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Divert attention away from eyesores inside your home

Just about every home has an eyesore. Maybe it's a wonky window or flooring that's seen better days. It grates on your nerves, but fixing or replacing it is too expensive, too impractical or too far down the priority list. Still, that doesn't mean you have to look the other way. We've gathered a few solutions for disguising some common decorating problems, so put on your can-do attitude and get ready to tackle that trouble spot.

Weird windows

Windows that are oddly shaped or just plain unattractive can get a greatly improved view with clever window treatments.

Alan Garren, an interior designer from Bath Township, Ohio, offers this trick for hiding those too-short, too-high, too-plain windows that are common in ranch homes from the 1960s: Extend the window frame all the way to the floor, then install a two-part shutter. One part covers the window; the other covers the wall below it. Keep the bottom part closed, and no one will know there isn't a window behind it.

Or cover the window with an attractive shade that extends below the window, suggested Christine Haught, who operates Christine Haught Ltd. Interior Design in Bath. Adding drapery panels on either side would give the windows more visual weight, she said.

Haught took a similar tack on an '80s-style round-top window for which a client had lost the love. She mounted a woven wood shade to cover the half-round window and the window below it, and flanked the shade with silk panels that extended from ceiling to floor. The shade didn't entirely obscure the window when the sun shone through, but it made the window less apparent.

Uneven walls

A plain coat of paint won't do much to hide an uneven wall surface, but an eye-fooling paint finish can make the flaws seem to disappear.

In the book The Decorator's Problem Solver: 100 Creative Answers to Your Most Common Decorating Dilemmas, author Sacha Cohen recommends creating a mottled paint finish with a masonry roller and matte latex paint in two colors that look well together. The more uneven the walls, the stronger the contrast between the paint colors should be, she says.

Pour a pint of each color into opposite sides of a roller tray, so they sit next to each other without mixing too much. Working in sections about 3 feet square, roll the roller once through the paint tray, and then roll the paint onto the wall in single, long, spaced-apart strokes.

Once most of the paint has been transferred from the roller to the surface, roll over the first strokes to gently blend the colors. Roll at different angles to create a subtle, dappled effect.

Cruddy carpet

Renters, in particular, are often stuck with carpet that doesn't suit their taste. You can cover part of it with a rug, but it's pretty hard to blanket an entire room without spending just as much as you would to replace the carpet.

That's when a little distraction is called for.

Interior designer and home stager Lynn Koerner of Interiors by Lynn in Streetsboro, Ohio, recommended starting by anchoring a seating area with an area rug. Choose a solid-color rug if the carpeting is busy, or a patterned rug on solid-color carpeting. A budget-friendly approach is to buy a carpet remnant and have the carpet store bind the edges to create a rug, Haught said.

Then perform a little sleight of hand, Koerner said. Create interest higher in the room to draw attention up and away from the floor. She did that in one client's living room by covering a fireplace wall in a subtle patterned wallpaper and creating an eye-catching arrangement of artwork and accessories on the mantel.

Ugly wall tile

The durability of ceramic tile is both a blessing and a bane. It lasts and lasts and lasts, even decades after your tastes have changed.

Painting it is possible, but it's important to do so carefully so the paint job doesn't look obvious.

Before you paint, clean the tile thoroughly with trisodium phosphate, a heavy-duty cleaner sold at paint stores. Then prime both tile and grout with a good primer.

Cohen recommends using a paintbrush to cover the tile edges and grout with the primer, and a roller on the tiles to create a smooth finish. Then paint only the tiles with satin paint and a gloss roller, applying in thin layers and avoiding the grout lines, she says.

When all the layers are dry, roll over the tiles with a high-gloss clear enamel, again avoiding the grout lines.

This isn't the best approach for surfaces such as shower walls that are subjected to a lot of moisture, however. In that case, you can use a marine-grade coating such as a polyurethane oil-based enamel on both tile and grout. If you want contrasting grout lines, you'll need to paint them in by hand.

It might just be easier to hide unsightly tub or shower tile by hanging a pretty shower curtain, Haught said. It's also a good way to hide an unattractive shower door, she said.

Too-high ceilings

Cathedral ceilings look great in photographs, but sometimes they can make a room feel too cavernous for comfort.

Haught recommended making the ceiling less obvious by painting it the same color as the walls, but in a lighter tint. Ask the paint store to mix the ceiling paint in a half formula of what's used on the walls. And choose flat paint for ceilings, so it doesn't draw attention by reflecting light.

You can also create the perception that the ceiling is lower by hanging a large-scale lighting fixture that brings the eye down, she said. Drapery panels that extend only partway up the tall walls will also help bring the living space down to human scale.

Overbearing fireplaces

Brick fireplaces that cover most or all of a wall were the rage a few decades ago. Now that look can seem dated and the dark brick oppressive.

Neither Koerner nor Haught has any qualms about painting the brick. Usually a neutral color is best, Koerner said, so the fireplace becomes less dominant in the room.

If you like a more contemporary appearance, consider removing or changing the mantel or other moldings, Haught said. She once filled in the flutings in an oak fireplace surround and painted it to create the more updated appearance her client wanted.

Open layouts

Rooms that are open to one another create a great flow, but they can make varying the wall colors difficult. Where does one color start and the next begin?

In cases like that, it's better to choose a single wall color for all the adjoining spaces and then add color to surfaces that aren't walls, Haught said. In an adjoining kitchen and great room, for example, you might be able to add a pop of color in the cabinets or the backsplash. Or perhaps choose one accent wall to paint in a color that's different from the other walls, she said.

Don't worry about the single wall color being too boring. Haught said the continuity creates a more relaxing backdrop than one that's chopped up by a variety of colors.

Divert attention away from eyesores inside your home 02/18/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 2, 2012 4:30pm]

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