Marika Meyer, a Bethesda-based interior designer, will discussed freshening your home for the summer. | Home Front

Jun 06, 2013

Marika Meyer, a Bethesda-based interior designer, established her full-service residential interior design firm in 2007. Meyer has been featured in HGTV, Home & Design and Luxe magazines, as well as on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Fox 5 and News Channel 8's Let's Talk Live. She discussed freshening your home for the summer.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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Hi everyone! I am excited to be here and am ready to answer your general decorating questions as well as how to freshen your home for summer.

Thrilled to have a  native Washingtonian on the chat today.  Marika Meyer established her full-service residential interior design firm in 2007. Marika was named "One to Watch" by the Washington Design Center in 2012 and a "Hot Talent" by Home & Design magazine in 2011. She has been featured in HGTV, Home & Design and Luxe magazines, as well as on Martha Stewart Living Radio. She has a lot of great ideas about freshening your home for the summer, and of course we can call on her expertise in choosing paint colors and kitchen components. Welcome Marika.

Every summer I dream of owning a beach house but until then, I often think of decorating just one room that has that beach house feel. Any suggestions on where I can purchase items that I can store and bring out in the summer? Nothing too big, just small items that say "beach."

I love spending time at the beach and have found my own way of bringing that aesthetic home. I love to accessorize with shells and coral. On my bookcases in my library I have a few pieces of brain coral and favorite shells that I keep out year-round; every time I see them I think of lazy afternoons by the ocean. These items can be collected on trips or purchased. I just bought four large pieces of coral for a project from Moss & Co, Catherine Roberts, Oliver Dunn. I have also found some great shells at Miss Pixies, which I used last year for my room in the DC Design House,

We love your website,, and noticed how you often use built-ins in rooms and decorate behind the shelving. We'd like to give that a try in our living room. Can you recommend a custom millwork company and also how do we select the wallpaper or paint for the back?

The back of bookcases is a great place to have a little fun. I often will use a bold patterned wallpaper to add some punch to a room. One of my favorite tricks is to paper back fabric and then have that installed. I like adding fabric or a textured wallcovering because it helps to soften the feel of millwork. I use a few different fabricators for millwork. Please feel free to email me at and I would be happy to pass along a few names.

We rarely use our living room these days. We've often thought of turning it into a place for just adults. Have you done this? And if so, what are some suggestions for starting the process?

You are not alone. I personally love using our living room because it is a true escape from toys and the chaos of family life. On many of our projects clients ask to turn the living room into a space that can really be a retreat for parents at the end of a long day. Using comfortable but elegant upholstery is the first step - something that will welcome you at the end of a long day but be fashionable enough for cocktails with friends. Pairing comfort with case goods and tables that are reflective of your style will help translate the space into one that welcomes you rather than feels unapproachable.

We have a great family room and it's kid friendly but not so attractive. Any suggestions for window treatments and accessories to make a space the whole family can enjoy?

Window treatments are always a great way to transform a space. Depending on the window type plus the age of your children, you can either do drapery panels or roman shades. Panels can add height to a room by creating a strong vertical line but I know how little ones like to play in them. Roman shades are a great way to soften a window as well and if you do an outside mount, Roman shades can help a small window feel much larger. For accessories, try a fun tray for a cocktail table or an unusual collection of boxes for the side table.

We just painted our family room and bought some furniture but can't decide on art or finishing touches. We have two young children and want the space to be fun for them but a bit grown-up for us, too. Any suggestions?

Congratulations on making progress to fix up your home. For family room spaces you can get away with more colorful accessories since the “volume of life” is louder in that space. Fun pillows with a great pattern and in punch colors along with a coordinating throw create great accents. For art in family space we often have custom frames made that we cycle children’s art through. When someone comes home from school with a new piece of art it can easily be displayed. It’s a fun way to showcase your children’s art and show unique art in the space!

I love design magazines and the Washington Post's Local Living design stories and have seen your lovely work. I always aspire to have my home - or at least one room in the house - look as good as a room in a magazine. What are some baby steps to get there?

It’s important to try to address all the areas in each room rather than filling out various rooms partially. For example, many people buy furniture but ignore the windows and floor, which leave a space feeling cold and uninviting. In magazines spreads, each room has been filled with finishing touches and accessories. For your sofa, select the right pillows and throw, add decorative items to bookcases and the mantel, and never underestimate the power of fresh flowers!

There are so many options for paint colors, especially the neutral tones. We'd like to find a main color that we might use throughout the house so we don't want to make a mistake. Where do we start to find the right color?

For neutral tones I often turn to Benjamin Moore. For a first step it’s important to figure out if you want the space to have a cool or warm feel. Once that decision has been made, I suggest looking through their OC colors and Historical Colors. Some of my favorite go-to neutrals are Manchester Tan and Baby Fawn.

There are too many choices for pillows and accessories out there for me to make a decision. I really like most of them. Do you have a favorite go-to website or store that always has what you're looking for? Should the pillows be a totally different color than the rest of the space or should they complement the colors in the room? I've seen it both ways. Thanks

For many of our projects we use custom pillows in fabrics that relate to the scheme we have developed for the space. There are a few vendors who have prefabricated pillows that we love.  My favorite is Ryan Studios, a great company that is based out of Northern Virginia. Pillows are a great opportunity to tie in a new color but you want to make sure it is not entirely unrelated to the space. If you want to do the accent in the pillows maybe add some accessories on a nearby table with the same color. For example if emerald green is the accent, try a malachite box on the coffee table.

We've just become empty nesters and we're downsizing. We don't have room for ALL the family photos so we want to select just a few photos and treasures to display. We also need help deciding on the scale of furniture for our new place. Since this is an emotional event for us, do you recommend a designer to help? Is this a service you provide?

Yes! It is always hard to edit personal possessions. Having someone come in who does not have the emotional connection will help give perspective to items. Designers can also think of creative ways to incorporate family items in a fresh way. Maybe it is keeping a piece from your grandmother but updating it with paint or a new finish. We often work with clients who are having a difficult time working with a family piece that they are not ready to part with.

We're redoing our tiny 1910 rowhouse bathroom with marble hexagons on the floor, white subway in the shower, and dark gray quartz countertops. All the fixtures are chrome and the vanity and toilet/tub are white. We're out of money and so are just going to paint the walls as opposed to adding more tile or other trim. I want it to look bigger but also not boring. Would light gray or white be a better choice to pull everything together, and any particular color suggestions?

Hi! Adding a subtle color would be a nice way to soften the space. Ben Moore’s Iceberg is my favorite gray blue that I use consistently in bathrooms.

Hi, my husband and I are expecting our first child later this year. I'd like to go with a green and white color scheme in the nursery, which will go with the inevitable pink accessories that show up for baby girls. For the walls, I'm thinking of a late-summer, leafy green, as opposed to a pastel or yellow-green. Any specific color suggestions would be appreciated!

Congratulations on the addition to the family! How about Sherwin Williams SW6724 Mesclun Green? It would look great with pops of white and pink.

I love springtime and am looking forward to spending time on my patio. What advise can you offer for breathing new life into my outdoor furniture and accessories?

There are so many great indoor/outdoor materials to select from. I just bought a couple of  Dash & Albert outdoor throw pillows for my patio chairs. They are in a bright orange and white chevron that I am pairing with a vintage white wicker elephant that I also painted orange. It is a fun splash of color that we will enjoy at low cost for the next few months.

With a young family, we just never have enough room for everything - between the toys, clothing, backpacks, etc. We need practical solutions for storage but also don't want bins stacked to the ceiling. We'd love to hear your ideas.

Many of my projects are with clients who have young children at home. As a mom with two little ones I understand how quickly toys accumulate! I think the most important tool to help is concealed storage. I use built-ins frequently with families. We do a base cabinet with doors or drawers and open shelving on top. In our house we make a point of teaching our son that he needs to put the cars and trucks back in the “garage” before bedtime.

Can you suggest quick and easy, and budget friendly, tips for freshening a space?

Never underestimate the power of a fresh coat of paint. And remember not to ignore the ceilings and trim. One of my favorite tricks is to tint the ceiling in a pale subtle blue or green. It is a great way to lighten the space and also to trick the eye into thinking the ceilings are taller than they are. Trim also gets grimy over time. A fresh coat on your trim can often freshen up the whole room.

I love the idea of freshening up a house for summer, but don't really know what it means. I don't tend to do anything much different in the house. We make a lot of fun summer foods & do more outdoor living, but what do you suggest for introducing the season to the inside of our home?

Summer is always more casual and fun, think about changing out pillows for something more whimsical and playful. Maybe introducing a pattern or bold color that you would otherwise shy away from.

Hi! Thanks for your advice. I live in a rowhouse and I'm also starting to feel overwhelmed by all the brown in our LR. We have a large leather couch, some other brown furniture, and hardwood floors. The walls are SW Croissant, which doesn't help -- so I'm looking for a new paint color. I'm considering light gray; any other suggestions? Thank you!

Wow! That is a lot of brown! I use a lot of grays as neutral wall color. It is subtle and allows you to introduce color in your window covering, flooring or accents.  How about Ben Moore November Rain, Winds Breath or Baby Fawn?

My home is a traditional center hall colonial. What can I do to freshen the foyer area? It's a small space but I'd love to bring new life into it.

So many homes in this area are center hall colonials and the first thing you see when you walk in are the stairs. An inexpensive way to freshen these and bring more light into the area is to paint the risers in your trim color. In addition, I normally paint banisters in a shade close to black to create contrast and depth. Adding a stair runner that is durable with a unique pattern can also help breath new life into your entry and home.

Do you know if the 14th Street shops are still going to have their Dog Days sidewalk sale this year?

The organizers of this sale are a bit late in putting the details together, but I have been assured that it is going to happen. The 14th St. Dog Days Sidewalk Sale this year will be on August 3 and 4. I am doing a story on the design stores in that area right now and it will run on June 20. I will try and get more details about this very popular sale.

I enjoyed the article, but it seemed to be based on the assumption that all of us have a distinct foyer area. I, for one, do not. My LR is rather long and rectangular, but the front door does open into the LR. Any special tips for un-foyers?

This is a great point. For homes that do not have a formal entrance I suggest trying to create a space that feels separate from the rest of the room. I normally add an entry light above the door and a small table and mirror that help to anchor that space.

We just moved into a new house - we have one child and another on the way. We need kid friendly ideas for the spaces but also want them to be elegant. Do you have ideas on where to begin?

Congratulations on your new home! I often work on projects with young families who are moving into new homes and starting from scratch. I highly recommend working with a designer who can  create inviting spaces that are also family friendly through use of materials, space planning and furniture selection. Take a look at my website and view Braeburn Parkway, Elizabeth Drive, R Street and Winfield Lane to see examples of family homes that are also elegant enough for grown ups.

I've been thinking of adding vintage items to my decor. What are some of your favorite items to consider and do you have shops you like?

I use vintage pieces on many of my projects. They are a wonderful way to add unique touches to your home. I love vintage arm and club chairs, they are useful in smaller scale homes where space is a premium. For accents try a fun side table or cocktail table. My favorite stores include Mike Johnson's  Sixteen Fifty Nine in Showroom 1412, Miss Pixies and online stores like

I want to brighten my living room - now the walls are a bagel color with white trim. The furnishings are traditional - colors of deep red, burnt orange, antiqued gold, sofa is a damask greenish/gold color. Any suggestions

I love that you describe your rooms as BAGEL colored! I would maybe try something like Farrow & Ball Citron for something with a lot of verve. Yellow Ground or Orangery by Farrow & Ball might also be nice. I also like Glidden Yellow Gold.

Where do you pull your design inspiration from?

My clients always provide great inspiration. When I first start on a project I have a long intake meeting and learn about their likes and dislikes. I use these as a jumping off point to create personalized designs. Sometimes it is a color, piece of art, a treasure from travels abroad. Whatever you are passionate about can always serve as inspiration!

Hi ! I have to repaint the kitchen/family room. kitchen has very poor natural light, the cabinets are wood (medium honey color), the counter is a matching color as well as the hardwood floor..Breakfast/family room, a better natural light but still not sunny..I was thinking green for the kitchen and a warm yellow apricot for the rest. Any advice ? Right now I have everywhere a pale yellow kind of boring ! Thank you !

Have you considered painting the cabinets? It sounds like there is a lot of same tone wood in the kitchen and breaking that up would help tremendously. If you paint them a white or cream they will reflect more light and the colors that you introduce on the wall will have new energy.

Can you really put one of these indoor outdoor carpets on your patio? Doesn't it get dirty really fast?

Yes. Many of them can actually be hosed off and you can use a bit of dish washing soap and a scrub brush to get out stains. They are just amazing and can add a lot of color to your space and really turn it into a backyard room.

Where did you find the beautiful tight back sofa in the Winfield Lane house--not too big, not too small?

Thank you! It is a sofa that is available to the trade only. I designed the custom upholstery details to suit the narrow living room and two young children who live there.

Good morning: we own an older home with no closet at the entry, and winter is a constant struggle to store heavy coats, hats, scarves, gloves, etc. I've looked into storage benches, but do you have any other ideas for a solution? Thanks.

How about using a chest of drawers for hats/gloves/scarfs and pairing it with a good looking coat rack? We recently did this in a home in Adam's Morgan and it worked wonderfully through the winter months.

I'm about to buy a one-bedroom condo and want to create a chic space. Where do I start?

If you are just starting out it is important to evaluate key pieces that you will take with you to future homes. Invest in a high quality sofa and bed that will last many years. To add some chic look for less expensive vintage pieces for lighting, side tables and coffee tables. Something with character and if you tire of it they are not expensive to replace down the road.

I see in the Georgetown house on your website that you covered the foyer's radiator. I love that idea! Can you tell me how you did this? I'd love to do something similar in my older home.

For this house the radiator was existing and covered with heavy iron grate work. We painted the radiator to match the ground of the wall covering and then had the iron piece refinished and painted neutral. I then used a piece of salvaged stone to make a top that matched the top on the console table by the entry. It was an easy way to work around an unwelcomed architectural element.

I've heard from many people that painting cabinets can be tricky and is often not worth the hassle. Do you have any tips?

I have painted cabinets in my own homes and never had any problems. The key is finding a painter who has done this before and sands and primes them properly. Waiting for the right dry time between coats is key. I think it is an inexpensive way to freshen a kitchen in a few days.

Hi, Marika. I live in one of those "smaller scale homes where space is a premium" in an historic neighborhood. Last year, I completed a lengthy renovation of my first floor, gutting the kitchen, DR, and LR and opening them all to each other. The result is an open, relaxed space. The walls are RL "Chi" (a calming, pale blue), which really pops against the white trim and cabinetry. We recently moved my grandmother into a living facility and I received a club chair from her (20's-30's vintage) that needs recovering. I'd like to modernize it with something bright (fuschia) in a geometric or swirling pattern (with white as a counterbalance to the fuschia). Any ideas for a good quality fabric that you think would meet these critieria or other suggestions along related lines? FWIW, I'm not a big fan of orange, which I know would work from a color standpoint. Thanks!

The renovation sounds fabulous! We recently recovered an inherited wing chair in a bright fuschia cut velvet and the effect was amazing. The whole chair had new energy. For a small chair you do not need a lot of yardage, it sounds like it would be worth looking at a designer fabric. Feel free to email me if you want to talk it more!

I have a couple different floor types - from wood in the foyer to tile in the kitchen to vinyl in the laundry room. Maybe rugs would help tone down the changing floor coverings? What are you thoughts and what are some great sources for rugs?

I think rugs would be a great way to introduce some consistancy throughout the space. It could be a sisal, wool or even synthetic. I use C. G. Coe in Bethesda for many of our rugs that need to be custom sized.

Thank you so much! Great bunch of answers and advice. Marika's advice is worth rereading!! Check out the excerpts.  Thank you very much for joining us today. See you next week.


Thank you Jura for inviting me to participate in today's web chat. Thank you everyone for submitting questions and spending some time with me. If anyone has any follow up questions feel free to contact me!

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

Home Q&A archive
Marika Meyer
A native Washingtonian, Meyer established her full-service residential interior design firm in 2007, a culmination of her formal interior design education and practical experience in the interior design industry. Marika was named "One to Watch" by the Washington Design Center in 2012 and a "Hot Talent" by Home & Design magazine in 2011. She has been featured in HGTV, Home & Design and Luxe magazines, as well as on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Fox 5 and News Channel 8's Let's Talk Live. Headshot by Melissa Stewart.
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