Interior Design for Living: Decorating the duplex by twos


Q: My husband and I are building a new duplex. We plan to live in one half for a few years and rent out the other half. I have to select the lighting, cabinets, counter tops, flooring, carpeting and paint. We want each unit to be the same. Can you give me some direction?

A: The first thing to do is to determine the amount of mon­ey you will be asking for rent. This will be a major factor in your selec­tion of finishings. If you’re asking rent is considered on the high end of the scale for your area, your selections would be different than if the rent is considered very rea­sonable. In any event, you want it to look presentable and also be as practical and long-wearing as pos­sible for the money invested.

Keep your selections as simple as possible since you don't know the individual tastes of the people who will be renting. It can be very simple and appealing at the same time.

Be careful when selecting lighting. It is one area where people's tastes vary considerably. Keep it as unobtrusive as possible, yet functional. Don't select any­thing that is ornate.

Plain surface-mounted fixtures or recessed lights should be con­sidered. Either may work but keep in mind that recessed fixtures do not give as much light as a fixture that is surface mounted on the ceiling. A surface mounted fluorescent in the kitchen is an excellent task light, and many designs are quite attractive.

When you select cabinets, choose a door style to suit the architecture of the duplex. If you want wood, select a medium to light stain. This will make the kitchen space seem larger and less confining.

Plastic laminates would be an expected choice for counter tops in most rental units. The various brands all offer a variety of mottled or small scaled patterns, which help to mask soil and minor dam­age more than a solid color. Throughout the duplex, when you are making a choice that involves color, select a neutral.

The various neutral shades, such as beige or gray, will coordinate with any color of furnishings or decor your tenants may choose.

Sometimes a little extra money spent in certain areas is worth the extra investment because of the effect it gives. If a renter feels he is receiving more for his money, you may be able to command a higher rent.

Vinyl floors are often selected for kitchens and bathrooms be­cause of cost and ease of mainte­nance. If you do select a vinyl floor, keep the pattern very plain. A geometric or overall pattern in neutral shades would be best. Ce­ramic tile or wood floors look very rich and may be worth the expense depending upon your particular circumstances.

If you choose wall-to-wall car­peting, keep practicality and dura­bility high on your list of priorities. Don't get a color that is too light or too dark. A very light shade will show soil and spots quickly while a choice that is too dark will show lint and dust. A lighter shade will also make the room appear larger.

Select a pile, density and fiber that will not easily crush on stairs or in high traffic areas. Also select one that will clean well — both for spots and overall cleaning. This will probably be a nylon.

A little extra money spent on padding is a wise investment. The resiliency underfoot makes the carpeting feel thick and luxurious. It also makes the carpeting wear longer.

When selecting paint, choose a white or an off-white to blend with the other selections. It is generally advisable to paint all the rooms the same color to give a sense of conti­nuity and spaciousness throughout as well as make touch-ups easier.

Selecting a wallpaper that is appealing to everyone is a difficult task. If you decide you want to use wallpaper in a kitchen or bath­room, select a texture or a very small-scaled pattern.