A fresh look
Frequently asked decorating questions
Readers often write asking for decorating guidelines and tips on how to create a more comfortable and visually peaceful home. Here are the most frequently asked questions and their suggested solutions.
How do I determine what size area rug to purchase?
First, create a balanced and functional furniture arrangement in the area you want to cover. Lay newspapers on the floor and begin covering the space. It is perfectly acceptable to have the front legs of a sofa or chair standing on the rug and the rear legs resting on the bare floor. Lay down paper until you find what looks like the best coverage and take note of these dimensions.
In a dining room, the rug should be large enough so that chairs don't catch on its edges when guests pull their chairs in and out from the table.
Rugs are made in more or less standard sizes (usually 3 feet by 5 feet, 4 feet by 6 feet, 8 feet by 10 feet, etc.) and may not match your desired coverage area. Purchase two differently size rugs to test for the best fit, returning the poor fit.
What can I put over my mantel?
As the focal point of most living and family rooms, this area should be strong enough to hold your gaze. To start, put something in the fireplace, for example, a stack of logs, interspersed with pine or eucalyptus fronds, an arrangement of dried hydrangeas, a bundle of twigs, or a collection of fat candles in varying heights.
It's traditional to place a large piece of art or a mirror over the mantel. Mirrors add light and sparkle to a dark room but may not have enough visual weight. Try a large circular or sunburst mirror, or a rectangular one with a wide or complex frame. If you hang art, make sure that the piece is large enough for the space, is not hung too high or too low and shares the room's color scheme and theme.
For something a little different, try hanging:
* a rug, tapestry or blanket.
* a child's kimono or an obi draped from a bamboo rod.
* a collection of masks, plates, hats or musical instruments.
Go on a treasure hunt for fun things to adorn the mantelpiece:
* a pair of tall candlesticks to one side and a vase of flowers or potted plant on the other.
* a stack of antique books with a small bowl perched on top on the left, and a plate on a stand to the right.
* a row of matching objects: vases, plates on stands, teacups and saucers, wooden apples, etc.
How high do I hang the chandelier over my dining room table?
Chandeliers installed in a room with the standard ceiling height of 8 feet will look best when suspended about 36 inches over the table. A large-scale chandelier, dangling from a 10-foot ceiling will probably look better placed higher up from the table top whereas a tiny pendant fixture suspended from a much lower ceiling will look better a bit closer to the table. Don't let the chandelier block conversation. Make sure the fixture clears your head when you are seating yourself or getting up from the table.
How high do I hang my art?
A single piece of art works best when hung as part of a composition of furnishings; for example, over a dresser that has several accessories on it, or over a couch with pillows that bring out colors in the piece. The art should not occupy too large or too small a space over or near the furniture, nor should it crowd or float too high above the accompanying objects. It's a matter of trial and error: Don't be afraid to make several holes in the wall until you get it right!
If you want to hang a single large-scale piece of art on a blank wall, think of the wall as being divided into thirds, horizontally. Hang the art so that the top of the frame is close to the top of the middle third of the wall. Don't hang a small-scale piece on a huge wall by itself; save the piece to place in a grouping or in relationship to furniture.
Kit Davey, Allied Member, ASID, is a Redwood City-based interior designer who uses what you already own to redecorate. Email her at KitDavey@aol.com, call her at 650-367-7370, or visit her website at www.AFreshLook.net.