Ask the Experts

By staff November 1, 2002

Q. I have a good-sized Lucite side table that I want to slip into a room of mostly traditional French and English wood and upholstered furniture. Am I crazy?

A. Interior decorator Matt Overstreet advises: I have a Lucite table that I've hauled around for 12 years to use in apartments, houses and now a comfortable condo. All my furniture is traditional, much of it antique, and I've always found a spot for my Lucite piece. I've used it as a sofa table, a lamp table, a desk, and now it's my bedside table. Lucite can lighten and brighten a dark corner and loosen up a too formal setting. To make your table blend with your traditional surroundings, place a few period things on top. On mine I've got a 19th-century French lamp and a red leather English box plus a ton of books. I think it's a good idea to keep Lucite out of direct sunlight and clean it every once in a while with a soft cloth and some mild window cleaner.

Q. I'm confused about televisions I see advertised. What does flat screen mean, and is it the same as a plasma TV?

A. Custom installer Rob Winsler of Automation Innovators answers: The term "flat" refers to three types of televisions on the market today. The original flat TV is the rear-projection unit, commonly called the big-screen. Unlike the tube television, which has a curved picture tube, the rear-projection set has a flat screen onto which the picture is shot from the inside of the big-screen cabinet. It comes in sizes from 42 to 80 inches. Tube TV manufacturers have responded to the popularity of the flat look of the rear-projection units by introducing a tube television with a flat picture tube. These come in screen sizes typically ranging from 20 to 36 inches. Lastly, and the type of TV I think you are interested in, is the thin (less than six inches deep), flat unit that can hang on a wall. This television is called plasma because of the technology used in making the screen. Because the process is still being perfected, you are limited to 42-inch and 50-inch models. Though pricey right now ($6,000 and up), the plasma TV is dropping in price and gaining in popularity.

Q. I want my black-and-white powder room to be dramatic. The floors are white marble and the toilet and pedestal sink are black with gold fixtures. Where do I go from here?

A. Interior designer Nancy Ebel-Collum consults: You're off to a great start, because black and white is a truly elegant combination and will have high impact in a small room. First, install crown molding and paint it white. For a wall treatment you could go with a black-and-white toile wallpaper or a hand-painted black and white stripe with just a touch of gold in the white stripe. I'd paint the ceiling black and suspend a small gold and crystal chandelier. Put up a very fancy gold-framed mirror and a gold ornate towel bar. These two details are important-they should be really stunning and expensive-looking. Towels should be white with a black monogram. Layer over that all- black fingertip towels. The wastepaper basket could be a black-and-gold metal cachepot on bun feet. Look for an interesting shape other than round. On a little shelf or on the back of the commode, bring in just a hint of other colors with a bouquet of flowers. Yellow and white roses in a gold vase would be quite dramatic. An arrangement of red and yellow mixed flowers would be fine, too.

Q. I recently purchased a 100-year-old oil painting up North that I want to put into my light and airy beach house. Any guidelines on where to hang it?

A. Doug Carpenter of Apple and Carpenter Gallery of Fine Art answers: Do not hang the art in a place where it will get direct sunlight. The brightness and strength of the Florida sun will harm the canvas and the oils. Your colors will fade fast. A portrait light mounted above the painting is fine, however. Next is climate control. Don't abandon the painting to a room that will get hotter than 85 degrees. If you leave town for the summer, take the art with you or store it in a commercial unit that is air-conditioned. Finally, humidity is very damaging to an oil painting because moisture will loosen the canvas, causing ripples. However, the oil won't loosen, it will crackle. So, if you can control the sun, temperature and the humidity in your beach home, your fine art will also be right at home there, too.

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