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

Mar 01, 2012

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

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Hi, folks. Thanks for joining the chat on this beautiful DC morning. The lead home story in today's section is about my love of the color blue and how its one of the colors I use most in my home. See it here. Do you have a favorite accent color? Tell us about it in the comments after the story. Okay, let's get started.

Submitting early. Like Terri I love the color blue. I love it so much that I'm thinking of repainting the ceilings in my condo a light color sky blue. The condo gets very little natural light and I think that the blue would open the rooms up to almost feel as if I were outdoors. Do you think it would be too much? The rooms have creamy white crown molding and dark wood floors. Thanks.

You probably wont find this surprising, but I love your idea!  But, I probably wouldn't paint the ceiling blue in every room because it might be a little too much. For a color, take a look at Farrow & Ball's Pale Powder and Borrowed Light - two of my favorites. 

This may sound vague, but are there general guidelines when purchasing a lampshade ? I have a lamp base, but it has never had a shade, so I am not sure what the proportions should be. Wider than the base ? Taller in inches than the base ? Is there someplace I can try some on ?

The key here is trying them on, as you so aptly put it. It's best to go to a reputable lamp store where experts can show you the the proper heights and styles for your lamp. There are so many shapes as well. My favorite website for lampshades is www.justshadesny.com. Try The Lamplighter in Alexandria or any other large lamp store - bring in your lamp and see what they advise. This is a job for a pro.

Would you please recommend a source for reasonably priced sheer white curtains? Even better, two sources: one online, one brick and mortar in the D.C. area. Thank you very much.

Ikea or JC Penney for the white curtains. And online www.countrycurtains.com.

Not sure if this is covered under design advice but thought I'd give it a shot. I have an antique jewelry box that I need to get repaired, restored and valued. It's some type of wood with jade inlays and gilded pieces on the outside. Any recommendations for good antique restorers in the area? I live in Woodbridge but will go anywhere in VA/DC/MD. Thanks!

I would take this to a jewelry store that handles estate jewelry - they will know craftspeople who would work on something like this.  You could also take to Weschler's or Sloans & Kenyon on one of their free appraisal days - and they might suggest someone to work on it.

Some time ago, you mentioned a firm in Potomac (I think) that could repair chips in glassware and crystal. Could you please remind readers of the company's name? Thank you.

Restoration Center in Potomac 301 340-2624.

I'm sorry I missed the discussion on mattresses last week! We are on our second "pillow top" and I highly recommend AGAINST this type of mattress. The manufacturer replaced the first set due to "indentations." You can see where my husband and I tend to lay even when we are not on the bed! It's very annoying. We are of average weight so it can't be that we are too heavy for the mattress! I wish your expert would have talked more about this. The sales rep at the store even whispered to me when I was filling out paperwork for the replacement that this happens more than companies will admit.

Thanks a lot for this. We did have a good discussion last week about mattresses. It does seem like the fad for pillow tops may be on the wane due to the things you mentioned.

Before your story two weeks ago, I had not heard abouout chalk paint but since then, I have fallen in love with the look and started planning several projects. One of them is to paint my 1980's oak vanity in my master bedroom with Annie Sloan paint. By not replacing the 60 inch long cabinet, I can save close to $1,000 in materisl and labor but is the paint durable enought to hold up for a few years of daily use?

From what I have heard, it is indeed durable and you can do several coats of it and several coats of wax. Check with Christen Bensten on her blog www.blueeggbrownnest.com for more information.

I am looking to paint my drab colored bedroom and would like advice on painting it a dark color. I lean towards modern and simplicity and love blacks, whites and grays. I would leave the crown molding white but am undecided as to whether or not to paint the rest of the room a very dark color such as a steel-y gray or even black. Most of the furniture is dark but I have mirrors to reflect light and bedding is white. What is your take and would like to hear color suggestions as well as paint colors. Thank you!

Have you considered navy? It would be dark, but not black dark, which might be too much depending on the amount of natural light you get in the room. Your white bedding would look crisp and fantastic with the navy walls and you could use black and white accents to bring in the black you want. As for paint colors, I would take a look at Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore, Major Tom by C2 and Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball. 

Saw your tweet about Manteresting/Pinterest... I can't decide how I feel about it! What do you think? Seems kind of silly to me, but I guess that's what a lot of guys think about Pinterest.

Yes a bit silly. But lots of silly ideas seem to be striking it big online these days. I don't see my husband getting into posting photos of man caves or hubcaps.  But I love pinterest, the online bulletin board for ideas on design, fashion, food etc,  Have you tried it? Check out mine:  www.pinterest.com/jurakoncius

Our dining room is currently a deep blue, very close to Benjamin Moore "Chicago Blues." We'd like to freshen up the room and go a bit lighter and more light reflective because the only natural light is from adjacent rooms. Would BM "Brazilian Blue" be too bright for a dining room? I don't want it to look like a child's room.

I like Chicago Blues much more than Brazilian Blue, especially for a dining room. If you're looking to lighten up the space a little, how about installing a chair rail and painting the bottom portion white? Even better: add panle molding or wainscoting below the rail, then paint white. Would look great in a dining room.

Our 50's rambler has a finished (in the seventies) walk-out basement that we are hoping to turn into a rec room/play room for our two boys. The floor is laminate, the walls are dark brown wood panel, and we have had a bit of a bug problem since we moved in (we spray every 3 months but still get the thousand legs that come out to play). Did I also mention we caught a 5' black snake in the basement in October? Anyway, our boys are scared to go in the basement at the earliest hint of sundown and since we just spent all our money renovating the kitchen, a huge basement reno is a few years away. How can we make it less scary? All of their toys are down there, as well as a TV/DVD and a futon (sitting on top of an 8x10 rug). Would paint on the walls go a long way? How about lighting?

eek! I would be scared to go down there, too! That's the first thing I would address - call someone in to put an end to the creature spottings for good. Then, for a super quick fix, paint the paneling white and lay FLOR tiles wall-to-wall. If it's in your budget, install some recessed lighting, too.

After searching and searching, I finally decided I'm not going to be able to find a comforter in the style and color I want (or at least one without dozens of reviews saying how easily it tears). However, I can find a duvet tutorial in the style I want, so have decided to make one myself. My concern, however, is that my lone experience with a duvet was kind of maddening - the comforter kept sliding around inside the duvet cover. Now, the duvet was made of a rather silky material, whereas I've picked a cotton with some texture to it for my new one. Are there any other tips I can use to try and keep the duvet and comforter as one? Thanks!

I just got a new comforter from Cuddledown of Maine. I really love it and I got the Primary Down Comforter, which was voted Best Buy Comforter by Consumer's Digest. I bought a coordinating all cotton comforter cover from them - in the Double sie. When you get a cover in the exact size of your comforter, you will be in good shape in terms of sliding. The silky stuff is something to avoid.  The Cuddledown website has lots of tips.

Good morning. My husband and I are expecting a baby at the end of the summer, and as we only have one spare room, we have to make it a baby room and a guest room. I believe we will get a day bed. Do you have an recommendations on where to buy a good, comfortable, cheap day bed? There are a few at IKEA, and I'm wondering if those are comfortable? Thanks so much.

Good and comfortable don't necessarily come cheap. But Ikea certainly is a popular choice for something like this. If you can, don't get the very cheapest mattress. Have you all out there bought daybeds from Ikea?

How modern do you mean by "modern"? I love the idea of navy and white, but it could feel nautical, Ralph Lauren-y, or a bit preppy. If you lean toward industrial, mid-century, or italian design type modern, a deep greige or pewter is better than navy. Avoid "dead" greys. Some bluegrays especially really suck out life and light from the room. Also consider venetian plaster to get more life into the gray.

Good ideas. Thanks.

Just a note: Country Curtains has a brick and mortar store in Fairfax Corner shopping center.

Oh yes! I forgot! Thanks....

I'm about to take the plunge and hang our flat panel TVon the wall (hopefully convincing my husband to hide any cables in the wall).  I need to keep the electronics out of the reach of our toddler. is a shelf above the TV going to look weird? I plan to have a re-purposed marble top dresser that is slightly wider than the TV underneath for DVD storage and to act as an "anchor."

I have to say, I''m not a big fan of hanging TVs on the wall andI do think a shelf above one will look awkward and invite visual clutter. Do you not like the idea of sitting it on the dresser you'll be using? 

We are redoing our small bathroom and we will be repainting it. My question is, do we paint the ceiling the same color as the wall, or do we paint the ceiling white? The bathroom gets no natural light, the floors will be a light grey (ceramic, but looks like slate), one wall of the bathroom will be marble tiles, tub will be the same marble tiles and water glass subway tiles, and we will likely paint the untiled wall a light grey or blue grey. Vanity will be glossy white. Thanks so much much for your advice.

I would definitely do the ceiling a glossy white.

Terri: I am the mother of 11 with a small house. I have a small TV room that I need to make look more spacious and inviting. It currently has off white walls and dark couches. What colors would be good?

If this is who I think it is, your house already looks inviting : )  But if you want to add color, your otherwise neutral space would welcome just about any shade you choose. Next time I'm over we'll take a look and pick some out. Can't wait!

We have pretty steep wood stairs from our bedroom into the kitchen (both floors are wood). Would a runner help make the stairs more safe? How would it look with all the wood flooring? Our floors are natural wood and our walls are white, so I would love to get a bright color runner to spice up the joint!

A runner is sometimes safer than just wood floors, plus it can add a nice texture or color to the space. I would say yes!

There are also padded clips you can buy - they attach to each corner (duvet + comforter) on the inside and help keep it in place.Try Bed Bath and Beyond or Target (in the aisle with the comforters). You can also sew ties to the inside corners to keep the cover in place.


Places like Bed Bath sell these clips to hold the comforter in place in the cover. They have saved me from years of annoyance.

Good to know.

We found a snake in the basement too along with mice and other things when we first moved in. We had a storm dorm installed with excellent weather stripping along the bottom, and it has helped a lot! (Or they are better at hiding, but either way, we're good!)


Try Ikea for sheer, white curtains. They have several styles.

Thanks for confirming.

comforter clips. 'nuff said.


It can be cold. We painted my son's bedroom BM Gentleman's Gray (google it for images). It has just enough green to keep it warm. (Not sure why it's called gray, though!)

Thanks for your thoughts.

Loved the story on blue! So, a couple of chats ago, we were talking about calendars and organizers and such. I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer (caught early, luckily--get those mammograms and do your self-exams!!!) and quickly realized that there was going to be an avalanche of paperwork to keep organized. So I went to Staples and bought a Martha Stewart accordion file in a light turquoise that feels both calming and energizing (if that makes sense). I'd love to paint my office turquoise. Thoughts?

I'm so sorry about your diagnosis, but happy to hear you caught it early - great news! I, of course, love the idea of a blue accordian file. I also have a blue Martha according file that I bought years ago when she had a mail-order catalog. Does anyone else remember that? I miss it!

As for painting your office turquoise, I love the idea, especially if it will make you happy whenever you're working there.  Spend some time browsing the design blog House of Turquoise for more blue-inspiration than you'll know what to do with. good luck!

I am looking at this couch from Stickley and fell in love with the fabric as shown -- black, but subtle. Never thought I would go black, but was thinking of a slate blue-gray. Does this work and do you have a suggestion for the color (tend to like BM colors)?

I trust you are talking about a paint color. The sofa is nice, simple lines. It would be nice with a gray paint. What about Benjamin Moore Horizon Gray?

Jura - Just went online to look at the Cuddledown comforter you mentioned, and it offers several options . . . .blanket, summer, or level 1, 2, 3, 4 -- do you have a recommendation?

I got the two! love it.

Just a reminder that anything you put underneath attractive nuisances like a TV you will want to physically anchor to a wall. if you set the TV on the dresser, the TV and the dresser both should be anchored. Really, anything large or heavy should be.

So true. This is such an important safety  thing to remember. Thanks a lot.

I have lovely pale blue Italian tiles in my kithchen from Italy that I just love. Have had them for years and don't want to part w/ them. I want to replace cabinets and put in wood floors but not sure of a wood color that would work well w/ blue field tiles. I know Terry is a big fan of wood floors and I'm wondering if the floor should be the same color as the cabinetry?

As an Italian and a lover of the color blue, I am supremely envious of your kitchen tile! I don't think the floors should be an exact match the cabinetry. In fact, I think a contrast in color and texture is good. For some kitchen inspiration, check out my kitchen Pinterest board here

I want to remodel my '60s kitchen. I like hardwood floors but everyone tells me to go w tile. What do you think? btw, my mom's favorite color was blue. I grew up on the ocean and every room in the house was blue. It was fantastic.

Your childhood home does sound fantastic!

I think either floor choice would work, so go with what you like best. I have hardwood in my kitchen, and I love it.  But I know people who love having tile in their kitchen. It's just a matter of personal preference.

paint and upgrade your lighting! I had your scary basement two years ago (minus the bugs). When we replaced the 1970s overhead lighting fixtures with recessed lighting and painted the walls a soft blue it made a huge difference. Wish we had done it sooner!


Give the girls brick trowels and a copy of Night of the living Dead and have a sleepover party.

I like this idea.

Just wanted to throw out that rather than spending your $$$ on a day bed that might only get occasional use, why not try a great "temporary" bed. inflatable or rollaway beds have come a long way. they even have ones that turn into beds that once you cover look like the real thing. and you can set them up whereever you need it in the house. Just saying it is something to think about, because a daybed inthe baby's room isn't going to help you too much once the baby is sleeping in there. The last thing you want to introduce is a guest who will (despite the best of intentions) either wake or be woken by the baby.

Things to consider for sure.

Adopt a cat.

Such a great idea.

Crate and Barrel used to make a sleeper sofa named Troy that was simple and comfortable to sit in and sleep on. They may have another. Also check out CB2, they have some hip looking daybeds, not too expensive.

Oh great.

Thanks for your suggestions. I was not leaning towards navy/blue just b/c I like the color palette of black/white and am not really preppy/nautical. I meant modern like Calvin Klein Home modern as well as the way Armani decorates. Very clean, very simple. I like your suggestions for the pewter and not having a flat grey. Black is still an option as my windows are facing the afternoon sun. Thanks again.

 I don't think navy always looks nautical or preppy when it's used. It's a classic color that can be very sophisticated. Check out our gallery here.

That's all we have time for today. Thanks for joining us. Have a great weekend. And, if you're in DC, go outside and enjoy the weather while it lasts!

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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