Meg Caswell on interior design | Home Front

Sep 12, 2013

Meg Caswell is the season six winner of HGTV's Design Design Star television show. She holds a B.F.A. in interior architecture from the Art Institute of Chicago and is owner of the store Design Shoppe in Chicago. She is also headlining the 2013 Capital Home Show in Chantilly at the Dulles Expo Center Sept. 20-22.

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.

Follow @jurakoncius on Twitter.

Home Front Live Q&A archive Older Home Front Live Q&As

Excited to have Meg Caswell with us this morning to answer your questions. Meg is the season six winner of HGTV's Design Star TV show. She holds a B.F.A. in interior architecture from the Art Institute of Chicago and is owner of home decor boutique Design Shoppe in Chicago. Meg, who once worked at Ralph Lauren Home,  loves the mix of traditional and modern that's a bit on the preppy side. You can catch her at the 2013 Capital Home Show in Chantilly at Dulles Expo Center Sept. 20-22. Let's go!

Hi everyone! Thanks for having me today! I'm really exited about answering your questions and I hope to get to all of them! Lets have some fun and ask me anything you like! Don't hold back!! 

Good Morning! I am moving in with my fiancé at the end of the month and we have TWO (or three) of EVERYTHING. His house has a bit of Southwestern flair (yikes) and my stuff is all pretty classic. How do we blend our styles with the least amount of friction? What do we keep? What should we buy new to make this our house instead of just his?

First I would say that you need to look at what is scentimental to each of you! The items that are a deal breaker. Respect those pieces that belong to each other. Then look at what items you both can live it. Then the rest need to go.. Craigslist or auction... Classic is a style that mixes well with most other styles.. Just don't let there be Native American rugs hanging on the walls and you should probably be ok! Good luck and Congrats on your upcoming nuptuals. 

The leg of an antique dresser broke - smashed off, really, in the process of being moved from my mother's to my house. The dresser is nice and very old - from Britain circa early 1900s. Can you recommend someone in the area who could fix it? Thanks!

Sorry I can't help..but ask friends and family in the area... best way to get a recommendation... 

Hi Meg, Judy Bruck here. I live in an apartment, the carpet and walls are beige. Unfortunately I already owned a caramel colored corduroy sectional. I am drawn to fall colors. What can I do to make it feel homey and less like living in a large cardboard box? Thanks Meg! xoxo Judy

Hey Judy!!!!! artwork.. drapes...pillows... lamps... add color where you can!!!! : ) good to see you on here! 

When you are designing a home, is there a room you always start with?

Any room you want. But start with the rug first... then pull paint colors and fabrics from the rug you love. 

Hi Meg, Would you be able to give me some good suggesions on making a dark living room feel brighter? My living room is painted blue/grey and all the furniture is dark wood. There is a large glass sliding doors on one side of the wall but the only light is on the ceiling. Thanks.

Lighting is very important in every room!! You need to add some table lamps and if you don't have room for those than floor lamps are important. Make sure you light up the dark corners that the ceiling light doesn't hit! And maybe paint some of that darkwood..unless you are like my husband and hate painting wood.. : ) 

Hi Meg - do you have any ideas of color schemes for bathrooms that are playful but not garish, peaceful but not a passing fad, and a combination of tiles that would enlarge a space? My bath is white and fixtures are chrome. Thanks!

I think small mosaic hexagon tiles in a small space make it seem larger. I love navy and white and grey and white with touches of black.. classic!! 

How should a rug be placed in a fairly large room with sofa and chairs? Should furniture sit on the rug or should front legs of furniture be on the rug? How much floor space around the rug?

Great question. When it's a large room I like for all the furniture to be sitting on the rug. That's because chances are you can see around the furniture to know it's not entirely on. In a smaller room its ok to have just the front on the rug because the back of the furniture is usually up again the wall. ..*Biggest tip I give is to always start with the rug and design the room around it! Chances are you will find a lot of fabrics you love but not a lot of rugs and it's easier to match fabric to a rug than the other way around. 

We want to add ceiling fans in the bedrooms and in a great room with a high ceiling. What color is best -- the same color as the ceiling or the standard brown? Should lights be included or it that passè? How low should the fan hang in the great room?

Unless you have a very stylized home like mid century modern ( stainless steel fan) or plantation style ( dark wood ).. you should go with white. I say no lights unless it's really important for you to have extra lighting at times but it should not be your main source of light. As far as height goes it's usually determined by the rod they give you in the package. ( and I usually consult my GC on that)

Hi ladies! We just moved into a new house and have a bedroom that we want to double-duty as something of a man cave and a guest bedroom. Given that, we figured that we'd use a daybed instead of a traditional bed. However, I can only find twin-sized daybeds, many of which have large fixed "sides" (like wooden frames on 3 sides of the cushion) - that just seems uncomfortable for a guest that's taller than 5'6''. Right now, my only thought is to "hack" a daybed by using a king sized headboard on the long end of a full mattress (and then use bolsters and pillows to make it "sofa-esque") - do you have any other suggestions or thoughts? Thanks!

Any upholsterer can help you make a head board that will fit the large wall like you said. If the main issue is that you want people to hang their feet off than a traditional day bed just won't work. Like you said. Using a local upholstery workshop is more affordable than you think....and I believe an upholstered headboard is more comfortable looking with pillows etc. than a wood one.. Also check out or or overstock for great headboards...that are affordable. good luck! 

What's a good neutral color to paint a living room if you don't know what color furniture you're buying for the room?

What about Benjamim Moore's Acadia White or Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter? For an off white I like Martha Stewart's Sisal for Home Depot.

Hi, Submitting early because I just woke up from a long nap. Seems like every time I sit down on the comfy overstuffed couches and love seats, I fall asleep for too long. Besides seeing a sleep specialist, what can you tell me about lighting, colors and styles in the living room and den (basement with full east-facing windows) that help to defeat sleep? Does that make sense? Basically, how do I decorate my house so that I stay awake?

That is the first time I have ever been given a question like that. I would say more lighting that is brighter and not soft. Use brightwhite bulbs..not soft white. I would hate to recommend fabrics that are not comfortable but I really don't know what else to say. Seeing a sleep specialist is your best bet! And drink lots of coffee and go on short brisk walks to wake you up ! Good luck! 

He knows his stuff is going away. It happens to all of us guys. Just let him have a few things, maybe in his office or something, and be nice to him and it's fine.

Thank you for your insights!

I haven't yet convinced my husband, but I'm thinking of a rich coral for our small entry. It leads into a very neutral (think Bleeker Beige) large hall. Paint colors, preferably BM or SW? Thanks in advance!

YES!!! I LOVE LOVE LOVE this color..There are sooo many shades and I can't begin to start... I love coral reef #3012, I also like coral bronze # 1298 which has more brown in it. I have used rich coral in my own home # 028. All by benjamin moore! Good luck! Send me pictures at I'd love to see how it turns out. 

HI -- I have wooden floors throughout my house, including the kitchen. The finish has worn down to bare wood. Instead of re-shellacking the floors in my tiny kitchen, I was thinking about going Scandinavian and painting the floors white. But it is posible to paint them in a way that, later, they can return to being plain wood?

Wood can always be returned to it's original color.. it's just not easy... but takes the pressure off any temporary changes you want to make.. 

If you buy at the Lowes/Depot, they usually have additional lengths of downrods for the brands and finishes they carry. You get one that's about a foot in the original box, but you can shorten or lengthen if that's what you want for about $20. I've adapted a lot of these.


We are in the process of buying a house where the floors need to be refinished (and probably needed to be a decade ago). We have a month to paint the place and get the floors done and were wondering whether it is better to paint or refinish first? Then is oil or water based poly better? Any advice is welcome!

I recommend staining the floors first and I always like oil based. It takes longer to dry! Congrats on the new house!!

I have a dining room with a navy and burgundy oriental rug and a dark wood table and chairs. I'm hoping to add a sideboard and china cabinet but I don't want the room to look too dark or dated. Do you have any suggestions for somehow lightening the room with more modern furnishings?

What about a chinese red console table. When I use to work for Ralph Lauren home we would pair Red lacquer furniture in traditional style dining rooms all the time. I also like one of kind antique pieces with a different finish on them. You can find those relatively easily at auction houses ( more affordable than you think) and antique/vintage stores. 

Due to circumstances, I have to get everything for my kitchen. I want it to look well-decorated, coordinated and organized. My colors are white, light blue and navy. I wanted to get everything white but could not find enough small appliances and other items in white. Now I am thinking all black. What do you suggest? What looks good in storage containers, cookware, small items, etc?

Stainless steel or black are best. Over time the white on items will yellow. They do have some blue small appliances that would be fun to mix in.. 

I want to have seating for 5 people to watch TV in recliners. I cannot find any pictures to get an idea of how to do this (apparently designers hate showing recliners and TVs). How do you suggest I do this? I do not want any of the people to sit perpendicular like on a sectional.

GO to and search Home Theaters. You will find tons of images of recliners and how they can be arranged!  Have fun! Can I come over and watch tv? 

I have a lot of trouble picking out art to do with my interior decor. What do you suggest and what online places do you recommend?

Art is very personal . You need to buy what you love. It doesn't have to match everything in the home. If you feel it must than select colors that compliment. So if your home is all cool tones like blues and greys find art that has those colors with additional complimentary colors like green and yellow. As far as depends on price. I like Z gallery for middle of the road prices. I love and for higher end help check out  Chicago art source. It's a company that can locate art for you that fits perfectly in your home with artists from around the world! 

Meg....what color Or design motif do u see tending into 2014?

I see royal blue and highgloss walls everywhere!!!! 

Hello! Love the chat - always a source of great ideas. Hopefully you can help me out with a curtain quandary I am in. My new home has two fairly narrow (31" wide) windows flanking the fireplace in my family room. There are already faux white wood blinds installed, but I would love to dress these windows with curtains as well. However, there is only 6 inches between the edge of the mantel and the inside edge of the windows, and there is only 5 inches of clearance between the outside edge of the windows and the wall corners. Is that enough clearance to hang double panels on each window? Should I just hang a single panel over each window and tie it back on the outsides to frame the room/fireplace? HELP! Thanks!!

I recommend a single panel pulled back to either side or a faux roman shade on top of each window that is stationary. So it's not a valance but a shade and adds pattern to the room without being a functioning treatment. 


Recently bought a place in Arlington and no longer have a dining room. I'm looking to buy a table for my kitchen and would prefer something that is closer to counter height so that I have some additional work space (since counter space is at a premium). Ideally would like something that isn't too large but could expand. I've looked at a couple of things that are completely wood and a few that have metal tops, and like both looks. Any suggestions for places to look in the area for good tables?

Sorry I can't help! I live in Chicago. I would find an affordable carpenter and have him build you exactly what you want. 

I cannot seem to get on top of the clutter in my house. It takes a supreme effort to get things picked up and put away. I think we just have too much stuff; I did manage to get rid of three carloads to my church yardsale, but there's just so much of it. We have a house guest coming in a few days and I'm panicking at the thought of trying to clean up (house is not dirty, just cluttered) Any tips?

You and my sister have the same problem.. I know this well. You probably need more sufficient storage solutions and take an hour each day to tackle one part of your home and organize it... a closet...a chest.. you will be surprised at what space you will be able to find!! keep plugging away.. and if your guest is a friend they will understand!!

Do you have any recommendations for someone who can make a slipcover for a couch? Since I have a fabric selected, I would like someone who would not require me to buy fabric from them. I would love to have it made at G Street, as I have had good luck with them in the past. Their fabric selection has really gone downhill in recent years, though, and I can't find one that I like there.

It took me awhile to find someone in Chicago...I would call some local decorators and ask them if they can help you or if they would recommend their vendor and that you will tell the vendor they sent you! Everyone always appreciates a referral. 

Do you think it's OK to remodel the kitchen and bathrooms in a more contemporary style, even though the house is traditional? I want to do what makes me happy, but also consider resale value in the long term, years from now. Thanks!

years from now??? like 10 years? Don't worry about resale then. Chances are the new owners will redo everything anyways... Make yourself happy!!!!!!!!!!!!

Meg - Tell us why you entered the HGTV contest and why do you think you won?

I have always wanted to be on TV but didn't know how to accomplish that.. I got an email from HGTV about an open casting call and thought that if I could just get on the show I could make sure I was the last designer standing.. Yes there was alot more stragedy involved than most people think... I would listen to the judges and make sure that I never made the same mistake twice because that would be a reason to send me home.. And I always took different risks to show my broad design spectrum! ANd then I was just myself and made sure they saw my personality!!!

At our house, a tall dog makes sure to prevent unauthorized couch sleeping. If I really want a nap, I have to pull the ottoman over in front of my face so his tongue can't reach.

Now that's great advice.. she should get a dog! 

My two cents: hire someone to do this. My husband is a contractor and we did all our own work when we remodeled our house, but hired a specialist to do the floors. You can really mess up when you don't know what you're doing. Sanding is really, really hard.

I agree... unless you have done this before it can be very challenging.. 

Original poster here. I did recently clean out the bathroom closet. My husband laughed at me because the rest of the house is a disaster, but I said, hey--I've got to start somewhere. It looks beautiful now. All the band aid boxes in their little rows. And I spent a few hours working on my office (I work at home) and you can see the floor again...

Thats great!!!! Don't worry about the whole house yet!! COntinue to focus on one area at a time otherwise it's too overwhelming! Get him to help! ..give him an area he should be in charge of!

We want to re decorate our masculine looking bedroom to a more calming, french decor. What are some good paint colors, perhaps lighting ideas and what can we do with my husbands awful wooden black dresser, besides throw it away, we do use it! Thanks Meg!

Tell him he needs to go out of town for a guys weekend and then I'll come over and help you decorate!!! Teasing.. I think a grey blue paint would be nice. try Pale smoke #1583.. Great lighting that's affordable at that have wrought iron frenh pieces. That's masculine but with soft lines and very french.. he might go for it!! and if this is Lindsay....just have me over and I'll take care it!! For one of your amazing home cooked meals!

Where do you weigh in on stainless kitchen appliances? Do you think they will look dated in a few years since they have been so popular for so long?

I think they are classic.. If I'm correct I believe they are making streak free stainless now... But don't quote me.. They may have been a designer dream I have.. 

I lived in Chicago for sixteen years before moving to rural Pennsylvania. I miss the city and all the incredible architecture. I REALLY miss all the great restaurants, especially all the fabulous Mexican food.

Chicago does have the best food in America.. by far! Come back and visit soon.... I post alot about chicago on my facebook page. Follow me here

Meg - what do you sell in your store and do you design any of the products yourself?

Thanks for the question. I'm moving my retail store on line. You will be able to buy all my favorite home products at  It should be live in about 2 weeeks. I will have a custom and one of kind section but nothing by me yet.. soon...I promise!! : )

Hi Meg! We had our bedroom painted a tan color (BM Shaker Beige) and the ceiling a light blue color and...I hate it. The ceiling is vaulted and ~14' high at the peak. When I repaint, should I repaint all one color? (I'm considering going darker if that makes a difference.) I love the look of dark, all-one-color bedrooms (which often are described as "masculine") but they often have white trim separating the walls and ceiling, which I cannot install due to the ceiling's shape. Advice, please! Thanks!

Don't worry about having molding seperating the two spaces. I love painted ceilings.. I would recommend however going just a shade or two lighter on the ceiling to give it some contrast but not a ton.. 


Hi Jura and Meg! My husband and I are closing on a new (to us) home next month, and will be needing some new furniture down the road. Any recommendations for places in the northern VA area to look for good deals on nice furniture? We don't need to be careful with the money but want to, as we have two mortgages and do not expect we will have renters in our current home for at least a few months (and even then, we'd like to put that money aside for future repairs and necessary expenses). So I'd love some recommendations for bargain places and places that have good quality without exorbitant prices.

I differ to Jura for local places. I do have some online recommendations like One Kings lane. And soon my shop at 


I am sick of sisal and it doesn't hold up well. What are other good reasonably priced choices for rugs?

wool holds up the best. I have found affordable ones that are fun on and  but make sure they are wool...

What are your go-to paint colors for living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens?

I don't paint everyones home the same.. it depends on who they are. I do like edgecomb grey for large areas because it's a great neautral..not too grey or not too yellow... Kennsington Blue is great blue for dining rooms with white wainscotting on the bottom half...

I received a question on facebook.

 I won't be able to chat live but love to hear rule of thumb for placement of knobs and latches on cupboards

I like to place knobs between the bottom corner of the frame and the outside edge. Latches I like right in the middle of the cabinet..

Hi Meg, We just moved and our bathroom cabinets work well, however I don't love the look of them. What are some ways to freshen up the look, they are just light brown wood with no hardware. Thanks!

If you can easily remove them than you can paint them. I big can of paint can be a huge help! Make sure you sand well first.. If you don't want to do this yourself and want more of a new smooth finish with no brush marks than you can have a paint company take the doors and spray them and they can also spray your fixed cabinet.. Add's easy!! love and restoration hardware. 

Hi Meg, What is a good rug color to go with our lemon yellow walls in our family room? Thanks so much for your help, you are the best!

Thanks! It depends what other colors you have in the room.. but if there isn't already navy blue that's a nice color to create contrast. OR if you want more subtle try Sisal, works well with yellow and can be soothing... 

I love Ralph Lauren Home decor. Are thereany discount places where I can get it?

 I have purchased there pieces for a 5th of the price in good condition at auction houses. Some times they have warehouse sales..and they have floor sample sales twice a year.. shhhhh don't tell them I told you!! Because they obviously want you to buy full retail. 

Hi Meg, I am a huge fan!! I love all of your design ideas, and loved your shows! Our entire upstairs is slanted ceilings, is there anything to do with these to add to the decor of the room, since we can't hang pictures. Thanks so much!

Why not add picture molding to create interest and a design and paint it a white or lighter version of the wall color.. And you can hang art but it will feel more bohemian than classic. You just need to have the bottom of the piece fixed to the wall as well.. That is a hard one.. good luck!!!

Meg - miss seeing you on TV any new show pending? Thanks JF

Right now we are working on developing something new...Its very exciting.. follow me on facebook because as soon as I can share I will....

What are your favorite colors and looks this season??

I love mixing striped rugs with old vintage floral patterns on pillows and drapes.. Reminds me of Dorthy Draper...I have always been inspired by her... Colors...Im totally into greens blues..and fuschia

I love light blue and white but I do not want my great room to look like a baby room. Do you have any suggestions for other colors to add as accessories? I will have a lot of large plants so there will be green in the room.

kelly green!!! hot pink...or yellow!! Sounds pretty! 

I need to replace an existing fan with something that is somewhat attractive and inconspicious. Any suggestions of good lines or resources?

currey and co  circa lighting and  

Hey Meg, Looking for some design help and know you're really busy right now. Wondering if you know of any other good designers in the city??

Yes I have mentored Sarah Roberts for years and think she is such an amazing designer.. She has surpassed me and has such a great design eye!!! Her business is  We could be sisters thats how close our style and taste are.!!! and personality! Tell her I sent you! ( wink wink)

I luv, luv, luv the classic ralph lauren beachy look. How do I get it?

I worship that look.... study his pictures.. look at pinterest and see how he mixes linens...blues and raffia together.. There is always a casualness to him.. I have a coastal living board on pinterest you can follow for more looks..

I'm not a big fan of accent walls but want to know what I can do to bring life to walls without breaking the bank?

I don't like painted accent walls either.. art is the easiest way!!! There are lots of affordable resources like

Hi meg! I love your work! Where do you look for inspiration when designing?? Do any other designers inspire you or are there blogs and websites you go to for ideas??

I like Miles Redd. Dorothy Draper, Mary McDonald Sister Parish and of course Ralph Lauren..but alot comes from within!!! On line I look at and Pinterest are great as well as some blogs like All the best and Things that inspire 

Lots of very interesting questions today. Thanks so much, Meg. Your fans showed up in droves today and we hope they will come back and chat with us again on other Thursdays. Next week: Kiera Kushlan a Washington designer with Residents Understood will talk about small space living at 11 ET. See you then.

Thanks everyone for having me today and all your great questions! I hope you come out and see me at the show! Let me know we chatted here and I can answer any further questions. I will also be speaking about how to incorporate your own personal style and color into your home! I may even discuss some DESIGN CRIMES!!!

You can follow up with me and see what I have been up to at or facebook 

and on twitter at megcaswell 

Have a great day and hope to see you next week!!!


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
Meg Caswell
Meg Caswell is the season six winner of HGTV's Design Star television show. She holds a B.F.A. in interior architecture from the Art Institute of Chicago and is owner of the store Design Shoppe in Chicago. She is also headlining the 2013 Capital Home Show in Chantilly at the Dulles Expo Center Sept. 20-22.
Recent Chats
  • Next: