Kelley Proxmire dishes design | Home Front

Apr 12, 2012

Kelley Proxmire, who turned a ballroom into a l'orangerie in this year's DC Design House, joins Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza on the weekly Home Front chat. Together, they give advice about interior decorating and home improvement.

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We are happy to have Kelley Proxmire with us on the chat today. Kelley has done a wonderful tangerine and gray room in the 2012 DC Design House that is featured in Local Living today. She can answer questions about the Spring Valley show house and about her own decorating look, which often uses lots of wonderful colors paired with white.  Also please take our poll and vote for your favorite room. Here's the link.

Love the pictures from the Design House. I especially love the teenager's room by Victoria Sanchez. Do you know where she got the artwork that is hanging next to the window? They are such fun pieces with great impact.

I think that Victoria would be happy to share her sources with you...she'll also be glad to hear that you love her space! 

I need to protect the hardwood floor in my entryway. I am thinking about getting a rug and cutting it to fit. Should I put a pad under the rug or will it be OK without a pad?

You absolutely need a pad. And my advice is to not just buy the cheapest pad you can get. A good quality, thick pad will protect your rug and your floors. I like the thick pads from Green Front in Manassas or Farmville.

Why do they charge so much for some of the home and garden tours? $40 is a lot and prices me out of attending. I will be able to do a couple of the $20 tours.

The ticket price for DC Design House is $20- so we hope to see you there - I'm sure you'll enjoy the various designs...

I love the ballroom makeover! I see a lot of greys throughout the house. I have a living room with a cathedral ceiling, slat blind encased in sheer fabric, a navy sofa and a paisley chair and ottoman with a navy background and darkish red tones. The w-tto-w carpet is a light beige. The walls are a light grey now which makes the room cool and chilly. How can I warm it up with paint and drapes?

You may want to try a warm white (linen white by BM).

I live in DC and would like to hire someone to help me choose interior houseplants as part of the decorating of my home, based on the lighting in various spaces and my brown thumb. Are there interior designers who specialize in this sort of help and if so, how do I find them?

Check out landscapers in your area and ask them if they would do it. You might try Botanical Decorators in Olney. Read about their work at the DC Design House in today's Washington Post Local Living or online.

Kelley, since you've done 21 show houses, do you feel designing a show house is similar to staging a home? And have you ever staged a home that's on the market?

Yes, putting together a showhouse is very similar to staging a house.  First, figure out room functions and then proceed with floor plans.  I have staged various high-end homes on the market and enjoy the entire process of design and then design implementation.

Hi! I am looking for a sophisticated color to paint my bedroom. I'm leaning towards a silvery lavender but have not been able to find a good color. I have white bedding with apple green accents and the room get lots of light. Any suggestions? Thanks!

What a refreshing color combination. Check out this story we ran a few years ago about the color lavender with tips from designers on the best ways to use it in your home. See tips here.

a contemporary, clean-lined table (think Parsons) in a light oak or ash finish, something that doesn't look kitchen-y. I see a lot of these tables online -- but they all seem to be sold in Europe! The US market seems to trend towards dark woods. Any ideas where I could look here?

You may want to look at West Elm (catalog).  I've purchased numerous Parsons tables from that source.



I am painting my 1930s Dutch Colonial a light gray, and I am thinking of black shutters with a slate blue door. Any blue paint suggestions? I really don't know where to start.

You may want to go to Strosnider's in Bethesda.  They have a "paint specialist" (Nancy) who is excellent in paint suggestions.   (She works parttime there)

I was quoted over $600 by Home Depot to use a basic nylon carpet on a modest set of basement stairs. This seemed high to me -- any suggestions of where else I might look? I assume I could use a remnant.

Try "Carpet Palace" in Bethesda for remnant...

I love the fireplace added to the back terrace. The front of the Design House is gorgeous, too. Who did the landscaping this year at the Design House?

D&A Dunlevy did the front of the house.  Botanical Decorators did the backyard.  Dunlevy added azaleas to match the existing plants. 

I found the perfect (for me) Robin's Egg Blue color for my daughter's bathroom - Martha Stewart C25 Robin's Egg Blue. I live in southern VA where my only options for paint purchasing are Lowes and Sherwin Williams. Neither store could make this color for me. Lowes couldn't find a formula. SW found a formula but couldn't make it for some reason even the manager couldn't figure out. Can you recommend a comparable color that I could find at either Lowes or Sherwin Williams?

I dont have the MS paint chip to take a look at the color you want, but have you tried doing your own a side-by-side comparison to Sherwin Williams paint chips? 

I have been buying my rug pads from them exclusively. Have you ever noticed the floor side of the pad disintigrating at all? Perhaps it's just all the dirt I'm noticing that has sifted through the rug and the pad over the years. Thoughts? Keep my house cleaner ;)

I think it is the dirt that sifts through the rug. Dirty little secret: I must say, I don't often take the time to remove the rug and the pad and clean thoroughly under there.

Kelley, those two orange chairs in your space. I love them. What is the fabric and where did you find the chairs?

The two orange chairs in L'orangerie were purchased at a consignment store  in Frederick, Md. and then recovered in a Clarence House fabric (which happens to be indoor/outdoor fabric).  This fabric comes in many other beautiful colors (blues, greens, grays). 

It's called Od Biarritz/orange. 



I've been following the Design House on Facebook. I see there are lots of new designers. Can you tell me a bit about Christopher Boutlier's hallway design?

He faux painted the walls and added great art by Lisa Tureson.  The stunning mirror in this space is from "And Beige".  He did a lot with little space. 

What is the most important thing to think about when designing a space?

One important design ingredient is the scale used in a space.  Dan Proctor who designed the family room has a great sense of scale - hope you notice when you visit the showhouse. 

I'm renting a small apartment and want to bring in lots of color and design but know it would be temporary. Any advice?

Adding lots of accent pillows is an easy way to infuse color into a space.  Colored  lampshades would also be  an option (black, red, painted shades)...

I love the look of a dramatic wallpaper in a small space-- a bathroom or sitting room, for example. My husband is horrified. He thinks wallpaper is dated. I love the bold whimsical papers from Anthropologie, for example, and am smitten with this crazy flamingo design for a powder room.  Help me convince him?

Maybe your husband thinks of wallpaper as dated because he hasn't seen all the amazing modern designs that are available now. You're right, Anthropolgie has some fabulous wallcoverings, one of which I featured in my February column (see it here). If your husband is already on the fence about wallpaper, I don't think your flamingo paper  will bring him over to your side. Maybe you could compromise: pick out several styles you like and see if he likes one of them, too.

I love the outside retaining wall/stairwell and fountain behind the Design House. Did someone build that for them or was it part of the original property?

I believe that the wall has been there for many years. There had been a non-functioning fountain there that was restored and renewed by Stephen Wlodarczyk of Botanical Decorators in Olney who was responsible for  the entire 70-foot patio terrace area.

Do you have an upholsterer/ workroom that you recommend for window treatments and reupholstering furniture?

"Yi" Upholstery in Rockville would be place to go for upholstery; I'm not sure if they also fabricate window treatments.  This workroom is open for retail business and is not strictly "to the trade only". 

The design house is beautiful this year! The only thing I wonder about is the use of gray throughout. I know a lot of people think of gray as a neutral, but I think it was overused in this house (especially with the kitchen cabinets painted gray too). Do you agree or am I just old and set in my ways? How do you know when you've taken a color too far in a space?

The color gray has certainly become the "new beige".  When you visit the house I think you'll see how each designer used gray differently and how calming this color (and its various shades) can be.  I'm in the "gray mood" for the near future.  The kitchen is actually very appealing. 

When designing spaces, do you often start with a color or fabric for inspiration? I see rooms and I love everything in them. Not sure where to start.

Since I love the use of color, I often start a design scheme with fabric.  In the case of the showhouse, I started with the colorful orange/gray toile from Manuel Canovas. 

I love the chandelier in the nursery. Do you think they are transitional lights as a child ages, or are really only appropriate for a baby room? They are such a formal look - not sure how they age with the child. Thanks,

The ceiling fixture in Elizabeth Krial's Modern Nursery would definitely continue to work in the room as the child grows.

This is not meant to be snarky. I'm genuinely curious. Is a fabric-draped table considered timeless? I'm talking about one of those circular tables draped with fabric and then glass is put on top, like shown in the Design Home. I always associate them with outdated 80's design, but I continue to see it so perhaps it's something that is considered a classic (or just isn't my cup of tea). Just thought I would ask!

I think that draped tables are very classic.  The type/color/style of fabric can offer an updated looks. It's a good way to introduce color and pattern into a room without overdoing infusion of color. 

My husband and I are shopping for a ceiling fan (without a light) and a dining room fixture (like a pendant light). Our style is modern/contemporary and we don't want to spend that much (maybe $500 or so for both). Any ideas for places near Fairfax to check out? Thanks!

Try going online and looking at Shades of Light.  They copy a lot of top of the line fixtures, but price theirs at reasonable rates. 

West Elm doesn't carry a modern table in a light wood finish (at least one that is big enough for a dining room). Any other ideas?

Does Room and Board carry one, maybe? 

Matthew Moore and Rick Singleton's chandelier on the cover of Local Living today is stunning. What other great lighting can we expect to see this year in the Design House?

The kitchen light fixture is stunning, too.  The designer had is specially flownin from Italy.  The fixtures in Dan Proctor's room are also handsome (and appropriate for the space). 

Kelley, the lighting in your space is so inspiring. Where do you find so many unique and interesting pieces?

Thank you.  I love unique lamps and often find interesting vases/objects to have made into lamps.  In the L'Orangerie space, I had two bird statues and orange vases made into lamps. 

We are currently in the process of redoing all the lighting in our home. Only two rooms have overhead lights. We are really struggling as most of the interesting lights are for really high ceilings as they drop so far. Our ceilings are 8 ft. My husband at 6'2" wants to be able to comfortably walk under all lights (understandable). so that really only leaves about 12-15" height to work with. I noticed in the house that many of the lights, even in open rooms, appear to hang down far. I did see a few such as in the parlor (love) and children's room (truck) that were flush, but for the most part they are very low hanging. Do you know what the light fixture is in the parlor (or where to find out about all the lights used). Do you have any suggestions of where to look for lights that are more interesting? (as opposed to the standard nipple light). It seems like they all look the same (flush and semi-flush)

Try browsing online lighting retailers, such as Shades of Light, Lamps Plus and Bellacor for options at your fingertips. For some amazing higher-end options, try Circa Ligthing.

Do you know a company that will do this? I hate to say it, but it is beyond my ability and patience to take on myself. Thanks!

We've used  Fenchel's lampshades which can be found online. 

I compared the colors but nothing came close to my eye nor to the young men at the store. Lowes wasn't much better. I was overwhelmed by the hundreds of blues and the clerks don't want to make suggestions so they don't have to deal with the unhappy customers who don't like the color. After a while all the blues looked the same to me in the store.

The headboards in the third floor boy's room are very practical.  The designer layered a queen headboard in back of a twin one and it looks amazing.  This is one of the many design ideas that I'll take away from this year's showhouse! 

You could order the Martha Stewart paint online:

I'm actually learning alot from reading the designer's comments about the design house - I especially like the panels used to cover up wall imperfections, what a great idea! But $60,000 for the dining room table? Makes me ask - who pays for the work done for the house? Does it come out of ticket sales, or do the designers supply everything themselves?

We either purchase or borrow items to be used in the design house.  Most of the items in my space are borrowed but are definitely for sale!  Hopefully, I'll be able to seel everything! 

I'm so glad to see a kitchen that's not all white in the Design House. Love the mix of slate gray and wood - where are the cabinets from?

You can check with the designer, but I think that cabinets are from Wood-Mode. 

Love your chats! I am looking for a pale chartreuse- pale yellow with a hint of green for painting my house. Could you recommend a few paints for this color. Thanks

Farrow & Balls Hound Lemon; Calla by Behr Premium Plus, Limon by C2, Yellow Finch by Benjamin Moore.

I'm interested in visiting the house, but the Web site doesn't say what's parking like.

You can park in the neighborhood.

Love all the kids rooms in this year's Design House. How do you keep the spaces practical, especially since they grow so quickly? Any Tips?

Avoid trends and invest in quality furniture that isn't designed for a just children. Don't spend lots of money on themes or trends that children will eventually tire of. Instead, bring in current interests with inexpensive accessories such as pillows, bed linens, wall decals and art.

Kelley thanks so much for being on the chat today. The DC Design House 2012 showhouse opens on Saturday, April 14, and will be open for a month. So if you like to see paint colors, furniture, fabrics and gardens, go check out what the 23 designers have done to make over this handsome home. See you next week.

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
Terri Sapienza
Terri Sapienza is a staff writer for The Washington Post's Local Living section.
Kelley Proxmire
Kelley Proxmire has 20 years of experience as an interior designer. Proxmire was inducted into the Washington Design Center Hall of Fame in 2009. In this year's DC Design House, Proxmire transforms a former ballroom into a sunny L'Orangerie.
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