Brooke and Steve Giannetti, who write the popular design blog Velvet and Linen, joined the weekly chat.

Sep 08, 2011

Brooke and Steve Giannetti, who write the popular design blog Velvet & Linen, 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 on yet another rainy morning in DC. We're excited to have Brooke and Steve Gianetti joining us today. Brooke, an interior designer, is also the writer of the popular design blog Velvet & Linen and Steve is a architect, furniture designer and painter. The couple lives in LA and have just written a book together: Patina Style. In today's Local Living, the couple answers questions about their design philosophy and their style. And they are both with us now to address all of your pressing decorating questions. Let's get going.

Since you can't just "order up" an antique piece of furniture, when designing a room and incorporating antiques, what do you consider first....the form of the piece, the function or the wood , color and patina? Thank you, Bonny Bonny Neiman Antiques

Hi Bonny.

We always consider the form and color of a piece first. We do a general layout of the room, but it can change a bit if we find a piece that we love. 

My kitchen has some open shelving and also some cabinets with glass doors. I have my pretty stuff on those shelves, but would like some advice on the arrangement of things. Is there a website that addresses this? Thanks.

We have a few tips for displaying: Mix two or three different collections to create visual interest. We limit the colors we display together. In our kitchen we combined our white dishes with antique breadboards and hotel silver. The different textures and neutral palette work nicely together. 

Good morning - I know this is a little off-topic, but I would love some input from you or your fans. I have a 6 foot long wooden table that I want cut in length to 4 feet. I cant find Anyone to help me. I have tried carpenters, home improvement websites, handyman websites . . . I don't know where else to turn. Any suggestions ?

What an interesting question. Do you want someone to do this in your home? Maybe some company such as could do that. Most likely you will have to ship out the table so it can be cut and refinished.  I also know of Tree Spirit custom tables in Libertytown,  Md. which might be able to help you. www. Any other ideas?

Hi there! I admire Brooke and Steve's style and flair which I discovered through their blog Velvet and Linen. I'm intrigued to understand the special gift that American designers have, the way they combine great style - often inspired by European culture - with ultra practical and liveable ideas. We live in France in an old house that I adore, but I'm seriously thinking about using an American eye to remodel my kitchen, because I'm sure they'd produce the most rational design while still respecting the authenticity of the house. Thank you for considering my question Sharon Santoni Normandy, France

Hi Sharon.

In our experience we get most of our inspiration from European kitchen designs, where pieces feel more like furniture than cabinetry. We love the Cote Maison magazines. The kitchens we are drawn to are practical but also incorporate antique pieces as storage. Sometimes I find American kitchens are a bit too overly designed. For other inspiration please search kitchens on Velvet and Linen.  

Hello. I have a bunch of vintage feed sacks from my grandparents New Mexico ranch (we actually found these stuffed in the walls of their house when we renovated the bathroom--they were being used for insulation). They're in pretty good shape and we'd like to use them in some decorative capacity. Would these be a good candidate for framing?

Sure. Framing them would be cool. I've seen chairs and ottomans and stools upholstered in feed sacks - you could do just some chair seats too.

Have either of you (or any of the chatters) seen Mykea? You use their decals to spruce up Ikea furniture. I'm really considering it, but would love to hear how (and if) it really works. Thanks!

I haven't heard of Mykea but I have seen lots of coverage on O'verlays, which are fretwork panels used to transform Ikea furniture pieces. Haven't used them or seen them in person. Anyone else?

Hi Terri and Jura, I've been looking everywhere for the answer to my question, so I hope you can help! I'm looking to replace the large, 1980s fluorescent light in my kitchen. I'm looking for a track lighting solution that alternates traditional (closer to the ceiling) track lights and pendant lights to go over my island. I'd love to just do the pendant lighting, but that wouldn't be enough light to light up my kitchen and I don't want to get into the mess of recessed lighting along with pendant lights, so I figured a mix and match track lighting and pendant solution might be the answer. But, I've searched high and low - even on several of the lighting websites you've suggested from previous chats and can't seem to find what I'm looking for. Any ideas? Thanks!

You might try looking at the Royce track lighting system. It looks almost like a traditional pot rack where you can install track lights and pendants. Hope that helps! 

Hello! I want to put a chandelier in my daughter's bedroom. Her ceilings are only 8 ft tall. Is there a guide to how low (max) it should hang from the ceiling? I found a semi-flush(?) mount one but don't know if it is still too low. Her dad is 6'1" and I don't want him hitting his head everytime he comes in to read her to bed. Thanks & LOVED the article on kids organization today.


Usually 6'8"  at the bottom of the fixture is the lowest we ever go. Sometimes we'll draw a template of the fixture an hang it from the ceiling to really get a feeling of how it will feel in the space. You don't want your husband feeling like he's about to hit his head! 

my television must go in a corner with a window on one side. i would like something different that doesn't look like a standard tv unit. It also needs to have a shelf for the equipment. any ideas? thanks, mary

Is it a flatscreen TV?

We have just purchased a house with a large master bath that, unfortunately, has no towel racks and limited wall space. The shower stall is glass, so that doesn't seem to be an option, the door is a pocket door, there is no floor space, and the only wall space is above the toilet and the wall next to the toilet. Any ideas for creative hanging space for wet towels or robes? We have been hanging towels inside our closet....

We have this problem at our beach house. Is there a place to squeeze in a large hook or two? Maybe on either side of the door? Hanging towels in closets is a bad idea as the dampness can create a mold or mildew situation in there. A freeestanding towel rack or small blanket stand in your bedroom is another idea. In some beach houses, they put towel bars behind the bedroom doors.

Hi! I just wanted to write in and say how much I absolutely love Velvet & Linen. I read it regularly and always find so much inspiration (though I have to say, it always makes me want to pack up my family and move to the west coast!). Keep up the good work and beautiful postings. Any future plans for the blog? What about you two? Would love to know what is next. Sincerely, Jennifer, Fairfax

Hi Jennifer!

I'm so glad you are enjoying Velvet & Linen. Yes, we always have something new that we are working on. When we aren't occupied with our clients' homes, we are spending our time designing Patina Farm, our next house in Ojai California. It will be inspired by our recent trip to Belgium and France. We  will be sharing this design journey on Velvet & Linen and hope to create a book about the experience and the final house. 

I really want to wallpaper our nursery (in one of the many amazing cool, more modern styles out there), but the ceiling-wall meeting point is sloped on two of the walls (i.e., no right angle). I know at least one of you is not a fan of accent walls, but what if it was one accent wall of interesting wallpaper? For what its worth, I think I would paint the rest of the room (including ceiling) in a light neutral shade that matches the wallpaper, so it would blend a bit and look cohesive, rather than stand out.

I'm the one who's not a fan of accent walls. That said, I do think an accent wall can look great if it's executed correctly. Often times, I think people just paint one wall a different color because they want color, but they arent' willing to commit to an entire room of it, which I don't agree with. However, I think one wallpapered wall in a room could work well, especially if it's the wall that the crib is going up against.  

Hi Steve! I poked around online and read that you're a pretty sought after architect on the West Coast. Where did you study? Do you just do residential? I love the pairing of designer/blogger + architect in a marriage, how fantastic. Do you work together frequently on projects that are not blog or book related?


I went to the University of Maryland. I have done several commercial buildings, but I concentrate on residential projects now. Yes, although I do work with many other designers, Brooke and I collaborate on residential projects as well. 

Hi there -- this question is mainly for Steve because I know he grew up around the DC area. How do you like your move out west to California? I ask because my husband is an architect currently practicing in DC, but he has an itch to move out west (probably LA or SF area). I've sort of discouraged this because I feel like us native-east-coasters wouldn't be happy out there (and he's not exactly a modern-LA-residential-kind-of-architect). But your work and Brooke's blog are very inspiring. How has the transition been for you? The more I look into it, the more I may be feeling the west coast itch too...


Los Angeles is more open to other styles and very open to people who are good at traditional architecture. Having the East Coast background is probably a plus. Most Los Angeles architects don't know how to do traditional architecture...and the weather is great! 

The OP should also consider the 3M hooks that go on the wall. They have some that are decorative. Don't know how they hold up to humidity though.

Yeah good point.

I have a meatblock. A real one that came out of my grandfathers shop. ( This one was used for cheese and that is why it has survived) I need it to be flipped, and pounded back in place. It is EXTREMELY heavy. How would I go about hiring very strong workers (I think 3, two moved it into my place and they struggled) to do something like this?

Craigslist? College students?

I needed a bigger dining room to accommodate a larger table for more people, so I switched my living room with dining room space. The new dining room is not as close to the kitchen and also has the fireplace. I was wondering if you had any other decorating tips for the dining room. I get many comments like  isnt this the living room? When they are in the new dining room. Thanks for your ideas!

Sounds like the comments are being made by people who are simply used to your living room being where the dining room is now and not about how the room is decorated. If you have a dining table, chairs, buffet or console table, are rug beneath the table and maybe chandelier, pendant or lantern hung above, I think you're all set.

Hi Brooke & Steve! I've been a happy follower of your blog since 2009, and it's so nice to hear from you today. My friend wants to hang painter's cloth from a 9' X 20' basement ceiling, to cover the exposed joists/rafters. Home Depot sells a cloth this size, but it's quite heavy. Will it get lighter after washing? And secondly, will it look better pulled flat across, or slightly cascading/scalloped from rafter to rafter? Thanks guys! Donna A.

Hi Donna!

The drop cloth won't get any lighter when its washed. Pull the fabric tight to give it a cleaner look.

Hi there. I love the "patina" look. I am always drawn to antiques in people's homes whenever I visit. However, I feel like this "look" is not so easy to achieve (thus why it is so appealing). It requires travel, money, and lots of time in a home, to have the style look effortless, authentic and not forced. So what would your advice be for us less permanent residents? My wife and I typically stay in homes 3-5 years before moving onto the next, and while we have always been lovers of decorating, this is one style we have shyed away from. Any tricks or tips? Thank you!


We have found some of our favorite pieces close to home at local flea markets and antique shops. We buy pieces with classic proportions with lighter finishes (painted gray Swedish pieces  or light pine or white oak French pieces). By limiting the palette and buying well proportioned pieces, we are able to move them to different rooms or even different houses. If we find a piece we like that doesn't have the right finish, we will strip it or even paint it. 

Hi - thanks for taking the time to chat. Our family recently moved and I have turned the smallest bedroom into my study. I'm particularly fond of Danish modern, so most of the furniture is vintage from this period (mostly teak). I'm having trouble choosing a color for the walls - the rest of our home is pretty neutral (grays, creams, taupe). I think you guys have great color sense - any suggestions?

How about a pale green? I think it would work well with your furniture and the rest of your home's color palette.

Last week or the week before a chatter asked about recommendations for stair treads because he/she did not want to use carpet runners on the stairs. I think Alto Steps is a good alternative (link below), and I plan to use them on my wood steps. They are stair treads made out of wool, and the owner will send you a sample for a small fee. Don't be deterred by the prices on the site. She quoted me a different price for treads that weren't listed.

Sounds great. Thanks.

Hi-- I have an old pine cabinet that my mother antiqued several times over the years. How do I update it with fresh colors, yet keep the antiqued look?

Farrow and Ball makes some great gray colors like Light Blue or Blue Gray that will give your piece a great antique look. You can water down the paint and use it as a glaze if you'd like to see hints of the color underneath, or your can use the full paint and sand it a bit once it's dry.

I second Jura's suggestion of hanging towels in bedrooms. Our 1930s house only has two hooks on the back of the bathroom door, but we have 3 people in our home. My daughter's towel is hung on the back of her bedroom door (nice, sturdy hook that comes out from the door a few inches for air circulation) and I think her towel dries better than ours! If there's also no room for handtowels, I'm sure a smaller hook can be found for your vanity or pedestal (even those 3M Command hooks could work and blend in with the vanity/sink). If you have tile, I've seen suction hooks/holders for smaller towels, toothbrushes, etc. at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Great info. Thanks.

I love your soft colors. Shopping for my bathroom recently, I was puzzled to find only white towels (which I love and prefer) but all of the other colors were dark or in an autumn palette. The silver grays and pale colors I love are highlighted in the shelter magazines, but haven't quite made it to retail. What has happened to pastels or lighter shades in decorating?

We bought our pale teal towels at Bed Bath and Beyond. They had a great selection.

Check out Restoration Hardware too for some pale grays.

Have you ever seen a dark picket fence? My otherwise charming house -- with “worn” whitewashed brick and dark slate-gray shutters -- is surrounded by a sturdy white picket fence that looks chronically shabby because it picks up dirt and mildew faster than I can clean it off. I am seriously considering painting the entire fence in the color of the shutters. I know it would look fresher and cleaner; the question is, would it also look (1) stylish and innovative or (2) just plain odd. What do you think?

I think it would look great. You can also do a chalky gray green like Farrow and Ball French Gray. It will have the look of aged wood. 

A follow-up question - is there a general rule about what type of bulbs/wattage for a chandelier that would be the main source of overhead lighting? She has a very small table lamp for reading. I am hoping to get something in soon so I can submit for the kids challenge!

Always use a dimmer to be able to adjust the amount of light during different seasons and times of day. Frosted bulbs are softer. We usually don't go over 60 watts per bulb. 

Hi there, I have a small loft area in my home with lower ceilings. The walls are painted a light neutral color (Behr's Chocolate Froth) and someone recently told me that painting the ceilings the same color as the walls could make the room look bigger. Is this true? If so, is ceiling painting difficult? Thanks!

Painting the ceiling the same color will look great. It's no more difficult than painting a wall. Plus, it's just paint. Go for it! 

I love the old antique look but all of the vintage sales around me are pretty expensive. If you were only going to buy one nice antique piece for a living room, what would it be?


It depends on the layout of your room. I like the idea of buying an pretty antique hutch that will be one of the focal points of the room. 

Our kitchen (1973) has all the original furnishings except the dishwasher and sink...brown cabinets and ovens, wall paper, flooring...Who would I consult about where to start first on a limited budget in improving the looks and enjoyment of this essential room. I do organic gardening and cooking and love it, and I would so much like to brighten my space.

We offer design online services and would be happy to help you! 

I love velvet and linen. I'm preparing to pull up the wall to wall carpeting that we inherited with the house and I'm looking for ideas on what style of hardwood to have installed. We need to use something engineered as it's going on top of the concrete. Any good sources? Ideas for a look that's not too "new" looking? Thanks!

We like quarter sawn white oak. Most companies make an engineered version. 

I've been intrigued with using drop cloths for decorating and went to HD to check them out. I was surprised that drop cloths wider than 45" are pieced. I thought they would be seamless and would yield extra wide fabric. Do I just treat drop cloths as 45" wide fabric, or should I look further for unseamed drop cloths?


The drop cloths we bought at Home Depot were not seamed. Defintely check again to see if they carry other options at your HD. 

You suggest using color on a ceiling. What about a ceiling that looks like cake frosting? Any rules? Stay wtih white? Patti


Yes, stay with white. Any chance you can scrape it off or add another layer of drywall to your ceiling? It will really update the room.

Loved your pictures of Belgium. I grew up (partly) in Brussels and really miss it. Looking at all the hardware really did it--all those fabulous door handles and hinges...

Thank you! Yes, Peter VanCroenburg's hardware is amazing!

I was thinking of recarpeting my stairs with jute or another natural fiber. Any thoughts? There are plenty of resources for the natural fiber rugs, but I am having problems locating places that will order and install it in the area.


We used wall to wall seagrass on our stairway at our home in Oxnard. Our local flooring company, Contempo Floor Coverings, installed it. Have you tried a local carpet store?

We're installing a new drum pendant light in the dining room to replace an old chandelier. Is there a height guideline for dining table lights? About twice a year, we move the dining table to the side for a party, if that changes your response. Thanks.


We usually put the center of the fixture 6' high. We like to keep the fixture on the low side.

I would put a small hook in the ceiling to lift it up when you move the table for parties. 


I think I found your info on the drop cloths just in time before I spent lots of money on canvas.. How do you think they would look mimicking "sails" to mask a low slanted ceiling above our master bedroom bed? Would I have to do anything to them first in terms of treatment? Thanks for your response. Kathy

Hi Kathy!

I think the drop cloths would work well in your bedroom. Wash them first so they aren't too stiff.

We did this at my parent's house and they simply used muslin. It is a lighter, and probably cheaper, fabric.

True. Thanks.

What are your favorite vintage/antique shops and flea markets in the southern CA area? Can you recommend any in the San Diego vicinity? I own Patina Style and saw your recommendations there.


Yes, most of my favorite flea markets and antique shops are listed in the back of Patina Style. I don't really know of any in the San Diego area, but I love Juxtaposition near Laguna. 

I loved today's Q&A! Thanks for contributing, Brooke and Steve. I follow your blog and love that farm-house-antiqued style. Do you have any tips for apartment dwellers in the city? It feels harder to pull off, here, especially a city like DC that doesn't really have the aged patina style thing going on. In fact, DC seems to be spearheading the exact opposite trend: modern lofts (yawn). Help!


Have you been to Tone on Tone? They have a great Patina look and are in your area. I think Swedish pieces work well in apartments because they aren't too large. 

Check out Factory 20 if you'd like to add some industrial pieces in the mix. They are local too.

I love your style but admittedly haven't bought the book yet, so apologies if this question/answer could be found there. I'm looking to decorate my dining room/breakfast nook. What would you suggest for decorations there? An aged vase? painted dining chairs? Candles? I'm open to any suggestions, but the less predictable the better!

I actually like bringing garden elements into dining areas... iron chairs or wicker are pretty. Elegant Earth makes a great stone dining table that is pretty for indoors or outdoors. 

After more than 20 years, we want to change out all the builder-grade brass lighting fixtures in our 1980's colonial-style house. Is there a rule of thumb to help in selecting how large chandeliers or pendant lights should be? Our dining room is small, only about 11' x 11', so I don't want to overpower it. Also - better to have downward-facing lights or up-lights for eating areas (dining room and breakfast area in kitchen). Is oil-rubbed bronze still "in", or would I be better off with wrought-iron? My style generally is traditional, with my grandmother's Mission oak dining room table that I'm keeping.

We always find it best to make a template of the fixture and hang it in the room to really get a sense of how it will feel in the space. 

We love oil rubbed bronze. 

What did you mean when you answered: "It depends on the layout of your room. I like the idea of buying an pretty antique hutch that will be one of the focal points of the room. " How many focal points should a room have? Wouldn't more than one be counterproductive?

You can have a couple of focal points. If you have a lot of built in shelves, then I wouldn't recommend a hutch as well. In that case, I would opt for a pretty side table or a great antique chair. 

That's all the time we have today, folks. Thanks to the Giannettis for joining us today. Chat with you next week. Hopefully, it will be sunny by then.

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.
Brooke and Steve Giannetti
Brooke Giannetti is the creator and writer of the popular design blog Velvet & Linen. Steve, who grew up in Adelphi, Md., is an architect, furniture designer and painter. Together, they co-wrote a book, Patina Style, which came out this month.
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