Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey, who owns SCW Interiors in Alexandria, joined the weekly chat.

Apr 21, 2011

Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey, who owns SCW Interiors in Alexandria, joined Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza for their weekly Home Front chat. Together, they gave advice on interior decorating and home improvement.

Good morning. Do you have any natural fiber rugs in your house? Alexandria designer  Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey has lots of them, and she is with us today to chat about the ins and outs of the various fibers. Plus she has great ideas about any aspect of decorating. We're thrilled about the positive response to Shazalynn's design aesthetic, and we couldn't agree more. Check out my story on her weekend home in the Poconos from last July!

Let's get started.

Our intrepid guest Shazalynn is stuck on a plane that is delayed landing in Nantucket. (Lucky dog.) Yes, we are sorry she isn't here! But we hope she gets on soon. Meanwhile, Terri and I will start answering your questions.

I hope you enjoyed today's House Calls! We've been getting lots of submissions for family rooms and bedrooms lately, so we're currently on the lookout for different types of  challenges, like bachelor spaces, kids and teen rooms, mudrooms, laundry rooms, outdoor patios, porches or a house in serious need of some curb appeal.   If you have any of these spaces and would like some designer help, send pictures, contact info and a summary of what you're looking for to:

My foyer opens up to my dining room and I am purchasing chandeliers for both spaces. Should the finishes be the same?

Ideally yes. By the way,  a good friend just redid a lot of his lighting and I was very impressed at what he and his designer found at Shades of Light.

Hi there -- we are moving in a week, and could really, really use some expert advice on paint colors for our new master bedroom. We just ordered this duvet from Macy's but are totally stuck on the paint color. We were hoping for a neutral color such as a taupe or gray, but I don't see how either match the duvet we ended up ordering (which was a whole other task in itself trying to find a suitable duvet -- we bought and returned at least 5!) Preferably Benjamin Moore or Olympic paint colors (looking to use low or no VOC paint). Thanks so much!

How about the green from the underside of the duvet? You could bring the duvet into a paint store and have it color-matched or just use a shade of green that's just a little lighter. Green is a nice neutral, too. If you tire of your duvet down the road, plain white bedding  would look crisp and fresh paired with green walls.

I missed last weeks debate on faux flowers, I read the transcript and needed to add my 2 cents. The poster who said they didnt have the time to care for the real thing can also use real plants instead of flowers which will last for yrs and require less maintence. There are over 400 plants available from low light to high light, some are slow growers to fast, & come in different watering needs just read the tags. Start with one requiring low light and see how it does. I have 20 plants in my home and if one dies throw it out and buy another, You can get small plants for $3 at Lowes and Walmart. Good Luck!

Great thoughts. This subject has a lot of strong viewpoints!

I'm confused. Today's article said that sisal works as a stair runner, but I think you've advised on this chat in the past NOT to go with sisal on the stairs and to stick with nylon?

I think in the past I know I have mentioned that wool is not good for stairs and nylon was preferable. Sisal is another good choice, although I personally have never used it on stairs. Lots of designers swear by it.

Hello! I have had for several years white pleated shades in my bedroom that look something like rice paper. I like them, but I think they are letting in too much light from outside, which is disturbing my sleep. They are getting dingy anyway, so a change would be good. I kind of like the white color. What kind of shade should I look for -- roller shades? The shades are very rarely up since there is not much of a view out the window and I don't spend much time in that room during the day.

How about some pretty fabric Roman shades? You could get them in plain white or pick a patterned fabric to bring color and pattern into the room. You could have the back of the shades lined with black-out lining, too, to ensure a dark room while you sleep. And even if there isn't a great view from the room, it's always nice to have the shades drawn during the day. It brings natural light into the house and I  think it looks welcoming and inviting from outside.

My new apartment has a beautiful kitchen, but it unfortunately has limited counter space. There is a carpeted nook outside the kitchen where I'd like to put a table to expand my prep space. I want to be able to clean up easily under the table without having food ground into the carpet. What suggestions do you have for a mat or sheet of flooring (or something else) to put under the table that would allow for easy cleanup? Thanks.

Do you want something that goes over the carpet? I assume you cannot remove the carpet, which would be the best solution. Food prep over a carpeted area isn't the ideal situation. You could do a floor cloth - which is a canvas-like area rug that can be found with many different designs. These can be wiped off.

Sisal on stairs? But how would that be practical if one can't clean sisal? Thanks.

Well, that is the trade-ff you make. It all depends on your lifestyle. If you take your shoes off at the door, have not pets or kids, and vacuum often - plus don't carry cups of hot coffee up and down the stairs - sisal will be durable and stylish for you.

Shazalynn has just landed! Welcome! We are glad you are here!

Any suggestions for stores with unique nursery furniture and decor? Thanks!

It depends on what your definition of "unique" is.  But if you want to decorate your nursery in a way that doesn't scream nursery (aside from the crib, of course), then stay clear of sets or suites of furniture. Instead of buying a dedicated changing table (which you will only need for a short while), put a changing pad on top of  a regular dresser or some other low storage piece to fashion your own changing station. Rather than shop as baby-related stores, browse flea markets and vintage shops for one-of-a-kind pieces.

Do sisal rugs need a pad to prevent " walking"? If so, what pad material in wood floors? The rug will be anchored by 2 couches at 90 degrees

Hi, generally if the rug has a latex back it will not "walk".  Most of the rugs on the market today have this backing which is preferable to the pads that tend to need adjusting.  SCW

I think that other commenters and I are unclear about what is meant by "a painted application" being put on the stone wall. Would they paint the stone? The word "application" may speak to other decorators, but it sure doesn't tell me much! Please translate into English. Thanks!

We used the term "wall application" because that's the actual name of the item chosen by the designer ( It's a form of wall art made of pieces of wood that are primed and ready to be painted the color of your choice.

I'm looking for window treatments for my sliding patio glass door leading from my kitchen to outside. There are also side windows flanking the doors. I don't like vertical blinds. Any suggestions?

I really love the look of shutters if you are in need of privacy and to diffuse some light.  The shutters can be mounted in a variety of ways depending on the construction of the window or the doors.  Signature Shutters does a great job with creating cutouts for the door handles.  Good luck, SCW

You might try using woven wood blinds that can be mounted above the sliders and give you a seamless line across the entire expanse of windows and doors.  Next Day Blinds sells a large assortment in lots of colors and materials.  Good luck SCW

Help! I need 3 barstools for the counter between our kitchen and dining room. The counter is ~45", so I think 34" is right, but most places seem to only stock 24" and 30". Ideally they would be simple, include some dark red on the seat (to pick up the color of our range) and be less than $350 each. Is this possible? I am in California (but a dedicated reader of your chat!), so chain or online recommendations are best. Thank you!

I know there are pneumatic stools that move up and down and you can adjust them to whatever height works best for your counter. Nadia Subaran of Aidan Design has pneumatic stools in her space at the 2011 DC Design House - they are by Janus et Cie. Go to or www too.

Hi there. Two weeks ago I got a new jute rug for under my kitchen table. How do you recommend cleaning it? Is sweeping it okay or is vacuuming preferred? Thanks.

I think vacuuming once a week would be better; a broom can get to the dust and dirt that falls in-between the fibers. Make sure the suction on your vacuum is not on the highest/strongest setting though.

My father has a one-bedroom apartment. In his dining room/living room/den he has large American antique furniture (cherry highboy, maple lowboy, tavern table). His collectibles are Costan Rican artifacts (clay bowls, small stone objects) and Chinese art (bowls, clay horse heads, rubbings). How can these international artifacts be integrated with his furniture? (He doesn't have room for a display cabinet.) Many thanks!

Try creating a grouping with small ledges or wall mounted display cubes to display his artifacts on a wall.  I have a feeling the grouping could be quite impressive.  Don't try to fight the more eclectic feel of his pieces but rather mix in more origins and you'll have a truly well traveled look.  Good luck SCW 

Hi Ladies, love this chat! Can you tell me where I can buy nice smelling candles made from soy or beeswax? Yankee Candles does not seem to carry them anymore. I like burning candles, but want to avoid the dark soot around my white carpet. Thank you!

They actually have some great ones at Target!  Also Bath & Body Works

Is it "seyez-ul" or "sissal"?

more like: size-l

I used a vintage mission desk for our changing table, bought a vintage dresser (from Upscale Resale in Falls Church), and decorated the room with vintage folk art (trains and cowboys, an alphabet/number sampler, a Noah's ark piece), and a couple of pieces by local artists. Glass starfish in the window. Does not scream "nursery."


You might try putting an edge around the work table don't have to clean up what doesn't spill.

There are cutting board and trays that come with edges, that is true.

Hello! I notice that you always recommend BM paint (or another more expensive brand). What is the difference between those paints and typical home improvement store brands? Are the more expensive paints better? Thanks-love your chats!

The short answer is yes there is a difference between the higher end paints and what you can purchase at some hardware chain stores.  The luster of the paints, the ease of cleaning the painted walls, as well as ease of application and evenness are all variables to consider.  The color combinations from Benjamin Moore and some of the others is incomparable.  Happy Painting, SCW

A less elegant solution might be to look into one of the under desk plastic mats for office chairs to roll on. Many of them have "teeth" to sink into the carpet to hold it still, but the whole thing can be easily wiped up with a wet towel/sponge or taken out the back door to shake off. Doesn't look too great, but will accomplish what she wants and is pretty inexpensive.

Yes. That is true. Warning - I bought one of those for a bedroom where I had hardwood floors - and those teeth scratched them up.

I need to buy rug pads for rugs that will be placed on hard wood floors. Do you have any tips on buying them? Reviews I've read have me concerned about off-gassing of the plastic-y variety, but are the "natural/green/eco" versions still good - and worth the extra cost? Thanks!

The plastic (y) pads you describe can cause chemical reactions over time on your stained floors.  Oxidation, sun exposure etc. are also factors.  Anytime you can afford and find green it is always worth the extra pennies.  Good luck, SCW

Do you have any favorite stores or websites for buying wallpaper? Popular opinion be damned, I love wallpaper. I particularly like it when used with wainscoting or other elaborate walls mouldings. What are you opinons on wallpaper?

Is the popular opinion against wallpaper? I actually think the opposite. Either way, I applaude and support your declaration. I love wallpaper, too, and have it hanging in several rooms in my home.  Here are some places to look:;; The Color Wheel in McLean has a nice selection to browse through, too. 

Today's column on sisal rugs says that sea grass is more forgiving than stains. I want a rug that is not as coarse as the pictured sea grass rug. Are there sea grass rugs that look more like the classic sisal rugs? The sisal rug I have is stained - can any of these rugs be cleaned? If so, how/ Thanks.

Hi, check out sisal rugs direct for some alternate rugs in seagrass, I believe they have an option with wool woven through to add softness.  This website also offers stain treatment for all of their products and is an affordable option. If you get 3 years out of an inexpensive sisal/seagrass you are doing pretty well when you consider the price of these products.  good luck, SCW

You can find adjustable bar stools of many styles and price ranges elsewhere. We found the same barstool as on at for 50% of the price. And I had them shipped to the local target where I picked them up and saved on the S&H. Once you find the style you want, if you shop around, you can often find cheaper sources.

Yes. They are available at many price points. Thanks for pointing that out.

I had a friend who had honey-comb shades which were essentially two shades, one light-filtering and one light-blocking. They were attached with the light blocking on top and the light filtering on the bottom. You could raise the shade up and have day-time light filtering, or lower them down and have light blocking at night/morning. I believe she got these at one of those places like next-day blinds, but I'm not sure. Anyway, there are shades that combine both features.

Yes. That's a good point. Thanks.

Thanks WP for linking me to the SCW Interiors website to see more rooms (wonderful sleeping porch with fern bedding, monogramed valances in another bedroom, it's all so good!). I have a question about frame styles for silhouette prints. I have black and cream silhouettes (5x7) of my two daughters that I want to hang on the wall. I'd like to bring in a deep blue color (like BM twilight) in the framing materials and want a classic look. Any recommendations? thanks

Thank you for the nice feedback.  When it comes to framing I always think that the simpler the better.  I tend to like a simple classic gold frame with a box detail.  It might be really pretty to use the deep blue color for your matte and have them float the image so that you see a an additional shadow line of the image.  If you are near Alexandria try Erikson Ripper Framing on North Washington Street and ask for Jeff....they are truly gifted framers.  Good luck, SCW

I don't get it--they aren't comfortable for bare feet; react badly to wet spills, crawling babies cry--why should I embrace natural fiber rugs? I can get high fiber for bread, but I just want softy and cushy under my feet. Are these rugs practical for anybody or just the emperor's new clothes underfoot?

I beg to differ with you. I use sisal rugs throughout my home and have a dog and a 15-month-old. We've never had problems cleaning up spills and my baby never cried when she was an active crawler. 

Hi, not all sisals are created equal.  The commercial grade steel wool feel of the past has been replaced with lots of softer weaves.  Many have started to add wool to the sisal for a softer feel and look.  The reality is that nothing compares to this product when it comes to price.  Take a look at some of the newer products out there and I think you will be surprised.  If your budget allows for beautiful silk and wool orientals throughout your home then you are fortunate.  Good luck, SCW

Can you guide us on finding the right interior designer? We are in our mid-thirties and bought our first four-bedroom colonial house a couple months ago. We also had our first baby a month later. To this day, a lot of the rooms remain empty and I have no time to shop around. Yet, the interior designers I found online are way too expensive ($250 to $300 per hour??!) -- they're accustomed to designing for fancy homes. We're not looking for fancy or custom made furniture. Just a kid-friendly, cheerful home. Any advice on finding the right decorator? (and for a reasonable price too).

All designers set up different formats for billing.  Most designers service a range of clients from those who want simple living solutions to those with the "fancy homes".  Don't be afraid of custom furniture, most of us designers can actually get better fitting products at lower price points these days.  It might serve you to get a better sense of what a designer realistically thinks you will need to spend on each space in order to make it livable.  It is well worth the hourly to have a designer put together a plan that you can implement over time when your budget allows.  You will save money in not making mistakes with your purchases.  Ask your friends for referrals and find someone who can design for you and your families needs, you never know you might be able to afford "fancy".  Good luck, SCW

Hi, each designer sets up billing differently.  Probably the best approach would be for you to see what the designer thinks will be required of your budget for each space versus getting stuck on the hourly fees.  It is worth it to have a solid plan of attack in place to pay someone hourly. You can implement the plan in stages as your budget allows and this will save you mountains of money by not purchasing "mistakes".  Most designers service a wide range of may only be seeing the "fancy" houses because that is what we tend to photograph.  Good designers design for the client, ask your friends for referrals and keep looking.  Good luck SCW

I know moving in with a significant other means design compromises, but what do I do with my boyfriend's recliner? It's huge and ratty and old, although it is comfortable. Do I buy a new one, and if so, can you recommend one? Or do I recover the existing one?

How important is the relationship? Men LOVE recliners so if you want this to work, you've gotta work with it If you can't stand the one he has there are definitely other choices that look tasteful - and actually don't even look like recliners! Try Room & Board or Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. 

Wrong style. There are ones without teeth that have a "gummy" underside that is designed to be slip resistant. Put the gummy side down on the smooth floor. The version with "teeth" is only for carpets.


Great timing on your rug story! I have been considering a jute rug for our living room. We have four pets (2 pugs, 2 cats) so I was afraid the natural fibers might be more easily pulled loose with all those claws... Seagrass seems like it might be a better choice based on your article. Do you have any experience with both dogs and cats using natural fiber rugs?

I don't have cats, but I do have a 70-pound dog and both sisal and jute rugs in my home. Both kinds of rugs have held up well over the years (the sisal a little better) with lots of traffic. I prefer sisal and jute over seagrass because they're softer. 

Yes, I have experience with both.  If your pets are prone to tinkles opt for the rug protectant if possible.  Nothing is really animal proof but this feels less guilty.  Thanks, SCW

Have made all of the choices for my kitchen redo except the sink. Am committed to an undermount with a deep single bowl. However, I have no idea about/experience with any sinks other than stainless steel. Does anyone have a strong preference for another sink material?

I personally love stainless. I have a Franke D-shaped sink. What about you guys?

Go with what you know unless you are ready for a change.  You can't beat the value of a stainless sink and it doesn't stain or chip.  On an under mount I think it is a good option.  Elkay and Kohler have some great options for deep sinks.  Good luck, SCW

You may also want to check out Pier 1. They had beeswax candles about a month ago. Also, shops that have local products or farmers' markets might have what you're looking for. I found some unscented beeswax candles at the Virginia Shop in Alexandria.

Great idea about the farmers markets. Buy local. Thanks.

I'm really looking forward to the chat today!! For once, I'm working from home and can PARTICIPATE! Question: I love the look of TRADITONAL interior shutters as a window treatment (not plantation style). In my dream living room, the trim moulding around my windows is beefy and beautiful and voila! The shutters are the window treatment! I can't find a source for this type of shutter anywhere! Can you help? I live in Southern MD but am willing to drive anywhere or bring someone (or company) into my home. THANKS!

Hi, these traditional style shutters are hard to find these days and are custom made.  Try R and R venetian blinds in Alexandria....they still sell the traditional style.  Good luck, SCW

Anyone care to weigh in on the "best" vacuum to buy these days?

Funny you should ask! I'm doing a vacuum column in my series Handy Guide in Local Living. Would love to hear what you all have to say! I will have choices from Home Depot's buying team and the opinion of a local vac repair guy.

We'd like to move our washer & (gas) dryer from the basement to the first floor. Do you know if a handyman can do this, or if we need to call a licensed plumber to move the lines? (Water isn't an issue, but we'd need to add a line to the network of gas pipes.)

If I was planning on the same project, I would call a plumber. You don't want to mess around with water in the house.

Hi, I am living in a place for about a year or so (6 month then month-to-month lease). I'd rather not repaint or fill in the holes from hammering nails into the wall. Any suggestions for ways to hang up framed art (some large framed ones about poster sized to small framed pictures) without using nails and damaging the wall/paint? Thanks.

I think the adhesive 3M Command wall hooks work great.

If he loves you, he'll let it go. I did. Plus, he probably got it from a secondhand store or the side of the road, so he probably won't care as much as you think he does.

Recliner vs. Love for me. Hmmm. 

I have had some fiber rugs that stain when WATER is spilled on them. And it is usually very difficult if not impossible to clean stains out of any of them. I love them but hesitate to buy them again unless I know which types do not stain so readily.

I have had lots of luck with the seagrass not staining with water especially in the larger weaves.  I love the sisal sun collection at sisal rugs direct, have cleaned up red wine on this rug. Good luck, SCW

I also have a jute rug and a pug! I didn't like what his drooling under the kitchen table was doing to the Pergo floors. But with the rug, the drooling dries quickly and I haven't had any complaints from the dog! He still waits at our feet, but doesn't stain the floors. AND I haven't noticed any pulling from his claws, either.


We have a very modern, large rectangular sink by Julien. We love it.


I've seen people who get nice throws (my wife has a wonderful hand woven one from the Southwest that has a great geometric pattern and wonderful colors) that can be tossed over an older piece of furniture (like the old comfy recliner) to cover it up fashionably. The throw can be sat on or tossed on the floor when the recliner is in use and then tossed back on when people will be over to see the room. You can also get seasonal throws to vary the style/colors.

Tossing a throw on a faded recliner is like tossing a scarf over a faded jacket.

Thank you! Yes, he spends a few hours a day in that recliner so I think it must be very important to him. I asked him what he likes about it so much and he says that he likes it's rocking motion best of all.

Rock on.

Love my deep single-bowl sink. Pots, pans, large pieces all fit in easily and it has been easy to keep looking good 2 years after installation.

Me too.

I just got a granite composite sink and I LOVE IT! it blends in with the granite, is simple to keep like-new clean, withstands hot water, no chipping. Do a little googleing and read about them: they're upscale and indestructable.

Thanks for pointing this out.

Two pet peeves right there!. Beautiful flowering plants are reasonable and wind up being cheap because they last so long and provide such pleasure. Sisal just doesn't cut it for me...prefer hardwood and great area rugs and beautiful natural tile... They last forever and add value and beauty to your home.

Thanks for sharing.

Hi! In addition to pulling colors from a duvet, what are other things to look at when selecting a master bedroom color? My husband and I have a number of handmade quilts that we rotate on our bed, so there are many, many different colors (and/or patterns) at the bed at any given time. If it helps, our room is very tiny with some dark red exposed brick, with a white bed frame and dresser. The walls are currently orange and I am desperate to paint! Is the safest bet just a light cream or tan?

Sounds like you have lots going on in that tiny space: three orange walls, one red brick wall and multi-color quilts. I think I would paint all the walls (including the brick and possibly the ceiling) the same neutral color to accomodate your revolving quilts and colors. Unless there is one color that's consistant in all the quilts, I would probably go for a soft cream (but not too white!).

Oreck is super upright, but you can't beat SHARK for hand held or wireless. 15 volts of suction power actually works and the rechargable battery on the wireless is great.


I'm going to be moving in a couple of weeks and would just like to know what your opinion is on the paint color for my walls. Would having an accent wall in a bedroom look tacky?

Hi, I am not a big fan of the accent wall  unless maybe it is behind your bed in a bedroom and you use a color that is of the same value on the other three.  Try painting your ceiling something other than white if you want to liven things up.  Happy moving.  SCW

We have an old schoolhouse for a home on an island near Seattle. The Great Room has the original, large windows on two walls. They look out on a fruit orchard and a young garden. Floors are original dark stain fir. Ceilings are 12' 3". Third wall has new 9' bookcase, naturally stained fir. I'm at a loss for a good paint color that cozies up the room, does not compete with outdoors, has some life to it..suggestions appreciated!

This sounds like a beautiful space.  With that ceiling height and all the wood in the floor and bookcases I would tell you that the best suggestion to harmonize the space would be a natural woven wall covering.  There are wall coverings that now have small amounts of color on the back and the woven material on top.  The weave really helps unify a space with the outdoors and the natural woods you have.  If you hate the idea of a wall covering or it is cost prohibitive you might want to do a green that mirrors those trees outside.  I love healing aloe from Benjamin Moore and sweet caroline, also from Benjamin Moore.  Good luck, SCW

My husband and I like this style of furniture (actually, it's the only furniture style we can both agree on!). I don't want all our furniture in this style, but would like to get a couple of pieces. Our house, however, is sort of a vague Colonial style. Will this look strange? Also, does anyone know of a source for affordable William Morris-esq wallpaper? I'd like to install some below the chair rail in our dining room, but this gets pricey very quickly. Any thoughts? Love the chats!

Hi, I have been blessed with some wonderful Mission style projects and I have come to love this style.  If you live in a colonial style the mix is the key to success.  Mission colors are wonderful as they are organic.  I have seen some affordable William Morris style wallpapers online so do a few searches.  A good mix of the wood frames with some soft upholstered pieces and some vintage finds will yield a wonderful end product.  Good luck, SCW

I'm going to be involved in the update, redo, and sale of a house that hasn't seen any major work in about 40 or 50 years. Any suggestions of magazines or websites to look at to get some ideas of what's in demand now for kitchens? I'm thinking both style (types of countertops, colors, cabinet finishes) and function (keep or get rid of breakfast area? expand into dining room, or leave as is? etc.). I never read home design magazines or blogs or websites, so not knowing where to start looking is a little daunting.

I think the most important thing to remember is to be true to the integrity of the house.  So be careful when following the trends in magazines blogs etc.  A wonderful source for kitchens is House Beautiful.  This magazine features a different kitchen each month and they are always different styles.  I know all of the major magazines also publish kitchen compendiums so that would be a great start as well.  Check out the bookstore design section for these types of will start to see a common thread from lighting to hardware and appliances.  Good luck, SCW

2 of us have asked questions about pads for rugs and the answers did not address the questions, you only said good luck and natural pads are worth the money but you did not say what pads you would recommend.

Hi, I don't have a brand if that is what you are looking for, we buy bulk goods from a supplier versus pre cut goods.  Thanks

Glad Shazalynn was able to join us and we think we all had a great conversation about sisals and sinks and more. So have a great weekend everyone and see you next week. Terri has booked Kathryn Ireland for next Thursday's chat which should be a lot of fun. Ciao.

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.
Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey
Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey heads up her own design firm, SCW Interiors, based in Alexandria. A native of Southwest Washington, she participates in local show houses and designs homes all over the country. She is known for blending natural materials with luxurious elements.
Recent Chats
  • Next: