Camille Saum on shopping in Bethesda and interior design | Home Front

Jul 18, 2013

Camille Saum is a Bethesda-based interior designer who has transformed commercial and residential spaces for over twenty years. Saum will answer questions about shopping in Bethesda and offer design tips.

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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Many of you are familiar with Bethesda interior designer Camille Saum. She has done so many beautiful homes and fabulous showhouse rooms. Let's get Camille to share some of her wisdom with us today. Thanks for being with us, Camille. And thanks to all of you for clicking in on this very very hot Thursday.

Where is the first place you go? Where should I start if I'm looking for a unique piece?

In Bethesda, I would start your search at Tone on Tone and Random Harvest. Tone on Tone has beautiful antiques and wonderful accessories. Random Harvest has wide selection both furniture accessories.  

Hi Camille, My living room does not get a lot of sun. The living room color is a blue/grey and it looks dark. Besides that my furniture is all dark wood. I have one ceiling light. Can you recommend a paint color to lighten the room. Should I buy slip covers to lighten my furniture and another lamp for the room? Thanks.

If you would like to brighten your walls, I would suggest painting them in a color similar to Farrow & Ball's pale powder and painting you ceiling in a soft yellow or coral. Instead of slip covers I would recommend having pillows made in a multiple of colors. Some of my favorites are chartreuse, coral and yellow.

Lighting is always very important. If you have only one overhead light then I would suggest purchasing to table lamps to sit on each end table.

Camille - What is your favorite white trim color paint?

Benjamin Moore, Mayonnaise and Farrow & Ball, Pointing are my two favorite trim colors.

Jura, last week Ronda Carman said that designer Kevin Sharkey painted an entire apartment (except for the kitchen) in a soft taupe...walls, ceilings, woodwork, everything. I'm considering doing the same thing. Can you recommend a soft taupe by Benjamin Moore?

What about Benjamin Moore's Grant Beige or Greenbrier Beige or Big Bend Beige.

You always use such beautiful fabrics in your rooms. I really love your skirted tables. How do you make them pouf so beautifully and look so full?

I add crinoline to all my silk table skirts. This gives them a very full quality. I have a my linen table skirts lined with a cotton flannel which gives them more body.

Hello! Thanks for taking my question! I would like to paint our living room fireplace and baseboards white. I'm not sure of the type of wood, but the finish is rather dark. Our living room doesn't get a lot of natural light throughout the day. I am hoping this could help to brighten up the space and it would compliment the paint color, which is like a grayish-violet (a suggestion that I got here from a guest host!) Would a white-white work well, or should we try a more subdued version of the color? Thanks!

I would suggest looking at the color Golden Blonde from Duron.

My house is such that the front door opens into the living room, and from that vantage point you can see through into the dining room (wide entryway between LR/DR). For this layout, what would make the most sense for paint colors?. One color throughout? Would complementary colors be too overwhelming?

Complementary color can certainly work. I would look at you fabrics in both rooms and choose soft colors that would work together. Also do not be afraid to use a light color on the ceiling!

Hello - thanks for all the great advice. We have to temporarily store a sofa in our garage while a family member comes to live with us. Do you have any suggestions on how to keep it free from insects and the occasional mouse that wanders into the garage? Not sure if this is doable, or should we consider selling it instead. Thank you.

This is a great question. Right now, I am storing an upholstered club chair I bought at a thrift shop on Cape Cod for $25 in our beach house shed! It isn't ideal, but since I am going to reupholster it, I decided to put it in there until I could haul it back in August. I covered it first with a towel and then with plastic. You could buy a roll of plastic dropcloth material and cover the whole sofa  before putting it in your garage. Of course in this heat, there is a chance of mold and mildew and bugs!!! Also mice could get into it if your garage is not totally sealed off. If your sofa is something you love and feel you will need again, you could try and store it there, but there is a chance it could be damaged. Is there a friend you could ask to temporarily give it a home either in a basement or a spare room? You also just might want to list it on Craigslist.

Hi Jura! I love your chats! I learn so much - thought you'd have some good advice on what to do with an old linoleum floor in our small front entryway mudroom that likely has asbestos, given the age of our home (1927). I would like to fix this area up, including the flooring, plus the idea of having this substance in our home kinda scares me. The floor is in pretty good shape overall, other than a few small tiles along the front door threshold that have come up, Would you suggest just putting the new flooring on top, or hiring a licensed contractor to remove it first? Or remove it ourselves? Thanks so much!

You have obviously given this a lot of thought. My first inclination would be have a professional get rid of this stuff for good, so you and other future owners of your house will not have to deal with asbestos issues. Do not try and remove it yourself.

Would this look strange or great? Living room has natural cherry (light) furniture & window /floor mouldings. Carpet & funiture are neutral. I found a great entertainment center from Peters-Revington/Chromcraft (Metropolitan) that only comes in a Chocolate Cherry finish (alder wood stained). Only other finish is oak which is just aweful. It would be the largest piece in the center of the room w/ the TV & electronic components in it. My husband loves it because it has glass doors and wire management raceways plus 2 storage cabinets. Would it be a nice contrast or just look uncooridated? I'm finding that affordable entertainment centers are either very cheap looking, not large enough or too large that they take up the whole room.

It is hard for me to give an opinion without seeing the space. I always reccommend that my client's walk away  then turn around quickly and listen to their gut reaction. If you love it then get it! If you unsure then don't buy it!

Camille: You work in Bethesda. What is your favorite place to eat there.

I like the Woodmount Grill and Passages of India. My associate designer like Jetties!

Hi, I have a beautiful but non standard size bed frame and use a futon in lieu of a mattress. The futon doesn't really fit that well and I'm considering having a custom mattress made. I don't want to spend a fortune, and don't need a box spring. I see custom mattress places online, but are they reliable? Any suggestions?

It has been many years since I have had a custom mattress made. It has been so long I wouldn't know were to start without doing research.

Your living room at the last DC Design House was gorgeous. How long does it take you to put a room like that together?

Show Houses are always easier to design. They take less time for me to create then when I am working with a client. My ideas often come to be in my dreams and then it take a quick visit to the Design Center for me to fully develop my concept.

Camille - What is a good store in DC to buy fine bed linens?

Abrielle Fine Linens & Lingerie on New Mexico Ave is my favorite place in the whole city. If you go, please let Ann know that I reccommended her.

Thank you for taking my question...we are on a short term schedule, what particular favorites would you suggest we hit? we like the vintage, rustic arena..

For vintage and rustic I would reccommend Tone on Tone and Urban Country.

I loved reading about the consignment stores in Bethesda. What other local consignment places should I be visiting?

Gallery St. Elmo and Capital Consignment.

Depending on the room, my walls are light aqua, deep aqua, honey mustard, etc. The house is a more modern style. The baseboards which are simple (3 inches with a curved molding on top) are painted white. If I paint them the same color as the wall, do I use satin based paint which is on the walls or a semigloss? Or perhaps paint them a shade of gray (but am trying to get away with as simple as possible).

I would try Benjamin Moore - Mayonnaise in a semi-gloss. You can always get a small sample to see what you think before painting all the trim. Make sure not use a latex paint over top an oil based paint. If you house is older the trim could have an oil based paint.

In general, it is often safer to encase asbestos than to remove it. Whatever you do, hire a pro and don't even think about attempting it youself!

Totally agreed.

Hi, this is really just suggestions that have worked very well for me - soft taupe throughout main part of my condo is BM Elephant Gray, and for the main bath, iceberg, a perfect blue/green/gray pastel paint that has a true spa feel, yet is warm.

Thank you!

What is your opinion of creating a whole house color scheme? As in, choosing 3-5 colors to decorate the entire house with (although possibly to different extents in different rooms). Are you pro or anti this idea? I've heard that it makes spaces and homes look bigger, and can make it easy to move your accessories and furniture around from room to room. But, I would also be fearful that the end result would be boring or not creatively fulfilling.

I believe that you need to measure you colors. Choose one strong color and have the rest be soft, if that suites your taste. You want the rooms to flow together and reflect your personality. I love color and take great in arranging colors that flow gracefully.

What could make Bethesda an even better shopping destination?

Here is my story from today Destination Design: Bethesda.

Bethesda has a great concentration of furniture consignment stores, a couple of furniture stores and some home accessories sources. It would be nice to have a few more antiques shops and maybe a bed and table linens shop. Design Within Reach is a nice source for modern design but it would be great to have a couple more stores that sell more contemporary pieces.



I want to change the color in my kitchen from a yellow faux with tan to a nice warm white to brighten to space. The kitchen also opens to the living room which is currently a light tan color with white trim. What would you recommend.

It would depend on what are the other colors in your kitchen: cabinate and counter tops? Without seeing you kitchen I would reccommend Golden Blonde by Duron. It is a nice white with a slight hint of yellow.

I wanted to second your mention of Capital Consignment on Cordell Ave. in Bethesda. I have purchased a number of pieces there when we moved into a larger home. Even though I don't really "need" anything now, I often pop in there just to check out what they have. The proprietor is very friendly -- she never seems to mind my "just looking around." And she always has bowls of M&Ms out!

Thanks so much for sharing your experience. The consignment stores in Bethesda have a really loyal clientele. When I was visiting them, lots of regulars came in and asked what was new. Clearly they get a lot of fresh merchandise and the pieces turn over quickly. If you like the thrill of the hunt, it's a good place to put on your regular foraging list.

Do get some estimates on professional removal, especially if your mudroom can be isolated from the rest of the house. I had a basement full of the stuff. It wasn't nearly as expensive as I expected, and took only one day. Most of what you are paying for is the set-up and testing the air afterwards. Not having the asbestos flooring around is a big relief (also I could finally get decent drains and waterproofing installed).

This is very helpful. Thanks. And yes, get several estimates and discuss the procedures in advance.

For our lower level (den and guest bedroom), my husband and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum. I want easy-to-clean tile. We have pets, and they sometimes can't help but go downstairs when nature calls. My husband wants something plush and soft underfoot - he wants low-pile wall-to-wall carpet. He is opposed to just using area rugs to achieve his desired softness underfoot. He is really into wall-to-wall carpet, despite my objections that vacuuming carpet is harder than using a Swifter on tile (e.g. to pick up pet fur). He says he wants our home to be "comfortable", and apparently that means wall-to-wall carpet to him. Do you have any ideas on how to resolve this extreme difference of preferences between us?

I would not reccommend tile for either room. Hardwood floors would be a nice solution for the hallway and guest bedroom. You could us area rugs over the hardwood to add confort and color. If you husband spends time in the den then I would say let him have his wall to wall carpeting. Wool is easier to clean and you should have it treated. Normandy Carpet Care Co. is who I reccommend to clean and treat any carpet and furniture.

What would you suggest to freshen up a mantle over a river rock fireplace? It looks great in the winter, but it needs a cooler feel during these summer months. Catherine Chevy Chase, MD

I would keep it simple. Find two tall (no more then 10") vases that fit the width of the mantel and compliment the room. You can then switch out flowers throughout the summer that contrast the vases and add more color to the room.

Hello! We are in the process of ridding ourselves of the very old, very stained cream/beige carpet that lines our stairs, hall,and all bedrooms. Our first floor has two types of high quality faux wood laminate that came with the house (along with the carpet). It is in great condition and will not be replaced. We are trying to decide what to do about the stairs, hall, and bedroom. We have a dog and two small kids. Previous owners installed the laminate as they had four dogs and it is completely scratch proof. Preference is for dark real wood, but will it be destroyed by dog claws? Also, do we need to match the flooring choice throught the bedrooms and hall, or can we make different color choices between rooms? Does it matter that there is laminate on the first floor? I know NOTHING about flooring (other than Flor tiles from these chats...installing in the basement based on your many recommendations).

Do you have dogs? If you do, you do not want any sort of dark finish. I think it would look best if you continued the laminate throughout your house matching it as best as possible.

For the poster who asked what could make Bethesda a better shopping destination -- better parking. It's truly a pain to drive to Bethesda.


Hello - love your chats. I am having a difficult time deciding on outdoor furniture. We recently built a large deck - a five year goal. Husband got a great new grill, and I get to purchase a glider. I have decided to go with polywood as there is no cover from the elements. I can't however, decide on a color. Deck is a lot wood, obviously. We are looking at either mahogany or dark green. We live in a wooded area and our house is earth tone (orangey/cream) brick. Would mahogany be too matchy and potentially compete with the wood? Is green to limiting? Ugh, big cost, can't make a decision. Help from someone with a designer eye would be helpful. Also, do designers ever design for decks?

Yes, I have done some really fun designs for decks in the past. Depending on the color of deck wood; I would go neutral. Putty is a nice neutral shade or maybe a olive green.

Can you recommend a place to have slip covers dyed in the DC area (preferably Bethesda/ NW DC)? Will a dry cleaners do this? Thank you.

I have never found a place that does this. Does anyone out there have any ideas?

I have enjoyed answering everyone's questions. I wish we had time to answer more. Thank you for having me. If you are in Bethesda and your sweet tooth cries out be sure to stop by Georgetown Cup Cake! Have a wonderful day!

Thank you so much for being with us today, Camille. Great job of answering a lot of very different questions about design and decorating and Bethesda. And thanks you all for being with us today. Hope everyone's AC is working great.

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
Camille Saum
Camille Saum is head of Camille Saum Interior Design, based in Bethesda. She has transformed commercial and residential spaces for over twenty years, and her work has been featured in The Washington Post, Traditional Home, Potomac Life, Home & Design, Decorator’s Show House, and Walls and Windows and more.
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