Home Front: Putting a room together, organizing and high and low chic

Feb 25, 2010

Every week, Washington Post Home Section writer Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She was online to take your questions and suggestions. Today: Woman's Day Editor in Chief Elizabeth Mayhew joined Jura to discuss putting a room together, organizing and high/low chic. Terri Sapienza is on maternity leave and will return. Follow Jura on Twitter at @jurakoncius.

Thrilled to have as my guest Elizabeth Mayhew from New York, who is the new editor of Woman's Day magazine. I've interviewed Elizabeth over the years - including in 2004 when she was the style director of real Simple magazine. We'll try and post that link later. Elizabeth is a regular on the Today Show as well. Her recent book Flip for Decorating (Ballantine; $24) is a great room-by-room guide to transforming your home and I'll be giving one as a prize today for the person who comes up with the best question for Elizabeth.

Let's go!

Looking to buy an area rug for the living room in my new home. I found one that I love, but I'm at a loss to choose the size/shape. What basic advice can you offer on choosing the size and placement of an area rug?

I love area rugs because I don't like to be locked into wall-to-wall. Area rugs also help define a space--they serve as the glue, uniting the furniture. I like to leave at least a six-inch perimeter between the wall and the rug to give it room to breathe. As for the furniture, I usually like to have at least two legs of the chair or table on the rug.

Elizabeth: What's the deal with Woman's Day? I've never read it but now that you are editing it, what changes will I see? Will it be more like Real Simple?


Yes, I am at Woman's Day now! Woman's Day is one of the largest and most respected magazines in the industry. You will find solutions and tips on everything from cooking to heath, decorating to getting organized. Our goal is to help you live well everyday--it's not about being perfect just feeling good about yourself, your family, and your life. It is a smart, fun, upbeat, accessible guide. I love it!!!!

Hi, I love your discussions and love the new format! (I'm an old post employee and it's good to see a replacement for Z-forum!) Anyway, question for you: I have a jute rug from West Elm that I really love but it is fraying in one corner. Could I bring it to a carpet shop and have a border added to it? Basically, I'd like to salvage the rug and except for one corner, it's fine.

Glad you like it - I think it looks great too. Now for your jute rug. You probably didn't pay too much for your rug so you should not spend too much putting a border on it. Call someplace like Hanna Ayoub 202 363-9200 and see if they would sew it on for you - but figure out if the cost of the fabric and the labor is worth it - some of these jute rugs at West Elm or Ikea are so inexpensive it might not be worth it. By the way, has anyone been to the West Elm sale downtown? The DC store is closing and everything is 15 percent off.

I am repainting my kitchen this weekend. My entire rowhouse is painted BM Sandlot Gray. I just had my kitchen updated with new gray (slate-like) tiles and a new recycled aluminum blacksplash and it looks great! Since the whole house is pretty neutral, i was looking for a punch of color in the kitchen. It faces east and gets plenty of light. I was thinking BM Wales Green or Apples and Pears.... Any other suggestions?

Try Benjamin Moore's Potpourri Green, #2029-50. It is very fresh and looks great in kitchens where food and lots of colors abound.

I'm looking for a light green color for our small bedroom. It's currently a minty green, and I'd really like it to be a little more toward celery. Any suggestions? Behr paint is most convenient, but other ideas welcome. Thanks so much for any help!

I have always like Water Sprout by Behr.  And Celery Bunch is a little darker but also great.

When hanging paintings in a room does it matter if they all have (using office printer lingo for lack of knowing the correct terms) a portrait orientation or should you make certain to have a mix of portrait orientation and landscape orientation? I hope that you understand what I'm asking. Thanks!

It totally depends on how you are planning on hanging the pictures. If you are hanging them in a free form arrangement, then youcan have a mix. If you are hanging them in a grid then it is best to have them all have the same orientation. I know how hard it is for people to commit to hanging things on the wall which is why I am doing a whole story on the topic in the April 17th issue of Woman's Day. Check it out!

Thank you for all your great advice in previous chats! I am painting a hallway that connects a kitchen (painted Valspar Nordic Blue), a living room (paint BM Soft Pumpkin) and goes upstairs (Stairs risers/molding/spindles are BM Bright White and railing is black). What color do I paint the hallway? I don't want it too look like a color explosion, but also worry that the softer colors may come off as "dingy" next to the newly painted white of the stairs. Thank you!

Sounds like you might have luck with one of my favorite colors, Benjamin Moore's Early Morning Mist, #1528. It is a gray-beige that seems to work everywhere! I recommeded it to my mother-in-law and she was happy--which trust me is not typical!

I'm hoping to paint our guest room this weekend in our old farmhouse, but am having difficulty deciding on colors. It's a small room with one north facing window with 8" baseboards. I've seen several examples of white walls with light green/minty trim that I love. In one example, Sherwin Williams' discontinued Opal Basil was used and in the other, Farrow and Ball's Cooking Apple Green. Do you have any recommendations of similar paint colors that are a bit more affordable than Farrow and Ball and can be purchased at either Lowes, Home Depot, or Ace Hardware (I'm in a small midwest town with a somewhat limited selection of stores). Also, any recs for a nice white would be much appreciated. Thank you!

Benjamin Moore's Potpourri Green is nice. So is Behr's Corn Husk Green. You can't go wront with Behr's Ultra Pure White. Consider the Behr Premium Plus Ultra paints that are a paint and primer combined. Try Chinese Jade and Minted Lantern.

Good morning. Last week I asked for suggestions on where to buy a couch for my condo. A chatter suggested Urban Essentials  -- I went on Saturday and bought a couch! Just wanted to say thanks for the suggestion -- I really enjoyed shopping at that store.

Good for you! Always great to have success in a new source.

They keep showing that Walmart ad of someone who just goes in there and buys cheap pillows, a rug and new lamps and transforms a room. Do you believe that this kind of disposable decorating is worth it just to brighten up your spaces?

I have seen the ad and have to say that yes, I do believe in economic times like this the easiest way to give your rooms a quick makeover is though accessories. We are lucky to be living at a time when good design is affordable. I would add one thing--paint. Painting is the easiest least expensive way to give your rooms a whole new look.

The living room in my new house lacks a fireplace and therefore no central focus for the room. How can I create one without seeming contrived?

I don't have a fireplace in my living room either. I used art to create a focal point over my sofa and a couple of tall pieces of furniture--one high secretary and a bookcase to draw your eye up. The most important thing is to have vertical items in your rooms.

After spending easily 10 hours cleaning and organizing a guest room/office, I want to reward myself with, yep, more work. Time to paint the room! I have roman shades that are fairly bold - 1-2" wide vertical stripes in cornflower blue and lavender with 1-2" tall lavender sheafs in some of the stripes. The room gets decent light, has dark floors, and i'd like to stick with white trim. In terms of furniture, nothing! Just a bed frame and 2 end tables I'm thinking of spraypainting. It also serves as my linen closet so i want it to be fun. Would some sort of strong color be ok in there? I had originally thought of something like a royal purple/grape hyacinth color, but I may be too chicken to do that.

Wow! I can tell you have no fear of color. And good for you for cleaning and decluttering. Maybe something in a pale grapefor the walls - you could spray paint the end tables white. Here are a few paint color suggestions: Smoky Grape by Pratt & Lambert; Blue Orchid by Benjamin Moore; Behr Blue Hydrangea

I need to paint the hallway leading to the bedrooms. The hallway receives indirect light from bedrooms as well as the bathroom skylight. I'm looking for something inviting or dramatic, but not too far out. I've considered a crimson red, or a medium grey. Without seeing the space, are there any recommendations that come to mind?

Your two ideas - red and gray - give off very different moods! Without knowing what color your other rooms are painted, you might consider colors such as Benjamin Moore's Marlboro Blue; Pratt & Lambert's Summer Sun or C2's Quohog

Here is the questions and answer piece I did on Elizabeth some years back. It still tells a lot about her and her style. And by the way, she lived in Washington for a while and went to Georgetown. Check it out.

Jura -- I am the pr person for the Utah Department of Commerce who licenses contractors -- we have some great tips on how to find a good contractor if you were interested --  let me know a good e-mail address to send our article to as I am limited here by your character count -- Keep up the excellent work! Jennifer Bolton Public Information Officer Utah Department of Commerce jenniferbolton@utah.gov (801) 530-6646

Wow that is great. Would love to hear from you. My email is konciusj@washpost.com. Is there a link my readers can go to to get this useful info?

Hi -- I've just painted several big rooms with that product, and FYI: you shouldn't assume you won't still have to do two coats to cover. It's good paint, but not as much of a time-saver as they would have you think.

Very interesting. I love getting feedback like this. Have any more of you tried this new combo by Behr?

Hi Elizabeth! Hope I don't stomp you with my cordinated question. My husband and I recently purchased our first home. I purchased traditional furniture for our formal living room. Got a great area rug to go with it. The furniture is paisley floral brown with burgundy and some green colors. So is the rug. I just don't know what color or fabric for window treatment. My wall color is a bone white. Then in our mst bdrm, my bed set is a soft blue w/ gold color. I was thinking of a brown or neutral color rug, but again what about window curtains/treatments? I like traditional looks or stuff cordinated from pottery barn. Simple yet sophisticated. Thanks.

Do either of you have any thoughts on the amount of dishwasher or clothing detergent you use compared to what the companies tell you to use? I think that detergents go way overboard to get you to use more of their product than necessary, and once had a washing machine repairman confirm this. But what say ye? Can I safely cut back? Thanks!

This is a great question. It also brings up a wonderful tip for everyone - when you have a repairperson in to fix an appliance, ask them questions about how best to operate the appliance. My GE repairperson once told me not to use the dishwashing tablets that come as compressed cubes - he says it can clog the machine. Now back to your question - I sometimes base my detergent use on how many clothes I've got in there - I use a little less for a small load. Some of them are so concentrated it's tempting to put more in, but it's just a waste of product.

What's a good color for a kitchen. Right now I have belguim waffle. My husband thinks we should paint the kitchen in a tiffany blue. I hae a really outdated kitchen the cabinets are very dark. any suggestions

Blue is a nice color for a kitchen. And your husband is in luck as we keep a list here of the colors that designers have told us are close to the iconic Tiffany Blue box color. Here they are: Pantone's Aruba Blue; Sherwin Williams Mariner; Benjamin Moore Tropicana Cubana; Duron's Bali-Hil; Pratt & Lambert's Caribbean Holiday.

I live in a studio apartment. My bedroom is my living room is my office is my dining room. I'm having a hard time creating different spaces in my little space. I do have a room divider between the living area and the dining area, but need more help.

You have to check out the June issue of Woman's Day! I know that seems far off, but we photographed my friend Robert Lindgren's apartment in New York City. He is a designer (orginally from DC!) who had to cram an office, sleeping space for his two kids, and storage into one room. He smartly used daybeds from West Elm as beds, but double as sofas. He also created a great separation of space using see through bookcases--They dividet the sleep and work space, provide needed shelving, and allow you to have light from the windows.

I have several times seen queries in this chat asking for flooring suggestions for basements that may occasionally flood. We have had great luck in our small bathroom with Trafficmaster Allure, from Home Depot. This is like laminate flooring, and comes in planks in various wood tones. But it is actually vinyl, and as the salesman said, you could even INSTALL it while you were underwater. The whole system links together and floats above the existing floor, so it doesn't stick to what's below, and it doesn't require subflooring. Our flooring looks convincingly woodlike (at least as good as other laminates) and has worn very well, without scratching and staining, for over a year. If some damage were to occur, it's easy to switch out a plank. I don't work for Home Depot; I'm just a satisfied customer who wants to share news about a good product.

Wow. This is great info. Thanks a lot. And it reminds me that just last night when I went into the basement to feed the cat, there was a trickle of water coming under my basement door, which leads outside to a drain at the bottom of a set of stairs. I got out the flashlight and went out there  - the drain seemed clear and we had had the snow shoveled out of there to avoid any flooding inside. But I guess maybe during the day it was draining slowly and some water leaked inside - I was glad we had concrete floors down there.  Have you all had any flooding from these blizzards?

Just built a storage room that has one window and recessed lights. Plan on installing wood shelves (no backing) for storage and an armoire for linens. Can you recommend a fun color -- am thinking of something either lime or pink grapefruit. Thanks - San Rafael, Calif.

Love lime or grapefruit as paint inspirations. Let's see. What about Chic Lime by Benjamin Moore or Limeade Green by Ralph Lauren for the green; for the grapefruit, Duron's Mineral Yellow or Southern Sun; or Farrow & Ball's Citron.

We just painted our living room BM Kensington Green and White Rain with white trim. We're thinking of painting our dining room (right off the living room) BM's In Your Eyes. Will that color work for a dining room (the room is fairly small and only has one window).

Sure. It is very pale and neutral. I once had a gray dining room - with crisp white trim - it was a bit stronger gray , something like Boothbay Gray - I liked it a lot.

I have always been confused about what color to paint my ceilings. My living room is painted Sherwin Williams Versatile Gray (really a gray/brown color) with one accent wall painted a color two spots down on the chart, Spalding Gray. (A lighter room then I usually like, it was Hunter Green before) My ceiling are only 8 feet high. Will painting the ceiling make the ceiling seem lower? And if I paint the ceiling in the LR I would like to also paint in all the other rooms also but I surely won't bore you with the colors. What are the general rules for ceiling painting? Since ceilings are such a pain (in the neck) to paint, I don't want to make a mistake and have to do them twice. Thank you so much.

I usually just paint my ceilings in Benjamin Moore's Decorator White (the same as all of my trim), but in a few cases, I have painted my ceiling a very light blue (Benjamin Moore's April Sky). Most recently I did this in my daughter's room, but she has very high ceilings. I think painted ceilings work best in bedrooms--the only room where you frequently are looking at the ceiling. I often suggest painting a whole bedroom in one hue--ceiling and all--it gives a cozy, enveloping feeling to the room.

Ironically, I just painted my daughter's bedroom Ben Moore's Potpourri Green (which you recommended for the kitchen). I love it goes with almost any color.

That is amazing considering how many thousands of paint colors are out there!

We are purchasing a small 1930s "mountain cabin" as a weekend getaway. It is fine except for the 1970s small added on kitchen. We will paint the dark cabinets white, but the floor is linoleum peel on squares, the appliances are old (which we will replace) and the countertop is awful. We are thinking stainless appliances, wood countertop and do not know about the floor. The adjacent floor is old pine, but doubt that i can match it. Lighting is also not great. Any assistance is really appreciated.

Have you considered a cork floor? They are very eco-friendly, warm and are easy to stand on since they provide a cushy surface. I'm writing about a terrific kitchen next week  - in the March 4  Local Living - about a noted Washington baker who redid his 1970s condo kitchen using cork floors.  The rest of the 1910 apartment has wood floors. It looks great and he loves it.

Removed the bad chair rail from a powder room, and we sanded and patched the sections. However, no matter how much drywall compound and sanding were applied, the patch is visible. Texture is different, too, though the walls are just plain drywall. Any ideas to camouflage this? Have you used those textured or flocked wallpapers and do they work? Don't have the skill or $ for beadboard, and we're not into that look anyway. Thanks!

If you are not going to spring to skim coat the wall or  beadboard it, your best bet will be paper. I have the perfect solution for you! Grahm and Brown makes a bead board wallpaper that is paintable--it looks like the real thing. Check it out: http://www.grahambrown.com/us/wallpaper-brands/Graham%20&%20Brown?gclid=CK7I_eH1jaACFQ1N5QodyBzCfA

How practical (or not) is linen as a slipcover fabric? I want to cover two old but very sturdy/well-made chairs in my family room. They get heavy use by dogs, kids, and the whole family. I found a linen I like a lot -- it's patterned so won't show stains badly, but what about the basic wear on the material? Thanks!

I'd ask yourself the question - do you like the look of wrinkled linen for your clothes? Linen slipcovers look chic but they will look rumpled. They will be washable which should take care of the dogs/kids stains. Unless the  rest of your room is buttoned-up style and very traditional, go with the linen you like.

I read lots of design blogs, which seem to be ahead of the magazines, and was wondering about your favorite new color combinations. Brown and blue was pretty but was overdone and seems to be over, as does the whole chocolate brown craze. I see lots of grey and yellow (which I'm not crazy about), and lots of all grey rooms, all white rooms or rooms with lots of turquoise accents. What is the next new color combo?

Well, I am a big fan of chocolte brown paired with any color of the rainbow--I also love gray paired with just about any color (my house has a combination of both of these). But rather than look to what is fasionable, it might be time to go back to the tried and true--Blue and White. Better said, I think any color when paired with white is right.

Hi, I'm looking for some fun fabric prints for my daughter's bedroom -- I've been through Calico Corners and G Street Fabrics- they don't seem to have any cute youthful prints. Any other fabric stores out there that aren't "to the trade only"?

Recently, a lot of local  bloggers have been big on DeBois Textiles  in Baltimore. www.deboistextiles.com. Their modern graphic prints look fantastic.

I love browsing fabric shops, but what to do with all of the material when you get it home? Once you get past reupholstering, any ideas? (e.g., duvet covers, placements ... .)

I know of other serial fabric shoppers who drive around with their car trunks full of fabrics! This is a great question. Yes, duvet covers, slipcovers, pillow covers, bed shams, pot holders, tablecloths, what else you guys?

I am great at picking out nice furntiture and other home decor, but I am seriously lacking when it comes to the best way to arrange a room. I think part of the problem is that I am in a pre-war Manhattan apartment that has a quirky floorplan (like a round dining room). Another issue is that my apartment is large (especially for Manhattan) and my living room just doesn't feel "right". It's like I need one more piece of furniture or a different furniture arrangement but I just don't know where to start. Every time I have an idea there's a reason it won't work - like I don't have an outlet where I need it or there's a radiator where I think the bed would look the best. I rent so I'm not willing to pay for new outlets or major reconstruction.

Hmmm--wonder where you live. Sounds like my apartment on the Upper West Side. My best advice to you is to make sure you have one large piece of furniture to anchor the room (think: sofa, dining table, bed), one tall piece of furniture for each room (think: bookcase, dresser and mirror, or armoire) one pair of items per room (think: lamps, tables, and chairs) and then start filling in from there. In my book I layout some basic floor plans as well as tell you how to move things around according to basic decorating rules. One tip I have, is have a party! When you see how people interact in  your space you can figure out what works and what doesn't. Do people gravitate to one area? Do you have occaional tables in the right places for people to put there drinks?

Hello! I have a very small kitchen with grey-black granite counters, light maple cabinets and stainless appliances. There is no backsplash and the walls are currently beige. I would like to change the color and am thinking about sort of seaglass green colors, maybe adding a glass tile backsplash of a seaglass green color -- what do you think of that? then what for the walls? a similar green? a complementary blue? I like color. Thanks in advance!

I love your idea! Blues and greens are wonderful together and the seaglass idea is soothing and fun. Here are a few color ideas.  Bon Bon by Duron; Watercolor Blue by Benjamin Moore and Behr's Sea Cap.  By the way, check out www.pureseaglass.com to find out more about a wonderful book on seaglass photographed by local photographer Celia Pearson - i did an article on it a while back. The book has wonderful lore on seaglass and its origins and is fun to have at a beach house.

Can you use cork floors in a basement? I was in Home Depot the other day and they had a light, almost oyster-white, sample of cork flooring on display. The sign had a check by "basement," but I wonder if anyone here has used cork effectively on a below-ground-level (as opposed to a walk-out) basement.

This is a good question. Has anyone used cork down under?

Good morning. This question is for Elizabeth. My husband and I just bought a condo. It is in decent shape, but stuff needs to be done to pretty much every room in the house in order to make it how we want it. Where do we start? If we go room by room, what is the best starting place? We need help with the strategy. Thanks.

I found myself in a similar situation when my husband and I bought our first apartment. I choose to invest in the strucure first. If you need to redo walls, rewire, etc. then do it now. You will spend more money in the longrun  doing it room by room, plus it will be a total mess everytime you bring a contractor in. Decorating can be done in stages--that being said it is best to have a long-range plan. I like to start with window treatments and the biggest most imporatant piece of furniture in each room (think sofa, dining table, and bed). Then add as you have money and time.

Actually, I wrote my book to follow this philosophy--you see each step of the process. It is a decorating timeline....

Yes, and I've noticed with the concentrated ones if I use the amount suggested I get white streaks on my dark clothes. When I use less, that doesn't happen.

That's a reason not to use more for sure! By the way, I've tested the Method new squirt laundry detergent and I like the ease of use a lot. Method Free & Clear - 50 loads in one bottle. Check it out at www.methodlaundry.com

I painted my bedroom, foyer and basement all within the last 5 years and love the colors. During the recent storms I had ice dams and have water damage on all three levels. The drywall in torn out in spots in order to dry. My question is this: how difficult is it going to be to match the paint in these 3 rooms for the areas that are repaired and how far around the repair spots should I make sure they paint? And please let them take the industrial sized fans and dehumidifiers away today so I can sleep!!!!

You poor thing! I hope your insurance company is helping with the costs! Your painter should be able to match the colors exactly if you have the names written down (a great lesson here to all to keep a notebook with paint names and chips in it for every room of the house) You might have to do a whole wall where the damage was, but hopefully not the other three walls in the room to match.

I can't believe you have to ask this question! There are so many things: reusable grocery bags, reusable gift wrapping, seat covers, aprons, table runners, sewing machine covers, Kitchenaid mixer covers, curtains...and that's just the heavy-weight stuff. I imagine you're not talking about the lightweight cottons? Because I could keep going.

You're helped a lot.

Hi Elizabeth and Jura! We just bought a townhouse (!) with an openish floor plan. When you walk in the front door, you can see through the living room to the kitchen out to the deck. We also have an open stairwell to one side that leads upstairs and downstairs. How should we treat this space --  as one, as seperate, as together but distinct? What about wall colors? I'm usually fine with decorating rooms, but I'm worried each space will look great but disjointed when you look at it in its entirety.

I like to treat open floor plans with one universal color. Benjamin Moore's Early Morning Mist is a perfect neutral for such spaces. It allows you to have some flexibility because it is so adaptable to various color schemes. Keep a consistant look in the decor--you don't want the space to look like a bad furniture showroom!

I wouldn't invest ANY $$ in your jute rug from West Elm! I bought 3x5's for the area in front of my back door and in front of my kitchen sink (given high traffic areas). Both rugs pulled and frayed to the point of being destroyed. The company kindly sent me new rugs at no charge and eventually those rugs also fell apart. I really love the style of West Elm but as far as the jute rugs I'd stay away!

Well, maybe the earlier poster could get her rug replaced too! Wonder how old it is, always worth a try. I agree, it's probably not worth investing any money in them.

How do you change someone's decorating tastes? My husband would be happy if our house resembled the set from Golden Girls. I love him dearly, but he's a momma's boy...and seems to think everything in his mother's house is the epitome of good taste (and it might have been....in 1983). Should I slowly change out furniture when he's not around? Should I try to change his mother's taste with the hope this new outlook will trickle down to her son? Or should I just suck it up and be glad he enjoys to do the vast majority of the cooking, cleaning, and yardwork at home?

I love this question! Have you inherited your mother-in-law's pieces? You should be able to negotiate with your husband on keeping the public rooms of the house - living room and kitchen - more modern, while maybe let him have a den or home office or even a bedroom that's a little more old fashioned! If he is doing all the work in the house, you are indeed very lucky! Maybe you could interest him in shopping for new furniture so you could show him what is out there.

My entry is about 8" x 10' but it is all open. It has portals to the dining room, great room and stairs, with only one wall, which has doors to the coat closet and powder room and only about 18" of wall space. Besides a great rug, how can I define this area and make it a great entry for guests?

Paint is the first thing you want to do--or a texutred wallpaper? Maybe a grass cloth? You want to make the space warm, cozy and inviting. Also you have to have a great lantern or fixture. As for a rug, consider a indoor/outdoor style from Dash and Albert (www.dashandalbert.com). Not only are they stylish, but also durable! Just hose them off!

I have a SMALL bathroom with beige toilet, sink and jacuzzi tub. From left to right in the bathroom is the toilet, then the sink and then the tub/shower. The ceramic tile floors are a very soft peacy beige. Walls are white. What color can I paint the walls to make it look new and very nice? What colors would you recommend for shower curtain and towels? Thanks. Dawn

Let's see peachy beige floors, white walls. It does sound a bit dull. You might think about doing the walls in a cheerful coraly pink like Pratt & Lambert's Coral Pink. Or perhaps in a bright blue - what about Big Sur Blue by Ralph Lauren? I might be tempted to do a white shower curtain with a border in your paint color. And do towels in white with maybe blue or pink trim.

Question for Elizabeth: I just had the bedroom in my 100-year-old house repainted from a dark mauve to Behr's Rose Bisque. I have three separate windows on a bay wall and I am debating between a soft floral print and plain white sheers (the window already have lace blinds and the trim is stained, not painted). The room gets plenty of ight and I want to soften the color of the walls. The windows do not have a lot of wall space surrounding them, and I want to use drapery panels tied back.

I would go for the plain white sheers. They will be a better investment in the long-run. Use a floral pattern elsewhere--pillows, duvet, sheets--that way if you get sick of it you can replace it easily. Also it sounds like the windows are quite attractive--let them speak for themselves rather than hide them with a pattern

If you have a standard 8-foot high ceiling, should furniture be kept fairly low ... in other words no high back chairs or sofas? If so, is there a height limit?

You dont' want all of the furniture in your rooms to be low--no matter how low your ceilings are. Every room needs something tall to draw your eye up and around

For the person hanging pictures on the wall: you can practice arranging the pictures by laying them on the floor (i.e., pretend that the floor is the wall). I do this all the time, and it is a big help. also -- I just bought a fun piece of furniture and want to know what YOU would do with it. It is an old movie theater seat. Metal sides (which have working side lights so we won't trip in the dark!), orange seat which folds up when not in use. I think it will be fun (and funny -- the reactions, oh!). What kind of table goes with it? Should it be placed subtly among other pieces, or have a place of honor!

Thanks for the photo tip. I love your piece of movie history. It would be nice in a hallway or foyer, or you could use it as an accent piece in a living room or bedroom. I would not put it with a table - sounds like it is a standalone treasure.

Well, we've come to the end of our hour and it's been great having Elizabeth on and I'm looking forward to reading her transcript after the chat is over. I'm going to give the prize to the chatter who wrote in under the name Painted Ceiling Question. Elizabeth gave her great advice on when to paint ceilings and when not to, plus shared her favorite blue ceiling paint color. Would the person who wrote this question in email us at localliving@washpost.com with their name and address and we will mail off the Elizabeth's book Flip for Decorating - which is inscribed by the way. Elizabeth donated the book and again we say thanks to her for being on and good luck with Woman's Day. We'll be reading. Bye everyone.

To the person interested in glass tile and seaglass kitchen colors. I have the perfect backsplash tile for you (we are planning to use this in a bathroom rennovation). It's a medley of seaglass colors available at Amicus Green - called Reflections, color is clear medley, made by a company called Terra Green. It's just beautiful.


Looking for creative ways to decorate our guest room to entice my mother to come visit more (she hates the cold and not a fan of flying any more, so it's a struggle). If she had a TV and space heater she would be content - but I'd like her to visit more, and feel like the space is "hers". Any suggestions for decor, privacy? Thanks!

Please send in this question next week - it sounds exactly like my mom...

In This Chat
Elizabeth Mayhew
Elizabeth Mayhew is Editor-in-Chief of Woman's Day magazine and a contributing lifestyle editor for NBC's Today Show. She is the author of FLIP! For Decorating (Ballantine) and has worked for Real Simple, House Beautiful and Southern Living. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, she now lives in New York City with her husband and two children.
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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