Home Front: Darryl Carter dishes on design trends and his new store

Nov 29, 2012

A D.C. native, Darryl Carter has been named a top designer by Architectural Digest, Elle Decor and House Beautiful. This month, he opened the doors to his first studio and store in the up-and-coming Shaw neighborhood on Ninth Street, NW. He chatted with us about the project and to shared his design tips with readers.

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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Today we have Washington designer Darryl Carter joining us. Darryl has just opened his own studio store in Shaw and he has a new book out THE COLLECTED HOME. Bring those questions on.

Hi home front! I want to paint my front door a shiny black, giving it a "European" look. Any recommendations for a paint color and finish that are best for doors? Thank you!

I would reccomend Benjamin Moore DC22 Phelps Black in high gloss.  Check out the color chapter in my new book The Collected Home.

Hi Home Front! My kitchen has granite countertops with the small (~4 inch) granite "backsplash" all around. I am not sure what kind of splashes that four inch barrier is meant to protect you from! Needless to say, I like to cook and now have splatters on the painted wall behind my stove and sink. So - I want to add a tile backsplash to my kitchen to actually protect the walls from splashes and make cleanup easier. Here's where I need your advice - for a variety of reasons, it will be difficult and expensive to remove the granite backsplash pieces without creating more renovation projects in the kitchen. Is it ok to just install the tile above the granite, or is that weird? I really don't want to have a Pandora's box of kitchen projects open up, but I also don't want everyone who sees the kitchen walls to think "ugh - why did they do that?" What do you think?

White subway tile would be a good choice. I have that in my own kitchen.

My front door opens directly into my rectangular living room, and opposite the door is a fairly long, bare wall. When I bought the house a year ago, that wall was mirrored floor-to-ceiling. I had that removed and repainted, but I've been at a loss as to what to do next. The room is furnished otherwise, so I'm not sure a larger piece of furniture would work there.

I would suggest placing a large canvas art that appeals to you in this space.  

Good morning! I have a two-part question about an accent wall in my living room that's painted Behr Marmalade Glaze .#1 The rest of the living room is ivory, but I'd like it to be more of a latte color. Any suggestions? #2 The living room flows into the dining room. Can you suggest a color that would complement the accent wall? My preference is for something on the bolder side, but not if it clashes with the living room. Thanks!

This is challenging out of context but, generally speaking, I think all walls in a single room should be the same color.  Part 2: I would suggest that you continue with the same color throughout so that the spaces are harmonized.  

As a drapery designer I have seen the trend towards blinds, roman shades, and panels....what do you see for the future trends. The economy and online shopping has extremely affected my small business of custom draperies and soft goods. Any suggestions? Thanking you in advance, Sandy Hartley, Best Dressed Windows

Hi Sandy.  I think that having ready-made, quick-ship, small batch online supplies available is the way to go.  If you can't beat them, join them.

Hi team and Darryl thanks for doing the chat. What is the concept behind your store/studio? What could we buy or do there and -- I have to ask, forgive me! -- how affordable are the things you'll be selling?

The concept of my store is for it to be engaging and experiential, suggestive of an entire lifestyle from aromatic candles to leather dop kits. There is something there for everyone.  And then there are more precious things, of course, in keeping with my design philosophy of mixing it up.  

I am looking for the perfect gray paint to use in my living room. Can you suggest anything?

I would suggest Benjamin Moor Delafield Gray DC 27, it is a warm shade of gray.

What are some of your favorite architectural salvage places?

Here in D.C., I frequent The Brass Knob. In Baltimore, I love Second Chance. In Richmond, I make a point to go to Caravatis and then of course there is Europe where all good things can be found.

We are planning to install built-in bookshelves and the trendy color of the moment appears to be white. I'm worried this will wash out my condo completely and make it look too much like a hospital. How do I pop it up with color?!

I am a proponent of all architectural elements and personally like when bookshelves are the same color as the space at large. This way, they engage with the enviornment rather than becoming a feature themselves.  What you populate the shelves with will give it interest.  

I have very long (8 feet) duette shades that are just filthy... Not just dusty, but filthy.They were left by former owners of my house. Any recommendation on how to clean them?

Most experts suggest vacuuming this type of shade lightly using the dusting brush tool . Or you can use a feather duster. If you call a company that specializes in window treatment cleaning, they might be able to help you. Good luck.

Hello! We're looking to redo our master bathroom on a very tight budget and have therefore decided to do most of the work ourselves. Can you recommend the best place to get innexpensive tile for our shower? Also, the ceiling in the bathroom is slanted, would you recommend tiling all the way up to the ceiling (giving it a slanted look) or parallel to the floor (so the tile doesn't go all the way up to the highest part of the ceiling)? Any other recommendations when it comes to redoing a bathroom on your own?

I would lose the angle of the wall making the ceiling flat and then tile all the way up the the ceiling.  

Hi Darryl, what are your favorite kid-friendly decorating/furnishing items?

There are some very credible faux leathers and suades on the market as well as perennials which are indoor/outdoor.  The perennials are more lightweight and can serve as slipcovers that can be dry cleaned.  We will be offering some of these products in our fabric library at the new store.  

I'm in desperate need of new paint in my apartment. Don't want to go too drastic and am in the mood for a crisp but not stark white. Can you share some of your favorite whites and off whites?

From my Benjamin Moore collection DC01-DC05 

Not a question but a comment on quality padding. My parents installed wall-to-wall carpenting around 1976 over my mom's wax polished hardwood floors. In 2006, my siblings and I took it up to facilitate moving my dad around the house in a wheelchair. My mom had always said the padding was most important and that they had bought the best there was. There was dirt trapped in the padding, but mom's hardwood floors looked like she had just waxed them. No wear on the finish at all. We even received comments about our new floors! Cheaper padding in another house I had lived in allowed the grit to go through to floor and basically sanded all the finish off of the hardwood flooring underneath. Quality padding is a must!

Wow. This is an amazing story and totally proves that point. Thank you so much for sharing this. Your mom was a wise woman to make that choice. And for all the rest of you, here is my HANDYGUIDE today on wall-to-wall carpeting.

Great news to hear that more retail is coming to Shaw. What other stores are near your new shop? Do you think there will be more home furnishings retailers opening over there with the new Giant development?

This neighborhood has one of the highest growth rates in the country.  There are several mixed-use developments in the works, and the incoming establishments are very engaged in the community in their artisinal spirit.  DC is rare in that there is no singular design district, so I am hopeful that others may join me on this new frontier.  

No question, just wanted to thank Darryl and Jura for steering me to Simply White for trim color. The post ran an article a few years ago about Darryl's home that contained paint info. I used it for baseboards/doors throughout my home and love it.

How great! I am glad this worked out for you. Thanks for writing in.

Is there such a thing as too many bookshelves in one room, in particular a bedroom?

I dont think there can be too many books in any setting.  Maybe it is time to take over the dining room.

Darryl, Has your home been featured in any magazines? If so, would you be so kind as to share with us? Thanks!

Check out our website at www.DarrylCarter.com under the media tab.  You will find everything there.

Hi there, I'm having trouble getting the second 15 of the 30 pictures to show up in the photo gallery of Darryl's shop...not sure if this is just my computer problem or not. But I can't wait to see the "after" pictures!!! What an amazing renovation!

I am so sorry. I am passing this along to our digital team.

I just painted mine in Rustoleum Dark Bronze Metallic -- it's about as glossy as you can get, and they have a bunch of metallic colors.


Hi Darryl! I grew up next door to your family on Alfred Drive. Just wanted to congratulate you on your accolades and success in the architecture/design world. We love the work you do -- very classy and sophisticated yet not stuffy -- and are so proud of your accomplishments and cannot wait to visit the store. Tracie Ambush Gibson

A blast from my oh so distant past! Great hearing from you. Hope you will drop into the store and see us.

I live in an apartment and I want to paint the living/dining area and master bedroom. I want a buttery yellow for the living area and a Sage green color for the bedroom. Your suggestions would be appreciated.

I would suggest Benjamin Moore DC 23- Blagdon Yellow for the entire living space and DC34 Linnean Green for the master. 

We're having our kitchen completely remodeled. We've had a team of 5-6 people, including designers & builders. Is there an etiquette for what to do when the job is finished? I'd like the designers and others to see how it all turned out. Can I just tell them "drop by" or should I invite them to a cocktail party or something? It might take a few weeks to get everything unpacked and be ready to entertain again. Thanks!

What a great question! Sometimes the process overwhelms the end game, and if you are happy, then it is cause for celebration.  Tell all of your friends how happy you are with the work and have a small gathering with all parties involved at the site to show it.

Yay, Home Front chat is back! I hope you had a good holiday. On Thanksgiving, a wine bottle got set down on my antique Mission sideboard and left a wine stain. How can I remove the stain without damaging the finish? Thanks much.

Thanks for being a regular! I am so sorry about your stain and I totally know what you mean. My Biedermeier-style console table took a hit a few summers ago when my cat knocked over an orchid plant and a tiny pool of water sat on the console for a couple of weeks and left a water stain. Believe it or not, what finally worked fo me was making a paste of toothpaste and cigar ash! I massaged the mixture onto the stain and it removed it! Sometimes  I fine that Old English Scratch Cover is an amazing coverup for lots of dings and stains on my furniture as well.  I have also heard of misting the stain with water and putting on some coarse salt. Leave the salt on for a few hours, then brush off, and clean with a light solution of dish soap and pat dry.  Any other ideas out there? Good luck!

I'm looking to make an investment in a nice storage ottoman for my sectional located in the den/tv room. I'd like some with a pop of color. Any material is fine, but I'd prefer good quality that will last. Any suggestions?

Ikea has a good selection. Also check out. homedecorators.com and overstock.com

Welcome, Darryl. Please pass along some of your favorite ideas for decorating our homes for the holidays. Thank you!

Magnolia garland on the stair rails and white amarylis and paper whites.  Keep it simple.

Sounds like my house! Let me suggest BM 163, a soft cake-batter yellow (though the name is something like Somerset Peach) that I have in my lr and dr and just love--looks great in any light at all times of day, and BM Grecian Green, which is sagey but without any depressing grey undertones. I have it in my home office and it's very crisp looking.


I remodeled my bathroom ten years ago, doing all the work myself except for the plumbing. Here's a few tips: if you're tearing out your tile walls, replace the bathtub too. There will never be a better opportunity. And don't get a cheap bathtub. My acrylic tub scratches easily. I wish I'd bought a cast iron tub. Install all your tiles except the ones that need cutting, then rent a tile cutter for a day. The score-and-snap technique was difficult for me; I broke a lot of tiles. Make sure you have earplugs when you use the tile cutter! I used white tiles on the wall because they were cheaper than a colored tile, readily available (no special order) and my amateur grouting work doesn't stand out.

Love this. Very helpful. Thank you.

My younger daughter is getting her own bedroom and she wants a "Lizzie Bennet" bedroom (it's empty now with a slate grey carpet and linen white walls). She is a massive Jane Austen fan after watching P&P at her friend's house one weekend when they were minding her while my husband and I were out of town. I'm happy she is reading (she's on "Emma" now) since I don't think I read an Austen novel until I was high school if even then. I just have no clue what a "Lizzie Bennet" bedroom looks like.

This is a very romantic prospect. I would say study the film and abstract from that. View this as a treasure hunt with your daughter as you collect vintage and antique pieces.

Not for people who have a keen sense of smell . . . .

Haha! You are right!

I am in desperate need of window treatments for our new home, but I know next to nothing about them! I don't even know what I don't know... :-) Where do I even start? Where do I shop? Do you hire someone to come in and measure? I'm not a DIY-er (disaster) so who hangs them? (See? I told you - clueless). I know I could hire a company like Next Day Blinds, but is there a similar business for drapes? I'm sure this is an utterly basic and silly question, but I honesty don't know anything about this process. Thank you for any guidance!!

Next Day Blinds is a good resource for lots of different window treatments. Check out Calico Corners  - they offer lots of fabric choices and will custom make curtains for any room of the house.

My husband and I live in a small condo and do not have space for a tree. Last year, we had to move our furniture out to put a live tree in. The year before we have a large fake tree - which we've later donated - it was just too large. Is there anyway we can make our house festive without the tree? I have lots of ornaments and do not know what else to make use of them for. Thank you!

Good for you for trying to figure out other ways to bring the holidays into your home. You could buy some small living pine trees or cypress at someplace like Whole Foods or Johnsons or American Plant Garden Center and put your ornaments on those. You could put some of the balls in a big crystal bowl. You could buy fresh wreaths and hang them over your mirrors or artwork or mantel, and put a few ornaments on each one.

Our couch is necessarily off center in front of a large rectangular stretch of wall. The blank area of wall has picture frame molding. I'm thinking that hanging something rectangular in that space would accentuate the off-centerness of the couch so I'm thinking something circular or vertical in that wall space, but what? A tall plant? The couch is 18 inches from the wall

Maybe a federal bullseye mirror would be a good solution. 

An earlier poster today said that she does window treatments--Well Dressed Windows.


I would check out putting temporary wall paper along the wall. Something like Blik wallpaper is very good for this. Plus you don't have to worry about making any major mistakes. (Just make sure it's not in an area that gets a lot of water - the paper is not waterproof and the print may wash off). The great thing about this is they can be completely removed if you don't like it!

So true. Good idea.

My teenage daughter and I redid our bathroom last summer. It was a great bonding experience. My advice is, know your limits. We replaced drywall and painted and tiled, but we did not attempt to lay mosaic tile on the floor or to change the tub in the tiny space (5x8 feet). Instead I refinished the tub using a 2-part epoxy, taking it from ugly 60s grey-pink to gleaming white. Well worth the 4 days of smell-with-an-h.

You are brave! Kudos!

Having a really hard time finding traditional (not plantation) style wood shutters made to order (I need to paint them). Any ideas? Struck out at Home Depot.

We are very like minded on this subject. I so perfer the more period traditional styles.  I dont know what your window conditions are but maybe you will luck out at one of the earlier architectural salvage establishments I mentioned.

Thanks so much, Darryl, for being on the chat. It was great to hear your opinions and get your advice. We wish you all the best in your new venture. Next week, tune in for Elle Decor editor-in-chief  Michael Boodro live on the Home Front chat right here.

Thanks to all for your questions, all very thoughtful.

Hope I was helpful

In This Chat
Darryl Carter
Darryl Carter, one of Washington's most celebrated designers, recently opened his first store and design studio in the up-and-coming Shaw neighborhood. The project, which took years, was well worth the wait. He'll be online to chat about his plans for the space and to share his design tips with readers.
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.

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