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

Mar 08, 2012

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

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Good morning, everyone!

Send in your questions, Terri and I are here to answer them. Terri has a great story on reupholstering - is it worth doing?  - today in Local Living. Check it out. Now, let's get going.

Regarding the person who wanted to get a day bed for a baby's room and was thinking of getting something at Ikea, we got a futon at Ellen's Futons in Rockville. Many guests have slept on it, and they all say how comfortable it is. They are not expensive, and there is a wide choice of sizes and mattress covers to blend with your decor.

Great idea. Thanks. Futons are great to have, especially during the cherry blossoms when lots of visitors tend to arrive and need a place to sleep.

We need to repaint our kitchen, which is currently red with white cabinets and large tile black and white floor. We're probably moving within the next year. Should we repaint red, or would another color be better for resale?

This is probably a question best answered by our Real Estate experts, but I will give you my thoughts: If you're planning on selling soon, paint over the red with a neutral color.


What are you thoughts on painting the handrails of my staircase black and the spindles BM White Linen (which matches all my trim) if I have off white carpeted stairs and golden oak wood foors? Right now they are the same color as the wood floors, but everything just looks so dated. Would doing this just be "too much going on"? Also, thought son painting oak kitchen cabinets sage green with a glaze? Is that OUT? Thanks in advance for your answers!

I like both of your ideas. I have glossy block staircase handrails and I think they look crisp and modern though my house is colonial. Sage green is a classic color for kitchens. Your instincts are good. Go with it.

I have several solid wood doors in my 1920 Arlington bungalow, and I would like to have the old varnish stripped. Do you know where I can have them "dipped"? This question has also come up on my neighborhood listserv, but no one has a source.

Yes. The Stripping Workshop at 411 New York Ave. NE

202 544-1470.  Do you guys know any other places?

Hi, everyone. I was so excited to get a charcoal sectional for my (beige) basement--but now I'm stymied by trying to find pillows to add some necessary punch. I tried a couple of popular gray and yellow ones but they're just not right. I have two white and yellow chevron style pillows that I'd like to use, but could use some suggestions on the overall look. I'm thinking about adding in bright turquoise and/or other jewel tones--thoughts?

I like the idea of turquoise and charcoal. Not so much yellow, turquoise and charcoal. Without knowing if your basement is small or large, I'd suggest sticking to one accent color down there, whether yellow or turquoise or something else.  You could bring in the color in a rug, window shades or lamps.

I'm expecting my first baby in July (yay!) so I have totally fallen into decorating-the-baby-room-mania. Which, to be honest, a total blast! The one thing I'm puzzled about is paint. We know the baby is a girl but I'm not at all interested in pink paint. I like the idea of something gender-neutral, but I don't want it to look too bold or cheesy (no mint greens or sunburst yellows!). Do you have any recommendations for pale, subtle colors? I'm looking for warm, welcoming and fresh, not like it was inspired by crayola.... Thank you thank you!

Congratulations! Preparing for a first baby is such a fun and exciting time, especially getting the nursery ready.  You don't like pink, but what colors do you like? There are lots of greens and yellows that are pale and subtle and sophisticated, if you want to go one of those routes. Or, you could use a more neutral color and bring in the colors you like with accessories. In my daughter's nursery, I installed beadboard wainscoting on the lower half of the walls, which I painted a creamy white, then I  hung a pretty wallpaper above. I love the way it turned out. It's pretty, sweet and sophisticated enough to stay with her as she gets older.

My dining room in my four bedroom colonial home is next to the kitchen. The family room is further away. How could I make the dining room a multi-purpose dining and family room with television? Thanks!

This is a problem in a lot of those homes - like mine! You could think of building in a banquette and putting an oval table in front of it with more casual chairs. You could put a flat screen TV on the wall and hide it behind a hinged screen if you are entertaining. Or you could put it in a cabinet with doors that could be closed. The room could have a small love seat in it as well. What ideas do you all have?

What would be the top three questions you would ask a designer before hiring them to do a project in your home? Thanks!!!

Here is a good article on the subject by Ylan Mui called "How to Choose an Interior Designer." She mentions Certification, Budget and Style. I would also add personal chemistry. I would ask: How will you and I work together to incorporate my ideas? How will you charge me for your work and how will you keep to my budget? Do you have clients I can talk to about your work and see photos of what you have done for them?

What questions would you all suggest?

Some doors can't be stripped, sadly. I had one that the exterior must've had lead paint because it wouldn't come off. The interior, the stain that was on came off!

Wow. Good to know.

I'm wearing a charcoal skirt with a turquoise jacket today! The color combo is really good.

Love it!!! I am wearing brown and pale pink. :)

Could you remove the wall between the kitchen & dining room and turn it into a "great room," and relocate the "formal" dining room to what is now the family room? If you don't use the formal space very often, you won't have to worry too much about the distance.

Good suggestion.

I need a good warm throw for a sectional sofa in a cold basement. I'm considering a faux fur throw - any ideas where I can get a good one? Thanks.

Restoration Hardware had good ones this winter and they might be on sale. Anyone know of other spots to get one?

After 10 years of renting a place with white walls, we bought our home last year! The walls are all painted a blah light yellow and the woodwork is white. In thinking about repainting, I've done everything: attached paper color samples to walls, followed your Q&As, visited paint stores in NW DC and Bethesda, and even browsed blogs! But I'm still stuck. Now, I'm wondering if I should start with a room and just go for it? I'd like to paint my daughters' room a serene blue -- love Farrow & Ball -- any suggestions? But do you think painting one room without a plan for the other rooms is a mistake? I don't want to end up with a bunch of clashing rooms. Should I wait until I come up with a plan for the entire house (which may mean never)? ... I'm desperate, help!

Go ahead and paint your daughter's room (Pale Powder and Borrowed Light are two of my favorite F&B blues). I think it's more important for the public spaces that connect to visually flow than it is for bedrooms.  As for the rest of your house, try not to worry so much about the wall color - sounds like you're paralyzing yourself. Try picking one color and just go for it. If you hate it, you can always repaint. I know, it's a pain to do, but the bottom line is that the wrong paint color is one of the easiest mistakes to fix. Go for it! You'll feel better.  It's just paint.

We have a small master bedroom and would like to maximize our space by getting a bed with storage drawers underneath. Everything available seems so flimsy (Ikea) or expensive (pottery barn) though. I love love love the Pottery Barn Stratton bed but at $1,800 it's out of my price range. Any suggestions for something in the middle, price-wise?

How about using several of these underbed baskets?

Iv got the coolest old "leather" chair that need some TLC. Its probably from the late 60's early 70's. Looking to reupholster it sooner than later but have no idea of the cost or what kind of fabric to use. Any tips?

Well, the first questions is if you want to use leather or not? I once bought an entire hide of leather for about $250 from Discount Fabrics USA in Thurmont, Md. and did 8 dining room chairs.  Reupholstery can be expensive as you can see from Terri's article today in Local Living that I liked to in the intro. But if you love the chair it's worth it.

Loved today's House Calls! I thought the designer did a great job and I especially liked the two rugs. I'm working on putting a nice room together for my toddler and I'll be using some of her suggestions. Question: Is it true that if you buy wider curtain rods than the windows, you'll let in more light? It looks great in the illustration but I'm wondering if I've ever seen this done in real life.... thanks!

If you install rods that are wider than the window your curtain panels can hang without covering any portion of the window, therefore you let in more light. 

This may fall out of your purview but my daughter has landed a job in DC for when she graduates in May. We are going down to DC to apartment hunt in a couple weeks, and I'm wondering what sorts of things we should look out for? Things like: is it very difficult to find month-to-month leases? Do apartments let you paint? Does DC have a big thrifty-furniture scene of consignment stores or will we be forced to thrift before she moves?

Congratulations to your daughter! That is really good news for her in this difficult job market. DC is a fun place to start out and there are lots of twentysomethings here. There are lots of places available for the summer only as there are many students who go home in the summer and need to sublet their apartments. Check out craigslist and neighborhood list serves and also call college housing offices. Then your daughter can live in the city for a while before she decides what neighborhood she wants to end up in. Most apartments do not let you paint as far as I know. There are definitely consignment and thrift shops here and lots of used furniture floating about. Good luck!

Hey guys! Random question: why does House Calls always use Benjamin Moore paint? Is it better than other brands? Cheaper? What are your personal favorite brands? (Or can you not say because your section has a deal with BM?) Haha! Just curious :-)

The paint colors and brands we mention in House Calls are the ones recommended by the designers who do House Calls each week, not picked by The Post staff. Benjamin Moore is more expensive than some brands, but less than others, and it's a favorite of many designers. I like and use it too, but I also like and use Farow & Ball, Sherwin Williams and C2.  I typically pick my paint based on color, not brand.

Awesome combination - add a touch of black - very modern - totally cool!

Totally cool! Yes!

My fiance's best friend's wedding is in April and I'm already stressing about what to give them. I want to get something creative and interesting but that they'll use. ....Unfortunately their register is VERY blah... all super inexpensive and nothing too inspired, and I'm interesting in going outside of that. Is that a no-no? Any ideas for stellar-creative-awesome gifts that you received or heard of friends receiving?

When I got married, one of our guests gave us a gift certificate to one of the best, and most expensive, resturants in the town where we went on our honeymoon. So thoughtful. It was one of my favorite gifts.

I'm lucky I have a bright 3 big window bedroom in my apt and I get tons of light. My bed is a bronze 4 poster, my duvet cover is black and I have leopard print accent lamps and throw. I really want to paint the bedroom a golden shade of brown, possibly a Ralph Lauren Metallic or chocolate to acccent my black roman shades. Thoughts suggestions?

You have a lot of strong colors and accents already. I might suggest painting the walls more of a cream or lighter brown. How about Cappuccino by Martha Stewart for Home Depot or Buttermilk by C2?

It finally happened, we bought our first beach house! It's quite small and very charming, and a bit of a fixer-upper... but we couldn't be more excited to get going. The first thing is to paint the exterior. We're going to paint it gray with white trim, like this one on Young House Love. But what to paint the door? We love the idea of a red door but not for a beach house. Any version or teal or seafoam seems corny. Suggestions? You're the experts.....

Any color would look great with gray and white, so I think you should go with whatever color makes you happy. If you dont want red or blue, what about a cheery green or yellow? Pink would be pretty, too. Really, anything you go with will look great. go with a color that  makes you smile.

This may not be the right chat, but has anyone had experience with induction ranges? They are intriguing to me but I'd love to hear from someone who has had actual experience with them.

I did write about ranges not too long ago in one of my Handy Guide columns. Here's the story. I have never used one but can someone out there help this chatter out?

This is going to sound SUPER stuffy but we're going to paint the room in our new home which will be the library/study (hold your groans, please!). We're thinking of painting it a dark green..... what do you think about that? The room doesn't get much light but that's kind of the look we're going for. It's not a huge space, and a lot of the wall space will, obviously, be covered with books. Are we going too dark?

Dark green in a library is a classic look. If it's what you are going for, then it's perfect for you. Studio Green by Farrow & Ball is very dark green. I like Gabardine by Martha Stewart for Home Depot. And also I like Ping Pong or Chargreen by C2.

Another good resource is your local Freecycle.org. However, you should be prepared to also offer items in return for getting some. The Salvation Army thrift store on Kenilworth Avenue in Hyattsville usually has a lot of furniture.

Yes. Great ideas. Thanks.

Ok, I'm officially obsessed with House Hunters. The show seems to have caught on lately because it's all anyone talks about anymore and it's on constantly... but I love it. Would you guys ever do that sort of a column in the paper? The NYT does a column called "What you get for...." where they show you homes in different areas in the country that go for the same amount (an apartment in SF, a bungalow in Atlanta, etc.). I know the Post is a local paper, but you could show what a house in Fairfax goes for next to an apartment in Dupont next to a shore house near Annapolis.... I dont know, just a thought!

That show is addictive. This is a good idea and we will pass it along to the real estate section.

I have a bedroom that I painted a beautiful pale yellow. I really like the color, but there is a lot of it. I was considering toning it down with a 1.5 foot wide horizontal stripe of elephant grey at the top of the wall, and then separating the stripe from the main yellow wall with very shallow shelving all the way around the room. Is this a terrible vision? Will it make the ceiling look lower or anything? Do you have another suggestion for this problem?

I'm not crazy about your idea. And I think it will make the walls look shorter. It might be cheaper and easier to just do a lighter shade of yellow paint and start over!

Enjoyed the reupholstery article today. Just want to say that I am a huge fan of slipcovers - it's less expensive than reupholstering and you don't have to worry about spills or stains because you can throw the covers in the wash. All of my sofas and chairs are slipcovered in white denim and they look and wear fabulously.

There are lots of people like you out there and I am one of them!

I'm confused. Why would people groan about your library. Books are wonderful. What am I missing?

I think the person meant that dark green is a very traditional color to paint a library and perhaps people would groan because they weren't being original.

Wow, do I just hate trying to pick out a paint color. I'm hoping you are just the folks to ask, as surely, you can't despise this task like I do. My son is going from a crib to a twin bed in a very small room. We have Pottery Barn Island Surf bedding with blues, reds, and pale greens. I usually would have picked a light beige as I like the warmth, however what is throwing me off is the lighter oak furniture that will be moved into the room. The rest of the house has dark wood and I do love the look of that against a beige. Maybe a lighter green? Please do help this lost paint soul. Color suggestions and specificity is a must, as I am so poor at this task!

Tough to say without being able to see the bedding in person, but see what you think about BM's Jack and the Beanstalk, Desert Green or Cedar Grove.  Also see C2's Portage and Haddon Hall and Sherwin Williams's Liveable Green, Softened Green and Clary Sage. Good luck!

We've had an induction stove for about six months and we're very happy with it. GE Profile model. We hated our old electric stove, and gas isn't an option. The induction stove was expensive but the heat source is very controllable -- as good as gas I'd say. The stove was expensive and we had to replace our cookware, but we feel the expense was worth it. (Induction requires metallic cookware, we went with All Clad.)

We appreciate your thoughts on this.  Glad it worked out for you.

Wonderful piece on reupholstering! My grandmother's family had an upholstery shop when she was growing up. Many years ago she told me that when I bought my own house she would re-do an orange crushed velvet chair (with amazing lines) from her basement for me. Even with free labor, it was still pricey, but 100% worth it. The chair is prettier and nicer than I imagined it would be and it gets tons of compliments. It's so nice to have something you love that is still brand new in a way.

What a great story! Glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks for writing.

Anyone seen the Bronson Pinchot Project on DIY networ?. Pretty good. He uses all salvaged products to re-new old houses.

I have not. Have you guys?

Do it! I just painted mine, and it looks incredible. I feel smarter and richer just standing in it.

What a fabulous way to feel! Fantastic. I may need to turn a room into a library just so I can feel that way.

The Berkshire fleece throw at BBB (Indulgence, I think) is actually quite warm and still pretty light. It's poly, but has a really nice hand. And when my cats get on it, they can't stop kneading it! (I suppose some people might consider that a detriment, but hey, snuggling kitties are warm).

Thanks. Your cats have good taste.

Not going to do leather on the chair. I have a mocha colored sofa in the room were i would like to put the chair. The sofa is a small tufted leather piece from Natuzzi. They carried it at the now out of business Domain. I would like to go nautral but with the brown sofa,ottoman and armoire i feel it needs some color in the room but i dont want to go to trendy either and hate it in five years.

Then I would go neutral, something like an oatmeal, and bring in color and pattern with pillows that you can easily change as your tastes do.

Thanks everyone. Good chat on topics from dark green libraries to faux fur throws. See you next week. Enjoy this beautiful early spring day.

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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