Designer and tastemaker Charlotte Moss joins the weekly chat | Home Front

Jan 17, 2013

Charlotte Moss, a Richmond native, is known for pairing Southern style with contemporary glamour. Named one of Elle Decor's A-List designers and a top-20 design icon by Traditional Home magazine, she got her start in New York designing for clients like Susan and Michael Bloomberg. She was online to chat about 2013 design trends and her new book, A Visual Life: Scrapbooks, Collages and Inspirations.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

Follow @jurakoncius on Twitter.

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

Charlotte Moss is one of America's design icons. Her glamorous, beautiful rooms that have both style and comfort have been featured in all the top interior design magazines. Charlotte has written many books including her latest Charlotte Moss: A Visual Life by Rizzoli. I covet her vanity table which is full of beautiful bowls holding her fab collection of bangles and beads. Charlotte is from Richmond and has a design firm in New York. Let's have a great chat with Charlotte as she is full of terrific ideas and advice. Thanks for being with us.  

Good morning! Charlotte here. I'm very excited about my first web chat with Jura Koncius and the Washington Post! Another way to communicate about design, the biz we love. Fire away!

Is it possible/worth it to visit furniture manufacturers in NC and buy directly? If so, where are the best places to go?

Some manufacturers have sample sales after the spring and fall markets in High Point, N.C. There is an outlet mall in Hickory, N.C. that has some great brand name furniture outlets. It is called the Hickory Furniture Mart. Right now their website lists Century, Drexel Heritage, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Henredon and many others are being in the mart. 

Hi! My favorite home and garden feature is House Calls - get great ideas for many different kinds of rooms. One thing that really bugs me is how frequently designers put lamps in the middle of the room, with no description of how they'd actually accomplish it without running cords across the floor. Could someone (Megan?) mention this to the designers when they put together their design? In this week's design, it really doesn't look like the homeowner would be able to drill a hole in the floor and run the wires up from below.

Hi there, Megan here. Thanks for submitting into the chat and for reading House Calls each week! This is something a few readers have brought to my attention in recent weeks. I've asked future designers to keep this in mind when they put together their redesigns, so as not to take advantage of the "illustration." I understand your concern and hopefully we'll have less of this going forward!

I was very excited to see that emerald green is the color of the year! I've loved it a long time and painted my bedroom green several years ago in an effort to make it less feminine. But the bedroom has read too childish to me and I was considering repainting again. Now I think I will keep it but accessorize better. What color should I use for curtains, bedding, etc to make it more sophisticated? My instinct is navy but I worry that will just make it too preppy adolescent boy..... help?

If your bedroom is truly an emerald green, the contrast of white silk canvas/taffeta would be fresh and modern with white slipcovers, etc. As far as accessorizing, blue and white Chinese lamps or for a more modern look a bold glazed imperial yellow. Perhaps a shape or color from Jonathan Adler or Currey and Co.  

Hi Charlotte, I met you once when I worked at The Kellogg Collection with your sister Cathy. My question is: Where in the US do you suggest going for quality custom made and C.O.M. lamp shades? Thank you so are a true inspiration! (Tell Cathy I said hello.) Jeff West

Hi Jeff. In New York, our go-to lampshade shop is Illume,  owned by Ron Sinto, on East 58th Street. In Boston, Blanche Field makes beautiful shades.  On the west coast my lampshade maker of choice is Otto Munder on LaBrea in LA.  Hope that helps!

I'm all for salvaged this, recycled/upcycled that, and I'm all for people trying to decorate affordably. However, I saw an artist's home and studio in the recent Country Living magazine issue that was down right shabby. Not shabby-chic; just shabby. Walls that needed repainting. Old stuffed dead birds. Tons of useless nature clutter including empty nests, branches, and twigs, displayed prominently in a huge cabinet than contained no other usable/useful items. I am all for a nest or two as seasonal decor in spring, but this was as if the lady went outside, took three paper sacks, filled them arbitrarily to the brim and called it stylish. Her home was also very color-devoid. Everything was painted a different shade of antique white. Is this the "look" that is in right now? Is this going to be a long-lived phase?

I am howling at your description of this very shabby, natural and supposedly chic artist's studio! It creeps me out a bit too to think people are just scooping up nests and twigs and ground cover and placing it on shelves and tables and arranging it in bowls. I think the fact that it is an artist's place probably explains the earthy, scattered look. This antiqued white and gray paint, as in all the chalk painted furniture, seems to be a look that is still sweeping the country. However, as we all know, this stuff definitely has a limited run until the next trend takes hold. I've been talking to major furniture retailers for a story I'm doing on spring design trends for January 31 and there is definitely a movement away from the chalky white stuff. Eggs and nests will always be part of some people's decor, but woodsy accessories aren't for everyone. 

I am expecting a baby this month and have a sudden and desperate need to replace my dining room chairs. Like, right now! I've hated them for years and this may be the last opportunity for a while. The trouble is that I've scoured all the usual chain stores, from West Elm to World Market and everything in between, and no luck. I want something all wood, preferably a blonder wood with a vase-shaped back, and used is fine. Any suggestions on places to try? Thanks so much!

Dear Pregnant and Impatient, 

Immediate gratification can sometimes be a tall order.  Have you looked at the websites V&M and 1st Dibs?  What about auction houses like William Doyle or Bonhams. can be a good source too.  Happy hunting.....

Thanks to you, I took the plunge and made two long-overdue changes to my decor. First I infused color into my monochromatic off-white living room by painting the walls BM Sage Harbor Gray and painted my red brick fireplace BM Decorator's White. I also replaced the area rug with a cheetah-patterned one. My new look appears so much more deliberate and pulled-together. Now I'm ready to get loose in other areas of the house.

Love your paint therapy changes. Using gray was a great choice and thank goodness you dumped your red brick fireplace! That really dates all these 1930s colonials out there. Meanwhile, a new rug does wonders to make a new statement in a living room. Good for you and keep it going. 

I like the look of mixed gold and silver metals, but what are the rules? Can you throw in some black metal and bronze as well? How do you prevent a room from descending into metallic chaos? Thanks for taking my question!

Dear Mixed Up,

First, no rules.  Second, of course you can mix.  Third, be selective about what you are mixing: quality, heights, volume. Arrange, walk away, come back another day, rearrange, edit again.  Your eye, and a little practice, will tell you when to quit.

Where can I look for inexpensive wall art (paintings, prints, etc.)? I don't want to spend much because I won't be in this apartment forever, but I'm getting tired of plain white walls.

First of all, check out consignment shops and vintage stores and thrift shops in your area. It is amazing what people get rid of. There is art from all periods. The frames alone are sometimes fabulous and valuable. The Corcoran College of Art & Design has periodic shows of the work of students. 

Is it possible that the green you chose was not a true emerald green? If it is too light or too neon or too fill-in-the-blank, then perhaps you can use a glazing technique to do a color adjustment. It won't dramatically change the color of the walls, but it could make them a little less adolescent if the color is slightly off from what you had intended.

Thanks for this. It makes sense. 

Hi there. While temporarily living in Japan my parents have met new Japanese friends. These generous friends made many origami items that were sent to me. I'd love to somehow display them in my house, but don't know how! Am thinking of a simple banner with them tied, but maybe you have other ideas? Thanks!

What a wonderful present! I love origami although its delicate nature makes it a bit difficult to display. I have a few pieces that I use every year as holiday ornaments on my Christmas tree. I carefully store each of them in an individual box. I have seen origami strung on a fishing line and hung from a ceiling. A banner is a nice idea. There are small clear plexiglass display stands you can buy at craft stores that might work as well. Do all of you have other ideas? 

Hi! I love your sense of style and design. Could you talk a bit bout how you branded Charlotte Moss and how those branding decisions make for enhanced promotion? Thank you so much?

Branded?  Ouch, that sounds like it hurts.  I know exactly what you mean and someone asked me this question the other night at the New School.  When I started in this business, no one talked brands.  I created a business plan and after that it was hard work, time management, long hours, but a heck of a lot of fun. Fast forward and looking back I made some strategic moves outside of my interior design practice.  Publishing gave me the ability to reach a broader audiance.  Licensing, the opportunity to work with manufacturers to collaborate and design products such as  furniture for Century,  fabric for Fabricut and carpet for Stark.  Bear in mind these opportunities did not come along until after my business was very well established.  I have taken advantage of opportunities to speak to groups around the globe, participate in designer showcases and serve on related committees. So if that now constitutes a brand, that's how it was done!

Try Etsy! There's a lot of original work there and often the artists can get it framed for you for a nominal additional fee. Plus you're supporting unknown artists!

Yes! Thanks for reminding me!

I find this time of year to be very awkward for decorating. The holiday stuff has been put away, but it's not time for the lighter colors of spring. Any thoughts on what kinds of items/colors would keep one's house looking fresh? All my rooms seem tired (or maybe it's just me that's tired!). Thanks much.

I share your pain. In fact, that's why I'm writing this story about what is new for spring in home furnishing stores. Check it out on Jan 31. Just like in fashion, home design is meant to be a bit ahead of the seasons so spring and outdoor things will be filtering into many stores starting later this month. Consider going to a new shopping destination such as the Mosaic District in Fairfax for some inspiration. See my column today Destination: Design. I'm going to be investivating new places to shop all over the Washington region. Send in your favorites to me at Meanwhile, maybe some new pillows, a pot of hyacinths or some new lampshades would add some freshness to your home. 

We have a giant (plain) mirror in our master bath (about 6feet/4 feet). Is there a good way to "frame in" this mirror as we're looking to upgrade the look to sell the house? We're not sure what's behind the mirror (and how it was attached to the wall), and it would be nice to not have to deal with drywall, etc.

Frame It, make a trip to Home Depot, look at simple moldings that can be cut mitered and can be applied with an epoxy on or around the mirror.  The frame can be painted a color or there are some great metallic paints that could approximate silver or gold leaf.  Sometimes automotive stores are a good source for metallics.  Hope that gets you going....

Charlotte and Jura, I am struggling with my husband and sons on the use of energy-efficient light bulbs. They are in strong support, but I simply cannot appreciate the trade-off. First of all, when you switch on, the light is so dim, you cannot see a THING. Then, in time, the glaring, harsh whiteness... it reminds me of my high school gym. The boys wag their fingers at me, I roll my eyes and just accept it. But do I have to? Do you know if there is "green" lighting that is softer? Thank you! - Cindy from Manasquan, New Jersey

Cindy, this is a dilemma.  I hear your pain.  I believe in being energy efficient also, but might you suggest another way in your house that does not sacrifice warmth and aesthetics? How about a compromise? Their rooms, but no public rooms, yet.  Tell them you need to ease your way into this.  And dare I ask this question: Are they equal particiapants in all of the housework and maintenance?  It would be difficut for me to take orders sacrificing my aesthetics when I'm working hard to keep and maintain a beautiful house.  I think we all need to ease into this. Good luck.  

I'm trying to buy curtains for my new apartment. It's an old house and the there are several places throughout the house where there are 4 windows, two windows that are right above the heaters (which are covered, so they aren't bare radiators), and then flanked by a window, perpendicular on each side. I hope I'm describing that well! Anyway, should I buy panels that cover the heater or is that dangerous? Should I only buy panels for the side windows and use roman shades for the windows above the heaters?

Yes, you described it well. In fact, I think you solved your own problem.  I like the idea of panels on the side, but they must be gererous not skimpy, almost suggesting that they could close over the heaters and then use roman shades or another type above the heaters.  This does a couple things: It gives you two fabric opportunities, perhaps something richer and maybe more saturated in color in the curtain and something lighter over the window.  Do you know Smith and Noble?  Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn have great panels as well.  

Love the paint color in Shawn Evans Dining Room - Do you know the color? I know the darker gray is Kendall Charcoal (I have that color).

Hi there. I think the color you're referring to is actually a fabric wallcovering. To add some extra dimension, he used Ralph Lauren Shiva Silk fabric in Dove Grey. When the light hits it just right, you can see each tiny silk thread shimmer just a little bit. It is stunning. 

Energy efficient lighting doesn't have to be dim or harsh. The bulbs have been upgraded a ton since they first came out. Try this link to see if there are other options that work for you. 

Thank you. We will give it a try. But I too am horrified when I turn on one of the CFLs and the room seems spooky. 

Original poster here. Is that the same shopping area that has the Four Sisters restaurant? If so, I can go there easily because my dad lives about five minutes from there. (I live in central PA, but grew up in the area--sure looks different than when I grew up there in the 1970s and 1980s).

Four Sisters is not in Mosaic but is nearby. Lots of people adore that restaurant and I must try it. You could do both on a trip. 

I just read on your wonderful blog that you are doing some editing and redecorating of your own homes to "make room for new ideas of your own." Would love for you to share with us what some of those new ideas are, and what inspired them.

I have been inspired to edit.  Also, as we get older, our tastes evolve.  Otherwise, we're stuck. I want cleaner lines and less formality.  In East Hampton, I am painting all of my floors.  And increasingly I use more slipcovers for practicality, flexibilty and changeability.  I always try to stay open minded.  I leave for Paris next week with excitement and anticipation.  My sale at William Doyle gallery is March 7th.  Hope to see you there!

Unless you're outfitting a whole house, you probably won't save enough to cover the cost of shipping, not to mention travel. There's a reason why Ikea comes in a box.

You can get a lot better quality furniture that will last you decades from some of these North Carolina brand name outlets. I would suggest borrowing or renting a van or pick up! 

Rustoleum makes a whole line you can order at Home Depot. About $15/quart, plus you have to throw away the brush. Rustoleum scoffs at your turpentine.


A question for Jura: One of my favorite design moves I see on TV is to spray paint furniture white or a color. Do you know where i can find a professional to do this in the Washington area? I don't want to do this at home as I want a smooth, long lasting finish. Thanks!

You know I have heard that some  car body shops or auto paint companies will do a piece of furniture. I have never done this but does anyone out there have a name to share? It's a good idea. 

A note about energy-efficient light bulbs - my realtor friend recommends that her clients replace all CFLs with incandescent bulbs, as the CFLs are too dim when they come on, and too harsh when they warm up. Says it makes a huge difference when selling a house.


The electrician comes next week (yay!). I'm adding sconces to a hallway and above the fireplace. Are there any "rules" as to how high off the floor? I don't have the lighting fixtures that a problem since they very in height? Thanks!

There are no hard and fast rules. With respect to the fireplace, it depends on the height of the mantle, but as a general rule, I like sconces to stand away from the mantle to allow maximum space for a painting or a mirror above it.  Also, no one likes looking up into a light bulb.  For scones in a hallway or powder room, generally I position them 66" from the floor to the center of the electrical box.  

Hello Charlotte, love your new book! Is there a easy touch that you could suggest we make in our homes that suggests a grand gesture? I recently put an old silver tray on my bath vanity...and that I realize is overused, but that is the type of idea I am asking about. Does anything come to mind? Also, its great that you support our wonderful Monticello! Thank you, Cynthia Morton

Here are some thoughts:

Gestures can be done through scale, elegance, humor, quirkiness.  The most important thing: have no fear, worry about no one.  For instance, at Christmas this year I took a large French terra cotta, put it on a french commode and filled it with branches 6 ft high.  It was spectacular drama.  In that same location, I could have put a dozen glass vases of different heights on a mirrored tray and filled them all with a single flower.  Drape a table with a couple shawls.  Also, not hanging a picutre above a mantle but proping an oversized one on it.  We could go on, but don't forget about candles and fragrance.  

What a wide swatch of design we covered on today's chat, from the right emerald green, to frames for mirrors to energy efficient lightbulbs to curtain panels. Thank you Charlotte for taking the time to take our questions. Really fun to have you on.

Thanks so much!  So sorry we couldn't get to everyone.  Tempus fugit.  Charlotte

In This Chat
Charlotte Moss
A Richmond native, Charlotte Moss is known for pairing Southern style with contemporary glamour. Named one of Elle Decor's A-List designers and a top-20 design icon by Traditional Home magazine, she got her start in New York designing for clients like Susan and Michael Bloomberg. On February 20th, she's hosting a luncheon and design lecture at the Hillwood Museum and Gardens. This Thursday, she'll be online to answer your questions about design trends, home improvement and her new book, A Visual Life: Scrapbooks, Collages and Inspirations. Submit early questions now and join us Thursday at 11 a.m. EST!
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

Home Q&A archive
Recent Chats
  • Next: