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Get the Look: Retro Kitchen

Cheerful colors and nostalgic details lend their charms to these kitchens inspired by the past. Read on to learn how to re-create the look in your own home.

Retro Kitchen

Photo: Mitchell Snyder Photography

They don’t make ‘em like they used to. Today, the popular notion of a “dream kitchen” includes an an all-white color palette, a suite of stainless steel appliances, and granite countertops polished to a glimmering sheen. In years past, however, such a design would most likely have struck homeowners as cold, antiseptic, and uninviting. Indeed, kitchen design philosophy has changed a great deal over the decades. Some of us are old enough to remember, for example, that kitchens used to be colorful! From the flooring to the countertops and curtains, everything seemed to feature an eye-catching hue. Some traditions are best left in the past, of course, but if you’ve been yearning to cook in a space with more personality, in a room that recalls a bygone era, these tips can help you design the retro kitchen of your dreams.

Colors
What’s the best color scheme for a retro kitchen? That depends. You can hark back to the 1950s by channeling the most popular colors of those long-ago days, bold turquoise and red. Or for a look that says “The Sixties,” choose mustard and avocado—colors that some are still trying to forget, not bring back. In the kitchen pictured, designers Kevin Fischer and Charlotte Cooney, of Alice Design/Domestic Arts, chose pale yellow and tomato-red, a combination that recalls the early 20th century; builders Hammer & Hand brought their vision to life. Since there are so many paint colors available today, a great way to narrow the field is to look at pictures of kitchens from the era you’re trying to re-create, and see what strikes your fancy.

Related: 10 Design Essentials for a Retro Kitchen 

Surfaces
Though somewhat quaint-seeming now, surfaces like linoleum flooring and laminate countertops were once considered state-of-the-art. Fortunately, both remain in production and are readily available online or at your local home center. As popular in the past as they are today, simple white tiles are another classic, worthy of consideration no matter time period you’re using as a guide. After all, the goal isn’t to create a perfectly accurate, museum-quality historical reproduction. Rather, it’s to borrow the best from the past in pursuit of a design that, instead of being hopelessly outdated, looks forward as much as it looks back.

Retro Kitchen - Cabinetry

Photo: Mitchell Snyder Photography

Cabinetry
White, ivory, or beige cabinetry works well in most retro kitchens, regardless of the paint colors applied elsewhere in the space. Glass-front cabinets are another option with old-fashioned appeal, made all the more persuasive when filled with colorful china or glassware that dates to the era that the room is trying to evoke. Yet another way to achieve a vintage look is by painting cabinetry to match the room’s overall color scheme.

Hardware
Replacing cabinet knobs and drawer pulls ranks as one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to add period detail. While many sources stock new hardware that resembles older designs, some people enjoy the thrill of the hunt, searching for authentic examples in flea markets and architectural salvage yards.

Sink and Faucet
Homeowners are spoiled for choice when it comes to fixtures that mimic yesterday’s styles. For instance, apron-front sinks are enjoying renewed popularity and work superbly in spaces modeled on the early 20th century. In a 1970s-themed kitchen, a stainless steel undermount model pairs nicely with a colorful laminate counter. Faucets, meanwhile, range from those with long, arching necks to boxy designs perfect for kitchens mimicking the postwar period.

Related: 10 Design Essentials for a Retro Kitchen 

Lighting
Most older kitchens sported an overhead light in a style that complemented the room. Depending on the era, that fixture might have been a milk-glass pendant or a sleekly sculptural ceiling light. Some people opt for a reproduction, while others scour salvage shops near and far in pursuit of the genuine article.

Retro Kitchen - Appliances

Photo: Mitchell Snyder Photography

Appliances
To get your hands on period-appropriate appliances, you basically have two options. One is to buy new models whose designs are steeped in nostalgia. The other is to search for refurbished relics. Stoves with porcelain exteriors in white, red, soft blue, or even pink have undeniable appeal, but such treasures can be difficult (or quite costly) to obtain. A compromise would be to choose standard modern appliances with the simplest possible silhouettes.

Accessories
The little things make such a big difference in identifying a space as belonging to this or that time period. A colorful set of dishes or glassware, for instance, can be displayed as a focal point, while vintage tablecloths, curtains, clocks, or telephones (or new designs that resemble older models) further enhance the illusion. On the walls, consider hanging colorful collectibles like fruit-crate labels and recipe booklets, or artwork that dates back to the era that you’ve selected as the inspiration for your retro kitchen.

 


Pro Tips: Furniture Arranging 101

While there are no hard and fast rules to decorating, there are certainly basics to consider when arranging furniture. Here a professional room-stager and designer offers tips and tricks to help you make your rooms look their very best.

Living Room

Country Living 2003 House of the Year. Designer: Robin Mayer / Photographer: Keith Scott Morton

Stripped of all its furnishings, an empty room can be intimidating—or inspiring! For design consultant Robin Long Mayer, it’s definitely the latter. In her work as an editor for Country Living and New York Spaces magazines and as the principal of Robin Mayer Design, she has learned a thing or two about the optimal placement of sofas, tables, beds, and all the accessories that fill our homes. While the ideal arrangement in your own rooms will depend on such factors as the size and layout of each particular space, there are certain guideposts that can put you on the right path. Mayer offers the following insights.

Find Your Focal Point
There are no hard-and-fast rules in furniture arranging, but if there is a focal point in the room—a fireplace, for instance, or a window with a beautiful view—try to place your furniture around it to draw the eye in that direction.

Keep a Clear Path
You always want to be invited into a room visually, without any obstructions in your path. Be mindful of the number of items you are placing in a room. Use only what you need for comfort, storage, and utility, and find new homes for extraneous pieces.

Avoid the Perimeter
Lining furniture along the perimeter of a room creates a very stagnant look. That being said, we don’t all have the luxury or space to float all our furniture in the center of the room. If a large piece like a couch makes most sense against the wall, float a few smaller pieces—like two comfortable armchairs—in front of it to balance the look.

CL House of the Year 2006 Dining Room

Country Living 2006 House of the Year. Designer: Robin Mayer / Photographer: Keith Scott Morton

Encourage Conversation
No matter what size your living room is, you should always consider seating that lets you share the space with a friend. Positioning a couch and two chairs near a focal point, or even two love seats or two chaises facing each other, is a lovely way to start.

Dining Room Dynamics
As a general rule, the dining table and chairs occupy the middle of a room. If there is a chandelier overhead, be sure it does not obstruct views across the table. A sideboard, hutch, console, or even a chest of drawers along a wall of the room can add much-needed storage for linens and flatware, and also provide a surface for additional ambient lighting.

Kitchen Kismet
To determine what pieces you’ll need here, think about how you use the space. If you love to cook and entertain, an island or movable workstation is a sensible investment. Seating is vital as well. Choose a table and chairs if you have the room, or find comfortable stools that can tuck under a counter when not in use. If space allows, I highly recommend a couch in the kitchen!

Bedroom Basics
It is always nice to wake up to a view outside your windows, so if you have something lovely to look at, place your bed to take advantage of it. Next, consider all the practical things you need in the bedroom—bedside tables and lighting, a dresser or armoire to store clothing, and a chair or bench. Although it isn’t necessary for the furniture finishes to match, I do like the look of soft neutral wall colors, matching lamps on side tables, and linens in natural fibers. Save the color for decorative pillows or throws; even the art can add a little zing to the space, but keep it simple. I also like to have a rug near the bed for warmth and softness underfoot.

Country Living 2006 House of the Year bedroom

Country Living 2006 House of the Year. Designer: Robin Long Mayer / Photographer: Keith Scott Morton

Measure Mindfully
Take accurate measurements of your room (and the doorways and entrances) before you start shopping for furniture. To get an idea of what will fit in the space that you have, you can “tape it out” with masking tape on the floor of an empty room using the dimensions of each prospective piece. Allow plenty of room for walking about, pulling out a chair, and accommodating whatever elements you need in order to function in the space.

Clear the Clutter
I do a lot of work staging homes and apartments for sale, and the biggest words of advice I give are, “Clean out the clutter!” Clutter distracts from the beauty of a room. When guests walk in, all they’ll see is a pile of papers on the counter, toys on the floor, or laundry in the corner instead of that amazing sofa or incredible table you worked so hard for. If you want to display collections or family photos, keep them “stabled” in one place, such as a bookcase, hall table, or dedicated family photo wall, so they look neat and unified.


Get the Look: Modern Bath

Straight edges, sleek finishes, soothing colors, and an abundance of natural materials like marble and stone all work together to create the serene, simplified beauty of today's modern bath. Here's how you can get the look in your own home.

modern bath

Photo: Vilabuilt.com

Think luxury. Think serenity. Think clean-lined, uncluttered space. This is the essence of the modern bath. It’s a look that has evolved over the years, taking advantage of the best of contemporary design in everything from faucet styles to tiles to bathtubs.

Although modern baths are often pared down to their barest essentials, those elements are of the highest quality and most innovative design (consider the Dolomiti honed marble tiles, Victoria + Albert tub, and Kallista sink and tub fixtures in the bath above). And, square footage is not a deciding factor either—what matters most is how you use the space you’ve got. Even the smallest bath can capture the cutting-edge look of a modern bath. Read on to learn how to re-create the look in your own home.

Colors
Muted, monochromatic color schemes are typical for modern baths, with all-white being one of the most common variations. Look closely, however, and you’ll often find that even a white bathroom has lively textures in marble and tile. Occasionally a modern bath will be interpreted with a splash of bold color—maybe red, orange, or lime green—on an accent wall or vanity.

modern loft apartment bathroom

Photo: jaklitschgardner.com

Surfaces
In a modern bath, surfaces are smooth and uncluttered. Natural materials, such as marble, granite, and stone, are popular choices, as are woods that may be pale in color or stained a deep brown or black, or might exhibit a strong grain pattern. Gleaming laminates are also sometimes used for a vanity or storage unit.

Tiles
You’ll rarely find traditional bathroom tiles in a modern bath—few white subway tiles or four-inch squares here. Instead, you may spot oversize limestone or granite tiles on the floor and, on the walls, an eye-catching arrangement of tiny one-inch glass tiles or narrow rectangles in gray or taupe. Tiles in a modern bath can blend into the overall color scheme or stand out as the single source of color in the room.

Sink and Fixtures
There are so many variations of sinks and faucets on the market today that homeowners may find it difficult to narrow their search. Many people choose a vessel sink that rests atop a vanity, while others opt for a traditional undermount model that allows a marble or granite vanity top to command full attention. Chrome, brushed nickel, and other silver finishes are usually preferred over brass.

Kohler K 1805 Aliento Collection Tub

Photo: Kohler's Aliento Collection 66" Lithocast Designer Bathtub

Tub and Shower
If there is space in your bathroom for a tub, by all means use the opportunity to find a shape you love. Most often, tubs in modern settings are white porcelain and extra deep, and possess a contemporary silhouette, whether gently curving or square-edged and boxy. For showers, floor-to-ceiling glass stalls are becoming commonplace, but clear-glass sliding doors are a budget-friendly alternative.

Floors
Tiles that tie the floor in with the overall color scheme of the room are typical in a modern bath. Wood floors stained either a very pale or a very dark hue are also sometimes seen. When it comes to the type of tiles used, homeowners tend to play with proportion, perhaps choosing large slabs of natural marble or stone, or maybe an energetic pattern of tiny tiles that have a contemporary look, like miniature hexagons.

Windows
Windows in modern baths are frequently unadorned to complement the clean lines of the room. If window coverings are needed for privacy, choose a simple, high-quality Roman or roller shade in a pale color, a metallic weave, or a woven-grass texture. If your bathroom makeover is part of a new addition or major renovation, consider installing a nontraditional window shape here, such as a large square or window wall.

Lighting
Many modern baths feature recessed lighting to underscore the pared-down surroundings. When fixtures or sconces are positioned overhead or beside a sink or vanity table, they are usually statement pieces—cutting-edge designs with unusual shapes, or fixtures with chrome or nickel finishes that echo the faucets and other details in the room.

Accessories
Extraneous objects look out of place in a modern bath, but a few thoughtfully selected items can provide a perfect finishing touch. Some examples include a sleek chair or stool, a single work of art like an oversize black-and-white photograph or colorful abstract print, and luxurious amenities like a wall-mounted towel warmer. Sufficient storage is a must to keep clutter at bay.


Get the Look: Country Kitchen

A country-style kitchen has undeniable appeal. While country kitchens can range from traditional farmhouse to something more sophisticated, they all share certain fundamental design, color, and style characteristics. Here's how you can get the look of a country kitchen in your home.

Crisp Architects

Photo: Crisp Architects

The country kitchen is an American icon. The warm, welcoming feeling we get when we see homey gingham curtains, beaded-board paneling, or a deep farmhouse sink may stem from a fond childhood memory of grandmother’s house or a pleasing picture in our minds from an old movie or television show. Whatever the source, the look is one that endures in kitchen design today.

But while the style is firmly rooted in the past, today’s country kitchens are far from old-fashioned. Modern amenities and plenty of personal touches fit seamlessly alongside nostalgic details, as in this sunny kitchen designed by Crisp Architects, of Millbrook, New York. To help you get a similar look in your own home, we’ll describe the essential elements of a country kitchen and suggest ways you can reinterpret those details to make the finished project distinctly your own.

Pittsburgh Paint

Pittsburgh Paints "Easy Being Green" Palette

Color Scheme
An abundance of white permeates most country kitchens and sets the stage for an infusion of softer hues, like pale straw or sage green. Even when there are dashes of bolder color—a red-and-white checked tablecloth, for example, or a collection of blue canning jars—they rarely dominate the space. In this kitchen, warm white cabinetry is punctuated by a soft green color surrounding the sink and inside the open shelves.

Surfaces
Natural materials and weathered surfaces give newer country kitchens lived-in character. Beaded-board paneling is a common sight in most schemes, sometimes used as wainscoting below painted walls or around the outside of a work island. Here you’ll find it on the ceiling and on the back inside wall of the cabinets. Warm wood tones are also a necessity in a country kitchen, whether a solid plank floor underfoot or an unexpected variation like this one, where wood planks frame floor tiles. Tiles used for backsplashes in country kitchens are often white. As a fun twist in this kitchen, white tiles are set on a diagonal and accented with smaller green squares.

Crisp Architects

Photo: Crisp Architects

Cabinetry
The appeal of glass-front cabinets in country kitchens is twofold: They not only trigger nostalgic images of farmhouse kitchens, they also allow homeowners to showcase favorite china patterns or collections. Color-coordinated dinnerware looks especially pleasing behind glass. If you prefer solid doors, or if your budget does not allow you to replace the cabinets you have now, consider whitewashing existing cabinets for a fresh country look.

Hardware
Replacing old, indistinct hardware with vintage designs (like this kitchen’s half-moon drawer pulls) is an easy and inexpensive way to give existing cabinetry a country update. Country-style looks for knobs include glass and porcelain designs as well. Many manufacturers today make hardware with a nostalgic look, but you might also consider contacting a source for architectural salvage in your area for more options and a fun treasure hunt.

Appliances
Although this decor harks back to simpler times, today’s country kitchens have all the amenities we’ve come to rely on. That being said, the placement of modern appliances within a country-style setting is usually less conspicuous than in a contemporary interior where state-of-the-art gadgets might be the focal point of the room. Take this kitchen’s four-foot-wide Sub Zero refrigerator, for instance. Wood paneling on the exterior allows it to blend into the cabinetry around it.

Moen Annabelle Faucet

Photo: Moen Annabelle Faucet

Sink and Faucet
An apron-front sink is a classic element in country kitchens, and fortunately, the style has made a comeback in recent years. With many offerings from a number of manufacturers, these attractive fixtures are now much easier to find. If you prefer a sink that’s set into the countertop, however, consider an old-fashioned swan-neck faucet to complement the overall style of the room.

Lighting
Bright, sunny mornings are one of the best times to enjoy a country kitchen. Large windows left bare or adorned with the simplest of curtains are optimal in such settings. For overhead lighting, pendant lights with glass shades are a popular option. Additional recessed lighting amplifies a room’s brightness while letting the other design elements in the room command full attention.

Accessories
Once the country background is in place, accessories and collections allow you to personalize the space and add those perfect finishing touches. Baskets, blue canning jars, and vintage ceramics such as yellowware mixing bowls or ironstone pitchers are all classic choices. Be wary of over-accessorizing, though. Confine larger collections to a single cabinet or hutch to keep the room’s overall look uncluttered.


Pro Tips: The 5 Most Common Bathroom Renovation Mistakes

Regardless of whether you are replacing an outdated vanity or renovating the entire space, bathroom remodeling can be an expensive proposition. How can you avoid some common mistakes? Jeff Devlin, host of DIY Network's "I Hate My Bath," offers some advice from the trenches.

Jeff Devlin

Photo: myfixituplife.com

As the host of DIY Network’s “I Hate My Bath,” licensed contractor Jeff Devlin has seen his share of renovation missteps both big and small. “I see mistakes all the time,” he confirms, “and most of them are so easy to prevent!” Read on to find out the five most common problems Devlin encounters—and how you can avoid them in your own home.

1. Ignoring the Bathroom Fan
“Overlooking your bathroom fan is a huge mistake,” Devlin observes. “Sometimes people don’t install one or they don’t clean the one they have.” Without proper ventilation, he explains, humidity builds up on surfaces, and over time this moisture will cause paint and grout to deteriorate and mildew to form. Vacuuming the vent on a regular basis will help keep the fan clean. To determine if your fan is overdue for a cleaning, turn it on and hold a square of toilet tissue up to the vent. If the tissue stays up on its own when you let go, air is still flowing.

2. Lacking a Clear Plan Before Demolition
“Sometimes people think they can figure out what needs to be done as they go along,” says Devlin. “But you need a plan in place before you start any demolition.” Devlin believes you should have everything sketched out ahead of time, from your budget, to your materials, to the question of who will be doing which parts of the work. “Planning is everything,” he emphasizes.

3. Being Unrealistic About a Budget
“Don’t lie to yourself and try to do a $20,000 renovation when you have only $10,000 to work with,” Devlin urges. “You’ll only have to cut corners at the end of the project and you won’t be pleased with the results.” He suggests taking a careful look at your finances and getting a realistic number in your head. “Write the number down, put that amount in your bank account, and stick to it!”

before and after bath

A "before and after" Eastern-inspired bathroom redo. Photo: DIY Networks / I Hate My Bath

4. Overlooking Small Mistakes
As your renovation goes along, Devlin advises, always fix mistakes—even the smallest ones—as soon as you notice them. “If one tile isn’t exactly flush or your paint strokes are going in all directions, fix it right away,” he stresses. “Don’t convince yourself you’ll learn to live with it. Those mistakes will always bother you, and if you can see them, then other people can see them too.”

5. Losing Focus Toward the End
Many people, Devlin reports, are excited about the renovation process at the beginning but lose steam as they approach the finish line. “They might take forever to frame out the room,” he says, “but by the end they’re so eager to see the completed room they start to rush.” The problem here is that the finish work is extremely important to the overall look of the space. “People should reverse the trend,” he muses. “Move at a steady pace at the beginning and slow down at the end to be sure everything is done correctly. Your patience will pay off!”


The Appeal of Bamboo Flooring

Appreciated for its graphic patterns and environmental sustainability, bamboo flooring has become a popular option for homeowners in recent years. Is a bamboo floor the best choice for you? Let's look at the facts behind the trend.

Morning Star Anji Bamboo Flooring

Lumber Liquidators' Morning Star Handscraped Strand Anji Bamboo Flooring.

Floors are an essential and important element in an interior design scheme. Small wonder, then, that the eye-catching patterns of bamboo flooring have been attracting attention. Made from the bamboo plant—a grass—this style of flooring allows homeowners to make a bold design statement underfoot. Another reason for the buzz? Bamboo is considered an eco-friendly flooring option. “While bamboo flooring is unique and beautiful, it’s also a fast-growing grass that reaches maturity in four to six years,” reports Chelsea Fossum, a buyer for Lumber Liquidators. “This makes it a highly renewable resource that is gaining popularity in home design.”

How It’s Made
To make bamboo flooring, the stalks of the bamboo plant are cut into thin strips and bonded together in layers with the use of an adhesive resin. They can be layered horizontally, with the strips facing up to reveal the natural shape of the plant, or vertically, with the strips turned on their ends and pressed one against the other, resulting in a striated pattern. A third process, which creates a product known as “strand-woven bamboo,” involves shredding the bamboo stalks, mixing the fibers with adhesive, and pressing them together into highly durable flooring sheets.

Horizontal-grain, vertical-grain, and strand-woven bamboo flooring are commonly referred to as “solid bamboo,” because they are made up entirely of bamboo strips or fibers. Another option on the market is called “engineered bamboo,” which takes a thin strip of solid bamboo and adheres it to the top of another type of wood such as plywood or fiberboard. The main advantage of engineered bamboo is ease of installation; engineered planks can be floated above a subfloor without need of nails or adhesives, while solid planks are installed much like traditional hardwood.

Bellawood Spice Bamboo Flooring

Bellawood Spice Ultra-Strand Bamboo Flooring at Lumber Liquidators.

Colors and Patterns
Bamboo flooring is available in a wide range of colors from pale straw to deep mahogany tones and everything in between. Natural bamboo resembles light woods like ash and beech. To create other colors, bamboo can be stained or carbonized, a process that produces pleasing deeper hues. Carbonization, however, is thought to degrade the durability of bamboo floors, so darker colors may not be best for high-traffic areas.

The variety of patterns in bamboo flooring is truly one of its biggest draws for homeowners—from the natural silhouettes visible in horizontal-grain planks to the linear quality of vertical-grain planks to the graphic quality of strand-woven designs. Which variety to use in a room of your house will depend on your personal taste and the overall style of the space.

Care and Maintenance
Regular sweeping and occasional mopping with a damp cloth are all that’s needed to keep bamboo flooring looking its best. If your home has high foot traffic, pets, or young children, thoughtfully positioned area rugs may be a worthwhile investment. As with hardwood floors, placing felt pads on the bottom of furniture legs can help extend the life of bamboo.

Supreme Bamboo Horizontal Carbonized Flooring

Horizontal Carbonized Supreme Bamboo Flooring from Lumber Liquidators.

Cost
At about $3 to $8 per square foot, the price of bamboo is comparable to other flooring options such as hardwood, carpeting, or tile. It’s worth paying a little more for a higher-quality product for increased durability. Warranties are often a good indicator of quality; planks with a longer warranty are generally more durable. Households with young children or anyone with respiratory sensitivity will want to inquire about VOC levels before making a purchase, because the chemicals sometimes used in manufacturing can off-gas in the home. For some of the top-rated bamboo floors, click here.

To help you find the best pattern for a particular room, think about the other colors, fabrics, or finishes that will share the space with the bamboo floor, much as you would when considering paint swatches. More graphic patterns lend themselves to use in modern interiors, while simpler designs are typically suited to more traditional decor.

 

This post has been brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Is Cork Flooring Right for You?

Offering easy maintenance, sound absorption, warmth, and comfort underfoot, cork is a smart, eco-friendly flooring choice for many of today's homeowners. Is it the right choice for you? Find out here.

Lisbon's Tobacco Road Cork Flooring at Lumber Liquidators.

In our ongoing quest to make our homes beautiful reflections of who we are, the question of what to install underfoot is an important one. For some people, gleaming oak is the answer; for others, salvaged pine planks or Mediterranean-style tiles. In recent years, cork flooring has become yet another popular option.

“There are natural benefits of cork flooring, including easy maintenance, sound absorption, warmth, and comfort,” says Ebony Costain, a buyer at Lumber Liquidators. “What consumers may find most surprising, however, are the attractive varieties that have been brought to market.” Cutting-edge technology has allowed manufacturers to offer flooring with the amazing look of hardwood or marble, while keeping all the benefits of cork. To determine if cork is a good choice for your floor, consider how well the following statements apply to you.

You have cold feet—literally. If you usually wear socks or slippers around the house to avoid cold floors under your feet, you’ll appreciate cork’s ability to stay at room temperature and therefore feel warm to the touch. Like a cushion underfoot, cork flooring also eases stress on your back and legs, making it a good fit for any place in your home where you’ll be standing for long stretches of time, like kitchens, laundry rooms, and workshops.

Lisbon's Silves Cork Flooring at Lumber Liquidators.

You have an artistic eye. Cork flooring comes in a wide array of colors and grain patterns, so the design possibilities are limitless. Just about any floor motif that can be made with paint or ceramic tile—think checkerboards, stripes, or chevrons—can be made with cork. Let your imagination soar! Some owners even play with the pattern of the cork itself to create a design that mimics exotic wood grains like tiger maple, or the stone striations of marble or granite. Whatever style you choose, you’ll enjoy the surprised expressions when guests first step into a room.

You have a sensitive ear. Cork’s acoustic properties make it a sensible choice for any home in which echoing presents a problem—in pared-down interiors with few carpets and curtains, for example, or in apartment buildings where downstairs neighbors tend to call at the slightest footfall. The pitter-patter of tiny feet becomes a bit less thundering with a layer of cork, while the material’s pliancy would be an added benefit should any tot happen to stumble. Music rooms, too, are logical places for cork floors to mute the reverberations of instruments.

You strive to be green. Most trees would quickly perish if their bark were removed. By contrast, cork trees—native to Spain and Portugal—have a type of bark that regenerates after harvesting and can be trimmed again in nine years’ time. Cork floor tiles are made from the remnants of cork wine-stopper manufacturing and are a truly sustainable option for homeowners in search of eco-friendly materials.

Lisbon's Rossio Cork Flooring at Lumber Liquidators

You have a high-traffic household. Forget “high-traffic area” —your whole house is in constant motion with kids, pets, and projects in flux. Cork’s durability makes it a natural choice in such settings and explains its frequent use in public buildings that have a steady stream of visitors, like libraries and museums. Small dents in cork flooring fill themselves in again and shallow scratches visually blend into the overall pattern, unlike marring on wood floors, which is typically easy to see and a hassle to refinish.

You crave easy maintenance. As it does with small scratches, the highly textural pattern of cork helps mask light stains and marks. Sweeping and occasional mopping with a damp cloth are all that’s needed to keep cork floors looking their best. That said, putting felt pads on furniture feet—just as you would with hardwood flooring—can help extend the life of cork tiles.

You’re budget-conscious. At about $3 to $8 per square foot, cork is comparable in price to other flooring options such as hardwood, carpeting, or tile. Whether you choose cork tiles that are positioned with an adhesive or those that feature a tongue-and-groove system, installation is easy for most do-it-yourselfers, which helps to keep costs low. And once the floor is in place, cork’s thermal properties maintain room temperature even in cold weather, which can alleviate your heating costs in winter.

All in all, if you’re thinking about putting in a new floor, cork is an option worth considering.

 

This post has been brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Pro Tips: Decorative Floor Painting

Painted floors can create a homey, warm atmosphere or make a bold graphic statement. Here are some helpful tips on how you can enhance any wood floor with a decorative pattern.

Painted Floors

Photo: jeanniebalsam.com

You can’t deny the decorative appeal of painted floors, whether they’re patterned in checkerboard, stripes, or some other graphic design. “Painted floors allow your unique creative expression to flourish,” says decorative painter Elise C. Kinkead, author of 50 Ways to Paint Ceilings and Floors. “Painted floors are also an inexpensive way to nudge a well-worn floor into a few more years of service.” But where to begin? Kinkead offers the following advice to guide do-it-yourselfers in the process.

PLAN
Browse magazines or search the Web in order to find a pattern that you love. Then lay out a paper version of the design, securing your “test run” to the floor by means of low-tack tape. Experiment with different positions around the room before deciding which looks the best. If the room in question has a focal point, such as a fireplace or bay window, consider orienting your floor pattern in such a way that it draws the eye toward that striking main feature of the space.

PREP
With the exception of laminates, whose damage-resistant finish does not accept paint well, most any wood floor can be painted successfully. As in other painting projects, it’s essential that you do a good job of preparing the surface. In the case of painted floors, proper preparation involves three steps. The very first step is to remove any waxy residue from the floor surface. Commercial wax removers are commonly available; inquire at your local hardware store.

After cleaning the floor thoroughly and allowing it to dry out completely overnight, continue on to the next step: sanding. Lightly abrade the floor with 120-grit sandpaper secured to the end of a sanding pole (alternatively, rent a floor sander for the day). Once you’re finished, vacuum the sawdust and then wipe away any lingering grit with a slightly damp cloth. Again, allow the wood to dry completely.

Now complete the final step, which is to repair any cracks or gouges by means of wood filler. Of course, if you appreciate and prefer the look of a time-worn surface, then skip this step. Imperfections in the floor won’t compromise, and may even enhance, the project.

PRIME
Clean, sanded, and dry, the floor is now ready to be primed. Opt for an oil-based primer if you wish, but Kinkead prefers water-based products, both for their low odor and fast-drying characteristics. The primer coat goes on mainly with a roller; along edges or in corners, cut in with a paintbrush. Note that if you are painting the floor in a single hue, you can use a primer tinted to your chosen color to cut down on the need for multiple top coats. Remember also that primer may serve as one of the colors in a multicolor design. The point is that there are ultimately strategic, timesaving advantages to choosing a primer carefully.

Painted Floors - Taped

Photo: arvadacarpetcleaningbest.com

TAPE
Having given the primer ample opportunity to dry completely, proceed to outline your pattern on the floor. Do so with chalk or a carpenter’s pencil, making the faintest mark possible that’s still visible over the primer. Lay tape just to the edge of the marks, pressing down on the tape edges with a dull putty knife for optimal adhesion. At this point, wipe away all chalk or pencil with a damp cloth. And before you start to paint, check again to be certain the floor surface is still dry.

PAINT
Believe it or not, there are paints formulated especially for application on floors, and the range of available colors has only expanded over the years. Regular latex wall paint is fine to use, too, provided you finish it with a sealer. In applying the top coat, as you did with the primer, use a roller wherever possible and a paintbrush in those areas where a roller just won’t do. Allow each coat to dry before painting on the next one. For solid coverage, two coats ought to be enough. Remove the tape very carefully, at a 45-degree angle, only after the paint has dried.

SEAL
Plan on sealing your paint job with two coats of either oil- or water-based polyurethane (unless you’ve painted with an oil-based product, in which case you must use an oil-based poly sealer). Generally, a pad is the recommended applicator for sealers of this type, but manufacturers’ instructions vary. Read the label on the can of sealer you plan to purchase before committing to any specific tools for this final stage of the project.

For a slightly worn appearance, leave the floor unsealed for a period of time, or hand-distress the surface with sandpaper. Once it has developed the patina you want, proceed to add the sealer. How long does it take before you can bring furniture back into the room? That depends on the sealer. Again, read the label. Usually, you need to wait no more than 24 hours.


Paint Your Home the Colors of Downton Abbey

Followers of "Downton Abbey," which began its fourth season yesterday on PBS's "Masterpiece," are as captivated by the historic interiors depicted in the series as they are by the story lines of the characters.

Downton Abbey Paint Colors - Drawing Room

The drawing room from "Downton Abbey" inspired one of the colors in a new Kelly-Moore Paints line. Photo: WGBH

Inspired by Downton Abbey, a new collection from Kelly-Moore Paints will now enable fans to live among the dusty grays and muted pastels they have loved seeing in the hit series. “We were getting inquiries from people trying to locate particular paint colors they’d seen on Downton Abbey,” says Mary Lawlor, manager of color marketing for Kelly-Moore Paints. “That gave us the idea to develop colors inspired by the amazing settings portrayed on the show.”

With a great deal of historical research and some help from Downton devotees on the Kelly-Moore staff, the company has created 19 hues, each one capturing an element of the glamour and grandeur of the show’s backdrop, an enormous and opulent estate in the English countryside. Some colors take their cue from the drawing room, where the aqua-green walls are softened by details of rose, ivory, and gold. Meanwhile, other colors reference the masculine, sophisticated oxblood and carnelian reds of the library. Several of the characters’ bedrooms, not to mention the servants’ kitchen, sparked additional shades.

Related: 12 Must-See Home Improvement Flicks

Downton Abbey Paint Colors - Bedroom

Jitterbug (HLS4211) recalls the ethereal blue of Lady Grantham's bedroom. Photo: WGBH

In the eyes of today’s viewer, the colors in Downton Abbey evoke a bygone era. But in their time, these hues were in fact quite modern. “By the early 1900s, the dark, opulent look of the Victorian interior that had prevailed for decades was beginning to feel oppressive,” says Allison Kyle Leopold, a journalism professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and the author of numerous books on historic design. “The new century would be all about lightening up and simplifying, and a cleaner palette of bright colors and pale hues was a big part of that.”

For Mary Lawlor and others responsible for the Kelly-Moore Paints product line, it was no mean feat to develop new colors based on historical examples. The challenge was to come up with solutions that, even as they remained true to the Edwardian Era, also managed to fit seamlessly into 21st-century homes. Well, it may not have been easy, but Kelly-Moore did it.

Take, for instance, Jitterbug (HLS4211). This ethereal blue would look as welcoming in a contemporary bedroom as it does in Lady Grantham’s. Likewise, Rapier Silver (KMW65) calls to mind the utilitarian kitchen on the show, but it echoes the grays that are currently so popular in interior design. “Although these colors are rooted in the past,” Lawlor points out, “they are thoroughly usable in today’s homes.”

On January 5, the fourth season premiers on PBS’s “Masterpiece.” If you haven’t yet watched the show, consider this: The fans of Downton Abbey are so devoted that many are apparently seeking to re-create the look of its interiors in their own homes. So there must be something to this early-20th-century period drama, right?

For more, visit Kelly-Moore Paints, here.


5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before a Kitchen Renovation

Before beginning the project, ask yourself some basic questions in order to make sure you end up with the kitchen of your dreams.

Photo: sabineshome.com

Can it be that updating your kitchen changes life for the better? For Sabine Schoenberg, there’s no doubt about it. “Kitchens are nurturing spaces for the body and soul,” says Schoenberg, founder of SabinesHome.com and author of Kitchen Magic: Secrets to Successful Kitchens. “Even small improvements in your kitchen can have a profound impact on your quality of life.”

Before any work can begin, however, Schoenberg advises that you ask yourself a series of questions. The exercise can help you pinpoint and (just as important) articulate the goals of your project. “Don’t rush through this fun discovery phase,” she says. “Enjoy the opportunity to think through what’s important to you and your family to create your perfect kitchen.”

 

1. KITCHENS PAST

Kitchen Remodeling Design Tips - Inspiration

Photo: kentinteriors.com

In your most fond memories of the kitchen where you grew up, which features of the room usually stand out? It might be the paint color on the walls, the material of the countertop, a particular type of table, or the presence of a sunny window. Should fresh inspiration fail, let those recollections guide your choices.

 

2. PRIMARY MOTIVATION

Kitchen Remodeling Design Tips - Banquette

Photo: streeterhomes.com

What’s the main reason you’re remodeling the kitchen? Don’t lose sight of your primary motivation, be it more light, more storage, or a more efficient workflow. Taking the time now to develop a firm grasp of your priorities will help you make some tough decisions at later stages of the process.

 

3. SENSE OF STYLE 

Kitchen Remodeling Design Tips - Style

Photo: apdarchitects.com

When you envision your dream kitchen, what are its design characteristics? Is it ultramodern or quaintly country? Does stainless steel or natural wood appear on the finishes? Browse shelter magazines and websites, identifying the commonalities that exist between those images you find most appealing.

 

4. JUST ONE THING

Kitchen Remodeling Design Tips - One Thing

Photo: klaffs.com

What is the one feature you wouldn’t be able to forgive yourself for not including in your kitchen renovation? Whether it’s a splurge item—a commercial oven, for instance—or simply cookbook storage space, adjust the budget of your project so that once completed, your new kitchen perfectly fits your ongoing lifestyle.

 

5. KITCHENS FUTURE

Kitchen Remodeling Design Tips - Future

Photo: jackrosen.com

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the finished space. Do you feel happy because the sun is streaming in, organized because there is a place for everything (and everything is in its place), or social because you can entertain guests while cooking? Be sure to discuss your vision with your architect or contractor.