The Design Therapist is In!

This patient asked about painting plastic and metal.

This is an old debate between decorators and painters. these are my thoughts and experience with the issue.

The Heat Issue: Painters don’t traditionally paint metal and plastic things, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be painted. If the painting is around lighting, like spotlights, have the painter feel them for excess heat. The bulbs should not touch anything. The original factory paint on them takes care of the heat issue. Just prime and paint the lip that lays against the ceiling. (Match the surrounding paint color.)

Another example would be metal baseboard heat covers that wrap around the room. I’m looking straight at my own; they have regular interior paint on them. They’re not peeling…never have.

The Scratching Issue: The myth is that paint won’t stick to metal if it’s scratched. That shouldn’t be a problem on the ceiling, however, an unprimed plastic light switch on a back splash could scratch. Sand them lightly, prime, paint and spray them with semi-gloss varnish. That should do it.

The Oxidation Issue: White plastic covers, will turn yellow with age, I see it all the time in my work. We don’t notice it,but ¬†look at those forgotten door chime covers and the bright yellow plastic molding around front door windows. They are not painted yellow, they oxidized over time and turned quite yellow. It is unsightly. Prime and paint them!

There’s no need to let these issues drive the design. When you see a colored ceiling in the magazines, you don’t see white rings, etcetra, do you? They paint them.

Q: Where do I start when placing the furniture in my new living room?

A: Work from large to small. Place the sofa first-usually facing a focal point or pretty view. Consider the traffic flow. The chairs should be juxtaposed to the sofa. 7′ feet head to head is ideal in our culture. The rug and tables fit in the spaces between the upholstered pieces then place the lamps then Hang the pictures last in the available space. The colors should reflect the surrounding fabrics.

Q: What do I need to know about mixing patterns?

A: Start by choosing a print or using an existing print. Stripes of similar colors and clarity will always coordinate well. A Check or plaid works well in smaller amounts (valances, cushions, cording, single chair. A patterned rug needs to pick up at least 2 of the print colors colors. You can get away with more pattern when it’s on a horizontal surface -like a rug, chair seat or table cloth. Make sure there is a large difference in the size between the print and another print near by.

Q: What height off the table should I hang the chandelier?

A: The rule of thumb is the bottom of the fixture should be 30″ off the top of the table.

Q: What height should I hang my pictures? Eye level varies from person to person.

A: The center of the picture should be approximately 60″ off the floor if is hung in a hallway. If hung over furniture, you should see the picture before you see the wall beneath it. Q: When I hang a picture grouping where do I start?

A: I start by arranging the grouping on the floor beneath where I want to hang them. Place the largest one in the center and work out from there keeping similar size pictures balanced on either side. The smallest ones fill in the odd spaces.

Q: Do the frames have to match?

A: Ideally they should be at least mostly wood or mostly metal or frameless (in an acrylic box frame). The frames shouldn’t be the first thing you see. Tip:You could paint them all in the same neutral color to help blend them Tip: A mix of color family photos will look more artistic if they are all photo copied black on neutral paper.

Q: How do different kinds of light affect the colors in my room?

A: Incandescent (classic light bulbs) emit yellow light. Florescent tubes bring out the blue in things.Halogen light is clear and white North light is grey, South light is yellow, West light is golden, Eastern light is white.

Q: Should I paint my plugs and switch plates?

A: I am of the school that they are not decorative. Paint them to match the wall, but leave the actual plug unpainted-It’s in the electrical code.

Q: When is it worth reupholstering a piece?

A: Upholstering costs similar to buying new. Reupholster if :

*you love the piece

*it’s a style that’s hard to find again

*the size is perfect- furniture tends to be larger these days

*it’s incredibly comfortable -it may feel firmer after it’s reupholstered

*If it’s sentimental- “in the family”

*if it’s well made. Heaviness is a good indicator. feel for coil springs under the seat

Q; What is the advantage of reupholstering if the cost is so similar?

A: You can have any fabric you want. New pieces have a very limited selection to choose from. You don’t have to wait for months to get it. You can make repairs and modifications to your exact taste. The amount of fabric needed is usually less than when buying new. You can buy extra fabric for pillows etc. The quality of an older piece is usually better than for the same price a a new piece

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