Home Front: Design advice from Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza.

Aug 25, 2011

Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza gave advice on interior decorating and home improvement.

Home Front Live Q&A archive Older Home Front Live Q&As

Hi, everyone. Jura's out today, so it's just you and me. Let's get started.

Can you recommend a front door color for a 1920s yellow brick row house? I was thinking a deep blue or eggplant, but I'm certainly open to suggestions, the more specific the better. Thanks so much.

I like your idea of the navy, but you could also go with a glossy black or a cheery green. Gray might be nice, too. What else do you have going on on the exterior? Do you have shutters? Will you paint those, too?

Hello! I was the reader from last week with the question regarding decorating my master bedroom. I hadn't heard anything back after emailing you, and wanted to be sure the email went through and wasn't, for instance, bounced back because of the size of the pictures. Thank you again for considering me!

Yep, I got your email and forwarded onto my colleague, Megan Buerger, who handles the production of House Calls.  If we use your room, we will be giving you a call soon. Thanks!

Hi Ladies, I need to update some light fixtures in the house. I've been to RH and Annapolis Lighting. Any other stores or websites I should check out?

It really depends on what style you're looking for, but I think West Elm has some really great lighting options at reasonable prices, so i would check them out for sure. You could also try Room and Board, Design Within Reach, Shades of Light and Bellacor.

Do you have any design tips for showing off one's wallpaper?

Not sure what you mean here. Can you explain a little more? Typically, wallpaper makes a statement on it's own.

I was given a label maker for my birthday--hooray! But I'm having a hard time finding lots of uses for it. Can you suggest where it might be most helpful? Thanks!

Oh, lucky girl! I love label makers. So many uses for them: organize your peronal papers with new files perfectly labled; label the shelves in your linen closet with sheet sizes or do it by specific rooms; if you have children, you could label toy bins so there know where to put things; label boxes in your storage spaces so you know what's in the them. I could go on and on.

Chatters, do you want to chime in with your favorite label uses?

Good Morning - we just remodeled our master bath using Calacatta marble and white subway tiles. We painted the walls with BM Decorator's White, however it seems a bit too cool. I'd prefer a warmer color - any suggestions? Thanks.

Yeah, the all the white could feel very cold, but you could warm it up a little by bringing in some texture: maybe some wood or rattan accessories; a small rug; a basket with towels, etc.

Or, you could choose another color. You could go with just about any light color and it would look good, so just pick a few shades that you like and do test swatches.

Don't overlook Ikea - some great fixtures at equally great prices.

Yes, I forgot, thanks.

I have wax from dripping candles on a tablecloth. I put it in the freezer, chipped off what I could -- but there's still wax. Any other ideas?

You could try this, which worked for me when I spilled hot wack all over my new living room rug - ack!: get a stack of damp paper towels and lay them over the wax. Then, take a warm iron and run it over the stack of towels (which should be placed directly over the hardened wax). The heat from the iron should soften the wax and transfer to the towels.  Repeat as necessary.

I know all white kitchens are classic, but I've had mine for 19 years and I'd like something new. Not the dark wood cabinets of the 80, though, and not anything likely to be dated in a couple of years. Any ideas? Thanks!

Hard to say without any details, but how about painting your cabinets a different color, replacing appliances with stainless steel and installing a new back splash and/or countertop? 

I lost my prescription reading glasses on vacation and I was wishing that I had used my label maker to put my name and phone number on the case . . . .

Oh, yeah...good one. thanks!

So everyone knows where the groceries go . . . . canned goods, baking supplies, rice and pasta, etc.

Yep, this one, too...

We live in an older home with very little closet space. Other than Ikea, where can we find reasonably priced armoires?

You could try Ballard Designs, Ethan Allen, Pottery Barn, Wisteria, Urban Country, Mitchell Gold, West Elm. Also consider searching Craigslist - I'll bet you could find something there.

I recently bought some lights from www.lumens.com. I think the prices were good and the shipping was speedy. They sell more than just lighting, but I've only purchased lighting.

Great tip. Thanks!

My short list of favorite things includes my husband, macaroni and cheese, and my label maker. I've labeled the fuses in the fuse box, the cables behind the tv/computer, the garbage disposal switch, pantry items like basmati vs. jasmine rice, the fax machine with our fax number (since I never remember)....etc...etc...

Oh, yeah...these are all great suggestions. thanks!

And your mention of mac and cheese just made me hungry for lunch.

Good morning. My husband I just adopted a dog. We're really excited, but I'm worried about the impact to our house. Are there any tips for you or the chatters about how to keep a carpeted house and furniture from smelling like dog? She isn't allowed onto the furniture. Thanks.

Congratulations on your new addition! How exciting. Your life will never be the same - in the most amazing way. My advice is to just keep up with your regular cleaning, which includes your dog now, too.

Oh, and your rule about not allowing her on the furniture...any other dog owners out there want to wager on how long that one will last?

Good Morning! Submitting early before a meeting. My wife and I own a 16 year-old townhouse with original furnishings. We would like to re-do the bathroom completely but do not have the money (baby on the way...). However we are toying around with the idea of replacing all the fixtures (with an aged-bronze look) and painting the room. Is there anything more we can do ourselves to update it the bathroom? Really would like to re-tile, new counter, dual sinks, new cabinets, new shower instead of a tub, etc., but that sounds like a professional re-model. Thanks!

You could also paint the vanity (if you have one), change the light fixtures, get a new shower curtain, towels and accessories, hang art or photos on the walls, put down an area rug (doesn't have to be one specially made for bathrooms).

Room is square. Sofa against wall with two long windows. One other wall is patio doors that take up most of the space. TV in corner. Basic box design but can think of no other way to place furniture without interferring with flow to patio doors. Sofa on wall, chair perpendicular around two square coffee tables. Ottoman on other side with TV in corner and nothing in front of patio doors. Square. Boring. Could float furniture but why if only to still be a square. HELP!

If you live in DC or surrounding areas, send photos of your room with contact info to makeover@ washpost.com and we will consider it for House Calls. Thanks.

Use it on your clear shoe boxes. Use it on all your storage bins. Use it on your DVD cases along the edge (with tape) to mark your recordings. Use it on magnet strips for your tool chest in the hubby's workshop to mark all his drawers. Use it to mark your folders for bills and files. Use it to mark your sweater boxes, lingerie boxes, hat boxes, blanket bins etc. Use it to mark your shelves in your pantry so everyone knows what belongs where. Use it to mark the box where you store you batteries, your lightbulbs, your outdoor grille supplies, your holiday lights, your holiday decorations, your baking supplies, your platter box, your china storage bags, your bookshelves. I spend more money a month on labels than most people and I could not live without it! Then again, anyone who is organized will say the same - label makers are invaluable!

Wow! This is a great list of ideas. You sound super-organized. Thanks!

Hi Terri, I'd like to refinish my kitchen cabinets, which are a light maple. They don't match the rest of the kitchen as we have green tiger patterned granite counters and fairly dark wood floors. I don't want them as dark as the floors, so I was thinking of having them painted white to brighten it up a bit. The appliances are stainless steel. It's a small space, do you think that would look okay? Thanks!

Again, really difficult to say without seeing your space. But, I think updating your light maple cabinets with paint is a great idea. White is a safe choice and will probably look great, but you also might want to consider gray. Why not paint a couple big pieces of posterboard, hang them on your cabinet doors and see which you like best.

Terri, I know you have at least one little one. Did you happen to catch Lauren Liess's list of decorating mistakes one makes "for the kids"? Sadly, several of our choices were listed. The most egregious, and the one I want to change the most, is our microfiber furniture. I'd really like a slipcover in a neutral color, but my husband is convinced I'd be washing it every other day because of the dog and our 4 and 2 year olds. Help me convince him?

I could go either way here. My first choice would be to save on the slips and put that $ away to save up for new furniture. If that's out of the question, custom slipcovers would be a solution. I used to have white slipcovers on my dining room chairs, which did get dirty, but they were good as new after a wash with bleach. But, truthfully,  I was lax about washing them as often as I should have because it was kind of a pain. 

I label all of my recharging cords, ie, iPad, Kindle, phones, any and all are labeled. Helps loads

Oh, yes, this is a great idea. I think I will do this this weekend. Thanks!

Hi! I have a large plain bathroom mirror covering all of the wall that its on except for about 2 inches. I was thinking of getting it framed with wood to match with the wood cabinet. Would you recommend that the wood frame go on top of and around the mirror so that its a wider frame? Also, the estimate from my framing store is about $275 for the framing -- do you think it would be better to just buy one or two mirrors (one sink) that would fit the space?

Well, you could also have the mirror cut down so it's smaller and the framing wouldn't be as expensive. But, I wouldn't have the fame match the cabinet; I would do something different and more interesting.

I label computer cords, TV, DVR, audio cables. It's great for the freezer too.

The freezer...yes! that's a great one. thanks.

We had that rule with ours, but compromised when we realized we weren't going to be able to stick to it. When we put a blanket on the couch next to us and invited him up, he was allowed on the furniture. Otherwise, no blanket meant no couch. He learned to beg for us to put down a blanket for him when he wanted to sit next to us!

I know, that rule is a hard one to keep. It's just so nice to have your dog curled up next to you on a couch or bed. 

You should definitely buy a small spot steam clear for accidents - they will happen. You will also need to professionally clean the carpets more frequently - we do it four times a year with two big dogs and only carpet in the bedrooms. For couches try to train your dog to only get on the sofa when you put out a special blanket or towel. This has worked well with my dogs and leads to less begging to get on the couch when we're sitting there. For when we're not at home we had a piece of lightweight plywood cut to the size of the couch cushions which we stored under the couch when home and set on the cushions at angle when we were not. You can't blame them too much for wanting to get up there - it's comfy!

Yes, the regular carpet cleaning is a must. thanks.

Hello. In the kitchen I'd like to do darker lower cabinets, and then ivory-colored upper cabinets. I've seen this trend of painting upper cabinets a contrasting color rather than the same as the lower cabinets in magazines and on TV. However, I've only seen it in large kitchens with islands. My kitchen is small and has no room for an island.

The good thing about paint is that it's realtively easy to fix if you don't like it. Paint the cabinets different colors and see how you like it; if you don't paint them all the same color. 

try the Solid Oak and Cherry Gallery behins Marlo off of 395 and Belfort. Both ahve the best prices and service in the area.

hmm..never heard of this place. Thanks for the tip.

what is wrong with microfiber?

you can read Lauren's post here.

We're out of time today, folks. Thanks for joining me and for all the great ideas for me and my label maker. Chat with you next week.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius uses her years of experience as a home expert and her network of well-placed sources to help you choose everything from paint type and colors to how to de-shed sofas from pet hair to where to find the best designer fabrics at a discount.

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Terri Sapienza
Terri Sapienza is a staff writer for The Washington Post.
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