Ask an Expert: Ty Pennington

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Vaulted Ceilings

Q: What’s the best way to decorate a big wall in a living room that’s sloped at the top due to a vaulted celling with a couch against it in a small room with little natural light? - Bev

A: A vaulted ceiling is a favorite architectural detail of mine, but it can definitely be tricky to decorate. I'm of the school of thought that it's always best to go with the flow of the architecture instead of fighting against it!

Because I haven't seen the room, I don't know exactly what we're working with here, but I'd recommend creating a quick and easy gallery of art with all of your favorite pieces. Then if you are able, try putting a hanging light fixture along the slant of the vault to allow for more lighting. And if you're interested in making that wall a focal point of the room, it could be interesting to create a textured feature with either paneling, wallpaper or fabric. Work with the wall, not against it, and the options are endless.

Slanted Ceiling Cabin
Image: freshome

Slanted Ceiling Living Room
Image: Elle Decor

Slanted Ceiling
Image: Martin Showroom

Effortless Shelves

Q: I have lots of shelves, table tops and mantels in my house (and probably plenty of stuff to put on them) but I never know where to start, and what things to place where. Any tips on making your shelves look effortless and not cluttered with nick-nacks? - Ashley

A: This is an issue that plagues many, including myself. Wherever there is an open space, it seems to be recklessly filled with "stuff". The key is finding a balance of personal treasures, books and art. Here are some tips:

Art on Shelves
Image: Elements of Style

  1. Play with placement - When it comes to books, don't be afraid to mix and match the orientation between horizontal and vertical. Go ahead and stack 'em up. Keep some items stacked high and others lower. The variation in height lines will bring some interest to the shelf.
  2. Show off your art - Art is not just for the walls. I particularly like to see art, of varied sizes, sitting on shelves or bureaus too. You can also hang artwork directly on the shelving, like the picture above.
  3. Bring in some green - Mixing in a plant or two is a great way to break up the inanimate with the living.
  4. Don't fill every gap - Leave some room to breathe on your shelves. Simplicity can go a long way in enhancing the look of a shelf and showcase your other treasures. Don't feel the need to fill every open space on a shelf. Embrace the negative space.

Shelves Decor
Image: Design Sponge

Floor of Pennies

Q: Ty I have seen floors done by covering them with pennies. I love the look! My question is what do you need to do to the floor to prep it and what would I put on top of the pennies to finish the floor? I was thinking acrylic but I was just not sure. Thanks for all you do! - Renee

A: I love your DIY ambition. The penny floor look is a pretty cool one, but will take some significant work, so grease up those elbows!

To start, you'll want to assess what kind of surface you're going to be applying the pennies to. If you want to adhere directly to the floor, I recommend stripping down to the base flooring (anything under the tile/carpet you may currently have there. If it's wood, make sure to sand and sweep). Wash the floor and make sure it is clear of any debris. I'd also remove baseboards so that you can replace them once all of the pennies are down.

You could also apply the pennies to a different flooring base and then insert that flooring. This might ensure a more even application, but it's up to you. All I'll say is that you should definitely lay all of the pennies out - either directly on the floor or other base - prior to gluing. You want to make sure you've got enough pennies to fill the surface.

You'll then use grout to fill in gaps, let set, and then cover with an epoxy sealant to protect those shiny pennies and ensure that no one accidentally picks one up for good luck.

Penny Floor
Image: Imgur

Small Spaces

Q: Hey TY, I moved into a small guesthouse. There is no living room. It has a small closet, an armoire, and most of my shoes are in a plastic rolling storage bin in the kitchen. Can you help with storage ideas that doesn’t make the place look cluttered? Thank you. - Tina

A: Small spaces are not easy, but they're not impossible either. And when it comes to storage, there are actually a lot of great design-savvy tricks you can apply.

I detail a lot of fun options on my site, but here are a few quick options to try:

Depending on your space you can use a freestanding clothes rack or attach one underneath shelves. You can even DIY a clothing rack from a PVC pipe or similar material.

You can also hide some of the clutter behind some attractive drapes. Pick your favorite fabric pattern that compliments your home. They work well to disguise your wardrobe too, since it might not always be clean and tidy.

And don't forget about the nooks and crannies! You can always find storage boxes that fit underneath you bed and couch.

Contractor Communication

Q: Hi Ty, We have a problem with the sub-floor in the bathroom. It needs to be repaired. We have received a few estimates and have decided on a small contractor. The concern is the contractor’s estimate. One estimate does not include the cost of pulling permits. The second estimate includes the cost of puling permits, which we do not have a problem with. We have a limited budget and we feel that the contractor is taking advantage of us by charging what we feel like is a large amount of money to pull two permits, one for plumbing and the other for the sub-floor. We have to replace the toilet, which caused the problem with the sub-floor.

My question is: how can we discuss our concerns with this contractor and not feel like when they begin the work that they will take short cuts. What would you suggest? Thank you. - Regina

A: Anytime someone comes into your home to repair something, you're likely to be a little nervous. But there are definitely some things you can do and say to safeguard against any issues. Here are a few tips to keep the working relationship working properly:

  1. Get it all in writing - Make sure any and all work that is happening in your home is clearly written out and detailed. And stipulate the permit responsibilities. You'll need to get the general permit, but you both can agree on who should obtain any other permits that are required together.
  2. Detail the timeline - Give an exact start date and end date for the project. Yes things come up, but you can always stipulate certain consequences if the work is not finished on time, like discounts, or in the reverse, a bonus for the contractor if it is finished earlier than scheduled.
  3. Confirm the contractor's insurance - Don't be afraid to ask to see your contractor’s insurance papers. You are doing your due diligence to make sure you and they are covered properly.
  4. Openly discuss the warranty on work - There should be a part in the contract that discusses the warranty on labor, so be sure to look for that. And if possible, ask for the collected papers on all the manufacturer warranties for the materials used in the repair.

Communication is key when working with contractors - and in any relationship - so be sure to speak up and listen when necessary.

Meet This Week's Expert: Stefan Eder

Stefan Eder Square

Stefan Eder grew up in a village at the foot of the Bavarian Alps and eventually landed in San Francisco designing high-end residences, estates, and resorts at his company, Mosaic Architects & Interiors. Eder is still designing with a European accent, maintaining the same attention to detail for budget-conscious remodels, eclectic family homes, and well-earned getaways for empty-nest professionals.

This Week's Topic: Successfully Selecting Interior Materials

Stefan will be answering the top 5 questions about successfully selecting interior materials on November 1st.

Ask your questions here.


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