Home Front: Design advice from Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza

Feb 10, 2011

Caroline Verschoor, owner of Ekster Antiques in Hamilton, chatted with Washington Post Local Living section writers Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza. Together, they gave advice on interior decorating and home improvement.

Hi, folks. Welcome to our chat this morning. In addition to all things home-related, today we're talking about barn sales.  Upscale tag-sales that take place in barns around the area. And we're happy to have Caroline Verschoor of Ekster Antiques as our guest today. Caroline sells old and new mostly European furniture and accessories out of her family's barn outside of Leesburg.  Check out today's Local Living cover story for all the info and lots of pictures what you can find at the barns sales.

Lots of questions today, so let's get started.

I'm moving from a basement apartment to a rowhouse in the coming weeks - going from 7' ceilings and little natural light to 13' and all day direct sun! The walls are a sunny pale yellow with white trim, which I like. I was thinking of putting prints (my own pictures and others) in black and white frames around the living spaces. Would you recommend a collection of smaller  pieces, or going oversized? Any other suggestions? I'm still trying to wrap my head around the space!

Hi there.  I think what you have on your hands is a "Happy Problem", the change may seem overwhelming to you now,  but more light and taller ceilings is what everyone wants!  Go for bigger statement furniture as you can afford.  Take it one piece at a time, and go for 'height' by putting things on top of cabinets, so it takes your eye up.  As for you walls:  GROUP your pictures, I would not disperse them throughout the house, you lose out on 'wow factor' by doing so.  My advice (seriously) check out the Pottery Barn catalog and learn from the pictures, how they accesorize; it's pretty brilliant and it's free!  Good luck.

Hey Caroline! I've perused your website and LOVE your style. I truly admire what you've accomplished after going through such a devastating tragedy. My question is: how do I get my husband on board with this rustic, vintage-chic style of decor? I think he is beginning to see how home-y and inviting it is, but still finds it a little too fab or dainty for a place he also calls home... how should I show him the light?

How sweet of you.  Thank you.  Well, for starters make any changes "the morning after', just kidding.  You know, I think the current trend is far LESS feminine than we saw a few years back with the Shabby Chic movement (now that WOULD be scary to a lot of guys).  Show him the book, The New Traditional by Darryl Carter.  A wonderful inspirational book, showing the beauty in simplicity.  Then accesorize with pieces you both like, like old books (quite masculine to display with) or glassware and art.  Certainly also tear out magazine pages that YOU like, share them with him and see what your/his likes and dislikes are and where you can compromise.  Bonne chance!

Caroline & Terri: I loved the article on barn sales! As someone who has never been to one, I'm intrigued by the idea of developing home decor that is not cookie-cutter. However, I also don't want my house to look like a flea market. Any tips for strinking a balance?

Good point!  I am the same way!  I've learned to keep my most used items 'new' such as dining room chairs, kitchen (dining) table, lamps etc.  Then I "throw" in old stuff, such as my coffee table, which is an old cut-down kitchen table, 'cut to size' (see a picture in the new book Prairie Style) and take it from there.  I think it is all in the blend.  Also, don't put your 'old finds' spread all over the room, this makes it look cluttered.  If you like old Trophies, for instance, buy 3 or 4 good ones, and display them together. Thus it ends up looking like artwork.  :-)

I love a few vintage pieces in a home, but typically find myself buying them from mainstream stores like Anthropologie. This feels like a cop out, but quality flea markets are hard to come by, and usually a roll of the dice. Are there any stores that you'd recommend digging around in to give my home an unusual look - without it looking cheap or too commercial?

Yes, flea markets are hard work and can be depressing. I think that is were funky antiques stores come in, though, they have done a lot of editing for you.  I think if you check these businesses' websites you can weed through the ones you like/dislike and pay a visit to those that you feel have your look in mind.  And again, browse the magazines and tear out the pages that inspire you the most....

In the attic of the 1920 cottage I purchased I found an old wood chest of drawers. The top has several hardened spots of candle wax. How do I remove them?

Move the piece of furniture near an electrical outlet. Plug in your iron, lay paper towels on the dried wax, set moderately hot iron on wax and let it melt into the paper.  Keep going until it is all gone.  Don't scrape with any metal objects as this will just scratch your piece.  Trust me, as a candle lover,  I use this method all the time and it works! :-)

What is the best way to go about liquidating an estate full of antiques? We've had no bites on anyone wanting to buy them and they're not junk - just lots of furniture, china, piano, etc. from the death of a parent, all from late 1800's to mid 1900's & in good condition. Has the economy tanked so much that no one wants a great deal? Too much for eBay, no bites on Craigslist worth mentioning and no estate agent showed up to look after setting appointments to see the items. We are in MD & at a loss since the house will sell shortly. Please help! thanks!

Hi, calling antiques' stores some times is an option.  Especially when they are multi-dealer shops.  Dealers are always looking for inventory and the bigger the store the better your chances of selling this as a 'lot'.  There are quite a few auction houses in the area.  HASH auction in Berryville or Headleys in the same town take consignments or go online for others.  Good luck. :-)

I have several rather heavy antique platters that I would like to hang in my diningroom. Do you know a source of heavy-duty hangers that will support them without damaging the edges? The spring-loaded ones I see seem so flimsy. Thanks!

This is a good question. We have always purchased ours either at Strosnider's or Bruce Variety in Bethesda. Does anyone else out there have an alternative source?

I'm looking for candles that have a cinnamon and chai scent to them. I've looked everywhere! Similar candles were once sold by Target, but they no longer carry them as they were seasonal. Where do you find has the best assortments and quality of candles?

I just did a quick search on Google for "cinnamon chai candles" and got lots of hits.

How long should couch cushions retain their firmness? I had the seating cushions (2 cushions) redone after about five years and they only lasted two. I live alone so most of the sitting is just me, but I often have guests. I had asked that they be very firm, because I have a bad back, and they were at first, but it cost about $500 and I feel they should have lasted longer.

Hi, check in with a local upholstery company and see if the pillows can be 'firmed up' somehow.  Perhaps they can add more foam or stuffing.  It sounds like you already had them done once, so maybe go back to that same company?  Also, placing a thin wooden board between the webbing and the cusions might help solve the problem.

I am new to the area and am looking for modern clean-lined furniture at a moderate price. Style similar to Roche Boise but less expensive; or West Elm but better quality materials.

The word " moderate" has a wide range of meanings. But places I would suggest are Room & Board, Bo Concept, Vastu and Arhaus. Even Ethan Allen has modern things.

Hi ladies, love the chat. We're expecting baby number 2, and will have to transform our 3rd (and last) bedroom into a nursery which will displace our guest space. So, we're looking for a comfortable solution for our finished basement for guests. We've been thinking about a murphy bed but have been shocked at their price! Any ideas for cost effective ways of doing this - we're both handy. Or perhaps other solutions we're not thinking about? Space and money are tight. Thanks!

How about a 'french'-style daybed with a nice firm futon-style seat, which you can transform into a bed for when guests come.... IKEA actually has some great affordable options.  I share your pain though, I just gave up our only guest room for eldest daughter and I have --thankfully-- not have guests yet! ;-)

We have several antique lamps that are used everyday. We use the 75-watt version which will be phased out in 2013. The shade that won't fit over this new type of bulb.  Do we get these lamps rewired or stock up on 75 watt bulbs ? Thank you for your advice!

Well, I guess many of us will be dealing with this issue. You have several choices. Get new lampshades custom made. Get new lamps. Or yes, stock up on the discontinued model bulbs.

We recently completed a kitchen addition and I'm stumped as to how to dress the windows. We have two sets of windows and a pair of French doors which face our backyard. I would like a privacy option, particularly for the doors which face a neighbor's back porch, but still want to be able to enjoy our backyard landscape. Would it be strange to have a different style window treatment for the French doors and the regular windows? The windows are side-by-side double hungs with little to no space in the frame to mount hardware.

You know, we had the same issue in our kitchen addition, total privacy in the back, so did not need any shades (and to be honest I am NOT a fan of any kind of window treatment)  but we needed to 'shade' ourselves from the fierce sunlight that we get there.  So, we just bought these VERY SIMPLE white roman shades from IKEA, inexpensive, work like a charm, are totally unobtrusive when not in use and a bargain at that.  So that's what I'd suggest.  Oh, and when 'down' these shades let in a beautiful filtered light, so they are not 'depressing'.

My 5 year old daughter has requested a pink room (currently it is BM Kittery Point green). We want something she can grow up with. I've been looking at BM's Pink Pearl. Any thoughts? Also, we have a small home and at one point making the house feel like a beach cottage seemed like a great idea but I've come to like the colors less and less.  If we do my daughter's room in pink we'll be overwhelmed by pastels. How can we tone everything down without losing a beach feel?

Hmmm...not sure I like the red undertones in Pink Pearl.  Instead of going super light and soft (which can sometimes read as very little girlish), how about going a little bolder with a coral-pink similar to the currently popular Honeysuckle pink by Pantone? You could pair it with white and maybe light yellows while she's little, then accessorize with turquoise or brown or even orange or blue as she gets older. Serena & Lily (www.serenaandlily.com) does a great job using this color in young girl's rooms. Paint colors to consider: Cactus Flower and Potpourri by Ben Moore and Duron's Grenadine and Amaryllis.

I'm interested in buying an old piece of furniture advertised on Craigslist. It's very pretty and will be functional for my home. How do I value this piece? I have no idea much I should pay for it.

Well if you think it's pretty and functional, it should be worth the $$$.  Unless you are buying as an investment, I would not look at it that way.  Place the value rather on what you consider it to be worth.  I buy 'junk' all the time, but by seeing its value in a different light, I think its worth is 'whatever it is in the eye of the beholder'

Our main bathroom is UGLY! We've put up with it for 15 years because the house needed so many other updates that were more visible. Now, I need some easy and inexpensive ideas for this disaster. The tiles are 50's pink with gray borders and the counter top is maroon. Bathtub, sinks and comode are pink and the tub has a sliding doors rather than a curtain. The walls are currently papered and that's gotta go. Any suggestions for paint colors that might work with the gray/pink/maroon mess that I have and make it a little more livable after I get the paper off? Any other brilliant thoughts on updating it?

Oh boy. You DO have a challenge!!! I have seen many of these bathrooms circa 1930s and 1940s in my neighborhood. Luckily, I got black and white tiles in my 1937 bathroom, which is still pretty much in its original form. My advice is GET RID OF THE WALLPAPER as soon as you can. I think you should cut your losses and paint the walls a glossy white. Pink , gray and maroon are enough color going on. Get some nice crisp white shutters for the bathroom or plain white wood blinds. Invest in some great looking thick towels, like the ones at Restoration Hardware, in either burgundy or gray and get a matching bathroom rug. Pray you win the lottery so you can demolish the whole thing and start fresh sometime in your lifetime.

Hi Everyone! Love the article today! I love the Swedish style but how do you avoid looking too monochromatic?

I think splashes of fresh green combine well with the Swedish Style or some beautiful old reds.  One of the reasons why this style is so 'easy on the eyes' is because of its neutrality though.  Look into the more modern trends coming out of Scandinavia too, loads of beautiful glassware in vibrant colors, shiny silver, lamps etc.  There is so much out there not to have to have a 'boring' scene in your home.  Good luck with it.

Many environmental groups advise against burning them, as they emit toxins into the air. Soy-based or beeswax candles are usually suggested.

Totally with you on that one, they give me headaches instantly.  In Northern Europe scented candles are rare.  I love the way stearine candles smell versus parafin ones.  IKEA sells affordable ones.  Ikea needs to hire me.  :-))

I'm amazed at your ability to pick beautiful paint colors off the top of your heads! My next project is to paint the master bedroom. All of the furniture is espresso colored wood, the curtain panels are cream, the rug under the bed is muted dark greens/browns, and our bedding has a mix of dark brown, taupe, mixed greens and muted blues. It's a little all over the place, and more than a little forest-y. What color do I paint the walls?

Hard to day without seeing the space, but from what you've said here, I think I would lean toward a pale green to lighten all the dark colors you have. A pale green would also look nice and soft against the cream curtain panels. I would take a look at Fresh Dew, Sweet Caroline and Calming Aloe from Benjamin Moore; Honeydew and Sprout bu Duron and Seedling, Mineral and Cucumber from C2.

We moved into our new home this summer and repainted the children's rooms with flat latex paint. My husband reads bedtime stories with the kids & rests his head against the wall... There are now oil marks on the paint from having his head there! I've tried mild soap and water, but that just seems to remove the paint. Is there anything to be done? How should we prime this when it is time to repaint? What will be the best paint for the future to prevent this from happening again?!

I think using semi-gloss would help - as would getting some sort of metal or wood headboard! If you lightly sand the oily spot and prime it it should be fine.

I'd like to paint my old Duncan Phyfe china cabinet a creamy color and gather some kind of muslin inside the glass windows (I'm no good at displaying things!) How would I do this? Velcro or some kind of rod?

In older Dutch displays I often found thin rods, and pieces of vintage linen panels, which had a top and bottom 'tunnel' sewn into them, and by using a slightly larger panel than their rod, they would create an almost ruched effect.  This is optional of course.  So I like this idea.  Another one would be to use sandplasted glass panels.  I see this a lot in Holland these days, where streets are crowded and to block strangers from looking into homes, the bottom half of their windows are sandblasted, so you cannot look in! :-) Ingenious Dutch!

My hubby and I just bought our first house last month. On the front of the house (it's a split level) there's NO house numbers. We can't figure out where to put the house number on the actual house - we could drill into the sidding above the front door (bad idea right?) or above the garage but it's since it's split level there's living space above the garage and it's brick. The door frame by the front door is a little "ornate" so I don't want to ruin it but I noticed this is the only house without a house number except for the mailbox at the end of the driveway. What do you suggest?

You can drill screws into brick, so hanging numbers above the garage would work. But it's better to have the numbers close to the front door where there is also a light so people can read the numbers at night. 

Thanks for the thought, where would I get such a thing? Also - how long show they last when you have them redone? I don't want to go back to the same place because I think they should have lasted longer.

For a thin board, Home Depot is your best bet, plus they cut to measure on site, so come prepared with exact dimensions.  As for upholstery, I have a person I work with, so if you run into walls, contact me by email. And you're right, maybe not go back to the one you used previously, unless they are willing to 'fix the mistake' at no charge.

I think a lot of cool "found" objects can bridge the shabby chic style for guys: macho stuff like old tools, using an old shop table for a coffee table, old metal product signs.

Those are great observations.

It seems as if replacing the maroon countertops would open up more possibilities...(been there,done that); perhaps a nice granite-gray.. We even painted a very ugly laminate once and it's still OK 12 years later.

Yes. Good point if the money is in the budget.

When I am a guest in someone's home, I am a lot happier when I see them pull out an Aerobed from the closet than when I see a sofa futon. Sofa futons get those permanent, uncomfortable creases in them. An Aerobed (not a knockoff) doesn't look like much, but it is way more comfortable than a futon. And unlike most other inflatables you can fill it to the firmness desired. Also, who really wants to sit on a sofa futon? If you're going to put a sofa in the basement you probably want a real sofa, right?

True, they are very 'college-y' but I was thinking if you used it as a daybed on which you would occasionally watch TV or lounge.  I was thinking of the option "daybed" more than of what you put in there.  You could for instance have two daybeds in the space, set up like a seating area (coffee table in the middle) and then push them together as a double bed for when guests come. Just a thought.

When my now 7 year old requested the obligatory pink bedroom at 5 we sent her to grandmas for a week (so she "would be surprised" a.k.a. unable to object) and painted her walls a high gloss white, then I added pretty pink bedding and curtains, changed her fan blades for pink ones, and picked up pink circle and flower wallies that we places all over the walls. She was delighted and I have an easy job when she decides pink is no longer her thing. I expect that oh, about next year if she's anything like her older sister!

Great idea. It's always smart to accessories with a child's current favorite color rather than painting all the walls with it. Much easier and much less expensive to  swap out when their tastes change. And they will.

I want to renovate my kitchen, and need your advice. Despite the "tough economy," I can't seem to get a construction/remodeling firm to call me back with a bid! It took months of prodding to get three recommended construction business owners to visit last summer. Months later still nothing, despite multiple calls and emails. I'm at the point where many of my appliances don't work properly. How can I get this project done soon? Are there magic words I need to use? I am afraid to wave my money around in a desparate manner, but this is absurd.

Whoa, I'm amazed! We worked with Bray and Scarff (locations througout the area).  We visited their showroom nearest to us, made an appointment with the in-house planner and took it from there.  Have you tried working with them or similar businesses.  As for independent contractors, I know quite a few very good ones around here, but I don't know where you live.

I'm about to update my 30+ year old townhouse basement by putting in a new floor, replacing paneling with wallboard, repainting, and adding recessed lighting. One of my friends has urged me to get a designer or architect to create plans that the workmen would follow. Is this really a good idea? I'm not taking out any walls--just keeping the same floor design.

If  what you're doing is all cosmetic and you're not doing any major reconstruction, then I don't think a designer or architect is necessary. a good contractor should be able to follow whatever instructions you have.

The chatter should try Mitchell Gold, West Elm, and CB 2 also.

Not sure if this has been mentioned, but Room & Board is a good place to look, too.

We used a company called porcelite out of maryland to change/paint/refinish our maroon bath wall tiles. The resurfaced our old tub as well. We made everything - walls and bath a crisp white. We were out of the house for a day, but the results were amazing. Still fully tiled, they just changed the color. Looked like white tiles. We then had a blank canvas to work with. To be clear, I am talking about a paint that went over the tile, not one of those overliners. You can't use abrasive cleaners on the resurfaced tile, but that was the only reqirement. Says will last a good 15 years. I got the referral from a friend whose mom is incharge of refinishing the bathrooms in an upscale apartment building when tenants move out. Makes everything look brand new at a fraction of the cost - I think we paid around $350.

Thanks for taking us through your process.

We have several futon couches that work as extra beds and although you can get some very high end ones, you can also get some less expensive ones.


Replacing 12 yr. old kitchen appliances this year, fridge, dishwasher, gas cook top and maybe wall oven. Currently have all white with a stainless sink; cabinets are golden oak with brass hardware and beige granite countertops. Is it better to go with stainless for the next 10-15 years? If so, how should we restain the cabinets and what color hardware? Stores are all showing stainless and it's tempting to be "modern."

Personally I would go with Stainless.  Since the 'style' is so classic to professional kitchens, I do not think you can go wrong.  Yes, I know some people call it the new 'avocado' green of the sixties, but I would chose to disagree.  I love the functionality of it in my own kitchen, I had it ten years ago in our loft too, and loved it then.  You might want to visit commercial kitchen outlets, I know there is a big one in Berryville, they sell second hand commercial stoves, likes VULCAN, which is a combination of black, stainless and red knobs.  Killer!

One thing to remember about the bolder colors in various shades of red, is that they are harder to cover up. If/when you go to sell you house, you will need to paint that as walls with any red immediately put many buyers off, because they know how much work it is to cover/repaint. You often need at least one heavy coat of primer and two coats of paint to cover red, especially the bolder colors. Honeysuckle has enough penetrating red in it that it will have this same problem.

Yeah, but unless you are planning on selling soon, I don't think you should be decorating your home with future buyers in mind.  And it's just paint, afterall. Easy change. 

To Caroline - How do you decide what you will purchase for your barn sale? Your style is timeless and calm I have been following you for years and every item I purchased from you, when people enter my home, they love the items. I say you have the gift of style. Kathy Czegan

Hello dear Kathy, how nice of you to join in.  Well, you nailed it.  I would rather sell one beautiful piece, that gets people's attention when it's set up in a home, than a piece that is of commercial value (ie I could sell 10 of them, just because they have 'money left in them'). I think the answer is:  I buy with my heart, when it beats a little faster when I see something I love, I get it, sometimes knowing that there is no profit left in it.  I just have to have it!  :-)  Thanks for being such a great customer!

I'd understand if people scoff at this idea, but I find Aerobeds to be really comfortable. MUCH more comfortable than sofa beds. They even have a raised model that looks somewhat like a real bed when inflated and covered with sheets. They take up almost no room to store so they're good for multi-purpose spaces, and they are very affordable too - use a 20% coupon from Bed Bath & Beyond.

All this is true. And BB&B usually will take expired coupons so keep one  in your wallet at all times.

Several layers ago (the house is a tad over 90 years old) someone used the wrong paint on the wrong paint on my interior trim (door frames, window frames). Now it's cracking and coming off in very large, thick flakes (I counted 4 color layers). Can I just break off the worst, and sand and smooth? Or should I use filler/spackle? Help! (And yes, it'll require wet-sanding).

you probably dont want to hear this, but I think the best solution is to scrape all the old paint all the trim, then sand and paint. Why put a fifth layer of paint on existing layers of bad paint? I think putting in the hard work now will pay off in the long run.

Hang a rug, tapestry, kids' quilt on the wall behind the bed.

I like that idea.  You could also use a long (size of bed) curtain rod and velcro tab three or four funky colored tufted seat cushions (easy to remove/clean).

Hi, Terri, Jura and Caroline-- I love today's article--so nice that my furnishings are in vogue again! I have living room with green walls, and lots of white trim. Sofa is an anitque linen. What colors should I be looking at for a rug? My husband is insisting on something soft, not grass. Thanks!

A new trend I saw in Europe were these Ueber Cool Patchworked carpets.  Not inexpensive, but what a statement they made!  Very vibrant colors, such as lime green, bright reds or blues, made from vintage (dyed I assume) oriental carpets and other rugs.  I saw something similar in a US catalog just recently.  Email me at Ekster and i will be glad to share pictures of what I saw in Europe.  It was very different!

Well, it needn't just be for little girls. Newell Turner, your guest host last week, chose Sherwin WIlliam's "Possibly Pink" for his guest bedroom and it looks gorgeous (you can see it on his "Twilight Fields" blog.

Thanks for pointing this out! Great choice.

cannot be installed in residential dwellings without making a whole lot of modifications to the insulation, venting, makeup air, etc. without voiding the warranty. Local zoning codes and your homeowner's insurance policy may still not allow it.

True, but they can be modified to code.  Our loft had a Vulcan.  They might even have a residential option.

Have you done any house calls columns featuring a laundry room? Or can you point me to a website with laundry room re-dos? I don't want to see one that features a bright spacious room with a nice window off the kitchen. I need a "before" like ours: a dingy dark subterranean space. We have put this off for years, but with four kids, the laundry piles are epic, and I dread laundry duty. Thanks.

We have done a couple laundry rooms in the past, here is a link to one in particular.

Why don't you submit your room to House Calls?  We haven't done one in a while and would love to do another. Send photos and contact info to makeover@washpost.com.

This is common, or used to be common, in Scandanavia, but we have talked about hiring a builder to create sleeping nooks along two sides of our children's bedroom, to sleep four, kind of like built-in bunkbeds with curtains on the front for privacy. This would save floor space and allow some extra sleepover potential. Bad idea in this region? We can't afford to buy a big enough house to give everyone a separate room but want to create a sense of privacy.

Yes, I was going to bring that same option up for the lady who gave up her last guest room.  In Holland we had this concept too, called Bedstee, where the bed was hidden behind a wooden 'wall' with two big doors, which opened up, obviously,  and was used for sleeping.  If her basement is large enough, that would be great, if nothing else to store the airbeds.

A colleague bought the bed mechanism on line and built the bed frame and case himself. I bought the sliding bookcase style Murphy bed, which I love, but admit I saved for it . It gives me a wall of functional storage and then gives my guests a reportedly very comfortable mattress--so well worth it. I did a lot of internet searching and was amazed at the variety of folding up options for beds. Search for "wall beds."

Good tip.

If the kitchen remodeling person is considering stainless, she might want to consider getting a finger-print free type. Personally I hate stainless with a passion; it looks industrial and cold to me, and messy if people aren't meticulous about wiping it down all the time. Getting what you like is more important than buying "trendy," especially if you are still going to be in the house for several more years. White is always going to be classic; nothing wrong with going with that.

Nothing at all.

These are pretty neat if you've never seen one. And, it can do double duty as entertainment for your guests.

Very neat! Thank you!

I have a relatively open floor plan and am lucky to have several persian carpets (both new and antique) covering the floors. The drape fabric in LR has a larger floral pattern. Antique furniture has been newly re-upholstered in neutrals, with patterned toss pillows. Lower half of DR wall is painted similar color as LR. I was considering wallpapering the top half of DR wall with a fabulous Asian print I have already identified. All the colors in both rooms are complementary. Wondering if adding wallpaper will be too much pattern, with the rugs and drapes..?

It sounds beautiful.  The problem with wallpaper being, it can be overpowering, esp. if you say you already have alot of patterns and structure.  Maybe just do one room, or one or a few larger accent walls?  I would personally not use it throughout. 

One of the only good things about flat pain is you can touch it up and it blends in really well. So hopefully you saved some of the original paint, and you can just go over the spot with one of those foam brushes. I have to disagree with Jura on the semi-gloss. I think that's too shiny for a bedroom. I'd go with an eggshell finish next time.

Love more opinions.

I put "Heavy Plate Hangers" into Google and got many hits. The first one I looked at says it can hold up to 6.5 lbs. and 19"-24". Measure and weigh your platters...there were many more hits. Google can save you so much time.

So true.

A few years back there were "desks or offices in box'--a space that closed up to be an attractive dresser looking piece. Now I need something like that to store paperwork and take computer to now and then but looks good. Would like to keep it on the contemporary side Any ideas where to go for this?

Ive seen these pieces in Pottery Barn and Ballard Designs catalogs, but they are more traditional in style. Anyone else have ideas?

Hello. I have beige walls, beige carpet and beige sofas and chairs. In an attempt to break up the monotony I purchased some furniture peices in black. Now I feel like I need to lighten things up a bit. Do you think I can mix in some white items?

Yes, you can add white, but what about some color, too? Have you considered painting the walls something other than beige? Or do you just like the color that much?

Thank you so much for the feedback. To clarify, I was considering just using wallpaper on the top half of the DR wall, which is also broken up two by built-in corner china cabinets and two doorways so it's not actually a hugh expanse of wall - kind of like smaller chunks of wall space. Plus I have good art work that will stay in the DR...

In that case I think it would look beautiful....  good luck with it....

In addition to getting rid of the wallpaper, I strongly suggest you get rid of the maroon countertop. If you are short of money, you can resurface formica pretty easily. You can buy formica in large sheets and cut with a circular saw and jig saw. There are good how-to pages on the Internet that can be found by Google on how to do this. Getting rid of that strong color will help make you really feel the change. And then working with pink/grey is much easier. I would suggest a marblized grey/formica which will give the effect of stone. Then put your strong color of choice in accessories that are easily replaced (rugs, towels, etc).

Yes, you are right. Working with gray/pink is much easier than working with maroon/gray/pink.

With laptops, they can be stowed anywhere. For my files: I put a file hanger into a long leather storage ottoman. Storage for my files hidden and extra seating in the living room.

Great idea.

For the chatter wanting a new guest bed option: We wanted something a little more modern and useable than a traditional sofa bed and more comfortable than an air mattress, so went with the Lubi daybed from CB2. It's very comfortable to sleep on, and can be either a twin or almost-king sized bed. http://www.cb2.com/search.aspx?query=lubi

That is a good one.

What do you think of mixing appliance colors as you replace them? We are looking at a period of time where one or more appliances is one shade but others are different. Our cabinets are maple stained in a cherry tone, counters are granite. Current appliances are "biscuit" which works nicely in the space but is harder to find now. We are considering switching to black appliances as we replace, maybe stainless although it's so overdone, but don't want to replace all at once. Appliances average 7 years old. Thank you.

Warning: Do not Buy Biscuit Appliances! They aren't the classic choice and the color is being phased out gradually by many manufacturers. I think black is a good choice. And stainless seems to be the new basic.

That's all the time we have today. Thanks for all the great questions and comments, and thanks to Caroline for joining us and for all of her wonderful advice. Be sure to check out today's story about the barn sales and make plans to attend the Barn Crawl (Feb. 25-27), when all four barns will be open on the same weekend. 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.

Home Q&A archive
Terri Sapienza
Terri Sapienza is a staff writer for The Washington Post.
Caroline Verschoor
A former shop owner in Leesburg, Caroline Verschoor now sells old and new furniture and accessories several times a year out of a barn on her family's property in Hamilton, Va. Ekster Antiques and Verschoor's home have been featured in many publications including Country Home, Country Living and New Cottage Style.
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