Ask the Experts

By staff November 1, 2004

Q. I have two adorable dogs that shed like crazy but have the run of my house. Can you suggest fabrics and patterns for my new sofa slipcovers?

A. Cathie Hickman has dealt with this problem before, so she knows exactly what you should do. "For your sofa slipcovers choose a cotton duck or sailcloth fabric. Make sure the fabric is machine washable and that the zippers are plastic or else the fasteners are Velcro, which is also washable. You don't want chenille, linen, or any wide weave because the tiny dog hairs will work themselves into the fibers. Avoid solid colors. Select a geometric or floral pattern that conceals dirt or dog hair and choose a background color for the pattern that matches your dogs' coats. If your dogs are black or brown, the background of the print needs to be dark and vice versa. If your fabric is initially treated to be stain resistant, remember that you must re-spray with the treatment when the slipcovers come out of the dryer. Some pet owners decide to ignore the impact of dogs when selecting slipcovers and go with whatever color and textile pleases them. Then they cover the sofa with a big blanket and welcome the animals up there. I have one client who just paid $5,400 for a new sofa. It's usually under cover, but when she has a party and throws off that blanket, she's certainly got a fabulous sofa." Cathie A. Hickman, Design Avenue, Inc., 2265 Industrial Blvd., Sarasota. 351-1719.

Q. My living room is neutral and modern. I want to add a bit of Moroccan flair, nothing permanent. Please give me some suggestions, but don't go crazy on me.

A. Interior designer Gayle Rector believes the rich, textural look of a few Moroccan-style additions will punch up your neutral space without compromising its contemporary quality. "Our eye 'reads' a room in about 30 seconds, creating a lasting impression. You don't need too much to transform your neutral space into a dynamic Moroccan sanctuary. Consider painting your walls a strong red-orange or an antique gold. That's a great backdrop. Window treatments should be simple gauzy drapes (a geometric pattern or just rich in solid strong color) that hang straight and puddle on the floor. Beaded trim is fine. Next, you want to bank the entire back of your sofa with silk pillows (all shapes and sizes) in geometric patterns of bold purple, gold, red, yellow and orange. Look for pillows with beaded details. Find a large hammered brass tray to set on a coffee table or sideboard. Fill it with large pillar candles (no tapers) of varying heights in the same color palette as the pillows. Toss a few really big pillows on the floor. A brass lamp in the shape of a ginger jar would be perfect on a table next to the sofa. You'll want an ornately patterned area rug somewhere in the space to anchor the design scheme. When you go to buy it, tell the rug dealer you want to express a Moroccan theme and that expert will know exactly what to pull for you to examine. An ornate and highly carved small chest would be perfect, especially if it has some inlaid brass. A round or rectangular mirror with an intricately carved wooden frame could be the final touch. Now your room is Moroccan." Gayle Rector, Ralph's Interiors, 528 Venice Ave., Venice. 488-3991.

Q. Does a window seat go with any particular décor or period? Any tips on putting one in?

A. Interior designer Bettina Sego says a comfortable window seat encourages inspirational daydreaming, and that alone is a good reason for having one. "We usually see window seats in traditional homes rather than modern residences, and the most obvious area to place one has always been in a bay window that has a lovely view of water or a garden. But a window seat in a kitchen or bedroom is a fine addition to the décor of both these spaces. And I really like the idea of including a window seat in a home office because it softens the look of office furniture and can give you generous concealed storage space for files, books and papers that you don't need on your desktop. Gazing out on a pleasant view from a window seat is definitely inspirational. Give yourself a nice thick cushion and curl up on your private window seat often." Bettina Sego Interiors, 117 Third St. S., Bradenton. 778-8204.

Q. I'm going to be moving into a loft, my first time inhabiting such a space. Can you give me tips on furnishing such a wide-open area? How do I delineate living spaces? What about furniture size and placement and colors for the walls?

A. Interior designer Christa Fairchild has years of experience doing lofts in Chicago and Minneapolis, so she knows what makes one work as a customized personal dwelling. "Think in terms of big moveable pieces of furniture, art work and drapery to section off space and make certain areas more intimate. I advise one or two bookcases on casters that can divide a space into smaller areas but can also be pushed flat against the wall when you want to expand boundaries for entertaining. Screens on casters are another great idea for creating privacy on a temporary basis, say when you have overnight guests. Draperies hung from the ceiling on a theatrical track can instantly be drawn to define a space and the fabric will absorb sound, which is important because many lofts have an echo problem. A dropped ceiling will make a portion of the space cozier, perhaps in the kitchen area where you want extra overhead lighting. Area rugs also define spaces, soften the industrial feel of a loft and absorb sound. And you can use paint to section off spaces, one color for the kitchen, another for the living and dining areas.

If your loft is spacious, more than 2,000 square feet, consider large freestanding artwork on casters and move the art pieces around for different effects. The greatest luxury of a loft is flexibility, so make your furnishings and accent pieces work in that direction. Keep everything mobile and have fun with the space.

The size of the furniture you should purchase depends on the dimensions of the loft and height of the ceiling. Homeowners usually have a lot of difficulty with proportion and also with properly lighting a loft and in choosing a color palette. If this is your first involvement with a loft, I strongly suggest you hire a designer to give you a space and lighting plan and also a color scheme. A designer should charge about a minimum $100 an hour for this service and, believe me, this is the best investment you'll make in loft living because a design expert's advice will save you from buying expensive products and home furnishings that are a mistake.

Storage is another big issue that a design professional can be extremely helpful with. Investing $600 or so with an experienced interior designer at the beginning of your loft experience could save you thousands in poor choices, lost time and considerable personal frustration. Having said that, welcome to loft living; it's great and you're in for a wonderful adventure."

Christa A. Fairchild, Fairchild Designs, Inc., 1754 Croton Drive, Venice. 497-9897.

Trend spotting: The luxurious look of paisley is back. Update a room with a deep-fringed cashmere, silk, or wool challis paisley shawl in colors that match your winter wardrobe. When you're not wearing this delectable fashion accessory, drape it over the back of a chair, sofa, library table or at the foot of a bed. This is definitely the year to add a bit of paisley to your closet and your home because the selections haven't been this good since Victoria was the Queen of England. Today you'll see paisley in dresses, neckties, bed sheets, tablecloths, pillows, and even reproduced on table lamps and fine china.

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