Elle Decor's editor-in-chief Michael Boodro joins the weekly chat | Home Front

Dec 06, 2012

Michael Boodro is the editor-in-chief of Elle Decor. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of Martha Stewart Living and has served as an style editor at The New York Times Magazine, Garden Design and Vogue, where he spent 11 years editing features. He was online to chat with readers about design trends and home improvement!

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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Welcome to Michael Boodro, editor in chief of Elle Decor, who joins us today. It will be great to hear what he has to say about what's in store for style and design in 2013 and how his magazine manages to chronicle the best of what is cozy & chic and much more. I love the December issue with Rooms to Inspire. So let's get going.

Thanks, Jura. Happy to be with you, even electronically!

Thanks for being on the chat. I would love to know what you think about the future of magazines. Will they be only online soon? If so, I'm going to miss those gorgeous glossy pages.

As a glossy paper addict myself, I certainly hope so. We may be going increasingly on-line but i do thinkt here will always be a place for visual magazines--but they will become like luxury objects and you may have to pay more for a subscription.

I would like to have your opinion about painting ceilings the same color as walls. I am not talking about dark colors, but certainly not white or neutral colors. Say mid-range colors. My ceilings are only 8 feet tall if that matters. I would like to try it, but since ceilings are such a pain to paint I certainly don't want to paint them twice if I don't like it. What are your general design rules for this. Any rooms it works better in then others? Thank you.

At the suggestion of a designer friend, I painted the ceilings of my apartment, which are only about 8 1/2 feet high, Benjamin Moore's Linen White, which is creamier and more ivory than the traditional ceiling white. It give a softer look and I have to say I love it much better than a stark white ceiling. I think as long as the color is pale, as in a beige or blue, the effect can be cloud-like and softening. It also helps when there is a lack of moldings or distinctive  architecture. It really works well in any room but especially smaller, cozy ones.

Hi, I read the question and answer last week about mold in the shower. We are using a squeegee to wipe down the shower and running the fan, but still have a constant problem with orange and black mold. My question concerns products to treat the problem. I've tried Tilex, straight bleach and Clorox bleach pencils. No effect. Any other suggestions? Thanks so much.

Yes. Read today's excellent article in Local Living by Jeanne Huber about battling mold in the shower. Here it is:

House Calls does it again. Once again there is a lamp in the middle of the room with no possible way to plug it in. Shouldn't designers have to be practical like the rest of us?

Hmmm. Must look into this. Maybe it's battery operated!

What's on the horizon for garden design in 2013 & beyond?

The big news is ec0-conscious and water-conscious gardening. I think we are beginning to see the shrinking of huge lawns that require lots of care and fertilizing. Also green gardens, working with perennials and bushes, is becoming more prominent. No one loves flowers more than me, but they are incredibly labor intensive. I think we will see  smaller, more intensively planted beds, and larger expanses of easy-care natural lawns edged in lilacs and other low-maintenance plants.

Do you accept submissions from people who did not use a designer or architect on their homes? I have a friend whose house is amazing and I would like her to send photos.

Yes, we certainly do. Not all the projects we print are deisgned by professionals. In fact, we love to celebrate personal style, and the places that people do themselves are often the most innovative and interesting.

I have read that you worked in the nonprofit world before going into the design magazine business. Can you tell us a little about your background? Your job now is amazing and I would love to know how you worked your way through the system.

Yes, I worked for museums and non-profit arts organizations when I first got out of college. I origianlly thought I would become an architect, before I realized that I didn't really think in three-dimensions. But I have always loved art and architecture. I got into magazines through an artist friend who worked at GQ, and have been in magazines ever since. I love visual culutre in all its varieties, but especially love design and architecture.

For the chatter last week who wanted to clean duette shades, the Hunter Douglas website has a downloadable care and maintenance brochure. If the shade is a look-alike from Next Day Blinds, I have taken mine down and scrubbed it (in one direction on a flat surface) with laundry detergent and rinsed it with running water (standing in the shower). You have to be careful not to slit the honeycombs. Hang long to dry, then pleat it up making sure each honeycomb is open.

Thanks. Very helpful.

Hello and thank you for taking my question, I am torn between what flooring to use in my kitchen renovation. Considering brick, tile or wood. Any suggestions on what you guys prefer, what is easy to clean, is very durable and also any other choices you may suggest.

Personally, I would go with wood or a wood-like surface such as Pergo. That is the most long lasting and easier on your feet. Easy to clean too. Some people like bamboo floors because they are also very forgiving when you have to stand by the sink or the stove for long periods of time.

Are you a big cook or entertainer? I just wondered since you worked for Martha Stewart.

I am not exactly a huate-cuisine chef but I do like to cook and bake--simple things like pot roast or risotto or meatloaf, one of my specialties. I love to have friends for dinner and I still think that it is one of the nicest compiments you can pay to someone to invite them to your home for dinner. I have been crazed of late and am going through a bathroom renovation so haven't entertained in a while but am looking forward to it in the New Year.

What makes Elle Decor different from the rest of the design magazines? I am consdering getting a subscription for a friend for Christmas.

We like to celebrate personal style--often unusual and unexpected. We cover trends--Elle Decor is often described as the fashion magazine for the home, but I like to think of the magazine as a go-to source for people who really love design, who want to discover what's next as well as the talents of the past.

We're re-carpeting our living room and dining room, and I'm looking for a neutral carpet color. In the living room, we have an armchair in cranberry upholstery, a dark brown leather chair, and one in a sort of honey upholstery. Walls are white, but we'll probably be painting at some point. Any thoughts on a carpet color?

I would go with an off white. I recently did a story on choosing carpeting and here it is. It was interesting to read that off white is the favorite choice by most Washingtonians when it comes to carpet.

What are some of your favorite museums and stores in New York.? I always keep a list for my next trip.

The Met and MoMa are two favorites of course--you can get lost in either for the whole day. But a particular favorite is the Neue Gallerie--I have always loved German Expressionism and Weiner Werkstatte design, and the museum has one of the best gift shops in town. For shops don't miss De Vera, an amazingly curated array of jewelry and objects, and BDDW, a wonderful furniture store, both in SoHo.

We went with cork - far easier to stand on than the previous ceramic tile floor, easy to clean, and looks really good.

Thanks. I hear cork is a good choice. Over the years, many people have complained that they regretted using brick or tile. And if you drop something on a tile floor, it's more apt to break.

What do you think about the future of design centers? More and more consumers are getting direct access to things that used to be to the trade only.

This is a huge issue in the design community and one that is changing by the day. Consumers expect access to great products, and the internet and sites like 1st Dibs, have made the desire even stronger. But I have always thought it a mistake for people to think of designers as personal shoppers, or someone they need to hire to get at the "good stuff." Designers do so much more than that. So I think access is great for the public. As I also say, if you really think you don't need a designer, just go and spend an hour at a fabric showroom--it's overwhelming!

Good morning, thanks for the wonderful chats. The honeycomb shades in the windows in my townhouse came with the house. They are a bit dingy now, the pulls are fraying, they have to go. There is no trim around the windows. My decor is "comfortable traditional". What would you suggest I invest in to replace and update my windows? If it matters, I get partial sun in the front, lots of afternoon sun in the back. Many thanks.

I might just go with fresh new honeycomb shades to keep it simple. Shutters would be another choice, but would be more expensive.

I'm late getting to this question, but I finally upgraded to a flat screen TV and need to know if there is a company that will pick up and recycle the old 32" CRT one?

Most jurisdictions have recycling centers that you could bring your TV to. I don't know about picking something up at your home. Why don't you contact your local government offices. Does anyone out there know of a private service that does this?

You are always pictured in the magazine meeting and greeting people all over the country. What question do you get asked the most about design and the magazine?

People always ask me about trends, which I think is funny, since design really shouldn't be about trends but what you really love. But I think it reflects a desire of people to be engaged with their homes, which is a great thing. The old fashioned idea of designing a room and then leaving it  that way for years is dead. People like change, as they do in fashion, and want to keep abreast, even if it is only by adding a few new pillows or changing the duvet.

People are also obsessed with color trends and what colors are popular. Right now we are seeing lots more blues and greens showing up, teals and turquoise shades. Plus lots of brass and golden metals that add a bit of glamorous glints to rooms.

Really? The carpet we have now is sort of an off-white and we have the worst time keeping it clean. My husband is a contractor and we have a four-year old boy and the carpet just looks wreaked most of the time, even though we vacuum and clean spills and such.

I have never understood the popularity of white rugs or white furniture--especially when children are involved. Leave it to photo shoots! I think you may have to give up the carpet. But there are hundreds of practical alternatives, such as a wool sisal in a neutral color which doesn't show stains or pet hair.

Vinegar is really effective against mold. You can make vinegar and water solution and spray the area after showering. I had bad air conditioner leak into a closet that stored some valuable antiques over several days, and many items had mold. I saved everything with a light vinegar application. Cheap and easy.

That's great. Vinegar is good for so many projects like that.

Which interior designers do you think are doing the most exciting work today?

There are a huge number of talented designers working today--and they aren't all on TV shows! In America, we love Steven Gambrel, Matthew Patrick Smythe, Jeffrey Bilhuber, Thomas Jayne, Sheila Bridges, Tamzin Greenhill, whose apartment we are featuring in our March issue, Beth Martin in San Francisco...the list goes on and on. Every June we print our A-List issue, which is a great resource. Also check out our Designer Registry on our web site, elledecor.com, where you can find designers in your area.

The previous owners of our house put in a Pergo floor in the kitchen and it has chipped in several places. I'd go with wood.

That's interesting. My Pergo floor, installed in 1999, is still in perfect shape.

You may regret it the first time someone spills red wine.

Some people just don't serve it!

Craigslist or Freecycle will get that thing out for you. You'll have to let a stranger into your home (or at least on your driveway), but people still like free stuff.

So true. Thanks.

I second Jura's endorsement of wood floors, which are both lovely and comfortable to stand on. But I've heard great things about cork floors in a kitchen as well...you might want to look into it.


I am interested in hearing more about the bathroom renovation that you mentioned. What materials and surfaces did you go for? And did you go for nickel or brass?

The choices are overwhelming! Not sure we made all the right choices (ask me a year from now) but here's what we went for: traditional marble tiles (rectangles) in a chevron pattern on the floor and horizontally in the shower, Corian counter and sinks and shower base. And the fittings are in old-fashioned chrome, which I still love. (Not that nickel isn't nice as well).

Hello, and forgive me if you've covered this before. I'd like to get my painted concrete front porch floor faux-painted to look like flagstones. Can you tell me how to find faux-finish painters in the DC/Northern Va area? Actually, I think it would be fun to do this myself, but it seems complicated and I don't know how I'd strip the paint that's on there now ... or do I even need to?Maybe I could paint right over it? Anyone out there ever done this?? Thanks for any hints or tips!

I'm throwing this one out to our online audience. I have never used a faux painter myself, but many of them participate in area show houses, such as the DC Design House that is held in the spring. This is a good way to hook up with a good professional faux painter. You can also ask at your local paint store. If anyone has a specific firm to recommend, please chime in. Thanks.

I like to steer clear of brick or tile in the kitchen also because anything dropped on it will genrally break - wood and other flooring are more forgiving.


What is something that you find makes a house a home?

Personally, I find nothing more depressing than a home that seems like a hotel room. It is the small personal touches that always intrigue. Anything that reveals insight into the owners. Books is the most obvious answer--who doesn't like to peruse someone's bookcase, it's almost as revealing as looking into their medicine cabinet--not that I would ever do that. Flower and plants always help, art works add so much. Softness via color, textiles, or comfy upholstery always says welcome.

We did this just last year even though the old tv was from the late 90s it was taken on freecycle - a young woman and her mom came to pick it up - she was just starting out and counting her pennies so happy to have a free tv.

Love hearing stories like that.

Producer Kendra here...I've had good luck using a combination of baking soda and water to clean water spots off our shower door, but really your best bet is just to do a quick squeegee after every shower. 

What are some of the most beautiful rooms you have ever seen?

One of the great houses in America is Suzanne Rheintein's in Los Angeles, and I have had the pleasure of dining there. You can check it out in her book. My friend Julia Reed's house in New Orleans is another favorite. I once had the pleasure of going to Lynn Rothchild's New York apartment which was designed by Michael Smith and it was stunning in its simplicity and elegance. One thing that unifies all these spaces is that comfort is never sacrificed to elegance in their rooms. They think about how people live and interact. Sometimes it just comes down to making sure that when you serve someone a cocktail, there is a surface nearby to put down the glass.

Is there a product to remove hard water/mineral deposits from glass shower doors and brushed nickel fixtures? I currently use vinegar & water but it does not seem to do a great job.

One of my colleagues using baking soda and water and a squeegee.

To add to what Jura says, I have wood floors in my city apartment in the kitchen, something I was told never to do, and I have to say they are fantastic and not at all difiicult to keep clean. I also have an indoor/outdoor rug from Dash & Albert in that space to add a bit of color and it is washable and easy to keep clean as well.

In the country on the other hand, my rather large kitchen has black and white linoleum tile, which I was also told never to do. It's true you can't keep the tiles clean, but life is about so much more than clean floors, and I love the bold graphic look. Plus the linoleum is very comfortable to stand on. Everyone seems to gather in my kitchen on the weekends.

How does Elle Decor decide what projects go into the magazine? What is your thought process as you're looking at images and deciding what makes the cut?

We are always looking to be surprised. As I tell designers, we are not looking for just pretty rooms--if we published nothing but pretty rooms month after month, the magazine would quickly get boring and everyone would let their subscriptions lapse. We want elegant and refined, or course, but also quirky, even strange and unexpected. We like to see approaches we have never seen before--the best of it's kind, high or low, grand or cozy.

It was interesting to hear in your Editor's Page this month how the lack of snow last year delayed your photography plans for wintery havens. How far in advance do you usually work?

For stories timed to a season we shoot almost a year in advance--for example, all the stories you will see in the June and July/August issues of 2013 were shot this past summer. Other stories can be photographed and then printed in as few as two months. Right now we are closing our March issue and have already assigned April.

Can anyone who has one comment on how it stands up to high traffic and dogs? I find the idea appealing but we practically live in the kitchen, and our dogs really do live in the kitchen. Thanks!

Anyone? I can tell you that my cat's claws have done no damage to my Pergo in 13 years.


You can usually call your city's trash company and schedule a separate bulk pickup for TV's, computers, etc. I've had to call "on behalf of" my hillbilly neighbors a few times when they just put something out by the curb to age...

I feel your pain. My alley is looking really bad these days and I am tempted to call 1800 GOT JUNK and have all my neighbors' junk removed.

I bought a home with two small bedrooms that someone has made into one, larger room by removing the wall. I want the functionality of having two separate rooms. Should I put up drywall? Or should I do a soft wall with fabric/drapes to separate the two that can be pulled back if necessary? Or should I do some type of sliding doors treatment so the room can be opened up at will?

I would put back a real wall.

Best Buy stores will take tv's computers and other recyclable items FREE OF CHARGE...and they carry it back for you. Easiest recycling experience ever, they acted like I was doing THEM a favor.

How refreshing.

Do you think events such as Kips Bay will survive? I know they keep having trouble finding houses. Are they still popular around the country? I always enjoy going to them.

I thnk showhouses will always be with us--they are fun for the public, raise money for worthy cuases, and allow designers to show off thier creativity at its most unfettered (admittedly at a cost). It is true that it can be hard to find houses, but now that the real estate market is bouncing back, I think that situation will improve as well.

Thanks Michael. You were wonderful in talking about topics big and small in the design world. And I love knowing that you used marble tiles and Corian and chrome in your own bathroom redo! Thank you so much for taking time to do this conversation with our readers. Plus great tips from everyone about how to recycle your old electronics. So onwards, and next week for our final chat of the year: Kelly Wearstler.

How do you decorate your own home? Is design a personal passion of yours?

I decorated my house in the country by myself--with the help of many country auctions and flea markets! But I had help with my city apartment from two friends whose book I wrote, Stephen Sills and James Huniford (one of the best trades I ever made). It is so inspiring to see a designer at work--the ideas just flow and the creativity is amazing. They simply think of things the rest of us never would, and come up with solutions that are so much  better than any I ever could have conceived.

You might consider Grahame Menage, a fabulous faux painter! 


Thanks Jura, a real pleasure!

In This Chat
Michael Boodro
Michael Boodro is the editor-in-chief of Elle Decor. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of Martha Stewart Living and has served as an editor at The New York Times Magazine, Garden Design and Vogue, where he spent 11 years. Prior to his career in magazines he worked extensively in the non profit art world and graduated from Yale with a degree in art history. He'll be online to chat with readers about design trends and home improvement Thursday at 11 a.m.!
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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