Home Front: Design advice from Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza.

Jul 14, 2011

Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza gave advice on interior decorating and home improvement.

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Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining our chat today. Our Local Living cover story today is about a young designer, Lauren Liess, who turned ugly and dated house into a jewel in six months. If you haven't read it, check it out. If you have read it, let us know what you think about the transformation.

Okay, let's get started.

I'm confused by the results of today's design makeover--where's the dining section of the room? The person requested a living and dining space and the designer only used a lucite coffee table. Is the person expected to eat on the coffee table?

I've received several emails about this today.

Because the room was so large, we couldn't show the entire space in the illustration without losing most of the detail. Instead, we focused on one side of the room, the living area. If  you read "The Solution," we note this by saying  "dining area not shown."

Good Morning! My mom is coming in for a week-long visit tomorrow and she wants to go visit the design districts in the area. I already took her up and down 14th Street in DC, so I was wondering if you can point me in the directions of other areas in Maryland and Virginia. I have a car so transportation isn't an issue.

How fun you will be shopping with your mom. Yould should definitely head to Georgetown where the first Wet Elm Pop Up shop opens today, right near a CB2 and the wonderful Cady's Alley across the street with shops such as Waterworks and Alessi. If your mom likes designer fabrics go to Haute in Georgetown too. Plus all the places  such as Amano on Book Hill up Wisconsin Ave. Alexandria's King Street is also a great place to stroll design stores. What else do you guys suggest?

Love the story on Lauren Liess' decorating style and her entry way. Question: Would you recommend seagrass on the steps? I am worried about slipping, and durability. Also, If I decide to go that route, where should I look for the carpet and install?

I can't personally recommend seagrass on stairs because I have never gone that route. But I specifically asked Lauren these questions because I hear conflicting reports from people about seagrass as a stair runner. Lauren claims that she has never had an issue with the runner being slippery and gives it high marks in durabiity.

Other designers  say the same thing about using natural fiber rugs on stairs, but I have also heard just as many people say that it's a bad idea for the reasons you mention. You can find seagrass and sisal at any carpet store. If you decide to look, ask the salesperson their opinion, too. 

We are adding a white subway tile wainscot to our bathroom, and we're trying to decide between white and light grey grout. Any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks.

It just depends if you want the tile design to stand out or not. White grout will blend in with the tile; gray grout will make the tile shape stand out more.

If you're thinking about white tile on the floor as well, I would definitely go with a grout color other than white.

I am replacing a laminate countertop with granite (blue Pearl), I have white appliances. I would like to paint the cabinets white. Could you help me with a white color since there are so many whites in the paint chip selections I get overwhelmed.

I think that the Benjamin Moore Super White would be a fresh clean white to use.

I am looking for a shade of chartreuse paint that would be pleasant in my daughter's south-facing bedroom. I have seen it in people's houses, but I can't track down the name of the shade, and I am terrible at estimating the intensity of paint color by the chips, plus the choices are overwhelming. The color is a lovely green-yellow - knocked down with some gray, i think - it's not intensely bright or deep. Is there a go-to chartreuse that designers use?

Churlish Green by Farrow & Ball is one that designers do like. Also Benjamin Moore Lemon Freeze.

Good morning. I am posting early in hopes you will take my question. I have a non skirted PB sofa and over it I have centered a sunburst mirror (also PB). The mirror is not big enough to carry the wall but I just can't seem to figure out what I should put on either side. I decided against sconces since I won't ever actually light the candles but I am open to any wonderful idea(s) you and the chatters can suggest. Thanks so much.

How about a pair of smaller, similar sunburst mirrors? Or  framed artwork. Depending on the size of your mirror, you could do one frame on either side, or two, hanging them vertically.

Thanks for the lead on fabric stores in VA. Found beautiful remnants of fabrics for furniture coverings. Great prices too.

Great. Thanks for letting us know.

I really enjoyed the story on Lauren Liess's house makeover. I think that's the first time I've ever really liked the objects I've seen in a designer's home. I like the fact that she lives in the kind of house that many of us have, and not in some super-expensive condo in DC or a horse farm way out in Virginia. In fact, the house next door to me is exactly the same house she has--I feel I should send the new owners her website for inspiration. I was hoping she'd be a guest on today's chat!

Yes, I agree on all points. Lauren's style is definitely relatable and inspirational at the same time. We would have loved to have her on the chat today, but she's in Puerto Rico for a family wedding - lucky girl!

Thanks for writing. Glad you enjoyed the story.

I just have to say that I think the Liess family have created one of my very favorites ever! Having spent 30+ years in the design/home furnishings industry, I have seen so many people treat the process as a heavy burden...so sad! Just shows that love and an adventurous spirit are the most important assets, regardless of budget!

Agreed! The Liesses definitely posess lots of spirit. They were fun to work with, too. It's always nice to witness  someone's hard work paying off.

Any thoughts on good looking storage options for cd's in a den? There's always IKEA, but looking for something a bit more upscale looking.

This is always such a difficult solution. These things take up so much space to store in a room and you want it to look stylish.  Check out the websites of the Container Store, stacksandstacks.com, and Crate & Barrel has some nice media towers.

I'd like to replace the old stone (marble?) around my fireplace with concrete. I've tried Concrete Jungle -- twice -- without a call back. Any other ideas?

Distressing. Try www.browns-services.com

I have a 10 gallon aquarium in my living room - is this a design taboo?

It's your home. If  you love it, then it works.

What about Kensington's Antiques Row, if you're into antiques? Also, I'm looking for fabric for curtains for my toddler's new room. What weight fabric should I be looking for? (I'm not looking for sheers, but we don't need the super-heavy duty blackout weight, either, as she's a pretty good sleeper - knock on wood.)

Kensington is another choice, yes, mainly for antiques. For fabeics for a toddler's room, why not do a fun print? You might want to head out to DeBois Textiles in Baltimore for some good buys on modern fabrics.

Wow! I didn't know you could paint the surface of appliances. I thought you were just stuck with what you bought. How do you go about painting a dishwasher and fridge like in the Liess's kitchen?

According to Lauren, she used the exact same semi-gloss paint she used on the cabinets and did no special prep, she just painted.

I would like to have a ceiling fan on my front porch. The porch is completely enclosed on all sides but one, so it is pretty well protected from rain and snow. Can you recommend any websites or manufacturers who make decent fans?

I did an article on ceiling fans a few weeks ago. Make sure you get a damp-rated fan to use on your front porch. 

Hello, I just bought a new mattress and box spring from a chain and when it arrived OH MAN was the bed high! I'm an average height female and my feet hover about 6 inches off the floor when I sit on the bed. Is this normal? Should I consider a platform bed or should I get taller nightstands? Or is there a way to raise the height of my existing nightstands by making the legs longer somehow? THANK YOU!! Also - advice to other readers - get the LOW PROFILE box spring - I got the low profile and I cannot imagine how upset I'd be right now if I hadn't - with the regular height box spring I'd 5 MORE inches above the ground!!

Yes. Mattresses these days are a bit scary. They are so puffed up and down-filled and all, that you almost need a ladder to hop in. I would say, dump your old nightstands and look for something old at a consignment shop or flea market. They don't have to match you know. Make sure you measure the height you need and carry the numbers around with you in your phone. Good advice about the low-profile box springs.

This will be a big project, but download them all to your computer. No more storage problems. If you don't want to do that yourself, hire a teenager to do it. And for the chatter who posted about the aquarium, I think they're great in a room--adds a lot of life and movement. Kids love them.

Downloading all of them is a huge job. It gives me angst just thinking about it. Yes, it would eliminate storage problems.....

Get rid of the jewel cases, put them in notebooks by classification (rock, classical, jazz, etc.) and store them on a bookcase like any other book. To have all the cases out on display just looks trashy/messy and you are wasting storage space. Several nice leather bound notebooks would look better. Stay away from IKEA and use what you have not new particle board mdf stuff that will not last and will look cheap!

So true! Thanks, great ideas.

Hi, guys--love the chats. I bought a Mitchell Gold sofa and two slipcovers about 10 years ago at the now defunct (and much missed) Storehouse. My two cats have shredded the textured one that hides pet hair, leaving me with a rather outdated tomato twill that seems to be a hair magnet. Suggestions, please on how to find a new slipcover, what type/color to buy, and/or how to battle the hair on the current red fabric. Thanks much!

You know, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams usually can provide a new slipcover if you give them the style number or description of your sofa. Go to their website.

In our bath, we have the same white subway tile mentioned in the post , and we went with gray grout. It looks really sharp: picks up the veining in marble, ties in well with nickel finishes we used elsewhere, and is far more forgiving to keep clean than white grout. We really love it.

sounds lovely. thanks for the tip.

My daughter in NYC asked me where to look for bar/counterstools that are reasonably comfortable (with backs and cushions). Does anyone have any suggestions where to look online or stores here (she could visit store and her mother!) or in NYC? Any suggestions gratefully accepted. Thanks.

CB2 has a great selection of barstools at reasonable prices. Anyone else have ideas?

I would look at Southwest Zia wall decorations. They would be something nice and different. You could put one on either side of the sunburst to offset the mirror symmetrically.

Another suggestion for the sunburst mirror wall. thanks.

Good morning, Ladies! I desperately need your help -- I can't stand looking at the ugly 1960's-era woodtone paneling in my family room any longer! I'd hoped to be tearing it down and putting up drywall, but due to budgetary concerns, that will have to wait. So, for now, I'm limited to painting over it, until I can do the rest. Hey, every little bit helps, right? I have no idea of what color family to paint it. The room is very blah at the moment -- neutral tan wall-to-wall carpet, dark brown leather sofa and ottoman, which will both be staying. (The carpet will also go when the budget allows, but alas not yet.) I do have some smoky aqua/turquoise/teal-ish on the throw pillows and in some of the art work, so that's the accent color I'm starting with. But I don't have a clue where to go from here. The kids will be gone this weekend/this upcoming week, so it would be a great time to paint! Any ideas/suggestions would be greatly appreciated! If you can even point me to some general color families that might work, I can take it from there. thanks!

You space and furniture sounds very neutral, so I think any color you choose would work.  If you like the color of the throw pillows, use them as your starting point to look for paint.  

If her taste is contemporary, she should go to Jensen-Lewis in Chelsea. Seems like the kind of thing that's better bought in New York than having to deal with shipping from here to there.

Good point.

I love the place, but do take note: if you are looking at the drapery and upholstery remnants, check every square inch for damage/flaws before buying a piece. It's a real bummer to get home with a length and find a printing glitch or a pulled thread right in the middle of it. The sales staff will not be offended by your checking carefully.

Terrific advice. Thanks.

Check out the Hipce CD storage options (either on line or at Container Store). You do have to get rid of the jewel cases, but the storage units are small, cleanly designed, and hold a lot of CDs.

Will do.

Since the sunburst doesn't fill the space, I would consider an asymmetrical arrangement - move the sunburst over and hang a couple of pieces of art next to it on one side, or keep it in the middle, but make the hangings on each side different. In this type of arrangement, I also like mixing art "types," e.g., sunburst plus framed piece plus something else non-rectangular, like embroidered art still in its hoop or a vintage sign or vintage letterblock or number. Or even a print hung with a clip instead of a frame.


may be forgiving but it also does not last as long as white. SEAL THE GROUT - very important or you will have problems down the road. Seal it every year or two. Same with marble and granite - take care and seal it properly. I have seen way too many granite countertops in poor condition due to negligence by owners. I am in real estate - l know. Cheap granite and badly maintained granite are deal breakers.

Cheap granite is indeed a bad scene.

I'd look at Crate and Barrel. Great selection, lots of color options in the leather stools with backs.


For some good tips and a "How to" visit www.younghouselove.com and look for their recent foray into painting the paneling in their kitchen. The Petersiks (who run YHL) were guests several weeks ago on this chat and that's how I found out about them...now I'm addicted to their blog (along with a few thousand others...) Definitely read. There were some good do's and don't's about painting paneling in that post.

Gotta love those Petersiks. If you haven't already, definitely check out their blog. Thanks.

We're out of time. Thanks for joining us. Chat with you next week.

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.

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Terri Sapienza
Terri Sapienza is a staff writer for The Washington Post.
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