HOM A blocked view easily changed

King Features Syndicate

Dear Debbie: Due to a building-code regulation, the garage addition we'd planned on one side of our house was refused, and we had to position it so that it now blocks the kitchen window. What can I do with my view to nowhere? -- Katie

Dear Katie: A problem like this is upsetting, but it makes your imagination kick in. The kitchen shown here was in an apartment being rented by students. The kitchen was small and run-down, and storage was limited. There was a large window, but it faced another building, offering a poor view and blocking the natural light. I turned the window and wall space around it into a focal point that updated the room's appearance and solved the storage problem. I hung a series of chains from cup hooks screwed into the top of the window frame and used S-hooks to hang a variety of kitchen aids. The rack-style shelf installed beside the window does double duty, as you can use large S-hooks to hang pots, strainers and utensils as well as set bowls and other crockery on top. Sheets of corrugated galvanized metal were cut to fit as a backsplash and were held in place with cement screws and blue washers. The painted blue cupboards and walls and red countertops radiate energy. Silver cleat handles on the drawers are another small detail that gives an industrial edge to this old kitchen.

If this isn't your style, think about changing the view to suit your taste. You could run shelves across the opening and make it a dynamic display area. You could also fill in the window panes with vibrant shades of glass paint and create your own stained-glass-window effect.

Dear Debbie: After 47 years I am in the process of redoing my kitchen. I have new maple cupboards with a mocha stain and new laminate floor tiles in a mocha-and-cream quartz swirl. My problem is in the dining area of the kitchen, where there is old paneling halfway up the wall with wallpaper above it. I don't know whether to paint, paper or rip out the paneling, and can't decide on wallpaper or colors. I would really appreciate your professional guidance. -- Joyce B.


Dear Joyce: You have two choices, and they both depend on budget and time. The first is to rip out the paneling and remove the wallpaper. The wall will be a bit of a mess, and you will have to do some patching and apply a fresh coat of plaster to return it to a smooth surface. Then I'd choose sage-green paint to complement your mocha highlights. This combination will create a friendly and relaxed mood. Your second option is less labor-intensive. Remove the wallpaper, but leave the paneling and paint it. Sand it first and seal the knots with a good-quality primer. Apply two coats of creamy-white paint to the paneling and choose a soft green for the upper wall. This treatment will enhance both the cabinet and floor colors and give your room a beautiful, fresh look.

Dear Debbie: My kitchen is white with white cabinets, gray and black countertops and a white ceramic floor. I'd like to paint some color on the walls and really enjoy your suggestions. Both the countertops and floor will be staying. -- Vera S.

Dear Vera: Although a white-and-black kitchen is a modern, popular choice, it can be a bit stark and clinical. By adding a splash of color to this neutral setting, you can instantly produce any mood that you want. Here are some choices that revolve around four different moods: For a dramatic look, try navy blue; develop a calm mood with stony beige; sunny yellow will be bright and cheerful; or for a nostalgic ambience, apply moss green. You could paint the cabinets, or simply add the color to any open wall space, including the backsplash area. For anyone trying to choose color from a blank canvas, this is an easy way to begin the process.

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

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