We've chosen cherry cabinetry in a medium color as the first step in remodeling our kitchen and breakfast area. What should we do about the flooring and countertops? I've seen wood-planked flooring in a color similar to the cabinetry, but it's quite expensive.
We want to give the space a cheerful and contemporary look.
Since you seem partial to wood, I suggest you think hard about planked flooring, though not in a color similar to your cherry cabinetry.
Keep in mind that hardwood floors can actually prove an economical choice, given their durability and ease of maintenance. As the American Hardwood Information Center (hardwoodinfo. com) points out, some seemingly lower-cost alternatives end up being more expensive than hardwood because of the need for repairs.
A wood-planked kitchen floor should contrast in color with the cabinetry. The floor can also be darker or lighter - just as long as the color of its wood is allowed to stand out.
Dark walnut flooring is a good choice, especially when used to accentuate a cream-colored countertop or lighter cabinets.
In your case, I recommend that you install light ash flooring and a black or dark green granite countertop. That combination will help create the cheerful and sophisticated look you're seeking.
Following advice gleaned from interior design publications, I have been able to put together a comfortable and attractive living room that functions well for our family. But the setting presents a couple of lingering problems.
One involves what designers call sightlines. The sofa looks directly into the kitchen, and, for a variety of reasons, it can't be moved elsewhere.
The other issue is that the living room colors - muted brown, beige and cream - need some livening up, perhaps with visually interesting accessories.
Second issue first: The addition of a color such as terra cotta or a warm (but not hot) red would help achieve the effect you seek. This color can be introduced on the walls or the floor as well as with fabrics on the furniture.
Accessories can also help enhance the room's visual variety, especially if the terra cotta or red is accompanied by touches of apple green and marigold.
The other problem is more difficult to resolve because I don't know the dimensions or the layout of your living room. But if the space is large enough to permit a screen to be placed in front of the kitchen opening, that would be an easy and effective way to address the sightline concern. Many restaurants use exactly this technique to screen their kitchens from diners' views.
One screen that would be a good solution is a translucent screen of decorative glass, perhaps one made by Clara Driscoll, the head of the Women's Glass Cutting Department at the Tiffany Glass Co., who was an important contributor to many of the designs that made this studio world-famous.
Driscoll and the women who labored in obscurity at the factory were known collectively as the "Tiffany Girls," and were responsible for the creation of the company's most celebrated glass lamps and objects.
A paneled plywood folding screen would be a more modest and far less costly alternative in your own situation. Properly constructed and covered with a decorative pattern, it would function just as well as a Tiffany-style screen.
Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designer. Readers with general interior design questions can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.