Kelly Galvin Robson on interior decorating and home improvement | Home Front

Dec 01, 2011

Kelly Galvin Robson, a Philadelphia-based designer who runs the online shop High Street Market, joined Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza on the weekly Home Front chat. Together, they gave advice on interior decorating and home improvement.

Holiday Crafts Contest: We invite you, crafty person, to share an original creation with us. It can be sewn, woven, knitted, molded with plain paper or papier-mache, or created with any materials you like. Upload photos of your craft at by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 5.

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Do you need gift ideas? Read Terri's Gift Guide today  for 20 ideas for less than $50. And chat now with Kelly Galvin Robson who owns a shop in Philadelphia, an online business and writes a blog on design. Let's go! Terri is going to join us from the road shortly.

Delece Smith-Barrow, the mastermind of the annual Washington Post Holiday Crafts Contest, is also chatting with us today. Ask her about what she's seen so far and tips for submitting your creative ideas. She will chime in when she sees a crafts question.

Hi, everyone. Thanks for the intro, Jura. Only a few days left until the submission period closes for the Holiday Crafts Contest.  If you have any questions, I'm here to help. So far we've received some festive wreaths, decorative pillows and ornaments.

When looking to buy a large, long-time furniture investment, like a couch, I want something that I won't get tired of as my decorating tastes change over time. What kind of style and lines remain timeless and works with the most decorating schemes? Thanks - and love High Street Market! Please have Kelly back again!

Thank you!!  When investing in a good sofa, you'll want to turn to the classics.  You can't go wrong with a good tufted Chesterfield-- they're masculine and a little old school.  I like a style that has a strong arm (to balance the fancy tufting throughout).  If the Chesterfield is a bit too fussy, try something with an English rolled arm-- these pieces are ALWAYS in style.  Mitchell Gold has a great option.  It's called the "London" sofa and it's right on the money.  You'll never get sick of it.

i am looking for a good purple color that isn't Gonzaga Eagles purple. I have a benjamin moore paint sample called amorous. i like it but its too dark. i cut a bit of it with some white paint i had and came up with cool color. would it be ok to buy more white paint and mix my own? or should i have a paint store match the sample i created?

Ha ha. Love the Gonzaga purple mention. I had a lot of purple in my life from 2004 to 2008 but I never did paint a room in that hue!! Adding more white is certainly an option. But bringing your sample to a paint store is also a good way to really get what you want! Ul250 -19 Metro is a nice smoky violet from Behr at Home Depot.

I'm on the hunt for just the right fabric to cover a couple of stools (I only need 3 yards). I even made the trek to Thurmont (Discount Fabrics) but came up empty. Are you aware of any online sources that i could try? (Already tried Calico Corners) I know most of them will send samples. Thanks!

Have you tried Haute of Georgetown, DeBois Textiles in Baltimore or Williams & Sherrill in Richmond? Do you guys have any online fabric sources to suggest?

Hi all! I have a tricky question. I am due for a promotion/raise in January and my boss is having the annual holiday party at his house. My husband and I will go as we have for the past few years, but I've begun to notice that the rest of our staff (though it's all unspoken) goes completely over the top with hostess gifts. Last year, one of my co-workers brought a gift bag of expensive wine, home made toffee, a Tiffany candle and exotic flowers. I mean, this must have cost at least $200. I'm not sure if it's to get my boss's attention, but it all feels really competitive. My question: Do I join in and go for it or is that sinking to their level? If I go for it...what's an idea that might woo him?!?!?

When it coms to gifts, I think the thought is more important than anything else. I would just look for a gift that suits his personality and interests and go with that, could be something that's $200 or $20 - if it's a really thoughtful gift it won't matter what the price was. I think there's a very obvious difference between a gift that required thought and one that simply required money. I much prefer the former.

Rugs are so expensive and my house is all hardwood floors. I have young children and need something that is comfortable underfoot, large (8x10 or bigger), able to withstand wear and tear well, and won't break the bank. Where should I look? Also, what do you think of layering rugs? Any tips for softer sisal/natural fiber rugs?

Since you still have young children, don't invest in anything precious.  For the 8x10, try a large jute rug!  They're neutral, they're softer than a seagrass, and they'll hide dirt and spills.  Jute rugs are also pretty inexpensive and you can find them at any large retailer (IKEA has a great option, it's called the  "Tarnby").  From there, you can layer it with a smaller, more colorful flat weave rug.  Layering rugs adds instant interest to a room.  It's one of my favorite tricks!

Tip: If you want to hang stockings but don't have a fireplace, you can hang them under a large shelf. I have a large floating shelf in my living room that works perfectly. I used push-pins to tack them up since the stockings are relatively light. See for a photo.

Great tip. Thanks.

My mother in law and I have a.... rocky relationship, to put it delicately. So I always try to put in a great deal of thought for her holiday gifts because I want her to know that the effort is there. I'm stumped this year. Do you guys have any creative gift ideas for a mother-in-law that seems impossible to please? The more local, the better.

Did you checkout today's gift guide? Lots of ideas for everyone on your list, even the most difficult among us! One of my favorites is the olive oil from Dean and Deluca. The bottle is so pretty and reusable.

We just moved into a new home and need to replaced the window treatments. It's a traditional two story brick. I'm considering plantation shutters for the rooms facing the street. Should all the windows facing the street should have the same treatments for a cohesive look or is it okay to mix it up? Would it look weird to put shutters on most the windows, but leave the bay window in the dining room (downstairs) not covered. Thank you!

I personally don't think all the windows have to match. Its the interiors of the rooms that you live in and you should have treatments that go with your decor and your lifestyle. I do think it would be fine to leave the bay window uncovered.

Asa college grad my mass gifts usually involved alcohol (candy-cane vodka from last year, for example). I am in charge of getting the prizes for our "Deck your Desk" competition,and I am looking to make some fun prizes, but I admit I should stray from the booze theme. So far, most of my ideas revolve around cookie-making kits in mason jars. Any other thoughts? We work for the US Navy, if there are any theme ideas...

Check out today's gift guide here for lots of ideas.  And I agree: step away from boozy gifts this year.

What are her interests? Can you find a magazine subscription that matches something she's interested in and give that to her? Also, Eddie Bauer has a cashmere scarf for about $60--who doesn't like cashmere?

Everybody loves cashmere. That's for sure. Cashmere socks are a luxurious and great gift too.

Now that the pumpkin display is in the compost heap, I need some inspiration to decorate the front of my house. We're getting a wreath for the front door, but I feel a need to have something next to the door (much like the pumpkins). Maybe a small Christmas tree in a pot? Any thoughts?

Don't miss our House Calls today. Some great ideas from Daren Miller of And Beige.

I have had really good luck with this company: They stock remnants of great, high end designer fabrics. The downside is that they generally only have a few yards of each.....but I got some Maharam Paul Smith striped fabric for some pillows at a huge discount and they are gorgeous!


Hi Kelly! My husband and I are in the process of buying a farm house built in 1921! We close next friday.. and we just cant wait to get in there and get to work! I want to keep the design simple and true to its roots without looking dated. What are some timeless staples we should start with?

First of all, congratulations!  And second-- get ready!  Home renovations can be challenging.   While we know that the process can be frustrating and time consuming, it's also extremely rewarding... and sometimes, it's even fun!  In terms of choosing materials for the renovation, get to know the period and style of your home.  This is so important.  Study popular materials that were used at the time the house was built (pay close attention to lighting fixtures, tile, trim work, etc).  These are the elements that you want to shine through when the renovation is complete!  The biggest mistakes happen when home owners choose fixtures that have nothing to do with the original integrity of the house.  Stick with the classics.  I like carrera marble, polished nickel bathroom fixtures, glass door knobs, and hardwood floors.   If your home has some unique historic features (like original windows, pocket doors, or built-in cabinetry), show them off!  When choosing furniture, you'll want to incorporate a few antiques with some modern pieces.  That way, your home will still feel fresh, without looking like a museum.  Good luck!

Are there any good web sites or videos for gift wrapping tutorials? I swear I've been wrapping gifts for like 30 years and every year I think I'll get better and I never do. I really appreciate it when people give me gifts that are wrapped beautifully and I'd like to reciprocate. Any advice would help!!!

I love giving and receiving beautifully wrapped gifts; I consider the presentation part of the gift itself. I am sure if you did a Google search for "how to warp a gift" you would get lots of hits. You could also look for a Paper Source in your area - I think they have classes on gift wrapping.

When I finally update and upgrade my floors I want a medium warm wood floor downstairs and a very light color upstairs in the bedrooms. What do I do with the staircase? It is a split level and the front entry (which is now marble) is part of the stairs.

I would do the staircase the same as the first floor wood.

I just browsed the gif ideas under $50. I went to the site to try to order the personalized notepads (great idea!), and I couldn't find a link to order them. Please help! Thanks.

This link should work.

Hope it helps!

This time of year the Container Store does gift wrapping tutorials, I even learned how to make my own bows! My gifts looked so much nicer after learning from them last year.

Yes, you're right. The Container Store is a great idea for gift wrapping tutorials. Lots of great wrapping paper, too.

zero in...we gave my MIL a beautiful scarf/shawl from a museum shop that had cultural significance for her, and was from a geographically far away museum so she could be unique. perfect! something she could show off.

It is very thoughtful to find something that really connects with the person getting the gift. The Smithsonian shops and also the Library of Congress and National Archives shops are wonderful sources of unusual and unique gifts that have a Washington connection.

I have a large blank wall over my ouch and want to fill it up in a fun way - but am finding it hard to find a solution that is stylish and elegant, but cost effective.

A large blank wall-- you have so many options!!  One fun trick: buy a vintage art book and rip out some of the pages.  I've seen this done with botanticals, prints, and even maps!  Then, frame them all in the same style picture frame.  Frames don't have to be expensive-- IKEA and Michael's have some good options.  I prefer the 1 inch thick black frames with large white mats (they tend to look the most streamlined and they allow the focus to stay on the artwork).  Hang them in a grid style.  Either four frames over four, or three rows of three (depending on how large your wall is).  Now, you've got instant drama on that previously boring wall! 

My sister is an interior designer in Austin, Texas. I am absolutely stumped on what to get her this year. Last year I gave her a funky commissioned painting of her and her dog. Too late to do that this year, plus I'm not sure she wants to end up with a whole collection of dog portraits though they are fun. She likes country french and Italian villa style. She's also very fun and funky. She likes coffee and wine but doesn't like to cook so gifting ideas for the kitchen are out. Any suggestions of new designer books to give her or unique designer items? Anything you are particularly coveting for yourself but wouldn't spend the money on for yourself? Because we are so close, we typically spend anywhere between $250 and $500 on each other.

I really like Celerie Kemble's new book, Black and White (I'm not typically a fan of that color combination, but she has swayed me to the other side). I also really like Katie Ridder's new book, which is just the opposite - lots of gorgeous colors. How about pairing the two to give with something else?

And the first thing that came to my mind in the $250-$500 range that I've been currently coveting is a new bag from Tory Burch. Though, the one I've been eyeing is more than $500. Hopefully, my husband is reading this...

I love to wrap gifts. But I don't think that you need a tutorial to do it well. I think that the biggest challenge is organizing your materials, having enough space to work, and giving yourself enough time. If you get those three elements, anyone can wrap a gift.

I agree. Also have a counter height that doesn't make you bend over. You can wrap longer if you use a taller  wrapping surface.

It's inappropriate. Even if your boss doesn't believe that, you won't be docked for not doing it, while if he/she does, it will reflect badly on your judgment. Bring a gift that is appropriate to the occasion, like flowers or something homemade.

I agree that flowers or a plant or something you baked or cooked is a great solution.

Good Morning Im looking for a large sofa table. But somthing i could use as a desk as well. I would like to be able to pull up a chair and use the computer at the table. A few drawers to store a couple of laptops . At least 60 inches long if not beggier. Any ideas of were to look.

I bought a great one at Also check out Ballard Designs, Wisteria and Ikea.

I finally have the budget to redo the living room, so where do I start? Do I pick a rug I like, then go with those colors? Pick a wall color first? Window coverings? Thanks!

Start with some great inspiration images.  Look through magazines, design blogs, etc, and pull some pictures that appeal to you.  From there, study them-- what makes them so interesting to  you?  Is it the color scheme?  Furniture layout?  Overall style?  If you look at enough pictures, you'll start to notice some similarities...  and ultimately, you'll find your own design style!  As you create a furniture plan and start collecting pieces for the room, keep referring to those original images that inspired you.  They'll help keep you on track, and they'll remind you of your end goals: to create a space that reflects your personal style. 

My father's mother couldn't stand my mother. Mom always went out of her way to get lovely gifts that were either ignored or criticized. One year, she just gave up and sent a set of "fancy" covered clothes hangers - covered with satin and stuffed and decorated. Mom thought they were hideous, but they were cheap (BB&B maybe?) and they were a gift. Grandma loved them. She actually complimented mom and thanked her. Might have been the closest they ever got to bonding. Grandma was oriented, so this might not work with everyone.

Love the practical idea. Huggable Hangers are a great suggestion actually.

i like using odd materials for gift wrap. that way if its not perfect, its still fun. comic pages from newspapers. paper printed with family photos. one year i wrapped my nephews gifts with bubble wrap. they loved it.

Maps are also fun to use as gift wrap.

I like to bring something homemade that the party-givers can enjoy the next morning when they are often still cleaning up . . . scones, muffins, quick breads, etc.

That is very thoughtful! Love that idea.

The Building Museum has the best gift shop in town!


I can't get the page to let me see each of the photos, as the layout is wonky in my browser. Are they up somewhere else?

Our site is experiencing technical difficulties this morning. Sorry! Please try later. Today's House Calls is terrific with lots of great ideas for making your entryway festive. I love the triple wreath idea.

OK, so I realize this is an elementary question, but I'm getting a bed without a footboard. I toss in my sleep, and even with a footboard my sheets come untucked most nights. What is the best way to stop this, especially since now I won't even have the pressure of the footboard to help. Thanks!

Having a footboard helps keep bed linens on the bed (rather than on the floor when you wake up every morning).  Without a footboard, you could try using a bench at the end of the bed?  The bench might help keep things from untucking.  If the bench isn't an option, I guess you'll just have to get used to making the bed every morning!  A good night's sleep is more important than a messy bed. 

What are your thoughts on marble vs. granite for kitchen counter tops? Thank you!

I'm a huge fan of white marble (carrera or calcutta-- can't go wrong).  That being said, I realize that it's high maintenance and you'll have to have it sealed every year in order to prevent stains, etc.  If you looking at granite countertops, stick with a solid color (like black) and order a honed finish.  Honed granite counters are gorgeous and you'll avoid that speckled look that every new construction has.  Good luck!

Thanks Kelly for all your great ideas for making our holiday shopping easier. And again, Terri's Gift Guide for 2011 has classy and affordable ideas for your entire gift list. We will be talking about gifts and entertaining the whole month of December. And please follow me on Twitter @jurakoncius where I'll be tweeting a gift idea a day #tweetagift. Feel free to suggest gifts and shops for us to consider highlighting in our coverage. Happy shopping to all.

In This Chat
Terri Sapienza
Terri Sapienza is a staff writer for The Washington Post's Local Living section.
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
Delece Smith-Barrow
Delece Smith-Barrow is the Local Living Innovations Editor and manages the Holiday Crafts Contest.
Kelly Galvin Robson
Kelly Galvin Robson is a Philadelphia-based designer who runs the online shop High Street Market, selling antique and vintage finds for the home. She also writes the High Street Market design blog.
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