We answer your renovation and decorating questions with help from industry experts.

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We answer your renovation and decorating questions with help from industry experts. E-mail questions to

I’ve spent a fair bit on paintings and would like to light them properly. How do I do it?

Art looks fantastic bathed in sunlight, but UV and infrared rays will gradually cause the painting’s colours to fade. Place your fine art away from direct sunlight or use window treatments to limit the amount of daylight streaming in. When it comes to using artificial lighting, the right bulb is important as halogen emits too much heat and fluorescent and incandescent both do not portray the work’s true colours. “We recommend using LED bulbs as they emit less heat, or halogen lighting with a UV filter,” advises Jazz Chong, director of Ode To Art Gallery.

Take the colour of your walls into consideration, too. Jazz recommends picking bulbs with a colour temperature of 2700K if the surroundings have a warmer tone, and 3000K for a room with white walls. If you have a photo collage or a few paintings put together on one wall, go for track lights “as you can adjust them to focus on each work, while keeping the whole wall lit at the same time”, she adds. For 3-D artworks or sculptures, avoid lighting them directly from above, below or behind. “These will create harsh shadows and wash out the details. Instead, make use of diffused light sources so that every part of the artwork can be seen clearly,” she says.

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Is it all right to hang a pendant light at eye level above a kitchen island? How low can they be hung if they are over a walkspace?

Pendant lights are a great addition to a space but, when hung too high or low, can look completely out of place. Hang them too low and you’ll run into practical problems, says Montie Mahtani, managing director of M3 Studio: “Your head might hit the pendant light when you’re reaching for something. The same applies to the dining table. Although you are seated most of the time, you’ll need to stand up to reach across the table.”

The rule of thumb is to keep the bottom of the pendant light 71cm to 86cm above the island or dining table. However, if placed too low, the light can result in a glare if the bulb is visible, and the heat emitted can cause discomfort. For walkspaces, Montie advises using the door frame as a guide: “The minimum clearance height should be the same height as a door frame, which is about 2.1m”.

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How do I care for my stainless steel fridge, sink and backsplash?

The best way to clean stainless steel and maintain that brushed finish is to wipe or scrub with the grain, instead of in circular motions. The choice of cleaning tools and chemicals is important to maintain your appliance’s lustre. Never use anything containing chlorine or hydrochloric acid – that includes not using your kitchen sink to rinse your hair for those DIY hairdye jobs!

Avoid placing cast-iron pots and pans on them for long. These can cause corrosion and, eventually, rust spots to develop. Rinse your sink well after each use, rubbing it with a wet cloth or paper towel. Once a week, rub a paste made from white vinegar and baking soda all over the sink for a good clean.

For your backsplash and fridge, remove streaks and fingerprints using dishwashing detergent and warm water applied to a microfibre cloth, and rub with the grain. Rinse and dry the surfaces immediately. Have some mineral or baby oil handy to buff away the occasional streak or fingerprint. To do this, apply a small amount of oil, leave it for a few minutes, then wipe it away with a kitchen paper towel.

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I love subway tiles and plan to use them. Any suggestions on how they should be laid?

The original subway tile was white, glazed, ceramic, and measured 7.5cm by 15cm, but its popularity has resulted in many more finishes and sizes today. The tiles also come in stone or mirrored finishes, and even with bevelled edges. The most common sizes available now are 10cm by 30cm, 7.5cm by 30cm, and 33.3cm by 66.6cm.

They are usually laid in a brick or offset layout, which is the safest style. This can be done vertically and is useful if the room has a low ceiling, as it makes the space look taller. In the stack-bond layout, the ends of the tiles are lined up neatly and, once again, can be laid horizontally or vertically. Both patterns offer a fresh and modern look. 

The herringbone layout style is also gaining favour now. Keep in mind that there isn’t just one herringbone pattern, but three: traditional, straight and diagonal herringbone. These zigzag formations look sophisticated and have given the humble tile high-end appeal. The patterns create a dynamic energy, which is good for small areas such as backsplashes, but can be overwhelming if used on a large wall.

“Expect higher labour and even material wastage for these patterns,” cautions Alicia Koh of iPoise Design. On the other hand, crosshatch or basket weave – where four tiles are placed so they form a square unit – is similar to the herringbone style, but simpler to execute.

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