Ask A Designer


I live in a condo with strange bulkheads everywhere. In my bedroom, one of the bulkheads is so large it covers almost 50 percent of the ceiling. It makes the room feel very oppressive. What should I do to disguise this? Would it help to paint the walls and ceilings the same colour? D. Cheung, East York, Ont.

The bulkhead is obviously something structural—perhaps housing ductwork for your condo—and cannot be removed. Painting the ceiling the same colour as the walls will help, but make sure you paint it a lighter colour. Because it’s a bedroom, you may want to consider a wall covering. For the ceiling, I would choose a paper with a larger random pattern such as a floral and, for the walls, a complimentary paper with a more structured pattern such as


I like the sophisticated look of mirrors as a kitchen backsplash. Any advice on how to install them? By the way, my wife is against the idea and thinks they’ll be impossible to keep clean. Must practicality supersede style? Pierre Sirois, Laval, Que.

You don’t have to give up style for practicality. Use a high-quality mirror so the backing doesn’t come off over time and as with any kitchen backsplash, wipe it down after use.

This treatment looks best when the mirror is installed in one continuous piece. Depending on the length of your walls, there may have to be one strategically placed join. And don’t use mirrored tiles! There will be too many joins, which leaves the tiles susceptible to water penerating behind the mirror and eventually removes the backing.

Sometimes, though, you have to know when to call in the professionals. A mirrored backsplash may be one of those times. Don’t forget to have mirrored switch plates made for your duplex outlets and switches as well.

Q  I love warm colours—yellow, orange and gold—but the yellow-based paint in our living room, with windows facing north and east, looks dirty. I’ve tried a hazy green on the walls, but it looked too minty. Any ideas?

A   As you’re probably aware, the colours you mix into or use with yellow can affect their apparent hue, and mellowed yellows in particular can look darkly dingy if you add too much grey or muted brown. But in your room, I suspect it’s the cool light from the north and east affecting the purity of the hue, adding a green cast, which makes the room appear dirty. Natural lighting is as variable as the seasons and the weather. However, most rooms have one dominating light source depending on the exposure: warm for south and west; cool for north and east, as in your situation. Warm colours on the wall prevent rooms from looking sterile. And they’re ideal for a room like yours, since the light cools the area. These are action colours, creating a lively and happy ambience. Since you like warm tones, and they are best suited to north and east exposures, I recommend something from the yellow family, where there is a colour for everyone. It is light, bright and cheerful in intense shades such as buttercup and lemon. And if you add a bit of grey—not too much or you risk that dirty look—it becomes brass, antique gold or caramel. As a general rule, yellow keeps things cool in green/blue/yellow schemes and warms up to orange/red ones. Try using an antique gold or caramel. The darker tone and saturated hue will enrich the room.