David Mitchell on decorating and design | Home Front

Oct 03, 2013

David Mitchell is one of Washington's most popular and influential interior designers. The principal of David H. Mitchell & Associates was the 2010 recipient of the Designers Choice award from Home and Design Magazine and is a member of the Washington Design Hall of Fame. He has been featured in Traditional Home, House Beautiful, Veranda and more, and can be found on his blog, David Mitchell Uncensored.

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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I am thrilled to have David Mitchell on my chat today. David is one of Washington's top interior designers. His work is often published in national design magazines. His show house rooms are always among the most interesting in the annual DC Design House. David has a popular blog called David Mitchell Unsensored in which he covers many design topics. His rooms are very polished and full of intriguing furnishings. So ask away everyone, it's a great opportunity.

Hi Everyone, I am so excited about being here today. Ask me anything but remember I am the master of color. So, if you have color questions, ask away!

A few weeks ago I asked you for some Benjamin Moore taupe recommendations. I ordered samples of your picks (BM even included little brushes with the samples). I selected Big Bend Beige for my dining room, living room and hallway (including all doors, trim and baseboards). The painting was completed today. It looks fabulous--what a great neutral! I am thrilled. Thanks so much!

Yay! So glad to hear that. The important thing is that you are happy with the choice.

My living room has a camel sofa and two off white chairs - any suggestions for paint colors that would add some color but not overwhelm the space?

I would highly suggest using a blue-gray color such as Benjamin Moore, ‘Ocean Air’ 2123-50. It makes a great background for neutral upholstery.

Jara - Our hallway and living room are suddenly sporting ugly new wall cracks. The cracks are about 10 inches in length. We just painted one year ago, and had no cracks at that time in these spots. Our roof is relatively new... What do you think could be the matter?

How annoying. Where do you live? The Washington area has had a few minor earthquakes. And the ground is constantly shifting. Unless you have had water damage to your foundation, I can't think of what you could do to prevent this. You aren't having Zumba classes in there are you? 

I noticed on your blog David Mitchell Uncensored that you painted your front door a glossy black. My house is red brick and I think the intense black would be too much. Any other suggestions?

If you want a black door but not pitch black I recommend Fine Paints of Europe, ‘Flint Black’ 161A. It is a softer black and would look GREAT on a red brick house. Another suggestion, if you are going to have a black door do not paint your shutters black. You want the black door to be special!

My house is decorated but I want to freshen it up with some new accessories. Do you have any local resources?

This is a great weekend for accessories! In Timonium MD. at the state fair grounds is the Sugarloaf Craft Festival. It is a great place to go find unusual and handmade objects and accessories for your home.



Does adding beadboard make a bathroom look smaller? Any advice on sizing re: the widths available for beadboard and also for 1" or 2" white hex floor tile? The bathroom is around 10'x12'. Thanks

Beadboard will not make a 10'x12' bathroom look smaller. It will add some charm to a bathroom. Beadboard looks better higher, such as 48 to 52 inches. You want a really good cap on the top of a beadboard, nothing weak, almost like a ledge. Go with 1" hex tile floor, it's more classic but choose a grout that looks like old-fashioned grout. It should look like mud.

David: What are your favorite flea markets in our area?

The guys that run the Brooklyn Flea in NY just took over the Florida Ave Flea Market on the weekends in DC which is now a terrific market full of great vintage pieces and lots of yummy food. Definitely worth the trip and the parking nightmares!

Since you're the master of color, what's a vivid yellow to paint a kid's bedroom?

Fine Paints of Europe, Sunray 11A, it's a killer yellow. But, you may need your sunglasses the first time you walk in the room!

David - I noticed that your decorating style is relatively traditional, as is mine. I am curious - what is your opinion on adding a bench to a dining room for seating? I only have four matching chairs, but I would like to be able to seat at least six people (and preferably eight). The existing chairs match the table, but I cannot find similarly shaped ones anywhere. The table is expandable with fold-down ends. When the ends are down, it's impossible to tuck in chairs. The alternatives I can think of to bench seating would be having a banquette, using folding or stacking chairs, or buying two host chairs that I would then need to store elsewhere regularly. Here is a photo of the room for reference: http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/8c/44/79/8c4479cbe20389bcfe3818211598deb2.jpg

A bench always looks good in a shelter magazine but I find them to be nonfunctional as seating in a dining room. You have to remember that four people will be sitting on this bench and it's hard to move around. If you're the guy in the middle and you have to use the restroom, you're in trouble. Your chairs seem to be a simple design almost like a schoolhouse chair. I think you could find similar chairs and give a mix-match look to the dining room. There are some great folding chairs available now that you can tuck away in a closet when you're not using them for a dinner party.

My living room has a dark brown sofa and I'm looking to paint and add maybe 1 or 2 comfy chairs. The room is a decent size with a skylight. I am SO nervous about selecting color (which is why the room has been pretty much white for the past 5 years). What do you recommend? Thanks so much...Michele.

Would you be opposed to the comfy chairs being upholstered in a color?

Hello, I need a loveseat for my living room. The room is too small to have a full on couch. It needs to be comfy and have armrests. I've been having trouble funding one though that is affordable (for me, that means under 1K). I also would like it in off white/cream but at this point, I am willing to not be picky. Can you help? Bonus for online shopping!

Do you prefer a modern or tradiational sofa? If you are looking for a modern one you should check out, Thrive. They have many selections and a lot of mid-century inspired pieces and great fabrics! If you want a traditioanl sofa look at Ballard Designs, afforadble and ususally nice fabrics.



David, a friend of mine told me you have a line of tables - where can I see them?

Yes, I have a line of cocktail, occasional and dining tables with Salvations Architectural Furnishings. You can find them through the link below...


Great answers, Mr. Mitchell! I have a quick questions. Need a pale green for my kitchen/family room combo. The cabinets are Dove White. Am overwhelmed by the choices and this area needs to be painted before Thanksgiving!

Here are a couple to try...

you want a green that has a slight gray undertone which is very popluar now try, Ben Moore 'Camouflage' 2143-40.

If you would like something a little brighter try, Ben Moore 'Guilford Green' HC-116.

There is also Farrow and Balls, 'Cooking Apple Green' 32, which you can get at Color Wheel in Mclean, VA.



Hi David, Where can I find a great affordable rug?

West Elm has stylish affordable rugs. I actually have one in my living room!

thank you for the great advice, it's very helpful! Which width beadboard - the traditional narrow width or the more recent wider boards, do you prefer? I am leaning towards the classic narrow width but is it more/too busy?

Especially with your floor you should use the classic width!

No...I don't mind color at all. I'm just petrified about selecting it! LOL! Also...I love that neutral look (on walls) with white trim (unless you recommend something more current). I would love to do something like that in our dining room. The lighting isn't great...there's only one window.

I also have a brown sofa in my living room and while I love color I painted my living room Ben Moore, 'Revere Pewter' HC-172 and then used artwork, accessories and pillows to bring color in the room. Most of the things I have are green and then I painted my dining room a green tone.

My husband and I do not want to know the gender of our baby before he or she is born. What is a nice, gender-neutral color for the baby's bedroom? Would prefer something not yellow, though.

I would select a classic green color then if you have a boy blue looks great  and pink works with green for a girl! And although I said classic, something a little more current wouldn't be bad. Try, Ben Moore, 'Pale Sea Mist' 2147-50.

David, I admire your work and would like your advice. I live in an all beige house, how can I bring in more seasonal accessories to give it a warmer look?

Wood bowls are a great way to bring in seasonal accessories. Actually right now Pottery Barn has large vintage carved wood bowls. They are great for a sideboard or coffee table and you can fill them with mini pumpkins to add a dash of orange to your neutral space!

hi David, I am deciding on what kind or combination of floor to use in a walkout basement apartment. It has new double French doors to the outside stone patio. Any ideas on what would be best -- all wood, wood in the galley kitchen and by the entry with carpet in the rest, or tile in the kitchen/entry? So many possibilities, can you help? I don't expect any moisture issues, it's a concrete floor.

I was just out at Marble Systems in Fairfax VA. They have this amazing porcelain flooring that looks like exotic wood or petrified wood. Very affordable and a great look and would be perfect for the basement apartment!

What is the perfect white paint and finish for wainscoting, trim and baseboards throughout the house? Needs to work with a lot of colors and lights and be very durable to survive against our kids. Thank you!

First of all, use a semi-gloss for longer wear. Colors that designers have suggested in past chats include Benjamin Moore's Decorator's White or Linen White of Farrow & Ball Pointing.

Hi David, I am looking for a new king-size bed frame for my new bedroom. I have in mind a platform bed with simple headboard, clean lines, wood. No footboard, husband is very tall. I have looked and everything is too fussy. Any ideas where to look? Thanks!

I would check out Thrive and Design Within Reach for what you are looking for! Scan is also another place to look, they have a classic platform bed!

I am looking at building a house. I really, really like high ceilings - higher than 9 or 10 ft. What do you recommend? Is there a ratio or do you have a recommendation of how big the room should be to the ceiling height?

If you stick to a classic proportion the width of your room should be half the lengh and the ceiling should be the height of the width.

Yes, I knew what gender my kids would be. I still didn't make their rooms pink or blue. I looked at all sorts of colors and kept mainly to white. (This was some time ago). We didn't fight so hard for gender free access for our children to give it up so easily by gender stereotyping our grandchildren.

Thanks for expressing your opinion!

David: Love your work. You have a wonderful wreath of shorebirds featured in a recent blog post. Can you point me to the artist? Thanks much. Debra

Debra - I would love to share this resouce with you but it is going in a house that is being published. Send me an email next spring and I will give you the artist! =)

David, what is the url for your blog?


I've read both pro and anti arguments for matching your living room furniture. The trend now seems to be to not match them. I was hoping to get your opinion on the matter?

The trend now is a more pulled together look. We are moving away from the horrors of the eclectic look so having your sofa and chairs matching is right on trend!

Thanks for all the great questions today. This has been a lot of fun and hopefully helpful to someone! Off to make the world more beautiful.

Thanks everyone. Great questions today for David and he's given us a lot of terrific paint and decorating tips. You must join us again soon, David! Next week, we will have the authors of the book "Love Where You Live: At Home in the Country" from Rizzoli. They are Joan Osofsky and Abby Adams. See you then.

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
David Mitchell
David Mitchell is one of Washington's most popular and influential interior designers. The principal of David H. Mitchell & Associates was the 2010 recipient of the Designers Choice award from Home and Design Magazine and is a member of the Washington Design Hall of Fame. He has been featured in Traditional Home, House Beautiful, Veranda and more, and can be found on his blog, David Mitchell Uncensored.
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