DEAR DEBBIE: I’ve seen a lot of glass and mirror in kitchen displays and wonder if they are just for show. What a cleaning nightmare! Would you use them in your kitchen? — Marisse.
DEAR MARISSE: Glass and mirror have always been decorating favorites, chosen not only for their subtle aesthetics but also for their inherent reflective qualities. You are seeing more of these materials in kitchens and bathrooms as new products and styles evolve.
Every surface can be transformed, from counters and backsplashes to cupboard doors and even ceilings. Glass can be added to an older kitchen to immediately update it. For an inexpensive backsplash, try cutting a piece of mirror that fits snuggly above your countertops. Your local glass cutter will do this for you. This is an ideal solution for making a tiny kitchen appear much larger.
Today, there’s a huge variety of clear and colored glass tile in squares, rectangles and blocks. These are both practical and decorative on walls, backsplash areas, countertop insets or tabletops. A popular idea for changing the look of old cupboard doors is to cut out the center and insert etched and frosted glass panels. Glass is easy to clean — avoid mirror in busy areas, but otherwise its serene purity is magical. Glass will never go out of vogue.
DEAR DEBBIE: We are considering repainting some walls that were previously sponge-painted. The sponge effect has created a wall that is no longer perfectly smooth. We are concerned that if we prime and then paint over these walls, the bumps will be visible under a smooth coat of latex paint. The room to be painted is a well-lit bathroom. What do you suggest? — Shaun.
DEAR SHAUN: Yes, the horrors of some of the old paint finishes do come back to haunt us. The problem with a sponge finish is that if undiluted paint was used rather than thinned-down paint, you do get a thick, dappled effect over the smooth surface of the wall. I am afraid you will still see these sponge marks when you cover it with a roller.
Don’t despair; there are a couple of options. One is wallpaper, which is the big trend at the moment. You will not feel these slight bumps under the paper. Or, if a fresh coat of paint is your option, then I would run over the wall with a sanding pad. Remember, it’s only paint, not plaster, so it will smooth down very easily. If your surface is very bumpy, you might want to apply a skim coat of plaster, but this shouldn’t be necessary in your case.
DEAR DEBBIE: I have a beautiful floor-to-ceiling fireplace made of flat river stone. The mantel is a strip of 11/2-inch cedar. I’d like ideas for a new mantel with a little more substance. Also, decorating the mantel is a challenge to me. How large should the objects be? — Charlotte.
DEAR CHARLOTTE: When building a new mantel, it’s a good idea to cut one to size out of cardboard first to make sure the scale is pleasing to the eye. If it’s too small, it will look dwarfed by the stone as your existing cedar mantel does; too big and it will look clumsy.
Try a different material such as an old beam or any rough piece of wood cut to the appropriate size. For a contemporary look, try a thick piece of glass — it will look like it’s floating on the stone. Make sure the mantel is supported properly, as it will be heavy. Either have it inserted well into the existing stone or build a surround for it.
Mantel decorations look best if they are grouped. Try a set of picture frames together and then a group of vases, or try two tall vases at either end. This is the fun part of decorating, and it’s all about what pleases your eye.
Debbie Travis is a columnist for King Features Syndicate. E-mail questions to her at email@example.com.