Regan Billingsley of Regan Billingsley Interiors in Chevy Chase talks interior design and her work at the 2013 DC Design House | Home Front

Apr 25, 2013

Regan Billingsley, of Regan Billingsley Interiors in Chevy Chase, will talk about her work at the 2013 DC Design House and will offer home design tips. Submit early questions now and join us Thursday at 11 a.m. EST!

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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We are happy to have designer Regan Billingsley online today to talk about her terrific teenage Boy's Bedroom and Bathroom at the DC Design House. Here is my story on the 2013 show house and the photo gallery of rooms including Regan's. Regan has great ideas on repurposing furniture and using vintage accessories and her spaces have a fun twist to them. So send us your questions.

Good morning, everyone!  Thank you, Jura, for inviting me to participate in Home Front.  I’m thrilled to be here and excited to answer everyone’s design questions!


Let’s get started!

Regan, Is this your first design house? If so, what did you enjoy most about being part of the DC Design House? Would you participate in another one?

I participated in a design house for the Rehoboth Beach Village Improvement Association last year in Delaware.  Show houses are a lot of fun as a designer because they allow you to stretch your creativity.  I like to add personality and a bit of whimsy to a show house.  The DC Design House has been an incredible experience.  There are some talented designers in the area, so it’s a been a lot of fun getting to know them and seeing them work.  As a major fundraiser for Children’s National Hospital, The DC Design House is for a great cause as well, which is ultimately why we all enjoy participating.


Stop by if you haven’t already!

What's unique about the collaboration process of the DC Design House? Do you work together to make sure rooms flow?

I think the DC Design House committee intentionally chose designers with a wide range of styles, so every room has a different vibe. Yet, because the architectural aesthetic of the hosue is carried through, there is also a natural flow through the space.  

The house this year is huge, with five floors, so there is a room for everyone.  Overall, visitors have been walking away with some great design tips for their own homes.  



What have visitors to the DC Design House loved about your room? What's your favorite element?

Everyone who has walked into my room has found something they can relate to.  I used a lot of local art and accessories recognizable to many Washingtonians.  There is also a mixture of new and old memorabilia, so visitors of all ages have walked in saying, "I used to have one of those!" or "I remember that".  My intent was to add personality and a sense of humor to the room, two elements that I try to incorporate into any space.  That has resonated with a lot of the visitors.

We have a lovely screened in porch attached to the back of our house and it is quite private with the exception of one side where we can see our neighbors when they are out on their deck. (we do like our neighbors but like our privacy sometimes) My question is- if I hang sunbrella panels on one side of the porch, do I need to do the same for the other 2 screened sides? The porch is pretty large- about 18x20. I'm thinking cream because the woodwork is cream and they'd blend into the corners when we don't pull them closed.

I think it would be fine to have them on just one side, especially since they will be cream and will blend in with your woodwork. The whole point of a screen porch is to have the air flowing through so you can relax outdoors without being bitten up by bugs. Having your privacy on that one side will make you want to spend more time out there, which is the point. I have seen houses where a lattice wall is put up between a porch and a neighbor's yard and that can work as well, especially if you get some vines growing on it.

To add to Jura's comment,

 If you hang the sunbrella fabric like drapery panels, you could use them as an accent on one side of the porch and there is no need to repeat them throughout the entire space.   Since your space is large, I’m guessing you have a dining area and seating area.  Try arranging your furniture so that the drapery panels frame out one of the areas – flanking the seating area or dining area.  This could create a really cozy space, and give you the privacy you need.  Sunbrella fabric is terrific because it resists staining, mold, and mildew.  I would consider a fabric that isn’t totally opaque – something that has a sheer quality to it.  That way you maintain the sense of being outside on that side of the room when the panels are closed, but you’ll get the privacy you need.


It sounds like you have a lovely screened porch!

I'd like to know how to best utilize a small kitchen. With no pantry, lots of kitchen gadgets and a baby, what is the best way to organize so I can find things easily and maximize my storage space? Thanks!

This is a great question. I have a small kitchen as well. I try to only keep the pots, gadgets, linens and cleaning supplies that I most use in the kitchen itself. The rest I store mostly in the basement and some very formal things that I don't use very often I store in the attic. Go through everything you have and really only keep things that you want and use, and give away duplicates. Toss out crummy looking baking sheets and worn spatulas. Keep one set of dishes and glassware that you use daily in there. Make use of every corner using organizing accessories you pick up at Target or the Container Store. I keep trays in a narrow slice of space atop my refrigerator and I store kitchen towels, placemats and foils and wraps in one drawer that I subdivide. Dejunk your junk drawer and utilize the space under the sink. Sometimes getting rid of things you don't really use or need frees up a lot of space.

I want to block out light in my bedroom, but I don't want it to feel like a cave. How can I do that?

We often layer window treatments in bedrooms so you can control lighting and privacy.  We’ll start with a base layer, such as blinds, shutters, or shades.  These options will allow you to control how much natural light filters into the room, and also offer privacy, without completely blocking the light.  On top we’ll install drapery with blackout lighting.  That way, at night you can close your curtains to eliminate harsh morning glare or lights from cars and street lamps.

Good suggestions from Jura on the small kitchen issue!


We see this a lot in older homes that have smaller kitchens, where cabinets are filled with pots, pans, and dishes, making it hard to find room for food storage.  Try reorganizing cabinet space and utilizing wall space to free up cabinet room for food. 




Many cabinet manufacturers have organizational components to fit inside cabinets that will help you effectively use the space to store pans, pots, and utensils.  If your cabinet company doesn’t offer this, you can find similar products from Hafele. 




Try hanging pots off of hooks on your kitchen wall.  Not only does this save a ton of room in your cabinets, but also the pots are easily accessible for cooking.  There are some nice wall systems, called kitchen rail systems, out there that allow you to hang utensils from hooks above your stove. We like the systems from IKEA and Alessi.  Clear out your spice cabinet by putting spices into a magnetic spice rack from The Container Store.  This is functional, and looks nice too!


We are remodeling bathrooms and found a modern vanity that we really love. Only issue is the top is porcelain with built-in sink but has no backsplash. Do you think this would be a problem? We don't plan on tiling the wall and can't come up with any better solutions. Thx.

If this is a powder room, no problem because there is limited splashing from the sink.  For a master bathroom, or a kid’s bath, I would consider adding a backsplash to protect the wall and wall finish.  Try finding a Caesar stone, or other man made material  that matches the porcelain.  You can also add just a few tiles, alighted with the vanity top, as an accent. 


There are so many neutral and white paint colors to choose from. How do I decide? What are your favorite neutrals?

Neutrals and whites can be tricky given how many there are to choose from.  It can also be difficult to choose any paint color from a 1" x 2" square on a paint wheel.  

Many paint suppliers will give larger samples, which you can tape to your wall.  If you hold the larger samples next to each other, you'll notice some neutrals and whites go grey, while others can go warm.  You'll even find shades of greens and reds.  We always put large samples on the wall, and ask our clients to move them around and live with them for a few days.  That helps narrow down the options.  Once you have 2-3 colors you really love, ask your paint shop for small sample pots.  You can use those to paint small samples on your walls.  Make sure to paint in various areas around the room - where you get a lot of sun, and where there are shadows.  This will utimately help you narrow down your decision to the color that works for you.

Do you have a favorite white paint that you like to use for trim?

I use Benjamin Moore White Dove or Farrow & Ball Pointing for creamy trim.  If I want something more stark and contrasting, I try Benjamin Moore Simply White.  You can't go wrong with these gorgeous colors!

I'm trying to redecorate on a budget. Do you have suggestions for how to make design more affordable?

This is a great question.  Designing a new space can be a ton of fun.  But nothing will make the process more stressful than blowing your budget.  I recently wrote a blog on how to develop a design plan, including making a budget, which you can find on my website (  As boring as it may sound, the key first step in any new project is to write a budget.  That will help you outline your scope of work, prioritize, and keep on track with spending.  I also ask clients to start an idea notebook.  Tear out pages from magazines and create a Pinterest account. Take photos of things you see around town that you like.  This will help you develop your sense of style.  Once you have a budget and a design vision, you can begin implementing your plan.  Typically, we start with furniture plans so we know what key pieces we’re looking for.  At the same time, we’ll develop a color concept with rugs, fabrics, and paint colors.  We carry both of these things around with us when we’re out looking for furniture and accessories.  That way, you stick within your budget and avoid the mistake of buying items that don’t fit into your overall design vision.


Remember, you don’t have to do everything at once.  Take your time, work in phases, and wait to find pieces you really love. 


We also love the idea of cheap and chic.  Consider spending money on the pieces you use the most, like your family room sofa.  You want it to be comfortable.  Pair it with a less expensive side table and lamp. 


If you're on a budget, also consider repurposing some of your existing pieces.  In the DC Design House, we worked with McNamara Design to spruce up a vintage NYC school locker and and a West Elm Parsons console.  We added a fresh coat of paint and antique wheels to the locker, giving it a new life.  We developed a fun geometric pattern for the desk to make it a more interesting piece.  Chances are you already have some great pieces to work with!

Thank you for taking my question! We just bought a house and the stairs are gorgeous -- painted white risers and black treads. The problem is, we have large dogs. I am sure they are going to tear up the paint. We're thinking a runner for the stairs will protect them, but I don't know where to start. Can we just put any runner that's long enough down? How do we attach it? Is this something we could DIY (husband is very handy) or is it best left to an installer? I feel like a bit of a fool, but this is the first house I've lived in that hasn't had carpeted stairs. Thanks you!

Dear Stair Runner: You are not alone! Lots of people struggle as to whether they could carpet their stairs for safety due to kids, dogs and really anyone. More than just your dogs scratching the paint, the dogs could actually slip on a damp step, and so could you. Carpeting your stairs would make their comings and goings quieter. A stair runner is a good investment. I would suggest using nylon which wears better on stairs. You can buy specially sized runners or have one cut and bound to fit your stairs. Often you can find a remnant for it to save money. Don't skimp on the padding. I would suggest having it professionally installed so it's really safe and looks great. I have had a runner on my stairs since I got pregnant and got more safety conscious and we have replaced the stair runner three times in 24 years. Good luck - I think you will like it.

Family room furniture: Do you need to match wood stains? How to shop for a coffee and end tables?

Not at all!  In fact, we find it more interesting when furniture doesn’t all match.  The key is balance.  We like to keep some symmetry to a room, to maintain some order and make a space inviting.  So we typically match finishes on end tables flanking a sofa.  But then we’ll choose a different material, or a different wood stain, on the coffee table.  We have clients who will shop at stores like Restoration Hardware, or Ethan Allen, and buy all of their furniture from the same collection so that everything matches.  They come to us wondering why their spaces look impersonal.  We always recommend switching it up a little.  You can still shop the stores you love, but try combining pieces from different collections, or adding key accent pieces that give a more eclectic or personal feel. 

To the question regarding kitchen stores in NOVA,

Try online sources such as for great deals on sinks.

Lowe's and Home Depot are terrific sources for countertops.  IKEA also has some unique materials.  When shopping for countertops, think about durability.  Materials like quartz and granite are heat resistant and won't scratch.  These factors are important as a new home owner to keep your countertops looking sparkly and new for years to come!

1. Artwork - What to be complementary to room? - what is the right size for a space

Designers approach art in different ways.  Many will develop a furniture design, and then search for art that is complementary.  Years ago I bought a t-shirt that said, “Art doesn’t have to match your sofa”, which is a philosophy I have adopted towards art.  Art is very individual, and can breath new life and personality into a space.  We often start with art first, so that we can develop a space around it.  For example, if you have a piece of art that you love, you can highlight it with lighting and a background paint color.

It’s also important to think about where you want to place art.  In the DC Design House, I thought about where a visitor’s eye would go when they first entered the room.  That helped me determine two “art walls” – one above the bed, where I put Paul Lange’s Fowl series, and one directly across from the bathroom door, where I put “City Cowboy” by Francis Minien.  A lot of people walk into the space and comment on these two pieces first, because they are the first things they notice in the room. 

If you’ve already designed your space before selecting art, take your time and find pieces that are special to you.  Look at art books, visit galleries, or work with a professional to determine what kind of art you are drawn to.  Also, remember that art doesn’t have to be expensive!  Kid’s art projects and family photos make great collage walls.  In my bathroom at the DC Design House, I cut up old DC road maps and put them into IKEA frames.  Cheap and Chic!

I need a new sofa. Can you tell me why some are so much more expensive than others? Also, do you have suggestions for how to shop for one that will be durable enough for my kids and dog?

Buying a sofa can seem overwhelming as there is so much on the market at so many different price ranges. The cost is based on the construction of the sofa, the cushion material and the fabric used, as well as the quality and workmanship, It's a bit like buying clothing where you can get mass market, department store and designer couture.If you are looking for a good basic sofa that will last many years I would plan to spend at least around $2000. Certainly you can find sofas for $1200 that are good but they probably won't hold up as well, especially with kids and dogs. Washable slipcover models are often the choice of people who do a lot of living on their sofas. Check out the website for ideas on Furniture for Real Life.

Sounds gorgeous and we're happy to hear you're not afraid of color!

Window treatments will definitely help.  As we mentioned in our response to bedroom window treatments, you can add a shade to filter the amount of light coming into the room.  You can add drapery on top of this if you want to add a bit of formality and softness to the room.  That will help tone down the bold color statement.

Try replacing the bulbs in your chandelier with lightbulbs that have less wattage.  25-45 watts shoud do, depending on how many light bulbs your fixure takes.  You can also add lampshades to the fixture to filter the light a big.

To add to Jura's sofa response, we often use outdoor fabrics for sofas in homes with kids and dogs.  There have been some amazing developments in outdoor fabrics, so there are options that are chic, soft, and comfortable.  Restoration Hardware's outdoor sofas are a great fit for heavy use indoors. 

I want to thank Regan for being with us today. She had some great tips and I'm planning to reread the chat right after I sign off. For those of you who haven't been to DC Design House yet, it is at 2507 Foxhall Rd., NW, Washington, D.C. and is open through May 12. Also don't forget the many house and garden tours going on this weekend in the lovely weather. I'm planning to check out the Georgetown House Tour on Saturday which is always fun and inspirational. Have a great weekend everybody.

Hello, could you please suggest some paint colors for an adult's bedroom that are neither too girly or too manly? Thank you very much :) Also, do you recommend painting the ceiling white or painting it a lighter version of the wall color? Thanks again!

There is a reason soft blue colors are the number one choice for bedrooms - they are soft and inviting, but not too feminine.  We also love shades of grey for a soothing environment.  

As far as the ceiling, it depends on the look you are going for.  If you want a high contrast, you can paint it white.  Often we'll mix the wall color with white to keep the color conistent on the ceiling, but keep the room bright.  A dark ceiling will make the ceilings appear lower, so we tend to brighten up ceiling colors.

Thanks for the chat, Jura!  Great questions by everyone.

Hope to see you all at the DC Design House.

Also, I have series on my blog ( called Design 101 that is aimed at educating my readers on all things design.  We've covered topics such as selecting paint colors, window treatments, sofas, and more.  We're kicking off May with Art!

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
Regan Billingsley
Regan Billingsley is principal at Regan Billingsley Interiors in Chevy Chase. Regan Billingsley Interiors offers decoration and renovation services in D.C., New York, Los Angeles, and beyond. Regan is a graduate of the University of Maryland and the Pratt Institute.
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