Home Front: Design ideas from Jura Koncius

Jul 08, 2010

Washington Post Local Living section writer Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss.

Good morning everyone.  Jura is on vacation this week so I'm filling in for her. Luckily, I have a great guest to help me answer questions: Barbara Jacksier, the author of the book "Waterside Cottages."

We're planning a kitchen remodel with white cabinets and quartzite countertops, which look like marble but more gray. We're looking for a neutral green, medium to light in intensity, for the walls. Thanks for your help!

Benjamin Moore Acadia Green (2034-50) is a very serene green that is great for a kitchen. For a lighter more seafoam effect, try BM's Surf Green (2036-60).

Other than Home Depot, Lowes, Dulles and Dominion Electric can anyone give me any other places to shop(online as well) for ceiling fans that are decent quality but won't break the budget. I have seen fans at the places listed above but I am not quite sold and I would hate to settle for something but at this point I am tired of looking. This is a fan for a master bedroom and no I can't just settle on lighting because my husband says we must have fan as we have no air circulation in the room. Thanks

I really like the fans at Restoration Hardware. I also recommend Shades of Light.

Hello- love the column, you have helped my home decorating in so many ways. I know that grey has become the new go-to neutral, replacing beige. But my living room has been grey for 10 years and I'm ready for a change. We have a lot of original artwork for color, so I want the walls to be a neutral - but not grey again. And beige/off white is so ho-hum. Any suggestions?

How about a greige, a combination grey/beige? Elizabeth Mayhew, the editor of Women's Day magazine, likes Benjamin Moore #1528, Early Morning Mist.

I have looked at Target, Walmart, Home Goods, Kohls, Bed Bath, Marshall's, Pier 1 for pillows......I am looking for specific colors so I understand that is generally hit or miss .....can anyone suggest any other store (brick or internet).....thank you.

I will throw out Ikea, Pottery Barn and Wisteria. But I know chatters have far better ideas. Please weigh in!

I love Coney Island. Not a design question, but I wonder what you think of this new Astroland?

I actually grew up in Brooklyn and went to high school in Coney Island!

I am looking for a contractor to help us with extending our stone patio and also putting in a retaining wall. Does any one have a recommendation? Thank you!

Let's see if chatters can help out with this one: any favored stone contractors out there?

Why can't the homeowner put her bed on the long wall beside the door? That woud eliminate the need to remove a window -- an expensive operation involving matching the exterior cladding (brick, hardie board, stucco or whatever) and perhaps creating an imbalanced facade.

House Calls: Redecorating a bedroom

That is a good question. I don't know.

Hi--Love your column, I wait for it every week. Hate it when there is too much pet info though. Kay in Colorado

Kay in Colorado tell me more! Did last week's chat talk about pets too much?

I live in a brownstone with 12 foot ceilings and a large bay window in the living room and the original chandelier in the center of the room. I love to read, and I love the way the chandelier looks, but those special bulbs give hardly any light. Another problem is that I can't have floor lamps because of two hyperactive kitties. How do I get more reading light?

What about small, recessed lights throughout the room? That's what I did in my living room, after years of not having enough light to read. No matter how many floor and table lamps, it still was too dark. Now I sit in there every night and read my newspaper.

I am having to replace my laminate kitchen floor due to water damage and am considering Formica laminate or Congoleum Duraplank. Would you recommend either and if not what would you recommend. Also, I have a lot of buckling of my 7 year old nylon carpet. Is this from poor installation or the carpet>

Sounds like you've got water damage that's affected both your kitchen floor and carpet. Before you buy any flooring, please make sure you've fixed your water issues. If you feel confident you have, my recommendation is wood in the kitchen. It's easy to clean and very long-lasting.

I have a two-story staircase that does not have natural light. I'm interested in painting it BM Stampede 979 (a darkish brown color.) The wall will have white ceramic wall hangings, framed with white fabric on either side. Is the color too dark for a staircase? I'm not sure if it will be dramatic or just silly. Help ,please!

Too dark!

The chatter could ocntact a local supplier of the product they want to use (Bricks, El Dorado Stone, etc.) and ask for some recommendations for masons

Good idea, thanks.

I think I asked this before but its going to happen this weekend so I really need help!! I have a Crate and Barrel coffee table circa 1990's and the top is starting to look really sad. I love the piece however and want to save it. Its a light wood piece and I was thinking about painting just the top a dark brown. My boyfriend insists that we need a belt sander but I think that might just be an excuse to use a fun toy - but is he right? Or can we just sand it with elbow grease and good sandpaper? It has just a clear finish on the wood. Also do we need a special kind of paint since it will be a table top that will get a fair amount of wear? Thanks so much - love the chats

I've suceeded with elbow grease (my husband's not my own, except for the finishing touches) but a belt sander would make quicker work of the job. Start with coarse grade sandpaper then progress to finer ones. I would recommend several coats of exterior paint. It holds up well to moisture.

Hi folks


Sorry I'm late. Technical problems! I've suceeded with elbow grese (my husband's not mine., except for finishing touches, but if your bf wants one, splurge. If working by hand start with a course grade of sandpaper, then proced with finer ones.  I've had good luck with exterior paint.

I was thinking the same thing, only I would put the bed on the wall next to the french doors. It's hard to tell without seeing the entire window, how bad it is to keep it.

I agree, hard to know about the window.

What is the palest blue-green color for a medium size bathroom -- a color that reflects the color of water (sea glass??)

Behr's Coastal Mists is a great pale for a small bath.

I have very heavy-footed upstairs neighbors - unfortunately, their kitchen is over my bedroom (great apartment design, right?) The landlord has offered to foot the bill for solving the problem if I can come up with something that might help. I hear that cork flooring is very sound absorptive. Do you think that would help, and do you think that it would be acceptable flooring for a kitchen? Any other ideas?

I love cork flooring for a kitchen. It's the choice for a lot of professional chefs because it is soft on the feet.

Or they could keep the room configuration and create a faux window to the right of it with more contemporary curtains and shades. I hate to give up natural light when you have that option.

Another good point....I'm so glad everyone reads House Calls!!!!

I live in NYC but my heart is in Maine.....how can I bring the peace and serenity I feel on my mere one week Maine vacation each summer to my late Victorian-era city brownstone row-house?

I'd start with serene colors- pale blue greens or peach and minty shades. But, cool textures and carefully edited clutter are also essential.

Just finished tiling our 9' x 12' sun porch. Any suggestions for furnishing such a tiny space?

I have a screened-in patio that is about 11 feet square. I have four cushioned chairs and a cocktail table and that's it! It's not cramped at all.

If you had to choose just a few items to create the perfect coastal decorating look as demonstrated in Waterside Cottages, what would they be? What are your personal favorites!

I'm a pale color person and I hate kitsch. I'd use a few shells, lots of white and pale ocean colors and some other accents, such as glass insulators and fabrics that create a soft look. Nothing jarring is my motto.

We love the beach (although we live in a 1945 not huge Arlington home) and I've made the theme of our upstairs landing beach oriented along with the hall bathroom. I have an old skimboard that I've worked out a way to hang and am sorting out where it should go. Maybe on the upper landing or maybe landscape above the tile in the shower or partially behind the towel rack hanging portrait style? A bit nontraditional but isn't hanging a skimboard untraditional to begin with. This is one that we found on the beach in TX (it's a bit damaged on the back but looks great on the front) and lugged it home just because I thought it would look great in our house. Thanks for any thoughts.

I like it on a landing. You really can't put furniture there so a nice piece of art or in your case a skimboard (!) fits perfectly.

Get a good little hand size sander. There are some that are round but i prefer the ones with a bit of point to them. A nice one will only run you less than 30 dollars and they usually come with a good sample of sandpaper. I would also Prime after you sand. Not only does it help the paint stick better but you can see any lumpy or uneven areas before you put your paint down.

Nice tip, thanks.

I spent hours on the Internet yesterday looking for a TV stand in distressed, sea glass colors. I found some options, but the prices were more than I'm willing to pay. Can you recommend sources for this type of furniture that don't approach four figures, or must I DIY?

I searched for the same thing for years. I finally gave in bought one on Craigs List for $12 and refinished it. I used a buttermilk white with a crackle finish. Undertones in pale blue and creamier beige.

Are there different styles that work best for ceiling fans in bedrooms vs. family rooms? Other than the light vs. no light decision, what else is indicative of a fan appropriate for one room rather than another. I seem to have made a mistake in having a ceiling fan installed in my bedroom that looks a bit too big and grand for my rather average sized bedroom in my N. Arlington home. What should I look for to avoid this problem in the future? Appreciate the help on this. May be obvious to others but not sure how I missed this in the store. Thanks!

In my mind, the two issues in choosing a ceiling fan are whether it has light and how big it is. If you see one you like, get the dimensions and mark them with tape on your ceiling. That's the best way to know if it's going to work.

Would wide plank heart pine be o.k. in a home on the coast? I really like the 10"+ plank floors but the installer I'm working with is trying to convice me other wise.

I love the idea, but I'm curious: What does the installer recommend?

I have a strange question for you. I have a friend that is redoing her kitchen and needs help picking paint and cabinet colors. The floors are pine. The part that makes the color choice hard is all her kitchen accessories are John Deere items. She has been collecting for years and wont give them up. What can you suggest for colors to match John Deere Green and Gold?

Anything in the straw or palest yellow might tone down the classic Deere colors while at the same time providing a nice backdrop. Try Benj Moore Antiquity (OC-107) or Sherman Williams Lemon Chiffon for starters.

Might not be helpful, depending on your style, but there are some great ones at 10,000 Villages in Old Town. Think this is an often-underlooked resource for decoratives reasonably priced (and in my view, good for the globe). No connection except as a customer. Also, more corporate and again trending to a certain style, but Crate and Barrel also possibility, (and they have an outlet in Old Town as well)

Excellent resource, thanks.

My husband and I have a variety of home improvement projects going on. He is very capable and talented so the finished results are great, but it takes forever to actually finish a project (we both work full time.) We're doing a massive overhaul on the basement and I'm worried it will be years before it's done. Any advice for staying on task for larger projects?

A timetable that you both agree on is a good idea. Then add rewards-- his favorite dinner when he finishes step one, a nice weekend away when he finishes step five, etc. How could he resist?

What is your best tip for eveyone who wants a beach themed room or home that won't break the bank? Besides paint, what else would be the best way to achieve the look of living on the beach - no sand please!

Well I'm a big fan of white cotton slipcovered furniture. But for more resources, please go to a story we did in the late, great Home section about getting the beach look by Terri Sapienza. Hoping our producer can post the story for you guys. It has several great suggestions.

I have a lot of shells - starfish, sand dollars, etc. I want to use them around my coastal home but don't want it to look like a sea food restaurant. What is the best way to decorate with shells looking classy but not kitsch? And what do you think of Behr color Eucalyptus Green for an aqua-y wall color? thank you

First of all the Behr Eucalyptus is very pretty. I like to group shells in a few (3) glass jars for small tables and add them to larger bowls surrounding with candles or a vase of flowers of beach glass. To avoid that restaurant look, group the shells together instead of strewing them.

Help. I need to carpet our TV room and I have two small children. I know nothing about carpet. What's the best style, brand, texture, value, etc.?? The room has a fireplace if it makes a difference! Thanks!

I'd choose lo-pile with a stain resistant guarantee. An inexpensive area rug might be a btter choice than wall to wall as it can be replaced more economically if needed.

We are looking at replacing the old vinyl in our kitchen with something else. We're assuming vinyl is no longer a good open if we've "upgraded' out counter tops to granite from formica. Hardwood just seems like a horrible idea for a kitchen (especially if you've ever experienced a plumbing problem in your kitchen). Is tile now too 80's? What else are people using in new homes these days. We are looking to sell in a few years so want something thta will appeal to buyers. Thanks.

I have to say I really like wood, which is what I have in my kitchen. If you're looking to sell your house in a few years, I think wood is the best choice. But I recommend calling 3 real estate agents and asking them.

Hello! I need a new lamp for our den. It doesn't get much light due to trees. Currently we have a floor lamp, but it is really ugly. It does, however, give off great light. It is the only light in the room, and really, it is the only place in the room where we can have a lamp. I'm looking for a table lamp that gives off excellent light to replace it. Do you have any ideas? Thanks.

A multi-watt lamp that goes up to 250 or 300 (one bulb, three wattages) or a Veriluxe (expensive, but in my opinion worth it, might help.

Recently re did my small master bath, small only 5x 8 ft with a walk in shower. Shower and half wall behind the commode are carrera marble, floor is covered in a retro looking hexagon marble with small black squares. I am hoping for help with the rest of the bare walls - currently white. Also white painted vanity. Right now too much marble and white over load - or just add splash of color with new towels and a picture? Any suggestions. Oh there in no window and the room is quite small.

I think small bathrooms are best in white. Add color, as you suggest, with art and towels. They are so much easier to switch out as trends change...

What are some great resources for finding accessories and shells if you cant make it to the beach?

I'm a fan of www.skipjackmarinegallery.com  and www.cottagesandbungalows.com.

There is sound-absorptive drywall--I think it is called "Quiet Rock" or something like that and you could have that installed in on your ceiling, maybe over some foam insulation.

another good idea...

Are there any awesome places to shop for decorative items in Clifton? Kscheer

Filigree Home and Interiors is a new addition on Main street that I like to browse. You never know what you'll find.

I love the look of crown moulding to finish a room. My bedroom has tall 9+ celings - however they are not even. The celing slopes down in the L shaped room. And there is a "bump out" where the 2 small rooms were combined into one. Question - What can i do to give the space a more finished look?

Sounds like mouldings might be tough to piece together. Have you considered a wallpaper border? There are lots of really subtle ones. They are easy to apply in a couple of hours.

I have found some great choices at pillowdecor.com!

Another source for pillows...

Overstock, or my absolute favorite: etsy!!

And more!

Hello! We are getting ready to completely re-do our kitchen and are considering medium-dark wood cabinets for the uppers, and white cabinets for the lowers (it's an L-shaped kitchen and the countertops will be white quartz). Would this be too strange?

Yes. Why do dark on top?

I've had good luck going to stores and looking at placemats... then opening a small portion of the seam and stuffing them. Very quick, much cheaper than the average throw pillow these days, AND often a much wider selection. Just have to check the ease with which you can get into the seam.

A crafty solution!

The height of your ceiling and the "height" of your fan. It took me forever to find a fan that worked in my low-ceiling basement that didn't make it weird for tall people.

YES! You're totally right.

Hi, I am trying to pick a color for a small kitchen in my condo. The cabinets are a medium honey brown, countertops are black granite with flecks, appliances are stainless steel. So, your basic DC condo setup. I think I might need a relatively light/bright color to handle all of the darkness in there already. Is that right? Any thoughts?

How about something perky such as mango or lime? It would create a fun friendly look that you can amplify with a few accessories.

I am stumped for a window treatment for my daughter's beachy bedroom. Her walls are painted Ben Moore Buxton Blue, reduced by 50% with white trim. Any suggestions? Privacy is a big issue, neighbors are very close. Thank you!

White wood blinds? Roman shades in a beachy print?

I have two symetrical windows in my media room- my husband wants curtains - I want wooden or fabric shades- drapes seem like they will be too formal and too little window for the length- cafe curtains to kitcheny- he is being pretty stubborn he feels shades will look to much hotel like- help me.

If price isn't a concern, wooden blinds add a hint of luxury to a media room.

If You Can't Have a Beach Cottage ... Bring the Beach to Your House

Great story but not the one I'm thinking of.

I have a morning room with a center 65 inch wide window surrounded by four 48 inch windows plus a patio door. I need help with what to put on the windows to keep the blazing summer sun out. Ten years ago when we moved in i made valances then put a roller shade under the valance. You dont see them unitl you need to pull them down. But i want to get rid of the valances. Can you all recommend a window treatment that wont break the bank?

Sounds like you hit on the right combo but that it may be time to freshen the look. For 2010, shorter tailored valences are 'in' paired with eye-catching rods.

Here's the linhttp://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/artsandliving/homeandgarden/features/2008/just_beachy/gallery.htmlk for beach accessories story:


I'm spending the weekend at a friend's beach house and I'm looking for hostess gift with a nautical (but not a tacky nautical) theme. Can you suggest something I can order online?

Blue-green float balls or sailor's knot coasters are always in good taste.

Removing the window would be expensive and leave the room without much natural light. Why not embrace the asymmetry and move the bed to the wall next to the window? Or add some whimsical artwork about the same size as the window to balance it?

Another good choice.

Is wood flooring better for coastal decorating? What types of throw rugs would you use?

I like wood or tile. Consider seagrass and other natural fibers rugs. The cotton rugs by Dash and Albert also are great.

My living room is painted a pale yellow. Now, I'd like to add some blue accents. What kind of blues would work best? Can I mix light and dark ones?

Mixing will work as long as you stick to blues in the same family. Grayer blues and yellow say Country. Paler and aqua ones say 'beach'. For beautiful results, choose one or the other, then vary the shades within that type.

YES! Thank you Rocci for posting this story with great ideas for beach accessories.

I just wanted to share with y all that it is a statistic that 40% of all colors chosen for home painting is the wrong color. In other words make sure to use those sample small quantities of paint and do a sample swatch on the wall a two to three foot square area before all the detail edging work. Thank you for taking my comment.

Great comment.

Anyone have any suggestions for internet sources for some of those white cotton slipcovers that were recommended?

Check Overstock.com. They were on sale last time I shopped.  And they are always in stock at Surefit.com

I love the beach look, and have added new blue curtains, sisal rug, white slipcovered chairs, and plenty of "beachy" accessories (beach painting, shell lamp, shells, etc.) to my living room. It all goes together, but looks way too much like a Pottery Barn catalog. Are there things you could suggest I add in (after subtracting the cliche shell lamp) that give off a beachy vibe but don't scream "beach?"

Pare your accessories down. White slipcovers and sisal are classics that work anytime, anywhere.

I hated all the fans I saw in the stores, but needed a ceiling fan because the room was stuffy. I searched the internet and bought from http://www.delmarfans.com/ Had an electrician install it, and it's been wonderful so far as I'm concerned. My style (simple) and works great. They have a lot of choice.

Another good resource, thanks for sharing.

Hi. I'm going for a beachy look in my bedroom, but I don't necessarily want it to look like a room in a beach house. I'm on a limited budget, so I can't replace any of my furniture just yet. I have dark wood rustic furniture, some art in white frames and a light blue quilt and pillow shams. My walls and floors are neutral beige, trim is white. I need to get rid of my wrought iron lamps, add a headboard, and add some more accessories. Any tips? Thanks.

Don't dump anything. Invest in some white paint, bamboo lampshades and give it a try.

The writer with the carpet that is buckling probably just needs to have a carpet installer come in and restretch it. Carpet does stretch out after a couple of years. The writer with young children looking for carpeting might want to consider the carpeting made of recycled soda bottles. Good for the environment, and anything spilled on it wipes right up!

OOOh--great idea. Thanks.

What other creative ways can you display shells besides putting them on a table and what is a good source for buying shells and accessories if you cant get to the beach?

Lots of questions about shells today. So here are a few more ideas. I like shell garlands, and gluing them to mirror frames and flowerpots.

Thanks so much to Barbara for helping me answer questions. I'm sorry we didn't have time to answer them all. Have a good week.

In This Chat
Liz Seymour
Liz Seymour is editor of the Local Living section of The Washington Post
Barbara Jacksier
Barbara Jacksier, who lives in Clifton, Va., has become an expert on beach style, after growing up near Coney Island and writing many articles on living by the water. Last year, she published a book, "Waterside Cottages," that defines the elements of coastal decorating.
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