L.A. based interior designer Kathryn M. Ireland, whose clientele includes Steve Martin, Arianna Huffington and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, joined the weekly chat.

Apr 28, 2011

L.A. based interiors and textiles designer Kathryn M. Ireland, whose clientele includes Steve Martin, Arianna Huffington and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, joined Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza for their weekly Home Front chat. Together, they gave advice on interior decorating and home improvement.

Hi, everyone. We're excited to have LA-designer Kathryn M. Ireland joining us this morning. Kathryn is very busy these days: her beautiful new book, Summers in France, just hit shelves this month and she's also starring in the new Bravo series "Million Dollar Decorators," which premieres on May 31st. Jura and I  will pick out the best questionof the day and send the chatter a signed copy of Kathryn's book.

Let's get started...

I live in a geodesic dome home. How do I fill the space with arched walls and high mid point ceiling?

Can you email us a photo?

I just completed a beautiful, elaborate cross-stitch project that I'm currently getting framed. It's a winter scene, though, and I'm wondering if you think it's appropriate to hang it right as summer approaches. Better to save seasonal scenes for the appropriate season?

I would say, save it for the fall.

If we're interested in submitting our apartment for house calls, how would we go about doing that?

Send photos of your room with dimensions, contact info and your challenge to: makeover@washpost.com.

Help! We are painting the exterior of our house this weekend (weather permitting!) and want a classic red door. Is there a Benjamin Moore color you suggest? Also, do we go with a high gloss finish? And do we have to paint both sides of the door the same color? I have no experience in this department! Thanks

I am actually here in Copenhagen with the head of Interior Design from Benjamin Moore, I do'nt know the red color off hand but can get back to later with the color, unfortunately dont have the fan on me!! but they do have a great Pilar Box red that i've used

Please help! What can I do to fix my dining room chairs. They are Ethan Allen American Artisan Berkshire side chairs and are of a good quality. However, the legs frequently "undo" from the horizontal pieces. I have to reinsert the horizontal peg into the leg hole. Is there a fix I can do myself? Thanks very much.

I wish I could answer this but I can't without seeing the chair.  

How do you clean sisal rugs? Would you use one in a dining room where children eat?

I just ordered a sisal rug for my dining room where adults and children eat and cats eat and roam. The best thing is to get a protective coating applied to sisal before you put it down. Wipe up spills immediately. 

In today's "House Calls," there is a light on a sofa table -- but no cord. So, in practice, how does one put a lamp, safely, anywhere away from a wall? Love the look, but can't see how it can be carried out without taping a cord along the floor (not too cool/unsightly), or having an outlet in the floor (unlikely). Thanks!

While some people do have outlets in the floor, this is unlikely in most homes, especially older ones. One solution is to run the cord down the back of the table, taping it to the leg, then running the corn underneath the carpet to the closest outlet. 

I have one more room on my critical to do list which involves ONLY paint (and new trim). The room is about 13x10 with 1 window, and 1 small closet with beige closet door and white trim. However I can't find a color. It's for our 3rd bedroom which is used only as a sitting room right now. There's a RED couch with a black/red counsole table. When we have guests we do put the air matress in there but the room is not being used as a bedroom (it will in a few years). The carpet is creamish/white and white trim but I need a wall color. The main colors in the rest of the house are green, beige, blue, tan, peach, white. I don't want anything bold but I want some color. What would go best with a red couch? I thought of a silver/grey but didn't know how that would look. Suggestions?

I am at The Design Summit in Copenhagen and spent the morning with 150 of the US top arcitects and Designers and the editors in Chief of the major shelter magazines.  Newall Turner from House Beautiful told us that next week they are launching an App that will help with it.  It a color app, you can find the color of lets say your closet door or the couch and it will bring up other colors that go with this color.  Hope this helps, again decorating for me is so visual I need to see the colors you are talking about.  I always tend to stay neutral, off whites when in daubt

Good morning! I'm about to repaint my kitchen. I cook a lot, so the paint near the stove sees a lot of spattering and cleaning action. Is there a paint out there formulated for easy clean-up in kitchens? Barring that, do you or your readers have any recommendations? Thanks for your help!

You can get high gloss washable paints for this

Why no before and after photos as in the past? Is this a permanent change to the House Calls feature?

We have stopped running the House Calls preview on-line earlier in the week, but we will still run before and after pictures every Thursday when the feature runs.

Kathryn, What is your preference for front door styles, any personal favorites? I prefer something that lets in light but also allows for privacy.

Agreed, I like a door that lets in light especially if the hallway is dark.  Something that is classic in design.  I'm not very up on the makes and manufacturers of doors but the I like the one on the One Kings Lane opening page, check it out.  

I'm looking for modern dining chairs that are also comfortable; to me, that means upholstered. Any suggestions for specific models, designers or stores?

Upholstered dining chairs are very popular, so most furniture retailers offer them. I would stop by some local chains and deparment stores to have a look around and test the different styles out to see which ones you prefer.

Where do you find your inspiration for your beautiful fabrics?

My Summers In France (by the way the title of my latest book), inspired me for the first collection.  I took ideas from classic french paisleys and reworked and colored them.  I had a  19th century patchwork quilt that gave me the ideas for the first 6 designs.  I'm a colorist and think that its the use of color that was my strenght.  All my collections come from travel.  The Latest collection Mexico Mets Morroco was from travelling to those 2 countries

Kathryn, Can you tell us which of your celebrity clients is the most fun to work with?

Julia Louis Dreyfus and Fran Dresher, maybe because they are both comediennes

Just saw Terri's answer to this house calls question, and need to point out running an electrical cord under a carpet is a fire hazard. Especially if people step on the carpet over the cord, the cord can wear out and create sparks against the carpet. The fire department strongly advises against this.

Yes, well, I was thinking more along the lines of a small corner of the rug, or behind the couch, etc. I wasn't suggesting running a cord where people would step on it - that's a tripping hazard, too.  I guess I should have been more clear.

Im looking forward to Million Dollar Decorators! Are you friends with the other designers on the show?

The show is a blast.  Yes we are all good freinds.  Martyn and I especially we are in Copenhagen at the moment and then on to Paris Saturday to do the flea markets.  Tune in May 31st 10pm

I would go with a soft green that will compliment the red couch. BM's Hancock Green comes to mind, soft, neutral and great with red.

I like that idea.

Hi ladies, First, I wanted to say that Thursday is my favorite morning to open the paper b/c I get to read Local Living (esp. House Calls) on the metro to work. Second, could you explain a bit how the mural in today's house calls works - is it something you stick onto the wall? how difficult is it to do - and how many people would it take to make sure it gets on the walls properly? i can't paint in my rented condo, so this could be an interesting solution for me, but i'd have to enlist some friends to help, i think!

If you follow the link to the mural (www.muralsyourway.com/januarys-daydreams-mural), you'll see that they offer a removeable peel and stick mural option, which is supposed to be easy to put up, take off and reposition. Sounds perfect for your space.

I don't have a answer but know where you can find out... Because items occasionally break during a move, moving companies usually have good resources on who can fix broken furniture. I suggest you call a moving company and ask them for a referral for chair repair.

You are right.

I've always been told that this is a safety "no-no" as cords can become damaged by walking on carpet and would constitute a fire hazard.

See my answer above...

For the poster with the embroidery - first KUDO's! That's a lot of hard work! Second, I have several pieces in similar size frames that my mother did and are seasonal. One is a polar bear, another a silly garden saying and the third a lovely fall picture. As the seasons change, the same nail gets used as I rotate the pictures.

Family things are really important to have around. It's nice to rotate them too.

Ms. Ireland, what advice do you have for those of us who can't spend millions (think $10s!), but want to have a comfortable, stylish home? Appreciate your joing the chat....

Buy my latest book Summers In France, it shows you so many ways to have a stylish home without spending $$$$$, Really its about spending on a few things.  A good comfortable couch, that is deep enough to fall asleep on.  A table does'nt have to be fantastic as you can cover it with table cloths.  I think going to flea markets and finding things, but dont go crazy, just buy what you really like.  I really think less is more in this day and age.  Think of your house as ever eveolving and a project that will always continue, so save for things, dont be afraid of color and I think that fabric and paint give a huge amount

What are your favorite design magazines?

House Beautiful, Elle Decor and I think that now Architectural Digest has Margaret Russell at the helm it will be a great magazine.  I sat with her and the publisher this morning at the Design Summit that we are all attending in Copenhagen.

I actually like the idea of having a winter scene to look at in the dog days of August.

I have friends who put out an oil painting of Santa for Christmas. Maybe it would be something to put up in July too.

We would love to hear about your celebrity clients. What kind of a house did you do for Arianna Huffington? Has it ever been published?

I helped Arianna with her Home office in Brentwood California.  It has'nt been published but she is a freind, and such an inspiring woman

I have a number of textiles that I inherited from my mother. There's a wide range of sizes and include old Mexican blankets and old Panamanian molas that she purchased back in the 60s. I don't want to just drape them over the sofa. What the heck could I do with them?

Give them to a framer , who can simply mount them and hang them as art.  

Why are you in Copenhagen?

For The Design Leadership Summit that is held every year.  Its a group of architects and Designers from the States who get together to brainstorm, interact with each other.  This year we have AD Margaret Russell, HB Newall Turner and Veranda's Dara Caponegra

Hi Kathryn, what do you see as the next big trend in textiles?

Oh gosh, I dont really go with trends, I think the ethnic vibe has very much come back and wont be disappearing.  Rich textures and colors never go out of fashion.  People are begining to feel more comfotable with color again.  Thank goodness the whole beige era is at an end!

i love your style! How did you get your start in interior design?

I bought a run down farmhouse in SW France and renovated it which taught me how to restore and decorate.  Its always been in my blood since a young child, my mother used to let me pick out the paint color for my room and even though they were bright shocking colors she did'nt object.  Then Steve Martin came to dinner 18 years ago and told me he wanted to live in a house like mine, so I found him one and helped him with 3 houses.  

Hi Ladies, I live in a traditional center hall colonial, with a teeny, tiny kitchen in desperate need of a makeover. Thinking about tearing down the wall separating the kitchen and dining room to have a bigger eat-in kitchen. We don't entertain often so won't miss the dining room, but is it a mistake to lose a formal dining room?

Wow. That is a really good question. I myself live in a small colonial with a small kitchen and small dining room. When I redid my kitchen, I decided to keep it two separate rooms. I think that goes with the style of a colonial home. But this is a very personal decision. What do you guys think?

I really like Ann Sacks dove grey ceramic tile but I'm having trouble pairing it with a stone floor. Any suggestions?

Try looking at Waterworks, they have a good design team to help with these things.  Say I sent you in! 

I think a silvery gray would be great. I used BM timber wolf (1600) on the walls in my sunroom. The room has a deep red couch, dark brown and black accents and beige carpet. My room gets a lot of light so the color works great, but I think any color on that strip could work for the chatter. Also try BM classic gray (1548).

Thanks for those.

Hi Kathryn. Who are some of your favorite designers? Where are your favorite places to shop?

Living Designers?  Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Peter Dunham, Robert Kime and Windsor Smith.  All have different points of view but are great at production, color and creating livable interiors. Infact I am part of a show house with all but Robert for Veranda Magazine that will come out in the September issue.  Love shopping in London, New York and ofcourse LA which is home to me.  ALways do the flea markets wherever I go.  And I always manage to buy something

I have had this problem - put some wood glue into the hole and reinsert the horizontal bar. Hold it tight for an hour or so with a clamp or rubber band.

Sounds reasonable.

Hard to find a nice-looking one, isn't it? Anybody have any suggestions for something that doesn't look like it came from Grandma's house?

Check out the offerings from Minka Aire, which have a more comtemporary look.

I just installed engineered hardwood floors throughout my house and need to buy a new vacuum cleaner. I'm concerned about the finish getting marred. Do I need to be concerned about this when choosing a new vacuum?

I would get a canister vacuum and don't use a beater bar.

Hi kathryn. will you be watching the wedding tomorrow?

I will certainly try to and have had my boys Tivo it.  I will be in a conference room with 150 of my peers so it won't be that easy.  I'll enjoy being able to watch when I get home

I think if you keep it separate but open it would be a nice compromise. I personally don't care for only having a casual eat-in kitchen, but don't mind two areas that are visually open.


You have to enjoy the space while you live there and when it comes time to sell, I'm sure there will be another family who feels the same way.


Kathryn: I was wondering why the chat was having Kathy Ireland on today . . . I guess senility is setting in . . . do you get that often?

Did it say Kathy?? maybe I should'nt be on!  Its a problem that i'm so bored of,  That RYN makes a huge difference. I'm hoping that once my show Milliondollar Decorators airs May 31st that she'll be muddled with me!  I met her in an not long ago, a lovely lady, a great model but needs to collaborate with me over design.

I just made this decision.....after consulting many others. Am keeping the dining room. The kicker for me was the comments of friends/family members. They talked about the happy memories we all have of the DR -- especially of Thanksgiving each year. We all decided our occasions would not have the same vibe/import if our setting was open to the kitchen. It's hard to imagine all of the china, crystal. silver open to the food prerp area.

I love your answer. I agree with you.

who is your dream client?

William and Kate. How much fun to bring their homes into the 21st century.  Honestly,  Anyone that lets you do your job, is enthausiastic, thank ful and realises that work we do is hard work and a good designer saves you money at the same time as spending it.

will you be coming to dc for any book signings?

Yes I will and if you leave your email or check out my website we will be posting the signings.  I would probably do the signing at my showroom that carrys the fabrics, John Rosselli.  

One part of your reply was "One solution is to run the cord down the back of the table, taping it to the leg, then running the corn underneath the carpet to the closest outlet." Sorry, I disagree. Any fire service or safety person will tell you that is a sure way for a fire to happen in your living room. Don't run the cord under the carpet, but on top or away from carpet towards the outlet.

how about taping it to the skirting board if its a white board and a white cord it is very unnoticable

USE your dining room! We re-did our kitchen with just a small breakfast bar and we eat all our meals in the dining room. I have my grandmother's old mahogany set, but the room is not too formal with hardwood floors and casual tablecloth. The dining room is not only for Thanksgiving- use it!

Use it or lose it.

The picture of your showroom in today's paper made me envious - what a beautiful place to work! Do you have a favorite among your fabrics?

How thrilling, I have not seen the paper yet as I'm in Copenhagen.  Its a really charming showroom thank you.  I always go back to the first of my designs Quilt.  I love all the colors but the red continues to bring a smile to my face.

Do you know whether these are a good option? They look great in photos but I don't know how they hold up or if there is something I'm missing. I love that they are a sustainable material! Thanks!

Bamboo floors are great, I've used them on many projects.  The first was for Julia Louis Dreyfus when I was involved in her green house on the beach.  It wears well, I have never had any complaints and have used the material numerous times

My daughter and I are both in the midst of painting, redecorating our homes. We are both obsessed with light (she as an art historian, me as a presbyopic). Since we have both the East and West Coasts (and summers in France) represented today (welcome Ms. Ireland), could we ask a basic, yet broad, question? Do designers have a cardinal rule(s) for the use of lighting, ambient and/or artificial? BTW, Jura, welcome to NC....safe travels and hope you have a wonderful time in Wilmington!

I dont like to over use overhead canned lighting.  yes for the kitchen and bathrooms, if you want to light a painting.  Low lighting from table lamps is my preferance.  But with overhead lighting always have the switches on dimmers

We're redoing our kitchen and can't decide what to do with the floor. I want a checkerboard effect and want to either do this by painting the original hardwoods (after removing the layers upon layers of vinyl there now) or installing linoleum. What would hold up better in a farmhouse (with lots of mud being tracked in from the fields) and survive abuse from a playful 100-pound dog? Thanks!

In my first book, Classic Country, i did a chequer floor for David Mamet (its in the Kitchen section)  We put a high gloss varnish, like the ones they use on ship decks.  This really works, you'll have to reaply the varnish as the years go by.

i love the blue shutters on your France house. What paint color did you use?

It was the original color that had worn away, I just took a chip of paint to the local paint store and he matched it for me.  Sorry not to be of more help.  But the color in the book is true to the color so see what Benjamin Moore comes up with.

That's all the time we have today. Thanks for joining us and a special thanks to Kathryn for being here all the way from Copenhagen. It was fun having her today.  If the chatter who asked Kathryn the question titled "Budget Decorating" would email their name and address to makeover@washpost.com, we'll send you a signed copy of Kathryn's new book.

Chat with you next week.

what do you like to do when you visit DC? Do you have any favorite shops here?

I do not know DC that well, I was thinking of meeting my middle son there next week on my way to the Gold Cup, I''m staying with Barry Dixon who has a fantastic property in  Middleborough is that how its spelt.  he's also a great designer.  I just said hello to Daryl Carter who is here with me and Barry in Copenhagen.  But to answer your question, I go to the area where my showroom is and that's about it.  I need to come and explore!

I wasn't sure.


Hi kathryn. what do your boys think about you being on TV? Are they in the show, too? What do they think about being on TV themselves?

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.
Kathryn M. Ireland
Kathryn M. Ireland is a Los Angeles based interiors and textile designer. She is the author of three books including Summers in France, which was released this month, and is a featured designer on Bravo TV's Million Dollar Decorators, which premieres this summer. Kathryn, who operates showrooms in London and West Hollywood, has a client base of celebrities and tastemakers including Steve Martin, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Arianna Huffington.
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