Ask the Experts

By staff October 1, 2003

Q. I'm attracted to the look of bamboo flooring for my high-traffic study. What are the pros and cons of this wood treatment?

Dave Gruber is about to make you very happy you inquired about this type of flooring. Bamboo flooring is stylish, versatile, durable and environmentally friendly. This product (which is actually a highly fibrous grass) is cultivated in controlled forests in China where bamboo matures in three to five years. Bamboo is harder than oak and as hard as the hardest maple. It's laminated like plywood so once installed, bamboo won't expand or contract. Bamboo can be laid in a variety of ways-on the diagonal, in a herringbone pattern, in squares or straight lines. We recently laid bamboo in three-by-three-foot squares and inside the squares we put tumbled stone. Bamboo can be glued or nailed down and can be installed over concrete or a wood sub-floor. As for cleaning, vacuum, lightly mist with a wood cleaner and wipe dry. The warranty on a bamboo floor from a reliable dealer is 15 to 20 years and the cost is about $9-$11 a square foot, installed.

The quality of bamboo can vary. There are approximately 200 mills in the Guangzhou Zhujiang province of China that supply U.S. markets. Be sure the dealer you buy your bamboo flooring from is getting its bamboo from a high-quality mill. This should be reflected in the warranty. As for color, bamboo comes in natural and a whole range of custom colors and stains, ranging from dark cherry to whitewash, dark green and even deep blue. Bamboo is so versatile that we're now seeing it on kitchen cabinets and in office furniture. You might investigate the product for bookcases or maybe even a desk. Floors By Design, 1906 Bay Road, Sarasota, 954-8080. 

Q. I bought several lusciously colored and costly silk throw pillows last year. Now they need cleaning. The covers are not removable. What to do?

Check for zippers next time, but for now take the advice of designer Ann Lanier. I think silk can be a bit difficult and even though I've spot cleaned and experimented with some of mine, I wouldn't advise you doing the same. Take your pillows to a reputable dry cleaner. Sometimes the pillow can be spot cleaned; sometimes the whole pillow can be treated. Whatever the case, I think an expert in the cleaning profession should inspect them. Not that you asked, but since I have an opportunity to speak, I want to put in a word or two for pillow restraint around the house. I think we've all gone a little overboard with the pillow thing and I believe it's a fad that has peaked. Personally I'm enjoying the ones I already own (the squishy comfortable kind with no beads or buttons) but I'm not buying any more for a while. Lanier Designs, 1523 Field Road, Sarasota, 925-2128. 

Q. What's the trick in mixing floral fabrics with stripes and checks in a design scheme? The combination looks so classy in magazines, but my efforts resemble a jumble of materials put together by someone who went nuts in a thrift shop.

Let experienced designer Anne Folsom Smith bring some sanity and practical advice to the issue. First of all, mixing stripes, prints and florals is truly tricky and I'm never surprised when homeowners end up bewildered. Designers use more than one kind of fabric in such a treatment. But if you're trying this look for the first time I'd say stay with one fabric-cotton, linen or chintz would be fine.

Begin with your biggest print-usually the floral. Next, you'll want your check pattern to be small (it counteracts the size of the floral) and the strip can be of medium boldness. Conversely, if you want a big, bold stripe then make your floral medium and your check small. What unifies the composition is color. Choose three main colors and patterns and play with them. Don't forget window treatments and what's on the floor. Work with swatches until it all begins to look "right" to your eye. Anne Folsom Smith Design, 330 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, 957-0434.

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