Decorating & Design

Ask A Designer: Lessons Learned

1. Size matters.

I love taking an old piece of upholstered furniture and giving it new life, like the thrift-store sofa I rebuilt and reupholstered. I’m a fan of how a single long seat cushion looks on a sofa, so I had one made for this piece. But I should have gone with three seat cushions instead. Whereas a single seat cushion works best with a sofa that’s 6′ long or smaller, mine is nearly 8′, and after we sit on it for even a brief time, the cushion ends up bunching, and we have to put in a lot of work to keep it looking good. I’ve kept it that way for now, but I know better for future projects!

2. Test before you paint.

When it came time to paint the interior side of my front door, I definitely wanted something that would stand out. I wondered if black might look too harsh, and usually I sample a colour before committing, but I was in a hurry. I started worrying halfway through that the tone might turn out too dark or flat. Luckily, it ended up being much lighter than I expected, and in fact, Black (2132-10) by Benjamin Moore is now my signature colour for front doors. I learned that dark shades don’t necessarily dry darker — and that starting with a tester pot saves a lot of worry!

3. Invest at the beginning.

When I moved into my house, the dining room floor was a classic golden oak that had gone orange over time. The 2″-wide strips were in decent shape, but I initially thought about replacing them with something wider (and maybe a bit lighter). In the end, I simply had them stripped, sanded and coated in Minwax’s dark Ebony (2718) stain. At the time, it was a great cost-saving measure, but after adding new baseboards and painting those and the walls white, I started wishing I had
trusted my gut and installed new wider planks at the beginning. I’m still not entirely happy with the thin strips, but changing them now would mean removing all the furniture from the room, taking out and reinstalling the baseboards, etc. If I could do it over, I’d rip out the strips and install either Brushed Oak Sanderson 7-1/2″-wide white oak planks by Kentwood that have the most amazingly flat and natural-looking finish — it’s hard to get a look like that when refinishing old floors — or Karelia Smoked Asphalt Grey 7-1/2″-wide oak planks by Silverwood Flooring. They’re a smoky grey-brown with light and dark highlights that give them nice depth.

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