Facebook Event: Ask Susan!

Here are answers to a selected three questions I am presenting for today's Facebook Event: Ask Susan! And be a fan of the Susan Serra Associates facebook page right here!


Susan! Love your blog. Here's my question: Redoing my 1960s kitchen that has a bump out bay window area intended for a tiny dinette table. I wish to change the space to serve a function other than seating. Have you done such a modification before in your work? Could you describe or show other options? Thanks! --Erin in Dallas

HI Erin! My own home had a bump out bay that just didn't work for us. We ended up straightening out the bay section and bumping out another section of a wall in a rectangular way and this dining image shown was the result.

Another idea is to create a lovely (non dining) seating area such as here (bay window partially obscured). In yet another project, actually 2, a kitchen island is floating in the center of the bay window, with enough room around it to clean, or even to walk entirely around, but which features the bay window fully as the architectural element it is. Decorative items can be placed on the floor.

The bay window can stand alone-perhaps install nice, long windows. And, of course, one can build in book shelves, set in a low furniture piece or make it a wonderful spot for a desk. I can also see it as a spot for a decorative/functional wood stove, with some alteration of perhaps a solid tiled wall behind the stove in the center of the bay if necessary.

And, do not forget the view beyond the bay windows. That can be as important a feature to the space as the inside treatment. Consider what your view is and what you would like it to be/how you'd like to relate to the outdoors. That will also give you clues as to how you'd like to enjoy the view from the inside.

Here's one of many possible concepts:





Hi. Thanks for this. I was wondering is there a way for me to test whether I really would like to live with a completely different colour on my kitchen cabinets? Currently I have an off-white colour of cabinet and would like to consider a deep, moody blue. I have a lot of natural light in my kitchen so am not worried about it being dark and depressing but am worried about "how can I tell if the tiny picture I saw on Flickr for inspiration will really work in my space"? thanks again, Melissa p.s. I live in Australia

Hi Melissa, and thanks for your question, all the way from Australia! Definitely on my list of places to visit.

That's a really great question. In the end, we never REALLY know how we are going to feel on the "other side" of a decorating/design decision, but the most preparation you can do beforehand will help ease the transition from your current look to something totally new. You mention a tiny picture that you saw on Flickr that is inspiration.

Your instinct is right. One tiny picture is not enough. Have you done a simple search of "blue kitchen cabinets"? If not, here you go, and look at the images tab above the search page as well. Here is a recent post by interior designer Linda Merrill who just posted on blue kitchens. Look at many images. Observe the foundation elements of flooring, walls, lighting, overall size, countertop color, style and find several that are relatively close to your situation, and that will bring you one step closer to YOUR reality. This phase is very important.

Do multiple searches and create an organized bookmarking system, perhaps on delicious of, say, blue kitchens with light or dark countertops, blue kitchens with light walls, a certain type of flooring, etc. This is a research phase. Be methodical. Take your time.

The more you understand about what you like about certain images, being fully aware of what ELSE is going on in the image besides the blue cabinetry, in other words, looking at the space as a whole but understanding the parts, will bring you closer to feeling either more or less comfortable. You need to put the time in. I was going to mention using design software to upload your room and then color the cabinets blue, but that will not go far enough. Be a temporary student of the separate elements of a kitchen with blue cabinetry. That's what will give you understanding of this look.


Susan, Sending a photo of our current kitchen cabinet color and flooring. We have an oak - mocha colored hardwood that runs through the kitchen/nook and formal living room (we use as a formal dining room). We are having to replace the flooring due to a leaky dishwasher that caused it to buckle. I chose a black/stainless dishwasher (other appliances are all black at this time), lighting and faucets are that very dark brown that looks blackish. We will be selling in 2 years (military). I am hoping for some quick advice on flooring material/color. We can't get the same to repair. Should we go tile in the kitchen/nook area (color?) and leave the dark hardwood in the DR? Or chance wood again, and if so what color? I don't love the dark wood b/c although it looks great clean it shows ever spec of dirt immediately. We are not in a position to replace more of the kitchen than our insurance will cover ie. cabinetry. Thanks for any suggestions! Becky Colorado Springs

Hi Becky! Thanks for your question. Thank you for your service to our country!

Here we go. There are several missing pieces here, Becky, making it a bit of a challenge to give you solid advice, but I will try my best. Not seeing the context of flooring as relates from the kitchen into other rooms, where the nook is, what it looks like, etc. all have an impact on recommendations.

When you say that you "cannot get the same to repair", that leads me to believe that the existing flooring was a kind of engineered wood. No, I would not do wood strip flooring, even in another color. It can be done, but I cannot see the space enough to recommend it in this situation. If you'd like an earthy, less kitchen-y feel like the wood floor you have now, definitely consider a cork floor. It's comes in many beautiful neutral colors, or other colors such as, say, a smoky blue, is easy to walk on, a sustainable material, and should blend very well with surrounding rooms. If you have 12x12 cork tiles, I'd consider laying the floor in a brick pattern.

You can consider a ceramic tile black and white checkerboard, which is classic and formal. It will relate to your black appliances as well. You can do that also in Marmoleum Click tiles: http://bit.ly/FTvoR another sustainable flooring option, a good one.

Another idea to consider, one that is not very common these days, but may be perfect for you, considering the formality of your surrounding rooms, is wood parquet flooring. If you look hard enough, you can find good deals. Here is parquet flooring in a foyer: http://bit.ly/OI5cP It could be a DIY project too if that is an attractive idea.

As for ceramic tile, the sky is the limit in terms of ideas. Not knowing the layout, you could attempt to bring in a tile "rug" design in your nook or even in the center of the kitchen. Look for similar tile thicknesses, and combine a foundation of simple textured tile in the space with patterned tiles to form a "rug" or other sort of central/formal tile design in a logical area of your kitchen. Ask the tile store for assistance in selecting tiles to work with each other.

I hope this has been helpful!

That's all the time I have now for questions. I'll do this again soon...