Designer Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey, who owns SCW Interiors in Alexandria, joined the weekly chat.

Aug 18, 2011

Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey, who owns SCW Interiors in Alexandria, joined Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza for their weekly Home Front chat. Together, they gave advice on interior decorating and home improvement.

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Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us. Jura is away this week, so joining me today is one of the area's top designers: Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey.  If you haven't seen it already, be sure to check out today's story with Shazalynn and read all of her great advice about decorating kids's rooms. We're happy to have her today. Lot's of questions already, so let's get started.

I was thinking of painting my red front door a dark green color. Our house is red brick. I like a red door but I fear I'm getting a 'kechup and mustard' effect when I leave the door ajar in our pale yellow living room. What do you think? Do you have any color suggestions?

I think a front door is a great place to go a little crazy and show your personality. Is there a color that you really love but have been too afraid to use on your walls? What about a lighter, brighter green color? Or a bright yellow to go with the paler shade inside?

I have a hall and small foyer that are currently a gray/blue textured paint. We are going to sand and put on traditional paint. The adjoining living room is a khaki color, and kitchen is a brownish color called barnwood. Is there a color I can consider for the hall/entry that is not brown/tan/beige? Maybe in blue or green or yellow families? Not a big fan of orange. Trim will be white thru-out. Thanks.

If your adjoining walls are khaki and brown, then you could probably go with just about any color and it would look nice. Take a look at the furniture, rugs and accessories you currently have in the foyer, hallway and living room and try to pull a color you like from there.

Our 3 year-old son's bedroom adjoins his playroom, which is the upper level of an addition at the rear of our 1917 home. It's great having the 2 rooms together, however a window remains in the wall of what was previously the rear of the house. For safety we're going to get rid of this window but I'm not sure what to do with the open space once it's gone. Any suggestions? Thanks.

I would likely go ahead and drywall over the opening unless you are worried about natural light passing through the spaces.  If you want to keep the area open but serve a function consider hanging hooks across the top of the opening and dropping simple strings down for clipping artwork onto.  This will create a sort of mobile effect and can be viewed from both sides.  Sounds like a great space to grow up in.  SCW

We have finally picked out some flor tiles (favorite jeans-vintage) for our basement living room and could really use some help with some warm and/or bright paint colors for the walls, trim, and ceiling. The room gets some natural light. Since the ceilings are lower than the rest of the house, what is the best way to paint them so the room appears more spacious? I’d love to play off the orange in the carpet, but I’m nervous to do the entire room that color; I’ve also been thinking of a warm grey shade and or an off-white/creamy shade, preferably from a brand we can purchase at Home Depot or Loews. Thanks! Can’t wait to have this extra room to use.

Hard to say without seeing your room and the amount of light it gets. But, I suggest going to Home Depot and checking out Martha Stewart's paint colors. I love the edited palette she offers and each color card has suggested ceiling and trim color. I'll bet you'll find a combination you're happy with. She makes it so easy.

Hello - great article, and very timely. We are in the process of updating my daughter's bedroom. She has been sleeping in my mother and then sister's beautiful oak twin canopy bed for the last two years without the canopy top (so a four poster bed). We thought now that she is starting kindergarten she is old enough for the canopy and are having one made for her based on her color choices. My question is what to do about overhead lighting in the room, given that she will now have a canopy top. This is the last piece we have to put in place. The room is comfortable, not huge, and currently has no overhead light. Just a nice kids table lamp and ugly home depot $10 black plastic floor lamp. My husband wants a white ceiling fan, but I am worried about the look of a fan and a canopy making the room look smaller and overly busy on top. I have seen chandeliers in catalogs lately for girls rooms. Would a small clear one be a better option? Do you have any suggestions? Lighting always seems to stump us. My son will have to go in a loft bed soon, but is in a much smaller room - so no fan option there, but again, no idea what to do. Thanks so much - your designs are beautiful!

This sounds like heaven...I too had a canopy growing up. I always try to use multiple sources of lighting in spaces.  Table lamps on most large surfaces are great especially on 3 way switches.  I agree that the delicate petite chandelier would be much prettier than the fan if you have the space.  Be sure to put this on a dimmer for use in the evenings.  I always like to use swing arm lamps behind canopy beds as well, they allow her to control her own light for reading in bed as she gets older.  Your daughter is very lucky, I hope you will submit this room to the contest.  SCW

My son is a clutterbug and also has a small room. Any tips for helping him contain his "collections." Also, what do you think about those sleep loft beds with the desk underneath?

Kids love to collect and keeping up with the clutter is a full time chore.  I love the idea of having a wall system made from simple hooks and canvas bags.  The great thing about a bag is that it is easy for kids to hold onto when they take out the collection and it is easy to put it all back into the bag.  Have a separate bag for each collection and label as such.  This gets the clutter out of the drawers and off the floor. 

As for the desk bed combo, I have a neighbor who recently dismantled this in her sons bedroom as it really overwhelmed the room.  I think the concept is a good one but I do think kids tire of sleeping up high as they get older.


I know I missed the organizational chat last week but I was out of town and really need help! We have a linen closet over our stairs that is really deep. I have a rack hung on the door for excess toiletries but the rest is a mess. The selves are so deep its hard to access anything and my sheets and towels end up sort of thrown in there. We also have bottles of shampoo etc that are too big for the door that need a home. Any suggestions on how to make things easy to get to in a deep closet? There are about 3-4 shelves. Thanks!

How about finding baskets (maybe two per shelf) that are deep enough to utilize the space you have. That way, you could organize the items, store them neatly and simply pull out the basket when you need something.

Hi - I feel like I've been seeing a lot of the "safari chic" look in interior design these days including cow hide rugs, pillows, etc. - in in children's nurseries. Is this a trend right now? Not sure I like it, but I'm curious about your thoughts. - Leslie

Hi Leslie,

I tend to really love some of the fun animal prints that are coming out especially in the fun colors.  My daughter in particular is begging for zebra somewhere.  I would say a little of this goes a long way.  The animal print in moderation is the perfect finishing touch in pillows or a simple rug or ottoman.  Most people like anything that might feel organic and lots of the new pritns are interpretations of animal prints versus the crazy leopard of yesterday.  Best, SCW

Are you related to Oprah Winfrey (result of a union of Oprah and Stedman)?

No, sorry!  SCW

I am considering replace the wall to wall carpet on the second floor of my home with wool carpet as I wish to have something that doesn't outgas. Do you have any experience with wool carpet? I understand it holds up quite well, but is more expensive than synthetic.

I had wool carpet installed on the stairs and second floor hallway in my house six years ago and it's held up extremely well to lots of abuse and foor traffic from adults, children and dogs. It's easy to clean, too. We've had lots of spills, stains and accidents over the years and you wouldn't know it from looking at the carpet.

I had a similar problem in my linen closet. Instead of having the shelves running left to right, replace them with front to back shelves. Possibly have a set on the left side and a set on the right side, depending on whether the closet is wide enough to fit two sets of shelves and you (in the middle).

A suggestion for the deep linen closet. thanks!

Hi all, I have a pair of rather cool cast-iron candelabras (the arms are twisted) which I sort of "appropriated" from my parents during my college years many moons ago. Unfortunately, they need very thin candles which are hard to find so I've never really used them. Our church is having a yard sale this weekend and they're slated to be donated, unless you all can think of something interesting I can do with them. I've had them so long that I'm reluctant to get rid of them. Should I plant them in the garden as "sculpture"? Any thoughts? Many thanks...

Sounds like you might regret getting rid of these.  Have you thought about having them wired for real light bulbs?  A lot of the antique fixtures you see in magazines were once fixtures that held candles and have since been modified for hardwiring.     

No! Not green! Then it will look like a Christmas package. Go yellow!

Oh, I think it really depends on the shade of the bricks and the shade of green.

I've been very disappointed with the lights (and price tags!) I've found when looking online for mini pendant lights for my kitchen. Any suggestions for an affordable, great lighting store in the DC area?

I think West Elm has some really great looking, affordable  lighting options, so you should definitely give them a shot. Another option is the Richmond-based Shades of Light.

We have a 4-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl who will need to share a small bedroom for a year or two. We just moved bunkbeds into the room to maximize the space a bit, but I'm torn when looking at bedding. I don't want anything to masculine or feminine, and I don't mind their bedding being a different style or color - so long as there is something similar to tie them together. Currently the walls are light green. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Hi, I agree that the bedding can be different but have a common thread that ties the space together.  There are so many bedding companies out there but try Utility Canvas, Pine Cone Hill, Serena and Lily for quilts and blankets that might work together.  The trick is to keep it simple don't try to push too much pattern overall.  Maybe a basic duvet cover for both beds in the same pattern but have different colored blankets that pick up a color in the duvet or pillows.  Good luck, SCW

I have a middle school daughter and elementary age son. Both have small rooms in our home. Do you have innovative tips to enlarge the feel of the space and allow for storage? Also need tips for books. My daughter in particular has books she would like to maintain in her room rather than centerly in our home but after bed, desk and dresser there's no room for bookcase.

Hi, consider putting the shelves for books around the perimeter of the room 2 feet down from the ceiling.  I think that the upper portion of walls is often a missed opportunity to do some very creative things.  For other items consider hooks up higher on the walls, they are inexpensive and soft bags with handles are a great way to store things creatively.  I love that you are invested in their living of luck.  SCW

Hi, ladies - We are redecorating our living room and I'm trying to determine whether I can blend a new couch (already purchased) that is clearly mid-century modern in design with a weathered French farmhouse bench as a coffee table. Where is the line between ecclectic and clashing? The couch is long and the room narrow, so I like the idea of a bench for a coffee table so that it can do double duty at parties. I can keep looking if you tell me there's no way this can work!

You can absolutely mix styles and periods without fear of looking "wrong." In fact, Ithink that makes for a much more interesting room.

I HATE with a passion my current builder grade ceiling light in my kitchen. Ugly, 1980's condo feel - you know, oak trim rectangle light with flourescent bulbs! Who does that anymore? I want something comtemporary but will take 'real'lightbulbs. Not over an island, center of large, 10 ft ceiling height and do not want a ceiling fan. Will spend $ to get quality but everything either hangs too low or has no pizazz. No linen shades, nothing that will attract dust or is open on top. Any suggestions? I have looked and looked but everything is either too low hanging or too small. Thanks!

Check out the lighting options at Room and Board or Design Within Reach.  Both have locations in the area.

Just painted all my shutters & garage doors & front door a deep dark blackish green (think it was Deepest Woodland Green from Home Depot) on our brick house. the brick is a light shade, more terra cotta than red. I wanted to go dark navy blue but the paint chip looked ridiculous against the brick in bright sunlight. The black-green looks GREAT.

Great suggestion, thanks! 

The choice you make for a door color really does depend a lot on the shade of your brick. Important to remember when painting exterior doors and shutters.

I'm trying to decide between a kitchen designer or interior decorator to hire to help with my kitchen reno. I can't afford both. I'll definitely need help with color selections. Any suggestions? Thanks.

Hi, Most designers have kitchen designers they work with to create a plan that works with the whole house.  Kitchen designers are great but their work doesn't  go past the kitchen so I would vote for the interior decorator.  Good luck, SCW

Do you have any suggestions for places for cribs other than Pottery Barn? Particularly if they are online as I am not in DC.

Giggle has lots of great options.

How do you go about color transition for painting a living room, dining room area, and kitchen in a small home with an open floor plan? There is no barrier between each room and I want to make sure the color transition is not drastic or odd.

For the best transition from room to room keep the colors in the same value and try to keep them on the paler side.  Many times when you see homes painted in beige, as an example, there are actually 5 shades of beige pulled throughout the house.  You want to make sure the colors complement one another so when I say same values I am describing pale green with pale blue and maybe a grayish blue.  No two colors are alike some have more black in them, some have more red or yellow.  Professional paint stores should be able to guide you as they put together small groupings of colors in most of their paint guides.  Good luck, SCW

Hello! I am a young homeowner, brand new to furnishing and decorating one's home, and have decided to tackle my master bedroom. It is a (very!) large west-facing room with windows on the west and north walls, and lots of light in the adjoining bathroom (windows on north and east walls, cream/taupe tile, cherry-stain cabinets). The entire area is currently painted a buff/sandy color, which just doesn't do it for me. I was thinking of painting the bedroom something in the gray family, maybe a dove color (any suggestions?) but then am stumped as to what color to put in the bathroom. It really is a blank slate in the bedroom, as I have yet to purchase a real set of furniture. I was thinking of something in a dark wood, though. I'd love your thoughts, and any resources you could share to help me in this rather bewildering new world!

Sounds like a perfect room for House Calls. Send pictures and your contact info to me at and we maybe can get a designer's perspective for you. thanks.

I submitted this question last week, hope you can squeeze it in this week. Am having a new master bath built - blue slate tile floors and shower/tub surround with white wainscotting. Haven't picked a vanity yet - am thinking a deep rich brown. I am wondering about wall colors. Can I pick a color or will that be too busy with the blue slate and white wainscotting. I feel like I read in one of the chats that an all white or offwhite is soothing. Can I paint above the wainscotting an off-white or will that look just "off" next to the white wainscotting? Can I paint it a color - if so, suggestions? Am looking for a traditional clean look. Thanks and love the chats!!

If you decide to paint above the wainscotting I would try a very pale gray/blue picking up on one of the values in your slate assuming it has those colors.  Make sure you go with something pale almost a one off of white so the contrast is not too severe and you'll have a very clean look.  Good luck, SCW

In addition to handmade wall art, I would like to introduce canvas prints to my daugters' bedrooms and shared bathroom. Do you have any good sources or themes to recommend that lean toward the fine arts?

Have you considered photography.  You could likely find some very affordable pieces or consider stretching pictures of your girls and their friends or family onto canvas.  If traditional old world oils is what you envision try The Kellogg Collection, they have some very pretty paintings at great prices.  Good luck, SCW

Hello ladies. For my kitchen remodel, would you recommend corian or granite countertops? They seem to be about the same price, and the corian seems to feel a bit smoother, but I can't really tell the difference. Does one have a higher resale value? And is one more durable than the other? Thank you!

Anything that is organic is usually my preference and that would be the granite.  I have been honing the granite in almost all of our installations to take the sheen down and make it less reflective which seems dated.  Try R.Bratti in Alexandria if you have time and they can show you the difference in a polished versus honed granite.  My bet is that granite will have better resale as well as age better.  Good luck, SCW

Hello, With fall coming on, we're considering installing an artificial fireplace for our townhome. First, is this something you would recommend? And second, would it look funny if it were placed along one wall where you know a real fireplace wouldn't be? Like in between two windows on a short wall at the front of the house?

I'm sorry to say that I'm not on board with your idea, especially the potential location - sounds kind of crowded. Instead of a fake fireplace, what about putting up a vintage mantel and having a piece of mirror placed in the opening? Herndon designer Lauren Liess did that in her home and it looks great. Also adds a nice focal point to a room that didn't have one.

The scale of our furniture is a little too big for our living area. We're renters and plan on upgrading to a big house one day, so we don't want to buy anything new. Do you have any recommendations for designing under such circumstances? Should I keep colors muted and patterns to a minimum? I was thinking of bringing in color in small things like throw pillows and lamp shades. Thanks!

You have the right idea about adding life to your rented home.  Infusing pattern and color through inexpensive items such as lampshades and pillows can change the room in a matter of minutes.  Inexpensive rugs that are neutral without a lot of strong pattern and color can also really enhance a space and make it feel like home.  Don't underestimate the use of accessories such as picture frames, mirrors, baskets, and other details in a space. When I rented I would put as many lamps into spaces as possible because that is usually a big deficiency in a rented space.

Take a good look at what is in the space...if you are able leave the overscaled sofa in the space and put the chairs in the bedroom you might feel less overwhelmed by the size of all the pieces.   Good luck,SCW

Or you could be boring like me and just do most of the rooms the same color. Every room in my house is the same shade of beige, except for our bathrooms and kitchen which are pale blue or green. What's interesting about the beige though, is that it looks different in each room. People think we used a pinkish beige in my daughter's room, and can't believe it's the same color that's in the master bedroom where it looks more on the greenish side. Maybe the lighting is different, or the eye is tricked by the different colors we've used to accessorize each room.

I don't think your choice is boring; I think it's smart. Neutral walls allow the furniture and accesories to take center stage and also make it easy and more affordable to make color changes when you feel like it. I'm speaking from experience - most of the walls in my home are the same creamy white. 

That's all the time we have today. Thanks to Shazalynn for being here and for all of her great design advice. And thanks to everyone else for their questions and comments. Chat with you next week.

And what is the best way for anyone to update their homes without blowing a budget or becoming crazy with a short lived trend?

I love so many different things that I am always conflicted about styles and what to add in the mix of my own home.  I love wallpaper and I cannot tell you how fabulous some of the papers are that are being produced.  I like everything from natural textures to the colorful prints that bring a space to life.  If you have good foundations in your home you can introduce small trends and retire them when they are tired.  Consider replacing rugs and simplifying windows when you start updating.  I love layering looks and as long as you have a good sense of what you love you won't regret spending money on items in the future.  Bottom line, be true to who you are and it will always be in style.  Good luck, SCW

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.
Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey
Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey heads up her own design firm, SCW Interiors, based in Alexandria. A native of Southwest Washington, she participates in local show houses and designs homes all over the country. She is known for blending natural materials with luxurious elements.
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