Ask the designer

Interior designer Karen Hughes director of Emerald Interior Design in Dublin (, answers your questions. Email:

Q LAST year we installed a wood-burning stove in an existing fireplace — but due to the limited space, whenever the door is opened, embers fall out onto the carpet – what should I do?

A. I think you might need to look at whether your stove meets the safety requirements that should be adhered to during installation. For instance, the area of “non-combustible material around the stove” (ie the hearth) should be at least 6” deeper than the stove door – so if the door is 12” deep, the hearth should be 18”, and so on. If it’s not possible to redress this, you will need to either replace the hearth or lay a stone, marble or tile trim to bring it up to standard.

Q. After my mum died, I moved back into the family home. Although the living room is very small, I can’t bear to part with any of the ornaments and photos she left behind. Any thoughts?

A. We Irish are a nation of hoarders — and in this case, it’s entirely understandable that you don’t want to simply toss items of sentimental value. However, we don’t have to have everything we own on display. A great trick to de-clutter your living room, but keep your mum’s personal touch, is to get some storage boxes and separate the items into groups (eg family heirlooms, winter ornaments, etc) – and then simply alternate the items whenever you feel like a change.

Q. I have a south-facing top floor apartment with beech wood floors — what colour scheme would you recommend for the space?

A. Balance is the key here — dark colours will absorb light, while colours that are too light will appear clinical. As beech is a light wood, you can afford to introduce darker colours into the space and still maintain that all-important balance.

As it has a pink/orange hue in the grain, I’d steer clear of that side of the colour palette. Go for the opposite side of the colour wheel. Greens or even blues will work well as a south-facing room gets plenty of light. Try a textured wall paper to add interest to the room and pull the scheme together with a large patterned or shaggy rug.

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