Q. I collect art glass and want to know how I should care for my treasures. Also, can I safely put water and flowers in an art glass vase?
A. Lois Ross, interior designer and owner of A Step Above gallery, answers: I put about a capful of vinegar into a cup of water and dip a soft, white cloth-a diaper is great-into the water and gently wipe the piece. Then I dry thoroughly with another clean cloth. Never immerse a piece of art glass in water. And I would not put water and fresh flowers in an art glass vase. You'll get a ring that turns into a stain. A gallery glass vessel or vase is an artwork all by itself. It doesn't need flowers.
Q. I want to do a tropical theme in my home yet keep the tone sophisticated and quiet. Any advice?
A. Ginny Galer, interior designer and owner of Tradewinds Interiors, Inc., answers: Don't overdo the palm trees and monkeys. Your approach should be one of restraint and simplicity. You're going to want textural elements of seagrass, bamboo, rattan, raffia, sisal, coir and one or two exotic woods such as anigre in both light and dark tones. For a color palette, I'd stick to neutrals in greens, salmons and rich tones of brown. If you're going to use stronger colors and a bold pattern, it could be on the window treatment reinforced with a few throw pillows of the same fabric. For key pieces I'd start with a seagrass sofa upholstered in a textured neutral shade. Walters Wicker of New York makes a great one, and you can get it here in Sarasota through Designers Source. I'd add a coir area carpet or maybe a Tibetan rug. Then splurge on a big piece of art or have a custom cocktail table made from an exotic wood. Finally add tropical plants, both real and faux. Some reliable ones are banana, ginger, heliconia, bird-of-paradise and bamboo. And now you're on your way to a sophisticated tropical theme that you can comfortably live with for many years.
Q. I have marble floors and countertops in my bath. How should they be maintained?
A. Scott Pintchuck, owner of Floors By Design, answers: All natural stone surfaces should be sealed with a penetrating sealer to guard against stains. Silicon impregnators are the best. When cleaning your marble floors and countertops, use a neutral product such as stone soap that you can get from a janitorial supply company or from your flooring retailer. Using this soap over time will help build up a barrier to stains. You must never use anything acidic on marble. It etches the surface. Never use alcohol, vinegar, ammonia, window cleaner or abrasive cleaning pads, either.
Q. I'm setting up a home computer station. How far away should the computer screen be from me? What about chair and keyboard?
A. Sherry Podolak from Corporate Express answers: Your computer monitor should be two-and-a-half to three feet away at eye level with no neck strain. Most desks are about 30 inches high. You'll want an ergonomic keyboard tray that slides under the desktop. You have to experiment with various heights for the keyboard to see what is right for you. When you type your wrists should be straight. An ergonomic keyboard will help maintain this negative tilt position. Keep the mouse at the same level as the keyboard tray. As for the chair, I suggest a multi-task type, which has a free-floating back with infinite lock system. This means the back of the chair supports you as you move. These chairs start at about $300 and are a good investment. When you are sitting in your chair at the computer, your feet should be flat on the floor. If not, use a footstool.
Q. Can I mix real and faux plants and flowers in a room? How do I know when I have too many?
Lee Younger, interior designer of Classic Imports, answers: You know you have too many when you feel like you're in a forest instead of a room. It's an easy line to cross-but remember that plants are there just for accent. A silk tree in a dark corner is useful. And as for mixing faux and real, yes, do it. Use the live flowers in an entrance foyer or a coffee table-places where people are likely to see the flowers close up and maybe touch or smell them. Use the faux atop bookcases or armoires-places that need some color and texture. No one is going to get close enough to tell if they are real or not. The main thing is to refrain from overdoing a good thing. When in doubt, take some away.