Patrick Sutton, who designed the living room in the 4th annual 2011 DC Design House, joined the weekly chat.

Apr 07, 2011

Patrick Sutton, who designed the living room in the 4th annual 2011 DC Design House, joined Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza for their weekly Home Front chat. Together, they gave advice on interior decorating and home improvement.

Welcome to Patrick Sutton of Baltimore, our chat guest today. He did the elegant living room in the DC Design House that opens this Saturday. Don't miss our big package today on the Design House (including a photo gallery). And vote for your favorite designer. Also check out the exterior of the house on the cover of Local Living today, with the portico makeover by James Rill of  Rill Architects of Bethesda. Patrick is standing by to answer your questions, as are Terri and I.

Good morning. I bought a console for my living room and want to hang a prized painting over it. How far from the top of the console should the painting hang? Is there a general rule to go by when placing art over furniture?

Absolutely not. :)  Many people work under the misguided notion that you are supposed to hang it at eye level and then when you walk into the room and all the art is suspended on the walls like beads on a string.  The best thing to do is have a friend hold it up for you at different heights until you land on the right spot, then mark the corner on the wall with a pencil.  Remember, when you place art on  the wall you are making an artistic composition so experiment.  I remember hanging a small painting just above a bank of light switches so they didn't seem so lonely on the wall.

Hopefully will start a (small) master bathroom remodel. I'm having a hard time selecting tile for the shower and the floor. Should they be the same? Then the vanity top will be a different color/surface. I'm worried about too many different colors/patterns in a small 6x9 bathroom.

This is a valid concern. There are two ways to look at this: treat the walls and the floors the same for a more homogeneous look and allow the punch to take place elsewhere (wall colors, artwork), or do something special in the floor and make that the artwork.  You would be suprised how much one looks at the floor while showering so dont be afraid to make it the artwork  and keep the rest of the bath background.

Last week's chat had an eye-opening comment. A chatter had installed a small second fridge next to the sink for keeping staples like eggs and milk easy to get. Have kitchens gotten so big that getting a quick glass of milk requires a satellite fridge? Sounds like big kitchens have reached a bubble stage. Why not just build a conveniently compact kitchen in the first place? Sanity check: Back when all those "outdated" smaller kitchens were built, that was when people actually cooked every meal from scratch. Maybe they knew what they were doing.

You make some good points here. Bigger isn't always better. I actually knew some moms who installed a small fridge next to their bed for baby formula so they would not have to go downstairs during the night...

I greatly enjoyed the article about the model home. I used to live in Portland, which does an annual showcase of homebuilding and decorating called the Street of Dreams. Is there a similar event in this area? The model home was nice, but $20 is awfully steep when you only get one house (Street of Dreams was like $12-$15 and you get 5 to 7 homes usually).

The Street of Dreams is a cool idea. We do have local house tours in the Washington area. But I have never heard of something just like this. This DC Design House is called a decorator show house - not a model home. Remember the entrance fee goes to charity - Children's National Medical Center.

Patrick, how was it working with 19 other designers in one house? How were you all able to blend so many personalities and design styles?

It was a great experience. I know that sounds suprising considering all the personalities, but the advisory committee does a great job of putting the team together and this group of designers are all motivated to do great work and learn from each other. I have nothing but great things to take away from this experience.

I saw your living room in the Local Living section this morning and it looks absolutely gorgeous. Were the ceiling beams painted when you first started work on the room? I love the natural look Also, who did the amazing work on that front portico on the front cover? It looks phenomenal. I'm excited to come see it in person!!!

Thank you! Everything in the room was coated in paint, even the fireplace.  Taking off the all the coats was like loosing 20 lbs! All of a sudden it felt light and natural.

I want to add an unexpected suprise and pop of color to my small, dismal closet. I think wallpaper might do the trick. I am looking for a simple, modern pattern, but a lot of what I'm finding is too busy (and often more appropriate for a great-grandmother's bathroom). Do you have any recommendations?

I think wallpapering you closet is a great idea and there are lots of great, modern papers out there to pick from. In the Design House, which we wrote about for today's cover story, designer Ianatha Carley used a fabulous and colorful wallpaper for the master bedroom dressing area - the whole dressing room is amazing, but the paper really makes the space. You should definitely check it out for inspiration, if you can. In the meantime, check sites like for tons of options. Anthropologie also sells wallpaper, I think. If you're local, you could also stop by The Color Wheel in McLean for lots of ideas and options.  

We also had the Street of Dreams shows in and around Omaha, NE when I lived there. It usually involved a cluster of homes by different designers at or near the entrance to a newer subdivision. I think part of the idea was to lure people in to build there, but it also gave us great ideas for decorating our own homes.

Neat idea.

Good morning ladies! The showhouse feature today was great. I loved the questions you asked each designer -- some great ideas. I will certainly be visiting the house based on the photos in the section today. My question for you is for bathroom towel color. I am almost completed with a master bath renovation: cararra marble . In the midst of the renovation, I thought we would be moving but I just found out this morning that we are indeed staying put. So to celebrate, I would like to buy towels for this new white bathroom in a fresh new color. Any ideas?

If your bathroom is white, you could choose just about any color and it will look great. Pick a color you love and enjoy.

HELP!!! My kitchen is partially painted in a shade called Kosher Dill. We do not want to paint the entire kitchen green but cannot find a color to go with it. The khaki/tan color I originally picked out as the second color does not work on the walls lining the short hallway from the garage into the kitchen. My kitchen has a Southern exposure so there is good deal of natural light. We also used the green on a wall in the adjoining family room. I didn't want to use white or off white, but I am beginning to think that is the only thing that will work. Thanks!

Well its too bad there isnt a color called corned beef to go with your kosher dill!  White is always a favorite and works well with greens for a light an airy exposure.  I wouldn't consider white a cop out.

Following up on last week's discussion. My brother is a builder, and he gave me great advice about choosing a counter top. He said to order 1 square foot or so of every material / finish you are considering, and beat it up for a month....spill on it (red wine, olive oil, other things that stain), scratch it up a bit as you would moving items across the counter, and cut on it (if it's a surface appropriate for cutting) or put hot pots directly on it (if it's supposed to be heat proof). After a month of this, take a hard look. If you like how it look after hard wear you are more likely to like it once it is installed in your kitchen. And if you don't like it after hard wear....choose something else. I think it's great advice and am about to try it myself.

Great advice for choosing countertops. Thanks!

When you have two pictures to hang together (a set), is it better to hang them one next to the other, or offset? I have two large (25" square) framed pictures to hang on a wall that is not super big. They will hang above a table. My husband and I are at odds about how they should be hung. Thanks!

This is similar to an earlier question about how to hang art.  The answer is either is correct, but it depends on the wall space around it.  Hold it up both ways and see what looks best.

We have drapes-over-sheers in our smallish dining room. Drapes are closed in the evening, open during the day. To make that work for the long-term, I need to figure out a graceful way to hold them open. I bought two 18-inch corded tiebacks, but they seem to be too short or something -- they sort of look like they are choking the drapes (husband's term). Can you point me to a guide on how to use these, what length they should be, etc.? Thanks.

Here is a simple tip: take some string and hold back the drapes with it until you arrive at the right look. Then measure the string and thats how long the tie backs should be.

My boyfriend and I are moving in together. I own my two bedroom condo. Do you have any recommendations for how to integrate our belongings? How do I learn to share closet space after 35 years of not sharing?

If you are local, could you email me at I'd love to chat with you about this. Might be a fun story idea. thanks.

I have 1930s parquet floors in the living room, foyer, hall and two bedrooms. They are in OK shape, but could use refinishing. Moving all of the furniture out of the apartment is unfeasible. Can I move all the furniture to one room, have the other floors refinished, move the furniture out of that room and have it refinished at a later date? Do you know reputable companies that might be able to work under these circumstances?

Most good floor refinishers are totally cool about moving stuff around to accommodate their work.  You could certainly do one room at a time if you wanted, just make sure you use the same company and the same finish. Companies we have heard good things about include DC Floors and Universal Floors. What companies do you guys suggest?

What do you think about using personal photos as artwork? I tend to shy away from them in main living spaces and confine them to the bedroom. Is there a design guideline for where it's appropriate to display pictures of yourself/loved ones?

Absolutely use them anywhere you want.  This is what make a house into home.  The frame you chose will play a role in where you place them (or visa versa).  Chose a more formal frame in a formal room and playful frame in familiy spaces.  We have done many fun groupings for clients in foyers, living rooms, bedrooms, everywhere.  Also, dont be afraid to use different frames in the groupings so its not so manufactured looking. 

Help. I live in an open floor plan with the living room/kitchen/dining room all very open. I would like two paint colors though to differentiate between the living room and the kitchen/dining room but have no idea how to choose. I need a card that just shows me color combos together! I would love something sophisiticated/neutral for the living room and something a bit more lively for the kitchen/dining room...any suggestions? thanks!!

Instead of using paint to differentiate between the rooms,  what about painting the entire space the same color and bringing in color with area rugs, art and other accessories.

Laundry problems. Try combination laundry center space wet bar.


We are planning on painting two of our interior doors black. For the first, I'm wondering if the trim around the door should be black or white. The wall color is a gray-blue. The other interior door that we are painting black has a wall color that is olive green. Should the trim around the door be black or white? I'm particularly worried here that the room will start feeling very dark as it's a very small room. The doors are on different floors. Thanks!

I love black painted doors. If the doors are attractive, I would suggest painting the trim white and letting the door pop as the only black.  I also suggest using a high gloss black for the biggest impact.  It sounds like you have a perfect neutral wall color that would allow you to go with white trim throughout.

I have heard that matching dining room suites are out of style. Any suggestions for how put together an eclectic dining room?

I would not say they are out of style, but people feel more comfortable these days mixing and matching different tables and chairs and even mixing up chair styles at the same table. Upholstered dining chairs are really cool and you can also have slipcovers made for them. I love old farm tables. And I actually am very partial to round dining tables. They encourage the best conversations. No, you don't have to match.

Big kitchens that are not useful serve no purpose. The biggest mistake is having too great a distance from the big three - stove, dishwasher, fridge. Another mistake? Not matching appliances. The restaurant look is over - not one of my clients want a 6 burner Viking or Wolf if it means $$ in utility costs. Also over? Granite counters.  If you are remodeling - go green.


I am afraid to ask what they installed so that they could WARM the formula they stored in the bedside fridge...

I can't remember - either she then warmed the bottle in a bottle warmer or a microwave. I know that some people think it's wrong to warm bottles in microwaves, but there you go...

Jura and Terri, I loved how you asked the designers about their favorite spaces besides their own. It gave great insight into where they find inspiration. I also noticed the farm-style sink in the pool kitchen - it's a standout. Patrick, is this is a recent trend in kitchens? Does everyone ask for this type of sink? How efficient is it or is it just good looking?

Farm sinks have been wildly popular, mostly in country houses, and for good reason - they have huge sink area so you can put the 27 lb turkey or that giant frying pan thats so hard to clean.   It also harkens to the romance of the american county home and the simplicity of life we all seem to seek. Its a great look paired with function.

What is the best paint finsh for rehabbing kitchen cabinets, gloss or semi gloss? Andwould the the new paints with primer included do a good enough job?

Semi is more forgiving, but gloss is sexier.

Do not even attempt to share the same closet space in master BR! Better to put the newcomer's stuff into the closet in the second bedroom...

Totally great advice...

We went with SW Stolen Kiss here at the Pickle Factory. She loves it!


are not OVER, if you crave something elegant and indestructible. Loving mine after 3 years...

I agree, I think the vacuous, non-functional kitchen comment is what I was responding to.  Natural stone is a beautiful product.

Or select a color sampler that you like and use different shades from the same sampler for different rooms. Use a tone 2-3 shades darker in a room with more light and a lighter tone for rooms with less light. You can tie them together with the same trim color. Then you can highlight each room differently with accessories and color as Terri suggests. Another way I saw on one of the HGTV shows is using inverse coloring in nearby rooms. The living room was done with a nice combination of wall/trim. In the attached dining room (through an arch), she inverted and used a similar shade to the living room trim for the dining room walls and a similar shade to the living room walls for the dining room trim. They turned out very complimentary.

I think people don't realize how important the trim color is and how it can really tie together your whole house. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

Screens with fabrics or and paint. Mix match move around.


Could you recommend a trim/wainscoting and ceiling color for a bathroom that will be a dark purple (BM Grappa 1393)? I've heard that dark purple can look 'cheap/tacky' if the trim/wainscoting is too bright? That a deeper white is needed but I'm not sure that that means - more creamy than bright white? Thanks -

I would color test the following: White Dove, Linen White, Navajo White and Bone White. All Benjamin Moore.

Jura & Terri: It's me, Kat, I'm submitting early because of classes tomorrow :) Quick question for you: I'm shopping around for kitchen countertops cause mom is slowly but steadily redoing the kitchen at home. she doesn't want to make any major decisions until i get back. she spotted the granite and quartz counters at ikea, however, and likes the price. have u heard anything about them, ie durability, quality, etc?. thx and hope all is well!

Hey Kat! Terri and I really do not know about the Ikea granite or quartz counters. Lots of our chatters use Ikea's kitchen products and seem to be very happy with them. Does anyone want to help Kat out about counter choices from Ikea?

I love my small (updated) kitchen. Would never want an open kitchen, i.e., great room style. Keep it separate!! and I agree about the granite -- it's over, people!!

Granite is taking it on the chin today.

Good morning! We bought a 1983 house that filled with dark wood trim. As I started repainting, I noticed the heating vents are all white -- they stick out like the eyesores they are! So I bought a can of dark brown spray paint and am painting the vents as I paint the room. (I run them through the dishwasher first to remove the dust, a task that's difficult at best when washing by hand. The spraying occurs outside.) The improvement is profound. Sometimes the little things make such an impact!

Love the dishwasher tip!

When my wife moved in with me (I owned, she rented), I took the old one-bar closet, put in a nice container store closet system (Elfa) that doubled the hanging space. We split the closet. I then replaced my old dresser with a wall of four Ikea Pax wardrobes and we each got two. We got to design the inside shelves, hanging rods, etc the way we each wanted. We each got two. That held my clothes. My wife then overflowed into the office closet (across the hall from the master). It worked for us.

Great ideas. I'm impressed! Thanks for sharing.

Patrick, it looks like your living room adjoins at least 3 rooms in the Design House and also has windows in the front. Can you tell me how you made such a grand room seem so warm and cozy?

Sure.  I took the large space in broke it up into a group of cozy areas, each with a different feel and use.  This way when you are in one of those areas you don't feel like you are in the whole room, just the area.  I also used the bookshelves and upholstered screens on the tall walls to bring your eye down to a person's height.  I also filled it with things I love rather than things that all match.

We have a 1 square foot area of mold in our concrete-floored basement near the french drain, on top of some sawdust that someone (thanks, Dad) didn't clear away. What is the best way to remove it? There is no ventilation down there. Thanks!

I think there are companies that do this basement remediation work, so that's your safest bet.  Bleach is the best way to remove mold, but if you dont have ventilation or a respirator, dont do it.

if I don't go granite for countertops, what are my "green" options? Thanks.

There are a bunch.  My favorite is quartz, such as Ceasarstone.  These are manufactured products using recycled materials and as durable as granite.

We have two fireplaces in our house. We have a screen in front of one. Should we get a screen to place in front of the second one, or should try to be more creative -- candles inside, plants, something else? Thanks!

Well if you plan to use this second fireplace you totally need a screen for safety! I personally am not a fan of candles in the fireplace (candle-abras) or plants. Stick three nice big fat birch logs in there in the off season.

Lots of people dont like blowing out sides of mountains to make kitchen counters. Going green is better. Thats why granite is over

Grante is over. Wow. Sounds definitive.

person who lived there before more put up crown molding himself, badly. i would love to take it down but am debating if i want to replace it with nicer molding or leave it alone. is it necessary? i know its pretty but is it does it add value to a place or not?

It's just a matter of personal preference. Lots of people love the detail of crown molding and think it adds more character and polish to a room, but some people like spaces better without it. When I spoke to DC designer David Mitchell at the show house, for example, he told me he loved rooms without crown molding because it gives the illusion of more height in a space and you can paint the walls and celing the same color for more seemless look.

I painted the living room one color and the kitchen a lighter version of the same color. Looks great!


Natural resource. Silestone, quartz and corian etc require processing etc with non Green chemicals. The glues etc are not green. For granite you cut huge slabs and then take them and they are sold to fabricators that cut them with saws to specs for your kitchen. A lot greener then Silestone or quartz.

Great discussion going here...

What are some of your favorite stores in Baltimore for home furnishings?

Patrick Sutton Home!

Hi. I have a baby cradle with great sentimental value. It was made from a Williamsburg kit---started by my husband and then quickly finished by my father for a premature infant. I want to keep it and would like to use if--repurposed, I suppose. But as what? I have kept sheet music,books, fabrics in it, but it proves a dust collector. Any ideas?

How about keeping it in your child's room to store toys, blankets, dolls or books?

Hi Patrick - most of us do not have design homes! What can we do to have our living room more elegant that our family room, yet also make the LR also comfortable and inviting?

First determine how you want to use the room (reading, quiet get away, gatherings, etc) then chose the furnishing based on its use.  Keep it uncluttered so its inherently more formal, but chose comforable pieces so its stil cozy.

Patrick shared a lot of great tips today. Thank you so much for being on the chat, Patrick. And thanks to all of you. Don't forget to check out our extensive online coverage of DC DesignHouse and cast your vote for your favorite room. Catch you next week.

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.

Home Q&A archive
Terri Sapienza
Terri Sapienza is a staff writer for The Washington Post.
Patrick Sutton
Baltimore designer Patrick Sutton has had his own firm since 1994. Sutton designed the living room in the 4th annual 2011 DC Design House, which opens Saturday April 9 in Forest Hills.
Recent Chats
  • Next: