When To Lean In…And When To Lean Out...Of Home Design Ideas


 Manchester-based interior designer Jennifer Coles has seen it all, and she’s here to answer your home design questions.  This week she tackles peel and stick wallpaper, laminate flooring, and big moves on bedroom paints.

I’m considering peel and stick wallpaper - is it all that it says it is?

Yes, I do think it’s a great new product, and many high-end wallpaper lines are offering it now. My favorite feature is that it is easily removed.  I just had a professional install it for my client in her baby room, above a chair rail.  She knows she will want to change it at the toddler stage, so the easy removal made sense.  I helped her choose a bold and trendy design which was fun, because I didn’t have to worry about it looking dated in a few years.

But there are lots of good projects for you DIY-ers as well.  Try it out in manageable locations like on an accent wall, or on the back panel of your bookshelves, or for your stair risers.  These projects offer straightforward installation and can have high impact results.  And sure, give it 

a whirl for bigger jobs too.  But don’t be fooled by its easy installation claims.  It does not actually install itself.  You’ll still need to prep your wall because, just like paint, it needs a good surface to stick to.  And you’ll have to figure out your cuts, and your pattern line-ups, and how to get your seams straight and to prevent wrinkles.  So, look up the tutorials and do it right.  I know you can probably do it.  I just know that I can’t.  When I was in college, I had a memorable battle with a roll of contact paper and a rusty refrigerator that I’m still stinging from.

I loved this paint color in my sister’s hall.  Does that mean I’ll still love it if I use it in my master bath?

I get it.  Picking paint colors can be overwhelming, and you’re looking for some way to narrow that playing field.  It’s smart to do so.  So, I think finding a color you love in someone else’s house is as good a starting point as any, and if you proceed with some caution it will work 

out.  The single biggest variable to contend with is your trim color.  You may love that color against the white trim in your sister’s house, but it may look totally different next to the cream trim you are using.  So, test it, and tweak it as needed.  There are lots of things for you to consider in your bathroom that your sister didn’t consider in her foyer.  Your lighting may be different, for instance.  Or perhaps the color isn’t working well with your tile floor, or perhaps it clashes with that almond tub that you can’t replace just yet.  All those elements?  They don’t have to all “match” exactly, but they need to get along with one another.  Kind of like the guests at your table on Thanksgiving.

How do I choose a carpet for the stairs in my front hall?  I’ve been putting this off for years because I’m scared to make a poor choice.  Well, no reason to be scared exactly—but I understand the hesitation.  By definition, most front halls are busy, complicated places.  (I say the same thing about kitchens.)  They have lots of physical comings and goings, and their designs need to be compatible with all the other rooms they are open to, both upstairs and down. So yes, I feel your pain.  For me, I first address the practical concerns.  I want the best quality carpet that I can afford to handle the high traffic in this area. I usually go with a low pile that won’t get flattened out, and with a subtle texture that will hide the dirt.  Wool works very well, but it’s 

expensive.  A natural fiber sisal is less money, but is not as nice under bare feet.  Go to a local carpet store with a knowledgeable sales staff and they can help you sort out some of those pros and cons.  Design-wise, the safest route is to go neutral. Something that blends nicely with your wood floors and your paint.  You may feel like the carpet you choose is unexciting, and that’s ok.  That may be your goal because you want people to notice that oversized mirror in the foyer, not the carpet.  But bold statements can work here too, a deep magenta or charcoal gray can be just what your space needs.  But when your carpet is talking that loudly, make sure their neighbors are subdued and not talking at the same time. Kind of, again, like the guests at your table on Thanksgiving.

I hate my kitchen tile!  Can I install laminate plank flooring right on top of the ceramic tile?

Hmmm … I wouldn’t.  But is it possible?  Yes.

Make sure the tile floor is smooth and level, and you may need an underlayment.  But most importantly keep in mind that your floor will gain height.  So, your closet doors might be affected, and the height of your toe kicks will be reduced.  Plus, the plank flooring needs some breathing room around the edges, so you might have to re-install your baseboards to allow for that.  It’s another good time to go to your local flooring showroom.  Find one that sells flooring and also handles the installation—and pick their brain.  But while you’re at it, compare the cost of doing all that, to an estimate for removing the tile and installing what you really want.  Sometimes the prices are closer than you think.  And at the end of the day, laminate plank flooring is laminate plank flooring.  There are a few scenarios it really works for (basements, commercial spaces, rental properties) but usually there are better solutions.

paint, interior designer, peel and stick, wallpaper, laminate flooring, home design