"/> Home Front: House beautiful fabrics, design trends, more - The Washington Post

Home Front: House beautiful fabrics, design trends, more

Apr 22, 2010

Washington Post Local Living section writer Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss.

Our chat guest this week is Jennifer Boles, author of the new book, "House Beautiful Fabrics for Your Home." This practical and portable book shows how to make fabric and color selection easy using the go-to choices of 60 decorators. She'll answer questions about the best fabrics to use and where to find them, as well as queries on decorating historic homes and design trends.

Hi everyone. I'm back with a great guest this week, Jennifer Boles, known for her provocative, stylish design blog thepeakofchic.com. Jennifer's latest accomplishment in the decorating world - the authorship of the new "House Beautiful Fabrics for your Home" (Hearst Books/Sterling Publishing; $16.95.) This pocket size book is full of suggestions from top decorators on the  best fabrics and how to weave colors and textures together. Tiny swatches on every page give you the best insight into how to combine prints and patterns.  The person who comes up with the best question in today's chat will win this book as well as the companion book "House Beautiful Colors for Your Home." I will pick the winner at the end of the chat, and they should send their mailing address to www.localliving.com. Now let's get started. 

I am submitting my question early. Can you recommend any floral fabrics that have a blue-gray, cream, and orange/persimmon color combination? I never thought I would be asking for orange as one of the colors in a fabric, but it seems to add a lot of energy to the color scheme. Thanks!

You're right on target with persimmon; it's a color that seems really fresh right now.  I love "Hot House Flowers" by Celerie Kemble for Schumacher; the Mineral colorway has blues, taupes, and grays, and you can add a persimmon colored trim or tape to it, depending on how you plan to use the fabric.  Also check out Brunschwig and Lee Jofa.  They have great floral prints.

We're starting to prepare our house to be rented out and we're wondering what colors to paint the rooms in our early 40's Dutch Colonial-style house. The rooms aren't terribly large and, with a couple of exceptions, don't get a lot of natural light. We'd like to use a color that would contrast with the white crown molding but not something that would be too dark or turn potential renters off. Do we have to stick to a variation on beige or could we branch out to some other colors too? Any suggestions?

We have a great house in our May 6 issue that could address all of your questions. The great thing about this Palisades Bungalow is that it has a lot of great paint colors, but the rooms flow into each other perfectly so it doesn't seem jarring. They chose several shades of yellows and blues for their rooms. In keeping with the Earth Day spirit, I might suggest some Aura colors from Benjamin Moore - perhaps Schooner and Lucerne blues, Handmade and Soleil in yellows. I think that adding color with add to the appeal of your house.

Jennifer, what are your favorite decorating blogs? I started reading decorating blogs after the Washington Post referred to several. Now I am hopelessly hooked.

I'm obviously hooked too which is why my list of favorites is really long!  The ones I read daily include Pigtown Design, Style Court, Mrs. Blandings, The Blue Remembered Hills, Grant K. Gibson, Nick Olsen Style, Cote de Texas, and many others.

Just a comment -- the home section seems so short these days. Is there any hope of expanding it back to the days when there were more articles?

Well, we are hoping that as the economy improves and our advertising increases, we can add more home and garden coverage in Local Living. But we are doing more coverage online - and in the social media. Sign up to follow me on Twitter @jurakoncius. And thanks for being a subscriber!

I want to add some pizzaz to my small powder room. I was thinking of painting it chocolate and leaving the ceiling white. My thought was that the white fixtures (toilet and pedestal sink) including a white framed mirror against the chocolate paint would give some life to the small space. Will the dark color make the space look smaller? Any suggestions on what paint brand and color to use?

By all means go dark and make it a jewel box.  I'd go with a high gloss or semi-gloss finish depending on the condition of the walls.  Benjamin Moore has a great choice of browns.  Also consider painting the ceiling the same color as the walls, or you could paint it light blue.  Maybe you could even paper the ceiling in an interesting pattern.

We want to redecorate our MB and bath. We're looking for a fresh color scheme. Our woodwork, built-ins, bathroom floor and fixtures are white. What are the new color trends for traditional homes?

You are a lucky dog! Many people are stuck with wierd colored tiles. You can use any colors you want for your bathroom. Go to popular, stylish home websites such as Restoration Hardware and Garnet Hill. You'll find many different color choices there. Personally, I think that spa colors such as the pale blues, greens and aquas of sea glass make a restful and classy looking bath.

Are indoor-outdoor fabrics (sunbrella), and rugs a good choice for the master bathroom?

I think that it depends on the finish of the fabric.  If they're soft and pliable, then yes.  I'd probably avoid the stiff canvas type fabrics in the bedroom.  There are all kinds of great outdoor rugs that are soft and would work in a bedroom.

I would like to get a pastel blue and white striped dhurrie rug for my family room. However, I have dust allergies and need a rug that is washable. So I thought an outdoor rug of man-made fiber would work because I could take it out to wash it several times a year. But I have not seen one that is even close to a blue and white stripe. Does that even exist? Are the outdoor rugs nice looking or are they obviously made of plastic?

Dash & Albert makes great outdoor rugs in an array of stripes and colors.

Jennifer, where is the least expensive place to buy some of that beautiful fabric you wrote about?

Check out some of the online discount fabric websites like Design Diva Fabrics, I Luv Fabrix, Fabric Guru, and LS Fabrics.  Make sure to order swatches before you take the plunge because in real life the colors and textures may not work for you.  Also, Calico Corners is a great resource; they've added a lot of updated prints to their collections.  In fact, I'm going there to look at ikat prints after this online chat!

My husband and I recently moved into our first house with our two cats. Now that we finally have a basement, we'd love to get the litterbox off of the first floor and move it downstairs. The basement is unfinished, so the furnace, water heater, etc. are not enclosed. Is it safe to let the cats roam the basement with the mechanical systems?

My cat Gus, who will be 16 next month, has always had his services provided in the basement where we have all our mechanicals. We had a cat door cut in the door from the kitchen hallway to the basement. Downstairs he has several cozy beds to sleep in, his food and watering station, and two litter boxes, one enclosed and one not. Make sure your furnace and water heater are properly serviced and checked annually, and there should be no problem with having your cats spend time down there.  To be safe, keep their food, litter boxes and beds sufficiently away from the furnace and water heater.

My living room and dining room (connected) are currently carpeted. The carpet needs to be replaced. My daughter is lobbying for replacing the carpet with hardwood (she says to eventually sell the house those rooms MUST be hardwood?!). I'm hesitating, partly because of the higher cost of hardwood and area rugs vs. carpet. But also because I don't know if the hardwood has to "match" the wood of my furniture, particularly in the dining room. What are the rules?

Your daughter is right in that hardwood, especially on the main floor, is a big plus when you come to sell your house. And if you're not selling now, you will be able to enjoy the feel and look of the wood now yourself. There is no rule that you have to "match" the wood of your furniture with the wood of your floors. Pick something in a medium golden stain - don't try and go too dark. 

And Jennifer's is one of my first reads everyday! She's got her finger on the pulse of the design world before it even beats Pigtown Design.

Me too. I love getting an email each day with her own fascinating take on design today. She is so well schooled in the history of decorating and often posts amazing photos of rooms from the past that still look fresh and fun.

I like Apartment Therapy, designsponge, and shelterrific.


I am looking for fabrics that are modern and hip for babies and children, but incorporate kid-like things such as stylized animals, flowers, letters, vehicles, etc. It seems like everything I've seen in the fabric stores is sort of old-fashioned and cute-sy. I gravitate toward Amy Butler prints and DwellStudio crib bedding. Can you recommend some names or companies who take a fresh approach to kids' fabrics? (I am a picky graphic designer, if that helps!)

Tyler Hall has some whimsical prints that would look great in a child's room. 

The Washington Metro Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designs is teaming up with the Habitat ReStore in Alexandria for their 3rd Annual BIG Sale this Saturday. Members of the Washington Metro Chapter of ASID are donating items that will be sold at ReStore Alexandria for up to 75 percent off retail price. Items being sold include: wall hangings, fabric, trim, cabinets, blinds, shades, architectural details, countertops, curtain rods, furniture and much more. All proceeds from the BIG Sale benefit Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia. For more info visit, www.restorenova.org.

This is a terrific tip. Check it out.  There could be some awesome finds here.

Hey Jennifer, I have almost all solid fabrics in my living room. Would it look weird to have just a single patterned one (i.e., in curtains or a chair)? Thanks.

No, not at all.  Just know that that one print is going to be the "star attraction" of the room.  I say go for it!

I have long wanted to separate the dressing area of my bedroom from the sleeping area. There's enough room to build a wall, but I'm thinking more of a curtain from a ceiling track. What do you think?

I like the idea of a curtain. It also would be much cheaper to do that. You could have two different curtains and possibly rotate them spring and fall. Ikea actually has a great selection of long fabric panels, I especially like their natural linen ones. It might not make the space seem so chopped up as a wall would.

I recently moved into a basement apartment on Capitol Hill that has a very tiny front door. Unfortunately, my sofa didn't fit through the door and I'm now without a sofa. Any suggestions and where I could find one that would fit in? The door is only about 26" wide. I'm thinking possibly an antique style loveseat.

Oh dear! I know there are companies such as www.furnituremedic.com that help people move pieces of furniture inside - sometimes by dismantling them! You should also check out places like West Elm, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and Ikea for smaller scaled pieces. Rowe has a line of them too. Modular sofas or slim line modern upholstery might be your best bet. Or as you say, antique loveseats if that's your look.

Is the color coral on walls too old hat to use again when moving to a new house? What's the worst carpet mistake you ever made?

Coral is always a great choice.  I think that it looks really rich when used in a glossy finish.  In terms of carpet, buy the best that you can afford and you probably won't regret your decision.  Also, don't go too crazy with color and pattern.

Hi Jennifer, do you have a Website you like to order to-the-trade fabrics from? Or do you prefer to get them from a store? Thanks.

I admit that I buy fabrics from my local design center.  But, I believe that you can purchase to the trade fabrics from sites like Decorati.  And since I'm always looking for a bargain, I buy discount to the trade fabrics from the sites mentioned above.

I just want to tell everyond that Peak of Chic is really the most informative of all the blogs....wouldn't miss it. L Lawson

Thank you so much!

How are the reactions running? I find it scattered - lacking a unifying theme, and not welcoming or practical for young girls. The rug is the worst of it; busy, busy, busy!!!

Personally I love it. I am craving that Peekaboo clear coffee table by cb2 $249 - great deal and great look! We just checked the Comments section on our website to see reactions - most seem positive. You can see other comments by clicking on this link: http://bit.ly/aInHJN



How do you make the most of a tiny bedroom. I am buying a house, and the main bedroom is less than 1/2 the size of my current room. Is it OK just to shove as much furniture as will fit and not pretend it's going to be an escape?

If possible, stick to smaller scale pieces in a tiny bedroom.  That way, it won't look so overwhelming.  Also, you can create a cohesive look in a small room by using the same fabric on headboards, chairs, curtains, bedding, etc.

Anyone know where I can find a vintage formica table - the kind from the 50's? I don't necessarily need the chairs. But I want something with an awesome pattern, not your standard crackle ice in grey or red (what I have now).

Anyone? I would say visit thrift shops and vintage stores. Miss Pixie's might be one place on 1626 14th St. NW.

I have some beautiful old hooked rugs that are beginning to fray. Do you know anyone who repairs them?

I think Oriental Rug dealers who clean and repair Orientals would also be able to help you. Try Hanna Ayoub at 301 562-4088 or Hadeed at 703 836-1111.

The MV Big Flea fundraiser is this Saturday in Alexandria (Del Ray to be specific). Details here.


Hey Jennifer, For seating, what do you recommend as a fabric that feels nice but is forgiving of pets (easily cleaned, i.e.)? Looking for something that doesn't feel like a raincoat, for example.

Ah yes, the pet problem.  I know it well.  I'd go with cottons and also glazed cottons and linens.  The sturdier the fabric, the better.  Wool is also a pretty good choice in cooler climates.  Just don't choose a light colored solid fabric; trust me, it gets stained easily!

For those in the D.C./Baltimore area - DuBois Textiles in Baltimore has a wonderful selection of fabrics at fabulous prices. They sell remnants (but the pieces are usually many yards) from various manufacturers. Worth checking out.


I picked up the Troy twin sleeper sofa from Crate and Barrel when I moved into the basement apartment. Actually, I picked up 2 of them. The fit down the weird, steep staircase and are super comfortble. Sure, you can't stretch out on it, but I'm short so it's ok by me. Also my brother (who has used it as a bed as well as a couch) wants to buy one off of me when I finally get the leather club chair I've been looking for.

Your brother's seal of approval is a good one!

We're getting ready to replace the gross carpet our finished basement guest room with a laminate, which will then match the rest of the basement. But what about the stairs, which current have a different gross carpet? Pergo with a runner, some kind of neutral carpet?

Yes. I would go with a durable probably nylon stair carpet that will withstand lots of traffic.

There are companies that make new but '50s-looking dinette furniture. That would be the best way of getting the laminate you want. Do a Web search to find them.

Good idea. Although used would probably be a lot cheaper.

Jennifer, do you think decorators sometimes overuse certain patterns? I love some of those Lulu DK patterns, but I don't need to see it in every issue of every decorating magazine. (Sorry, venting...) Thanks.

I think that what happens is that at times, a print just looks so great that we all clamor to use it...and then we see it everywhere!  If I start to notice a print being used all over the place, I usually try to find a nice alternative.

Hello - I'm a new dog owner, and I just noticed that every time my dog drinks from her water bowl, she tends to lead a trail of water drops onto my hardwood floors. Do you have any tips to eliminate or minimize the water drops?

This is a great question. Do you have the bowl on a tray? That might catch some drips. Is the bowl in a sort of raised up arrangement so the dog doesn't have to bend down as much? Can you move the water bowl to a place that has vinyl or tile flooring that would make spills easier to clean up?

To the lady with carpet that is hesitant. Just think, if you had had carpet and area rugs, you wouldn't need to be replacing them now. The economy is such that at the moment, you can buy hand-knotted rugs for the same or less than installed carpeting, and those rugs will hold their value and last for decades (you can give them to your daughter!). Just a thought on this Earthly Day.

Love your Earthly thought. Thanks.

We are having a boy and are looking for a nice color for his room. It is a small room, so we are thinking it should not be too dark. We are liking Sherwin Williams "Friendly Yellow," but we are also considering green. This has proven a challenge as greens vary so greatly. Some are too limey and some are too blue. Any suggestions?

What about Benjamin Moore Pale Vista or Hancock Green?

Hi Jura and Jennifer, just a comment, I own Jennifer's book and it is wonderful, not only for home suggestions but just for color and idea inspiration. I sew and am addicted to fabrics of all kinds, so this book is a treasure.

I'm so glad to hear that!  I got so many ideas for my own home while writing it. 

I want to add some pizzaz to my small powder room. I was thinking of painting it chocolate and leaving the ceiling white. My thought was that the white fixtures (toilet and pedestal sink) including a white framed mirror against the chocolate paint would give some life to the small space. Will the dark color make the space look smaller? Any suggestions on what paint brand and color to use?

To tell you the truth, I am not a big fan of chocolate paint in a bathroom and yes, it would make the place look dark. If you want something dramatic in there, what about doing navy blue or magenta pink against the white fixtures and mirror? I would suggest perhaps C2s Newport or Bombay or Farrow & Ball's Hague Blue or Blazer.

Not a question--just a THANK YOU to your Web designer/programmer that made the links open up in a separate window, so we can click on them for a peek and come right back to the discussion.

How thoughtful of you. Will pass this one along...Thanks.

I used to like Apartment Therapy, but I got really tired of how everything is written from the "we" perspective. Nobody writes that they individually like something. It's always, "we like this, we like that," even when there's a single author identified. I don't know if this type of writing has a name but it is so annoying I had to stop reading it.

What a fascinating observation.

This was on CraigsList for D.C. yesterday: Moved and no room for my favorite, fun retro dinette. Set includes table and four chairs. Table has white/black/aqua boomerang pattern. Matching chairs are aqua and white.

Oh my!

Apparently, you can get 5 percent cash back when you use your Discover card to pay for home-related things through June. I have a small home goods store, and the company sent me some promo material about it. Sooo, you might be able to get $$ from even the mom and pop shops, not just Bed, Bath and Beyond and the like. Just a thought!

And a good thought at that...

I love fabrics, especially old and unusual stuff I get from thrift shops, like some finely woven linen and lace place mats I picked up yesterday! I won't likely use them as placemats, however, perhaps use them in some sort of window treatment or as a backing for a vintage photo. My question is, what are some other ways we can bring even small amounts of fabric (because sometimes that's all you can find or afford) into our rooms apart from the traditional ways (ie., chairs, window treatments, etc.). Thanks!

I know that I'm stating the obvious, but pillows are one way of using small pieces of fabrics.  Also, some people use fabric to line drawers or shelves in closets.  You can cover a small bulletin board in a fun fabric.  Oh, what about covering those IKEA Lack tables in fabric?

Hey everyone. A brief interruption here to tell you about something new we started today. I am on Twitter - sign up for @jurakoncius - and I will be posting interesting paint tips and sources for the next two weeks leading up to our Local Living Paint Issue on May 6 using the hash tag #PostPaint. Those of you on Twitter, please add your own tips using #PostPaint in your postings. We can come up with a nice resource guide for your favorite paint blogs, websites, brands, painters, faux finishers, tools and or course, paint colors! Thanks and I look forward to your tweets!

You can't go wrong with red oak hardwood floors, stained a medium walnut shade finished with 3 coats of urathane. I've matched the stain to Hitchcock chair seats and the pine needles in the yard the kids and dogs tracked in. For heavy use areas, have them "rescreened' every 3-4 years (top coat of urathane sanded and reapplied which is a one day job). The flooring professionals are very helpful with the stain color.

Good thoughts. Thanks.

LOVE your chats! I'm looking for a chandelier to hang over my kitchen table (table is rustic farmhouse style). I have painted chairs. Any kitchen chandeliers that you really like. I love Circa lighting but I would love any recommendations. Also, do you like the exposed bulb or a shade on it. Thanks!

Circa Lighting is great.  Also, Urban Electric Company has really great chandeliers as well.  I'm more of a shade person myself.

I have a black dog who sheds like crazy. I had a regular brush and it seemed that no matter how long I brushed him he would shake and fur would fly. I bought one of the special combs - a "Shedender" from PetSmart and it is awesome. I can now pet him without my hand coming away covered in black hair. I am hoping that it helps with the floors in the house too. Highly recommend.

Good to hear. These deshedders seem to be very popular these days and anything that keeps pet hair off the furniture is worth an investment.

Hey Jennifer, Don't the prices of fabrics surprise you sometimes? They seem all over the place, and sometimes seem to bear no relation to the complexity of the material or the amount of work it took to make them. Just wondered what might be behind the range: anywhere from 10 dollars a yard to several hundred. Thanks.

Yes, you have a great point.  And I wish I had the answer, but I don't!  I think that there are a number of factors, like whether the company owns a factory or outsources it or where the fabric is made.  That's why I always look at the price before I fall in love with something.

I heard about this annual sale in Georgetown -- do you know if it's any good (in other words, is it worth driving to Georgetown and trying to find parking...)? Thanks.

I am thinking of checking this one out myself. http://bit.ly/ayhktx - it is the Georgetown Annual Open-Air  French Market and House Tour. Good savings on designer goods from all the chic shops on upper Wisconsin Ave. Starts at 10 am tomorrow and I hear you should get there early!

I just saw something on one of the blogs I read (can't remember which one). They cut shapes out of the center of white cardstock, put fabric behind the hole, and framed the end result.

That's a super idea.

One other idea. On her Web site, Martha Stewart recently showed how to cover box tops with fabric. I think she was using plain shoebox style ones (the kind you might store photos in). She left the bottom part uncovered. A cute way to dress up boring, cheap boxes.

That Martha...

Wallpaper! I think it looks great in small bathrooms. Obviously, would be more expensive than paint.

Absolutely.  Go for broke by papering the walls and the ceiling too.

Jennifer, any good sources for ready-made curtains? Thanks!

The Shade Store is a fantastic option; I've ordered from them and have been quite pleased. (You can order fabric swatches for free as well.)  Also, Calico Corners is another possibility.  And check out Ballard Designs.

I'm moving into a new apartment next weekend, and my roommate and I are looking for places in the D.C. area for affordable furniture. Aside from the usual Ikea, Target, Goodwill, etc., any suggestions? Thrift stores that have good deals? Thanks!

Definitely Ruff & Ready at 1908 14th St. NW and the Georgia Avenue Thrift Shop at 6101 George Ave. NW in Brightwood. 

Is there any place you'd recommend to repair a lovely chipped plate?

Nonomura Studio at 3432 Connecticut Ave NW 202 363-4025 and Restoration Center in Potomac 301 340-2624.

What about using one of the new slightly metallic wall papers in the tiny powder room. nothing tacky of course, just reflective and unexpected.

I'd do that in a heartbeat.  Like glossy finishes, metallics offer that sheen and shimmer that seems so right.  I used a metallic fabric for curtains in my living room and that's pretty snazzy too.

Hello. I am looking for a small recliner for the man cave located in the attic. The recliners at Lazy Boy, etc., are just too big, Design Within Reach is just too expensive, and World Market . . well the quality just isn't there. I knowI am being picky but any ideas for places that carry small, inexpensive, but decently made recliners?

Have you tried Ikea? Something modern and slim line might be the answer for your Attic-Based Man Cave.

My mother has one, but don't think she's willing to part with it anytime soon :)


I agree with the recommendation of light green shades for the master bath. Several years ago I found a great tumbled marble tile in a combination of offwhite, grays, and aqua greens which I used for the floors and sink backsplash. The tub surround and walls of the toilet alcove a tiled in a luminous seaglass green, trimmed with the tumbled marble. It looks great, and I am sure we will be happy with it for years to come.

Sounds lovely.

I just wanted to second the idea to have a running list of suggested paint colors. We hope to be buying our first house sometime soon and I would definitely love to have such a resource to turn to. I always enjoy the chats, thanks.

Great idea. Thanks.

We have three cats, but no basement. Cat food, water, and the Litter-Robot share are in our tiny utility room, which also houses a stacked washer/dryer, wall-mounted instant hot water heater, sink, furnace, and a counter with shelves above. All in 8' X 8'! The Litter-Robot, by the way, is a must-have for a multi-cat household. Check it out on the Web.

Will check this out...

Hi Jennifer, I need to recover my dining room chairs as the fabric is starting to shred. Any recommendations on something that will hold up? The set is a standard 1950s with lyre-back chairs (you've seen them a million times). I haven't decided on colors yet, just need some help finding a durable fabric. Thanks much!

I don't know what your budget is, but what about leather?  There are so many new leather finishes that you can find something really durable.  Check out Moore & Giles leather.  Also, a durable cotton or linen is always a safe choice.

You can get an absorbent doormat, preferably with a waterproof-ish bottom, that will soak up the extra drink. My big boxer always gets his drinks to go, and the mat helps a lot. You may also want to elevate the bowls, both for digestion purposes and because the dog can get a better "handle" on the water and may not carry as much out of the bowl.

Yes, I have heard that elevating the water is a good idea too.

re: 50s kitchen table try craigslist or vintage/retro resale shops. Or online Pastence .


Thanks so much for including me in the chat.  See you all in the blogosphere!

Jennifer - you were great! Thanks for so much wisdom on fabrics, we all learned a lot. And so the winning question this week I think will be the one that asked Jennifer to share favorite online sources for well-priced fabrics. The chatter asked for your ideas on least expensive places to buy beautiful fabrics - would the author of this please email us at localliving@washpost.com and give us your mailing address.

Thanks everyone for participating, and a shout-out to Linda Lawson in North Carolina who taught me a lot about fabrics and textures and how to use them stylishly.

See you next week when our guest will be Annie Elliott of  www.bossycolor.com.


Thanks Jennifer!

In This Chat
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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Jennifer Boles
Atlanta-based Jennifer Boles is a contributing editor to 'House Beautiful' magazine and writes the popular blog The Peak of Chic.
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