Elizabeth Wilson Boland, a partner in the Chevy Chase firm Design in a Day, joined the weekly chat.

Sep 15, 2011

Elizabeth Wilson Boland, a partner in the Chevy Chase firm Design in a Day, joined Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza for their weekly Home Front chat. Together, they give advice on interior decorating and home improvement.

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We've got a lot of great information in Local Living today on small space living and decorating. Elizabeth Boland Wilson of Design in a Day in Bethesda decorated the Chevy Chase bungalow we featured this morning and is here to answer your questions.  She has a great blog on her Web site, too, www.hauteindoorcouture.com Don't miss Terri's story on 50 Ways to Stretch Your Square-Footage.

I have a camel colored sofa, chocolate brown leather chair and charcoal linen chair in my living room. They look so unrelated... How can I pull the look together? Thanks! - Catherine C. in Chevy Chase

A great way to pull together the furniture would be to reupholster or slip cover the two chairs. Even if the chairs are different in size and design this will create the illusion that they are a set. If you picked a fun print to re cover the chairs you could also have two matching throw pillows made for the solid color sofa. 

Hello. The bedroom in my apartment is quite small. I have a nice queen sized platform bed & two night stands that I purchased when I was living in a more spacious place. The new bedroom isn't wide enough for the night stands so I'm left with just some floor space on either side of the bed. Where can I put lighting? I can't install lights in the wall since I'm renting. Would floor lamps next to a bed look silly? Thank you, Julie

You could hang swing-arm lamps on the walls beside your bed, like these. They have a cord, so they don't need to be installed in the wall. If you don't like this style (or price) browse the page for different options.

I have a spare bedroom in my basement with one of those odd windows towards the top of the wall (no view, obviously). It is small and ugly. I plan to paint the trim to match the wall so it won't jump out so much visually, but I'm stuck on what kind of window treatment to use. A simple roller shade?

Great idea on painting the trim the same color as the wall! If there is space in between the trim and the ceiling you could hang a simple roman shade that was 2-4 inches wider than the window (including trim) itself as close to the ceiling as possible. When the roman shade is down, let it hang below the window to create the illusion that the window is bigger. This trick would only work with a solid fabric or woven roman, not a light filtering material. If this will not work for your space and you need to install an inside mount roman shade I would find a fabric that is as close to the wall color as possible so that it blends in with the space. 

Any advice for where to look for Saarinen tulip chairs and other furniture of that era (I've been searching on Craigslist for awhile, but haven't had much luck).

You never know where something like this may turn up. Keep going to estate sales, yard sales and thrift and consignment shops as well as checking craigslist and ebay. I did hear of a mid-Century modern store called Archer which will be opening in Georgetown in mid-October.  www.archermodern.com. Also try Modern Mobler in Takoma, D.C.

Now what do I do that Target's new line is sold out? I wanted to check out its new line because Target uses color versus brown and I am a day late and a dollar short!!

You mean the Missoni? Well, they claim they are going to get more merchandise in... I hear there are thousands of Missoni items already on ebay. Don't despair. Check out places like World Market, HomeGoods, Pier 1 Imports and Marshall's for colorful bargains for your home.

I have a small entry that would accommodate a 4X6 rug but no room for a table. What do you suggest for a new lighting fixture, a star lantern? And any other accessories?

Are you certain you have no room for a table? there are lots of consoles out there with minimal width to accomodate narrow spaces, like this one. I would also consider hanging a large mirror and doing something fun for the light fixture, something that reflects your personality. Remember: your entry is the first impression people see of your home, so make it a statement about who you are and what your tastes are. That doesn't mean it has to be expensive, it just means that you should put a little extra thought into the space.

My daughter wants a canopy bed, something very simple, like a square shaker style with no fabric or netting. The problem is her bedroom has a typical 8 foot ceiling, and most of the posts are 7 feet tall. What is the general advice for space between the top of the bed and the ceiling?

If that is the type bed she wants and it will fit in the room I say go for it! When it comes to kids rooms you have more freedom to be creative and break a few design rules. If there is only a foot of space in between the ceiling and the posts oh well. 

Hello, I cannot find the name or brand of the blue paint used in the son's room on today's cover. Thank you!

I think it's Benjamin Moore China Blue.

If you can't have nightstands, is it possible to install a wall shelf to act as a nighstand of sorts? Many rentals allow that, as long as you fill the screw holes and repaint before you move. Then you can put a small lamp on the shelf, and there's room for a book or two as well.

Good thought. Thanks.

I need your help finding a living room chair. I'd like something of this general shape. I don't want arms and I'd like it in leather. Bonus if, instead of legs, it had storage underneath. Oh, and not ridiculously expensive. Love the home chats!

Not sure what you mean by "ridiculoulsly expensive," but if you're looking for a decent leather chair, it's not going to be exactly cheap. Here's one from Room & Board, which is nice looking and comes in several colors. If you really need the storage, it looks like you could tuck a nice basket beneath the legs.

Hi, I want to replace the boring plain light in the stairwell that leads to our basement, now that we have fixed that up as a nice tv room. Any suggestions to follow about what size we can get without it looking silly? The fixture is right at the top of the stairs and we're thinking of putting a mirror on the wall you face when you go down the steps to both show off the light and reflect more light. Any suggestions for where to get such a light, too?

What size light were you looking for? Its hard to say without knowing the dimensions. As for where to get the fixture I love Shades of Light! They are an catalog and online retailer with a great selection of pendant, flush mount, and semi-flush mount ceiling fixtures. shadesoflight.com 

That is exactly what we do. I find that people always have too much furniture not too little. We love working with people using what they have because most of the time its as simple as swapping the furniture from one room and mixing it with a few pieces from another room to give it a freshly updated look. 

I have a nice farm table and a farmhouse-style glass cabinet with a painted green finish. Otherwise everything in the DR can go. What do you recommend for chairs, a rug (8X10) and lighting beyond chandelier over the table. This is an informal room heavily used by a family with two young kids.

Hard to say without seeing the room or knowing what color you have on the walls. That said, I would recommend a sisal or seagrass area rug, a pendant light or lantern hung above the table and any style chair that you like. You could even mix and match styles and colors of chairs, if you want. Benches along the sides with chairs at the heads of the table would be nice, too.

Hi there. I'm in the market for new countertops, but am looking for companies that do "alternative" materials (butcher block, concrete, etc.). Do you or any of the chatters have recommendations for this in Montgomery County? Thanks!

Yes. Try Amicus Green Building Center in Kensington or try

Concrete Jungle in Frederick at 301 874-1001

I have a picture frame question. I have a print I'm going to have framed, which is very colorful and has no white in it. I thought it would look good framed and matted all in white, so the print really stands out. But the white on white frames seem to be really trendy now. Do you think it will look dated in a couple years? ps - one of the links to the chat on the Post's homepage leads to a chat about Cheney.

I would take the print to a good framing shop and discuss it with someone who works there. They could point you in the best direction in terms of matting and framing and staying away from trends. 

I'm researching styles for entryway lighting and I like the mid-century modern styles from Rejuvenation Hardware. I'm concerned that the Mid-Century Modern craze will fade in a few years and when I try to sell my place, the fixture will be a problem. Thoughts?

The MCM "craze" has been around for sometime and will likely always have its fans. That said, I don't think light fixtures will deter a buyer. If they don't like them, they are easy to replace.

I'm going to replace my carpet in my 975 sq. ft apartment next year. I have no idea how to budget for this. Assuming that I get a mid-priced carpeting with padding and labor, what is a reasonable cost for this? $3K? $5K $10K? How do I go about figuring out a ball park before I start shopping for carpet and planning? This is new to me so I'd appreciate some advice.

It all depends on the carpet you select. I always tell clients to go look for remnant sales because most Carpet stores have rolls and rolls of left over carpeting from other jobs and will install at a hefty discount. For example if you ordered carpet A and had to wait 4 weeks for it and it was $3500, that same carpet could be $2000 if it was a remnant. My favorite flooring people in the universe are Ali and Steve at Carpet Palace in Bethesda MD. 301-718-0020

I have an elderly dog and he urinated all over my microfiber sofa. I've contacted the place I got thesofa to find out how to clean it, but apparently the tags on my sofa don't contain the exact fabric info, so they can't tell me. Any ideas how to clean microfiber? I've been living with a partial couch for a week or so now and its starting to get on my nerves (as is the thought of having to buy a new couch when I love my current one)! Thank you!

I am assuming the cushion cover does not come off? If there is a zipper you can wash the cover in the washing machine on delicate with cold water and air dry it. While you are doing that use Natures Miracle to clean the spot where he peed. If the cushion cover does not come off you might have to take it to an upholster to have them remove the cover to clean, and instead of sewing the cushion cover back on have them add a zipper in case this happens again. 

I have to disagree with chat's suggestion for seagrass or sisal in a dining room. Even water will leave a mark. With two young kids? Forget it. Go for a "camouflage" rug like a heavily patterned oriental, or at least something washable.

I have to disagree with you. I have sisal rugs covering most of the flooring in my home and I have a large extended family with lots of kids, an active toddler and, until recently, an older, accident prone dog. All the rugs have endured spills and stains and lots of foot and paw traffic. With spills, as long as you address them somewhat quickly, they shouldn't leave a mark. I think they are a classic and durable choice.  

Ms. Boland, Any tips on creating a minimalist living room that has an open plan? We have bamboo floors, a couch and side chair, and plants by the windows. We have painted the walls a soothing color. Any ideas for decorating the space without cluttering it? Thank you!

Hi there. If you have tall windows without radiators or built in's under them you could install draperies hung as close to the ceiling as possible. Hang them on rings with drapery hooks or clips, and let them puddle 1" on the floor like a pair of pants. In addition one or two larger pieces of your favorite art, and a mirror would brighten up the space without weighing it down. If you have more than three plants by the window, split them up into different rooms so that the windows become a focal point again. 

Hi - My home is small in area, with limited floorspace for armoires and such but lots of height to the rooms. Are there any regulations in Alexandria about mouting a TV over a gas fireplace? Is this something a homeowner (and friend) can do themselves or does it require licensed contractors, permits and inspections? Thanks!

I don't know about any regulations but I have so many clients who have their TV hung over their wood burning and gas fireplaces so I am sure there is a way to make it work. If you are not currently working on a big renovation you don't think need a permit because its an interior update to the home. Permits and inspections are usually for new construction, or when you are adding square footage to a home. 

Planning to redo a pink-tiled bathroom, and don't want it to look like an early 2000 time capsule. What should I avoid? (I'm guessing the tiny iridescent glass tiles, for instance...)

For a classic look, I would keep tile and fixtures light (white fixtures,  subway tiles or marble) and bring in color, and other trends, with accessories.

I had a similar issue when moving into a smaller bedroom. I chose to get rid of one of the nightstands and keep one so there is room for the lamp, clock, etc. One is better than none...

Another option. Thanks.

What's your choice for bathroom tile in a small, white, 1935 bathroom? I wondered about black and white tile or those small white hexagons but I hear they are hard to keep clean.

I love love white hex tile and black and white hex tile. I don't think they are hard to keep clean if you use the right grout and spacing. Most of the hex tiles come in a 12" by 12" sheet so the spacing is already decided, if you doing white hex tiles obviously I would use white grout, but if you did black and white you could use dark grey grout which is a great look. Another alternative would be to use 12"x6" carrara marble floor tiles in a subway patter with a 1/8 of an inch space for the grout. 

Months ago another chatter here gave me a suggestion for this. She suggested I spray cheap vodka (with no sugar in it) on the stains and then gently launder. I've been meaning to post to thank her/him. It worked like a charm!

Hmmm. Interesting! Not your Absolut though, right?

Thanks for alerting me to how great Dash and Albert rugs are. I just received the runner I ordered for my front hall. Looks great and doesn't feel like an indoor/outdoor rug at all!

That's terrific. Glad we could help! If you're a fan of Dash &Albert, be sure to tune in next week when we have company owner, Annie Selke, as our guest.

Hi, I am trying to challenge myself to have unmatched furniture in my living room. I feel everything should be the same style and color. Any suggestions?

Remind yourself this: a room is much more interesting when furniture styles and finishes don't match. Why don't you try taking baby steps; take one of your matching pieces out and replace it with something that is different in style and finish than the rest. Live with it like that for a while and then replace another piece. Play with the room, move things around and have fun with it.  

Hiya, We live in a classic 1950s cape cod that has 2 rooms and a bath on the 2nd floor. Enter 2 kids (boy & a girl) sharing a room for now. Although there are 2 bedrooms on the 1st floor, everyone wants to be on the 2nd. Looking on advice on how to "split" the larger bedroom. Could we put up a wall and make it a railroad style space (where one kid will have to walk through the other kid's room but still could close a door/have a light on. Use one of those bookcase dividers (but that doesn't give as much privacy)? Say someone has to move downstairs? The rooms are dormers so bunk beds don't work either.

I don't love the idea of splitting up the rooms with a wall. One kid having to walk through the other kids room to get to their own sounds like more trouble than its worth, and for re-sale purposes is not the best approach. Alternative solutions could be to have 2 bookcases in the middle with shelves facing each kids "side" of the room. You could also hang curtains from the ceiling to create a makeshift partition. If one of the bedrooms on the first floor is big enough to make into a Master Bedroom I would move downstairs and let the kids have up stairs. If they are too young for you to be on a separate floor or you don't want to give up your current bedroom, then I suggest converting one of the bedrooms on the 1st floor to be the space where they have their desks and maybe a dresser or two. That way they have more space to spread out in their bedroom. 

I'm furnishing our new house- we moved from a one bedroom condo, so have much to buy and am finding these chats very helpful. My first question is about the comment that said, "Re: Using a designer...this is exactly what we do." was that your guest or another poster. It sounds like a designer I'd like to work with. Also, we found a few pieces at Mitchell Gold that we liked, and thought that since they have a design service, it might make sense to work with them. Does anyone have any experience with them in that capacity? Thanks.

Re: Using a designer- I totally messed up the webchat thing and I deleted the original question when I posted my answer. Oops. I love working with clients current furniture regardless of whether or not we add any new items to the home. 

This room is the bottom level in a townhouse. Not much furniture, but have a pong pong table that folds -- I need a suggestion for the TV. I don't want to hang it on the wall.

Try putting the tv on top of a narrow console table or dresser. 

Hello Ladies. Are you familiar with the www.unhappyhipsters.com web site? It pokes some good natured fun at minimalist designers. You will smile. Also, have you seen many dining rooms with skylights? Ours is located off the kitchen and has a "normal" sized window, but it doesnt' get much light from the window or the living room at the other end. We are considering adding a skylight to brighten things up, but we haven't seen any other dining rooms with them. Is this a good addition or ill-advised? Thanks!

I actually follow @unhappyhipsters on Twitter. They do have some hysterical postings and great sarcastic comments on our minimalist heritage. A skylight is usually a great way to add some light to a room. But make sure your roof is up to it and you hire someone to put one in that is really reputable so you don't get leaking. Also, the placement of it is crucial so that you actually get the light that you want.

For those of us on a budget, there are lots of inexpensive options such as this. Pick your finish, pick your shade, done! And you can order the cord cover to match your finish! I also found many under $50 at Home Depot online..


I agree I like seagrass. How do you clean stains--what products, method do you use?

I try and get to spills asap and either just pick them up with a towel go over them lightly with a little soap and water.

For all stypes of stains, Brooke Giannetti from the design blog Velvet & Linen says in her new book that "a pet stain remover call Get Series is a natural-fiber carpet lover's best friend." I think you can also get it from Amazon.

I'm really interested in purchasing a bench to use with a new dining room table and chairs, but I'm curious to know your thoughts on this - having never had one, I'm not sure if it would be impractical (e.g. 2 or 3 people to sit together if someone has to get up, etc.). Thanks.

Benches are a great way to increase seating in a dining area. As long as the bench does not have arms you are good to go. Obviously if 4 or 5 kids are squeezed onto the bench one might have to move for the other, but overall it is definitely a practical solution. 

I have an apartment that has a built in desk that is too high to comfortably use as a desk. It has built in cabinets above it. Any ideas for how to use it for other purposes??

Where is the area located in the house? If it is in a bedroom you could convert it to a dressing table type area. You could store laundry baskets under the desk and hang a mirror in-between the built in cabinets and the top of the desk. If the space was near a dining room or kitchen you convert it to a butlers pantry or bar space!

Try Cantilever Modern. Near Tenley, I think.

I worked with a designer there. I thought the service was terrific. Prices during a sale were very good, too.

Thanks for sharing this.

Hi, I have the worst problem with my dogs jumping up on my window treatments - blinds and curtains - to look out the windows, and they have pretty much destroyed them. I have to have something on the windows for privacy. Any thoughts? Thanks very much.

Depending on your budget plantation shutters could be a great solution, they are so much more durable than 2" wooden blinds or roman shades. 

Hah. As much as I love this chat, my advice would seriously be to tell the kids that they'll both have to deal with having first floor bedrooms, and turn the upstairs 2nd bedroom into a guest room/study. That way the parents get the larger bedroom (two adult-sized people need the space more than two pint-sized people), each child gets their own door, and the kids remember who's in charge.

The last word here: Who is in Charge! Thanks.

I'm old, I know, but I don't know any adults who like sitting on benches while eating dinner. For kids, they're fine. But not for the over-30 crowd.

Haha. We need to do a poll on this!

It sounds as is the owner of the sofa with the doggie accident has little to lose, but as someone with decades of retail furniture experience, I cringe at the thought of unzipping cover and machine washing them. The zipper is used as a way to insert the cushion form in the manufacturing process, not for washability. I have seen too many customers ruin them because of this. Not all fabrics should be water-cleaned,either. I do wish more guidance would be given by manufacturers; it would help avoid such misunderstandings.

So true.

Where do you recommend buying them and roughly how much do they cost?

Home Depot or Lowes has the same hex tiles that the fancy tile stores have. They generally run between $6-$16 a square foot depending on the style. I did a whole bathroom floor in them from Home Depot for $200 at a clients house 

We have exposed brick with reddish/brownish undertones. What paint colors complement this in our living room?

Natural earthy tones like greens and browns would work here. 

Can you recommend some reupholsterers in the Northern Virginia area? Thanks - Janet

I have a 1930's settee that was recovered by Mount Vernon Upholstery in Va and they did a fantastic  job

but you're an adult, and entertain other adults, go for an armless settee in the dining room instead.

good idea

Lots of great questions and answers here today. Thanks Elizabeth. See you all next week.

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.
Elizabeth Wilson Boland
Elizabeth Wilson Boland, a partner in the Chevy Chase firm Design in a Day, is our guest this week. She designed the 1,500 square foot bungalow in Chevy Chase that is featured in our Small Spaces Issue.
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