Ask the Experts

By staff January 1, 2004

Q. Can you give me some alternatives for the traditional coffee table? I'm tired of the same old look.

A .Designer Treanne Michel adds some zip to that sofa situation: Your new coffee table option should be practical and express something about the way you live. For instance, if your sofa pulls out into a sleeper you may want lightweight bunching tables that can become night stands when you open the bed. A large, densely upholstered ottoman is always useful. Put your feet up on it or use it as a cocktail table when you add a gallery tray. Ideally, any table you choose should sit about 20 inches away from the seating area to allow people to maneuver around it easily. Cocktail table heights have risen recently in response to high ceilings. Once13 to 16 inches high, most are now between 17 and 22 inches tall. The general rule says a cocktail table should be about two-thirds the length of the sofa. But that's a rule meant to be broken if you find something you fall in love with. A new option is to place two or three "stone" cubes in front of the sofa. These cubes are hollow and on casters so while they appear to be really heavy, they are not. Acrylic cubes are a fine solution, too. Some now come with lights built in. You plug the cube into a floor outlet and you get a light show.

One of my favorite cocktail table options is the two- or three-level table. One height level might be glass, tile or stone, practical for serving food. Another level might be upholstered you so could put up your feet. The lowest level would be for storage or to display a single dramatic object d'art. Multi-level tables are really terrific because they multi-task. And don't we all today? Treanne Michel, 312-9020

Q. I have some old wicker pieces on my screened porch that I've collected over the years at yard sales. Each is a different color, style and period. How can I unify the grouping?

A. Wes Snyder, a design professional with 30 years in the business, says this is a fun and easy fix: Color and fabric are how you're going to bring all those diverse wicker pieces into complete harmony. First, paint all the pieces the same color. Use a semi-gloss Latex paint for exterior use. Spray on two coats. This way you'll be able to clean the furniture without damaging the finish. Now for seat cushions and accent pillows, find a fabric (or three) that complements the color of the wicker. If you choose three fabrics make sure all are from the same manufacturer and have the same colorways, which will unify your arrangement. Use the biggest print or stripe or geometric for the cushions on your largest piece of furniture, like a settee. Maybe use a solid color for cushions on a pair of chairs. Perhaps you want an intermediate size print or check as a tablecloth. Mix it up. If you want to be more conservative, just use a solid color and one print. Making objects conform to a definite scheme through color is one of the easiest and most satisfying decorating techniques. Wes Snyder, 351-2454.

Q. My sliding glass door that opens to a screened lanai is a necessary source of light for me. Right now the window treatment is vertical blinds, which I think are ugly. What's a good replacement that gives me both light and privacy?

A. Jill Jesiolkiewic suggests a fairly new product you probably don't even know about: A company called ADO makes what it calls a Wrap that allows you to keep your existing vertical blinds but makes them visually disappear. This is a custom process so you need to work through a designer, because ADO doesn't sell directly to the public. But an ADO Wrap can be a real cost-saving and time- saving solution. The Wrap is actually sheer or semi-sheer fabric you select from a diverse color palette and many textural possibilities. The wide swath of fabric is clipped to each vein or vertical blind panel. The finished installation looks like sheer drapes. A crown molding valance or sheer valance is included. But since the Wrap is attached to the vertical blind, when you retract the blinds to one side the drape moves with it, giving you the maximum amount of light and access in or out of the sliding door. When the blinds are pulled into place and you rotate the blinds to the open position, you don't see the veins at all, you just see the sheers giving you filtered light. At night when you close the veins for complete privacy you have the darkness but still just see the sheers. The Wrap can be sophisticated, casual, romantic or sleek modernist depending upon which fabric you select. I recently wrapped a family room that had a four-door slider on one wall and a three-door slider on another. The clients were thrilled that they could keep their verticals but magically transform them into something much more attractive. For a six-foot slider the price of an ADO Wrap starts at about $650. Costs escalate depending on fabric selection and complexity of the project. Jill Jesiolkiewic, 954-4454 

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