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For long division, try a slide rule

During the past few months, I’ve been asked how I would solve an increasingly common dilemma.

It seems that stationary bikes, treadmills, weights and other exercise equipment are intruding on the peaceful ambiance of the bedroom.

I have to agree: Waking up to the sight of metal contraptions meant to make you sweat is not my idea of bliss.

But with today’s smaller living spaces, what can you do?

In the same vein, but different scenario, a busy family home has the living room and den side by side, offering ample room for two distinct groups to gather. They each want privacy.

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I envision the same solution for both questions.

Retractable room dividers or sliding panels will block out the athletic equipment and allow the kids to play with their friends — heard but not seen.

These panels slide along a sleek aluminum track that is mounted to the ceiling, and open and close easily.

Graber panels, www.graberblinds.com, are available in wood and fabric, so you can design your own look.

The panels can also be exchanged to match your seasonal decorating.

If privacy is not the issue, but sunlight is, then the solar shade fabrics allow you to maintain your exterior views while cutting glare on computer and TV screens.

These panels can be installed anywhere, and you have the option of hiding the track with a cornice for a traditional fitted appearance.

Like a movable wall, they add a layer of texture and color — a good alternative when you want to divide a room or build in some privacy.

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Dear Debbie: We are renovating our kitchen and would value your advice on the floor color. The cabinets are white, and the solid-surface counters are dark brown. We want laminate, but not a hardwood look, as there is real hardwood in the hall and dining room. Should we go light or dark? What about a slate pattern? — Hazel

Dear Hazel: I agree — choose something different that will not fight with the hardwood that is in place. Slate is a wonderful option in a greenish hue.

But what about taking a peek at some of the laminates that have a contemporary feel with brighter colors, or ranges that give the illusion of metal floors?

The new linoleums have fabulous choices — I would go with a warm copper tone.

Dear Debbie: I have just renovated my kitchen with a bit of wall painting left to do. I love the idea of teal, but I'm afraid it will be too dark. The flooring is brown/blue/gold/slate, the lower cabinets are brown, the white uppers have glass fronts, and the backsplash mosaic is white with red, teal, blue, black, green and yellow accent tiles. Rather than solid paint, is there a technique that will dilute the teal so it's not overwhelming? — Lisa

Dear Lisa: I love the idea of teal. Here's an idea: Create a tone-on-tone oversize checkerboard effect.

Apply light teal in two coats as a base coat. When dry, map out 12- or 14-inch squares and mask off. Paint alternate squares either in a slightly darker tone of teal or with a high-gloss varnish. This will take you a weekend; the measuring takes the longest, but if you cut a piece of cardboard or tile, you can measure around this. The look is sophisticated and fun.

Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please e-mail your questions to

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house2home@debbietravis.com.

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