Home Front: Design advice from Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza

Apr 26, 2012

Every week, Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza help you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? They're happy to whip out their 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 (or call-in-a-pro) advice. They can even help you cope with the eternal pets vs. furniture battle. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. They invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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Hi, Everyone. Welcome to our chat this morning. In today's Local Living there's a story about the new Domino magazine special edition that came out last week. Have you seen it? If so, what do you think about it? Did you love it? Were you disappointed? Gives us your thoughts. In the meantime, let's get started on your questions.

My home has a family room downstairs and a sitting room upstairs. The fam room is more casual, and I'd like a casual elegance feeling in the sitting room. I'm in love with a sofa from Ethan Allen and we have a baby. Is it crazy to buy the piece I love and hope that little one can follow rules and not ruin it? Any thoughts? Thanks.

Buy it! You sound like you have a number of rooms in the house where you can spend time with your baby. During the messy years, try and keep the baby away from this particular piece of furniture. Sippie cups are dangerous and so are juice boxes, but some families manage to have a no food and no drink rule in some rooms.

We're looking for a small sofa to put at the foot of our queen sized bed. So far I haven't found anything in the right combination of style and fabric. We have 2 white cats and 2 black pugs, so a neutral, durable, easy to clean, non-velvet fabric is a must. We're more flexible on style, looking for something with generally clean lines and not to puffy. I've tried all the usual suspects: Restoration Hardware, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, West Elm.... Any suggestions on where to look next?

Try Belfort, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Jennifer Convertibles and CB2. Your choice of upholstery is tough is tough with white cats and black dogs! But no doubt you keep a lint roller at the ready at all times.

Has anybody found a successful way to fix wall corners in rooms where the paint has badly chipped and exposed metal? Ugly! Some interior painters just want to try to spackle it, but that doesn't last. Do you have to lay tape down the corners and then prime and paint?

Hmmm. I'm throwing this one out to the crowd as I am not a DIY painter! Any ideas, gang?

Great article on Domino. As someone who used to read the publication religiously, I have to agree that I was disappointed in this issue. It kind of felt like a marketing ploy? It's unfortunate because I don't feel that any other current home/design magazines truly live up to what Domino used to do. What do you guys think? Are there current magazines that you read that you'd say were on par?

Seems like lots of people were disappointed in the Domino special edition. There isn't a magazine that fills Domino's void exactly, but there are still many  good shelter magazines on the newsstands, including: Southern Living, House Beautiful, Canadian House & Home, Veranda, Elle Decor, Martha Stewart Living, Coastal Living, Better Homes & Gardens. 

Has anyone seen the new HGTV magazine? If so, what did you think?


I am curious as to what you all think of the many gray rooms that are turning up all over the place, including at this year's DC Design House. There is even a high-end kitchen with gray cabinets. We've heard that a lot of you still prefer white or beige as the basic color in a room. What do yout think?

The chatter who says they have wall corners (outside corners, I assume) where the paint has chipped and there is exposed metal. The metal is drywall corner bead. It is covered by joint compound (spackle) and then painted. Outside corners get banged up a lot, and the spackle chips off. There is nothing you can do to avoid the chipping, except put a plastic corner guard molding on it, but that's pretty unattractive.

I love people who know what they are talking about! Thank you for this.

I have an oblong basement that is pretty dark - only two ground-level windows - and we just put a new floor down and plan to paint the walls some sort of white to make the space seem brigher/larger. I'd like to have an "accent" wall - but which wall? And what sort of color? The new floor is a warm, yellow-bronzy tile.

I like the idea of painting the walls a light color to brighten the room. If you want white, check out the shades in Benjamin Moore's Classic Colors portion of their paint deck. Linen White, Navajo White, Bone White, Antique White, White Dove...all good choices. 

As for a accent wall...I'm not a fan of the idea. I suggest bringing in color with upholstery, accessories and/or an area rug.  If you throw a large, neutral area rug over your tile, with the white walls, you can choose any accent color you like. 

I am in a transition period. My long term relationship just ended and so I'm back into my own bedroom for the first time in awhile. I wanted something girly so I spray painted my craiglist iron bed coral. I have different colored bright accents on the wall (not many...it's a small room). It feels a little juvenile so I was thinking of a navy accent wall. Jura...I know you hate them but it's a rental and I'm too lazy to paint the whole room navy. What do you think of the colors? My bedding, drapes and carpet are all a neutral beige. Thanks!

Ha ha. I recently worked with a color consultant on a story who convinced me that an occasional accent wall especially in rentals was sometimes a good idea. Now a large object in a room in coral - ie your bed - is already a very strong statement. Personally, I would go with maybe white walls and do navy accents in the  pillows, bedding  and window treatments. Beige and coral isn't my favorite combo but I'm sure you don't want to change your bedding and draperies.

Although there are many delightful shades of grey, I personally find it depressing as a primary room color. I end up feeling like I'm in a rain cloud or stuck in the bowels of a battleship. I think this is a fad that will run its course pretty quickly. I still remember when grey and green were the colors all institutional buildings like hospitals and police stations were painted. DEPRESSING.

Interesting observations. I once had a dining room painted sort of a dark gray, sort of like Bedford Gray by Martha Stewart. It had crisp white trim in semi-gloss. It really looked sharp I must say. Some of the pale grays I agree with you.

Check World Market!

Good idea.

Just plain awful. As someone who loves Canadian House and Home and who feels Coastal Living, Southern Living and Sunset have lost touch/gone to pot I feel HGTV is as bad as some of their interior designers. I have seen in person what Genevieve Gorder did to a house in my hometown and I wouldn't let her clean up after my cat let alone decorate. Take my advice - stick with Canadian H&H, Arch Digest, Veranda, Dwell, the better choice for most. Otherwise, you are just paying for a rag that tries to pass off cheap crap as good design. We know better.

Thanks for your rant! What do you guys think?

...if it's a very fancy fabric, why not slipcover it? Twill or denim cotton slipcovers will wash and be very good-looking if made custom. Off-the-rack premade slipcovers for pet owners (saw one interesting one in a catalog) might work too, for day to day use. Surefit. But don't buy their thin cotton ones, they're wrinkly and transparent.

Great idea!

Terri, where can I find the bins that are in the photo that accompanies your article on basement organization? I desperately need them for my own basement disaster project! Thanks!

The round baskets that are featured in my story are from Terrain; you can find them here. They are lovely, but very pricey. You can also find lots of great bins and baskets at the Container Store and Target.

Is it just me, or does Coastal Living not get enough credit? I love it, issue after issue, and feel like it is somehow... underrated! Thoughts?

I do enjoy Coastal Living, because I love beach houses. They do a nice job in a niche market. It's always a fun magazine to put in your beach bag and read with a Diet Coke while sitting in a chair overlooking the ocean.

I love them! My sons' room is grey as is my newly-painted kitchen. Even my husband likes it.


I am not a fan because I prefer warmer colors in my home. Neutral for me is Behr's "Bagel"--a soft gold. But combined with warm and/or bright colors, I think gray can look smashing. The kids at Young House Love did a gray, white and avocado green kitchen (with turquoise accents) that looks smashing.

Love toe avocado, gray and white kitchen idea.

I have seen it and I have to say, it's pretty helpful! They have a lot of tips and useful information, but they don't pull it off as prettily as Domino. Domino had a way of looking like Elle Decor or Arch Digest but still being helpful and useful even if you couldn't afford a $10,000 sofa. Sigh... there's no denying the addictive nature of HGTV, though. I suppose that will have to do no. #recession!

I'm not sure I'd agree with Domino looking like Elle Decor or AD, but it was definitely always great to look at. And you're not alone in your assesment about HGTV magazine. I've heard lots of positive feedback about it. I'm looking forward to reading their second issue.

Jeff Lewis does them on Interior Therapy, his new tv show. Most magaines show the accent wall as the newest trend in home design, along with some amazing wall papers. Get with it - accent walls bring that POP of color so needed and are definately a must with designers on the cutting edge.

Well, they aren't a new trend, but I guess nothing really is!

Not just from a personal standpoint, living in an area where weather is gray for too much of the year, but also from experience in the design field where it seems that the many variations and undertones of gray make coordination tricky. Certainly some of these rooms are beautifully and skillfully put together. However, for long-term living it seems that the white/beige/warmer tones have more appeal.

I think gray is a nice choice for certain rooms in certain light. But I agree, that white/beige seems to be more of a longterm basic. 

The pet owner should also try Reincarnations on 14th and P NW which is now offering 40% off everything because they could not renew their lease.

Oh yes. I am sorry about them leaving. They were a  great independent retailer on 14th.

Gray is elegant and timeless and comes in a million shades. Architects love it for a reason. The only gray I don't like is a dead gray - one that is totally neutral, no hint of any color (lilac, blue, teal, brown,...). Lifeless. There was a hilarious riff on gray in unhappyhipsters.com photo slideshow.


If it is a piece of furniture you will always be worried about getting "ruined" -- don't do it to yourself or your kid. If it is a piece that you can feel OK with "let's see how it goes, worst thing, we get it recovered when the kid(s) bigger" -- go for it.

Thanks for your opinion on this.

I'd love to paint my kitchen cabinets as a temporary stop-gap measure until we do the full kitchen remodel in the next few years. However, we currently have an creamy off-white Corian counter which I don't think would look good with the bright white cabinet which would be our first color choice . Our (admittedly cheap looking) cabinets are currently Cherry which isn't awful but not really our style. We're looking to brighten things up and look a little more modern but I'm really stumped on finding a color that would work with the countertops. Any suggestions?

How about gray? It would look crisp and modern next to your off-white countertop. You could go light or dark gray depending on what else you have going on in your kitchen, but either would likely look great.

Funny thing - every time I pass the check out, Coastal Living magazine is there in stacks but Veranda seems to disappear. I have seen the 'cliche' beach house theme done so much in Coastal Living but here in FL it is bad luck to keep shells in the house (a tradition from the natives) and if you decorate with palm frons, we know you are a snowbird / tourist here. Sorry - true beachy people don't use Coastal Living as inspiration. We just don't bother with the magazine at all.

Haha. That is funny. I love that shells are bad luck. Veranda is really looking good these days. I enjoyed the current issue last night and found a lot of good inspiration. I think flipping through photos of beach houses is sort of looking at photos of food and recipes but never really making them.

The person who said there's nothing you can do, was right. However, if there is a particular corner that gets beat up a lot, it's crying out for wood bead board or other wainscoting. Takes wear well; looks good worn.

Thank you.

Terri, I meant the plastic storage unit on the webpage version of the article.

When I pull up the story, i see the baskets. Can you send me the link you're pulling up?

Did either of you see it? If so, what did you think?

No, I didn't see it. Did you? What did you think?

I am sick of the warm colors so gray is a nice change. I am sick of every home being done in a shade of off beige or tan or taupe. Sick yellow makes no one look good. If you are going to live in a house, make sure you look good standing next to the walls. Gray is so forgiving. Beige makes you look sallow, old, and dismal. Give me gray!

Love people with opinions!

Hi, we are in the process of finishing our basement into a in law suite that we will use as a play room, entertainment room and sleeping area for overnight guests. We do not want a bed, but rather seating that can be converted to sleeping. Do you have any suggestions for comfortable sleeper sofas, day beds, etc.

I don't have any personal experience with sleepers that I would recommend, but have you checked out Crate & Barrel or Room & Board?

Anyone else care to chime in?

I have an Ethan Allen sofa & loveseat that have Ethan Allen slipcovers (some of their sofas have this feature and others do not). When my kids were younger I had a casual plaid print slipcover which served us well; now that they are older I bought a really pretty deep red paisley slipcover. It is cotton and it is washable - it looks very elegant but is easy to keep clean. I just love it.

That is great to know. Thanks.  Sounds like a wonderful investment.

I don't care for them. I'm always cold and gray rooms make me feel colder. It just seems like such an institutional color to me. I don't love beige, either, but would take it over gray.

Lots of strong opinions here, just as I had suspected.

I just picked up a magazine at the stand...think it was Coastal Living...and found a featured beach house photo spread that I swear I saw 5-6 years ago. Exactly. Depressing.


If you have older gray tiles in your bathroom, paint with a pale shell pink. Trim & fixtures semigloss white. It saves the gray tile and isn't too girly for men. Beats the expense and hassle of blowing out all that tile. Roman pleated shade in white linen edged with ice pink. White shower curtain, textural.

Love this. Thanks.

OK, so you don't want to decorate you home like a bad seafood restaurant but you may want to travel to a destination and I think Coastal Living does show you what places are cool, where to go, what to see and how people live there. It may not be a travel mag but here it does good work. Granted, their home decor leaves me thinking of some bad Red Lobster restaurant but if you like that look, go for it!

I think Coastal Living does a great job, too. Everytime I read it I want to book a trip right then and there.

I guess I should have said. Ha. I did see it. I like the idea and I even like the host. But I still can't get over doing a room in flowers. I just can't help but think it looks tacky. But I'll keep watching!

You have me curious now. i'll have to watch next time. Who is the host?

and was unimpressed.

Interesting. Now I'm even more intrigued. Anyone else care to weigh in?

Don't know where the original poster is located. However, anyone in the NYC area who wants a quality, comfortable sofabed should go to Carlyle. I have a custom queen one from them. Have been told by guests that it's more comfortable than their beds at home....and it's almost 20 years old!

Wow. Great tip. thanks!

Beige is no way to liven up your new life. Why not switch out the beige curtains for white (IKEA is good for inexpensive white drapes and shades), and cover the beige bedlinens with a white bedspread. Add an ornamental blanket or throw to tie in with the coral on the bed frame, plus a few pretty pillows. Instead of an accent wall paint job, why not drape a big beautiful silk scarf in the right colorway above the bed head, or even a printed sheet, quilt or rug. Portable. Hanging rods are easy to make or buy. White doesn't have to be expensive, but if you splurge on expensive textiles, you can justify it because you can take them with you.

This is a very good list of ideas! Thanks a lot! Should give Miss Coral some simple, inexpensive solutions to accessorizing her new coral bed!

Since you are in love with it, go ahead. Investing in a better sofa like this is wise and you can slipcover it now or reupholster later when your tastes change or styles update. Please don't worry - it is a super idea.

Totally agree. I have a Sherrill sofa I bought probably 18 years ago and have had it reupholstered several times.  I still love it and thank goodness I didn't get roll arms.

Our family room is painted in BM Eagle Rock and that seems to be the room that receives the most notice in our house...

Ha! Good for you!

The important thing is to try out the mattress yourself. Name brands like Serta and Sealy are good, but a no-name can work as well--you just have to try it. And get an extra comfy mattress pad. We did this with our no-name sofa bed at our condo in Rehoboth and guests say it is very comfy.

Good advice. I personally made a mistake and bought a too-firm bed for my guest room. Should have stretched out on it longer in the showroom.

Terri, the picture is on the main Home & Garden page under "More Home & Garden..."

Oh, yes, that's part of the Elfa system from the Container Store. I love that idea, too. Looks great in front of that orange wall, doesn't it? So nice and organized and pretty!

Get the sofa you want. I got a new sofa for my living room and really wanted a white slipcovered one. I chose a honey beige color instead, since I had a baby, and have regretted it ever since. My thoughts were that beige would be more practical with a young child and that eventually I will get the white one that I want. My kid is now 4 and we've only a few very minor spills that were easily cleaned. Now I don't have the money to get the one I want so I'm stuck with the beige one. Just don't let them eat popsicles or drink dark grape juice while sitting on it and you'll be fine.

More good advice. I think the message here is: BUY!!

I'm not a huge fan of accent walls for most rooms. I think they tend to make the room look smaller, and actually take the focus away from more interesting things like art or accessories. The only time I like an accent wall is if a wall has a particular architectual detail where a differnt color might make sense. Like a wall with a built in alcove.

I also think they cut up a room.

We're going to paint the master bedroom a pale blue (probably BM woodlawn blue), and I want the trim to be a cream color. First, do you have a suggestion for a nice cream to go with Woodlawn Blue? Second, our bathroom trim is in a bright/pure white. Since the bathroom door will frequently be open, and opens into the bedroom, will the white on the door look odd opened up in a room where the trim is cream?

How about Moonlight White or Linen White from BM? And I think you're fine with the white door.

I'm torn, in part because I can't tell what subtle difference there is between them. Would one or the other work better with a cream trim? Do you have a favorite color for cream/off-white trim?

Palladian Blue is a green-blue and Woodlawn is more of a gray-blue. Sometimes Palladian Blue can look completely green depending on the light. I think either would look fine with off-white trim. I like BM's White Dove.

My kitchen has horrible old stained wallpaper that was applied over other, older wallpaper. Should I remove all the wallpaper and start new with fresh paint? Or should I scrape off the peeling parts and apply fresh wallpaper? Is it just me or is there a resurgence of wallpaper going on in the home design industry?

Tear it all down and start with fresh drywall. From there you can paint or wallpaper.

That's all for today, everyone; time for lunch. Thanks for joining us. Have a great weekend, and we'll chat with you next week.

In This Chat
Terri Sapienza
Terri Sapienza is a staff writer for The Washington Post's Local Living section.
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.

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