Experts Say

Treasured objects for a meaningful tabletop display

How do I style my tabletops to make my home look good? This can be done with things you may already have at home.

For an attractive display on your coffee table, you will need to "layer" the objects on it, which means displaying items of different heights.

Use something tall such as a vase or a potted plant and pair that with a stack of hardback books (below). You can top the flat surface of the books with something small such as an object you treasure.

Trays are also great for bringing together various small objects that would otherwise look like clutter. Apply the same tip of using items of different heights on the tray - try adding metallic items to make the display stand out.


For a longer surface area, such as a table for the hallway, use symmetry to create impact. Display something tall on both sides of the table to "frame" the space - table lamps and vases are good choices. To fill the space in the middle and create a focal point, hang a large mirror or a painting on the wall. Or use a tray with a mix of items of different heights.

The display will become more meaningful if you use items you love. The idea is to move things around till you are happy with the look.

Patch holes on wall with plaster after removing built-in storage

Should I secure my bookshelves to the wall?  I am afraid of creating cracks on the wall that will be visible if I move the shelves in the future.

If well made, store-bought bookshelves and cabinets - especially those made of solid wood and metal - should be stable enough to stand on their own without being secured to the wall.

The items you place on them will also help stabilise the shelves.

Do not overload the shelves if they are made of flimsy material.

If your floor is uneven and the shelf "rocks" when you touch it, it may help to anchor the bottom with heavy books to make it more stable.

Some furniture pieces come with adjustable legs that can adapt the piece to an uneven floor.

Furniture that is attached to walls is usually the built-in type, such as kitchen cabinets or customised storage units. Carpenters will attach them to the wall using screws, which are about 6cm long, at strategic points.

If you decide to remove the cabinets, any visible holes on the wall can be easily filled in with plaster.

Then sand down the area and repaint the wall to remove the marks.


Clean rust off stainless-steel handles with baking soda and water

My stainless-steel kitchen cabinet handles have rust spots. I think it is because my hands are usually wet when I touch the handles. How can I restore them?

Stainless steel is a metal alloy made with an element called chromium. When exposed to air, a chromium oxide layer forms on the metal. This substance is what protects the steel from air and moisture and hence from rusting.

So stainless steel should not rust, unless it has a low composition of chromium or if the layer of chromium oxide has been compromised by acids, which may be found in strong cleaners.

If it is the first reason and the handles are of a low quality, then you should change them so they are easier to maintain.

If the rust is caused by a temporary removal of the chromium oxide, then the solution is simpler. Clean off the rust using less abrasive methods, such as a non-metal scouring pad or a paste of baking soda and water, and leave to dry. The chromium oxide layer will naturally form again.

•Home & Decor magazine editor Rebeckka Wong and experts in renovation and home decoration answer queries from readers in this series. These questions first appeared in the May issue of Home & Decor, published by SPH Magazines.

•Got a decorating or home renovation issue? Write to Experts Say, Home & Decor, 82 Genting Lane, Media Centre, Level 7, Singapore 349567 or e-mail Photos and layouts are non-returnable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2016, with the headline 'Experts Say'. Print Edition | Subscribe