The Washington Post

Angel Dormer, style manager of color, concept, print and pattern at West Elm, joined the weekly chat.

Jul 21, 2011

Angel Dormer, style manager of color, concept, print and pattern at West Elm, joined Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza in a weekly chat about interior decorating and home improvement.

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Excited to have Angel Dormer design manager of West Elm with us today. Angel is part of the team that gives West Elm that distinctive look. I visited the new West Elm pop-up store in Georgetown last week and was really impressed with the bed linens, pillows and lamps.  You know it's the first pop up for West Elm anywhere. So let's talk with Angel now.

I have the material for new curtains, but need to find someone to make simple curtain panels. Any thoughts or suggestions on how to best do this?


I also am having that same issue! I have older windows that are not standard size and need some roman shades made. I keep putting it off! I think i would start by asking friends if they know of a seamstress. Another thought is to have a reputable dry-cleaner sew them, it would be up to you to give them the correct measurements. You could also do a google search in your area to see if there is anyone.  good luck!! At least you have the fabric chosen!!

Thanks for participating, Angel - I love West Elm! Is it possible to order discontinued items, such as slipcovers for sofas, from West Elm?

HI! I am so sorry to tell you that right now West Elm does not have discontinued slip covers for the sofa's. It is tricky to keep things in stock after several seasons. There are universal slip covers sold in some department stores or you could always get an upholsterer to make you a custom fit one.

Hi All! I love the faded turquoise blue doors you see in Latin America and other geographical areas. I'd like to try to replicate it with my tall garden gate and my back door here in Colorado, but when I try paint on a board at home, it is just too baby blue. The second color I brought home is dark teal, don't like it either. Any color suggestions? Maybe I need a special application method to make it look faded? Any color or method suggestions are much appreciated...

What a cool idea. You might try Benjamin Moore Cool Aqua. You might mix in a little white paint to make it look more faded.

I so enjoyed today's article on Virtue Feed and Grain. I always wondered why your section doesn't spotlight more interior design in local restaurants, hotels, etc., and this was a great example of the fantastic design happening in our area that the public can enjoy. Meshelle is impressive. Well done.

I second that! I personally would love to write more about restaurant design, which seems to be a hot topic in our town this summer. Don't miss the piece today. The author  Megan Buerger is producing this chat and is a great writer. Here is her article.

I am searching for a filing cabinet for our guest room/study but most of the options out there seem to be... not great. We are going for a modern-industrial look. We already have two small TPS filing cabinets from CB2 and our desks also have an industrial feel to them. Ideally, we would want a larger version of the CB2 cabinets, but I can't seem to find anything. Any suggestions?

I know the Bisley line sold at the Container Store is a good option. Any other ideas?

If there is one thing West Elm always seems to get right in my book, it's rugs. (Mind you, rugs are also the one thing everrrrybody else seems to get wrong!) What's the secret with rugs? I love the colors, the patterns, the shapes, the shades. How shall I go about selecting the right ones for my spaces??

Thanks for the rug compliment!! i have to agree, I love our rugs and am constantly changing mine around!!! There are soo many ways to go with a rug. Personally I like to fill as much space as i can in the room. it depends on the room too. a living space should at least have a rug that can have the sofa side tables and chairs all inclusive on it. It never looks balanced if the rug is too small.

In a bedroom it is nice to have the rug fully around the bed with enough to cover most of the floor. Also, my friend just moved into a new apt. and put a sheepskin rug on each side of the bed and that's it!! nice to step on upon waking up!!

I think if  you go with color and pattern that you really love and co-ordinates with your interior, doesn't all have to be so match-y match, you will be happy!!!

I love your chat sessions --- there's so much useful info! I usually just lurk or read them after the fact, but today I have both a suggestion and a question, on two totally different topics. I collect Fiestaware and just bought some in the new 75th anniversary color of marigold. I noticed that the marigold dishes combined with cinnabar dishes replicate the Redskins colors and will be perfect for game-watching meals and snacks! The cinnabar color was discontinued in 2010, but is still available in some local stores and online (including at the factory store We have a tall and narrow powder room (32 inches wide by 78 inches long by 10 feet high.) It's next to the equally tall and narrow entryway from the garage. Can you please suggest a color scheme (preferably neutrals) that will deemphasize the size issues, for both the bathroom and the entryway? Thanks!

Thanks for your kind words and also for the Fiestaware idea. Redskins fans everywhere will be looking for these colors for parties this fall. Thank goodness you don't want Redskins colors in your powder room! I would paint the entryway white. But for the powder room, get some buzz going. For something so small, you could either go all out with a bold color such as Farrow & Ball's Chinese Blue or Carmine Red by Behr. Or if you want a neutral, how about Martha Stewart's Artichoke Heart or Wisteria Blue for Home Depot?


Help! We need to paint our bathroom soon and are having the hardest time finding the right blue. We have classic black and white tile so not necessarily looking for a spa feel - maybe something with a little more punch. There is a big skylight so not afraid of a deep color but navy was too dark. Maybe like a Carolina blue? Just trying to stay away from green-blues. Any suggestions? This is the first room we are painting and I am already freaking out! Thanks guys


I think you are off to a good start! my bathroom has been a soft-sky blue color for years and it is my favorite!! It is the perfect bathroom color! We are featuring Benjamin Moore paint , a line called BEN with some really gorgeous colors! You should look at to link to it.

good luck!

I love the look of the Belgian-style limed oak tales, but can't afford Restoration Hardware prices. Can I buy an oak table on Craigslist and have it limed and refinished by a professional and get the same look?

You could certainly create a great look by doing that. Would you try to do it yourself? Where do you live? We could post this and see if there is anyone who has used a professional to do that.

Good morning, I'm thinking about using radiant heating under engineered wood floors in my kitchen remodel. Do you or any chatters have experience with how well radiant heating works under wood floors? Thanks.

Scary to be discussing HEATED FLOORS on a day like today! But we must look ahead! Does anyone have experience with this!

Ladies - After 2 years of owning my home, I've finally been bitten by the paint bug. I've never painted anything in my life so I'm starting small in my basement bathroom with no windows. Right now, I would describe the color in the bathroom as "mental institution white." What color would work well in this space? I'm up for anything as long as it makes for a cheerier bathroom.

You go ! There is no wrong choice here. Redoing a white windowless bathroom is a great place to begin your love affair with paint. What about Glidden's Desert Orange or Benjamin Moore Blue Wave?

I have a vintage rug from the 1940 that is a wonderful garnet color with a fern pattern on it. Unfortunately, one end got wet in a flood (it was rolled up in my parents' basement). Is it possible to just get the damaged part chopped off and rebound? Who does this sort of work? Thanks much!

Yes. I don't know where you live, but somewhere like Hadeed Oriental Rug Cleaning and Restoration  703 836-1111 could help you.

I am moving into a 1950s cape cod in a few few weeks that has an ugly redone kitchen. I am looking for a temporary fix until we feel like investing real money into redoing it completely. Currently the low-end veneer cabinets are an orange-stained wood, and the granite is orange-peach and grey (aswan red granite), the floor is ceramic yellow-beige with brown grout and the walls are dark brown with green undertones. White appliances. There are 2 orange glass pendant lights and little natural light. I'm thinking paint -- def walls, maybe cabinets -- but have no idea what colors!! I want it to be light and also not clash with the super busy granite. Help!

ugh! sounds like a project you want done asap!! I say get the white paint out and start painting!! Definitely do the walls and cabinets then take it from there! you might not need to do anything else. Once you paint it white it will look clean and brand new. Make that the fresh start and then see how you feel about adding some color later. It will change the way the granite and floor tiles look too!! The Benjamin Moore paint line called BEN that West Elm features has some great soft white shades!! good luck and congrats! on the new place!!!

Good morning, Are any of you familiar with cork floors, as far as how they look and how well they hold up. I'm also curious about whether potential buyers would like this type of flooring. I'm thinking about putting it in my kitchen.

I have written about several kitchens recently that had cork floors. They are beloved by those who have them and stand a lot in their kitchens chopping and mixing. They are definitely classic as well as trendy today.

What's a pop-up store?

Good question. A pop-up store is a short-term, temporary retail location, usually but not always a smaller version of the brand. Some pop-up stores only last a day, a week or a month. This West Elm shop will be open for six months. Sometimes pop-ups introduced new limited edition items, others test out neighborhood for business. New York has tons of them, DC not as much. But we hope we get more!

Angel: I stopped by the new pop-up store in G-town yesterday. Glad to see West Elm back in town!! It's worth the visit.

So glad you liked it.

Our contractor and his heating sub advised us not to install heat under our wood floor as the main heat source for the room. It can be done, but would need to be supplemented by another heat source (radiator, baseboard, forced air, etc.).


Perfect timing--went there for the first time on Monday night, so your article was so timely. I had not realized that the design was by Decorium (sp?) , which is right up the street; hope you continue to highlight restaurant or other public space design using accessible local designers.

Me too!

check out the website for a few less expensive tables similar in style to Restoration Hardware.


Hi Angel! So glad to have you with us. West Elm has probably been my favorite furniture store for as long as I can remember. It always feels like such a gold mine whenever I visit. Can you shed some light as to how you pick the colors and patterns for your products? It seems to balance modern with an elegant subtly that is lost on, well (if I have to name names...) Cb2! :-)

Hi! Thanks for the compliments! West Elm is really a fun place to work!! We start every season with 3 different attributes. The modernist, the globalist and the naturalist. We also have an industrialist  element we like too. We work within each group and come up with a color palette for each season. Fine tuning the colors is very tricky and we tend to have some brights, neutrals and earthier shades to work with. We work with some artists and print studios to come up with the vocabulary for the patterns. There are some really talented people that work in the design studio here too that draw and paint patterns. We like to be original and although we pay attention to the trends we like to give it all our own twist!! It is also fun and exciting to start a new season and come up with the themes and ideas to get it going! we find inspiration everywhere!!

Please remember, smaller darker places like that bathroom should be painted in lighter tones. Darker tones tend to make a room feel smaller, lighter tones make a room feel bigger. Also, make sure that you have good lighting in the room. If the room feels small and dark like a cavern, no one will want to use it. So, pick a light bright shade of a color you like (sea foam green, butter yellow, sky blue, etc), Also, a good sized mirror will help to brighten the area by reflecting what light you have and also by making the space feel bigger. Smaller mirrors work better in larger bathrooms or ones with natural light. Bigger mirrors work better in smaller bathrooms and ones with little or no natural light. You can coordinate the frame of the mirror with the decor, wall color, etc. Good luck!

All great advice. Thank you.

I think G Street Fabrics offers consultations on various window treatments and they have machines in the Falls Church store if they are really simple. I don't work for them, but I was in there the other day and found the staff very helpful even though I didn't end up buying anything.


I would avoid a house with cork floors, personally. But, then again, I have good knees and only cook during the holidays and parties. If you have a party and your guests wear high heels, it is over. I think it is a super personal choice for a house you're about to sell.

I have not heard of problems with high heels and cork. Have others had their pumps sinking in?

We recently used Valspar's Subtle Canopy in our bathroom, and its gorgeous. The first paint we chose hardly showed at all, but Subtle Canopy is just blue enough. I have my own paint question. I recently bought linen fabric for curtains for my guest room. It has a heather background with lavender and mauve flowers embroidered all over. I love the fabric, but so as not to go too feminine (since it's a guest room) and to keep the room modern, I wanted to go gray on the walls. However, the warm gray I was thinking of, Sherwin Williams Versatile Gray, is too close to the background color of the curtain fabric. Can you please suggest a paint color? Thank you.

What about Heavy Goose or Dolphin by Martha Stewart for Home Depot?

Paint can do wonders. I would recommend painting your walls either an off-white or a light grey/greige/beige shade--one that can work with your counter-top--then paint the cabinets white. I've found that white on white (white walls and white cabinets) can be both blindingly TOO white and also lose some of that pop. White cabinets against a different color really pops. We have several rooms where we've done some shade of grey walls above a chair rail, a color of choice below the chair rail and then crisp white trim, cabinets, etc. The crisp white just pops beautifully to accent whatever is white against the grey. So many people now notice and admire our fantastic crown molding, chair railing, mantel, etc now that they stand out.

You sound like you've done a great job. Thanks for sharing this.

I'm renovating my townhouse ground level and am undecided about what type of flooring I want. I have hardwood floors on the other two levels, and I was going to have the same done to the ground level. But several people have mentioned that wall to wall carpet is cozier. May I have some opinions from others in the DC area? Most of the suggestions I get for alternatives are from people who don't live here.

I have found that most DC homes do have carpeting or carpet tiles in their lower levels. A neutral gray/white/beige carpet choice is a good bet. Berbers are popular.

My mom's NYC apartment has cork floors, and they're fantastic. Good choice for apartment living, too, because of a muting quality. No problems with sinking heels, and she has a dog that tends to have longer than required nails, and doesn't have problems with that, either. It isn't as though you're putting a wine cork or a bulletin board on your floor.

It sounds great.

Hi Angel! WOnderful to have you with us. I have not been over to the new Georgetown pop-up yet, but I'm looking forward to it! Speaking of which, I am attending not one, not two, but THREE house-warming parties next month (maybe it's just an August thing?) Anyway, I'd love to pick them up some quality items from West Elm while also being appropriate for gifts (i.e. nothing too expensive). What would you suggest?

Hi!!  you are quite the socialite!!! we are the perfect gift giving destination!! we have so many great things I don't know where to start!! we have some beautiful baskets that anyone would love to have! they are handmade from bankuan grass, they are called braided storage and come in an assortment of sizes! We have some fun patterened tea/dish towels for the kitchen and really cute ceramic owl measuring cups. You could also give them a set of the nautre sun print dessert plates that I designed!! Or if you want to be fun and give them something they probably don't have you could give them a paper-maiche  animal head/wall sculpture handmade in Haiti!

( I hung 3 on our wall in our lobby and they look great!!)

Just go to and get shopping!!!

I have dark Tommy Bahama wood, plantation style bedroom furniture (love it), floors are negotiable, coral ralph lauren bed linens, comforter etc. (too new/expensive to replace). I want to repaint the gingerbread colored walls, everything seems too Fall - like/tan. How can i incorporate teal/seawash blue/ color in here, and what do you think about introducing this color on the walls? Thanks, love your chats!

You bedroom sounds very Caribbean cool on this very hot day, especially if you are keeping the shades drawn! I think a gentle blue would be very restful. What about Benjamin Moore's Jamaican Aqua?

I have a dark wood console in mycliving room. Immediately above it I have two black and white prints framed in black frames. I want to dress up the table but not detract from the beautiful prints. Can you help with ideas?


I love the idea of stacking great art/photography books. you could also use bookends, my favorite are the horse head bookends at West Elm now. We also have some great vases from the Lombok pottery collection. i think if you keep it simple and don't over do it it will look best!! cheers!

I have radiant heat under wood floors in my kitchen and it's comfortable. You don't get the wonderful toasty feeling underfoot as you would with tile, but it works. For the poster whose contractor recommended against it, it may have been a square footage issue. In my bathroom I needed a 2nd heat source because there wasn't enough floor space (bathroom floor space is mostly taken up by tub, sep shower, vanity etc.) to provide enough radiant piping to heat the total sq footage of the room.

Appreciate this info.

Thanks for the great chat - so many terrific questions and then answers by Angel. It is great to have more cool retail in DC. So everyone, keep those blinds drawn, water your plants and we'll catch you next week , same time, same place, after the heat wave.

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.

Home Q&A archive
Terri Sapienza
Terri Sapienza is a staff writer for The Washington Post.
Angel Dormer
Angel Dormer is the style manager of color, concept, pattern and print at West Elm, which recently opened its first pop-up store in Georgetown.
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