Q: Help me redo the kitchen as cheaply as possible. It's a mess, but so is our budget. My husband was put on part-time work the week after we bought this old Victorian house, so we've had to shelve a number of plans temporarily. But the kitchen can't wait!
A: Sit down with your contractor and go over all your ideas according to priorities. Must you have a work island? Will you
languish without a double sink? You know, all those wonderful things that may have to wait.
Meanwhile, you can map a plan to put the critical things in order, like new appliances, new flooring, perhaps, a new paint job or wall covering.
Cabinets may also be a priority, but if they're in basically sound shape, you can have them resurfaced rather than replaced. The cabinetmaker will have new doors, hardware and hinges made to fit, so, in effect, you get a fresh new look on the original cabinet bodies -- at a much lower price.
Flooring is another boon to the bottom line, pun intended. Resilients are relatively inexpensive compared to real ceramic tile, slate, brick or wood, but the best news is that you can have the look of the real thing.
In the country kitchen we show here, for example, what looks like expensive inlaid marble flooring is Mannington's "Gold Florentine" pattern.
Another plus about vinyl: It's quieter and softer underfoot than the naturals -- and a lot kinder to dropped dishes.
Q: I have a lowboy in the dining room that I often use for buffet service. There's a mirror over it now, with sconces at both sides. I'd like a change of scenery on the wall. What can you suggest?
A: An empty wall is like unto a blank canvas: You can wax creative in any number of ways. One I'd suggest (since it's a pretty good bet that your lowboy is traditional in design) would be a double row of flower or fruit pictures, all matted and framed alike and hung close together so they look almost architectural.
You might also consider an arrangement of plates. Or hunt down hanging shelves, a glass-fronted wall cabinet or a scenic 18th century-style wall covering that needs no further embellishment.
Q: You may get this question all the time, but here goes: I'm making the attic over into a guest bedroom and don't know how to handle the slanted ceiling. What can you suggest?
A: Make lemonade: You can create a cozy sleeping "alcove" simply by swagging curtains ceiling to floor, following the slant, at the head and foot of the bed. Use matching wall covering in between the curtains, if you like, to heighten the effect.
That sloping ceiling is really an asset, one of the reasons we've always romanticized attics and garrets.