Home Front: Design ideas from Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza

Dec 09, 2010

Washington Post Local Living section writers Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza help you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. This week, they were joined by Georgetown antiques dealer Marston Luce. Read more about Marston in this week's Local Living section.

Happy holidays to all, and we hope you enjoyed the feature on Georgetown antiques dealer Marston Luce and his home decorated for the holidays by Jeanette Momeni of Fleurgreige. Terri and I have Marston with us today to answer questions about his house, the decorating or about the antiques business. Let's get started.

Beautiful article, Jura, but I was surprised to see so few lamps used in his living room. Noticed in the fix-up article that the first thing the designer did was get rid of the overhead track lighting. Can you shed some light on the matter?

Marston Luce says he despies track lighting. He says the ceiling should be totally free of any clutter. The eye should never go toward the ceiling with the exception, perhaps, of a good chandelier.

How is the antiques business these days? Has the economy made you change anything about the way you work or what you sell?

I can only speak for myself, but it has climbed back up to levels of activity that I have not seen since before the recession began.

The economy has changed the way I work, in that I am working harder to find the most choice.

I like the House Calls today. The "after" looks cozy and warm. My living room has similar dimensions and a red-brick fireplace. I have wanted to redo my fireplace for YEARS, but I want to reface it with tile, which is a large project. The House Calls suggestion is to "repaint the fireplace in a distressed finish." What is this process, and what would the end result look like? Thank you!

I just got off the phone with today's House Calls designer Cathy Connon who said, a distressed finish is a dry-brush technique where you apply thin layers of paint (rather than a heavy coat). The paint doesn't cover entire brick and the natural brick color shows though, giving it a distressed look.  You can add layers as you go if you think you need them.

Marston Luce's home looks lovely. We've battled with decorating for the holidays because we have two cats that think the tree is a huge cat toy (and who can blame them), but this article shows how it can be done and be very classy, but still festive. Thank you!

Thanks. We were happy to show a house that had a tasteful natural approach to the holidays that did not involve a lot of stuff.

We're painting a basement bathroom with no window (does have a ventilation fan, though). Should we use flat or eggshell paint?


How do you feel about curved sofas for a casual seating area in front of a fireplace and TV? I've been told that people don't like to sit on them. I think they look cozy and invite conversation. There would also be chairs, but that would replace a conventional straight sofa.

It's funny, I was in a house last night for book group where they had a curved sofa in their family room. It looked quite cozy and my friend said it was where her sons like to hang out and watch TV etc. I think they do inspire conversation. Most of them do have a contemporary look. Any round sofa lovers out there who can share their stories?

Can't nap on it, can you?

ha ha - unless you are a cat.

In today's Home section, there's mention of a concrete overlay for the screen in porch solution. My front porch is really a slab adjacent to the brick front of the house and the asphalt driveway. I'd like to do something with the slab porch (possibly the overlay) but wonder about weather safety; When we have snow like last winter, we need to shovel the area, and it seems that a more decorative look might hold frozen puddles. Any thoughts on how to make this work for interesting design and safety?

This is a great question for our How To columnist, Jeanne Huber. If you e-mail localliving@washpost.com with the details and tell us where you live, we'll definitely pass the message along to her. Thanks for reading the section!

Where are some hotels and public places that have beautiful Christmas decorations that I can see in DC or northern Virginia? I don't want to pay he $30+ for the Christmas tours.

If folks on this chat don't have any ideas, I bet the Going Out Gurus can answer this question. Try posting it to their chat, which is today at 1 p.m. Here's the link: http://live.washingtonpost.com/gotplans-1209.html

I'd like your advice to settle an argument with my wife. We're thinking of getting a 55-inch TV that is 52 inches wide. We don't want to hang it on the wall; we'd like to get a nice TV stand for it. My spouse likes a 52-inch-wide stand we saw at the store. I'm thinking a stand that's a few inches wider than the TV itself will look better. Please let me know what you think.

Truthfully, I'd have to see the items your talking about to make the call.  But, I'm actually not a fan of  "TV stands." I'd much rather see the TV on a nice console with doors to hide a/v components.

Love the green accents on the shelves, and with Dink's favorite chair! How long did it take you go amass so many of the same-color items? How often do you change out those sort of things?

This collection of pottery and porcelain represents about 20 years of collecting(mostly in France) and most likely it is finished now even though occasionally I might make  a minor change if something even better can be found.

Forgive an ignorant question from a male, but who decides what's trendy vs. what's outdated? Who decided that wallpaper borders are out, painted accent walls are out, vertical blinds are out, pleated pants are out -- you get my drift? My wife and I were glad to finally get rid of the 1953 pink tile in our bathroom, but what's wrong with the wallpaper border in the kitchen?

There's nothing "wrong" with anything you have in your home that you like, but wallpaper border is a dated look.  Sorry. (And they actually make rooms look smaller/shorter.) But if you like the border in your kitchen, by all means, keep it and enjoy!

Do you have a recommendation for getting maintenance on gas fireplaces? We get our gas furnace checked each year, but out furnace guy looks puzzled when we ask about the gas fireplace.

Check with Woodburners Two, 6600 Arlington Blvd, falls Church 703 241-1400. www.woodburnerstwo.com

Hi. I've got a lot of felt ornaments in a variety of colors that make our Christmas tree cute and fun for my toddler. But I'm having trouble pulling it all together on the tree as well as with my total decorating look. What can I do to make this jumble of color on the tree pull together into a cohesive look?

Instead of using all of your ornaments, you could pick one or two colors and just hang the ornaments with shades of those. Add a few strings of light and a pretty topper and you're done.

Marston, do you do anything to dog-proof your beautiful house? Or is Dink a very well-behaved dog that does not shed?

I recommend Host Dry Carpet Cleaner, it deep cleans spots and spills. It is all natural. And of course Dink is an impeccably, well behaved canine. Who on occasion, sheds.

I am doing a facelift on the center bath of a 100-year-old home. Doing black and white tile on the floor and white subway tile on the walls with a black edge. What is a new color idea with black and white that will stand the test of time, and be in tune with a 100-year-old Victorian foursquare (not gingerbready house)?

Are you looking for a paint color to go with the black and white?  Or are you picking out something more permanent? Because paint doesn't have to stand the test of time, it's so easily changed.

Hi, ladies! Thanks for taking my question. I am looking for a twin-sized sleeper chair or sofa to put in my home office for those holiday times when the guest room is full and I need another bed for a single guest. Any recommendations on good shopping sites to search? Didn't find much on the Broyhill, Overstock and Macy's sites, and, alas, I'm no longer in the D.C. area, so I can't go to my favorite local places.

Where do you live? Have you tried www.mgandbw.com? Also www.roomandboard.com. 

Any creative ideas for hanging stockings? I don't really want to buy a fancy hook (lots on the mantel already and don't want to clutter it up). Right now I'm using thumbtacks. There's gotta be a better way, right?

This is a GREAT question. Although I love how those stocking hangers keep the stockings neatly in a row, I also don't want all that clutterama on my mantel, which actually has a minimalist bent this season thanks to my husband... more on that later. I now just put my stocking out the night before Christmas. I use my fireplace a lot so I don't want them hanging there anyway. They are beautiful needlepoint custom stockings my mom made for the three of us. So I am a bit sad that I don't have another mantel to hang them on. But I digress. Have you thought of hanging them somehow off your fireplace screen? Or off the basket where you keep your firewood? Or let's see what everyone else has to say!

Personally, I did not. It seems really awkward to me, to have an eating area on the other side of the sitting area, the farthest point from the kitchen. I'd rather have the eating done closer to the kitchen and have the area around the fireplace just for relaxing.

I don't think the point of the table was to eat all the meals there. You can't see it in the photo or illustration, but their dining room is right off of the kitchen.

I'm looking forward to the results of the Holiday Crafts Contest. Anything you can tell us before the big reveal?

We are so excited about the contest and we had hundreds of entries. I am one of the judges in the contest and I must say, we found some very creative people out there. I will be writing about the winning crafters for the Dec 23 issue. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, Angie is going to post the link to the contest so you can check it out.

Your wife!

Ha ha. Not in my house.

Can anyone recommend a carpenter or firm that can make custom built-in bookcases? I have a library, but only track shelves right now. I'd like to replace them with a wall of built-in maple bookcases. I'm in Southern Maryland if it matters. Thanks!

I'll throw this out there for any chatters to respond, but I would start by checking in your neighborhood listserv and neighbors who have recently had work done on their home.

What are your favorite places to go antiquing in Europe these days? Anything off the beaten path you can share with us? I know you have some Swedish things in your shop. What other countries are you going to?

All of my favorite places are "top secret"... I do believe the Paris Flea Market is still an exceptional place to look. I have a vast network of dealers in France, England, Belgium,  Holland, Sweden and Denmark who are in constant contact.

It is very helpful to have some working ability of French (language). As it tends to open more doors.

Marston, I loved the look you achieved in your home. It's warm and textured without being cluttered. It was very restful. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you for your compliment.

Starting today, you can cast your vote for your favorite of the eight contest semifinalists. Let us know what you think! Vote here.

Please tell your friends to vote!

If you ever want to remove it, and you have as hard a time as I did getting my kitchen wallpaper border down, you won't like them anymore either! What I don't like about wallpaper is that you can't change the look of the room without a lot of hassle. But I tend to like neutral walls and furniture with all the decorative accents having the patterns that keep the room interesting (and easily changeable when I decide I'm tired of a certain color).

It is pretty tricky to get down, but I personally think it's worth the hassle. A beautiful paper can really make a room.

I thought the same thing too. It's classy and sophisticated, but also looks like a room I could totally unwind in. That's a hard combination to achieve. I think most people get one look or the other, not both.

So true.

If your mantel happens to have a recessed area under it you can screw hooks into (sort of like the purse hangers in bars) and hang the stocking from that. Even if there is no recessed area, you could screw the hooks on the underside and just remove them after the holiday.

Love that idea. Thanks.

Just a new paint color that won't look old by the end of spring.

Oh, you could do practically anything with black and white and it would great for a very long time. For something classic, you could go with a pale blue, green or gray (try sherwin william's Rainwashed or Benjamin Moore's Fresh Dew). For something more fun, how about a hot pink, Peony from Benjamin Moore.

I like a mix of modern and classic in my home. Marston, what criteria do you use to balance new with old in selecting pieces?

The criteria that I use to mix the modern and the classic is to find pieces that have an inherent simplicity in their design, whether it be a strong silhouette, a gusty form or a clear line.

Generally, objects with these qualities are compatible with other pieces that originated from different epochs.

My daughter is purchasing a 1920s rowhouse, and it is very small and narrow, as they all are. With such a tiny living room that naturally is just a shared space with the kitchen and dining area, what tips do you have for her when it comes to choosing furniture or decorating in general? Thanks!

Congratulations - it sounds charming. Many designers would tell your daughter not to make the mistake of purchasing everything in teeny-tiny sizes to go with her tiny house.  That will just emphasize the tininess of the house. Go for good sized upholstery just use less of it. Make sure you don't cover up the windows too much so there is a lot of light. Consider bare floors if the wood is beautiful.

Thanks for your response! I live about 65 miles west of Chicago.

You'd think Macys would have something!  How cold is it up there?

I don't see many in Marston Luce's house. Is that by design? (Personally, I think they're one of the least-attractive plants to bring inside.)

I think you have answered your own question.

What are your favorite American cities to visit for dealers and flea markets?

Actually I rarely buy in this country but having said that, I just returned from Charleston, SC where I was able to buy. Also, I have been successful in Hudson, NY and in New England in general. I can't speak of the flea markets, as I don't know them.

I'd love to paint my bedroom over the holidays. Even though it doesn't get a lot of light (except for early morning), my favorite season is right now with dark, cloudy skies and am looking for a color to match. A grayish blue or blue gray?

How about Glass Slipper, Windy Sky or Lookout Point from Benjamin Moore? Or C2's Apprentice.

What is the best place to begin if you are a young person who is interested in learning more about antiques and collecting?

The place to begin is by visiting as many antiques stores as possible, then narrowing it down to your favorites, establishing a dialogue with those dealers.

Go to as many antique shows as possible.

Train your eye by visiting historic house museums and major exhibitions.

Finally, try to find some friends with like interests who you can spend time with, doing these things.

Removable 3M hooks work so well for the holidays around our fireplace! We've seen friends' homes where stockings are hung from bannisters, too.

Great ideas as well. Keep 'em coming. I may do the bannister this year.

Hi. I've got a couple of built-in benches and I would like to find someone who could create custom cushions for them. Any ideas? Thanks.

Places like Calico Corners can do it.

I'd really like to find a tall bookshelf, maybe even with storage below, to use as a room divider, because our front door opens straight into the living room. Now that our kids are getting older, we really need an actual foyer-type space so bags don't just get dumped everywhere. But everything I see is super contemporary. Do you have any ideas where I could find something like this that might fit better with our 1930s Cape Cod? Our style is pretty tradtional. Thanks.

Have you looked at Ballard Designs and Pottery Barn? They both carry traditional looking shelving options. That said, if your house is mostly traditional, I think a modern or transitional piece would add a different and insteresting element to you decor.

Hi -- love the chats! Have been having a hard time finding a daybed cover -- they seem to have lost popularity. Any ideas?

Would it be possible to have a permanent link to House Calls included in the description of the chat? I don't always remember to check that column/feature, and it would be nice to have a simple way to get to it.

You can always find House Calls at: washingtonpost.com/housecalls.

Just be very careful to get something that isn't going to tip over. Needs to be very sturdy on the bottom if it's going to be free-standing.

Very true. good point. thanks.

I love the way you've decorated your house and have always loved both your shops, but don't have the budget to buy there. Any recommendations for less expensive options in the area?

One way to approach decorating is to buy one piece you really love, which is your "splurge" piece. Then build around that with other less expensive choices. A few places that come to mind are Crate & Barrel and Moss & Co (Georgetown).

Have seen in Penney's ad for $499 on sale in the recent past.


Our stocking hangers are made of iron (with a black coating). The bit that goes over the mantel is really flat (maybe an inch wide?) with no fol-de-rol ornamentation. Then it comes down in a flat strip over the front of the mantel and ends in a sort of curl from which you hang the stockings. They're very sturdy and don't interfere with everything else on the mantel. Sort of a Early American/Puritan/Shaker/Mission look.

Would you share where you got these? So many of these gizmos are covered in snowmen, glitter and reindeer.

I want to put in a good word for oil burners. They're much better at dispersing a fragrance than scented candles, and I don't find them to have the same overpowering, headache inducing perfume of scented candles. I used my oil burner a few days ago, and the living room still smells like apples and cinnamon. I was so excited to come home to the "smell of Christmas," I really wanted to share my experience. (Of course, if you REALLY hate room fragrances of any kind, you probably won't like oil burners either. But for everyone else, I think they're fantastic!)

Thanks for your thoughts on this. I know some people love fragrance in the home and others find it really offensive. Hopefully these two kinds of people don't live together.

Mr. Luce, I love the photos of your home and the wall color, though I can't tell if the walls are white or grayish. What color are the walls, and please name the maker and color of the paint. Can't wait to visit your shop, after seeing these photos.

The color of the wall is "Sensitive White" by Duron (the name has since been changed to something else, which I don't know).

It is important that you choose a white with a lot of warmth as it is more forgiving on the things in the room.

I also think that Farrow and Ball have lots of good "white" choices. Including something called "Pointing White" which I have used in my house in France.

I look forward to seeing you in the shop, please introduce yourself when you stop by.

What do you think of BM's "White Rain" for a bathroom with no natural light? It's between that and SW's Rainwashed, which seems a bit darker.

I think both are nice choices, especially if the bathroom is mostly white otherwise.

Love these chats! I have a pretty big collection of Lismore by Waterford crystal glasses. Most of them were wedding presents, but some I inherited from a cherished aunt. They are on display in a cabinet in our dining room, but we rarely use them; with jobs and young kids, we are rarely having formal dinner parties. I'm wondering if the display is too old-looking for us (we are late 30s). Any thoughts?

This is a really good question. Growing up, I recall visiting many families where the prized Waterford was always on display in the dining room credenza or china cabinet as they were sometimes called. The reality is that crystal really isn't the most beautiful thing to look at. You would be better off putting something on display that has some color, texture or shape. The glasses can be stored in shelves somewhere else or in those quilted crystal boxes they sell at the Container Store. My advice though would be: USE THEM. Don't save them just for a special occasion - life is special every day and you should pull them out when you have friends over or even when the two of you have a quiet dinner after the kids are in bed.

We lived in Palatine for 16 years. There are a bunch of furniture stores up in Libertyville (forget the name of the road, but it's the main one). There's one with Thomas in its name (not Thomasville) that has really good-quality furniture. It carries a lot of Stickley. We bought our couches from there and have been very happy with them. If I think of the name, I will post next week. Good luck!

Wow. Terrific info. Thanks.

My husband bought them somewhere--I will ask him and post next week (although as he can't remember what he had for breakfast, I'm not confident he'll remember--but I'll try!). We went through many hangers before finding these.

Okay. We'll be waiting to hear back from you. Hopefully he will remember!

We always tied ribbon around the banister in our front hall, then used ornament hooks to hang the stockings from there. I love stockings on the stairs!

Send us a photo!

Any ideas on where to find a nice-looking room divider/folding screen? I like the look of the upholstered one in Ballard Designs, but it is pricey. Thanks!

If you're crafty, you could follow this tutorial from the Little Green Notebook blog and make your own upholstered divider: http://littlegreennotebook.blogspot.com/2010/02/diy-folding-screen.html

In case you missed it, check out the fabulous photo gallery of Marston Luce's home, elegantly decorated for the holidays. And don't forget to vote for your favorite in our Holiday Crafts Contest. The winner will be announced Dec. 23. Thanks for chatting!

Thanks Marston. Some good questions here so go back and read the transcript everyone. Happy holidays and see you next week.

I got mine at Pier One - it has lasted years!

First, Mr. Luce's home is marvelous. Would love to know the color of the front door. But to my question: Is there a formula for the size of a fireplace surround/mantel? My living room is 15 x 24, but the current mantel/surround seems much too large and dominates the space.

Thank you for your compliments. The door is a Farrow and Ball color, I thought I still had the paint can, but it seems to be gone so all I can tell you is that it is a grey-sage/green.

In my opinion there are no formulas in decorating. What you have described is a common problem in Washington, with mantels that dominate rooms. I ripped out both mantels in my house for that exact reason and replaced them with antique mantels which can be found in antiques stores, architectural salvage places etc. The most critical dimension is that the mantel is too high, so consider lowering the shelf height by 10 inches or more. This tends to make your ceiling height appear higher and it will also give the room more charming ambiance.

I love the carved stone French bust in your entrance hall. Did you purchase it with the metal stand, or did you have that done? Where might one find someone to perform that magic?

I had the stand made, this is a service I offer through the store to clients.

Looks like Marston answered a few extra questions after the buzzer. Learn more about Marston Luce Antiques here: www.marstonluce.com. See you all next week!

In This Chat
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
Terri Sapienza
Terri Sapienza is a staff writer for The Washington Post.
Marston Luce
Marston Luce, an antiques dealer in Georgetown, is the subject of our Local Living cover story this week. Luce has been in the D.C. antiques business for 30 years and his shop of French, Swedish and American antiques is a destination for many designers and celebrities - including Oprah!
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