Home Front: From show house to your house

Apr 08, 2010

Washington Post Local Living section writer Jura Koncius was online Thursday, April 8, at 11 a.m. ET to help you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss.

Video Tour the 2010 DC Design House

Victoria Sanchez, an interior designer and teacher of design from Alexandria, will be Jura's guest today. She is one of the 20 designers participating in the D.C. Design House and has decorated the library in the 105-year-old Chevy Chase show house. Sanchez will answer questions about decorating, furniture placement and choosing fabrics, plus comment on her room and the experience of working on the D.C. Design House.

Big week in the DC design world - the opening Saturday of the DC Design House in Chevy Chase. We have full coverage in Local Living today - article, video, photo gallery, and this chat with Victoria Sanchez, the Alexandria designer who did the Library at Wirelawn, the design house. The best question today will win this prize: "Perfect Porches: Designing Welcoming Spaces for Outdoor Living" by Paula S. Wallace  (Clarkson Potter; $35).  At the end of the chat I will name the winner - please email your mailing address then to localliving@washpost.com. Let's hear your questions everyone and check out the show house - its $20 admission and their website is www.DCDesignHouse.com.

I loved the tour of the show house and the golf room! I can't wait to see it in person and to see Ms. Sanchez's library. Thanks so much.

Thanks a lot. Victoria's library is beautiful and she has wonderful French doors looking out into the pool.

Gimme a break! Over $3,000 for furniture; a costly rug, and wall-to-wall carpeting?! Babies need your time and love, not expensive "stuff." It is easy to find a reasonably-priced dresser, make a plastic-covered foam pad for the top, and buy a well-built but reasonable crib and chair. Or get once-expensive furniture second-hand. Babies are messy! Expensive rugs and carpeting are not practical. Get carpet tiles that can be replaced as needed if they can't be cleaned, and/or a washable rug from Penney's or Target. With the savings, maybe mom and dad can afford to take a few more weeks off work to spend time with the baby.

Thanks for you opinion. There are lots of ways to outfit a baby's room.

Hello, can you please recommend a pale blue-gray color for a master bathroom with no natural light and white trim and fixtures? I'm also looking for a pale gray for the adjoining bedroom, which has dark brown furniture, medium gray bedding, and crisp white sheets and accents. Prefer Sherwin Williams please. Thank you!

What about Mountain Air for the bathroom - and Topsail for the bedroom?

Need a recommendation for wall paint color our kitchen we have canvas with cocoa glaze (cream color) kraftmaid cabinets, travertine tiles, black granite and dark wood island. Thinking of BM Palladian Blue. Thanks

I love using Benjamin Moore colors.  I would reccomend using Putnam Ivory, Monroe Bisque or Standish White.  You can go darker if you have more natural lighter, a little lighter if you little light.

I like Longaberger pottery and am ordering some baking dishes during their April sale. I'm worried about using them, though, because I've ruined my cheap dishes with baked on food. I spray with Pam first but still have the burned on problem. Maybe the better-quality Longaberger won't be as hard to clean, but just in case, does anybody know how to keep this from happening?

This is a great question. I visited the Longaberger factory a few years ago in Ohio - their corporate headquarters is shaped like a giant basket. Awesome. Meanwhile, spraying pans with Pam is a huge help I think. THen there is coating them with butter. Any other ideas out there? Do any of you guys collect Longaberger baskets? How has their value held during the recession?

Do any.readers have a successful experience fixing those awful metal wall corners that get badly dinged? Spackle and paint won't fix - corners not crisp and spackle won't hold. I understand joint compound and probably tape are necessary before repainting. Do I have to go with a professional?

Hire a professiona.!!  Nothing is trickier than drywall work and the flaws will be glaring. 

When you reference "paper bag/khaki" color for the kitchen, any suggestions for a color that won't be drab with potential cherry color cabinets? Prefer SW or Behr -- thanks!

We LOVE the color Bagel by Sherwin Williams.

Good Morning, I just started a new job, my first with an office and window (yeah!!!). What are some lost cost ways to bring color and personality to my drab grey walls? Thanks!

I think adding artwork is easy.  I just moved into a new office myself and am in the process of adding art.  I think a bulletin board is fun because you can add alot of personal pictures, etc and not worry about tape and pushpins in the walls.  I also think orchids are always great for color

Do you ladies or any of your readers have any experience with the quality of Rowe sofas or McCreary Modern sofas?

We do not. So let's send this question out to all of you. I know Rowe has a great line of small scale sofas for apartments and condos. Any of you have them?

How did you get selected for the DC Design House?

Designers are invited to walk through the house months in advance.  we then submit our designs to a committee and cross our fingers!

I just moved into my first house in November and then we got hit with a couple of crazy snow storms and long freezing days this winter. I noticed that the beam above the window has long yellow lines and some chipped paint now. I'm guessing the gutters were full of frozen water for a few weeks and it must have started to leak through. So what do I do now? Who would I contact to see if there is structural damage, or should I just paint over?

That definitely sounds like you were hit. I visited my friend Isabelle's house over Easter and she showed me where the ice dams had caused water to seep down the walls of her bedroom. Right now, it looks just as you describe - some lines and chipped paint. But you must have the area checked out for drywall damage and also to see if your gutters need to be replaced or adjusted. A roofing contractor, home inspector or remodeler would be a good bet.  I would not suggest just painting over it.

Victoria - it says that you teach interior design. What's the best way to break into the business these days?

Depending on where you are in your current career, getting a degree is the best path you can take.  Lots of competition out there for the jobs right now, but if you have the will, you will find a way.  You could go to school and work part-time for a design firm.  Education and experience are what it takes.

Thanks for taking my question! I am getting ready to paint my condo, and I've heard from some people that the color on the chip is accurate, and from others that I need to buy a sample and actually paint bits of my wall to get a true sense of the color. What do you suggest? I hesitate to paint random squares all over my condo, because I know the messiness of that will drive me crazy as I make my final decision! Is it crazy to somehow combine the two ideas and buy a sample of the color and paint a piece of posterboard, instead of my wall? Will that be any more accurate than the original chip? Thanks so much! I've spent ages narrowing down my colors, and am now a little scared that I will end up painting with one that's just a little off!

I always tell everyone that will listen that the poster board method is the way to go.  if you paint on existing walls, you could be painting over a color, say blue, that will cause the new color not to read correctly.  the white poster board is the right base.  be sure to paint several coats and also more than one board, or cut in half, so that you can put the paint color in differnt lights.  good luck and have fun!

As of June 3, both my husband and myself will be retired and to celebrate we will be spending time at both Rehoboth and O.C. Do you know of interesting home/decorating shops in the area? Accessories, fabric, art? Anything at the Outlet Mall in Rehoboth or on the way in? Thanks.

My colleague, Terri Sapienza, did a great story on beach shopping last May. Our producer Rocci will post it for us.

Thank you so much for this! We are redoing our walls and ceiling in our basement, a pretty big space. No natural light, only recessed (canned) lights and a purple-burgandy carpet (like BM bordeaux in a bottle) that's staying because it's good carpet, not because we love it. We'd like a neutral paint color that doesn't play up the carpet color and maximizes light, light, light. Can you suggest a BM or Sherwin Williams color, please?? Any thoughts on BM Pale Almond? Oh, and a trim color? Thank you!! Love this discussion!

Pale Almond is a terrific choice, a very popular neutral. We're also fond of Putnam Ivory and Shaker Beige, both Benjamin Moore Historic Colors.

How do the designers in the show house determine what the themes will be? Do you discuss what colors and styles you are going to use?

We don't pick a theme per se.  Nor do we discuss the color and styles.  I do get this question often and my answer is usually the same.  as designers, we are inspired by the current trends in the market place.  therefore, our inspirations can be similar in color, shapes, etc.  it is always amazing to see a house flow so well together.  even we are surprised!

We just moved in to a brand new house. The only problem is that our master bedroom closet is much smaller than our last. We are thinking of having some closet design gurus come in and give us some estimates for a closet overhaul, but don't know where to begin in terms of price and service. Anyone have any suggestions for closet organization companies with free consults who do a good, reasonably priced job? (We have done the Container Store thing and it's great, but we need more extensive help with this one). Thanks!!

It is my dream to have my closets redone but I haven't yet. I hear Closet Stretchers is very good. Anyone else have a good experience with closet organizing companies?

I just moved into a new townhouse, and had all the walls painted colors that I love. I haven't yet hung any of the art prints that I had up in my old place, and I'm finding that I really like look of the bare walls. My taste does tend to run to simple, clean lines and I hate anything fussy, but is it too extreme to put nothing on my walls at all? Will it look unlived in or partially finished to everyone but me?

It's your house and you should do wahtever you want!!! I personally love art on the walls and feel it's a reflection of who you are. But if it's not your thing don't do it.

My fiance and I are buying our first home. I've been watching a lot of HGTV lately to learn how to decorate our new home. I don't want an "over designed" look, but I'd like something that's pretty and looks put together. As someone who has no talent whatsoever when it comes to decorating, how do I learn to "design" when I can't afford to hire a designer? I'm most nervous about buying the sofas and the entertainment center. I feel as though once those things are decided, I'm pretty much limited in my look.

What about buying some shelter magazines and design books to help develop your taste? We like House Beautiful and Traditional Home magazines. The Domino decorating book is a keeper and so is Elizabeth Mayhew's Flip! for decorating. Both great, great books. Any other suggestions, chatters?

Jura -- Good morning! Our office will be moving into a beautiful old row house off of Dupont Circle. I'd like to leave behind the utilitarian office furniture and make my new office a comfortable work space that is inviting to my subordinate employees but also still an office space. So far I've picked out a white writer's desk, and I hope to include a family hand-me-down settee (dark wood with orange upholstery). The floors are light wood and the walls are a light taupe w/white chair rail. I don't like matchy-match wood or "sets," and ideally I'd like to add a console and maybe a bench for some plants (there's a bay window). Any suggestions on where to look for deals, what to avoid and how to maintain the office look while also be inviting? Thanks!

I have also just transitioned my office space.  I also don't want my office to look like "an office"!  my desk, work table, filing cabinets, obviously are what they are; hard working pieces of furniture.  The lighting, floor coverings, artwork and seating are much more residential in feel.  I think many retailers can help you find the furnishings you want.  Look at how you decorated your own house for inspiration.  Ballards, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware are all great places for inspiration and purchasing!

Good morning ladies, I live in a D.C. rowhouse and I'm looking for a lighting fixture for a small foyer. I'd rather not choose a chandelier because I want something more casual but still stylish. I'm considering a bowlpendant but haven't seen any I like. Do you have any suggestions for an appropriate fixture? My style is contemporary and I need brushed nickel. Thanks.

i love going to Dominion Lighting on lee highway in arlington.  i think they have other locations too.  The showroom displays are really great and so much of what they have there is in stock so you can install it on teh same day! 

Hi. I have a toddler and was pleased with his room when he was a baby. But now that's he's older, I'd like to make it easier to spend time in it. We have pergo floors, and only one small rug in front of the changing table. There is no seating and floor space is at a minimum (crib, one bookshelf, and myriad stuffed animals take up the rest). What can I do so that both he and I want to spend more time in there? Thanks!

How about some seating? A chair for you so you can read to him on your lap and maybe a bean bag chair for him. Depending on space, Ikea has a very popular round table and chairs and stools that will grow with him. You guys can play blocks and Legos on it and when he gets older he can draw and write there.

Hello. My husband and I just purchased a Rowe sofa (the Dorset) from Urban Essentials. We really like it - seems solid and well-made. We've only had it for a month, so I can't speak to its durability. The only thing I don't like is that the seat cushions have an elastic piece with a hook on the end, and you use this to hook the cushions onto the sofa itself, so they don't move around. Great idea, but the elastic is bright white, and the couch is brown, so you can see the elastic when you sit on the sofa and the cushions separate a bit in the middle. Other than that, I'd buy it again.

One chatter's opinion on Rowe.

I learned a little trick when using drywall mud. Scoop the mud out and mix it around to loosen it up with you scraper. Apply it in quick swipes getting as smooth as you can. Sand it lightlly to get any lumps out then use a damp sponge to smooth.

I use Pam (or generic versions) and have also had the problem with residue that doesn't wash off easily. I find that if I just spray it on, I get the residue. But if I spray and than lightly spread it around with a scrap of paper towel, the residue is far less likely. I've had good luck removing the residue with steel wool, but prefer to avoid it in the first place.

I've decided to paint front door/shutters BM-Blueberry. Is it tacky to paint the garage door the same color as door/shutters or should the door be neutral ? Could you suggest an exterior color in white? Love the chats!!

I get nervous with super strong colors on the exteriors.  I would not paint the garage doors the same blueberry color.  Please paint it in white.  I think that Duron Shell white, which is slightly soft is a great white to use.  I use it for interior trim too. 

Worthy cause and source of inspiration, but how's the parking over there? Any insights?

Not great. Best to park on one of the side streets off Bradley Lane. If you choose to park on Connecticut Ave., read the signs carefully and bring change for meters. It's totally worth it tho, you should go.

For really unique items check out the Rehoboth Art League and the Ocean City Art League. Also, the shops up and down Rehoboth Ave offer up some really nice things.

Excellent idea, thanks.

Just a gentle reminder to all the readers of "House Calls" that the designers are trying to give you an ideal room for your own inspiration. Obviously they will pick expensive furnishings because they are the best in quality and design. But don't get bent out of shape over the expense! Obviously readers can look for similar furnishings at a lesser price. How would you feel if you hired an interior decorator and everything they picked out for your room was from Wal-Mart? The designer SHOULD aim big to show you the ultimate possibilities, and you can decide how to rein in the expense on your own to fit your budget.

It's true that designers try to be aspirational. In many cases, most of us only choose one or two expensive things for our rooms and look for bargains to furnish the rest of the room.

We have a black iron bed that isn't very interesting, but we can't splurge on a new one, and I was thinking of painting it red or something much more interesting than black. How do I go about painting an entire bed, and how can I make sure the paint won't rub off or damage the walls or anything else? Any suggestions as to what kind of paint to use? We rent, so keeping things pristine is a must! Thanks!

Always use primers.  you may need to do some sanding and scraping on the iron first to be sure that the primer will go on smoothly.  Red could be pretty cool if the whole room is contemporary while a creamy white will inspire a more romantic bedroom.  Tell the paint people you are painting iron and they will steer you in the right direction.  great idea!  have fun with it-you can alway repaint it black if you change your mind.

Probably a good topic for you guys in future article. I find there is a balance to be had between the personal and professional. It may be just me, but I am offput by offices or desks that are cluttered with photos of family and kid art. There's a balance. Once had a colleague who kept a knitting basket by her desk with yarns and unfinished afghans. It didn't make her look very serious about her job. Just sayin.

YIKES! My boss would not be pleased about that.

For the person who wants help decorating her first home, also check out home design blogs. The bloggers are real people who often have real budgets and it's helpful to me to see design in people's homes instead of in picture-perfect magazine spreads.

Excellent idea.

Not necessarily true. Years of reading Consumer Reports teaches me NOT to assume there is a direct relationship between price and quality. Often it's just marketing and fad that creates a high price, not base quality or durability.

Love everyone's opinions... Keep em coming.

A great way to help you make major purchase decisions (sofa, entertainment center) is to start with a basic floor plan. Just measure your space and put it on graph paper and play around with shapes and sizes. This will assure that your pieces fit into your room -- without surprises! As far as your style goes, I agree on getting mags, etc. and pulling inspiration from there. Don't limit yourself to design mags though, fashion and food mags can inspire with colors and patterns - showing great mixes that you can bring into your home decor! Have fun and LOVE everything you bring into your home.

Also visit showhouses like the DC Design House and go to house tours in surrounding neighborhoods. I love the Virginia Historic Garden Week tours, often you can see the house as well. Also the Georgetown House Tour 2010 is coming up as well. Great ideas from those.

Can you recommend a lighter colored purple paint for a bathroom? I don't want it to look too girly or childish! Vanity is a darker brown, and shower curtain will likely be a solid cream/beige. Thanks!

bathroom colors can be tricky.  i always remind my clients that whatever color they paint in their bathroom, they have to look good in it.  you will see yourself in the mirror surrounded by that color.  so instead of purple think a more flattering lavender shade.  i am looking at benjamin moore Enchanted, 2070-50 or lily lavender which is more purple-y 2071-60. 

Just painted my trim around our front door and the garage over the weekend. I didnt want to have to prime and paint. Used Behr combo paint and primer all in one. It was really good. Looks better than whatthe builder did if i do say so myself.

Glad to hear that about the Behr combo paint  and primer. We've had a number of chatters ask about that.

Get a chest-type toy box with a rim along the back. Then find or make an inexpenisve pillow to put on top. My daughter will remove the cushion and use the top as a coloring surface - the crayons don't roll off because of the rim - and we've placed the toy chest in a corner with a light above it and she'll put the pillow on and use it as a chair to look at her picture books during quiet time. Another option, if you have space, it to pile some large pillows on the floor in a corner. Another fun/functional reading area.

Good idea. Make sure your toy box has safety hinges and other safety features.

Further comment on space planning. Besides graph paper to give you an idea of size and layouts, I "believe" Google has something you can work with for floor plans to (I think) where you can design your space on line. Also, many retailer stores have in house design staff that can assist you too.

Yes, many stores such as Ethan Allen have design services available.

Does anyone have experience with the Attic Heirlooms line of Broyhill furniture? It's very heavy and looks nice. I'm just wondering how it holds up.


You're still gonna have to do two coats, but ultimately, it covers better than white primer and color top coat.


Hi, I have a very small house here in New Orleans, and, except for the bedroom, I've painted the entire house with Benjamin Moore HC-6 Windham Cream. I started getting ideas for the bedroom wanting a lovely pale apricot color. I picked Benjamin Moore 2015-60 Gerbera Daisy. I am not very pleased with it - it's far too pink in some lights. Is there another shurefire apricot color? Or should I just go on and use the Windham Cream in there as well. The alternative is Benjamin Moore 1095 Oakwood Manor - half strength which is a magic color that I have used many times before. What think ye? I want to stay with Benjamin Moore paint. I've used their new Aura line, and it's great!

Love Windham Cream!!!  Peaches are very tricky.  they are either too pink or too fleshy.  try looking at colors that are more rusty in the base.  try teacup rose 2170-50 or summer melon 2168-50.  these are both lovely

The "Domino: Book of Decorating" is a continual source of inspiration. (And I miss that magazine like crazy.) It's filled with ideas and approachable touches. I certainly urge any new homeowners or budding decorators to take a look. If you don't want to buy, just a morning spent at the library (bookstore) looking at books and taking notes can fill one with ideas.

We all miss Domino. Just heard that one of the former editors of the late great Domino has been named editor of Veranda magazine  - Dara Caponigro. We are excited to see the changes she will make there in this magazine which has been very Southern oriented up til now.

The late semi-great Metropolitan Home used to show the "same" room with high and low cost decor so we plebians could try to duplicate a nice look. I think HGTV still has a show like this too.

We are doing a lot of sighing about former magazines today. Sigh. We all miss Metropolitan Home also. And yes, the high-low stuff they did was some of the best. A number of shows on HGTV and Bravo employ this concept.

We are buying our first home (a new construction). The main floor is one open long room (kitchen, dining and "great room"). We know we don't want carpet. But should we go with hardwood floors or some sort of stone tile? I like the stone tiles for the kitchen because they look super easy to clean and won't show the wear and tear hardwood floors seem to show after a few years. But if we do tiles in the kitchen, since it's one long room, I can't imagine how the tiles would look in the "great room/living room". Can we pull off tiles in the living room? How hard is to decorate a living room with tiles and to make it look comfortable? I realize I'll have to wear sox all the time:)

I have to say, that stone in the kitchen can be tough on the back.  I cook alot and have a bad back so I am very sensitive to this.  having said that a cool idea for transition for the two surfaces could be to install wood in the living area and take the same wood and add a wood border to the kitchen. if it is a  more contemporary house, stone could work every where a great rug on it.  could be gorgeous!

To the newbie decorator with "no talent": Design books are expensive--don't buy them! Check your local library instead. We checked out 9 paint-color books when selecting color for our new house. We really liked one of the books and ended up buying it. Also, consider hiring an interior designer for 1 hour if you just want a color or furniture consultation. We just had a 1-hour consultation and it paid for itself and then some by preventing us from making some color mistakes. We were so happy that we met with her!

Also, keep posting questions on this chat - we give away a  fab, current design book (value $25 to $75) each week for the person with the most intriguing question.

Well, first, you may want to reconsider a big entertainment center. Assuming you're going to want to keep it for a few years, the size and shape of TV's keeps changing and the hole that you build today probably won't fit the TV you buy next month. Down here a lot of builders were charging top dollar for built-in shelves (not shelf units, actual construction of drywall with compartments) and the TV compartments don't fit the wider screens of today.

So true...

A year ago, I was in the same boat. Thought I couldn't afford a designer; love interior design; HGTV junkie. I made a classic mistake that would have more than paid for top-rate design expertise. Bought furniture that was too big for the space and didn't allow the right flow and feel. Expensive blunder. I brought in a designer (loved her work from House Calls) and she was worth every penny. Helped me see options and solutions that no amount of HGTV watching could have inspired in me. She helped me open up the floor plan, optimize furniture placement (and size), and create a pulled together look I love (with my ideas and style front and center, so I could feel involved in the right way). Money well spent.

Love your story. Thanks.

I tried to "de-formailize" my office a while back and replaced the big imposing conference table with a couple of love seats for small meetings. Seems welcoming, casual, etc., right? I didn't think about women in skirts. I could see that they were uncomfortable sitting on the lower seats and were having to contort themselves to avoid putting on a show. Out with the love seats, in with wicker dining chairs and a casual dining-style table.

So much for deformalizing... good lesson, thanks for sharing.

I think the PAM causes the residue! It bakes on and is impossible to scrub off. Now I wipe the dish with olive oil/canola oil mix and soak if food is stuck on.

Now I get it.

Brown magic marker!

Why didn't we think of that...

Hey there--I have wide, but not tall windows--overall 90" wide by 48" tall. Small (15"x 48") casements on both ends, big non-operable window in the middle. They came with awful metal miniblinds, which almost block out the street lights. I'd like something more fashionable, easy to care for, and less light permeable. Drapes are an option, but I am not sure if they should go to the floor or just the sill? Are there blinds that achieve good light blocking? Can I get pull-down shades (roller shades) that long and have them be functional? Please recommend something. I'm stumped! These windows are focal point, so I need them to look nice.

Yucky metal mini-blinds!!  I have to say I like the silouette shades from hunter douglas.  check them out on their website.  they operate like blinds but the slats are sandwiched in between sheer fabric.  very pretty and really functional.  i love panels to the floor.  short panels accentuate short windows! 

I want to pass on a great tip for getting baked on food off dishes. Fill the dish with water and then place an unused dryer sheet in the water and let it soak for a few hours or overnight. The fabric softer in the dryer sheet lostens the baked on food, and it usually wipes right off. I got the tip from Real Simple and it works great on glass baking dishes.

Never heard this... I recently threw out a glass Pyrex pan that I could not get clean!!!

Oh no, she didn't!. Glad I'm not her SUBORDINATE! lol


Yeah I did three light coats to get it really smooth around the door. Just two around the garage door was fine. Still better than having to prime it. My house is brick so Iwas really nervous about getting anything on the brick.

I know what you mean...my brick is splattered with paint from the many times it has been painted since 1937.

it's always good to see what others in your workspace have, AND what is permissible in your office. I once worked someplace where those who had offices (I did not) were not allowed to hang art bigger than a certain size, or to have anything deemed 'clutter' on their desktops. Photos had to be framed, and anything too 'bright' (such as a pillow or mug) had to be approved by the office manager. Even tho most places are not this stodgy anymore, it helps to check first.

Having those kinds of rules seems overly big brotherish...

Was what your inspiration? And, what is your favorite element of your room?

my inspiration for the library at the show house comes from a couple of different sources all at once.  primarily the architecture and the lighting.  in my case, the room architecturally blah.  i installed a coffered ceiling and many elements tumbled in after that.  the lighting in the room dictated the color palatte as well as the fabrics and finishes.  my favorite element is the the magnificent rug from Stark Carpet.  I really want to take it home!

Hi, Im looking for a neutral gray for my family room/kitchen area. The color we have in there now can seem a little lavender at times -- which was not our intent and now that we are repainting we want to make sure we have the right neutral. The family room gets tons of light- surrounded by windows but the kitchen is interior (all one space- but not windows of its own). Thanks1

I like the Historic Colors grays from Benjamin Moore. They are true to a real gray. Why not try out either Boothbay Gray or Stonington Gray.

When all else fails with baked on food on dishes, I use spray on oven cleaner. Works like a charm.

Guess I have to buy some... its sort of toxic smelling isn't it..

Now that the weather is nice and we are spending more time outside, I've noticed our front door is looking shabby. I'd like to give it a coat of fresh paint to freshen it up, but what finish of paint should I use? A gloss?

I love a classic black door in a high gloss finish.  when you purchase your exterior paint, you will find that trim is in a gloss finish.  I think it is a great way to freshen up the house for just the cost of a gallon of paint.  Great idea!!

In Philadelphia we have a furniture store called Host that for $250 will come over and give you design suggestions. You can get a lamp or something from the store that costs $250 and the consult is free. There must be something like that in Washington.

Yes many stores will offer some design consultation if you buy a specified amount of merchandise. Speak with the salespeople and try to work out a deal.

Hi, and thanks for the great chat. We just painted our dining room table. It used to be ugly, damaged wood; now it's white. I love it, but I'm afraid it will get damaged by daily use. Should I put some sort of clear sealant on top of the paint? What do you recommend? Thanks much.

Have you considered having a piece of glass cut to put on top? You will still get the look of paint but it will never be damaged and you can wipe clean your table every night without fear of  scratching it.

Victoria, you mentioned that you and the other designers keep your finger on the pulse of design trends and come up with your concepts based on what is fresh. What are some of the key "design-forward" trends you used for the Design House--and that you saw complemented by others' designs for the house?

You will see a similar color palatte used through out.  Greys, creams, taupes and yellows.  the yellow goes from butter to mustard.  I also see alot of strong lines shown in forms of furniture.  Less accessories continues and artwork is strong.  Hope to see you there! 

We will be retiring and selling our house in 3-5 years, but in the meantime, we need to undertake a series of repairs: new windows, a new deck, and kitchen countertops. How do we find a designer (or plan for ourselves) a series of upgrades so that the final product looks a lot more than the sum of its pieces?

I love the fact the you are approaching this with a master plan.  I always try and my clients to see the big picture and then all projects work towards that goal.  No mistakes!!!  Designs first, then attach a budget number to each line item.  Your priorities will fall in place.  I am happy to work with you on this.

I'm interested in the floor tiles for our basement but it concerns me putting them right on concrete subfloor. I'm afraid that without any padding it will be really hard and even colder than it already is (with regular carpet and padding). Any thoughts on that?

Tiles are a glue direct item.  that is how it is.  there will be a small underlayment but not much.  Area rugs can work over it, but a basement floor tends to be cold regardless. 

On the subject of using high end products mixed with in more affordable products. What would give the readers an idea of where you would splurge, and where you could save $? Design tastes seem to change every 10+ years or so, but it seems there are some true classic pieces that are worth investing in that would stand the test of time.

ALWAYS spend the money on the seating!!  Whether it is the sofa, or dining/ kitchen chairs, these are the ones that get the most abuse.  Think of how we drag a chair and how many times we flop on a sofa.

Thanks so much Victoria for being on the chat. You can see more of Victoria's work at www.victoriasanchezinteriors.com and of course go see her Libraray at the DC Design House. 

Meanwhile, winner of our prize book today on porches is the person whose question was "Accuracy of Paint Chips" This is a great question and Victoria's answer of using poster board was very helpful. So if this was your question, please send your mailing address to: localliving@washpost.com.
Please check out our DC Design House coverage online  - lots there.

See you next week.

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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.

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Victoria Sanchez
Victoria Sanchez, an interior designer from Alexandria, Va., has been in the design business for 25 years and teaches interior design at local colleges.
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