Raji Radhakrishnan on interior design | Home Front

Apr 24, 2014

Raji Radhakrishnan is the founding and principal designer at Raji RM & Associates. Raji's work is a reflection of her love for creating beautiful homes that have a lived in feel. Raji was selected to participate in some of the most prestigious show houses in the country including most recently The Kips Bay Show House in New York in 2012, The Hampton Designer Show House in South Hampton, N.Y. in 2011, the Charity Works Green House in Mclean, Va. in 2009 and the Washington Design Center Show House in Washington, D.C. in 2006. Our work is published in several publications including The Washington Post, Washingtonian and the current cover story in Luxe Interiors + Design, Spring 2014.

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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So happy to have Raji Radhakrishnan on my chat. Raji is the master of mixing modern and traditional and ancient in one room. She has participated in many show houses, including the Kips Bay Show House in New York where I'll be going this Monday. Raji did a room a couple of years ago that was terrific. So let us begin.

Hi everyone - Thrilled to be here on this beautiful spring morning to discuss decorating and show houses!

My family room has become my husbands taste. It consists of wood furniture (coffee table, armoire, curio cabinet, and side tables), dark leather sofa, and blue/cream persian rug. The wall is painted grey/blue. The room looks dark because of all the brown furniture. I want to change the room. Where should I start? I want to give it a warm and sophistated look.

Start by figuring out how and for what purposes you want to use this room. Then take inventory of which pieces need to stay and which can go. Go to pinterest to check out some rooms based on the functionality fo the space like family hang out room or TV room and you'll find pleanty of inspiration there to get started. You'll have to come up with a functional seating plan but you can always be inspired by beautiful images!

I have a square shaped kitchen, where everyone managed to congregate in the same corner, for making morning coffee, lunch sandwiches, and cuddling. A square kitchen doesn't allow for an island, and all the countertops are full of what should be in a pantry. I thought of opening the wall to the dining room/living room space, but worry that all those lovely children's' noises could upset the salvation of my cooking space. Not sure how best to maneuver. Do I need a designer or an architect to help me plan, or would a contractor be a practical alternative to my limited options?

Defenitely hire a designer. Kitchen are first and formost about function and next about aesthetics, so it really helps to have someone who has designed kitchen before. But, do check out Kitchen photos for ideas in Pinterest, Houzz, etc. This will give you a sense of direction first and who knows if you spend enough time researching for solutions and get inspired, you may just want to tackle the kitchen yourself with a trusted contractor!

We have a nice home, some Ravi Varma paintings, Tanjore paintings, jaipur paintings and carpets, some Thai prints and many beautiful objects. We would like to hang them on living room wall, dining room wall, hall ways. what kind of colours we should choose for the walls and how to hang them.. Appreciate your advice Madhavan

A shade of white is always my preference. Try Benjamin Moore's Linen White, one of my favorites. White walls allow the art to pop and change works when ever you feel like. A sandal wood tone will also work beautifully for traditional Indian paintings. Old Praiie or Tapestry Beige from BM is also good.

I am redesigning my living room and received a quote for a custom window seat pad. I was shocked at the $1500 price tag from Calico Corners for such a piece. Where do you suggest I look for a more reasonable quote?

You may want to go the free-standing bench with cushion route - check Pottery Bran/Restoration Hardware/West Elm. Also, try your local upholsterer - they can usually build something custom for a reasonable price but note that all custom work, depneding on the qulaity and how complicated the design is they do get pricey.

We've lived in our house a year now and while we painted when we first moved in, which helped, but I don't really feel like we've achieved that warm homey feel. We don't have a lot of room for shelves so I don't have a good spot to put those items that help personalize a space. My interior design radar is pretty non-existent, and my spouse is pretty ambivalent, so any suggestions on what to focus on to better achieve that "ah, i love my house" feeling?

Start with a warm rug under foot, some nice window treatments and even if you don't have shelves, treat the coffee and end/side etables as places to keep some of your personal favorites including books, vases, and any other decor pieces you like. A pretty throw over a sofa add a wonderful layer too.

We would like to turn our garage into a functional room for exercise, painting, and maybe even watching tv. I suppose the first step is to build a shed to move the lawnmower and bikes into. I'm trying to figure out how finished this extra space needs to be for comfort and utility, without actually making it a liveable space (as noone would sleep in there).

You are first going to need some kind of air conditioning. If the floors are concrete you can have it painted in epoxy with some non-slip powder added to it. Don't forget lighting too. And if the walls are painted then voila! you have a functional space.

Good morning: we live in an older home that has an addition that was built years ago. Upstairs there is an interior wall that was formerly an exterior wall, and it still has the original window. Since it is in our son's bedroom we'd like to remove it for safety reasons, however I'm not sure what we should do here. It was suggested that we simply add a picture window or another double-hung window made out of a safer material. Any suggestions?

If it is an interior wall and I suppose you don't need the window there, it would be best to remove it and drywall the space. Hope this helps!

What;s a good paint color for a bedroom? Starting from scratch. What are some good simple bedroom decorating ideas?

If you use the bed room mostly for shut eye only, you may want to go with something dark. An eggplant color will look gorgeous. ON the other hand, if you are like many who use the bed room for reading, working and many other things something fresh/light would be good. Farrow & Ball's Ponting is a nice shade of white with a soft hint of pink and will work well with different colors of the sheets, etc. Decorating the bedroom starts with the a great bed of course, which then needs leveled side tabels each with it's own lamp easily accessible from the bed. Overhead chandelier or suspension are useful when you have a switch by the door to flick on when entering a dark room. A bench by the foot of the bed and a club chair to sink into before going to bed would be nice to have if you have the space!

Do you have some good online sources to share for the great accessories you use in your projects? Or do you go to local flea markets?

My favorite accessories (and furniture) tend to be vintage - so flea markets, online sites like OKL, 1stdibs (Saturday Sales), eBay are all excellent places to shop. I often vintage pieces in my projects because they are so unique and not ubiquitous and you can often get pretty good deals too. I also like Made Goods, Jonathan Adler, West Elm, Pottery Barn, Traget, etc. These places do surpise me every now and then! Hope this helps!

This may not be the right chat for this, but I hope someone has a suggestion. We had a big, beautiful Foof chair, and we loved it! But it proved irresistible to our cats. We even replaced the foam chunks and washed the heck out of the cover and liner, and used vinegar, everything we could think of, but eventually we had to just throw it out. We'd love to get another, but I asked--they do not have waterproof liners. Any suggestions? We miss the Foof.

Wow. I did not know about the Foof chair but just looked it up. I can see why humans and cats love it - it looks so comfortable! You didn't really say what the cats were doing to the chair, but I can guess by the need for a waterproof cover! Could you have one custom made? Does anyone else have a foof that could weigh in? Maybe we need to do a story about these!

Having broker open house on Sunday. 27x67' loft style modern space. Need thoughts on accent pieces/flowers to set-off openness.

For flowers try Bells of Ireland and you don't need too many accent pieces - just books and a nice table top sculpture like piece may be.

I just bought a house with lots of windows and an completely open floor plan. Any recommendations for a gray color that would work throughout the space?

Gray owl, classic gray and wish AF-680 from Benjamin Moore are all beautiful grays. You could also try all these colors to scucceed each other through the transition of spaces - because they are all so close in color tone they will blend well yet give a subtle change and light reflection which will keep the space looking too static if painted all the exact same shade of grey.

Just wanted to say thank you for highlighting the spring spruce up. My designer came out last week and it was a fantastic experience. Got ideas for furniture arrangement, lighting, window treatments, and where to start with a revamp of our basement. A well spent two hours. Highly recommend, and thanks again Jura for letting your readers know it exits!

I really appreciate the feedback! So glad it worked out for you.

Hi! I'm looking for a modern chandelier or pendant for my condo bedroom. My furniture is white laquer with brown velvet bed. I've been looking at a Restoration Hardware Sputnik fixture or thinking something crystal or an aluminum or chrome artichoke shape. Do you think one of these would be better, or have suggestions where to look? Thanks!!

You should defenitely try the vintage ones in eBay/OKL. They are original and ten times better than newer ones. I do like Lindsay Edleman's DIY suspension too which is so cool - here is a link - http://www.lindseyadelman.com/youmakeitchandelier. Also try Circa Lighting.

I love the photo murals that you do. Can you explain the process?

Thank you! They are all photographs I've taken either during travels or visits to local museums. I photoshop (and crop) many to get the exact lighting, colors, etc., that I want and then have them blown up to the size needed. They are installed just like wallpaper and some are available for purchase from my firm - check out - http://www.rajirm.com/murals

Can you recommend a good place in the Washington area to get a fair appraisal of a piece of antique furniture? I want to sell it but I don't know what it's worth. thanks.

Try Doyle's in DC and also go to the antique shops in Georgetown like David Bell Antiques or Gore Dean who may be able to help. Also, a simple google serach will yield many online appraisars who can see a photograoh and get some details from you and appraise it.

What is your favorite part about working on a show house?

Oh, the reveal and all the friends you make with vistors and colleagues especially!

I've done this twice now. The first time I had a friendly and helpful designer who suggested a few tweaks and some new paint colors. The second time a few weeks ago the designer came in with a "this is so beneath me" attitude as soon as she saw my small space and, although she mentioned that she had been told my interest was in rearranging my existing furniture, spent most of the visit suggesting I replace or "get rid of" my existing furniture. I don't think she's ever known anybody who had to live in a one bedroom apartment.

Oh dear. Another opinion that's different from the earlier poster. Good to get all kinds of experiences on the chat.

How did you decide you wanted to do Kips Bay? Did you choose the room or did they assign it to you? Do you think it was worth the time and effort do a New York show house?

I've wanted to do Kips Bay ever since I first learnt about it! The qulaity fo work and the freedom with which designers can work there is incredible. Absolutely worth the time and effort and hope to do one again soon! From many portfolios that are submitted each year, they first choose the designers for the year who are then invited to visit the location and pick their top three choices for rooms and spaces. I think then it's just a lottery to find out exactly which room each gets.

I think it's time to get a new couch, but some of my friends say to just get it reupholstered. How do you know when a couch is on it's last legs? Secondly, if I do just get a new couch, is there a contemporary style you like that is still comfortable and inviting. Some couches I've spotted just don't look comfortable to lounge on.

If the frame is sturdy and you still like the lines of the couch you can re-upholster it. A good upholsterer can do all new springs/filling/etc. For a new couch try Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams - they have some nice contemporary couches that are actually quite inviting and comfortable.

Do you have sources you might share for reasonably priced rugs? It's getting hard to find something affordable and I don't want sisal.

Pottery Barn, West Elm and Ikea are all still some of the best priced sources for rugs. I also like ABC Carpet & Home in NY. And don't forget even if you don't like sisal, you could use a large inexpensive sisal to cover most of the floor and then layer it with a smaller soft cotton or wool rug which will be less expensive than the large sizes an dgive you a layered custom look (and soft on your feet). Hope this helps!

Just a note to say we used Benjamin Moore's Classic Grey throughout oour contemporary house due to extensive windows. Whites were proving too bright. Used 3 finishes to differenciate the areas, and then only white on bathroom ceilings. Overall, works great (even architect likes!).

Thanks. Good feedback.

I haven't seen the room makeovers for the last 2 weeks in the Home and Garden section online. Taking a break or discontinuing these?

Please email meg.ely@washpost.com

What kitchen counter materials do you like for a modern kitchen? I don't want it to look dated in five years. Thanks.

I personally love Calcutta and Carrara marble despite it's etching issues which are getting better with newer sealants. Some of the new quartz are also great. Absolutely scrtach/stain/dent resistant - proposing Margherita Lyksum to a client next week. Soapstone which are almost black is another option.

Great to chat with you! Thanks for sharing your design experience and wisdom. Have a wonderful day everyone and hope to have you back next week.

  • Thanks every one! Got to run and catch the train at Union now!

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
Raji Radhakrishnan
Raji Radhakrishnan is the founding and principal designer at Raji RM & Associates. Raji's work is a reflection of her love for creating beautiful homes that have a lived in feel. Raji was selected to participate in some of the most prestigious show houses in the country including most recently The Kips Bay Show House in New York in 2012, The Hampton Designer Show House in South Hampton, N.Y. in 2011, the Charity Works Green House in Mclean, Va. in 2009 and the Washington Design Center Show House in Washington, D.C. in 2006. Our work is published in several publications including The Washington Post, Washingtonian and the current cover story in Luxe Interiors + Design, Spring 2014.
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