Ask The Experts

By staff February 1, 2005

Q. My living room and dining area flow together with a limestone floor. I'm thinking of putting an area rug under the dining table to define the space. Good idea or bad?

A. Design professional Michael J. Waldron thinks it's a fine idea, and here are his suggestions for carrying through with the project. The right area rug under your table will improve the room's acoustics and will certainly define the dining space. A carpet also has the design advantage of harmonizing a room, since ideally the pattern should contain the colors that are in the window treatment, upholstered furniture, wall color, etc. Whether your table is round, oval or rectangle, the right rug can be a rectangle. It's the easiest shape to find.

Size is important. The rug should be at least three feet larger all the way around than the tabletop. This is so all the chairs fit comfortably on the carpet even when guests move their chairs back to sit down or get up. Choose a flat carpet like sisal or a pile. Just make sure the pile isn't so thick it tangles up the chair legs. A safe choice is always a good Oriental. I'm really impressed with some of the Tibetan ones because they're contemporary as well as traditional. The machine-tufted Orientals, of course, will be less expensive than the hand-knotted ones. As for fiber, I think wool is king. It's expensive and it stains, but it cleans up beautifully and is durable. The next best option is a wool and synthetic blend. Avoid anything that's 100 percent synthetic with a pattern just printed on the fiber instead of actually woven in. These carpets may seem like a bargain, but they don't last. Decorator's Alley, 4672 McIntosh Lane, Sarasota. 378-9292.

Q. We're building a home, and since we were dissatisfied with the lighting in our last place, I want to get it right this time, both inside and out. Do I need a lighting consultant?

A. Gallery manager Lorie Parker is one of the Lamplighter professionals who does complimentary in-home consulting, and she has this advice for you: Most contractors install basic recessed general lighting, and some homeowners will add a hanging fixture over the dining room table, but that's just the beginning of what you actually need. We suggest that the homeowner bring the architectural plans into our gallery. That way we get a feel for the home's scale, the budget and how many rooms need lighting as well as the landscape lighting requirements. You need both indoor and outdoor lighting. By coming to the gallery, I also get a sense of your style and the style of the home.

Then we'll go out to the house and walk through rooms suggesting what's practical and beautiful. Some kinds of lighting to consider are cove lighting (in the decorative ceiling), under counter lighting, toe kick lighting, pinpoint lighting for art work, functional bathroom lighting, hanging pendants for task lighting and table lamps for ambient lighting. Outside consider the pool area, pathways and architectural or garden features such as trees or sculpture that you want to showcase. Landscape lighting expands your views at night, lets you use your gardens and patios after dark and increases your home's security. The keys to success are balancing subtlety and drama.

Many homeowners neglect their lighting needs until after they've moved into a house and the proper allocation of budget is gone. Then they spend years trying to get the lighting scheme right. But getting it right at the beginning is not difficult. Invest the time and money and you'll never be sorry, because proper lighting enhances everything in your home while being totally practical, too. Lamplighter, 204 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 953-4292.

Q. My rooms need perking up. What are some new color combinations appropriate for a Southwest Florida home?

A. Interior designer Gayle Rector can get your rooms to sing a new tune. A combination that's both comforting and lively is robin's egg blue and brown. The brown can be as dark as chocolate or as light as mocha. In a recent showhouse, I saw this combination used in a toile pattern in the kitchen, and it was delightful. Do a silk stripe in this brown and blue, and now it's smart and modern. I also love the new pinky-raspberry paired with sunshine yellow and grounded with green tones in a living room. Personally, I'd use the raspberry color on a sofa because the shade is totally inviting. It would just draw people right to it. Ralph's Interiors, 528 Venice Ave., Venice. 488-3991.

Q. Our single son is buying his first home (a townhouse), and we want to give him three pieces of furniture so style-neutral and enduring that he'll be able to take them to his next place. He already has a good bed. Any suggestions?

A. Scott Harper, 34-year-old owner of a Venice furniture store, has personal knowledge of bachelor living that transitioned into married life, so he has this advice for generous parents wanting to help their son get started. You're right to stay style-neutral, and that usually means clean lines without surface ornamentation or carving. I believe your son would appreciate a sofa. I'd suggest a deep seated one that is 84 to 90 inches long, with an exposed leg in either wood or metal. For upholstery, I like leather because it's twice as durable as fabric. A good quality sofa will last for years. We've had ours in three homes (it's in a family room now) and it's been upholstered twice. It's so comfortable and good-looking that my wife, Corey, and I probably won't part with it anytime soon.

A 48-inch round glass top table with an iron base and four accompanying open-leg Parson chairs would be my next addition. This size table is perfect for a dining nook. Later, in a larger home, it can be a corner lamp table; or you could drape it with a cloth to the floor for a bedside table. The chairs need to be comfortable so you can move them into the living area for extra seating when guests come over. I like Ultrasuede for the chair upholstery because the fabric looks great and cleans up easily.

My third addition may seem odd, but over the years your son will come to treasure a piece of furniture that has family meaning. Give him something from your home that you've loved and cared for, because it has sentimental value. I have the flip-down desk my dad used in college. It doesn't match anything in our home but we always find a way to decorate around it, because this little piece of furniture means so much to me. It could be a mirror, a chest for storing blankets, a bookcase, anything so long as it's been in the family for a long time. Even though your son is out on his own, that family connection is important. Harper House Furniture, 253 Warfield Ave., Venice. 484-9537.

Trend spotting: After years of exploring faux finishes for walls, designers are again warming to wallcoverings. Particularly coveted are grasscloth, leather, cork (which has sound-absorbing qualities) and damask silk, as well as new interpretations of historical patterns on high-tech papers that remove easily when you want a new look. Most upmarket wallcoverings have coordinating fabrics to help pull a room together. For traditional patterns, look to Greeff or Brunschwig & Fils. Donghia excels at modern motifs and Thibaut is exemplary in its handling of tropical and exotic designs. You'll need an interior designer to access luxury wallcoverings; they're available only to the trade.

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