Ask the Experts

By staff June 1, 2003

Q. In Pompeii I fell in love with those faded, ancient frescos. Can I enjoy this kind of art in my home without having it applied permanently to the wall?

A. You can indeed own a fresco that you can take off the wall when you move. Asuncion de las Heras, co-owner of Design O'Fresco, explains: Through a transfer process using two canvases, our company has frescos made in a studio in Italy and sent to Sarasota. We sell ready-made frescos in hundreds of motifs and sizes, and they come either framed or unframed. And we also do custom frescos to your design or color scheme.

Creating a fresco takes four to six weeks from the time you place your order until the day you take your fresco home. Besides the wall frescos, we can do fresco headboards, three-panel screens, CD racks and coat racks, as well as wall panels to support sconces. Animals, classical figures, still life, murals and trompe l'oeil designs are all available. Frescos start at about $650 for a 21 x 21-inch size and can climb to the thousands. A fresco is a wonderful addition to Mediterranean Revival architecture, which is why we located our gallery in Sarasota. Design O'Fresco Corp., 32 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota. 330-2411. 

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Q. How big and how tall should a lamp be in proportion to the table upon which it sits?

A. Gary Ficht of Pedlar's Village Interiors sheds light on the subject: For a reading lamp, the distance from the bottom of the shade to the book you're holding should be 25 inches. I like to see all the tops of my shades in at room the same height. This evens out the illumination and keeps the eye traveling around the room uninterrupted. It's better to go overscale than under. A lamp too small looks like a toy and isn't useful. But you don't want something too big and ornamental. Lamps should blend in, not stand out.

Ideally, shades should be silk and lined with silk because that gives you a soft, diffused light. And do consider pink bulbs. Granted, they're not great for reading but they're flattering to the room and to skin tones. Placement is important, too. You want to achieve a balance of light throughout the whole space, not just pooled in some corners. Pedlar's Village Interiors, 3562 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota. 955-5726.

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Q. I want my huge new outdoor living area to be as gorgeous and sophisticated as the inside of my home, because the spaces merge and you see both at the same time. What should I know about outdoor fabrics?

A. Interior designer Michael Zarlin can make you into a material girl. He says: The biggest trend right now in resort regions is making elaborate outdoor living spaces gracious and carefree. From medium-priced upholstery and drapery fabric of about $50 a yard to the $500-a-yard creations, the buzzwords are beauty with no maintenance. Many of these luscious materials are made from all or high percentage blends of synthetics. Some are 100 percent acrylic, but you wouldn't know it to touch them or see them on your outdoor furniture. You think you're looking at cotton, linen, ultra suede or silk.

These new fabrics are mildew and weather-resistant; they won't fade or stain; and if they get soaked by one of our heavy afternoon showers, they dry immediately. Fabulous collections from companies and showrooms such as Nesson, J. Batchelor, Jeffrey Michaels, Jerry Pair and Donghia seem like miracle fabrics-and they are because of up-to-the-minute technology.

To really appreciate the incredible range of what is available, it makes sense to fabric shop at a full-service design center such as the Design Center of the Americas (DCOTA), which has nearly 60 fabric showrooms. Come with your designer or use the Designer On Call (DOC) services at the Design Center. Selecting fabric, choosing a color scheme, measuring and ordering are generally far too complicated for the average homeowner. You'll want on-site advice and expert opinions to get the right fabric for right furniture and window treatments at the best price. Michael Zarlin Designs, Inc., Fort Lauderdale and DCOTA, Dania, Florida.

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