

Q. What are some of-the-moment interior color combinations to perk up my rooms?

A. Interior designer Lance Licciardi answers: Colors for the home are being influenced by the fashion industry, and one of the best ways to see what colors are popping up is to watch a few fashion shows on one of the style TV channels. Another source is the revival of mid-century modern classic furniture. That period saw a lot of bold primary colors-red, black, white-paired with off-shades of chartreuse, turquoise, and a range of oranges.

The colors of the moment are combinations of pink and orange. Deep browns are coming back for walls (à la Billy Baldwin), with crisp white trim that makes the architectural detail of a room stand out. I like saturated colors for Florida rooms, because the light here is so strong that muted, earthy colors are blah. How about this scenario: neutral upholstered furniture, aquamarine walls, white trim, and accent shades of raspberry and rose brought in with pillows, silk lampshades, area carpeting, floral arrangements or art? Deep yellow walls will make mahogany or cherry furniture look regal. And lavender walls play off against dark furniture beautifully. My secret for the best ceiling you'll ever have is a Pittsburgh Paint shade called Balmy Day. It's a subtle, pale blue that I've used in every house or apartment I've lived in. It doesn't read blue, but gives any room a cheerful, airy feel. And it works with any wall color you choose.

Q. How do I know which of this season's colors will work best in my home?

A. Licciardi says: When I walk into a house, what I try to notice immediately are the small things. Throw pillows, knick-knacks. Your true self comes out in these things. Take a look at that Chinese platter in your display cabinet. Look closely at paintings and ashtrays. You may discover you're much more comfortable with color than you ever realized.

Another tip: Check your closet. I always find that one color goes through your clothing. Look around at all the things you buy, and you'll find that's probably the color you're most drawn to. I've had countless clients request tired beiges when their closets are screaming bright red. Color the house the same color you'll feel comfortable wearing.

If you do take the plunge with a fabulous chartreuse and are shocked with the result on your walls, don't panic. I always tell people, it's only paint. Paint over it if you don't like it. Put the furniture back in place first, restore all the accessories and you may find you're thrilled with the infusion of color.

Also, don't panic at the first swatch of paint. If the first strokes leave you gasping for air, at least finish a large section of the wall before you give up on the new hue completely. If you prefer to dip your toes in before drenching your home in a new shade, buy a quart first and see how you like it before buying enough to paint the whole interior.

A final word of advice: Trust your instinct-there's a reason you chose that color. If, after painting a large section of wall, you still can't handle it, try going just one shade lighter. That usually does the trick.

Q. After 10 years, I'm finally recovering my living room sofa, two chairs and an ottoman. My dilemma is whether to go with solid colors or prints, or some combination of both.

A. Nanette Kellerman, residential designer, offers this: If you have small furniture in a small room, avoid big and busy prints and opt for a neutral tone-on-tone palette, bringing in splashes of color and texture with pillows, a chenille throw, and art work. If your room is spacious with high ceilings, you can safely use a mix of prints and patterns with solids. But small prints can be boring. The best way to decide is to bring home fabric samples and lay them on the furniture. Live with them for a few days, observing how the colors change in natural and artificial light. Take into account fading, the pattern repeat, and see if you'll need to change the color of the walls and window treatments.

Some of my clients have a set of slipcovers made at the same time they reupholster. That way, they can change looks with the seasons. If your budget doesn't allow that, you might opt for the neutrals because they are more versatile. You can alter the whole attitude of a room by switching out some paintings, a rug, flower arrangement and toss pillows.

Q. What's a practical and good-looking choice for stone flooring for my new screened terrace and pool patio area?

A. Jaren Levitt, owner of Stone Trend International, replies: Both interior designers and homeowners are choosing Durango stone from Yucatan, Mexico. It's actually a distressed travertine marble with rounded edges and nice texture. And it's priced at the lower end of marble. Durango, which comes in a neutral tone, comes in all size tiles; many designers compose patterns using 18x18-inch tiles as the primary size and mixing five other sizes and shapes with it.

It's porous but strong. Once it's sealed, you can spill red wine and it won't stain. About 60 percent of all new floors we install in Southwest Florida are travertine marble; and of that, 90 percent are Saturnia, which means the marble is cut across the grain. Highly polished marble should be reserved for baths and low-traffic areas because marble is soft and will dull down fast. Sand tracked in on shoes is a killer. Marble that is honed and distressed, like Durango, is preferable for busy areas of the home and outside spaces. You can enjoy it maintenance-free for about 10 years before you'll need to reseal.

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