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tips & articles

Q:  My husband says artificial flowers are tacky. Do you agree with him?

Partially.  Fine, handcrafted silk flowers are works of art. If the scale and location are well planned for your room, silk flowers can be a lovely addition. Of course nothing can compare to fresh flowers. But unless one is budgeted to maintain fresh flowers on a regular basis, the "silks" suffice beautifully. They can be replaced temporarily by fresh floral arrangements for special occasions.

Feng Shui experts agree that lovely, man-made flowers and foliage are every bit as "auspicious" as the real thing and they are highly recommended.

Most likely, your husband was reacting negatively to the "dead"looking, low-end artificial flowers one often sees in craft stores (or on Aunt Fannie's kitchen table). Good silk floral arrangements are not inexpensive, but they do last a long time and are cheap compared to what your florist delivers. We caution you to avoid them altogether unless you can invest in the best.

Q:  My condo came with wall-to-wall carpeting, but I want to use my heirloom oriental in the livingroom. Can I put it on top of the carpeting?
Placing a rug on broadloom, in our opinion, is never optimal. But if your broadloom happens to be a Berber weave (low, tight, and loopy), it is possible.

Purchase a "carpet-to-carpet" grip, cut to size for your rug. This will hold your rug in place and prevent the "ruffling" that so often occurs under these circumstances, and will lessen wear and tear on your oriental as well as the risk of tripping.

Use of an oriental on a pile broadloom (especially a high-pile one) is not recommended. It usually just looks wrong. If your broadloom has a pile, you may want to consider removing it from this room altogether, and laying a hard-wood floor, a far more worthy background for your prized heirloom.
Q:  I have discovered cracks in my plaster walls. What can I do about them?
Are the cracks new ones? It would be a good idea to have your home checked out for settling or possible structural damage. Stress cracks are common in old structures, and can be cut out and repaired by a good craftsman. The problem is, they tend to recur in time. If they are truly offensive, a solution is to apply a paint-able wall "skin", a crack-repair mesh, or if preferred, a wallpaper. There are some gorgeous solid textural or patterned wallcoverings on the market.
Q:  I am invited to the wedding of a cousin I haven't seen in years. I don't know what her taste is. What should I do?
This is the only time in the couple's lives when they will receive true luxury gifts from others.   Let other people give her practical, mundane gifts like kitchen towels. 
This is a momentous occasion, and her gift should reflect that. Our favorite choice is silver. A lovely, classic, silver bowl (of any size) with simple, uncluttered lines, will look wonderful with every décor. Silver is available at all price levels.   
At any price it's an elegant, useful, and memorable gift.

Silver is timeless.  It is sentimental. Long after her other gifts have given out, she will be enjoying the silver bowl (spoon, box, etc.) she received from you.  Have it engraved, in an inconspicuous spot, to commemorate the occasion.
Q:  I want to purchase china dinnerware but don't like matched sets. What do you suggest?

Mixing china patterns is a wonderful way to create a table which is totally, uniquely, yours. It must be handled with deftness, however. Finding dinner plates, salad plates, soup bowls, cups and saucers, and dessert plates, all from different collections, and all of which look gorgeous combined, can take quite a lot of time to amass. But that's the fun of it!

While the possible combinations are endless, we would suggest these guidelines: Find antiques stores that specialize in china. There is usually a dazzling array of colors and ideas to work with. Stick to either gold or silver accents. Mixing the two can be confusing to the eye. In the case of a casual floral mix, let one color predominate throughout. Don't be afraid of mixing up patterns. Use a bold, banded plate with an all-over floral one. Be daring. Your eye will tell you if it's working. Look for a set of identical dinner plates, then the same number of salad plates in another pattern, etc. The cups and saucers can be identical, or totally different from each other.


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