Ask the Experts

By staff March 1, 2005

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. When is it appropriate to allow drapes to pool on the floor and when should they just touch the floor?

A. Designer Patricia Lawrence is a great fan of pooling, but says you have to know where and when: "Pooling or puddling drapery window fabric is best used in a traditional or formal setting with period furniture. You see it in bedrooms, elegant living rooms and dining rooms, not in a family room or any other casual setting. Ideal fabrics for pooling are dupionni silk, silk taffeta, damask, moiré taffeta and some sheer fabrics. Many of the new silk synthetics will work just fine, too, and they're less expensive than many alternatives. Allow an extra 12 to 18 inches of fabric to give yourself a nice puddle so that the technique definitely looks intentional, not that you just measured wrong. If you're using a sheer fabric you might even want a bit more length so that the puddle has extra volume. And remember, if you have a playful cat, it makes no sense to have puddled drapes unless you don't mind seeing them in tatters. One more caveat: If your room is contemporary or modern, you don't want puddled window treatments. Instead, aim for clean, straight lines and a crisp, uncomplicated look. Drapes should meet the floor, and measuring needs to be precise." Patricia Lawrence, Accents & Designs, 704-0535.

Q. The fireplace in my fixer-upper is a disaster, definitely not a design focal point as yet. How can I de-emphasize the hearth (there is no mantel) until I can get around to doing a facelift?

A. A designer with personal experience in making fireplaces vanish, Robert Kevin Cassidy says you should try this: "First make sure the fireplace is fully dysfunctional, meaning the damper is closed and the gas is turned off if you have a gas unit. Clean out the inside and maybe put some insulation in there. Next, cut a piece of plywood to fit the opening and smooth coat it. Then paint the plywood and the unit the same color as the wall. Now you can position a piece of furniture in front of the 'former fireplace.' It can be a sofa, armoire or maybe a chest with a mirror, painting or group of photos above it. Suddenly, your room has four walls for you to work with instead of three.

"But I hope you will soon decide to recondition your fireplace and use it. For about $500 to $700, you can make that fireplace a focal point by using inexpensive molding, carved brackets and a board to make a mantel shelf. All the components are readily available at home improvement stores and architectural salvage places. Before applying design elements to the fireplace, be sure a chimney expert makes a house call to ensure your fireplace is safe and clean and that your design scheme meets the requirements of the current code. Spending extra for this service is crucial to the enjoyment of your fireplace." Robert Kevin Cassidy, 136 Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. 362-3949.

Trendspotting: The new, new hue is blue, blue, blue. Always a favorite for a bedroom because it connotes serenity, safety and relaxation, the new blues are bolting the boudoir and have enough zing to really jazz up a space. Select three to five shades and set your imagination free. Try a piece of painted furniture in blue and consider painting the walls with more than one shade. A blue-patterned area carpet could provide the final harmonizing touch. And don't forget the laundry room. The new Kenmore front-loading washers and dryers come in five alluring shades of blue, including skylark and midnight dream.

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