Iantha Carley on kitchen design | Home Front

Apr 03, 2014

Iantha Carley's design aesthetic is known for its use of unexpected patterns, textures and colors. She believes that her clients should smile every time they walk into their homes, knowing they have arrived home. Iantha has been a participant in three D.C. Design Houses and is serving as a design adviser for this year's show house. Iantha's work has been published in numerous magazines, newspapers and blogs.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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Local Living has a fully loaded kitchen issue today and on the cover is a beautiful kitchen designed by Iantha Carley. Read the story here.  Iantha is based in Silver Spring and she is known for mixing  unexpected patterns, textures and colors. I love her philosophy that clients should smile every time they walk into their homes. Clearly Lorena Bow does every time she enters the small, elegant kitchen Iantha designed for her in her Northeast Washington home. Iantha has wonderful tips for renovating small kitchens and tips for decorating any room of the house. So keep those questions coming.

Good Morning, everyone. Having a few tech issues this morning. :-)

I have a small (square) kitchen with Stainless Steel appliances. Looking to replace the cabinet hardware/pulls and light fixture, and am feeling constrained by the stainless steel that is prominent given how small the kitchen is. Should we stick with similar like brushed nickel, or is it cool now to mix metals?

You should definitely mix the metals, stainless steel hardware is usually a little more expensive.  Try a polished chrome or nickel finishes.  As far as the light fixture, consider a fixture with a painted finish.

I just discovered a long (about 16 in) thin crack on a drop leaf cherry table (clear stain). The table belonged to my grandparents and probably dates from the 30s or 40s. I think it was caused by being too close to the heat during this endless winter. Do you have any recommendations for repair and what I should expect? I'm in Greenbelt, but willing to travel.

Oh dear. My husband recently discovered a crack in our dining room table leg, a solid cherry table probably dating back to the 1940s, and it's out being repaired right now. A good craftsman could help you. I recently did a story on various home repairs including furniture repair. Here it is.  The companies mentioned by designers included Georgetown Refinishing and Antique Restoration. Others I have heard are good are New England Furniture Repair in Arlington and American Hardwoods Furniture and Antiques Repair in Silver Spring. Do you all have any other places to suggest?

Asked this of wonderful John Gidding on chat, but still like to hear from readers. Moved and need two 8 x 10 rugs to delineate living and dining areas. Love sisal, natural look, but with pets and husband plus entertaining, need durability. Considering combo natural and wool or cotton or all-wool in sisal look. Former's pricing more attractive, but is it hard to maintain? Grandiroad catalog has some good-priced combo rugs in natural look.

I hear you. My truly wonderful cat Gus totally destroyed my cute new brown sisal rug that I got for my dining room by various accidents. You can't ever get those stains off. So I would stay away from natural sisal. Wool sisal should be good and any rug with some texture. Wool would wear better than cotton. Anyone else have thoughts on this?

Thanks for taking my question, Iantha. I recently replaced my old white kitchen appliances with newer SS ones. I have white cabinets and a wood floor in an open, sunny kitchen. I also have somewhat gross blue-gray formica countertops. I plan to sell in a year and wonder whether I should invest in new countertops or leave that up to the buyer. If you think I should replace with granite, what color would you recommend? The rest of my house is beachy--lots of blues and greens and white furniture.

Sunny kitchens are nice!  Replacing a countertop with granite or solid surface is always a good idea for resale.  Since your cabinets are white, you're open as far as color.  Pick something neutral like carrera marble.  

I have a brick fireplace that is currently painted off white, the same color of the walls and trim. I plan to paint the room a putty color and the trim white. I thought of painting the fireplace the putty color in semigloss, but my friend says it should be white like the trim. It is large so I am afraid it will dominate the room in white. I'd appreciate your opinion.

If you want the fireplace to blend, then you're correct to paint it the same color as the walls.  Without seeing it myself, my best answer is to trust your instincts!!

Where are the best places to hang kitchen towels? I have one on a magnetic clip on the frig. My mother hangs hers on the oven door handle. Other relatives use special towels with a loop on top to hang them from a drawer knob. Any better ideas?

My mother in law puts them in the drawer next to the oven!  It works well.

What is the general breakdown of the $53,000 budge for the kitchen in today's article? Did you run into any unexpected expenses?

A good portion of the budget went to structural, electrical and plumbing changes.  Many people focus on the topical aspect of a kitchen or bath remodel and do not take into account the infra-structure of the space.  

Loved some of the ideas in today's article, but your "small" kitchen still accommodates a table so it isn't small by the standards of most condos or older houses in DC. I have a true galley kitchen - smaller than the one that was redesigned and certainly no space for a spare table. I'd love to redo the cabinets, countertops, etc. but hesitate to spend $50K on such a tiny space that can't be reconfigured. Is it possible to spend less than $30K just to update cabinets, countertops, etc. if you aren't knocking down walls and changing the layout? Or maybe more to the point, would any designer/contractor bother to return a phone call from someone who doesn't have a huge, expensive place to renovate?

If you have a challenging space, I would advise you to check with a designer/kitchen designer.  They can help you get the most bang for your buck, the most space and prevent you from making costly mistakes.  As far as your budget, consider not just the cosmetic changes but also what's not visible to the eye.

I have a small kitchen in a typical Washington area Colonial. I have a small corner between two doorways and am wondering if it is better to use that space for more cabinet space since cabinet and counter space is limited, or should I put in a built-in counter at table height so that it can be used (with stools) as a small eating area? The question is, more storage space or eat-in kitchen?

My preference would be to use the area for additional storage.  Normally, a dining room is not very far from a kitchen and I believe every room in your home should be used on a regular basis.  

Five more (big) bags of clothing out the door. Nice to get rid of all my mistakes. :)

Love the updates. And I love the concept of setting up a "Donation Station" in your home that I learned about yesterday from @clutterdiet. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IAngD0Lnc40&feature=related.

Now how about some equally dazzling small bathrooms? Many of the design mag and web examples are for bathrooms the size of my bedroom, so I need some good examples for a condo-sized master, please!

I hear you! And we have actually discussed this idea recently. I am just back from two days at the DC Design House where we have been interviewing and photographing designers. There are lots of great bathrooms in this 1929 house and most of them are small. They have some creative ideas for renovating and updating them too. So check out my article next Thursday April 10. And consider a trip to the house at 4600 Linnean Ave. N.W. that opens April 13.

Wanting a fresh new look I recently painted my formal cherry dining room furniture with Annie Sloan Chalk paint. I used a combination of taupe and creamy gray colors and I love the result! I replaced my colorful oriental rug with a low pile taupe monochromatic damask motif . Now I want to change my red painted walls. I can't think of a good paint color so I thought wall paper was the way to go. I can't seem to find anything I really like. Either the options look like they belong in a bedroom, are too shiny and fussy or are large damask or geometric patterns. The trim is all White Dove by Benjamin Moore. I live in an historic home but I am trying to move away from being too traditional. The dining room is its own separate room, but it is adjacent to rooms that are painted either taupe, chartreuse or a gray-blue. Do you have any suggestions on what wallpaper to choose?

I've heard about the Annie Sloan paint. I'm glad to hear you're happy with it. Wallpapering a dining room is a great idea, it breaks up the monotony of solid walls.  Check on-line, Graham & Brown and Thibaut has great wallpapers and the major fabric houses such as Schmacher, Osborne and Little and Cowtan & Tout have websites you can browse .

I've been trying to find a good neutral paint color for our master bedroom and am having a difficult time because one side of the room is very light, and the other side very dark. There is a bump-out seating area with very tall windows on 2 sides and skylights above and colors that look good there look completely different in the dark corner on the other side of the room. I'm looking for a more beige/greige color with medium depth--lots of honey colored oak trim around all those windows and baseboards, so cool colors don't work as well. A decorator suggested SW's Balanced Beige but in the dark side of the room it looks too sallow.

It's natural for paint to look different on every wall in a room due to lighting and angles; to me, that's the wonderful thing about paint! Try Farrow & Ball's Skimming Stone.  Paints that have more complex colors tend to not muddy out.

I want to have white appliances with white kitchen cabinets because I do not like stainless steel. But white appliances are a lot whiter than the cabinets in the examples I have seen. I can't afford the built-in look with cabinet fronts. Any ideas?

White appliances are making a huge comeback!  Don't be concerned about matching the colors.  Varying shades add more interest to the room.  Trust me.

I'm buying a house that will need a kitchen renovation. This is my first house; I don't really know where to start looking for ideas. I'll be on a budget and probably can't afford a designer. I would appreciate any suggestions for resources and information. Thank you.

Congratulations on your new home.  How exciting!  I always advise my clients to live in their space for at least 6 months before making any major changes.  In the meantime, set up a Pinterest board and check out Houzz.com to gather ideas.  There are also plenty of specialty magazines on the newstand that deal with kitchen and bath remodeling.  Good luck!

I have redone part of the kitchen in our rental home. The cabinets are white, the counters are black granite with a hint of gold and white flakes. The appliances are black. Currently I have no backsplash (above the 2.5 inches of granite). I want to put one in but can’t decide what to do. Should I do glass tiles or stone? Should I just leave it painted (currently a medium shade of brown)? Should I install some other backsplash that I haven’t thought of? The paint is difficult to maintain, I have to continue to paint the kitchen because of food splatters the tenants don't seem to clean up. I don’t want to spend a ton of money since this is a rental so a DIY would be perfect… I am pretty handy.

Try simple white subway tiles.  They come in various sizes.  If you're on a budget, try any home improvement store.  

Do you prefer using one large statement piece, or a collection of smaller artwork? How many of a room's four walls should have artwork?

Both!  It depends on the room.  Often times, it makes more sense to place a large piece in a smaller space.  And collections can be arranged so that they connect, ie., frame color, subject matter, etc.  There's no steadfast rule as to how many walls should have artwork ... every space is unique.  

Wood floors in the kitchen are so popular. However, with water, spills, etc., how do they hold up? I can't seem to accept this as a durable, long lasting choice. Especially with all of the beautiful tile selections that are available.

I think they hold up beautifully and they are warm and gorgeous and timeless. Meanwhile, I have PERGO floors in my kitchen and I love those too.

I can't say enough good things about Efrain Larenas at Woodwork Arts in Clarksville, MD I found him through a recommendation from Baker in G'town and he refurbished some McGuire chairs and a treasured cabinet at a very reasonable cost. 301-953-9764

Fantastic. Thank you for this. Will add it to my list too.

I was frankly shocked that it cost $53k to remodel such a small space, especially since most of the materials were not especially high end (Zodiac and Kraft Maid semi-custom). In my experience, and I've done quite a few kitchens in my time, that cost was at least double what it should have been. It seems that a lot of money was spent on odd-sized appliances (24" range, 18" dishwasher, and 24" fridge). Were these appliances that the homeowner specifically chose, or was it a design choice? Personally, the few cubic inches saved by the odd-sized appliances is not worth their astronomical cost (frequently 3-4 times the cost of standard sized equipment). Also, if space was such an issue, why is there no wall cabinet on the far wall to balance the strangely tall wall cabinet on the right? Also, why is that right cabinet so close to the counter---very strange choice in my opinion?

Thanks for asking these questions.  As mentioned earlier, most people talk about a remodel only as it's related to the cosmetic transformation.  A carefully thought out remodel includes the infra-structure (plumbing, electrical, releveling floors and ceilings).  A great deal of labor goes into getting the space prepped properly for the cosmetic portion to begin.  There's a saying in the contracting trade that a job can be done good, fast or cheap ... pick two.  

I think the poster has two excellent ideas. Either a built-in ledge with stools or more storage are BOTH good ideas. It depends on what she feels would be more useful for her specific situation. If I were her, I'd go for the built-in ledge with stools as long as I could stash my extra stuff somewhere else (like a butler's pantry, or food closet, or hanging pot rack, etc. etc.).


What is up with the wall with the single wall cabinet to the right of the window? Is there something going on to the felt of that window that we can't see in the photo (phone/cable port, light/clock, etc...)? Also, is the homeowner really happy with that wall cabinet so close to the top of the counter? It looks like the bottom of the cabinet is only about a foot off the counter---what a useless space!

Yes, my client is delighted!  I'm a stickler for symmetry but sometimes it's not possible.  The window is not centered on the wall and we wanted to use every available space for additional storage.  On the left side of the window, my client has a television placed on the countertop.

Probably just me but I have been house hunting and I try to stay away from kitchens with granite counter tops. I feel they artificially raise the cost of the house and granite seems so hard to clean. I feel like I should reduce the offer price since I will have to replace the awful granite counter tops.

There are other options.  Investigate solid surfacing and quartz products such as Zodiaq, Ceasar Stone or Corian.  

Five feet wide--wow is that small. I have a 51-year-old house, with a kitchen that's 11 x 11 (although I could push into what was formerly the "family room," also 11x11 with no dividing walls). Like today's client, the space is so small I hate to cook anymore. If you don't have the money to gut the whole thing, where would you start?

I hate to throw good money after bad.  If your kitchen is not working for you, especially if you have a family, I'd suggest saving your money until you can make the kitchen more usable.  If your current kitchen isn't terrible, a good paint job is always a lift.    

I was curious about the small kitchen remodel featured. First, I didn't see any switches on the wall near the sink for a garbage disposal or under cabinet lighting. Where are the switches, or is there not under cabinet lights and/or a garbage disposal? Secondly, I noticed that the refrigerator is really tight into its space. Did you have to design a venting system to removed the heat from around the fridge?

The garbage disposal switch is actually a button installed on the countertop by Insinkerator.  I matched the outlets with the backsplash so they don't stand out.  

Glad lots of you wrote in about your kitchens. Iantha, your answers were so helpful. Thanks a lot for being with us today. Next week we'll be talking about the 2014 DC Design House and also about bathrooms with Cindy McClure, of Grossmueller's Design Consultants. Cindy designed the master bathroom.

In This Chat
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.

Home Q&A archive
Iantha Carley
Iantha Carley's design aesthetic is known for its use of unexpected patterns, textures and colors. She believes that her clients should smile every time they walk into their homes, knowing they have arrived home. Iantha has been a participant in three D.C. Design Houses and is serving as a design adviser for this year's show house. Iantha's work has been published in numerous magazines, newspapers and blogs.
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