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2009 0121 decorating 01

Painting vertical stripes and stacking artwork instead of putting it all at the same level are two ways to make ceilings appear higher.

QUESTION: We are currently redoing an unused basement to add living space in our house. The ceilings are not quite 8-feet tall, and I was wondering if you had any tricks to make the ceilings look like they were taller? -- Rhonda, Huntington

ANSWER: Here are a few eye tricking things you can try. Use a vertical striped wallpaper on the walls or paint stripes using different shades of the same color. Using paint, you can also paint a base color using the flat version of your color choice and paint stripes in a satin finish of the same color. The difference in the finishes will create a beautiful striped effect.

Hang drapery panels from ceiling to floor even if your basement windows aren't very large. This will also draw the eye upward making the ceilings appear taller.

If you have artwork to hang, don't hang it all at the same height around the room. This will create a horizontal line your eye will follow and make the ceilings appear lower. Instead, hang your artwork in a vertical fashion starting near the ceiling and stacking them, thus creating another vertical line to trick the eye.

And finially, choose a beautiful ceiling fixture that will automatically make you look up. Make sure it doesn't hang too far down though, or the opposite will occur making the ceiling seem lower. I hope these ideas work for you.

QUESTION: We are considering new hardwood flooring in our kitchen and living room. We have oak baseboards and oak cabinets. All of our trim is solid oak. Would the floors need to be the same shade as the trim or a different shade? Our kitchen is 14-by-16 feet. Do you think tile would be a better choice? The living room is separate, but you can see through the door into the kitchen. I thank you for your help. -- Debbie

ANSWER: Just as I would never suggest you cover every piece of furniture in a room with the same fabric, I would like to see you mix the wood finishes, too. Not only can you mix the finishes on your floor, you can also mix up the woods. And, just like the fabrics in a space, the wood and the finishes on that wood only need to relate, not match. Your home would look more balanced if the floors blended rather than matched. If your cabinets and baseboards are light oak, you can use a darker finish for the floor picking up the darker grain in your existing wood. Or, if the existing stain is a medium to dark finish, use a lighter stain on the flooring. Really, the only mistake you can make would be to try and match your existing finishes exactly. Since this would be a very difficult thing to do, it would appear you tried and couldn't quite match it rather than you intentionally chose a different finish altogether. Since the areas are really separate, tile would be a beautiful choice if you'd prefer. Your only problem using tile will probably be the number of choices you have. Good luck, Debbie.

Karen Hysell is the owner The Finished Room in South Point, Ohio. Her columns appear each Thursday in The Herald-Dispatch. E-mail her your decorating questions at


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