Home Front: Laminate Floors, "Greige" Paint, Red Dining Rooms, Cricket Invasions and more

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Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Home Staff
Thursday, October 2, 2008; 11:00 AM

Home Front is an online conversation between two Washington Post Home Section writers and their readers about the best way to feather the nest. Every week, Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza help you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. They were online Thursday, October 2.

A transcript follows.

You may also browse an archive of previous Home Front discussions.

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Terri Sapienza: Hi, everyone. Jura is out on an assignment so she'll be joining us a little late this morning, but I'm ready to go, so let's chat. But first, are any of you watching Bravo's Top Design? If so, I'd love to hear what you think about the season so far.

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Arlington, VA: A question from one of your male readers: My living and dining rooms are painted Benjamin Moore's Weston Flax and I want to paint the trim an appropriate white. I cannot tell a warm white from a cool one, however. How about Decorators White, or Cloud White?

Terri Sapienza: Ah, a male reader! We love to hear from you guys, so thanks for writing in. Weston Flax is a great color - nice pick! I believe Decorator's White has a little blue in it, so that would put in on the cool side. For some warmer whites try BM's White Dove, Ivory White or Marble White.

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Arlington, Va.: I would like to get my floors refinished, but would I have to move all of the furniture out of the apartment to do so?

Terri Sapienza: If you're getting all of your floors refinished, then, yes, I'm afraid so.

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Folding chairs for bigger people?: Some of my husband's extended family will be visiting our small condo for coffee and dessert after a family event. Problem is, we don't have a lot of seating, and they are very large/heavy people, so I'm afraid they won't be comfortable (or safe!?) in the folding chairs I usually use when guests come. I want them to feel comfortable and not embarrassed. Any creative solutions to this furniture problem?

Terri Sapienza: How about borrowing in a few ottomans or upholstered stools from friends? they won't take up too much space in your condo, are easy to move around and comfortable.

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Rockville, MD: I am looking for a warm greige to paint my husbands office. It has hardwood floors and large dark cherry furniture. There is one window, but it does not get a lot of light. I think a khaki color would look good, but he wants something leaning more toward gray. Behr paints would be my preference, but I am flexible. Thank you.

Terri Sapienza: I'm having a difficult time finding a good greige from Behr, but I'll keep looking. In the meantime, I know a gray-based beige that is a favorite of designers is Benjamin Moore's Manchester Tan.

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Annapolis, MD:: Good morning!

I tore up approximately 450 square feet of ancient carpeting in my ancient house last weekend. There is a wood floor--but it is pine and heavily patched with plywood in areas. It isn't worth repairing and refinishing so I hope to use a laminate product. I am looking for a relatively low-cost (single parent, single income household here) product akin to Pergo. This is a playroom/extra bedroom/officey type of space. Help! I saw a product online called Kronotex--ever heard of it?

Terri Sapienza: I have no personal experience with Kronotex. Can anyone else chime in here?

Have you considered FLOR carpet tiles? They are inexpensive and you can install them yourself, which also cuts down on costs. If one of the tiles becomes damaged or stained, you can simply replace that one instead of the whole carpet.

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Re: Top Design: Yes, I'm watching. Given how many reality TV shows I watch (I'd never admit it though!), I have a hard time getting to know the contestants until there are only a couple left. However, I think they all royally screwed up last week's challenge for the bachelors. These were YOUNG men, yet they got super sophisticated apartments. I thought the rooms were nice, but too old, and too un-bachelor-y.

Also, I can't wait to see if someone finds out that she is Ricky Schroder's wife!

Terri Sapienza: I agree for the most part, but thought that the team with Ricky Schroder's wife did a nice job. I think that guy was looking for something a little more sophisticated than the other two and they delivered.

They MUST know she's Ricky's wife. In the first two episodes alone she mentioned it several times and she has that picture in her room. I don't think she's doing a good job of keeping it a secret.

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Chairs for Bigger People: I had the same problem, but instead of going with folding chairs I chose stackable chairs from Target - they're wood with chrome legs and a rather nice modern shape to them.

Terri Sapienza: oh, good tip. thanks!

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SF California: Good morning! I love your chats. My question involves paint/window treatment. I have a large vaulted family room which only gets light from 2 windows and a sliding door on the north wall. The room is painted an antique white, to maximize the light reflection, and a Swiss white trim on the windows/door/baseboards. I would like to paint only the window wall a tan color (to match our couch) - which I think would let the white trim pop and warm up the room. I am not sure what to do with the window treatment - (currently have a custom red print valance - which I would like to keep - and cheap mini blinds - which I want to replace). Since I am not fond of curtains, should I use white wooden blinds or get tan Roman shades? If the Roman shades, I think I would then have to match the paint to the shades. Your thoughts? Thanks!

Terri Sapienza: How about natural woven shades? They would look good with your wall color and would bring some nice texture to the space, too.

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Fairfax, VA: I'd like to paint my dining room a burgundy or darker red. Numerous friends have told me red (in any variation) in the dining room is outdated and out of fashion. I don't particularly care about that, but in your view is it true?

Terri Sapienza: Personally, I'm not a fan of the red dining room and I think it has been overdone and is a dated trend. But you're right, you shouldn't care about that. It's your home: if you like it, go for it!

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Pigtown: If you like Eddie Ross on Top Design, he's got an incredible blog (did you mention it last week in your Blog Watch, Terri?). You can find it here. He's so clever and creative and even has some instructional videos on his blog.

Terri Sapienza: Hi, Pigtown. Yes, I mentioned Eddie's blog last week in Blog Watch and, yes, it is incredible. And if you are a fan of Eddies, be sure to check out next week's Home section. I had the pleasure of interviewing Eddie and am writing a story about it. His ideas are pretty fabulous.

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Rockville: Hi there. I keep forgetting to ask, but finally I remembered. A couple of weeks ago you did a story on outdoor tents. I would love to spend more time in my backyard with my 6-month-old and dog, but we have zero shade. Do you think I could leave a tent up year round, or would that be weird?

Terri Sapienza: I don't think it would be "weird," but it might not stand-up to harsh weather during the winter months.

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Washington, DC: Hi. I like the metallic outlet covers at Restoration Hardware (for my kitchen), but I'm thinking that there must be somewhere cheaper. Do you have any suggestions?

Terri Sapienza: What about searching some places that sell salvage pieces, like the Brass Knob?

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Rockville, Md: Red room: Usually I don't like dark rooms but I went to a dinner party last week in a red dining room with white tablecloths and tapers and it looked fantastic. It made it look elegant without looking heavy.

Terri Sapienza: A pro red dining room response. I agree that red dining rooms can look very nice and elegant, they are just personally not for me.

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Jura Koncius: Hi. I'm here now. I was at the Weschler's Appraisal Day for a story I'm doing. What a fascinating place. You never know what will come - whether a collection of cocktail rings bought on QVC or a document signed by John Adams...

Anyway, I'm back...

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Chicago, IL: For the person in Rockville looking for a greige for an office, I painted my living room BM November Rain and I really like it. It's lighter than khaki, and grayer than beige, but it's warmer than a dove gray. My trim is a very creamy white (almost with a little yellow in it) and I love the combination.

Jura Koncius: Thanks!

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Annapolis, again: Yes--I've checked into Flor and love it, but even with the lowest cost tiles it would be more costly than laminate, I'm afraid. I'm also trying to rid my house of carpeting in general, mostly because of my cats. Thanks!

Jura Koncius: Thanks Annapolis.

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Greige: Check out Farrow and Ball for paint in this color family.

Jura Koncius: Farrow & Ball is great for those kind of neutrals. Very rich colors.

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Silver Spring, MD: Hi Jura and Terri! I'm not sure if this is a Home question, but I don't know where else to ask. The article on fireplaces reminded me of some firewood I've been meaning to get rid of. It has been sitting uncovered in my backyard from 3 years ago, left by the former owners. I am assuming it is past its prime and would like to get rid of it. My question is whether it is in fact past its prime, and whether there are companies/county services that will come and pick up the firewood and dispose of it for me. Thanks!

Jura Koncius: It should be okay. Why don't you post FREE FIREWOOD on Craigslist? I actually picked up some in my neighborhood that way last year.

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Chicago, IL: Can I just say, I am so sick of tan and khaki wall paint. I hope the trend ends, soon. When I walk around my neighborhood, looking up into people's apartment windows, all I see is tan walls. On these new home shows, all I see is tan walls. Am I the only one sick of them?

Jura Koncius: I know Terri loves beige and tan. The walls in my first floor are yellow, Palladian blue, khaki and peach.

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NoVA: I recall we talked about ants on the chat once and not to go off-topic, but is anyone else having crickets in their house? I'm having more than my usual share this year -- just wondering what other people have done to get rid of them. I can't stand the chirping (and the jumping)!

washingtonpost.com: Here's a news story about last fall's cricket invasion: A Bunch of Ugly Little Trespassers (Washington Post, October 16, 2007)

Terri Sapienza: Crickets creep me out! I was folding some laundry the other day and pulled a shirt out of the laundry basket and a cricket came with it and landed on my lap - ack! I screamed and my husband came to my rescue and picked it up and threw it outside. I'm a wimp, I know.

Anyone have any suggestions for getting rid of crickets?

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Omaha, NE: Morning! The master bedroom suite in our home was originally the attic. There is a TON of floor space, and decent natural light, but also a lot of sloping eaves which can make some parts of the bedroom feel cramped and difficult to use. I think you've discussed an issue similar to this before (sloping eaves). What would you recommend for offsetting the "cramped" feeling? Thanks so much!

Terri Sapienza: One suggestion that designers often make is to paint the walls and ceiling the same color, which blurs the boundaries and makes the room look and feel less cramped.

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Rockville: I'm getting close to adding hardware to my kitchen cabinets and drawers. What is your opinion on doing this with hardware that matches, but isn't necessarily the exact same on every cabinet? Would that be strange? And any good suggestions for places to look for the pulls? Thanks!

Jura Koncius: I do have some great websites for pulls. www.bauerware.com, www.myknobs.com and www.sunburstknobs.com. Restoration Hardware and Anthropologie have wonderful selections. If you want to mix it up, why not? Do any of the rest of you have knob sources to share?

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Bozeman, MT: Does firewood have an expiration date? I assumed it was good forever (as long as you shake it out really well to get rid of those black widow spiders, :).

Jura Koncius: I know of no dates. Unless it's totally destroyed by termites!

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Rockville, MD: I am preparing to paint a room in two tones of beige. I have figured out that I need one that has a yellow undertone to match the tones in the carpet. I have found a color I like that in Sherwin-Williams brand but I prefer painting with Behr. If I have the paint chips color matched will they have the correct undertone or should I suck it up and use the S-W?

Terri Sapienza: For a better match, you could buy a sample pot of the SW color, paint a sample on something and bring that in to have matched.

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Guest Rooms: In a chat a few months ago, you asked for tips to making a welcoming guest room. We just moved to a new house and have our first guest room, so I wanted to share mine:

Spend a night in your guest room! I discovered that though the room looked cute, I had forgotten a bedside lamp (the room had other lighting sources, so you wouldn't think to have a bedside lamp until you were reading in bed), a trash can, and the pillows (cast offs from our old bed) were awful. By spending the night in the room, I figured out what was wrong with it and was more confident that it would be comfortable when we had guests.

Jura Koncius: Good for you! That's clearly the best way to evaluate whether you guest room is functional and welcoming and comfortable. Some of my pet peeves in guest rooms - and hotel rooms - are lack of trash cans, lack of tissues, lack of water glasses and lack of reading material! Do you all have things to add?

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Annandale, Virginia: Crickets -- I was summoned by my daughter this morning to get a cricket out of her bathroom! Yes, I am seeing more in the house right now, although usually in the basement.

Terri Sapienza: The ones in my house are usually in the basement, too. And I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only person is too squeamish to handle crickets on my own.

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How NOT to get rid of crickets: The cricket question reminded me of an incident in our Alexandria rowhouse about 20 years ago. My husband, bothered by a cricket chirping under the stairs, crawled underneath with a candle to see where it was. (The flashlight was out of commission.) Once he found the cricket, he looked around for something to kill it. The nearest thing -- and, for some reason, it sounded perfect to my husband -- was a can of spray paint.

Between the candle and the spray paint, we spent the next several hours in the emergency room.

This story has gone down in family lore. And he got about five flashlights for Christmas that year.

Terri Sapienza: yikes!

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Bethesda, MD: Hi there. Love your chats and am submitting this question early.

We have two cracked panels in our old wood front entry door. We've debated replacing it outright with a fiberglass product, but there are no easy fixes as the original door is custom-sized (36 x 83). We could get a custom sized wood slab replacement but wondered if anyone out there can fix/restore old doors.

Do you know any contractors/vendors who can do this? Thanks!

Jura Koncius: Try calling Door Detail 301 270-0826. I know they specialize in old locks and repair of door hardware, but they may know someone who could help you.

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Richmond, VA: Van Dyke's Restorers (www.vandykes.com) has some overlap with the Restoration Hardware type products and sometimes is less expensive. They are very good for some of the more unusual items one might want.

Oh, and I'm a male also. I didn't know we had to proclaim gender!

Terri Sapienza: Oh, yes, Van Dyke's is a great suggestion, thanks!

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kitchen cabinet knobs: Dumb question, but one of my cabinet knobs fell off and I cannot get it back on. The screw is inside the cabinet door, and doesn't seem long enough to fit inside the knob. But obviously it did originally, right?

Jura Koncius: Hmmm. Don't know what happened here. But what about Super Glue? Do you have any spares? A good tip is always to buy three or four extra knobs to have on hand for obvious reasons.

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laminate flooring for single parent: I suggest the single parent with a single income looking for laminate flooring go to Lumber Liquidators. They usually have a pretty good assortment of laminate flooring products at a wide range of prices. When we put laminate down in our 4-season room, I think we paid $1.99/sf for a nice natural cherry-look laminate with a 24-year warranty. It is a nice product, with single-plank pieces, rather than the triple-plank pieces you often see, and the foam underlayment attached to each piece rather than being a big roll of foam you have to wrestle with separately.

Terri Sapienza: a great suggestion for laminate flooring. Thanks!

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Ann Arbor, MI: What is it with people who have no trash cans? This has always been a big mystery to me. I have one in every room. Maybe these people generate no trash (which is admirable).

Another thing I have in every room: a tube of hand lotion. I go through that stuff so fast, I need it everywhere.

Jura Koncius: I'm with you with the WHERE ARE THE TRASH CANS? I love hand lotion. My mom keeps a pump bottle in every room and I almost have one in every room also! Good idea.

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washingtonpost.com: Yes. Tiny, Evil -- And in My Bed (Post Health Section, Feb. 26)

Jura Koncius: Here is a bedbug story for someone who asked about it below - will post their question now. So sorry to hear about this. It's everywhere.

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Anonymous, USA: Please, tell me you know something about how to get rid of Bed Bugs?!?! I just discovered them (I think, I have bites all on my legs every morning). Can I do anything to get rid of them myself? Do I have to wash every single piece of clothing I own?

Thanks!

Jura Koncius: See just posted article! Good luck.

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Annapolis, again, on crickets: I usually have camel crickets (which I loathe), but this year I've had an invasion of black crickets. The aforementioned cats dispense with them fairly quickly. If I were able to catch the crickets I'd release them, but they are not amenable.

Terri Sapienza: Ewwww... the thought of an "invasion of black crickets" just gave me chills. I would die.

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Derwood, Maryland: Today's House Calls: I've been thinking about today's makeover. It's very nice, but $829 per curtain panel is no small change! I had custom curtains made for my dining room by G Street Fabrics this past Spring. I paid in the neighborhood of $800 for two custom lined and interlined floor length panels. This included $100 for someone to come measure the window, labor, fabric, lining and interlining and even window hardware. The person who measured at the beginning for the project also came back to install the curtains and hardware. Furthermore they said it would take 6 to 10 weeks for the curtains, but they came back in 5 weeks. We are very pleased.

The key is to keep an eye out for their sales. G Street has fairly regular sales when home decorating labor is 35 to 50 % off and fabrics are 25% off. An internet coupon will get you an additional 25 to 35% off your fabric. I think it's great value for the money.

washingtonpost.com: House Calls: Living Large (Post Home Section, Oct. 2)

Terri Sapienza: A great value and a great tip. Thanks!

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Ladies! I'm finally having my closet redone (thank you, ELFA), and have used it as an excuse to weed out my clothes. The only problem is that I now have a ton of hangers that I don't need. I'm hoping maybe my drycleaner will recycle the wire hangers, but I have no idea what to do with all the plastic ones. I can't imagine anyone would want them or that they're recyclable, and I really hate the thought of throwing them out, but I don't know what to do with them. Any ideas???

Jura Koncius: Why not post them on freecycle.com or Craigslist? We admire your eco-behavior. You might also donate them to a local church.

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Tampa, Florida: Does anyone else think that Riverfront kitchen was cold, not the warm look the wife said she wanted?

washingtonpost.com: On the Riverfront (Post Home Section, Oct. 2)

Jura Koncius: I think it's the people and the food that make it warm!

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Sterling, VA: We have a small-ish bedroom that we are turning into a combo library-guestroom. I'd like to get a nice daybed, with the idea that it would look and feel nice as a "couch" for reading, and be a suitable place for overnight guests. Any suggestions for a good place to look for daybeds or feedback on daybeds in general? (is there a huge downside to them that I've overlooked?) Thank you!

Terri Sapienza: Our editor, Liz Seymour, and I were just talking about daybeds yesterday. Some nice ones to consider are Crate and Barrel's Simone daybed, the Charlotte and Priscilla daybeds from PB and the Overlapping Squares version from West Elm. I'm partial to C&B's for its versatility - it would also work well in a living room or family room space.

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Annapolis floorer here: Thanks for the excellent tip--you describe just what I'm looking for too!

Where can I find Lumber Liquidators?

washingtonpost.com: lumberliquidators.com

Terri Sapienza: here you go...

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Alexandria, Virginia -- curved or straight: Just finishing refurbishing small, circa 1935 bathroom, kept original tub but have installed beautiful handmade tile on the three sides. Am hesitating on installing a straight line shower rod or going with one that curves outward in the middle. What are the pros and cons?

Jura Koncius: Curved ones - like the ones popular in many upscale hotels - give you more room in the shower. I would go with that.

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Leesburg, VA re: extra hangers: Some organizations that operate thrift stores keep boxes of free hangers near the cash register. It's one less thing that a cash-strapped family has to buy.

Jura Koncius: Oh that's a great tip. Thanks.

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hangers: Thrift shops can always use them to display merchandise.

Jura Koncius: Thanks.

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Anonymous: Don't know how to eliminate crickets, but an exterminator told me that crickets love to eat natural fibers (cotton and wool, e.g.) and do more damage than moths in this area. He recommended not leaving clothes on the ground. And stop using cardboard boxes to store things. All bugs seem to love eating the glue.

Now to my question, when I bought my home (new construction) I opted for hardwood floors throughout the first floor as it is an open floorplan design. The floors are Bruce pre-finished oak floors. I just can't seem to find an area rug for the family room that is cozy and the right dimensions. Am I crazy to consider cutting out some of the hardwood floor and having carpet inserted? I would leave a wood perimeter and I would create a shape that is NOT a square or rectangle. Is this even possible with pre-finished floors?

Terri Sapienza: Do not cut out your wood floors!!! You can have any carpet cut to the shape of your room, so you don't need to limit yourself to standard area rug sizes. Having a carpet custom cut can be more expensive, but carpet places typically have rows and rows of remnants left over from over other jobs that they sell at a reduced price. Start your search there. But first, have someone come to measure the area of floor you want covered. And I repeat: do not cut out your wood floors!

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Redo kitchen but not cabinets?: I would like to make some improvements to my kitchen. During the next year I could save enough to do the countertops, sink, and replace the appliances - those are the things most in need of change. The cabinets will need to be done eventually as they are a little dated, but they are painted white and look fine for now. Is it okay to wait on the cabinets for another year, or is there something about renovating that makes it best to do all at once?

Jura Koncius: Sure. Plain white cabinets are fine and if you change out all the other stuff, you will enjoy using your kitchen so much more.

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Curved shower rods: You said they give you more room? For what? Dancing? Its not like that impacts the room you have at your feet. Assuming there is more than one person in the shower, wouldn't it be nice if the tub had more room too to go with the curved shower curtain?

Jura Koncius: It's nicer for washing your hair. And tall men like the room at the top.

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Silver Spring--curtain issue: Hello home gurus! I've been mulling this for a while now and I just can't figure out a solution to a problem with my curtains. We live in a rental that has 2-story windows in the living room/dining room as the main source of natural light. It's three windows on top, which have large wood-slat blinds that came with the rental and we can't reach anyway so we never open, and three doors on the bottom (the middle one opens, the two on the side are fixed). The doors didn't come with window coverings, so when we moved in we bought some cheap white cotton curtains at Ikea so the neighbors didn't have to look at us...and we've left them for 2 years and I think we've outgrown them. The main problem with new curtains, though, is that there's big molding between the bottoms of the windows and the tops of the doors that we can't figure out how to screw a curtain rod support into. The upshot is that curtains can't be too heavy, because the rod is only secured at either end of the approx.-9 ft span across the doors.

Sigh...maybe that was too long, but it's a very involved problem. Does anyone have any thoughts? I guess we need either prettier light-weight curtains (that still provide enough privacy) or some brilliant solution for reinforcing a curtain rod so it can handle heavier curtains.

Terri Sapienza: Why are you installing the curtain rod in the molding? Is there wall space between the door and window molding? If so, I would install there.

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Terri Sapienza: Looks like we're out of time. Thanks for joining us today. We'll chat with you next week.

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