Q: The dining area of our kitchen leads through double French doors onto the back deck. The view is so nice I hate to cover the windows, but everyone else seems to think they look unfinished. What's your verdict?
A: If the architecture and the outlook are attractive and there are no close neighbors to overlook your table manners, by all means leave the French doors bare.
Designer Florence Karasik, ASID, opted for the wide-open approach when she designed the kitchen we show here. And far from looking "unfinished," the room takes on a natural glamour, thanks to her choices of furnishings: the iron and marble table, leather chairs, and vintage Oriental rug laid over quarry tile floors.
The fabric she didn't use on the glass doors shows up, richly gathered, on the walls, which softens both the attitude of the room and the noise level. That's an especially welcome virtue since the family often dines here at night and the area is open to the working half of the kitchen.
Q: We have a very large living room with dinette attached, all paneled in unfinished redwood paneling. We would like to paint or wallpaper it. What must we do to prepare for it? Also, please tell us if it would look wrong.
A: Of course, you can paint the paneling (you'll need a primer; discuss that with your paint dealer -- the type you use depends on the kind of paint you buy, latex- or oil-based).
Painted paneling will add interesting texture to your room, since the graining will show through. Which answers the second question: It will look just fine.
Wallpapering also is an option, although you don't really mean "paper." Today's wall coverings are more likely to be made of vinyl, or at least coated with vinyl to make them easier to install and wash.
If the surface of the paneling is highly textured, ask your wall coverings dealer about lining papers. These are inexpensive, plain materials that go under your decorative wall coverings and smooth out all the glitches.
Q: Maybe you can suggest a good source of architectural terms for my husband and me. We are planning to act as our own general contractors when we restore the early 19th century house we have bought. It would be too dumb to try to talk with the other contractors about the "whaddayacallits" on the ceiling and the "doohickeys" on the moldings.
A: You are smart to do your "homework," pun intended, so you can communicate with your helpers on their terms. You are in luck -- a handy little book on "The Anatomy of a House" has just appeared. It's written by Fayal Green, illustrated by Bonita Bavetta, published by Doubleday.
Q: Our dining room is very small. So is our budget. There are six in the family, and we think it's important for us all to be together for dinner. Any ideas?
A: Here are two ideas:
*Build a banquette that wraps a corner and cover it with plump cushions. That should seat three of you; three inexpensive chairs, painted to pick up the color of the cushions, can be pulled up to the other sides of the table.
*Buy a picnic table with attached benches and paint it to match your dining room walls.
Q: We are thinking of buying part of a 19th-century factory that has stone walls and potentially a great view of the waterfront. There's so much work to be done, we need all the money-saving ideas you can suggest, starting with the windows. They're fairly big already -- to let the daylight in when it was a textile mill -- but I'd really love an all-glass wall.
A: There are two never-fail ways to be kind to your remodeling budget:
Do it yourself, or at least do as much as your expertise and time will allow. Elbow grease is expensive! So the more sweat equity you invest, the more cash you'll have to buy professional expertise where it's really needed.
Try to use stock items. Custom-made always costs much more than off-the-shelf products, which includes windows. But take heart: There are so many new choices in window styles and shapes today, you can easily achieve the custom look you want at ready-made prices.
For inspiration, here's a room to take your breath away. For a show house in New Jersey, designer Lee Weissglass, ASID, has turned a 240-year-old stone barn into a smashing great room with fieldstone walls, hand-hewn beams and 30-foot ceilings.
The double helping of windows that helps dramatize the space actually is store-bought: French doors across the bottom are topped with divided windows that are, in turn, crowned by an elongated eyebrow window.
Rose Bennett Gilbert is the author of five books on interior design, associate editor of Country Decorating and a contributing writer to other publications in the field. Send questions to Inside Advice, Maryland Living, The Sun, Baltimore, Md. 21278.