Don't clutter up a sophisticated kitchen look

March 28, 2005|by ROSE BENNETT GILBERT/Copley News Service

Q: Our kitchen opens into the living room, so I'd like to do something special to help it blend in. I really don't like looking at pots and pans all the time. We're going with a black-and-white theme in the living area. How weird would it be to paint the kitchen black-and-white, too?

A: Maybe not weird at all. Black has been showing up on the countertops and front panels of kitchen appliances for many seasons now, and white in a kitchen has always been a no-brainer.

Just keep in mind that you are setting up a very sophisticated attitude with this, the most sharply contrasting of all color duos.

You'll have to live up to it by banishing all clutter - probably not hard for someone who already hates looking at pots and pans. Also not allowed: accessories with even a whiff of cutesiness about them. Again, not difficult when you consider the elegant results, to wit, the ordinary little kitchen in the photo we show here, where the contrast between the midnight-painted cabinets and the bright white walls is totally dramatic and exciting.


P.S. If you plan to paint kitchen cabinets yourself, it may be a good idea to unhinge one door and take it to a really good paint dealer for analysis. He/she can tell you what kind of paint will work best on whatever material your cabinets are made of.

Depending on whether they are wood, metal or a laminate, you'll need to follow certain processes and apply the right primers and paints to achieve the kind of slick, shiny finish you're after.

Q: We've been working with an interior designer to help make choices on colors and carpeting. Now, he's insisting that we need to have a custom-made sofa for the front room. It will cost about $2,000, plus another bunch for the fabric. My husband is highly resistant, to say the least. He can't see why we can't just buy a ready-made sofa for about half that. Is there a good reason to spend so much?

A: To, ahem, coin a phrase, you really do get what you pay for. A custom-made sofa is like a tailor-made suit: it will fit you perfectly, meaning both your physical self and the room into which you put it.

When you have a sofa custom-made, you can adjust its height to yours, its length to your room size, and its degree of firmness to whether you like to sprawl or hate to struggle up and out of all that plushness.

Moreover, you will be getting a piece of furniture that is so carefully made by hand by skilled craftspeople that it will live on to become an heirloom antique, not just a "used sofa." Custom-made furniture starts with a kiln-dried hardwood frame and 8-way-hand-tied springs, over which goes a filling of down and feathers (usually in a 60/40 ratio that keeps cushions from packing down). You may also have a blend of polyester, down and foam.

When you order a custom-made sofa you also get to make style decisions, such as whether or not there will be a skirt - a pleated or plain or gathered skirt? Will the welting match the fabric (self-welt), or contrast? And will there be a "tight back" or loose cushions? With or without trimming?

Such options are expensive, compared to a mass-produced, one-size-fits-all approach. You can pay up to $9,000 for a top-of-the-line model (say, from George Smith, a company dating to 19th century England; And that's not including the 45 yards or so of decorative fabric you'll need.

So the bottom line is all about your budget. A custom sofa is not a mere purchase, it's an investment that will pay back you - and your heirs - for many years to come.

Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of "Hampton Style" and associate editor of Country Decorating Ideas. Please send your questions to her at Copley News Service, P.O. Box 120190, San Diego, CA 92112-0190, or online at

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