Paint adds personality to a lackluster porch

July 24, 2006|by ROSE BENNET GILBERT / Cpoley News Service

Q: We have a funky little screened-in porch off the kitchen of our new house. I'd like to make it more attractive, but we don't want to spend much money (it is a rental). What can we do, short of expensive construction?

A: Contrary to the saying, occasionally, beauty really is only surface deep. Think paint. It's quick and cheap, and you can always return things to their original gray when you move, if your landlord insists.

The small porch in the photo we show here should get your creative juices going. The checkerboard floor is easy enough to copy even if you think you can't paint a straight line. Measure and tape off the squares. Using deck enamels for durability. Paint first the black squares, then, when they're dry, paint in the whites. A triple coating of polyurethane will add extra protection, although the weathering process is attractive, too.


More paint turns the twig furniture into real personality pieces. Now that snazzy fabrics - even fringes and trim pieces - are available in outdoor-worthy fabrics (see, you might add cushions and curtains to totally dress up your outdoor living quarters without denting your budget.

Q: We're installing hardwood flooring in our downstairs entry hall, which used to be carpeted. My son is allergic to dust, so we had to rip it out.

The installer wants to lay the planks across the hallway, even though the living room floor is laid in the opposite direction (lengthwise in the room). The hall's pretty wide, but how will it look? And do we need a threshold where the hall floor meets the living room floor?

A: The trick to a hallway installation is to avoid what's known as "the ladder look," that is, the effect of horizontal "rungs" across a long, narrow space. That won't happen if your hallway is wide enough.

Nor will you need a raised divider between the two areas. The change in the direction of the floorboards themselves should be enough of an indication.

Behind the secret door: Do you really want to know about what goes on "behind the bathroom door?"

Ask for a new little booklet by the same name, published - no surprise - by American Standard, the bathroom fixtures people.

Actually less voyeuristic and more interesting than you might think, the booklet's full of fun factoids like:

n Most toilets flush on an E-flat note;

n Some 12 percent of your houseguests are likely to snoop in your medicine chest;

n Seven million cell phones are accidentally dropped into toilets each year;

n Men spend some 140 days shaving during their lifetimes.

Contact the company at or 800-989-2614, ext. 1887.

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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