From the driveway to the backyard there always seems to be something about our homes that just bothers us, that we'd like to change, but just aren't sure how.  Home decor expert Karl Lohnes offers his solutions to your problems. Email us your own Design Dilemma.

LETTER #1  Subject: Fireplace dilemma

We are planning to redo our kitchen. We are opening the kitchen up to the family room so we also need to think about the family room ... And the fireplace is a real eyesore. We don't want to spend a lot because we are planning to downsize over the next five years, but we do recognize that something needs to be done under the new design.

The brick is rough and protruding so not sure what options are open to us. -- Judy Mackay

Fireplace dilemma

Fireplace

  • DILEMMA: Fireplace is an eyesore and we'd appreciate options for making it look nicer on a budget.
  • CONCERNS: Does not want to spend a lot of money. Will be doing this to look nice, but also for a new buyer as they are downsizing.

KARL'S ADVICE:

  1. Take it away altogether. Leave the gas hookups behind the wall; the new owner will center the fireplace properly on the wall or create a corner/angled fireplace.
  2. Remove the oversized hearth and paint the outdated, textured brick a shade darker than the wall colour.

LETTER #2  Subject: Fireplace dilemma

Hello, Looking for an easy and most cost-effective fireplace makeover to change the 'green' colour of tiles/panels on the surround and hearth.

Thank-you. -- Francesca

Fireplace

  • DILEMMA: Does not like the green tiles.
  • CONCERNS: Looking for a DIY way of fixing this problem.

KARL'S ADVICE:

  • There are 4 elements on this fireplace; the oak mantel, green surround, black firebox and brass trim- lets edit those elements down to two. . Use a primer made specifically for tiles, prep, then paint the green tile colour away. I suggest a very dark grey-taupe such as TKTK. Paint the oak floor trim the same colour and I would paint the mantel the trim-colour white as in the rest of the room. Also, get some black bbq paint and say goodbye to the brass trims. A light scuff sanding to the tile and the brass ensures that the primers and paints will grip well to the slick surfaces.

Fireplace

 

LETTER #3  Updating a Kitchen

I have a very small galley kitchen (11 feet long) with golden oak cabinets (16" space between the bottom of the top cabinets and the countertop). There is a doorway at each end. The doorway to the hall has a pocket door. The doorway into the dining room is open.

We are looking at updating the countertop and backsplash and flooring in this room. Eventually, we will be adding cabinets in the dining room to store what doesn't fit in the current cupboards.

I don't want to paint the cabinets as I feel that it won't take long for the wear and tear to show on a painted surface.  The cabinets are custom and really in good shape. However, the upper cabinets are placed a little on the low side and this prevents us from using items that can be mounted on the underside. Also, this does not allow enough space to replace the range hood with a microwave/range hood combo.  

It is possible to keep the golden oak cabinets (raise the upper set) and still update the kitchen? Or is golden oak so out of date there is no hope? What colours would work best with the current cabinets? I love my home but the kitchen was never intended for someone who likes to cook.? ?

Thanks -- Connie Johnson

Kitchen

Kitchen

  • DILEMMA: What countertop/backsplash would look good with the exiting wood finish.
  • CONCERNS: Is wood finish outdated? Can upper cabinets be raised?

KARL'S ADVICE:


  1. The cabinet finish is outdated but if the cabinets are strong/well made, then investing in professional painting is the best option; it will freshen, update and give them another 5-10 years. If done professionally, the finish will last as long as factory-finished cabinets. I would choose a warm French Vanilla colour; this pale neutral will work with anything you might already have co-ordinated with the golden oak- just much fresher and lighter. If painted a French cream then I suggest a pale khaki stone look counter  - a quartz surface would be excellent and long term and I'd match the backsplash to the French Vanilla cabinets by using an off-white/cream stone tile. If keeping the golden oak cabinet finish then I suggest a quality laminate counter with a white background and a caramel fleck/vein.
  2. I'd match the backsplash colour to whatever your cabinets are; golden oak = pale caramel. A mosaic stone would be nice and can be found at affordable prices. Raising the cupboards is a great idea but don't go higher than 3-4 inches maximum. The standard distance between counter and bottom upper cabinet is 16-20 inches max. If you do not raise the cupboards then purchase 9-10 attractive storage boxes (that all match) and fill the empty shelf with seasonal storage. By matching the boxes you will create a simpler element and the kitchen will not look visually cluttered.


Kitchen

Kitchen

Kitchen

Kitchen

Kitchen

Kitchen