Ask the Experts

By staff April 1, 2003

Q. I have a small guest bathroom that I'd like to do in dark dramatic colors and fabrics. Is this a mistake in a tiny room? The ceiling is 12 feet, with a shower stall, no tub, pedestal sink and a window.

Brigid Hewes of Gwendolyn Sears Interior Design advises: Dark, rich colors need not make a bathroom look small or closed in. First, I'd paint the walls and ceiling the same color or the ceiling one shade darker or lighter than the walls. Use a high gloss on the ceiling to reflect light and visually expand the space. If you're interested in the new paints that have a bit of metallic sparkle in them, this would be a good project to try one. The walls could have a faux finish treatment for extra glamour.

Use a sheer curtain on the window (for natural daytime light) in a color that's nearly the same as the wall or else in high contrast. Since it's just one window and probably not large, you should splurge on really fine and sophisticated fabric because it could be the focal point of the room.

A chandelier would be chic, and then put scones on either side of a beautifully framed mirror over the pedestal sink. On the floor, opt for a small Oriental rug or a needlepoint one. Add artwork in the form of paintings in frames appropriate to your scheme (Old World, modern, French deco). Then finish out the scheme with accessories such as towels with a band of lace or ribbon. To maintain control of the project, limit yourself to just three main colors. The accessories can be in a metal finish or some shade of the three colors. To make the room look bigger, paint the inside of the door, molding and trim (including the windowsill) the same as the walls. If this bathroom adjoins the guest bedroom, pull at least one color from the bedroom and work it into the bath. This will reinforce a suite look.

Q. I'm dealing with a long bowling-alley-type second-floor hallway. How can I make the space look wider and more interesting?

Fred Hind of Fred Hind Interiors in Venice answers: I've got one of those tunnels in our family home, and a few years ago I decided to make it a memory photo gallery of great vacations we've shared. You can do the same with very little effort or budget. Select just one wall for the gallery and paint it a darker color than the opposite wall. Then gather your framed photos and hang them up to seven feet high and almost down to the floor. Some designers say to keep all the mats and frames the same shape and color but I approve of varying the mix. I also freely combine both color and black-and-white photos. The trick is to make sure none of the photos is smaller than eight-by-10 inches. Go big. Have little snapshots enlarged. You can select a theme such as vacations, weddings, family history or even pets. Then install track lighting in the ceiling and spotlight your collection. Ignore the floor. Once your memory gallery is up and you're met with happy times every time you walk down that hall, you'll have a space guaranteed to banish a bad mood on the spot. And the best part is that the gallery is never complete, you can just keep adding to it.

Q. I want to transform an unused bedroom into a Greek-influenced sitting room. Can you give me four or five must-haves, including some color choices?

Interior designer Bonnie Lancaster, who has lived in Greece, knows just what to do: First, paint the walls white; ideally the texture would simulate stucco. The floors should be a cool surface such as terra cotta tile, gray or black marble, even wood. Then lay down an ethnic woven area rug in reds and blues or else a flokati rug, which is fluffy lamb's wool. Upholstery must be cobalt blue, either solid or in a blue-and-white stripe. Never florals. The fabric should be cotton.

Wood furniture must be very simple in design or highly ornamented, nothing in between. And Greek homeowners like painted furniture. Try one or two pieces in blue. You'll want a ceiling fixture for light- one that replicates an old oil lamp would be perfect. For accessories select architectural fragments, Greek plates, urns or framed photographs of Greek islands. To be really authentic, finish off your look with a pot of blooming cyclamens on a windowsill and plenty of green plants scattered about the room. A Greek room is an especially nice choice for a Sarasota home because the light, the water and the general feel of Sarasota remind me a lot of the Greek isles.

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