Kiera Kushlan on designing small spaces | Home Front

Sep 19, 2013

Kiera Kushlan is a Design Principal and Partner at the Washington, D.C. design firm Residents Understood. After attending the University of Florida's Masters of Interior Design program, Kiera and her business partner Jessica Centella started Residents Understood. Founded in 2010, the firm focuses on personality driven, residential design solutions tailored to the young-professional's lifestyle.

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.

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Kiera Kushlan, a Washington interior designer whose company is called Residents Understood, is here with us today to talk about small space decorating. Her very cool Kalorama co-op is the cover story today in Local Living. Check out the link here to the story and lots of tips and photos. Kiera has tons of ideas so let's get going.

Good morning everyone! VERY excited to be joining Jura and all of you today for the chat. I see we have some wonderful questions rolling in already! 

- Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it. Leonardo Da Vinci

I totally agree with Leonardo!!

My bedroom is 10 x 11 feet, with a queen sized bed and 2 dressers. I want to replace the old metal blinds on the 3 windows with new window treatments, but am unsure if should just go with simple cellulars or if the tiny room could accommodate a fabric treatment as well. Any hints?

It sounds like you're woking with a pretty tight space so it's best to keep as much off of the floor as possible. I would stear clear of drapes - fabric flat roman shades always look simple and clean but can add a little more warmth and personality to a space than cellular shades. 

I'm trying to color my daughter's room gray, which will have white trims and pink accents. Which gray do you recommend in the Behr collection? Also, do you have recommendation for boy's (currently 7 years old) room wall color - he currently has dark chocolate furniture. Thanks in advance for all your help.

I like Behr's Light French Gray or Pensive Sky to go with pink and white. For a boy's room with brown furniture, what about Behr Spearmint or Weathered Sandstone.

I'm decorating a nursery and very much want to use custom fabrics to decorate. I'd like to coordinate 2 or 3 print and solid fabrics. I'm trying to pay attention to scale and texture. Any advice? One of the prints I love has a cream background while the coodinating fabric I'd like to use is a gray and white chevron. Is using both cream and white a problem?

Great question - one I get asked all the time! I believe you can totally mix cream and white (I do it all the time). In terms of mixing prints tyr to mix florals with a more graphic linear pattern like stripes or chevon. If one fabric has organic lines pair it with something more structred. 

Good Morning, Ladies. Please help! Our tiny master bathroom (c. 1935) has bright yellow tile in the shower and on the walls; it is trimmed in black. The floor is a horrid combo of green and black tile. Plan to remodel in a year or so but am desperate for an appropriate paint color until then. I had thought about papering in a funky pattern...thoughts?

I like your idea of a wallpaper that has all those funky colors in it! Also take a lesson from Kiera and Michael and consider using rubber stamps to create a neat pattern and color on your wall - they used a diamond stamp with yellow ink. Read about it here.

Hi Kiera, Love your place. I was looking through the portfolio on your website and in the pictures from Danielle and Peter's renovation there is a photo of some beautiful hanging lights and a bookshelf with a map. Can you tell me where the pendant lights are from and where you found the map background for the bookcase?

Thank you! Danielle and Peter's kitchen is still one of my favorite projects we've done. The pendant lights are from a place called Tazi Designs based in San Francisco - they have an online website. The wallpaper is something the clients picked up themselves. 

Hi! The previous owners of my house took out the coat closet in the entryway. This opens up the space, but it leaves me without a neat place to tuck away jackets, keys, etc. I have a coat tree and a little table, but I'm wondering if I should get a shallow wardrobe (would prob. have to go w/custom-made to get the dimensions right) or maybe tuck in a corner bench with a shelf and hooks above? I want the space to be efficient but not look like a mudroom. The ex-closet footprint is about 3' x 3.5', if that helps.

Ahhh a foyer without a coat closet  - I feel your pain! I use slim dressers as a catchall for any area in my home where I need closed storage. IKEA sells some great slim dressers that you can paint and finish in whatever style you'd like. Then I would place a few hooks for bags, hats, etc. above or on the side of the dresser. 

Hi Kiera, I need more space for my and my husband's clothes but our small rowhouse does not have much closet space. I purchased an open wardrobe from a houseware store for his suits and sweaters but that has not helped much. Do you have any other ideas to help us maximize our space, and not have an explosion of clothes? Thanks!

Vertical space is precious real estate in a small space so using the full height of closets is key. Installing shelves at the very top where seasonal items can be stored it always a good idea. And one thing we recommend to clients in a bedroom is replacing their nightstands with small scale dressers (if you have the room). That way you're actually using the nightstand for clothes storage instead of just a place holder for books etc. 

What is your favorite part of the remodel that you did of your own apartment?

Wow wonderful question! Well the space that really had the most impact and dramatic change was the kitchen. I wish everyone could see the before pictures - it was a total nightmare. We spent most of our sweat equity in that space so we feel incredibly proud that our hardwork paid off. 

What role does the finish on kitchen appliances play when designing a kitchen for smaller spaces? Is stainless steel appropriate or would it overpower a smaller space? Thanks!

It's true that appliances can certainly overpower a small kitchen particularly if the appliances are full sized. So I think the first part is to consider the size of the appliances in relation to the space. Then if you have the opportunity to "hide" some with faux cabinet fronts (I chose to hide my dishwasher in my own small kitchen) or breakup the look of all stainless steel with a fun appliance like a SMUG refrigerator go for it! 

Is there a story behind the circular Cyrillic pieces that are hanging on your livingroom wall? They are very interesting! Also love the large DC Flag map.

Than you - we love them as well! They are old Russian street signs we found at a flea market in Moscow. I was initially drawn to them because of their bold black and white graphic quality. I have to give my husband all the credit for the DC flag though! 

Hi Kiera! Love your style. I have a dark grey couch and two modern chartreuse barrel chairs in my living room. The room is East facing and doesn't get great light. I'd like to paint the walls a grey. Do you have a suggestion for a modern grey OR something that would look better? Thanks!

Hi! Have you ever considered painting the walls white? It's an incredibly underused color that can really brighten up a space plus leave room for fun pops of color elsewhere like your chairs! I have become a huge fan of BM's Decorators White if you want to go that directions but a lovely light gray is BM Horizon. 

I have a 550 sq foot condo with very little storage. Thoughts on what to buy or build? As it is, I have baskets piled in corners and one too many trunks.

I don't know if you own the unit or not but if you're looking to invest a little money building a custom unit somewhere is really the ideal solution for a large scale storage problem. Built-ins are something you will certainly get a return on your invest from! 

I just redid the master bathroom and I love the paint color--BM Quiet Moments. Can you recommend a pale blue or gray for the MBR that would work well with that color? Thanks so much!

I just so happen to have my BM color decks in front of me so I'm happy to help! Quiet Moments is a beautiful color that would look really great with Coventry Gray or Stonington Gray (two of my favorites). 

What is aspect of your remodel that you think people would be surprised to learn?

Prior to swinging the first hammer at this place my husband and I had never done any construction or renovation oueselves. It's amazing what you can accomplish if you just give it a try! 

We appreciate your taking the time to do the chat. We'll be watching your blog for your future projects. Meanwhile, everyone don't forget to read all of Kiera's tips, sources and her favorite bloggers in the Washington Post today. Thanks all!

Thank you everyone for all the wonderful questions - I had a blast and hope we helped some of you with your design dilemmas! 

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
Kiera Kushlan
Kiera Kushlan is a Design Principal and Partner at the Washington, D.C. design firm Residents Understood. After attending the University of Florida's Masters of Interior Design program, Kiera and her business partner Jessica Centella started Residents Understood. Founded in 2010, the firm focuses on personality driven, residential design solutions tailored to the young-professional's lifestyle.
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