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Sara Peterson on interior design | Home Front

Feb 06, 2014

Sara Peterson is the editor in chief of HGTV Magazine. Sara has spent her whole career working in magazines. For her first job, she was hired as a staff writer for D Magazine in Dallas. Then she moved to New York City, where she worked as the lifestyle editor at Redbook and a senior editor at Family Life. After seven years in New York, Sara made the move to Birmingham, Ala., to become the homes editor of Southern Living and eventually the editor of Coastal Living.

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.

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Sara Peterson is the editor in chief of HGTV Magazine and is very plugged into the world of decorating and design. She can talk about all your favorite decorating topics as well as the HGTV lineup. Sarah has also worked at  Southern Living and Coastal Living . I am excited to have her on the chat. Lets get going.

Hi everyone! I'm excited to be chatting with you today. I look forward to hearing all your home questions

Hi! We live in a two bedroom rowhouse on Capitol Hill, so space is at a premium. In the coming months, we will have to transform our office/2nd BR into a nursery for our triplets (!!), and move the office into the main BR, where space is tight as it is. What suggestions might you have, or what sites might you recommend we visit, to get ideas about maximizing space in our little home? Also, do you have favorite stores/sites for nursery furniture? I'm tempted to go with the $99 cribs at IKEA (though I've fallen in love with one for $1,400 from Land of Nod), because $99 x 3 is a lot easier to handle than $1,400 x 3, plus everything else we'll need to buy!

First of all: congrats on having triplets! I love the Land of Nod stores/catalogs and Pottery Barn kids too. The more dual purpose furniture you can find the better, such as dressers that are also changing tables, etc. 

I have 20 ft ceilings in my living room and tons of light. Colors of furniture are neutral light and med browns and some blue for color. I'm looking for a light gray for the living room and entry way. What do you suggest?

Check out White Duck from HGTV HOME by Sherwin Williams -- it's a very pale gray, super pretty 

I love the shows on HGTV. How do you work with the designers on the shows to put out your magazine?

We love the shows too! We are always calling the designers (and sometimes they stop by the office) to talk about story ideas and decorating ideas. For example, we're working on a living room makeover story in which 3 designers work together to choose all the furniture and paint colors. The designers are constantly working with our editors to produce stories

I have a bathroom that is attached to a bedroom that is painted a light pumpkiny orange. When I painted the bedroom, the decorator said not to paint the bathroom that color (because it would make you look funny when you put on makeup? not sure). Are there colors you should not paint a bathroom for that reason? What colors would you suggest? The bathroom has white tile, no window, average size. thanks.

Good question! I think the decorator was right -- pumpkin orange would not be flattering in a bath. Lighter colors, even pink and peach are great options because they flatter your skin

Good morning ladies. The time has come - and I have some nice things that I want to sell. Is there a service where someone will come to your house and buy them? It isn't run of the mill yard sale type stuff, but isn't antiques either. Assorted china, Waterford crystal, maybe some jewelry. That sort of thing.

You might think of auctioning off some of your things so you might contact an auction house. You also might try a company such as Items of Value Inc. in Virginia. (,  they do appraisals, estate sales and online sales. You could contact a consignment shop in your area. If you post the items on craigslist, you could sell them directly from your house.

First question: We recently replaced a 2-1/2' x 8' island with an asymmetrical island with a beautiful piece of granite (lots of color, lots of movement). The island at its largest is 8-1/2' x 4-1/2'. Huge and beautiful, but now the expanse of granite seems to call for something to break it up--art piece, pottery, plants. Would love to have some suggestions. I don't really know where to start or what I should be looking for. Second question: Would love some recommendations on where to buy counter stools!

We often get this question because we photograph a lot of kitchens. Big islands call for big things on them, such as large bowls or trays, and we also love tiered fruit and cake stands. Look for tabletop items with height 

Counter stools = try Ballard Designs and IKEA

Hi Sara! I hope you can help me with some ideas for window coverings. I have a wall of windows in the breakfast area that is part of my kitchen, and the kitchen has a large window over the sink. There are also French doors in this combined area, with a transom window. So, a lot of windows. Are there any new ideas for window coverings that could be adjusted to let the light in during the day, but which could also be adjusted to ensure privacy at night or when we are away on travel. Right now I have a lot of wooden blinds. Thanks!

Have you seen the window shades that can be adjusted from the top and the bottom of the shade? We're seeing more and more of these -- and they're fun because they can be custom sized to any window. Check out Smith and Noble and to see some design options

I am really tired of sisal and seagrass. Do you have any ideas for some fresh looks in the rug department that aren't too expensive but wear well?

I hear you! I had seagrass for a long time and got tired of it too (plus it can be scratchy under your feet) 

There are SO MANY great flat weave cotton rugs out there that are easy to clean and have great colors and patterns. And more than ever, indoor/outdoor rugs are being used indoors. They are softer now than they used to be. Check out and and

Hi Sara, I am interested in painting my living room/ dining room including all the trims. Can you please suggest a neutral color for walls and trim that would make my northern exposture room feel brighter? Thanks.

I love white chocolate (benjamin moore) for walls and trim (If you're doing walls and trim the same color, do a glossier finish on your trim = really pretty)

other great neutrals for walls: Maison Blanche (from HGTV HOME Sherwin Williams) What a pretty name right?! 

After spending many thousands of dollars with an architect drawing up plans to expand our house only to find out it's not feasible, we would like to work with what we have and redo the less wonderful aspects of our home (namely kitchen gut and redo and master bath gut and expansion). What is the most economical way to go about designing this to maximize space? We are tapped and can't think of going back to the architect. Do kitchen and bath showrooms offer design services? If so, can you recommend one local to Arlington, VA? Other thoughts? Many thanks from a person not realizing how expensive it all can be!

yes, often kitchen and bath showrooms offer design services -- so I would definitely try to take advantage of those and get ideas from the pros in those places

Places like Home Depot and Lowes can help too. 

What do you think of the Pantone color of the year Radiant Orchid? I think it's a hard color to use except in small doses.

agree! I love the color but it's very rich so it would look great in small doses or I think it would look stunning in a small room like a guest bath or in a dining room that you don't use every day and want to go for drama

I was interested to see your article on bringing the natural world indoors. I've always had a couple of large conch shells, a birch bark basket full of stones and shells, and a glass bowl filled with sand dollars from various trips to the beach. Also, I have a pile of deer antlers by my front door (the squirrels nibble on them). I'm not sure I'd want the big game heads in my living room, but bringing the outdoors inside is a nice touch.

I always love the look of putting large shells on display on bookshelves, like on top of a stack of books. Or on trays on coffee tables 

You're lucky -- sounds like you have a lot of great accessories to work with :)

Do you think subway tile is overused these days? What other tile shapes do you think are classic?

penny tile is classic and so pretty 

I just read the piece in today's Home & Garden about using things from nature. It reminded me that I have 2 things (basically the same) in my basement. I not only have 2 tortoise shells, I have the whole turtles. What to do with 2 whole turtles? One is from the Pacific near Okinawa and the other I think came from somewhere near Panama. We lived in Okinawa all my growing up years and then my dad did some work with Panama so I guess you could say there is some family history there. He's not around to ask the questions, so they just sit. I'm not sure how I feel about having these former live creatures in my home. It's just kind of strange and maybe even wrong. What should I do with them? I would appreciate any suggestions. Thank you -- read your Q&As every week and thoroughly enjoy!!

I can understand not wanting to get rid of anything that has family history so I'd say just don't go overboard putting too many on display in one place/room. Scatter them around your house. What if you put one on display on wall surrounded by pictures of your dad and maybe some photos of Okinawa to make a sentimental gallery wall. I think that would be sweet

I bought my house 4 years ago and every room had crown molding - something I really like. However, I'm noticing it's starting to seperate from the ceiling. I am not sure how to get it back up. I'm going to be listing my house to sell next month and this is something the realtor said to fix. How do I get the crown molding back up and make it look like it's not seperating from the ceiling?

I had this problem too in my old house that was a 1930s bungalow. It has to do with the foundation settling so best to call a contractor to get his/her professional opinion on what to do. Good luck!

Molding is such a great feature in a house, hope you can repair it

Do you have any ideas on how to replace those dreadful vertical blinds that many rentals come with?

Gosh, they're so hard to clean too! 

Unless you really need them for privacy, I'd take them down or if you can push them all to one side, then you could camouflage them with curtain panels -- I love west elm for finding inexpensive panels

Hi, Our master bathroom will be renovated in May. Our contractor will be removing the old Jacuzzi tub and putting in a new bathtub. I see my choices are cast iron or even composite bathtubs. What is your preference and why?

I like the look of both -- especially cast iron in older homes -- but if you don't necessarily want to go for a vintage look, I'd go with composite. They seem easier to keep clean and they come in lots of different styles, from classic to modern. More options

Any colors you're seeing a lot of, or readers seem to be a fan of? I really love "summery" colors but it feels strange to seek them out for pillows, accessories or paint in the middle of winter.

I love talking pillows! At the magazine we're always talking about simple seasonal switches you can do around your house. We like richer/warmer colors in the fall (like persimmony orange, deep red, emerald green) and in the summer using brighter, more poppy colors like lemony yellows, teal/turquoise. Also, purples are really popular now. Richer eggplant colors in winter/fall and lighter lavender tones in the spring/summer

Can you tell us about any new shows that are coming up on HGTV?

I'm especially excited for the new season of Brother vs. Brother with Property Brothers Drew and Jonathan Scott. It starts in June -- and we have a GREAT story with them in the April issue of the magazine -- out on newsstands March 12 

What color would you recommend for the walls in my living room if i have gray couches? I know the possibilities are endless, and I'm afraid to commit.

With gray, I love pale blue or you could do a light blue with some gray tones in it. If you want something brighter, soft yellow always looks nice with gray. You could add some teal and dark blue pillows on your couches. That would look stunning and sophisticated 

I'd go with the $99 Ikea cribs. The convertible crib we bought for $600 seemed like a good idea, but didn't transition to a bed that made sense for our daughter when she turned 2. Same with the changing table/filing cabinet. We paid a ton for it because it converted, but then we didn't need the filing cabinet when the diaper changing phase was over. We've started buying things that we can use for dual purposes NOW, but have stopped buying things that convert into things we think we will want in two years.

Interesting observations. Thanks for sharing this.

I live in a studio. What can I use to separate my bed area from my living area that isn't too bulky or obvious?

How about a tall open shelf of cubbies? Check out the Expedit units from IKEA. It's a great room divider and you can fill it with books, small artwork on stands, baskets and colorful canvas bins. That way when filled it looks solid but your place will still feel open

We are just starting to work with a designer. The first in-person meeting was last week and it seemed to go well. Any tips on having a good relationship (and good result!) going forward? What do you like clients to do/not do?

I'm glad to hear it went well. If you haven't already, I'd suggest putting together a file of pictures from magazines  -- like HGTV Magazine :) -- of rooms and colors and looks you love. It's always easier to talk about decorating when you have pictures you can look at together. And/or start a Pinterest board of looks you'd like in your own home and invite the designer to look at your picks. Good luck! 

Any chance HGTV will be putting the G back in HGTV? With gardening surging in popularity over the last several years, I have never been able to understand the lack of gardening programming. And more Sara Richardson will never hurt. thanks!

We love Sarah Richardson too! We've featured her several times in the magazine. She has fantastic style and always has fresh ideas. I can only speak about the magazine -- we have a section called "In the Yard" where we feature stories on outdoor living, gardening, and curb appeal. Everybody love to talk curb appeal! And we know how important it is (and how much work it can be) to keep your yard looking good. We have a fun story in our March issue (on newsstands next week) about how to identify all kinds of different plant problems. It's an easy flow chart to follow, filled with a lot of great information from gardening experts. 

Great to have you on the chat. Thanks for answering so many questions. Next week: we have John Gidding the Host of HGTV's Curb Appeal, who will be appearing at the Capital Home & Garden Show on Feb 21-23 at Dulles Expo Center. Thanks again, Sara!

Thanks for all the questions! I had fun hearing from all of you and I hope I've been helpful. Best of luck with all your decorating and gardening projects!

In This Chat
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.

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Sara Peterson
Sara Peterson is the editor in chief of HGTV Magazine. Sara has spent her whole career working in magazines. For her first job, she was hired as a staff writer for D Magazine in Dallas. Then she moved to New York City, where she worked as the lifestyle editor at Redbook and a senior editor at Family Life. After seven years in New York, Sara made the move to Birmingham, Ala., to become the homes editor of Southern Living and eventually the editor of Coastal Living.
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