Interior design with Raji Radhakrishnan | Home Front

Jun 21, 2012

Local designer Raji Radhakrishnan recently participated in the Kips Bay Decorator Show House in New York. Read Jura Koncius' story here.

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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We are happy to have Raji Radhakrishnan with us today. Raji is a designer based in Loudoun County and she had the honor of doing a room at the Kips Bay Show House in New York that just closed. Here is my article about that here. You can see photos of her room and others. Meanwhile, Raji has spent a lot of time in New York and she is full of great insight into what's going on in design right now. So let's get going.

Hi everyone,

I'm happy to be here and chat with all of you!

I missed house calls this week! Hopefully it's just taking a break and hasn't been cancelled. It's the first thing I look for on Thursdays!

Hi there, I'm the producer of this chat and the writer of House Calls. I'm puzzled that you didn't see a House Calls in your section... you should have seen it on page 6 of your Local Living today! Here is a link to it online.

I want to know alllll about Kips Bay. What trends did you see? Anything totally out of the blue that caught your eye? What was the craziest -- or coolest -- thing you say? Dish dish dish!

Kips Bay truly is the mother of all, not just the who's who of design but how every one of us pulled all the stops and gave it our best! The attention to detail was what I loved most from finishing a lamp shade to the using the right color threads on the embroidery details! The coolest thing I saw was the modern cerused oak paneling! Loved it in two rooms! Last time I saw that was in France in the Marais district in some of the most famous antique dealer's showrooms!

What kinds of innovations and colors did you see at Kips Bay? I didn't make it up there this year, but there are also lots of wonderful new ideas.

I saw some fantastic cerused oak paneling done which I loved. Lacquer and high gloss paint in bright colors were every where but it was the small details like a runner with little grommets in the ends and tied with leather strings to tiny hooks on baseboards to stay frim in place, etc., that were absolutely delightful!

Hi Raji, I just bought a turn of the (19th) century DC row house and the first order of business is to update the kitchen and bathrooms. Although I appreciate the turn of the (20th) century "stainless and granite" era, it seems like nothing could clash more than putting such a modern kitchen in a classic row house. Moreover, I feel like the SS and granite fad is fading fast and would be gone were it not for the fact that we've not yet found what will replace it. So, my question is two-part, what do you think is the next era of kitchen design will look like and how can I incorporate aspects of that design while maintaining continuity with the great heritage of the DC row home? Regards, Jeff

P.S. follow-up question, why does your website have so few pics of kitchens?

Kitchen design for me has always been about function and architecturally appropriate design. So, in the next era of kitchen design you will always see manufaturers coming up with the next big gadget and the latest and greatest finishes but personally I would say just stick to the classics. So, in your case you are absolutely right in wanting a kitchen that suits the age and architectural style of your home but not necessarily old fashioned, just the right style and details will go a long way. However, from an investment point of view there is no way of getting around modern appliances, etc. So, hiding appliances with cabinetry which is already selected for it's architectural appeal to the period house will work beautifully.

Hi guys, love the chats. I need an area rug in our living room, but have an odd-shaped space (the fireplace hearth cuts into the area on an angle). I was thinking of using FLOR tiles, since they can be cut, but wanted to get your thoughts. Will FLOR work for a living room (soft / thick enough to sit on)? They seem a bit "office-y", so I wasn't sure. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

I love FLOR but I'm not sure about a living room with a hearth that cuts in an odd angle. I think you would be better getting a custom cut area rug that defines the seating area of the room. A good place to look is a good carpeting company remant department. They can cut the remnant to fit  and bind it for you at a reasonable charge.

Hi Jura. I know that you get many questions about gray paint colors. I would like to share the color that my husband and I used in our bedroom and LOVE. It is called Bleached Shadow by Valspar from Lowes. It probably took us two months to finally find a color we liked. We had countless gray paint chips taped to the walls and then 5 or 6 different samples painted all around the room. We looked at all the grays you have suggested previously. We originally thought we wanted a bluish-gray, but none looked right. Then, we decided to try a sample of Bleached Shadow, which is deep, but not too dark, and slightly warm toned. We both loved it! The room has been painted for about two weeks now and every morning I wake up and think we could not have chosen a better color. Hope this tip may help someone else struggling with choosing a gray!

How nice of you to share this with us? So guys, add this to your list of grays to consider!

I know you live out in Loudoun County. What are some of your favorite home stores out there? Are these still good shops in Leesburg?

Quite frankly not a whole lot out here which is actually very nice for me since we are really here for the quiet and family living! For my work, honestly I shop mostly in DC & NY which is where most of my clients are anyway. That said, I like the small antique shops in downtown Leesburg, always find some great Americana there.

Our kitchen has white cabinets, a corian gray/black/white mixed countertops, stainless steel appliances. There is a large green hutch (countryish) in the kitchen (although the house is more traditional). What would you suggest for a backsplash - I was thinking white subway tile or marble -- and for the wall color? Thank you.

I'm just doing a story in which I spoke to a few designers about tile choices. Hands down, subway tile is mentioned as a neutral, classic background for kitchens and bathrooms. It always looks right - because the design is simple and 100 years old. As for your paint color, what about Benjamin Moore Colony Green?

Love the chats, like House Calls, but in several of the makeovers I have noticed a piano placed against an exterior wall. This was the case in last week's makeover. Pianos are delicate musical instruments and can swell and shrink with excessive heat, moisture, etc. This greatly impacts the sound and can ruin the instrument. Therefore, a professional will always place an upright piano against an interior wall. Please make your designers aware of this.

Thanks. We will pass this along.

I live in Bethesda and want to buy good-quality carpeting for our basement, including new padding. Where should I look? I am wary because Internet research says many places swap out your order and otherwise try to rip you off. Thanks.

I have had good luck at Carpet Palace in Bethesda. Who else do you guys suggest?

Help! My husband and I just bought our first home - a little DC row house. We're having fun thinking of paint colors now that we live somewhere we can actually paint! We're thinking of this bedding for the master but aren't sure what color to put on the walls. Maybe a rich royal blue? We have a piece of art I would like to hang over the bed that is robin's egg blue and coral but don't have to hang that there if you don't think it will work. Opinions requested! Thanks!

Congratulations! A little rowhouse in DC is a fabulous first home. I like your choice in bedding too. It is sort of an ikat print. I would not suggest a royal blue for the walls. It actually looks nice against the glossy white shown in the photo. Otherwise, what about a pale bluish gray - maybe Benjamin Moore Buxton Blue or Martha Stewart for Home Depot Slipstream.

(Submitting early as I commute during chat time) I'm in the process of renovating my family room, which is downstairs. The floor will be an off-white ceramic tile in fairly wide "planks," replacing carpet that also runs up the stairs to the main level (which is dark cherry-color wood). It's a split staircase (seven stairs to a wide landing, then seven more stairs at a 180-degree angle to the first seven). There's also carpet on the adjacent stairs going upstairs into the hall and bedrooms, which I'm not replacing at this time. The carpet going downstairs is shot, beyond cleaning help, and needs to be replaced. Does it make sense to extend the ceramic tile from the family room up the stairs? Or should I just recarpet? I think it would look strange to have carpet running between wood and tile, and doing the stairs in wood is absolutely out of the question for a number of reasons.

Ceramic tile up the stairs could be dangerously slippery. From a functional poitn of few hardwoods and carpets are a safer bet. If going with carpet, just try and match the color closest to the tile so they the whole space looks as seamless as possible and not all chopped up!

I'm planning a kitchen remodel and am on a fence betweent the dark, rich look of cherry cabinets and the lighter, more contempory look of a natural maple; two totally different looks. What is the current trend in cabinets that will still look fresh in 10 years? Thanks!

I would defenitely suggest the more lighter natural look over the dark cherry. The current trend in cabinets is defenitely more modern and surprisingly mixing different colors. But you will need a pro to do that properly.

My living room and dining room are painted BM Goldfinch which now looks so dated, I'm over the Under the Tuscan Sun look. I want a fresh neutral paint. Adjoining foyer is Monterey White, Kitchen is Revere Pewter and FR is Wheeling Neutral and I am still OK with all of those colors. Suggestions?

Yes. Goldfinch is a strong statement and you may be ready for something a bit more soothing. Since I don't know what the color scheme of your rooms is, I would suggest a a neutral such as Benjamin Moore Powder Sand or Man on the Moon. I also like Dorset Cream by Farrow & Ball.

Raji, that's so interesting that you saw bright and high-gloss paint at Kips Bay. Feels very trendy/temporary to me. Did you like it? Would you recommend it? And if so, for where? I love bright and bold paint colors, but always in a muted or matte finish.

Most of the high gloss/lacquer I saw was in small transitional spaces or smaller rooms. Which I think makes sense as you don't spend a whole lot of time there. As far as incorporating it myself it would really depend on the whole house/apartment design. That said, it's not what I would normally do but I can certainly see it in a powder room, a hallway or vestibule or just the ceilings provided the adjacent or nearby spaces can relate to it and have some sort of continuity in style..

We have a basement bathroom that was the height of, um, daring color choices in the early 70s. Blue and white tile on the floor. Blue tile on the walls. Blue toilet. Blue tub. Blue sink. We can't afford to rip it all out and re-do it, but I'm intrigued by the idea of professional refinishing to a more neutral palette. Do you know anything about the process and, if so, can you recommend anyone locally? Thanks!

Oh MY!!! You do have a 1970s time capsule down there. I have never had the tile/tub refinishing done and have not written about this procedure. Can any of our chatters today offer some help? This also might be a topic for a future story... Send photos! Or submit for a House Calls makeover.

I love the Local Living section (although I do pine for the Home & Garden days) but I'm wondering if we could see more year-round entertaining columns? You have such great tips around the holidays, but I like to have dinner and house parties year round -- for example, on the fourth of July, Labor Day, etc. Would love to get some creative entertaining ideas for all times of year!

What a good idea. Maybe I'll suggest a summer entertaining article! It's fun to get ideas from pros and people who have people over a lot. You always pick up an idea.

Hi Raji and Jura! Excited to submit this question because I'm need NEED of refreshing my blog circuit. What are you current favorite design or lifestyle blogs? Maybe each of you could give your top 3?

I actually read quite a lot of my favorite blogs (see So, it's hard to pick just three! A few of my top blogs are - Local - Architect Design & My Notting Hill and Habitually Chic and Little Augury!

Can we get rid of Sunburst mirrors, too? They are so dated and cheesy -- everytime I see one it screams "catalog" or "professionally designed." I'm over them! Am I alone on this?

I agree! But sometimes when you need a circular shaped piece to finish the space, the perfect one happens to be a sunburst! As long as it is still unique and well-made, I suppose you can use it. I often find, it's the circular shape that we need more and more not necessarily the sun burst mirror. Unfortunately, not every one has a fabulous round Damien Hirst spin painting!!

Wanted to follow up as I asked for some upholster recommendations a few weeks back on this chat. I ended up going with Spicer's in Alexandria and was very pleased with the work -- and it was significantly cheaper than Yi's in Rockville. Thanks for the suggestion!

Thanks. We have had good comments about Spicer's in recent chats.

You seem to get repeated questions on this. Perhaps it would an appropriate topic for an article?

Yes. agreed! Just emailed my editor!

I recently read that in a proper budget for interior decoration should be about equal what you spent on the house. Is this true? If I spend $800,000 on a house, I should be putting about that much into the decor?

Absolutely not! Think of the budget in terms of the quality of living you want. Generally, the more you spend on the purchase or renovation of a house, the decorating budget should be proportionate but not the same. Look at it this way, you could go from point A to point B in a Toyota or a Bently, the question is what kind of a ride do you want?

I, too, had an all-blue bathroom in my 1955 house, so I feel the chatter's pain. Anyway, you can paint ceramic tile with an enamel paint. My father did this in his bathtub/shower and it held up well. If you paint it white, then you can paint over the grout too!


I just wanted to second your recommendation on the lighter, natural maple cabinets. Our previous owners remodeled 19 years ago and although we have upgraded the flooring and plan to get new appliances and countertops, the maple Kraftmaid cabinets still look great and function well.

Good for you. Thanks.

Jura...please, please do a story on this! Have decided this may be a better option for my blue/pink bath. Have done some internet research but feel lost on this topic!

Okay. We are on it!

In my limited experience, I have found that hiring professional painters is one of the best decisions one can make in re-decorating. Everyone always says "oh just do it yourself, it's so cheap" but it just plain never looks as good. Would you agree that this is definitely a worth-every-penny thing?

Agreed. And I was JUST talking about this with my editor a few minutes ago. Hiring a painter saves time and marriages. And it produces a wonderful result that you can enjoy for years.

Paint color question: We're redoing out daughter's room. There's a small bump out/nook that we're painting lavender and we're planning on doing the rest of the walls in a warm cream. What color should we paint the ceiling/trim? It's white now, but will that look odd with cream walls? I worry that white trim will just make the walls look dingy. Should we just use the same cream on the trim? What about the ceiling?

Yes, defenitely use the same cream on the trim and the ceiling to give the rest of the room some continuity and certainly repeat the lavender again in the room either in the bedding or a painted piece of furniture (preferably on another part/side of the room) so it validates the lavender paint color on that one wall.

Can you remind me of the nongirly lavender paint you recommend? I'd like to give my foyer some color without being too girly. The foyer does not get much light, so is the grey/lavender going to be too dreary? How can I brighten the hall without going pastel?

I like C2 Providence, which is a bit of a smoky lavender and would look dramatic and fun.

I need an area rug for my dining room. Our table without the leaf is 60x40; with the leaf in it is a square 60x60. We entertain at least once a month or more with the need for the leaf in the table. Do I buy a rug based on when the table has, or does not have, the leaf in it? And what are the general rules size-wise? How much room do I need to leave for chairs, etc? Many, many thanks for these chats! I pick up new ideas and tips every week!

Regardless of the dining table with or without the leaves, area rug shape and sizes are based on the perimeter/shape of the room not the furniture. The egenral rule is to have at least a foot of the floor showing between the edge of the walls and the rug. For example, if your dining room floors measure 10' x 13' you would go with a 9' x 12' rug. That's ideal but sometimes we do have slightly smaller or larger ones put in because of other considerations like the perfect rug which works beutifully with the colors and the patterns in the room is not exactly a foot away from the's a bit larger or smaller and that's fine as long as it works well in the room.

I want a muted, pale yellow for my living room walls. What are some of your favorites? I like Tallow and Dayroom Yellow by Farrow and Ball, but was hoping for something cheaper and in the middle :)

I like Benjamin Moore's Calming Cream (used it in my own dining room) which is close to F&B's Tallow. Also, try BM's palm coast pale.

use mirrors . . . and shiny silver accents!


Where's the best place to find an exotic, yet reasonably priced, front door? Do you recommend any online sites?

Exotic? Go to a architectural salvage place. In Richmond, there's Caravati's in Baltimore try Housewerks or Second Chance.

Totally agree that the roundness is what we need, not necessarily all the frill and corny-ness of a sunburst mirror. Off hand, would you have any recommendations for large round mirrors that are interesting but not suburst-y? Any online suggestions for where to look?

Made Goods has a great selection of mirrors. Also try Mecox Gardens. Personally, I prefer vintage and antique ones - try eBay and your local antique shops.

Raji - we really appreciate your taking the time to answer our questions. Loved all your tips. Everyone, keep watering those plants and putting out more water for your pets in this heat wave. See you next week.

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.

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Raji Radhakrishnan
Washington designer Raji Radhakrishnan, who owns Raji RM and Associates and runs the online gallery and shop Maison Et Toi, recently participated in New York's 2012 Kips Bay Decorator Show House.
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