Q: Help. I have avocado green carpets in the living and dining room that are in excellent condition. I have a sofa and three chairs that should be replaced or re-covered. I want to repaint the walls, get new furniture and a new wall treatment. The problem is, I want to keep the rugs. What colors will be appropriate for the living room? The dining room has a new cherry set, and the walls are papered halfway. Is it hopeless?
Camille M. Bob, Williamsville
A: You're in luck. Everything that goes around comes around -- even avocado green carpeting. To provide more contrast and interest in your home, consider painting your living room Ralph Lauren's Devonshire -- a creamy camel-tone paint -- and papering your dining room in a grasscloth in the same color.
If your furniture is high-quality, one approach could be to upholster your sofa in a highly textured twill or chenille in camel, and your chairs in a rich cotton paisley in reds, greens, terra-cotta and camel tones.
Window treatments should be light and airy -- you might start with pleated shades and add a gauzy layer of unpleated, puddled draperies in a vanilla hue. Install wooden poles with oversize rings that can be painted your wall color for a fresh look.
Judith Judelsohn, Judelsohn/Kahn Design
Q: I live in Elma on five acres of land. I currently have no window coverings in my family room, which includes an eight-foot window and two two-foot windows alongside the fireplace. I see no reason to cover the windows because I have no neighbors for 956 feet back. I have tried several ideas but they never look right. I want to keep the modern look within the home and keep an unusual decorating scheme. Because the family room is very bright, I want to keep it that way.
Kathy Koszuta, Elma
A. Windows serve several purposes. They admit fresh air and natural light, but they also frame a view and connect us to the natural world. Japanese architecture, for example, carefully places windows at strategic locations to frame a particular view or vista. Conventional U.S. domestic builders, on the other hand, use windows to make a house exterior look more regular while providing the required ventilation to each room.
You apparently have tried various options for decorative window treatments without success. Because you do not need the window coverings for privacy, consider your problem from another perspective and use your decorating budget to improve the views that your windows frame. A well-placed tree that flowers in spring, for example, changes leaf color in the fall and has beautiful limb configuration in winter is more varied and interesting than any interior window treatment.
P.S. Our great room is also very private and the windows are bare. The two windows beside the fireplace look out at the nearby woods, and the glass French doors frame our pond along with the wildlife it attracts.
Laird Pylkas, Duchscherer Oberst Design
Q: Many year ago, I reversed my living room and dining room functions. The dining room was so much brighter and faced the back yard. Because I now eat in the former living room, I can't find a suitable furniture arrangement. This is particularly difficult because the current dining room has several functions, not least of which is to hold my small collection of Mission furniture and cabinets for toys.
This house is a 1900 shingle house/American Four Square, typical of most homes in the Parkside National Historic District. Its exterior is influenced by the Craftsmen style.Since my mother died in the spring, I've acquired furniture, which has added to the eclectic mix of chairs and almost complete lack of floor space.
I'm nearly desperate.
Carolyn Schaffner, Buffalo
A: Congratulations on your creativity. Your ability to reject conventional room functions makes a lot of sense. A good first step for you would be to prioritize your possessions -- keep only those pieces you know to be beautiful and that function for you in the "now" dining room. Perhaps some of the better remaining pieces can be used in other rooms or shared with other family members. Use the same objectivity you displayed in switching room functions to edit, edit, edit.
An Arts and Crafts house usually shines with a more minimalist approach. To advise you more I'd need a floor plan and photos of your possessions. Just remember -- less is more.
Joanne Kahn, Judelsohn/Kahn Design
Q: How does one select wallpaper? The house I live in is modest, 50 years old. And the room I want to wallpaper is so cut up with windows that a large pattern is not wise. There is a short area over the three windows where wallpaper is needed. I hope this small problem merits an answer.
Ann Laurien, Buffalo
A: Selecting wall covering is one of the most difficult tasks people assign to themselves.
The rule of thumb is that space must accommodate the pattern. Will the room accommodate something bold or something on a smaller scale? Are you going to cover a room that has windows or other impediments? If you're doing a small closet or bathroom, the paper probably would not be as bold or one that hits you straight in the eye. It can be done, but it has to be done with taste.
Then you have to know what style you are. Are you contemporary? Are you traditional? Or something in between? Are you eclectic? You have to look through wallpaper books. If you're doing it yourself, you'll have to rely on yourself. If you're working with designers, you'll have the benefit of their advice.
Determine how sturdy the wallpaper has to be. Should you get paper that is coated or stainproof to protect it from little hands running over it?
The trouble that comes with windows and small spaces is that many patterns do not cut well. Remember, space must accommodate the pattern. Checks, plaids or stripes present themselves well because there isn't all that roaming around in the paper. If the wall is impossible because it is cluttered with windows and other impediments, you can do fabric on the windows and/or do some treatment on the ceiling.
After saying that, let me end with this: I don't believe there is any set way to decide on wallpaper, except for having an idea of what you want to see.
Florence Cooper, Florence Cooper Associates
Q: I've been thinking of home design as a possible career. I am enclosing recent photos I have taken of my home as examples of my work. Where and how should I start?
Carol J. Kuehfus
A: I feel it is important for someone interested in interior design to have an education. I would recommend the programs available at Buffalo State or Villa Maria College. These will provide knowledge in the following areas: color coordination, basic knowledge of design/architecture, space planning for residential and commercial areas, and business practices and ethics.
It is true some designers gain knowledge from others and do not attend school. The decision to pursue an education is up to the individual.
On a personal level, being in interior design is wonderful. You get to create, to watch something grow. It's especially gratifying when you earn a satisfied customer. It's a good feeling to know I helped make that happen.
Honestly, a career in interior design is also a lot of hard work. Getting the correct wallpaper, furniture, carpeting and whatever else the customer wants is very time consuming. You have to keep on top of your work at all times. That is very, very important.
I looked at the photographs you have sent and will be calling you to set up an appointment to get a closer look at what you have done. Good luck!
Brenda Perlstein, Brenda Perlstein Interiors Inc.