This week I received two letters that have the same solution. The dilemma for both is deciding on a backsplash for their new kitchens.
The first, from Diane, says they have Quaker-style cabinets in a ginger glaze finish, Black Pearl countertops and a bamboo floor. The second, from Kim, describes lower black cabinets and white uppers, and black-and-white marble counters. Both prefer not to introduce another color, and are thinking of gray or gray and black.
DEAR DIANE and KIM: You are both on the right track. Look at the newest trend in mosaic tiles, which is a combination of small circles or ovals. They are set in 12-inch squares for easy installation. The overall pattern is inconsistent and eye-catching. You'll find lots of variety. These tiles are made from glass, stone, ceramics and metals and come in bright jewel tones as well as muted earth shades, white, cream, gray and black.
The homeowners in the kitchen shown here wanted to make a statement with their new backsplash and have a design that was different from the regular décor. They chose a glass mosaic tile blend in shades of amber that move from dark hues to light, almost translucent. The tile blend is called Amber Ovals and has the right weight to balance the sleek black cabinets and marble countertops. This tile style will look stunning in your new kitchens, either the amber or any gray, black and white combination.
Before you make your decision, bring samples of the tiles you like home to get a better idea of the overall effect. It's well worth a little extra cost to check out the play that lighting and other materials in your kitchen will have. Gloss surfaces are reflective, and their pattern and hues will bounce around.
Look for new collections at your local tile store, or visit www.GlassTileStore.com, where you can order online.
DEAR DEBBIE: We bought our dream retirement home and can't figure out how to set up the living room. The living and dining room are all one space, with the fireplace in the middle of the long wall. The TV unit is to the right, and a large antique hutch to the left of the fireplace. When we set up two recliners, a love seat, end tables and lamp around the fireplace, you have to crane your neck to watch TV, and the space looks out of balance. -- Suzanne
DEAR SUZANNE: It can be a challenge setting up a room where there are two or more conflicting purposes. In your case, and this is very common, the television is interfering with a natural conversation area, which would be centered around the fireplace.
If you can move the TV to another room, that would be my first choice. If this is the only space available, then place your sofa a little to the left of the fireplace, turned so that the back is to the dining room, and set up the two swivel chairs in front of the TV. These can be easily turned to face the sofa when you are entertaining.
Move the large antique cabinet to the dining-room back wall -- this will make room for the sofa and also adjust the room's overall balance. Consider changing your side tables and lamp -- a new home calls for some modification. Wall sconces are space-savers, and a floor lamp would be easier to place for ambient lighting and reading.
Debbie Travis is a columnist for King Features Syndicate. E-mail questions to her at email@example.com.