A: Unless you are building a castle-in-Spain-style house, forget marble. Classic though it may be, marble is actually fragile, prone to staining and vulnerable to scratching, two weaknesses that uncut its suitability for hard-working entry halls anywhere.Believe it or not, hardwood would be a smarter choice, wear-wise. Technological advances in protective polyurethane coatings render the most beautiful hardwoods virtually impervious to the assaults every entry is prone to. Except for standing water, that is. Wood and water are natural enemies, so you'd have to be vigilant on rainy days and quick to wipe up major puddles. Otherwise, today's hardwoods really live up to the name (learn more at www.hardwoodinfo.com).
Another flooring material that's always appropriate in Spanish-style houses is ceramic tile. You've an enormous variety to choose from, starting with the kind of terra cotta pavers in the photo we show here. Borrowed from the "Trim Idea Book" by Mary Ellen Polson (Taunton Press), the entry is floored in glazed tiles that aptly underscore the rustic-contemporary mood set by the wood ceilings and plaster walls in this Spanish-flavored home. Look closely and you'll see that the tiles run on into the living areas of the house beyond the front doorway.
Like hardwood, ceramic tile is ideal for floors that must stand up to heavy traffic and extra-tough wear conditions. Plus, tile also shrugs off water, which may not even be a consideration if you live where the sun almost always shines.
Q: What can I put on my bathroom windows to give us some privacy without blocking the light? We loved the corner Jacuzzi in the master bath when we looked at the builder model, but it never occurred until we moved in that the neighbors could enjoy our dual soakings right along with us! Please answer soon. We're beginning to hate showers!
A: Just in time to save your modesty comes an innovative film you simply stroke onto the glass to render your windows "frosted" and opaque. You have a choice of plain overall frosting, or designs that include geometrics, fluffy clouds, or a combination of frosting and color, as in Arts and Crafts-style flowers or brilliant blocks, a la the modern artist Mondrian.
The real beauty is that the film is non-adhesive, it simply relies on static cling to stay in place until you want to make a change. At $25 a 5-foot-roll, it's also considerably less costly than having to replace your bathroom windows. To see through a glass softly, click on www.grahambrown.com or call (800) 554-0887.
Q: I've moved back into my mom's (and stepfather's) house while I finish off a few more credits for my undergraduate degree.
They made a nice little apartment in the basement that has its own entrance, The problem is, I have no place to study. I work on a laptop, but also need a desk and my one tiny room has only a hide-a-bed, a coffee table and one reading chair with lamp. Mom has offered to buy, but what?
A: Small spaces inspire big ideas. One of my favorites that might solve your crunch is a coffee table with a top that lifts and locks at the right height for work or dining. There's even storage space underneath, hidden behind doors on both sides of the base. You're not buying fine furniture (at approximately $350), but the table looks presentable and ekes twice the life from the same floor space. Check it out online at www.brookstone.com or call (800) 926-7000.
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