Wanda Crossley, an interior and landscape designer and owner of Matthews House & Garden in Upperville, joined the weekly chat.

May 12, 2011

Wanda Crossley, an interior and landscape designer and owner of Matthews House & Garden in Upperville, joined Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza for their weekly Home Front chat. Together, they gave advice on interior decorating and home improvement.

Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining the chat today. We're happy to have interior and landscape desinger Wanda Crossely with us today. Wanda is the owner of Matthews House & Garden, a home furnishing shop in Upperville, Va. Check out today's Local Living cover story to read about how Wanda renovated a 175-year-old church and turned into her shop. In the meantime, she, Jura and I are here to answer all of your pressing decorating questions. Lets get started.

Morning! We are located at 9160 John S. Mosby Highway in Upperville, Va 20184. Our phone number is 540-592-9147 and we are roughly one hour West of DC. Our Hours are Tuesday-Saturday 11:am - 5pm.

I'm looking for a good neutral beige or khaki color (not too dark) for our open area living room/dining room/hall ways. Preferably Benjamin Moore, but Olympic would be okay, too. (We like that their line is No VOC.) I feel like there has to be some standard neutral color preferred by interior decorators, and I would love to know!

Your color is really dictated by the light in your room.  Your best bet is to go to the Benjamin Moore store and buy sample pots. Buy four or five different samples of beiges.  I prefer beiges that have more of a grey or green undertone. Paint squares of color on your wall, and look at them in the varying light throughout the day and at night.

Every landscape designer I talk to seems attached to a nursery: The design is "free" as long as you spend a lot of money at their nursery. Is there a way to get reasonable landscape design services without beign tied to a particular nursery, or "design to set fee" services?

Your other choice is to pay a flat rate for a landscape design plan.  Then you will have the option to purchase plant material wherever you want.

Submitting early, but we have an indoor braided rug that we no longer use. We'd like to use it outdoors with our patio set. Is there anything that we can spray on the rug to make it more waterproof to last the season? (I'm not worried about it getting eventually ruined, but don't want it to get moldy or smelly.) Thank you!

I think I'd just put it out there and use it as long as you can. If it's cotton, the fibers should just dry out after it gets wet. I would make sure and rinse the hose under it from time to time to keep mildew from forming.

I am thinking of refinishing our floors to a dark brown color. They are currently a honey color. The width of each wood plank is on the narrow side, maybe 2-2.5 inches wide. Would a dark color look odd on that width? I've only seen it on the wide planks, but I don't really want to refloor the entire house. Thanks!

I don't think the plank size makes a difference. A dark brown finish is a nice choice.

Hello Jura, Terri and Wanda! I have a cute yellow farmhouse and I have a question about my four exterior doors (front and back each for two units in the house -- converted to a duplex). I love the yellow shingles with the white trim. But I'm at a loss as to what colors to paint the doors. Should they all be the same color? All different? Currently they are a deep green (original to the 100+ -year-old house) my front door, white (rental unit's front door), oak stain (rental unit's back door), and unfinished, newly installed exterior door that opens into my kitchen. (This is my back door and my primary entrance to my unit.) None of the doors are really visible from the others. I would love a deep French or blueberry blue for my back door. Any ideas you could provide would be greatly appreciated!!!

I think black doors in high-gloss would look great with your yellow and white color scheme. Haveing all the exterior door fronts the same color would look cohesive, but that doesn't mean you have to to that. Why not paint the back door a different color? It's your home, you should do whatever makes you happy. 

I have a galley style kitchen and will be doing a complete renovation to include a wall of windows to overlook my garden and breaking through to there dining room where french doors open to a garden. I want a modern, stylish kitchen, but not super trendy so that I'll tire of it. Don't really like shiny granite counters. Big questions are: Rich dark cabinets with white counters or white cabinets to make it brighter? Paneled or not paneled cabinet doors? Counter top suggestions? If I'm going to spend money, I want it to WOW but last. Help! Too many decisions. But, I am enjoying the process and have a wonderful contractor lined up.

In my other church, which I am turning into a home, I am also putting in a galley kitchen. I understand there are so many  options.  I love white cabinets.  While so many people are scared of marble, I am using antique marble flooring from a masonic temple for the counter tops. I love these  two options because they are clean, classic and pretty. I prefer cabinet doors that are paneled, with not too much detail. Go with your first instincts, and what you love!

I recently bought a new duvet cover that is mainly white with a tiny brown border that replaced a gold, black and white comforter. In my new apartment, the room with the white duvet cover, white night stands, brown dressers and tan walls and carpet looks very boring. I want to bring some color into the room but don't know where to start. Because I rent, I can't paint the walls. Any suggestions?

Oh, there are lots of ways to bring color into your room, including: throw pillows, artwork, area rugs, throws, curtain panels and live plants.

Matthews House looks beautiful, but for my bedroom I am interested in some Asian style furniture. Any tips on where to find this in the Metro area?

You should always check Sloans & Kenyon Auction in Bethesda. They always seem to have a good selection of new and old asian pieces. They actually have an auction today but I have not seen what they have this week.

We're doing a little renovation that's going to require painting the foyer in our new house. It's currently a golden mustard color that I don't like. It's too fussy and traditional. The wainscoting and crown molding are glossy white. The floors are honey colored oak. We'll need to paint the stairwell and the landing on the second floor too since they're all mustard now. I want clean, light and modern. My first thought is an icy blue (like Ice Floe by Behr), but I'm open to ideas. Any suggestions?

Blue is my favorite color, but be very careful with blue because it can have a very cold feeling on the walls. Make sure you purchase sample pots first and try various colors on the wall.

Hi, Wanda. I love what you did to that church. What was the most difficult part of the renovation?

Thank you! Not having enough funds to complete everything I wanted to do.

I love the collection of spoons Wanda has hanging in her store! Where did she find them?

I found these wonderful spoons through a belgium antique dealer but you occasionally see them on eBay if you search.

I painted my walls Benjamin Moore Whispering Spring and would like to put up curtain rods. Do you have guidelines re: choosing a metal finish?

Try to match the finish of the curtain rods to the metal finishes on your doors, furniture and other hardware in your room.  

Ugh! Does anyone have any ideas about how to organize kitchen equipment/appliances/tools? I feel like we are overflowing with it, but I can't really think about what to get rid of. Does anyone have a list of what a well-stocked but not overflowing kitchen might have? Thanks!

I think the issue here is not what you should have, but what you have that you ever use! Our producer is going to post a recent story I did about Amy Zantzinger's kitchen. It was so well organized because each drawer and cabinet was dedicated to one category -- such as measuring gadgets, knives or mixing bowls. You should empty each drawer and shelf and cull through stuff, removing duplicates and things you never have used or plan to use. You can donate these to an organization that helps settle people into homes or any other charity that accepts household items.

Hi. Thanks for taking my question. My sister and I share a condo, and we both have very different tastes. We are still deciding on lighting for our dining area. It is an open layout condo where you will see the light hanging in the dining area to the left when you walk in, with the living area to the right. She is leaning more towards a chandelier type, with five bulbs, and I think it would look more modern with one big pendant type of light. Any thoughts? We also have cherry hardwood and neutral colored ivory blush toned walls. Also, besides looking at Home Depot catalogs for lighting, do you know of good lighting stores in the Leesburg area? Thanks.

I think you if you look for something at other places besides dedicated lighting stores, you might find something unique that you both like. A good place to start would be Ekster Antiques in Hamilton, Va, which is a huge barn filled with mostly old and new (and very well priced) finds from Europe. They have sales every few months and the next one just happens to be this weekend, starting tomorrow. Here's the site: www.eksterantiques.com

I wasn't able to participate in last week's chat, but I wanted to comment on the topic of what to do with inherited furniture. My brother and I recently had a family meeting with our parents to discuss wills, end-of-life decisions, etc., though our parents are still young and in good health (best time to do it, right?) During our talk, my dad said that there were one or two small items he and mom would be happy to know we kept, but that we shouldn't feel obligated to keep anything we inherited. I thought this was sweet and practical of him to state right out. My mom smiled and nodded, but as dad continued stressing that the furniture etc. would be ours totally and that we shouldn't feel guilty about selling or getting rid of it, mom's smile faded a little. Dad kept on, telling us that if we wanted, we could just cart everything out of the house onto the lawn, stick price tags on it all, and have a yard sale. At this point mom piped up with a quiet, "Yes, although maybe if you put a tag on something really special, we could make the thunder rumble a bit or something." They're so wonderful, and what a special gift they gave us by openly discussing their wishes for when the time comes. I wanted to share the story with you. :)

LOVE this story. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it. These things can get so complicated and frought with sentiment and guilt. It is wonderful that you were able to discuss this before anyone is old and sick. Great great idea for everyone.

What about navy? Love navy.

That's a nice idea. I'm  still leaning toward black though.

In thinking about a planned kitchen remodel, I've discovered that I really dislike kitchen cabinets and that placing my kitchen items (pots and pans, food, dishes, etc.) on restaurant-quality shelving units that line the walls would be much easier. It seems that, despite good layout and proper lighting, things always seem to get lost in cabinets. My proposed kitchen concept is a wide galley-type design with an island in the middle; only one of the walls (about 12 feet long) would be the shelving, whereas the other wall would be the expected cabinets with countertops. Do you know of a way that I can still have easy access to my kitchen items while providing some degree of discretion of all of my things? [Think of this as a walk-in pantry transformed into a wall o' pantry]. Shoji screen? Barn doors on an overhead track? Hang long curtains on an overhead track that pull back when needed, but yet close shut when necessary? I'm open to any and all suggestions.

I need to replace my current ceiling fan (currently the only light in the 20-by-12 foot bedroom). Generally I find ceiling fan lights very dim. Any suggestions for a ceiling fan (and they are somewhat low ceilings, so it will need to be flush mounted)? Also, I can't install canister lights in the ceiling as the roof space is too thin. Any other suggestions for additional lighting? Thanks.

I think Minka Aire (www.minka.com) has a great selection of ceiling fans.

I put hangers under my cabinets and hang all the pots from there along the back kitchen wall.

That is a good idea. I hope you don't have a lot of pots that you never use.

Not all granite is flashy. But it IS so easy to keep clean.

I totally agree.

We just moved in to a new house, and I really hate the front door, which appears to be fairly new. Since doors are so expensive (and we have tons of things we'd rather buy right now) I'm wondering about painting the door. It appears to be a hardwood oak door with a medium broan stain, and has a large oval paneled window in the middle (as in the window takes up almost the whole middle of the door -- it's huge). We'd love to do a glossy black. Any tips on preparing the door for painting? Do we need to sand off the current finish or can we just prime and paint?

I would sand as much as possible, then prime and paint.

If you are using indoor carpets outside, you should get an aeration mat to put under it that has holes and is usually made of a rubber of plastic material. This way if the carpet gets wet, it will have air above and below to help dry out faster, reduce the growth of mold/mildew and last longer.

Thank you very much for that information.  I did not know about these mats. Sounds wise.

Hi, Wanda. I was intirigued by your comment about Virginia being your favorite place in the country to live. In a nutshell, why? I can't wait to take your shopping tour!

Because I always feel like I'm in the English countryside, which I love. Also, we are close to D.C. with all of its great culture and restaurants.

Good morning, Wanda. We bought an old mountain home out in Warren County (Front Royal) and are slowly remodelling it, but we would like "real" furniture that we can either rehab or take as is, that would still maintain a nice country feel. Do you know of any good auctions or flea markets in the area?

Sloans & Kenyon Auction House in Bethesda, MD is a good place to start.

You can also find antique spoons (and other decorations) on www.etsy.com. Not always as great a deal as eBay, but you can often find items that are not listed on eBay.


I did get rid of a lot of pans when I got new cabinets. I found I use the same four pots and pans all the time and most of the rest were unnecessary duplicates.

I totally agree. There are two sizes of saute pans and about two sizes of pots that I use 95 percent of the time.

Just checked out their site and the stock looks amazing, but do you have an approximate price range for them even on a sale day? I'm on a budget and would prefer not to put myself through the agony of looking and not buying if it's too expensive!

There's a link to their Facebook page on their Web site and if you scroll through their photos, check the comments below, sometimes they list prices. I think their prices are very resonable, but you could also call them directly and ask them their price range for ceiling fixtures. Other alternatives for lighting are Craigslist and eBay, thift stores and flea markets. I think you can find something really cool that you both like if you do a little hunting around.

Story about Amy Zantzinger's kitchen: Chevy Chase kitchen: Everything in its place

Wanda, I'm obsessed with the lilac topiary you have posted on your blog. Are they hard to find? And are they difficult to grow around here? I don't have the greenest thumb.

No, they are not hard to grow.  Just go to your local nursery and ask for a Meyeri Lilac Standard. Another lilac you may like is the Korean Spice which comes in bush form.

We have a major problem: NO ONE wants the stuff! Most antique stores, auction houses, etc. said it was too much trouble or not worth their time although the five bedroom house of my parents is loaded with mid century and art nouveau and art deco furniture: complete bedroom sets, bookcases with glass, lots of antique china, desks, even a piano. We said forget them all and will donate it or give away to charity if no one has a better idea. These places promise the world but you would think they would care and not make us wait or give up on trying to help. I am royally annoyed with most of these dealers in the area. Our stuff is nice but they can not be bothered or want the commission. My two cents.

So sorry you have had this experience. I do know a lot of mid-century modern is in demand now. It's good to send digital photos around to as many dealers as you can to get a lot of responses.

Hi, Wanda. I just looked at the photos online and I love your taste! Where are your favorite places to shop for yourself? Can't wait to visit your shop.

I love antiquing. I enjoy the search as much as the find. Fly me to Paris and I'd be very happy!

Hi there. Soon I'll have two little boys, one infant and one toddler. For furniture, we've got a white crib and white dresser from the same furniture line. We'll need another dresser for the baby. Should we stick with that same line of furniture as adding a non-matching piece would be weird since two pieces match already, or no? Thanks!

I think it would be nice to add something a little different so the whole room doesn't match perfectly - it's more interesting. Is there anything you already have in your house that might work? It doesn't have to be a "dresser," just something with storage. If not, I suggest looking around for an old (but well-made) piece for a nice constrast to the newer pieces. And it doesn't have to be white, unless that's what you prefer. 

Also colored lamp bases. You can always paint what you've already got if you don't want to spend lots of money. That way you can nicely coordinate with the other accessories you get.

Yep. Another way to add color in a room.

Currenly banished from our condo while the walls are being painted (pretty much done) and wood floors refinished. Floors will be done Friday and Saturday. Guy doingthe floors says we can walk on them Monday and the smell will be gone, so we could put our three cats in the large kitchen area (and close the door, of course) by Sunday without danger. What do you think? We don't live anywhere near Tracee Hamioton so cannnot leave the cats there.

He's right. The floors will be dry, but there will still be a hint of the smell left in the room.  To play it safe with the cats, you may want to wait until Tuesday.

Overstock.com has good prices on lighting.

Thanks. Shades of Light is also a great place to look (www.shadesoflight.com).

Hi. We're looking for some colorful artwork/print to hang above the fireplace. Where would you recommend us to browse, both brick & mortar places and online? Recently it seems online places have taken over but we are a little worried about ordering from a small picture. We are looking at more modern/abstract than classic landscape type of art. Thanks.

Kevin has many styles from his twenty plus years of illustrating in DC and could be one possibility for you. Please contact us with your thoughts and he could forward styles to choose from. Georgetown has several galleries and some great finds if you search.

I wanted something unique yet affordable for my celiing fan lighting. So I bought a basic Hunter ceiling fan from Lowes and upgraded the glass shade from lightingdirect.com.

good thinking!

For the writer thinking of shelves but no cabinets in a kitchen remodel: I agree that it's easier to find things on open shelves, and I like the look. But cabinets protect items from dust, grime and even grease that can migrate around a kitchen. I had a kitchen with open shelving and I had to regularly wash or wipe everything down, which was a real pain. Perhaps glass fronted cabinets might be the answer?

Good thoughts. Thanks. I have some glass fronted cabinets in my kitchen and I really really love them.

Hello. I'd like to know if bridal registries can include more than just home stuff? For a lot of couples moving in occurs before the wedding. One couple I know has camping stuff on their registry. Is this acceptable? Is this just what people do? Does anyone register for fine china anymore?

You said it - it is truly what people do now. There seems to be no limits to what they register for. Many people will never use fine china in their whole lives and want no part of it. Give a gift you think the couple will like that you are comfortable giving.

For the person having trouble disposing of good furniture: Try taking photos and posting on craiglist. You'd be surprised how often people are looking for good deals on furniture and will come and pick up the pieces. You may not get the best price, but since you were considering donating them to charity, it doesn't seem as if the price is an issue for you.

Yes. All true.

Wanda, were the floors in your design studio painted white, and if so, did they get a special type of paint that gets rubbed off? It looks slightly pickled? Thanks!

The floors in our church and design studio were a labor of love! Kevin mixed linseed oil, paint thinner and 3 different colors of white.  Each board was hand -stained adding  various colors of grey and green. The challenge was to prevent the orange undertones from coming through. It took one whole week just to stain.

Hi. I am in need of some help deciding a bedroom color for our new house. We are getting a white bed, have honey colored hard wood floors and am looking for some type of relaxing color. My son's room is blue and next door. The rest of the house is pretty neutral.

How about a soft green? take a look at Duron's Bonsai Tint, Gratifying Green and Honeydew to get started.

Is there some clever way to paint my stairwell that doesn't involve scaffolding? If you go halfway up the stairs, you're 15 feet from the ceiling above you, and even further from the far corner of the ceiling. I can't think how to do this without serious heavy equipment. And even then...

If VERY careful and with long arms you could use an extension pole with a brush attached for the edging and a roller for the wall. It is hard to get a clean edge and having light walls helps. The darker the walls the more the line shows. Ceiling and walls the same color of course would be best.

A way to split a room for two boys is to have the matching dresser and crib for the baby and get a new/used bed and dresser for the toddler that match. This also helps the toddler know which is "his" and he can have his own style that is separate from his brother's. Kids enjoy having a little something of their own especially when they have to share space.

Love this thought. Thanks.

Corcoran School of Art has student art sales in December and April. Good source for reasonably-priced art. We also found a great tinted photograph from a vendor at Eastern Market.


I also have a galley-ish kitchen. I did silestone countertops, which I love. I agree with the poster about disliking shiny granite. The silestone is a matte neutral color (gray/brown). I have light wood cabinets and a gray tile floor, white appliances (I don't like stainless steel). But the wow factor is the backsplash -- bright green glass tile. Whatever you choose for the cabinets/ counter, I would definitely recommend a pop of color for the backsplash.

I love glass tiles too.

My 1926 arts and crafts home has honey oak floors, but the queston abut staining them dark intrigues me. I thought that since the honey oak was original-- and it is all over the house except the kitchen and bathrooms -- I should leave it that color. Would staining it dark be a mistake to the look of the house? Could I just stain one or two rooms?

Yes, dark would look great!  You should be consistent throughout the house though.  Stain all of the floors the same color.

Behnke's nursery and Merrifield Garden Center both offer landscape design services for a flat fee. I've used both, and I was very happy.


I have to find storage for TWO full sets of dishes? No way. It's hard enough to find room for one full set of dishes. I just make sure it's nice enough for everyday and holiday use, and use select pieces I've inherited to add an elegant air.

Plain white dinnerware is always in style.

We're out of time and off to lunch. Thanks to all you chatters and to Wands Crossley for joining us today. Have a great weekend. 

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.
Wanda Crossley
Wanda Crossley, an interior and landscape designer, owns Matthews House & Garden in Upperville, Va.
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