Home Front: Design advice from Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza.

Feb 16, 2012

Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza give advice on interior decorating and home improvement.

Home Front Live Q&A archive Older Home Front Live Q&As

Hi, folks.

Welcome to the chat today. We've got lots of questions already, so let's dive in!

Welcome, everyone. If you haven't picked up a Local Living yet, here are some of our hot reads:

A Q&A with designer Joe Ireland

Organic gardens in South America

House Calls: A living room makeover in Hamilton

Are you guys on Pinterest? We'd love to know if you all are. I really enjoy pinning my selections and seeing beautiful photos of interiors, gardens, fashion, lighting, etc that others find intriguing and inspiring. Have you checked it out? Find me at pinterest.com/jurakoncius.

Let's talk knitting projects! Last week on the chat we got questions on where to donate knitting and other needlework projects, whether finished or not finished. I got a nice note from a charity knitting group in Purcellville called Soul Stitch that would be happy to take them. They also run the Blue Ridge Hospice Thrift Shop that would take other projects.  All proceeds go to hospice patients who can not pay. This is nice to know.

Hi ladies! I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed the Q&A with Joe in today's section. He had some really useful advice and I love his style. Keep 'em coming!!

Thanks so much. We really enjoy doing those Living Well tastemaker articles. So if you have someone to suggest, email us!

I have been enjoying House Calls lately. I don't like the format online (the old one was more fun to play with) but the rooms and design solutions have been interesting and a good read. And thanks to Megan Beurger for chiming in on the comments. -- Sandy M., Alexandria

Thanks to you for sending us your opinions. Megan is doing a great job getting back to you guys.

I wrote in a couple weeks ago about my daughter. She desperately wants a capany bed but this makes my husband and I wince... how cheesy! Is there a way to do this without looking too preppy or princess-y? I don't mind feminine design elements but I don't want my house looking like a Disney movie. Help help help!

Yes, I remember your question. And the anwer to it is: yes, there are lots of ways you can do a canopy or something with a similar effect and have it look pretty and sophisticated. A great place to look for inspiration is the blog of Atlanta designer Phoebe Howard. Click on this link and scroll through her beds to see the different way she handles canopies.

We're replacing the toilet and sink in our mid-60's era 3/4 bath, which has the typical pink-and-grey tiles going halfway up the wall. We're not in a position to have the tiles removed/replaced, but we are going to replace the aging wallpaper with paint. Given that the toilet & sink will be white (probably blindingly so), what would you recommend for paint color? The default from the contractor is "linen white". I'm thinking maybe a very light blush or very light grey. Thanks

Hard to say without seeing the space, but I think I may side with your contractor here. If nothing else in the room will be white except for the new toilet and sink, having creamy linen white walls may make the color contrast a little less noticeable.

Would you guys take suggestions for people to spotlight in Living Well? Where would I e-mail them?

You can email them to me konciusj@washpost.com or to @buergerm@washpost.com

I just bought my first house. The hall bathroom (guest bathroom) has black floor tile, a medium gray wall tile, builder grade tub and cultured counter with a medium cabinet. What do you think a good paint color would be? Willing to do something bold, generally tend toward cooler colors. Thanks for your help!

I might go with a light blue - maybe Cumulus Cloud by Martha Stewart for Home Depot.

My house doesn't get a ton of light and the living room flows into the hallway/stairwell. Do you think Palladian Blue would look too dark in there. Currently it's a honey wheat color which is warm with a red accent wall, but I'm bored of it.

Palladian Blue is a very light and luminescent color. I have it in my dining room and it never disappoints.

Is it totally weird if I just.... don't do them? I seriously have yet to find ones I like and with the exception of one of the bedrooms and a bathroom, they're not necessary. What are your thougths?

Using just shutters, blinds, roman shades  or honeycomb shades that pull up and disappear is fine. No, no fabric curtains are necessary.

We recently bought a sofa & loveseat in a deep taupe color. We really like the pieces but don't know what to do with them. Should we accent them with something like chocolate - which looks nice but may be boring or should we add other colors with patterns or solids? If so, what colors? Also, my husband doesn't think each couch should have 2 pillows, but I do. What is your opinion? Thanks so much.

I think you're instinct about the chocolate pillows being a little boring is right. I think getting neutral color seting was a smart choice and I would most definitely use pillows as an opportunity to add color and pattern into the room. The colors you choose depend on lots of things, such as what colors you like, what other colors are in the room already, etc. Just about any color will go well with taupe, so be creative, have fun and pick some pillows that make you happy to look at.

Oh, and as far as the number of pillows, unless you're going with a single lumbar pillow in the center (which would be nice on the loveseat), I think the seating should have two pillows each at the very least.

I live in an old bungalow (built 1923). There are hooks built in to my living room ceiling. So far, I only use them at Christmas to hang oversized ornaments from. Wondering two things: Does anyone know the original purpose of these? I hope its something more intriguing than hanging potted plants. And, any ideas for more year round decorating uses?

How funny, I found hooks on the ceiling of the living room of my 1920s rowhouse when we moved in, too. Never knew what they were for and never used them. I think we had them removed when we had the ceiling repainted. But if anyone has any idea what the celiing hooks  in these old houses were originally intended for, I'd love to know, too!

Don't want your house looking like a Disney movie??? It's a bed. In a child's bedroom. There are lots of ways to do a canopy bed without being Disney or princess-y - don't use characters, don't do pale pink, and skip the frills. Otherwise, it could be a really classy addition!

It's a whole new world...

I have contractor standard oak cabinets and I don't have the money to redo my kitchen. Is painting kitchen cabinets taboo? Please share any tips you have if you think this is a viable solution.

It is not taboo, just know that if you are planning to resell anytime soon, there are people who prefer the look of wood cabinets in the kitchen. But meanwhile, I'm always a proponent of making your home a place that you love. I have never painted any kitchen cabinets, but you can do it yourself or get a pro to give them a really nice glossy paint job. Have you guys tried this?

Totally on it. Totally in love with it. Totally mad my work blocked it (but not Hulu--ha).

Yep. It's pretty fun and very easy to get addicted to once you get started.  Check out my Pinterest page here.

You know what would make a good story? House fix-ups that buyers care about more than renters, and vice versa. I bet buyers care about landscaping more than renters. Is there anything renters care about more than buyers?

Good idea. Will pass along to the real estate editor.

I am trying to figure out a fun paint color for a 1/2 bath off my kitchen. The majority of my very open first floor, including the kitchen, is painted SW Repose Gray with Pure White trim. I would like to add a pop of color in the bathroom, but don't want to go too bright and want the color to flow well from the gray on the rest of the floor. Any suggestions?

Sounds like you could do anything in the powder room and it sould look great with the gray. Doing something fun and unexpected in this small space is a great idea. I would just go with a color that makes you happy whenever you see it. But what I really want you to do in there is hang a fun patterned wallpaper!

Hello - sorry another lighting question. Why do most lights look like they are made for homes with 10 ft ceilings or resemble nipples? We are struggling with finding lights for our home. Do you have any suggestions? We have standard 8 ft ceilings and while there are tons of pages of options, they all seem to fall into the boob shape or a really long hanging chandelier. Do you have any suggestions of where to go? We have done bellacor, shades of light, lumens, ballard, etc. Everything we like (and the more interesting lights) all come with really long ceiling drops. Help!

You can typically adjust the length of the ceiling drop on hanging fixtures.

I wrote in 2 weeks about window treatments for my daughter's room. She has one "eyebrow" window and a window in a dormer. I didn't get a chance to respond to your question - you suggested perhaps a roman shade and drapery panels (which idea I like) but I am concerned about blocking too much light. Will this be a problem since there is no wall at all next to the window? It's a tight space.

I'm confused by your question about blocking too much light. If you keep the panels open and install the shade above the window moulding and keep it up during the day, you shouldn't be blocking any light. Is there something I'm missing here?

Hi. Thanks for your input. Our room is very neutral - off white carpet & very light brown/tan walls. Also, I just learned that what I thought was taupe is actually cocoa -ish. What would you advise now.

My answer is the same. Your room is completely neutral so any color you go with should work.

Thre are plenty of bed "canopies" that are not part of the bed. IKEA has an inexpensive one. It would give that airy, gauzy, tent feeling without requiring that you actually purchase a canopy bed. This seems like a good, creative compromise, which is how we approach my daughter's infeasible/expensive requests!

Great suggestion. Thanks!

We would like to find a good home for my late mother's vintage (1930s-1970s) record collection. We have 15-20 boxes of 78, 45, and 33 1/3 rpm records that we could like to donate to a worthy cause or institution or sell to a collector. We would like to resolve the status of this collection sooner that later as the records have been in storage since 2005. We just don't want to simply dispose of them.

There are used record stores around that you could shop your stuff out too.  I don't know where you live, but there are local shops such as Red Onion Records who deal in them. I must tell you that you probably won't get much - maybe pennies each, and many records have no value at all on the aftermarket. If you feel you have any rare records, check online for their values on eBay.

In my childhood home (mid-70s) we had hooks on our ceilings where my parents had hanging lighting fixtures. The chandelier would use the hook to "swag" over the particular area, mostly reading nooks and so on. It was actually a nice alternative to recessed/built-in lighting when the budget did not allow... or you want to keep flexibility in your room's lighting plan.

Interesting! I think my hooks were closer to the windows than they were to the center of the ceiling where a fixture might hang, so I just assumed, like the original chatter did, that they were there for hanging plants. 

For anyone who, like me, has struggled with choosing wall color, Maria Killam (author of the Colour Me Happy blog, one of WP’s picks) has just published an excellent e-book explaining color and why it’s so difficult to choose. The best part is that she also includes a list of the 50 “go to” colors, grouped by undertones. Compared to the BM fan decks of thousands which paralyzed me, it is a huge help. No tie-ins, just found this book, along with her very educational blog, to be so very helpful. Not to sound like a commercial, but I also had an on-line consult with Maria about 2 years ago, and it was worth every penny.

That's a great tip. Thank you so much.

My 6 yr old daughter has a caonpy and it does not look princessy. Her twin bed was my mothers, then my sisters (she had a son), and is now hers. We went together and picked out a soft fabric that complemented her room, along with a grossgrain ribbon to trim the edges for contrast. We found a great seamstress on craigslist who then custom made it to our liking - very very soft pleats to avoid the girly ruffle look (box pleats are an option and not at all princess). You can pick colors that are decidedly not girly too. It was not expensive - just over $100. We are more than pleased with the result. Now the family heriloom is being cherished by a new generation. My sister sported a charlie's angles canopy which I was very jealous of at the time. Have to say that was not princessy either...

Yes, this is exactly the kind of solution I was thinking of. It sounds perfect and lovely. Your daughter must love it. Thanks for sharing.

I am afraid of signing up for Pinterest because I don't need anything else that will eat my time. But was very interested to check yours out. I was waiting for some glimpse of your Lithuanian heritage (Labas!) - but none to be seen. On that note, how can one incorporate "very ethnic" items into decorating?

You are so funny! I must start a Lithuanian Board immediately!  Please email me any great photographs showing Baltic style at konciusj@washpost.com. Ethnic items are great in moderation in home decor. Multiple travel souveniers and the living-abroad-stuff that many Washingtonians have can clutter up shelves and tables and be dust collecters that really don't have great style. Try and incorporate one wonderful textile or a single evocative piece of pottery in a main room. If you must display dozens of items, keep them in a bedroom or home office on a shelf that is frequently dusted.

Jumping in on the question about the drapery blocking light in the dormer window. I think the question is that there is no wall space for the drapery to stack on when open, so part of the window will be still be covered when the drapery is open. So, skipping the drapery and just doing the shades might be the way to go. Unfortunately, my whole house is like this - windows are snug against the corners.

Oh, I see. I actually had this very same issue with one of the windows in my master bedroom. When I hung curtains, I had one side of the rod installed flush against the wall that was perpendicular. I keep my panels pulled back all the time (I also have shades, which I lower at night). The panel on that side overlaps my window but just a tiny bit, so the light it blocks is very minimal.

Think late 60's and you would have round light fixture made of glass in the shape of a globe that would ahng from the celing and these hooks. In my parent's house it was in various shades of brown and looked like crystals or gems. believe they got from Theodores.

How funny!

You didn't answer the question.... the person wanted to know if it is OK to put absolutely nothing on certain windows. I will venture a response.... Yes of course! There are no window police and it is your house. Enjoy the open feeling and fresh air!

Hmmm. Of course there are no window police. But sometimes, you may not want someone to see what you're doing in there!

We had the cabinets in our old 1980s condo kitchen painted white. When we sold that condo in 2010, our "refreshed" galley kitchen was the number one thing that buyers complimented us on (we sold the condo in only two days!). I promise I'm not a shill for the company but we used Rich Winkler Painting for the cabinetry painting (based in Alexandria, VA) and the paint job was affordable and meticulous. Funny, I just checked and you can see our old kitchen on the home page of Rich's website: http://www.richwinklerpainting.com/.

Great recommendation. Thanks.

Actually, I agree with the chatter who is worried about the canopy looking too Disney. I rarely see canopy beds in children's rooms that look elegant or sophisticated. Maybe I'm coming from the wrong camp here but I don't think that just because it's a child's room it has to look childish. If it can be done in a clean, modern way, I'm all for it. But I understand the chatter's reservations.


John & Sherry of YoungHouseLove just painted their kitchen cabinets and they look great. Check out their how-to: http://www.younghouselove.com/2012/01/how-to-paint-your-cabinets-aka-hallelujah/


We have the exact same color scheme, with white fixtures, and painted the walls a light sage green (Behr's Crisp Celery). Added medium sage green towels and rug. We get a lot of compliments on the room, so I thought I'd pass it on.

Sounds very retro.

Just my opinion, but I think kids should be able to choose what goes in their room. They have so little control over everything else. A little Disney won't kill you and it will probably only be for a few years. When she turns into a sullen teenager and wants to paint the room black, you'll yearn for those days of pink. :) Having said that, could you go sort of tropical with a canopy bed? Or perhaps Victorian/Edwardian? (Think Downton Abbey.) The Victorian might give her the pretty, romantic look she wants and ease her away from Disney Princess.

Princess or Dowager Countess? Yes, you can be whatever you want. Meanwhile, chuckling about your black painted room reference... so true.

My 70's house had ceiling hooks all over, for swag lamps, of course!

Of course! On macrame chains.

I get what that woman was talking about, since I have the same situation. If you use panel-type curtains in a dormer window, there is NO stacking space on the side. So automatically, even when open, those panels are going to block maybe a third of a typical glass pane's width in a dormer. How I know this: I have the same situation. Doesn't bother me because we don't spend much time in the bedroom during the day, but if you do - and a child might, using the room for play time or study time and so forth - a roller blind, Roman shades, or other solution that can stacks horizontally at the top rather than vertically at the sides might work better.

Thanks for weighing in.

Have your child draw a picture of what she wants when she says she wants a canopy. If you go with the breezy, tent-like curtains, and what she wants is pink frills, you aren't going to get a happy child. If you don't want the house to look like a Disney movie, don't let your child make decisions about how to decorate the rest of the house.

When you ask questions, you get answers.

We painted our boring dingy wood cabinets in our beach condo apple green and everyone (including us) loves them. Be sure sand and use a primer first so the paint job will last.


To follow my earlier post, if you need any convincing to paint dated kitchen cabinets, just read Maria Killam's (Colour Me Happy) blogpost on that topic. :)

Happy to.

Hi ladies, I'm moving to a new city in May. I'm so excited but so, so sad to leave my apartment. I scored when I got here a few years ago and the new place (in New York) is not nearly as big and much more expensive. Back when I got my current place, I was so excited that my boyfriend and I outfitted the whole thing -- it's almost like the furniture was custom made for it. Now, we're worried that we have too much furniture and not the right pieces for the new place. Any advice on proper transitioning for those of us who aren't homeowners? Do I sell as much as I can and start from scratch? I feel weird to be downsizing on space and upping my rent, but that's the life of a city dweller...

How exciting! I would figure out what would work/fit in the new place, keep the pieces that I love and that the ones that have special meaning, then unload the rest and use the money to by something new for your new place. Good luck!

Could you suggest a few more colors. That color looks very similar to the wall tiles. I was hoping for something with a bit more contrast. Thank you.

Benjamin Moore Brazilian Blue; Benjamin Moore Jet Stream; Sherwin Williams Verditer Blue.

Wow, that went by quickly! Thanks for joining us and for all the great questions and design input. Have a nice weekend, and we'll chat with you next week. 

In This Chat
Terri Sapienza
Terri Sapienza is a staff writer for The Washington Post's Local Living section.
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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