Susan Feldman on home decor shopping, holiday decorating and more | Home Front

Nov 21, 2013

Susan Feldman is the co-founder and chief merchandising officer of One Kings Lane. In addition to overseeing all buying and merchandising, she travels the world in search of exciting and unique products. Susan has been featured in Vanity Fair's 2012 "New Establishment" list and has appeared on The Martha Stewart Show and in many magazines, including House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, and InStyle as a home decor and lifestyle trends expert.

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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Susan Feldman

Susan Feldman is the co-founder and chief merchandising officer of One Kings Lane. In addition to overseeing all buying and merchandising, she travels the world in search of exciting and unique products. She will chat with us today about shopping for home decor online and also on holiday entertaining and decorating. Let's get going.

Hi everyone -  I am so excited about the upcoming holidays and to be here today answering your questions about decorating, entertaining and gifting.  The holidays are all about welcoming friends and family into your home, so I find a little preparation goes a long way.  Let's get started and have some fun!

I'm looking for nice, small gifts to offer co-workers and neighbors this holiday season -- any suggestions?

Anything that you can do that is personalized is great because it shows more thought.  One thing I love to do is give personalized pads of paper.   It's a gift that everyone will love.

Hi Susan- Does it look o.k. to have primarily gold frames/lighting, etc. in one room and then silver frames/lighting in an adjacent room? My living room has a lot of soft gold tones in it and I'm leaning toward a new polished silver chandelier for the adjacent dining room. Any rules of thumb on gold and silver in the home?

Of course.  There really are no rules when it comes to mixing elements.  It's really a personal preference.  It's your personal style statement and should reflect what you love.  In fact, I think it gives you more versatility and personality in the home.

I adore my duvet cover and I've never seen anything even close to it anywhere else (Garnet Hill from a VERY long time ago - pattern is long gone). Recently, the edge away from the buttons tore right along the seam. I presume that it is expected to happen eventually for fabric that is used and washed and tugged. The seam itself didn't tear, but the fabric along the seam did. Is there a reasonable way to repair this? I guess someone could just make everything about half an inch to an inch smaller in that dimension and put in a new seam, or even sew a backing to both sides with slightly turned under edges? It doesn't seem like a hard repair, but it is a long seam on a king sized cover. Can you recommend a place to do it? Is this something I can just bring to a local dry cleaners? I live near Friendship Heights, but could travel a bit if this is complicated and needs a specialist.

Good morning. Don't you hate it when that happens? It's hard when a part of your bed linen ensemble is damaged and you still really love it and it is no longer available. Your tear does sound like something that can be repaired and both ideas you had sound plausible. But since we can't see it, it's hard to figure out which one would work. If you have a good seamstress at your local dry cleaners I'm sure she could handle it. Otherwise, I have had great luck with repairs by Mrs. Lee at Lee's Laundry, 3811 Livingston St. NW. which is just off Connecticut Ave.

What would you suggest I buy to spruce up my guest rooms for the holidays? I have family coming but not a big budget.

A faux fur throw at the end of the bed or on a chair is both glamorous and useful for chilly nights.  

And don't forget amenities that guests often need.  A carafe filled with water and a glass.  A best-selling book.  A nicely scented candle.  These small items make your guests feel more at home.  

What do you avoid when decorating for the hoildays? Is there anything that makes you cringe when you see it in other stores?

Resist the urge to layer too many elements.  During the holidays, people tend to place too many items in a room.  It's always a good idea to decorate, step away from the room, and consider removing unnecessary decor.  

I bought some Heywood-Wakefield dining chairs that I want to reupholster without spending a fortune. I love William Morris/Art Nouveau/Arts & Crafts prints, but I can't afford the real thing and I haven't found anything comparable at my local fabric stores. Where can I turn?

I am not sure where you live. If you live in the Washington area. do try G Street Fabrics. You might also check out Discount Fabrics USA in Thurmont or DeBois Textiles in Baltimore. Do you know anyone traveling to London? You could put in an order for some William Morris fabric. Also check out for Liberty of London prints.

Looking for a great hostess gift, would prefer to move away from wine in a wine bag and give something that is perhaps unusual, a conversation starter or not holiday themed, so he/she can enjoy it well after the holidays are over. BTW - love One Kings Lane!!

Wine is always a good gift, but you don't always have to use a wine bag.  Consider other vessels, like a cache pot  or basket instead.  

A picture frame with a meaningful, personal photo is always appreciated.

One of my favorite things is a lottery ticket!

Good morning: I'm looking for suggestions for lighting for our long and narrow dining room. We're currently in the planning stages so we're pretty flexible... as far as style we are right in the middle between modern and transitional - we have a simple cherry wood table and 8 cream colored Eames molded plastic chairs. Any ideas? Thanks.

That sounds a lot like my dining room!  With the simplicity of your table and chairs, look for a lighting fixture that is dramatic and a bit over the top.

Keep it to one long statement chandelier, or three smaller pendants that are evenly spaced.

Hi Susan- what are this year's must-haves if I'm hosting a party?

I love having parties and entertain all the time.  Here are some of my party essentials:  great cocktail napkins, enough glasses and proper barware...investing in stemless glassware is versatile because they can be used for any drink.

Lighting is very important for setting the mood, so don't forget candles.  I generally prefer non-scented.  However, if you do choose scented candles make sure the fragrance is consistent throughout the house.

You can never have enough trays.

And don't neglect the bathroom.  Pretty hand towels and nice soaps are essential.

I personally consider flowers to be essential for a party and setting the stage.  

The upholstery on my couch is dead (thanks, small children living in my house). We can't afford a new couch now, but would love to not see the tears in the fabric. Any suggestions on where to look for affordable slipcovers? Thanks!

Upholstery doesn't last forever and slipcovers can extend the life of a sofa or chair. Could you contact the manufacturer of your sofa and see if they sell slipcovers for your model? You could also buy an attractive blanket or bedspread and drape it around your sofa yourself for a less expensive solution. Otherwise, check out the site.

No question........just a note from an "every week" reader. Am happy to have this venue for a comment. I subscribe to, and buy from, all of the shopping sites that have come online in the past few years. One King's Lane is, by far, the best of the lot. Kudos to you and your colleagues, Ms. Feldman.

Thank you so much!  It means a lot for me to hear this wonderful feedback.  We have the most amazing team who work so hard every day to bring the best products and inspiration to our shoppers.  Happy holidays!  

Any tips for front door dressing for the holidays?

Magnolia wreaths are my favorite.  I love their natural essence.  Here are some great options:

Any suggestions on thoughtful ways to entertain kids (at their table) during the holiday dinners and parties?

One practical suggestion for the kids' table is to consider paper table settings.  Even though they're gorgeous, they're highly function and the kids can color with crayons on them.  Here are some options:

A nice hostess gift I like to give is a "morning after" bag. I'll put a good pancake mix, maple syrup, coffee and maybe a spatula or dish towel in a bag or basket.

That's a great idea - I might steal it! 

I have a niche in my shower for shampoo bottles, etc. The tile slants too much and is slippery so when the water hits the niche the bottles start sliding out. Is there some kind of abrasive or any other solution you can suggest to put on the tile shelf in the niche that will keep my bottles from sliding off? Thanks so much!!

This sounds totally annoying. You might go to the hardware store and see if they have some sort of contact paper with a gritty coating. You could also look for some sort of a small clear acrylic organizer tray/box that you could glue on there and put the shampoo bottles in that. Does anyone else have any ideas?

I've purchased a number of pieces from OKL, most recently Alexa Hampton's new book, and have always been very pleased with what I've received and the service that you offer. However, as a peruse the site, I often see items that are so far out of whack that they make me cringe. For example, two capiz shell ashtrays for $135, a 1970's edition dictionary for $200, ratty kitchenware for $125 and others. I know that the individual dealers set the prices, but do you think that crazy items like these dilute the OKL brand?

So happy you are enjoying shopping on the site.  We try to bring a large array of products at different price points.  

Also think about matching the small gift to the person’s interest – for the cook, a nice wooden spoon; for the tea drinker, a small container of loose tea and an infuser; etc.

Yes. Also great ideas. Thanks.

What are your favorite holiday go to vintage pieces that I can purchase from OKL to add to my traditional holiday table setting?

I love brass animals.  You can start collecting them - during the holidays they're lovely on a table.  Start a new tradition by letting each family member pick their own animal.

Vintage candlesticks can also be used on a holiday table and in the house year round.  Feel free to mix different styles and materials.

I only have one set of china, which has a lacy blue and white pattern. Is there some way to make this more autumnal-looking for a Thanksgiving table?

Play with the accessories around the table.  For example, you could use a wood charger to make it more autumnal and add texture to the table.  Add a sprig of rosemary or an autumnal flower in the napkin.  Not only will it look pretty and seasonally appropriate, but it will smell great!

The fabric seats of our dining room chairs are in really bad shape (lots of permanent stains). Is it possible to recover these in leather? Would this be something I can do myself? (I did the fabric ones myself but have never worked with leather.)

That's a great idea.  Leather is durable and easier to clean.  However, the mechanics of reupholstery can be tricky and I find is better left to the pros!

First let me say that I love seeing all the different merchandise that One Kings Lane has to offer. We have a 20 year old queen anne (cordovan) leather recliner that we just cannot part with. It is currently in our family room but we just ordered two (camel) leather stressless chairs for the same room. Should we move the queen anne to the guest room or is it ok to have all three leather chairs in the same room? The sofa is traditional in a neutral color.

It's hard to gauge without seeing the room, but I like to mix fabrications in a room.  Three leather chairs might be a bit too much, but play around with the chairs in the room and see how you feel!

But for our parties, you'd better include some Gatorade and Advil. We have a fun neighborhood.

Sounds fun!

Hi Susan- I'd love a couple of ideas for a simple holiday centerpiece for my kitchen table. I've done plants- amaryllis, paperwhites, etc. in the past but want something a bit different this year. It needs to be something I can easily move off the table during homework time. Thanks.

You can take any of the seasonal flowers - poinsettias, paperwhites, amaryllis, etc. - snip off the ends and place them individually in a variety of vessels.  You'll be wowed by their beauty and impact, and they can be easily removed during homework time.  

See how they look here.


As a Christmas present I'm planning to decorate our finished attic that my wife uses as a study/lounge/dressing area (old house with little closet space), and I'm considering painting the floors white or light grey. However I'm not sure about the stairs leading up to the attic and how it would look where it meets the rest of the wood flooring in the house (which is heart of pine). Any ideas?

What an amazing gift!  Your plan sounds dreamy and we like the direction you're going in.  The mix of neutral flooring with white or light gray sounds like a great foundation to build on.  

PS - I hope my husband is reading this!

I am helping a friend decorate his apartment, which is covered entirely in 8" parquet flooring. Are there any general design guidelines I should consider when looking for a large area for his family room? For example, large v. small patterns, solid v. pattern. Even with the area rug a considerable amount of the parquet will be visible. Thank you for any insights!

A good option is a solid, sisal rug with a canvas border.  It will blend in and make the space feel larger while giving the room a consistent look.  

Here is an example:

I have a small kitchen towel problem--I don't know where to put them. Normally, I'd just thread them through the handle of the stove and/or fridge, but the handles aren't the right kind to do that. We have a holder thing on one cabinet door, but the towels keep falling off. Currently, they sit in a basket on the counter top, which isn't ideal because that takes up space and I don't have a lot of counter top space. The only thing I can think of is to get clip magnets and clip them to the fridge. Any ideas?

This is a great question. I have a friend who just remodeled her kitchen and she is also perplexed as to where to keep the towels. I do keep mine on the stove handle. I find that those telescoping cabinet door racks don't work well. I suggested that my friend get a basket for her counter but I can see that that isn't great as it takes up valuable counter space. If you put them in a drawer, you could get mold in there. I personally don't like the magnet on the fridge idea as it looks very cluttered but sometimes it might be the only solution. You could install a very small towel rack just under your sink or somewhere else hidden away. I have seen some people put one larger knob on one drawer or cabinet that you could drape a towel over. Open to more suggestions so send some in if you've got one!

I recently replaced a gas oven. I didn't want to do it - I'm not remodeling the kitchen - it needed a part that was no longer available and it was no longer safe. The original oven (from about 1979) had a drawer-type broiler that used the same burner element as the oven, and it worked fine. Broiling steak, burgers, sausages, chicken and the occasional thick chunk of fish was quick and easy. To make a long story shorter, the broiler in the new oven, which was similar in design and features to the one it replaced, simply doesn't broil effectively. It doesn't get hot enough, the burner cycles on and off unless the oven door is left open, and in general it's useless. I have to find another way to broil when it's too cold to crank up the charcoal grill outside. I've been experimenting with stove-top grilling. A little web searching suggests that this is not such an uncommon problem with modern ovens (I trust excluding the "professional" ones). It seems that fewer people are using their oven broilers today, some because they've never learned how, others because, like me, they've discovered that they're not useful for anything more challenging than melting cheese or roasting peppers. What's an old cook to do?

Think about a countertop toaster oven.  Many of them have a broiler feature.

Hi Susan, do you have any tips on interesting ways to wrap presents or present gifts?

The presentation of a gift is almost as important as the gift itself.  It doesn't take a lot of effort to make a package look gorgeous.  Great wrapping paper and ribbon is all it takes.  We have so many options at One Kings Lane.  

Another idea is to find a beautiful decorative box to package the gift.  I just gave my daughter a pair of earrings if a silver-plated box - it was like two gifts in one.  

Hi! I have a large but awkward MBR. It has an internal staircase, half flight up to BR level, then another 1/2 flight up to an open loft. I love the open-ness, but it's daunting to decorate the "middle" area in between the 2 spaces, bc the stairs cut between them like a hallway. High (15 foot) vaulted ceiling. How do you arrange art, accet furniture, and what would you suggest? I do have a super cool 8' long banner in the stairwell area. Any other suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks.

The key to decorating an unusual space like this is to think about creating small vignettes.  Start small and pay attention to the scale of items because of your high ceilings.

Just a comment . I liked your response to the Silver and Gold question. Our bedrooms are decorated as they were when the children were in high school. according to their choice. When they visit they enjoy the memories. It annoys me to read that a house should be "neutral" in order to be more saleable. If a buyer wants a neutral decor, they should stick to apartment living.Buying a pre owned house should include the cost of redecorating, even remodeling if needed.

I am a big believer that home should be a place where you can express yourself.  If you love it, it's awesome.

Hi, we have a beautiful home that we are ready to furnish to suit our family, kids ages 9 and 6 and two parents working full time. Our tastes run to hardwood artisans, ikea, crate and barrel, local craft shows or in other words, practical, simple, personal. Question, although we'd like to make the final choices and (most likely) do the purchasing ourselves because it is really fun and satisfying to pick out just the right thing, it would really help to have general design assistance for all of the rooms as an integrated whole. Our home currently has a few things we really love but lacks a finished look because the big picture is missing. We're busy, and tend to dip into home projects as time allows, so it would be great to have a designer lay out a plan for the entire home and our family's needs on paper, like the room makeover features you do weekly, but for the whole house.

A lot of people feel intimidated when they think about decorating an entire house.  The best solution is to start with one room.  Finishing just one room will give you a sense of accomplishment and get you excited about doing the next space.  You can also take one element or idea from the finished room and carry it over to the next space.  This will help give your home a cohesive look.  Good luck!

Hello....It's been so difficult to find block otu curtains for my son's room. I've been to JC Penny, Kohls, Bed Bath & Beyone, Wayfair & Amazon online and no luck.....The ones that are reasonably priced $40/panel were plastic or shiny material...It definitely blocks the light, but looks horrible. I guess I may have to shell out more to go to pbkids or think about adding a liner to a regular curtain panelt to block out the light. I would like to buy soft material yet heavy dark blue curtains....please help because I'm running out of options.

Think about going somewhere that specializes in window treatment.  One great resource is The Shade Store.

Hi Susan. How do you decorate for the hoildays?

Mercury glass is great because it's beautiful and shimmers - it gives the home or table an istantly festive look.  

And don't forget natural elements.  Magnolia leaf wreaths are always gorgeous.  I like to visit my local flower market and find greens for the mantel.  

Lastly, I hang vintage ornaments from my chandelier.

Thanks for all the great questions.  We wish you all a great holiday season!  - susan

Thanks to Susan for being with us today and for all her great ideas. The chat is taking a break on Thanksgiving day and we'll be back on Dec. 5.

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
Susan Feldman
Susan Feldman is the co-founder and chief merchandising officer of One Kings Lane. In addition to overseeing all buying and merchandising, she travels the world in search of exciting and unique products. Susan has been featured in Vanity Fair's 2012 "New Establishment" list and has appeared on The Martha Stewart Show and in many magazines, including House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, and InStyle as a home decor and lifestyle trends expert.
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