Veranda editor-in-chief Dara Caponigro on stylish interiors | Home Front

Feb 07, 2013

Dara Caponigro, editor-in-chief of Veranda magazine, directs coverage of stylish interiors, new designers and innovative ideas for refined living. She chatted with readers about how to get a look of understated luxury.

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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Today I am excited to have Dara Caponigro, editor in chief of Veranda magazine, on the chat. Dara has had a distinguished career in the design world, having worked previously at Domino, Elle Decor and House Beautiful. Veranda just celebrated its 25th anniversary. Dara just returned from Maison et Objet in Paris a couple of weeks ago, so she can share with us the very latest trends she saw in Europe at the show and in the shops.  She has lots of ideas of how to add personality to a space. So let's get going!

I have two very beautiful Louis SVI chairs from the 1960's that have handmade tapestry coverings. They are still in very good condition but the chairs need re-webbing. I had them re-done some twenty years ago but cannot find an upholsterer today that is only willing or able to re-web from the bottom. Do you know of anyone willing to take on this job? With so many antique pieces in the area there should be someone. I do not want to change the fabric.

American Hardwoods in Silver Spring has been around a long time and they haved worked on many very distinguished pieces of furniture. I would give them a call. 301 588-0363.

Hello Dara, Can you please offer some suggestion on how I can make my Living Room / Dining Room looks more cohesive? At present, my Living Room has a chocolate color leather sofa against the wall, a wood cocktail table and two slipper chairs on the opposite side. The other side of the room is the Dining area. The Dining area compose of dark table / chairs and a dark red console against the wall. There is a persian rug with colors of light blue, creams, yellow, and sage (the dominant color in the rug is blue) under the table. The entire room is colored in light blue which I think makes the room look dark. The only means of light is a ceiling light. Can you offer some suggestions on paint color, arrangement, and possibly lighting to make the space spaceous and light? Thanks.

Hi, it's difficult to answer this one without seeing photos but, one thing stands out in your question:  if you're looking to make the room more cohesive, I would remove the rug under your dining table.  Having it there, creates a divide between the two sections of the room.  Also, I'd opt for a lighter wall color if the room seems dark, something that would complement your red console.  Thanks!

All the furniture I have is family hand-me-downs or Ikea chosen for practical reasons. I have about $1000 that I'd like to spend on a nice piece of furniture that I like. But I'm having trouble making a decision. I don't particularly like anything I have and could really replace anything. Do you have suggestions on how to decide where to start in buying nice furniture that I can keep for many years? Thank you!

This is music to my ears!  I am so glad you are thinking this way!  I always say, "buy less but buy better".  I would start with a good quality sofa that has a classic shape.  A Bridgewater sofa can go with lots of different styles, for example.  I'm afraid you might need to pay a little more than $1,000 for a good quality sofa but it sounds like you are on the right path.

Hi - I'm trying to find a nice green for a lake house that has a loft living room with exposed ceiling beams that is connected to the dining room, kitchen and entrance way (all currently basic beige). I was thinking sage green would be nice, but am having trouble finding the right shade as half the space is much darker than the rest. Do you have any recommendations to share?

Spanish Moss by Martha Stewart for Home Depot. Also Benjamin Moore SHerwood Green or Kittery Point Green.

I am tired of minimalism. Do you think it will ever end?

I do think there is a renewed interest in very decorated spaces.  Pattern is making a comeback, too.  Having said that, I do love that there is a lot of room for individuality in today's world so, if you're a minimalist, that's ok, too.

Why not try a used piece or two? With that cash in hand, you could probably hit the better consignment shops and do pretty well.

Great thought. It is amazing also what you can find at auction. Check out Weschler's, Sloans & Kenyon and Potomack Company among others.

In response to the question about the dark living room I would suggest a few well placed table lamps on the console or on end tables. There is nothing so unflattering to a room and its occupants than overhead lighting-especially when it is the only source of light.

Soooo true! I have overead lighting. Here's something I must confess. When I'm a guest at a friend's house, I sometimes sneak over to the dimmer switch and ratchet it down in the dining room just before we have dinner if I think the light is really too bright . Is this wrong? I really believe a dinner in blaring lights is just WRONG!

I am not familiar with your magazine. How would you describe it?

Veranda is a luxurious magazine that covers the worlds of decoration, entertaining, art, travel, jewelry and more.  It is stylish but also very sensuous and our goal is always to include beautifu interiors that are inspiring but also very livable.  

Good morning ladies!! I am looking for ideas for redecorating my teen-aged son's room. He's a minimalist when it comes to decor and has already dismantled his old furniture and carried it down to the basement! I bought him a full-sized bed and an unfinished dressser. He needs some organization, too. So far, he likes his wall color, Sherwin-Williams Tatami Tan. Any advice would be appreciated.

Sounds like you have a good start. And the paint color is very minimalist! What about using one of Pendleton's  National Parks blankets on the bed? The patterns are clean and classic yet woodsy. You might let him pick out one big piece for the wall, maybe a huge framed piece of black and white photography, or have a photo mural made of a photograph he has taken. Any other ideas from you parents with teens?

Jura, COMPLETELY agree with dimming that chandelier before dinner. Good for you for being a surreptitious softener of those bright lights!

Dying to know what you just saw in Paris? What are the trends?

There were so many great things!  Understated Opulence was a big theme.  Grand things were taken down a notch.  For example, there was a drop dead gorgeous damask by a company called Lelievre.  What made it special was that it was woven in linen instead of in silk.  

Also,  a lot of companies were using old techniques to make modern objects.  For example, there was a pottery company that was making Basque pottery in clean forms with fresh colored glazes.

Neon cut with neutrals was another one and there was an emphasis on beautiful everyday objects like brooms and waste bins.


We have new sliding glass doors in our family room. There is very little wall space on either side (virtually none on the latch side). What would you suggest for drapes/curtins/blinds? They open up to a screened porch so privacy isn't a big issue. Colors are a beige/gray on walls, a cream sofa, 2 brown leather chairs and an area rug with a wine background. Thanks.

If privacy isn't an issue, I would leave them bare.  If you must have something, I would do a blind, outside mount running the length of the doors.  Hang it at least 8" above the top of the door. 

Good Morning: I have a question concerning area rugs. Our home was built in 1917 and the living room has a fireplace on one wall and a rather large opening to the foyer on the opposite wall. We've made the fireplace the focal point, with a sofa and lounge chairs opposite one another. How an area rug should be placed in this arrangement? Thanks.

I would try to find an area rug that is big enough so that your sofa and chairs fit on it.  I would run the rug so that the long part is parallel to the fireplace.  Hope this makes sense?

Hi: I'm looking for a nice, airy, creamy color for our master bedroom... any favorites you can suggest? Thanks you.

House White by Farrow & Ball or Ivory White by Benjamin Moore.

I'm always inspired by the mix of patterns in the designs featured in Veranda. What is your favorite fabric pattern, Dara?

There are so many patterns that I love that it is hard to pick a favorite.  At Veranda, we have gone into the archives of some of the venerable fabric companies and helped reintroduce some very classic patterns.  We did a floral chintz with Cowtan and Tout, a chinoiserie with Brunschwig and Fils, a trellis pattern with Sanderson and a toile with Schumacher.  I love them all for different reasons.   I'm also a fan of animal prints.  

Hi there, I am painting a northern facing bedroom and I'd like a soft green, but it can't tend towards blue or grey. Yellowed green paint chips, in mid-tones,such as BM's Dill Pickle seem to work best, but I worry that such a vibrant color might be a bit much for a bedroom. Any favorite warm greens for a bedroom?

Palladian Blue by Benamin Moore is worth a look. Also Colony Green by Benjamin Moore or Artichoke Heart by Martha Stewart for Home Depot. What about Farrow & Ball's Vert de Terre, a favorite of Charlotte Moss.

Our boys are starting school soon and will need a place to do homework. Our living room is really the only space with room, do you have any suggestions on how to make things look cohesive and deliberate rather than slapped together and jumbled? Thanks.

The most important thing to do is provide storage for putting things away when homeworks is done.  Baskets are always nice.  We have a story coming out by designer, James Huniford.  In the living room, he placed one long table against the wall and added multiple chairs so the children can sit next to each other to do their homework.  He had shelves made above the table and fitted them with baskets for notebooks, markers, etc.  The solution was really practical but also stylish.

Hello, my name is Sappho and I'm a bit obsessed with Downton Abbey. I just love the look of the interiors on the show. Clearly, I don't live in an English manor house and I don't really want the full-blown Edwardian look, but I would love to be able to include some similar decorative elements in my home. I started with putting some tulips in a crystal vase, which looks lovely. Any thoughts on this?

Downtown Abbey is so inspiring!  Don't you love the fashion, too?  I would go to as many tag sales and fleamarkets as possible.  Crystal, silver, beautiful dishes, worn rugs are all things to look for.   Buy things slowly and you will have a wonderful array of collected things.

Any tips on making a generic, brand new cookie cutter home reflect some personality if I'm on a limited budget. It's a traditional style, but with fairly open spaces. All beige walls. All beige carpets, which I'd like to replace with hardwood floors, at least on the 1st level. Other than the floors, I don't know where to focus.

Good for you for wanting to shake things up  a bit. Beige is a good starting point for any kind of color you want to add. Choose a couple of accent colors and try to bring one of them into each space on the main level. Hardwood floors are nice and are a great investment, although pricey. You don't mention what kind of furniture you have. Try and mix old and new pieces - go to some flea markets or consignment shops or add some family pieces. Blow up and frame some favorite photos in similar frames and make a grouping. Invest in some artwork. Make your statement in pillows, lamps and stacks of books.

My living room sofa sits under a wide window and on either side I have circa 1997 IKEA units that have black tubular sides, light pine shelves and a closed cupboard at the bottom (you may recall Ross having the same thing in his apt. on Friends). I'd like to replace these, but with what? They are practical in that they have open shelving, which is airier than a bookcase, as well as doors to cover the storage area on the bottom. But do I need matching units on either side? Would it look unbalanced to have a unit (etagere? barrister bookcase? other?) on only one side of the sofa?

Is there a solid wall where you can put a bookcase and then put end tables and lamps on either side of the sofa?  

We need to repair an existing vaulted ceiling in the living room of our beach home. The house is a year-round house and not really a "cottage" style. The ceiling as it is now is tongue and groove and is sort of a pickled stain on the natural wood and the beams are dark brown. As part of the repair I was thinking that it would look more up to date if it were painted white, both the paneling and the beams. What do you think?

I think that sounds nice!

First, let me say that I love the idea of minimalism, and will continue even if the "trend" dies. Second and more importantly, I think the trend won't die down until the economy improves. When you're on a tight budget, you can only afford the essentials, or maybe even less. Having only the essentials and paying less attention to consumerism is the hallmark of minimalism. Third, if you hate minimalism, don't do it! There is plenty of room for expressing your personal style no matter what trends are "in" right now. :-)

Thanks for this!

My house was built in the mid-1980s, and the family room has dark beams that outline the walls and different faces of the cathedral ceiling. The walls and ceiling are painted white. I would like to re-paint using a neutral color and would like advice on what to do about the beams. Should I remove them altogether or try to paint them? Should the cathedral ceiling be painted the same color as the walls or left white (as I've done in rooms with regular ceilings?).

I don't think you should remove the beams.  Don't they give the space character?  Maybe paint them a color that complements the walls and ceiling.  If you are keeping and painting the beams, I'd suggest painting the walls and ceiling the same color.

Please help me, I am a sad case. The following is all true, and I'm grateful for the anonymity of this forum so I can be honest. I have almost no furniture in my living room -- just a decent quality rocking chair and a 25+ year-old couch which was used when I bought it 15+ years ago; the slipcover is fairly new but the couch is old and has to go. I have a few lamps and some bookshelves for my books. While I am good at imagining what I'd like my living room to look like, I have a very hard time figuring out how to buy pieces that would fit together. For example, I know that lamp height is important; the sizes and proportions of furniture items (side tables, arm chairs) relative to each other are also important. But when I try to buy furniture I get overwhelmed. So that results in my apartment looking like someone either just moved in or is just moving out. Can you direct me to a website or a book that spells out - in easy to follow, specific steps, not in vague terms - how one can go about making a vision into reality? An example of vague and unhelpful guidance is stuff like "just add some color to perk up your room" or "an accent piece is essential!"

I co-authored the Domino Book of Decorating.  I'm quite proud of it because it is both inspiring but gives good practical advice

I have a collection of Belgian chocolate molds that I'd love to display, but they're pretty heavy and I'm afraid to hang them on the wall. My one idea is to mount a couple of decorative shelves (that would have a lip) and just sort of lean them against the wall. Think that would work?

Assuming they have beautiful shapes, it sounds like they would be more dramatic hanging on the wall.  It might be worth getting a licensed handyman in to take a look

Hi, I am renovating a master bathroom. I am thinking about using a combo of carrara marble and white ceramic subway tile. Is marble a foreign product? Can I find American marble??

To my knowledge, there is no American marble.  Sounds like a great combination!

Hello. I have a ceiling fan in a small (11x14 ft) room that I am using as a guest bedroom and home office. I hate the dark fan because it's so modern and massive, and the rest of the room is light, comfy and casual. What would you recommend I use to replace the fan?? A link or name of a specific fixture would be great!

If the ceilings are around 8' tall,  look for a flush mount fixture.  If they are higher, you can get a more decorative chandelier.  Your instincts sound right about getting rid of the ceiling fan.

So many great questions and sorry we didn't get to all of them. Dara - thank you so much for being with us today and sharing your ideas. It was a pleasure. Also I want to take this opportunity to thank Megan Buerger, who was the producer of this chat for several years and has moved to a new job in New York . She was superb and I am really going to miss her. Meanwhile, I am excited to have Kendra Nichols as the producer in the interim. So keep those questions coming in. Next week: Designer Annie Elliott of Bossy Color is our guest.

In This Chat
Dara Caponigro
Dara Caponigro is editor-in-chief of Veranda magazine, directing coverage of stylish interiors, new designers and innovative ideas for refined living. Her editing credits also include stints at Domino, Elle Decor and House Beautiful.
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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