In celebration of CB2's new Georgetown store, brand director Marta Calle joined the weekly chat.

May 05, 2011

Marta Calle, director of CB2 which just opened its doors in Georgetown, joined Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza for their weekly Home Front chat. Together, they gave advice on interior decorating and home improvement.

Has everyone been wondering about CB2, the new store that just opened in Georgetown? We have Marta Calle of CB2 here with us to talk about their look and their concept of decorating. Also Terri can tell you about the cool new store Trohv in Takoma DC. DO you guys know of other shops opening in our area? Let's go.

Hi! I just bought the cb2 round silverado table - I love its modern clean style. I could some styling advice on how to use make a nice multipurpose dining/working nook in my small apartment. I have such a hard time making things effortless match and flow!

We're thrilled you bought our table.  This is the perfect  multi-use table for many reasons.   Depending on your space you can put it in a corner with two chairs and use as dining or office.  When you have more guests you can pull it out and seat up to six guests.  If you move to a bigger space this table can be used as an oversized end table at the end of a sofa with tall accessories and books.  Or it can make a nice oversized bedside table. 

Hi Marta, where does CB2 get inspiration for their products? They seem skewed to a younger audience, or perhaps apartment dwellers. How do the ideas for products begin?

Good morning. CB2 doesn't design with any age or gender in mind.  Our inspiration comes from observing modern trends in everyday life. For example, we live in Chicago and we noticed the bike trend over the past several years which was reinforced during our travels to Europe and sightings in media. This lead us to develop our first bike.  Our product is scaled for smaller dwellings but can also fit in larger rooms through repetition.

Marta what blogs do you read? Do those behind the CB2 brand follow trends? it seems like a trendier collection than Crate & Barrel.

Hi. Well, for starters we read everyday ;).  Some of our favorites are remodelista, the cool hunter, apartment therapy, design sponge, and design within reach blogs.  We also enjoy The Selby,  The Sartorialist,  the rural studio and grass roots modern.

What is the future for Crate and Barrel? Is there a CB Kids on the way (a la pottery barn?)

Good morning.  Our sister brand The Land of Nod is Crate and Barrel's kids line.  Check it out at

What are some tips you would give those shopping for gifts on CB2? I read the blog -- and find it very helpful -- but find myself wondering if I'm outside the company's age range (I'm 34)

Well I'm 55 and I'm a CB2 customer.  We beleive CB2 style  is ageless.  It is about being young at heart.  If you style is more serious there are many products at CB2 that could meet you needs.   In terms of gifts we suggest starting with dinnerware and barware which are very clean, modern and ageless.  You can also see other gifts ideas at

Could you remind of of the names of the mother-daughter design duo that you featured a couple of years ago? They help work with what you already have, and they do design work by the hour? I think they were chat guests. Thank you! After 3 years of looking for a place (really!), I have finally purchased one and can't wait to begin decorating.

Yes! That was Carolyn and Elizabeth Wilson of Design in a Day. 301 657-2685

I have basic wood kitchen cupboards (no crown moulding) with about a foot of space between the top of the cabinet and the ceiling (also no crown moulding). How can I dress up this space - with something other than cereal boxes - but not have it look too cluttered? I have thought about putting a row of decorative trays up there, but there is not enough vertical room.

I would just ignore the space and leave it empty, otherwise it will look cluttered and get very dusty. Instead, i would consider installing moulding on both the cabinets and wall or, if you're not planning on getting new cabinets anytime soon, think about moving your existing cabinets higher up on the walls and painting or installing a higher backsplash beneath. If there's a ton of space between the cabinets and countertop, you could even hang an open shelf for items you use most often.

This might be a long question, but I'm sure readers are dying to know what the process is behind your design! Do you have artists come in and design specific products? Some of CB2's stuff looks like its from the MOMA and some of it looks like it could be from Target. How do you strike a balance, and where do the designs come from?

Hello.  We are driven by internal trend workshop in which all members of the CB2 merchandising team participate.  After we have decided on trends we work with many designers in developing the product that is needed to round out our assortment.  The key to CB2 is to layer on different modern styles and to not appear to be designed by one person.

Hello, love the chats! My husband and I are about to close on our first single family home. I really love the house but some of the finishes are a bit outdated, including the master bath. I have seen "tile tattoos," waterproof adhesive stickers to go over outdated accent tile, on some DIY shows and wanted to see if you or the chatters had any experience with them? The other tile in the shower is white, so this could be a good solution for the short term since we want to live in the house for a little while before we take on any big projects. Thanks for your help!

Terri and I have  no experience with tattoos, tile or otherwise. Anyone out there?

Hi Marta: How do you choose the locations for your CB2 stores? Will we get a second one in the DC area soon?

Hello.  I work with a team and we spend a lot of time exploring cities for potential stores.  When we visit these cities we look for neighborhoods, foot traffic, like-minded brands, restaurants and the people.  Picking a store location is an art and a science.  We are thrilled to open in DC on M street and we are going to focus our energies on creating a great  customer experience at this location and have no plans on another DC store at this time.

Sorry this is so early but I am out of town tomorrow and I am sure you guys can help with this. I want to get a small sewing machine as I have just bought my first house and have seen several projects I would like to attempt myself. I have hand sewn plenty of items but am not that familiar with sewing machines. I don't need anything fancy, maybe a model for sewing for dummies! Anyone have any suggestions? Anything I should look for/avoid? thanks so much

When I took sewing lessons at the DC studio Bits of Thread ( ) last year, I asked my instructor Allison Lince-Bentley the very same question.

 She uses the Janome Heavy Duty Sewing Machine (model #11558) at her studio and it's what I learned on (and eventually bought for myself). I found it very easy to use. Allison also said that Brother machines are good, too. If you're looking to learn how to sew, i highly recommend taking a few lessons from Allison. 

How is CB2 different from Crate & Barrel? Is it just the price points?

CB2's assortment only has one point of view -- modern.  Crate and Barrel offers many styles.  While Crate and Barrel offers great product at great prices it also offers higher price points in the assortment (low to high).  CB2's price point range is narrower. Our Cb2 stores average 8,000 sq ft;  Crate and Barrel stores are twice the size or more.

Good morning. My adored grandmother passed away recently, and we are dividing up her furniture. The furniture is high quality and lovely, but of course it is more traditional that I would buy for myself. However, I could never afford to buy this level of furniture; plus, my beloved grandmother used these things and I'd like to keep them for that reason. What are your feelings on acquiring furniture that isn't exactly your taste but is significant to you for other reasons? Thanks.

This is such a good question. Recently I have been on a jag of getting rid of a lot of old things, some of which belonged to my parents. The thing is, you don't have to have the THING to have the memory of them. If  you really don't like it or need it, first offer it to another family member. But if they don't want it, consider photographing it so you will always have a photo of it, but then either selling it on ebay, craigslist a consignment store, auction or yard sale. You should not feel obligated to keep everything. How sentimental are you? Furniture is a major part of your life - if it really doesn't fit your lifestyle, give it or sell it to someone else. And please please do not spend money on a storage area to store it - it will be there for years.  Let's get a discussion going on this.

This is something I've been wondering for a while. Catalogues always seem to picture rooms with large letters on the walls (be it Anthropologie's cloth letters, CB2's large plastic letters, etc.) How do you make this look chic and not cheesy?! Everything I could ever image writing would look sort of silly, unless perhaps it was in an office environment.... but I work here in DC, so our offices tend to be about as serious and untrendy as can be...

I think a safe, non-cheesy application for an adult would be your first or last initial.

Hi Jura and Terri, love the chats! Marta so excited you're here! I have a couple weddings coming up and Im totally stumped. I want to get them something unique (not just a toaster) but I want it to be something they can share. Any ideas?!

Hi.  We suggest that you look at our one of a finds products to find  great wedding gift.

These products are limited quantity, hand crafted with a beautiful story and make the perfect gift. 

love the bike!! have you had success with that? Is it just delivered when you order it?

Good morning.  Yes, the bike has been extremely successful.   We've sold many to individual customers and we've also sold many to resorts and spas throughout the US.  We had a really good time working with Republic Bike developing it.  When delivered the bike requires minimal assembly:  the seat, pedals and handle bar.

Several years ago I painted my living room, dining room, and stairwell with Duron's "Purple Pearl." I believe it was a satin finish, perhaps eggshell. Result was completely satisfying, luminous in all lights and elicited many, many compliments. I've just had it repainted using Duron paint and their recipe to replicate "Purple Pearl." The result is flat, lifeless, and depressing. What to do? Thanks. Robin Harris

I think you should start over again. Go get yourself some paint chips from several companies and brush them on your wall. Consider trying Farrow & Ball or Benjamin Moore's Aura.

I love the clean, simple modernist lines featured at CB2, but I also love the warmth and rootedness found in Arts and Crafts style furnishings. Do you have any tips for effectively blending this two styles in a 735 square foot apartment?

Hi.  We LOVE that you are mixing modern and arts and crafts.  Modern mixes well with any other sytle because it is so minimal.  Our advice in a 735 sq ft apartment is to keep it minimal in the amount of furniture.  Buy only what you truly love and it will work together, creating your own personal style.

I have two well made wing chairs. The estimate to get them recovered is about $525 ($350 for labor alone). Is it worth it? If not, where do I go to find a reasonably priced ($350 or so) decorative chair?

I think it is worth it. Have you considered slipcovers? THey are cheaper.

You'll have to forgive my bluntness, but ageless? Really? Most of the products in CB2's catalogue are bright, bold and plastic, which seems wonderful for a dorm room or twenty-something's loft, but well... completely silly for any adult. Why the reluctance to admit the audience?

Good morning.  Absolutely we embrace our younger customers.  But our upholstery, beds, dining,  occassional tables, lighting, tabletop are neutral and we think can fit in anyone's home.

Marta - is there a specific design magazine or two that people at CB adore?

Hi.  At CB2 we read EVERYTHING.  We never know where our next inspiration will come from.  The more we read the more we can spot a trend.  

I'm seeing more people opting for this; how do you deal with the obvious - water and food spills (especially stainy things like tomato sauce and beet juice)? Are there types of specially coated hardwood flooring available? I'm interested, but not looking forward to having to replace it after a few years. Your wisdom, please !

I think wood flooring in the kitchen is one of the best choices out there. If you have a good polyurethane coating on the flooring, I don't think you have to worry much about stains and spills as long as you pick them up. The wood floors in my kitchen have endured tons of traffic from people and pets, spilled water from the dog's bowl and countless spills, stains and food accidents, including a dropped bottle of red wine that broke and ran everywhere. But after a quick clean, and aside from the random scratches here and there, the floors still look good as new.

I am in a similar situation - when he was a bachelor, my husband received a very nice but big solid wood, glass inset coffee table from his mother. It moved with him to our townhouse where the living room is MUCH too small for this massive table, not to mention the light oak does not match the cherry and espresso finishes of the rest of our furniture. However, the table is something that we would never be able to afford on our own and my husband refuses to get rid of it "just to buy something cheap". Unfortunately, our budget for a new coffee table is in the low hundreds so I doubt we can find something that lives up that standard.

You do have a problem!

We're moving into a new house at the end of the month and want to paint all the ceilings and trim before we move in. What is your favorite all-purpose "white" for any occasion?

One of my favorite go-to whites for ceiling and trim is White Dove from Benjamin Moore.

It doesn't have to be all or nothing. A piece or two of classic furniture can be integrated into almost any decor. A nice dining table can be accessorized with different chairs. Paint transforms an old, fusty dressing table into shabby chic. Extra storage (chests, armoires) is almost always useful. If I were the poster, I would select a few pieces and use them with whatever else I've got. I cherish the few pieces that came down in my family.

I totally agree. Great advice. Thank you.

What a timely and conflicting topic (says she who has paid too many storage unit bills). My 30 something newlywed daughter already regrets how much they have (though she has asked for the large breakfront from my dining room???). Given that boomer offspring will be overwhelmed with our stuff (and probably not live in such large homes), we need to revisit what we expect our family to "want/take". The only thing I firmly believe should not be pitched/given away are family photos. One of my wedding gifts to my daughter (and w/dupes to the rest of my extended family) was digitized copies of every family photo I could find. I even scanned framed ones from family members. They were thrilled and her then fiance started the project for his family. Golly, there's genealogy for our family but not much family interest in provenance for their stuff.

You rock Mom! Everything you say is so true. And the gift of digital photos is totally on target. Hurray!

Does anyone know a good place to get slipcovers dyed? I don't want to do it myself, but I also don't want to pay a fortune... thanks!


For the poster who inherited furniture that is not quite their style, my sister and I went through this recently as well. We both live in small apartments, so we kept a few small but highly significant items. We also made some adaptations (new lamp shades, re-frame the art) to make these items fit into our homes.

You clearly made some good decisions. I know it isn't easy. New lampshades and new lamp bases are good updating techniques. Recovering furniture and having artwork cleaned and reframed is expensive, but if you really love the pieces its worth it. You can't keep everything.

I'm looking to spruce up my kitchen. It is so stainless steel.... needs some pops of color, some flowers, some pictures... something! The only problem is, other than a vase here and there, I'm having trouble picking out items that belong in a kitchen to decorate it! Am I doomed to a steel room with one bright vase? Help!

How about backsplash tiles one or a few colors you love? Or an area rug, which could add color and/or texture and bring some warmth to the room. What color are the walls? Do you have windows you could hang patterned curtains or pretty Roman shades on?  Lots of ways to go here...

I love the fact that CB2 incorporates a lot of color into their products - it is so inspiring, and lifts my spirits. I'm hoping other shoppers have this problem, but I have trouble keeping my color consistent. I don't want my apartment looking like a rainbow explosion, but I also don't want it looking TOO planned out or overly coordinated. How do I my colors to look naturally cohesive without getting to matchy-matchy?

Hi. We love color at CB2 but we agree that you have to be edited in the amount of color that you use in your space. Our advice is a neutral background: walls, upholstery, larger pieces of furniture with pops of color in the form of rugs, pillows or even a single piece of furniture.  As long as you edit the number of colors you'll create an inspiring, energetic space.

I stored my summer clothes during the winter season, and when I pulled them recently I saw that a black shirt had been resting on top of a white button-down, and some of the black bled onto the white shirt. We tried to bleach it but no success. Any home remedies out there or should I just buy a new one? Also, I took two shirts to the dry cleaners and have been back twice.  Not only have the stains not been removed but one shirt has new spots! They are going to clean both for a third time, but is it even possible that they'll be able to fix them now? And beyond a payment refund, can I request they reimburse me for the two shirts since they are worse off? They weren't cheap. I don't know where else to turn...

The first thing I'll say is that you should never store your clothes for the season without laundering or dry cleaning them. Stains set during the months you aren't using the clothes. And stains that you might not even see will show up if you store clothes uncleaned. If you have soaked and scrubbed and bleached the white shirt and the black did not come out, I would say toss it. As for the cleaners? You can't blame them for the stains you got in your shirts, but if they added a new one they should reimburse you.

My brother died and I was offered his round, oak table and 6 oak chairs, not matched to the table, but simple. I painted the base of the table and the chairs to match (siena) and the table top is oak, but stained a deeper color, fruitwood. The effect is clean and not over ornate - plus the pieces remind me of him every time I sit at the table.

That is a lovely story. So glad you are using it.

Try updating it! A tradiationally styled chair recovered in a bright modern print looks fantastic, and then it retains some of its heritage while being more your style.


I'm sentimental about inherited items and love having family furniture "memories" around me. However, I also love modern, clean lines. I repurpose. The top of quarter sawn oak dining table became the top of a kitchen island. I repainted a cool dresser in a bright, shiny color, chose new hardware and ditched the attached mirror. I mix and match repainted dining chairs around my dining table and covered them with a modern new upholstery I like. I use a treadle sewing machine that belonged to my great grandmother behind a couch where it supports a lamp but can't really be seen. I've seen people spray paint chandeliers, take full size bed headboards and use them as backs for love seats with the footboard cut in half and used for the sides, stretch linens to use as art, whatever. Some furniture is too important to alter. Then, if nobody in the family wants it, you have to decide how important it is to include in your home or if it would receive the appreciation and love it deserves in the hands of another owner. And I've also learned that saving items for children or grandchildren who are too young to set up their homes when dividing furniture is necessary, is worth considering, too.

You bring up some great issues. I think it is better to alter something and use it rather than keep it in the basement or a storage area for years. As for keeping things for children and grandchildren, there is no predicting what taste they will have. It is safer to keep accessories, photos, silver, china, and small pieces of furniture - if you try and store breakfronts and dining sets for years, you might find they don't want them and you've wasted big bucks in hauling them or storing them.

Nearly our entire house is furnished with items that we have inherited from family. Of course, it is not all to our taste. However, if, for example, I need *a* coffee table and just don't like the one we have, I think about how an item can be repurposed or refinished. Painting or refinishing a wood piece, or reupholstering soft furnishings, can totally re-make and re-invent it while still keeping "grandma's hutch" in the house. Recycling at its best! (And, some furniture that I did not like at the time has grown on me over the years. Our own tastes change!)

Good point. Our tastes do change.

Can Marta explain the "one of a find" product? Where do the products come from, how do they find them?

Good morning.  We find our one of a find product comes throughout the world.  The program was developed to bring attention to craft.  The product criteria are: handcrafted by an artisan, a beautiful story and a phenomenal value.  For example the wabelerbeler wall art took the artisan one year to make 100 pieces.

Thank you for bringing a CB2 store to DC! I have the smart glass top coffee table and love it. I'm pretty eclectic so I like to take modern pieces from CB2 and mix them with hand-me-downs and thrift store finds.

Hi.  We excited to be in DC and thank you for purchasing the smart glass top coffee table.  We encourage our customers to mix modern pieces with thrift store finds and hand-me-downs.  This is how you create your own personal style.

The way to incorporate Grandma's furniture into your life is to be very selective and look at it in a new light. Pair a traditional dining table with your modern chairs, rather than the matching chairs. Reupholster (or slipcover) a fusty chair in a current fabric that uses your color palette. Refinish wood to suit the rest of your wood furniture. I hated most of my parent's furniture, but when they downsized I refurbished several pieces and now can't imagine having anything else.

That's great advice.

SO HAPPY that you're in Georgetown! Do you know if CB2 will be doing anything DC or Georgetown specific? I think the traditional Georgetown style is a little more old school than CB2's line, so I'm just curious if there will be an attempt to bridge the gap there a little?

Hi. We are also thrilled to be in Georgetown.  We love the location and the customers.  So far the response the response has been overwhelming. CB2 will maintain its modern focus and we encourage DC residents that might be more traditional to mix in a few modern pieces to create texture in their home.

My Mom, a young 65, is in the middle of a major purge in anticipation of downsizing. She comes from a long line of crafters and collectors (everything from Lladro figurines to Teddy Bears) and has inherited a lot of stuff. It is difficult to get rid of things that your forebears crafted, knitted, sewed, and created, but I am very greatful that she has steeled herself to do it. Think of it as the gift you give your children -- she knows I do not want to have to deal with it myself. (And that my way of dealing is likely going to be yard sale and dumpster). And this way, Mom can give things to people, charities and relatives that can use them. Win-win.

Oh dear - Lladro and teddy bears!!. I agree. Things that were knitted, sewed or crafted are worth keeping in moderation. Figurines are not a part of the lifestyle of most 20 and 30 somethings.

I do agree on the notion . I and many of my friends are in the AARP demographic and many are downsizing or just looking for a simpler, cleaner ambience for their lives. I saw many things that I love in CB2.

Yay! Agreed.

When my parents downsized they were brilliant. The holiday before, they gave all 4 kids a sheet or two of colored dots. We were instructed to put a sticker on anything we would like. The four of us wandered around the house, the men checked out dads woodsplitter, and we put stickters on various things (including grandpa). They then knew what was and wasn't wanted and who really wanted what. There were only a few items that had more than one sticker on them and Mom just made the decision on those as to who got it. No fuss, and they were well aware of what we didn't want and were able to get rid of it. Some things that are in their much smaller house still have stickers on them for when they eventually pass away and we need to divide the balance up.

Love the dot idea. Such a great way to divide up the things.

The white shirt and black shirt were clean before I stored them so I'm not sure what happened. I never had a problem before.... As for the dry cleaning shirts, the problem is that they added new spots/dirt. I can understand if they couldn't be cleaned but to get them back in worse shape than when I dropped them off is unacceptable. Have you or the chatters ever tried to get reimbursed for the price of the shirts? I've never had this problem before so I don't know how this works and what recourse I have. Help....

My dry cleaners has lost a few of my husband's shirts over the years and has reimbursed the full price - and they weren't cheap as they were from Brooks Brothers!

Hi! It's wedding season and I'm going to about eight weddings from now until late September. I'm 26, and I feel like I'm the age that CB2 is geared towards. What are your suggestions for wedding gifts! (Jura, Terri, I'm open to ideas from you guys too.. I do have to get 8 different gifts!)

Let's see...some of my favorite wedding gifts that I received, which weren't on my regsitry, were a gift certificate to an amazing restuarant in the town where we went on our honeymoon, crystal bowls from Tiffany & Co. that I use whenever we entertain and biking clothes and accessories, like a extra tire pump, emergency kit,  odometers, etc.  

Marta - thanks so much for being with us. Great conversation about modern and inherited stuff too. Tune in next week when we have Wanda Crossley from Mattthews House & Garden in Upperville with us.  Bye everyone.

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.
Marta Calle
A native of Colombia, Marta Calle began her career with Crate and Barrel in 2000 working as a consultant. Two years later, she joined the company full time and joined CB2, eventually become the brand's director.
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