Designer Dana Tydings, of Tydings Design Inc. in Laytonsville, joined the weekly chat.

Jun 02, 2011

Designer Dana Tydings, of Tydings Design Inc. in Laytonsville, joined Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza for their weekly Home Front chat. Together, they gave advice on interior decorating and home improvement.

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Terri has a great article in today's Local Living on the Ten First Pieces That Will Last. One of the designers she interviewed, Dana Tydings, is with us today answering questions about decorating your first apartment or house, and anything else you want to ask her. Welcome Dana and let's get chatting.

I need to buy my niece a belated graduation gift, and since your piece is so timely, I was wondering if you have any suggestions? I'm looking for something home related, preferably decorative but also useful.

I love this question because I have had to buy several college and high school graduation gifts this year. Of course, cash is always welcome and appreciated. Home related - a gift certificate to CB2 or West Elm or go there and pick out some wonderful plain white dinner plates, modern flatware or great looking coffee mugs or barware. I recently bought a Georgetown graduate a set of glass tumblers with the school seal on them. Also a set of fresh white or navy blue towels from a great source like Restoration Hardware or Pottery barn is also a wonderful gift to someone starting out. Let's chime in with more ideas everyone as this is on our minds right now.

With the development of technology that allows designers to prepare sample boards and presentations on-line, as well as the wealth of products available to view in pdfs and send of via email, do you feel this is postive for the designer/client relationship.

face to face interaction with the client is always preferable. That being said, the ability as a designer to send images of furniture and lighting via email is a godsend. Our clients still prefer to "touch" their fabrics and wood finish samples and we would never do a "virtual" display board!

Suggesting that someone just starting out would (or could) spend $2800 on a sofa, close to $500 for one lamp and over $5,000 on a dining table is ridiculous. I have been settled for decades, I would never pay those prices, and my house looks great. Welcome to the real world.

Thanks for your feedback. Terri's not in the  office today, but I do know that when we do a story on furniture and decorating ideas, we are showing examples of what is current and stylish. We are not endorsing spending a specific amount of money. You can get a similar look for less by buying secondhand, vintage, Craigslist, consignment, salvage or thrift shop.

Cant believe interior designers are still doing this. Obviously they have never tried watching TV that is placed above the fireplace. Its a pain the neck and destroys the viewing angle etc. yeah its great if you never intend on watching the TV but how often does that happen in real world. Any designer who suggests this should be forced to design the itneriors of barns for livestock.

I do agree about the stiff neck.

I have a have a late 70s townhome that has a lot of nice quality dark wood (baseboards and a couple inches wide window frames). I've been generally painting the baseboards white as I move from room to room but I haven't done the kitchen yet (lots of windows) but unsure what I should go (the room is stem green). I guess I just don't even know HOW to make the decision to paint the baseboards or the windows. Any advice?

Keeping baseboards, window and door trim the same finish throughout the home is advisable. This gives you a cohesive "flow". Since you started with white (my favorite!) I would continue.

Hi! I am planning to get an old, French-style wood frame sofa reupholstered. I want to get a very bright pattern, maybe an ikat or a kilim, but I'm also particularly drawn to Indian patterns, such as those found on a sari as well as traditional Indian blockprint or toile de jouy. I've seen some online but can't find any local DC-area sources where I could check them out in person. Any suggestions?

Great idea and very chic. I hear DeBois Textiles in Baltimore has great designer fabrics. Also Discount Fabrics in Thurmont. And Haute fabrics in Marshall and Georgetown.  Any other ideas you guys?

I have an old red microfiber couch that we need to replace the cushions on. Oover the years and plenty of times it's been slept on the cushions are basically flat. I need the couch to last several more years and it's in great shape otherwise. Where do you suggest I go? I don't need it to have it reappolstered but new "inards". Fairfax/Springfield area is best.

I would check out the American Foam Center in Fairfax.  703 241-7400.

I'm so excited to be finally moving somewhere I can paint -- but of course now I have no idea what color to go with! The room gets a lot of light and I have a few dark wood furniture items (Ikea's black-brown color, if you're familiar), a cream chair, and a dark copper/rust comforter. I've loved the lilac-y greys, but do you think that would work with what I have? If so, any specific color suggestions?

You are basically in the warm tones with the rich browns, coppers, rusts and cream. Unless you plan on changing your comforter, you need to think in the camels and golds for the walls. If you do change your bedding, that grey/lavender on the walls would look stunning with the dark furniture and cream chair.

I just got this duvet cover: I was thinking of getting a decorative pillow or two that would pick up one of the colors, but where do I put them when I'm in bed? I have hardwood floors that I keep clean, but, let's face it, a floor is a floor and not where I want to put my pillows. My bedroom is too small for an arm chair (I'm in an apt). I have a little footstool that usually ends up as a receptacle for the clothes I've just removed, and I'd rather not add pillows to that pile. Should I chuck the pillows on the living room sofa before I go to bed? Do you recommend a certain number or shape of pillows? Or should I just skip the pillows and the headache?

I love a tiny bench at the foot of the bed or two Cubes pushed together. You cal pile pillows or comforter on top when you get in bed

I can finally paint! Just bought our first house and have 2 paint color questions. Our upstairs bathroom has white tile, edged in black. It's not large, but does have a frosted window. Is there a light green or blue color you would recommend for an airy, spa-like feel? Also, expecting our first baby and looking to do a modern, gender-neutral nursery. What are your thoughts on a pale grey-blue?

I like Martha Stewart for Home Depot's Endive color for your bath. For the baby room - and congratulations on your first! - think of maybe Woodlawn Blue, one of Benjamin Moore's Historic Colors.

The common element across your work/criticism and the spectrum of the DC decorating universe seems to be an almost religious devotion to beige. Is it ever appropriate not to play it safe, retentive if you will, and to use an actual color?

You must be talking about another designer as I love to say "Life is too short to live without color!" Use your color to your hearts content

I live in an apartment, and am looking for recommendations on where to get good houseplants - I'd prefer someplace where the salespeople actually know something about what grows well varying degrees of sunlight, etc.

I don't know where you live, but I have had wonderful luck at Johnson's Florist and Garden Centers - there are several locations - and American Plant Food, which also in in several places. Behnke Nurseries  in Beltsville has always been a great place with highly informed sales help. Anyone else have a place to suggest?

We are considering Calacatta marble tile for our bathroom remodel. Are there any good local sources (other than premium stores such as Ann Sacks, etc.)? I've tried a few places online but the samples I receive are general questionable - either too much color or too much movement - so I'd like to see anything we purchase first hand. Any suggestions?

You should contact Charles Luck Stone for slab material such as Calacatta. Know that this is a beautiful and pricey selection. Be absolutely certain to properly seal the stone upon completion and thereafter every few years to ensure it's beauty.

We recently bought our first house, which has one first floor bathroom off the laundry room. The bathroom is a landing area for all the washables that can't go in the dryer. Do you have a solution for this? We were thinking to use one of those wall mounted drying racks and mount it to a wall in the laundry room. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

I see your problem. I have a standing drying rack in my basement that I use all the time. There are accordion wall-mounted drying racks. Polder makes a 24-inch one  that would work and there are lots of others at and other sites.

In today's House Calls, it was suggested to frame the TV so that it can blend in with the furniture. How is an LCD TV framed? Do you have any resources for this or is this a DYI project? Thanks.

The "framing" should be done by a carpenter or someone with appropriate tools  (miter saw). I am not a fan of decorative molding around a TV, such as you would frame a picture but you can use milled pieces such as crown molding and paint to match the trim in the room.

I agree on the lamp and dining table, but a good sofa is essential. That and a mattress were the first things I purchased when I moved out of my folks place. The rest of my stuff I got cheap at flea markets, or discount stores. Then I started saving for my next big item - an armoire. I think the premise of the advice is sound. Spend a good amount on a few key items that will last. What your key items are may depend on the person and the space. I did not have room for a dining table so that was never a key item for me. I wish I'd bought better lamps. I always bought cheapies that I ended up not liking and only purchased because of the cheap price. The amount I spent on replacing them... I could have bought nicer from the start. Maybe I wouldn't have started with a $500 lamp, but I should have bought the $250 one that I loved.

Thanks for your thoughts. I think a sofa is worth the investment. My Sherrill Sofa is probably 18 years old and I have reupholstered it three times. It is the perfect size to fit inside my bay window and I still love it. I think I spent $1800 for it back then. It was worth every penny. Next to it are two wood arm chairs my husband found at an auction house for $35 a piece.

Hi, I am looking to replace heavy, floral curtains that were inherited with our home. They do not hang all the way to the floor. When I replace the curtains with something more neutral, should I get floor length or something shorter? Thanks for your help.

Yes. Floor length. No floods please.

Hi Dana, loved your suggestion for the art in Terri's story. I can see it looking fabulous in so many different spaces. Curious how you came upon it and how you go about picking art pieces for your others spaces that you decorate -- any good tips?!

Visit your local art galleries...The Chesapeake framing Company in Kensington, Md is a great one. These smaller galleries usually represent some lesser known artists that you can actually afford! Selecting art for clients is something I adore however you need to thoroughly "quiz" your client (and their spose) to ensure you bring images that they enjoy viewing

Seriously? In this job market? It's all twenty-somethings can do to pay $1,500 a month in rent these days. A little consideration for the economy, job market and skyrocketing cost of living would have been nice in this story.

You are absolutely correct about the current economy and prices. Trust me, we all shop at Pier One, IKEA, Target and Homegoods as well as splurging on the pieces we recommended in this artile. Terri Sapienza was giving you an overview/plan which all designers adhere to as we furnish spaces. No one says you have to implement all of these ideas at once. The BEST interiors are the ones that come together over time and reflect your taste and sensibilities.

For the person who wants ideas for what to do with accent pillows, try one of these ideas. Get an old beach towel and lay it on the floor in the corner. Use this for the pillows. The same can be done with an old carpet fragment (I had kept some leftover pieces when I had new carpet installed in the house) or even an unused laundry basket. Or hang a large cloth or plastic bag on a door handle and dump the pillows in the bag. If you have guests, make the bed, put the accent pillows on the bed and throw the towel/carpet/bag in the closet (or under the bed if you have a skirt).


Another drying rack from Ballard Designs.

VERY cool. Thanks.

You might want to call some Indian grocery stores that also sell clothing and other things. I think there is a large one in Langley Park. They will definitely have actual saris, and might even have bedspreads with block prints that might be usable for upholstering. Just a thought.

Love this idea!

Hello, What do you suggest for a bedroom with black, yellow and cream colored comforters? It has great sunlight. Thank you.

UL-180-19 Caribbean Sunrise by Behr would be nice.

TV above the fireplace always looks tacky to me.

Love opinionated people.

Good morning, Ladies, We're getting a room ready for our first kid but I find myself averse to anything babyish and am not drawn to anything overtly childish. Where would you look for kid-friendly decor that will fit in with the rest of our house (more on the transitional side with classic American and vintage European pieces)? I'm looking more for inspiration than anything else. Thanks!

My kind of nursery! Star with a sophisticated and gender neutral color i.e pale aqua, seafoam green, grey/lilac, grey/green. Cribs are a given but select ones with clean lines. Dressers should be chosen so that they transition to elementary school age and beyond. My first purchase 20 some years ago was a pale seafoam green leather sofa from IKEA, some white shelves and a little white TV! They all now reside (minus the Tv) in my college graduate daughter's first apt.

I hung a closet rod from the ceiling above my washer & dryer. I have LOTS of clothes that don't go in the dryer, and I keep lots of hangers there, both blouse hangers and the ones with clips for hanging underwear, etc. How to attach the rod depends on whether you have a sheetrock ceiling, dropped ceiling, or no ceiling.

So true.

Hi. Our townhouse family room has a fireplace that we do not use. It's hard to decorate around it and the space could be used more effectively without it. I'd love to remove it but I'm not sure if that 's a good idea as far as resell value. What do you and the chatters think? Would you rather have a fireplace, or extra space in the family room?

I would definitely not remove a fireplace. You didn't mention what style it was or if you like the look of it. Could you change the mantel or paint the inside black?

Figure out which direction your windows face before you go to the nursery, so they can answer that question about light requirements. Check out a hobby book from the library to get some extra information.

Good ideas.

We have 2 girls, 1 and 7, and thus have a huge range of toys that are overtaking our house. While I can get rid of the ones that the younger one outgrows, I'm keeping lots of the ones that that older one has for her younger sister. Do you have any system, type of furniture (those shelves w/the plastic bins that are everywhere are useless - they don't hold various shapes well, and are hard to get the toys out of), or otherwise that you'd recommend?? Help!

Shelves with baskets only work well for small items. If you have an old armoire (look at flea markets...peole are getting rid of them as we convert to flat screen tv's), I use them to place larger toys that keep them out of sight.

Hi - we have a king size bed in our master bedroom that is upholstered in a cognac colored leather. We thought it would be easy to pick a coordinating paint, but we are having trouble deciding on what to choose because we live in a neighborhood lined with mature trees and they cast a greenish tint on everything we sample. Any ideas?

Hmmm. I can see your problem. Cognac leather is indeed a challenge. I think you have to choose bedding that has an accent color you could go with for the paint. Maybe something like a sage green or pale orange? Would Creamy Orange by Benjamin Moore work?

But then you have to live with a beach towel on your floor. Honestly, what is wrong with just putting the pillows on the floor while you sleep?

Depends how clean you keep your floors.

I haven't read the article yet, but I notice you always get complaints about any article that has pricey pieces. Why don't people realize that (1) these are suggestions and (2) of course you can get the same look elsewhere. These articles are not intended to get you to go and buy this particular piece of furniture/ lamp/ etc, but are meant to give design ideas. That's what any good design article/ magazine/ blog should do!!

Well said and thanks!

I have that cute little bench at the foot of the bed. Love it, very practical, but the upholstered top, which is beige, is now quite stained. What can i do to save it? I was thinking to die it darker in some kind of pattern but have no clue how to do so.

Run, do not walk, to your local fabric store (Calico Corners, G Street Fabrics) and purchase a whopping yard of any inexpensive cotton fabric you love. At one yard, you can ever afford a pricey one! Pull out your staple gun and go to it. You can then cover the staples with a pretty piece of grosgrain ribbon and fabric glue.

Hi Terri & Jura, I saw the piece about adding color to apartments where you can't paint. I wanted to share what I did to avoid this very problem. We made three large fabric covered panels to hang on our wall behind our sofa. We got two fabric shower curtains that were on clearance, bought a staple gun, batting material (also on clearance) and particle board. We cut a single piece of board into three 3x5 panels (Home Depot did this for us). Wrapped the panels in batting, then in the fabric, stapled, and hung them on the wall using picture wire. The center panel is a pattern and the other two are a neutral so its a functional sound dampening art piece. Very easy and under $50 total.

Thanks so much for sharing this. Good for you.

Poster needs to price doing it safely and not disturbing the structure of a townhouse. Would be cheaper and safer to redo firepalce so it fits decor and is functional. Fireplaces still sell houses.

I totally agree.

To be fair, the article does say to look for good furniture at estate sales, etc. I love browsing in consignment stores. And it's worth noting that young people will probably have to pack up and move that furniture several times. Real wood furniture is sturdier and much lighter in weight than laminated particleboard. And the particleboard furniture doesn't like to be disassembled and reassembled - the fasteners get loose and fall out.


Hey Dana - happy to have you joining us! What sort of interior design do you specialize in? Any particularly cool projects recently?

We are a full service Interior Design firm working in the residential, commercial and hospitality sectors. Just finishing several homes on beautiful farms in the Warrenton, Va area, the lobbies of 12th and 13th NW bldgs and hopefully an 18 story residential condominium in Chevy Chase

I'm the same. I painted the nursery beige with white trim, bought all white furniture (crib, nightstand, rocking chair, dresser that double as our changing table, bookcase). Then I had curtains and a crib dust ruffle made in pink in green fabrics I chose from myself. I bought a lot of pink accents (lampshades, canvas storage bins, etc), and made some artwork with the leftover pink and green fabric (I just framed pieces of it in white frames). I also framed a piece of wrapping paper that coordinated well with the color scheme, and some white ceramic hearts against pink cardstock. Nothing screams "baby" (no teddy bear lamps, no winnie the pooh borders...) but the overall look is definitely nursery.

You were very creative. Thanks a lot for sharing these ideas.  It sounds adorable.

Thanks Dana, that gives me some confidence - I have a few traditional friends who think it's a sin to pain over wood. What about the doors (interior and closet)? White as well, or keep them dark wood? should I use a different type of paint on doors?

Doors should follow your trim. Use a latex based enamel like Benjamin Moore Satin Impervo for a silky, neautiful finish. Interiors of closet should ALWAYS be white! Imagine a colored interior affecting your choice of a shirt or dress at 5:30am when you're getting dressed.....

I want to paint the interior my house one neuitral color (beige or gray). All my rooms have windows and get plenty of light. Any color suggestions?

What about Benjamin Moore White Dove?

I have mostly a wood wrap (cherry) around my fireplace but at the opening is dull red brick. I would like to either put glass tile or rock (natural or man made) in this area. Any preferences for a modern rustic look?

If you're after that natural, earthy look, tumbled slate is the way to go. Go to Architectural Ceramics or Bartley Tile for some great examples....

Okay, thanks. It is the basic fireplace you see in an inexpensive townhouse. Plain white mantel that looks like crown molding , and surrounding the fireplace is grayish/white marble, same marble is on the floor right in front of it, flush with the carpet. The marble has smoke stains on it and it looks bad. What is I took the mantel off and covered the whole area with a custom bookcase, then remove the bookcase put the mantel back on if I sell? I will probably live here another 10 years but will definitely not be here forever.

I guess the custom bookcase idea would work if you really hate it. The mantel design certainly doesn't sound classic.

I've always wondered if your interior design style should reflect the exterior style of your house. I live in Idaho in an unfortunate '70's mine shaft-style house painted a very neutral cement gray. What style interior should I lean towards? It's too old for modern, not appropriate for European-style...What to do?

Some of the greatest homes have surprises on the inside. I live in a 100yr Red brick Georgian colonial and I mix everything up inside. Follow your first instincts regarding's always your best!

okay, i'm just gonna throw them on the floor.


I second the armoire idea. I kept our old stereo cabinet for a similar purpose and it easily stores board games, arts and crafts supplies and even my old "boom box", which my daughter now listents to the radio on.


We are planning to host a milestone birthday party at our house later this summer. Any ideas to make it stand out from the typical backyard bbq? Thanks!

Visit your local Homegoods or Pier One and treat yourself to the following: great plastic plates and glasses, some placemats and napkins, new cushions for the seats of the chairs. Keep with a color you love and follow through with all the items you purchase. Don't forget big, fat candles everywhere and string some lights inside your umbrella. Food and beverages are up to you!

Turn the bench over and look. Many benches are designed so that the cushion is screwed to the bench frame. If so, unscrew it, then reupholster (with a staple gun as Dana suggested) and then reattach the cushion to the bench. Then you don't need the ribbon/trim to hide the staples, the staples will be on the underside and hidden.


True. One of my favorite purchases when I was just starting out were some of those wood shelves that can be stacked, but also fold up for moving. They used to be in my living room, but I now use them in my basement rec room. Those shelves have moved with me so many times, up and down stairs in buildings with no elevators.

Good idea. Thank you.

Is White Dove a gray? And if I do a neutral gray, will a brown sectional and expresso colored furniture (tv stands, coffee tables, etc) still match? Or should I stick with a beige neutral? Like BM Muslin or Clay Beige....

No it is a neutral white.

Hello. I learned on HGTV on Candice's "Design Secrets" that one secret to making a small space look larger is to avoid contrast, not dark colors. It was eye-opening to me because it made so much sense but I'd never thought about it! So I toned down some colors in my apartment (went with green/blue as the main statement and then a lot of ivory and brown neutrals) and it does look bigger. Are there any other secrets you would recommend to make a small apartment look or feel larger? Thanks!

Keep you window treatments simple and uncluttered. Light, sheer panels with natural woven shades underneath for privacy look great. Don't forget mirrors! The larger, the better.

Yep. It's very skimpy and cheap looking.


My husband and I love color - currently our bedroom is painted a vibrant green-blue (more green) but we just got a new Indian wool bedspread in cream and orangey-brown, and our wall hangings (linen and wool, Malian and Navajo) are also cream/black/brown with a little blue. Clearly green is not the right color anymore - what color should we try? The room is small but with good light, and my husband hates neutrals (he's color-blind and can't see them). Thanks for your help as always!

With the colors in your bedspread and wall hangings, I would look at a deep saffron yellow or gold which has orange undertones. looks fabulous with black, white and grey. Try Benjamin Moore HC-7 Bryant Gold or C2-119 Amontillado.

Dana, thank you so much for being with us today. You gave some terrific advice for people starting out as well as anyone who is looking for decorating solutions. Hope everyone has a great week and see you June 9 for our next Home Front discussion.

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.
Dana Tydings
Dana Tydings has owned her own design firm, Tydings Design, Inc., since 1994.
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