'Curb Appeal' host John Gidding | Home Front

Feb 13, 2014

Architect and designer John Gidding, host of HGTV's '"Curb Appeal: The Block," will co-headline the Capital Home+Garden Show at the Dulles Expo Center Feb. 21-23. Gidding has worked on projects around the world, ranging from residential and institutional architecture to landscape and urban design. Some of his favorites include consulting on projects for Brooklyn Bridge Park, Union Square in New York, the campus plan for Carnegie Mellon University and a pavilion for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

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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John Gidding , host of HGTV's popular show Curb Appeal, is here on the perfect day in Washington - almost a foot of snow and sleeting right now. John will co-headline the Capital Home+Garden Show at the Dulles Expo Center Feb. 21-23. Gidding has worked on projects around the world, ranging from residential and institutional architecture to landscape and urban design. The front of my house is looking pretty sad right now. I'm looking forward to hearing what John has to say about what we can all do as the weather warms up to create a new look.

Hey it's John! I'm really happy to be here and I'll also be at the Capital Home+Garden Show at the Dulles Expo Center Feb. 21-23 - hope you'll come say Hi in person!  In the meantime, let's chat a bit and see if we can get you some answers for your questions about Curb Appeal, paint colors, furniture, etc.  

I'm looking for a new to me dining room table. I don't have a ton of money to spend (really need to be under $500) but I want something not just basic from Bob's Furniture. Any good suggestions on where to look besides Craigslist (online and stores in the area-have car will travel)? Miss Pixie's is on the list of course. Thanks!

SO I was having a similar issue lately - I wanted a large and in charge dining room table and the best I could find was either too expensive or not my style.  I hope this answer doesn't annoy you, but the solution for me was butcherblock from IKEA.  I bought two sections and used one to create "waterfall" legs on either side of the other one, and the result is a massive and very generous table.  That said, I also saw a pretty good one on CB2.com for about $450 I think so check it out!

Just wanted to follow up. I wrote a few weeks ago about needing rugs and the suggestion of guest host, sorry forgot his name, suggested FLOR. We ended up purchasing FLOR titles and I LOVE them. The staff at the showroom in Georgetown was super helpful and the whole thing was very easy. The environmental friendly part of it makes it that much better. Thanks for the great suggestion!

So glad it worked out. Love it when that happens from some chat information. FLOR tiles are so popular and clearly they work in many different rooms and situations. Thanks for telling us about your experience.

I recently inherited my Dad's house. It is a field stone and brown brick house with a courtyard. Last year my Dad had a dark brown tin roof put on the house. While I feel it does not match the more modern architecture of the house, I do not want to replace it at this time. We do plan to replace windows and gutters and repaint the trim. The trim and gutters are currently also dark brown. We would like to paint the trim and gutters a different color to brighten up the exterior. What colors would you recommend? We also plan to paint the front door a bright accent color. Years ago it was painted orange, but I would like your suggestions regarding current trends.

So you have a lot of brick and brown and you need to breathe some life onto the facade, it sounds like.  I think your answers lie in the term "ton sur ton", which is a French decorating and fashion term meaning shade on top of shade.  You can't use white - too much contrast - but you can use biscuits and latte colors in layers of "shade on shade".  You mentioned shade and gutters - any chance of shutters?  If so, I'd consider natural wood tone shutters in a medium hue, and then skew lighter with gutters and lightest with trim.


Just moved and need to buy two rugs to delineate living and dining areas in great room with wonderful hardwood floors. House large Cape Cod with architectural interior. Would love all wool rugs with sisal look. They are somewhat costly, but wear and CLEAN well. To save money, ould combo wool-natural (sisal,etc.) be an unwise solution in a house with an active terrier, husband who doesn't remove shoes, and located on 7 woodsy acres that track dirt inside, Understand they really don't clean well. Any suggestions? John, love your design style. Have several quality Persian rugs, but too small for areas. Have active terrier and live near Yosemite, so landscape rugged and easy to track dirt into. house.

Not a bad idea at all - in fact quite the opposite!  I find natural weave rugs are actually not that difficult to clean as long as you maintain relatively regular vacuuming.  The dirt lies on the strands rather than embed into.  The key is to vaccuum and also spot clean immediately if anything spills.  The final brilliance on your part is that for the most part you can find sisal at decent prices - very decent - which means replacing an old rug isn't the end of the world after a few years of good use.  I'm also a HUGE fan of the look.  I have them in my own home.  (and I also tend to wear shoes inside.)

John, Can you offer some suggestion on how someone like me can get into interior design or decorating. I have an architecture background but have left the profession for the public sector. Where can I start? Thanks.

This is how I started as well - I had an architecture degree and got into interiors by finding my first "client".  Note the quotation marks...  It was my cousin and I redid some bookshelves in her living room and created a nursery for her.  But she did PAY me, and that's the first step.  Find an actual client that pays, no matter the small size of the job, as your first step.  The second step is to educate yourself in the very complicated ways of this business.  I bought a great book called "the interior design business handbook" - dont let the name fool you, it's a massive hardcover textbook.  Dense and dry - but its important to know that the business is more than just pretty colors and fabrics.

Our large vacation home was destroyed by fire. I'm trying to make a small cottage fresh and fun so we can still visit while we wrestle with all the matters. Living room/ dining room are painted BM Philadelphia Cream. How can I get coastal colors in the furnishings and have a small welcoming home for lots of people? I want to paint some vintage Queen Anne cherry tables; what color?

painting vintage queen anne tables - are you sure??  I'm so sorry to hear about the fire, but hoping the fixup goes smoothly for you.  As for coastal colors, I think most people skew way too saturated.  Try to find a family of 6 or 8 colors that are truly, truly, pale - then use all of them pretty much equally around your cottage.  I'd say four beiges (with one that skews almost yellow), two blues (very grey) and two greens (even greyer), and start painting your furniture and finding cushions and accents in those colors - and keep the walls white.  As for welcoming lots of people, I find the best way is to ring your main gathering space (living room?) with smaller seating options tucked away and underneath other bits of furniture allows people to find their own corners and congregate instead of having to all crowd the kitchen or sofa.

Good (snowy) morning. Last week I wrote in requesting ideas for inexpensive design solutions for a major kitchen and bath gut and rebuild. Your guest suggested HomeDepot/Lowe services. Those folks - as nice as they may be - are not designers. They are clerks (I've asked). Please don't send us unsuspecting folks to them thinking they are doing anything more than selling their products. Short of coming across Allison Victoria or Matt Meunster at one of those big box retailers, can you please suggest budget-friendly design options help with a small kitchen and bath to maximize space and bring them into this century. Many thanks!

HI There - kitchens aren't easy and you shouldn't just give this large job to anyone.  That said, how inexpensive do you want to go?  The least expensive of course is to do everything yourself and to trust your design sense, but that's a tall order as well.  I'm going to recommend a new website to you, I wonder if the pricing would make sense for you.  It's called "Room in a Box", and I saw it on Goop.  Windsor Smith will design a small kitchen for you for $2,450, which is pennies in the world of designers - especially famous ones.  Check her out: http://wsroominabox.com/shop/menu-of-rooms/cook/#.UvzwSPldVL4

Hi John - so excited to see you at the upcoming Home + Garden Show - what will you be sharing with your fans?

Hi there - so glad you're coming!  I'll be going through many projects and talking about the way I design for them, how I spend my budget - and I'll open the floor up immediately so really it'll be a discussion with the audience from the very beginning.  We'll go into quick ideas for creating curb appeal, but also what it takes to make TV and how our projects differ from the real world.  Lots of before and afters. :)

Hi John. Can't wait to see you at the Home and Garden Show next weekend. Our 12 year old colonial style home has its original dark black door. We loved it when we built the house but it is started to look, well just old and boring. Our siding is taupe and brick is that faded red color. Any ideas for making that door more welcoming?

Hi there - front doors are made to have personlity I think, so I'm glad to hear you're going to make a change.  Black doors (shiny, glossy, deep black) can be very sexy - and I find that for most homes with colors schemes that call for black doors tend to need any other color to be a DARK version of that color.  So with that said, you've got some options.  IF you want to classic, I'd say get a very dark red - being careful not to skew brown or orange.  Oxblood, 50% darker than usual.  If you think the red will clash with the brick, go for a very dark navy blue - at first blush it'll look black, but will show its true colors as you walk towards or past it.  It's also a safe arena to experiment.  Get a few colors and put them all on the door and see what they look like in various lighting conditions

I'm looking for a navy blue paint color, but one that's not too intense. More like an "off" navy that maybe has gray undertones or looks washed out, if that makes any sense. I don't want it to be a lighter shade necessarily, just not bright/bold. Any suggestions?

I do like Benjamin Moore Starry Night Blue - you could cut it with some white to make it a little less intense.

I also inherited my mother's house (c. 1955 white Colonial) and want to spruce up the outside. Will be painting the front door a rich blue. Is it necessary/advisable to remove the door and have it stripped to the bare wood before the painting? (Will also be updating its hardware.) BTW, love your work, John!

Hi There!

I've paintedd a hundred million thousand billion doors without removing them and stripping to bare wood.  If we had to do that every time, people would stop painting their doors and that would be a real shame.  I recommend masking and painting with the door still swinging on the hinges.  Make sure you're careful about it, or hire a professional - but it'll still be cheaper than the full strip.  That said, please don't let me dissuade you from doing a great job with your door.  If you'd enjoy the process, your end result will certainly be flawless.

Do we call a plumber or do we call an appliance repair guy? (Disposal just goes hmmmmmmmmmm,,,) thank you on this snowy day!

Great question. I know my plumber did install my garbage disposal - but he could probably repair it but not all plumbers would do that. How old is it? Is it under warranty? They don't cost much so in many cases if its old you'd be best probably replacing it.

Any advice on how to renovate a kitchen in pricey DC metro on a budget? We currently have a "tuition" kitchen--1990s kitchen in need of updating but budget depleted by kids' school expenses-- its hard to find an architect to do a small job--any ideas on strategy or products-cabinets and counter materials?

I know so many architects that have embraced the IKEA kitchen cabinet (gosh that's the second IKEA mention I've made today!) - as long as you're willing to tear all your hair out during assembly, you can find something that'll make your kitchen feel brand new while saving money to spend on countertops and appliances.  But keep in mind painting cabinets is a great interim approach to creating a new kitchen for yourselves.  As for countertop materials, I'm afraid there's not much out there that you haven't heard of.  It's the usual suspects of stone, manufactured stone, and butcherblock.  I know there's a tile company that's creating large-format THIN tiles that people are using as countertops.  Yes, it's tile and durable - but it sort of looks like laminate.  Crossville I think is the name of the company.

Hi, John and Jura! Posting this early so I can get back to shoveling the driveway. My partner and I just love Curb Appeal, although we have to DVR it because we're usually just so exhausted to make it through an episode in one sitting! Anyway, we were thinking about getting new drapes and it seems like everything has those ghastly grommets that make you feel like you're looking through a porthole on a battleship or something and it makes me want to take a bunch of sleeping pills with a shot of whiskey and tie a dry cleaning bag around my head. Where can we get some reasonably-priced but pretty loop-top drapes? Ciao!

Ciao!  Have you tried theshadestore.com ?  Their prices are pretty reasonable and they have fast delivery.  If that's too pricey, I recommend getting off the shelf looptop drapes from someplace like Bed Bath and working with a local seamstress to customize or modify length.  (If making longer, find a complementary fabric at the fabric store, or one that matches your furniture, and have the drapes modified with added lengths of new fabric.)  

We've got the original door to our 20's house ... and I do want to keep it. But I think we'll have to paint it (dark an deep front porch)... is there a way to put paint on the xterior but maintain the natural wood on the interior? Stain the edge black? Let the drips fall where they may... ? HELP!

Hi there - this is a problem I've faced before and there is no clear solution, although I haven't tried staining the edges black.  (Sounds like a difficult stain job).  I'd say just paint the front after masking very carefully and leave the edges natural (and if the edges are grimy or weathered - sand down and finish with poly.  I think that would be the best look.

Don't do it. Sell them and buy something that belongs to be painted.

Another opionion!

Just a rebuttal to an earlier poster about Home Depot/Lowe's design services. My sister is a college-trained kitchen and bath designer and for many years worked at Home Depot. Perhaps the poster was unlucky with who he or she spoke to - but i can tell you those stores DO have designers. Maybe ask for the manager and make an appointment?

Thanks for this.

Don't be too dismissive of in-store help, particularly if you can't or won't spend the money for a professional designer. These stores will take the dimensions of your kitchen or bath and generate potential layouts to help envision the space. If you can offer some general idea of the style and function desired, these layouts can be a great jumping off point.

Thank you for responding.

Good morning John, My home is Hardie Plank shingles in a pale grey tone with white trim- any ideas for planters for the slate front porch - shape /color /material? Any new trends in this area?

Hi - for shingle style homes, I typically find planters that have the traditional design details like expressive brackets or tongue-and-groove facing, and white trim calls for white planters.  If the planters have an inset detail, you could paint that a shade of grey two shades lighter than your home to tie them in.  Wood would be the mateiral to go with, although Extira (resin-soaked MDF) is also very durable and cost effective if having them made.

John, our home is at the age where we need to replace our flooring. We have an 80 lb dog with tough toenails and I am concerned about wood flooring, though that is what I would prefer in the livingroom, hall & bedrooms. The remaining areas will be tile. Am I too concerned about using engineered wood flooring?

You sound like a perfect candidate for hand-scraped or distressed wood floors.  Engineered wood floors come in many distressed finishes, and the idea isn't to scratch them up willy nilly, but allow the occasional scratch to be camo'd.  So - I'd say you're not too concerned, but the wood floor you pick should help your cause not hurt it.  (Don't go with glossy espresso brown, for example.)  Also, have you heard of soft paws?  they're little rubber stickies for dog nails.  I have no experience with them, but thought I'd mention.

Hi John, I have a red microfiber sectional sofa in my living room w/ stucco walls. I'm trying to determine what color I could use on the walls doors and trim to tone down the red and make it more relaxing. My carpet is beige, I have a wood secretary from Ethan Allen which I still love, a round base wood table with 2 chairs, and a women's wood desk, I believe it is a French style, chest of drawers and a server w/ glass front. I love these pieces, the room is 26 X 18.

Red sofas are difficult to paint around - but by and large cream tones tend to tie in well, along with off-white trim.  When you pick your trim and wall color, try to find versions of them in cushions and a throw with which to accessorize your sofa and further dilute the red presence.

Hello John, Can you provide some colors that is neutral for a family room with a dark brown leather sofa, wood coffee table and light coming from north east. Thanks.

Hey there - I'm guessing since you're asking, you don't want to hear the obvious answers, so I'm going to skew with a little personality here.  Dark brown leather sofas go very handsomely with a palest touch of green.  I say palest because if you saturate too much it'll turn into a cigar room/boys den.  You want the kind of airy celadon that feels sunny and warm but is really only a few shades away from a parchment color.  This will warm the northeastern light just enough - and remember to have a plant or two in the room.


waay out of warranty... and I cannot figure out just which are all the moving part. OK.. BITE the bullet... And Julia called it "the Pig"... took me FOREVER to figure out what on EARTH she was talking about. Sign me: Very Literal Farm Girl... and thank you!

I think you are doing the right thing!

We installed (or rather, hired someone to install!) an Ikea kitchen a couple of years ago and love it. Our kitchen was a disaster when we bought the house, but we could not afford the kitchen renovation we wanted. We thought of this as a good five year plan, but it is so great, we are sticking with it. We got it during the 20% off sale, and that included a discount on granite from a great stone company the Ikea in College Park uses. Caveat - our Ikea farmhouse sink is wonderful, but the faucet pull down sprayer stopped working after two years. The sprayer gets stuck and will not to back into the faucet without effort.

Good point.  I often source faucets that I've used and trust - and IKEA isn't where I go for them.  But Delta has great low cost options.  If you want to spend more money, go german.  ;)  I once bought a $2,000 faucet from Grohe...  lol

Would love advice on improving the curb appeal of a ranch house with a door that is off-center with 4 side-approach entry steps leading up to it. Would like to avoid emphasizing the mid-century roots but still want to respect the architecture.

But this sounds lovely.  DO emphasize the mid-centure roots - why wouldn't you?  But ok, since you're not a fan, I would recommend at least embracing the off-center, asymmetric approach with a path to the front door that's also nonlinear.  In the landscape, plant an ornamental tree or bush where the path curves or meanders, so what you're doing is creating a reason within the landscape for the path to fit around.  This way, when the path arrives at those entry steps at an off angle, the reason is clear both within the landscape and also with the off-center door.

Need to replace floor coverings in condo. Have always loved hardwood, but currently enjoying the warmth of wall-to-wall carpet. Would like to replace with a good quality carpet, but wondering if it would be better to install hardwood flooring. How does the cost differ, and what about effect on resale? Thanks for your advice.

Both carpeting and wood flooring have their pros and cons, and can both look and feel great.  And as for pricing, hardwood will run you about twice as much as carpeting, although you can get higher end carpeting that's as expensive as hardwood.  I think the decision needs to be made based on the lifestyle you lead in the home.  Do you have pets?  Do you take off your shoes?  Where do you eat?  How often do you vaccuum?  If you need the durability of hardwood, you won't be sorry you paid for it.  If you maintain your home and enjoy carpeting already, it might be the cheaper, familiar solution for you.  (For resale, there's no question hardwood is the more desirable, not just aesthetically but it eliminates the "ick" factor of living on other peoples' dead skin cells.)

Very much enjoy Curb Appeal, but I feel like there are no new episodes now. Are you still in production?

We are not in production!  HGTV is skewing in many different directions these days because there's so much interest in real estate, flipping, and renovation construction.  Design, per se, is a little bit on the back burner for now.  But you can see me on the Dreamhome special and that reminds me - you have one day left to enter!  

Guys this was great!  Awesome questions and I'm sorry if I didn't get to yours, but you know I'll be in your neck of the woods very soon and hope to see you then. :)

See you Feb 21-23!


It was great to think of planting flowers and putting up planters on this gray day here in Washington. John, it was a pleasure to have you and good luck on your appearance at the Capital Home+Garden Show at the Dulles Expo Center Feb. 21-23. Next week I'm taking a break so the next chat will be on Thursday Feb 27 when my guests will be furniture gurus Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.

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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John Gidding
Architect and designer John Gidding, host of HGTV's '"Curb Appeal: The Block," will co-headline the Capital Home+Garden Show at the Dulles Expo Center Feb. 21-23. Gidding has worked on projects around the world, ranging from residential and institutional architecture to landscape and urban design. Some of his favorites include consulting on projects for Brooklyn Bridge Park, Union Square in New York, the campus plan for Carnegie Mellon University and a pavilion for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
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