Where there's a will, there's a way to divide

December 09, 2006|by ROSE BENNETT GILBERT

Q: If we remove the wall between our dining room and kitchen, the resulting space will be nearly 30 feet long. I know I will hate looking in at a messy kitchen. Should we just leave the wall?

A: Where there's a wall, there's a way to enjoy your wide-open space without the view over the kitchen sink. For example, in the long, inviting kitchen/family room combo we show here, the separation is implied by the perpendicular work island centered between the walls under an imposing wood-clad exhaust hood.

Clever use of lighting also encourages the illusion of two separate spaces. In the kitchen, three hanging fixtures spotlight the work area below, while down-lights illuminate the other work counters, and cabinet-top spotlights create scallops of warmth on the high end wall. All this lighting sets the kitchen visually apart from the darker dining area, where another chandelier over the larger table proclaims in no uncertain terms "this is the dining room."


Now, back to those dirty dishes: not much good news here, I'm sorry to say. You just have to work more neatly. It helps some if you could position the diners as they are here, facing each other across the table, rather than facing the kitchen sink directly.

In this room, designed for the new Hampton Island Preserve in Georgia (, the head of the household sits in a master's chair that has a high back and deep wings, all the better to block the view behind him.

Other options could include a tall, decorative screen positioned between the master's chair back and the work island. A flight of tall palms in attractive pots would also filter the view without overtaxing the space.

Q: What's the word on bamboo flooring? It doesn't look like bamboo - I like that - and it's less expensive than hardwood, but I've heard it can be damaged.

A: You can hear that about almost everything that goes into today's home, including cast-iron stoves. So relax and look at the interesting facts about bamboo.

First, it's technically a grass. Famously fast-growing, bamboo is industry's latest love child. You can find it in hard surfaces like floors and, conversely, in fabrics soft enough for bed sheets and pillows (Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond sell them).

Bamboo floors may not look exactly like hardwood, but they are warm and woodsy underfoot and offer many of hardwood's other charms, like long wear and easy maintenance. Moreover, bamboo is inherently eco-friendly and relatively cheap, both virtues well-worth bringing home today.


Plan now to visit Virginia next spring when the 74th annual tour of historic homes and gardens meets the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown in 1607. As you will remember from your American history lessons, Jamestown was the first permanent English-speaking settlement in North America.

Many of the historic homes open during Historic Garden Week were built by Jamestown's progeny during the ensuing centuries, including the stately plantations that have graced the James River's banks since the 18th century. Many houses and gardens on the tour are now in private hands and generally closed to the public.

Garden Week runs from April 21-28, highlighting different regions across the state of Virginia, from the Allegheny Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. In Jamestown, English longboats and American Indian re-enactors will be on hand to greet you on founding day, April 26. For a complete schedule, check out

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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