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Julie Carlson on interior design and her book | Home Front

Dec 12, 2013

Julie Carlson, the editor-in-chief of, founded the site with three design-infatuated friends in 2007. Previously, Carlson worked at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York before joining the editorial staff of The New Yorker. A graduate of Brown University, she lives in Mill Valley, California. She is the author of "Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home."

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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Julie Carlson, editor of the popular Remodelista home design website is with us today. Remodelista has a huge following with design lovers, architects, decorators and remodelers. Julie has authored a new book  Remodelista:  A Manual for the Considered Home which we just reviewed in our holiday book round up. It's published by Artisan and sells for $37.50. A great holiday gift. Julie is here to share her vast knowledge so let's get going!

I'm delighted to answer any and all questions. And for more design advice, check out and our new book, "Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home." Ask away!

What is "the considered home" ? Your new book is called a Manual for the Considered Home. Would love to know what that means!

This is such a good question. We spent a lot of time (and I mean a lot of time) trying to define our mission early on. We were influenced by the famous William Morris quote: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." To us that means that you should carefully consider (sometimes even agonize over) everything that you bring into your home. Whether it's choosing a big-ticket appliance like arefrigerator or a simple dustpan  that will live in your utility closet. Sometimes the smallest things bring you the most pleasure, and I think that's easy to forget.

Hi--We are considering changing the color of our kitchen cabinets to a cobalt blue. Countertops are ash, floor is light wood, appliances stainless steel, walls white and white tile backsplash (with small cobalt blue square tiles as accents). Any suggestions for Benjamin Moore colors? Thanks!

This sounds beautiful! We're seeing more color in the kitchen right now, for sure. One of our favorite kitchen outfitters  is called Plain English (, and they recently teamed up with a color expert called Adam Bray. I would check out this post for inspiration:

He came up with 12 colors for the kitchen; I especially like his cobalt blue (it's called Starched Apron). I'm sure you know this, but you can have any color matched by a Benjamin Moore expert (I've done it many times!). Good luck!

I am redoing my living room to be modern in colors of gray and silver. I found a gorgeous dining room table that has a hammered stainless stell top and driftwood finish legs. It has a very rustic feel to it. Do you think it will look strange near my modern decor in the living room? The room is an l-shaped so you can see both rooms at once.

Your table  sounds stunning, and modern in i's own right. I think it's the perfect solution and you seem to have a great aesthetic going.

I love Gardenista. Do you help with that site? Any gardening tips for winter, or holiday flower ideas?

I'm so happy to hear you're a Gardenista reader! It's been incredibly exciting to see the site evolve—to grow from an idea to a destination for all things gardening.I do work closely with Michelle Slatalla, who is our genius Gardenista editor (you may remember her column in the NY Times); right now she and her cohort Erin Boyle are doing a lot of posts on easy holiday flower ideas. We're doing a post in the next couple of days about one-ingredient holiday centerpieces, for instance. Hope this helps.

Having trouble getting inspired for my tablescape this Christmas. Dont want to spend a lot of money, but want to have something nice that isn't just the typical flowers.

I agree about not wanting to spend a lot of money on flowers; my favorite technique is to take a pair of scissors and go outside and cut sprigs of whatever happens to be available. I like to group tiny vases on my table and fill them with cheery sprigs of greenery. Another option: check out this post:

I would definitely try this for Christmas, and it's less than $10.

There's a new wave in the fashion and food industries- of artisan-made, high quality, handcrafted, back-to the roots goods for the conscious consumer. What is your view on this trend in home decor? Do you see it already as a part of home decor & improvement and what brands are investing in this trend? Do you see a future in it- a distancing from mass manufactured goods?

This is a question that's really close to our hearts at Remodelista. We absolutely think there's a future in artisan-made, high-quality goods for the conscious consumer. But I think we all need to buy less but buy better, and that's hard to do. It's painful to buy a $50 wooden broom when you know you get a plastic one for $10, but it pays off in every case (personally and environmentally). I'm really happy to see brands like West Elm (with their new Marketplace) and Crate & Barrel (with Clean Slate) embrace the trend. They're offering high-quality utility items that used to be hard to find and introducing consumers to artisan-made, high-quality household goods.

Really indecisive about what color to paint my young daughters room. She is enamored with bright colors but I'm sure that will change. Don't want anything too boring. Any tips? Also, what brand of paint do you like best?

This is a tough one! How about letting her choose her bright color but painting just one wall? I especially like the look of a painted wall as headboard--if you position the bed in front of the painted wall it almost functions as a headboard. Then, when she outgrows her color choice (and she will), you only have one wall to repaint. There are so many great paint companies right now that it's hard to choose--I like everything from Farrow & Ball to Benjamin Moore to a small company called Devine Colors.

I am completely gutting and renovating my house. Its about 3200sq ft. All I know is that I want rich brown wood floors, white quartz counters, and flat panel doors. I like modern but not its coldness. How do I move forward with some type of direction for my architect?

This sounds lovely! It sounds like you're going in a good direction, and I agree with you that modern can be cold. If you haven't already, you should get yourself set up at Pinterest and follow some pinners who gravitate toward warm modernism. A good one to follow is Diane Keaton; she has a great eye for rustic modernism and is an avid pinner! I've gotten lots of design ideas from her:

Also, in case you're not aware, you can create individual pinboards, which makes it easy to sort and categorize your pins. Good luck!

Does anyone like passthrough "windows" from the kitchen to the dining room anymore? You used to see them everywhere. Now, it seems like people prefer completely open layouts, sometimes with a peninsula. At this point, would you advise against adding such a passthrough? As in, would you recommend removing a wall completely, adding some type of pony wall or peninsula, or going with a passthrough, in order to help open up a kitchen space?

Funny you should ask! My architect friend Jerome Buttrick just finished a house with exactly such a passthrough and it looks lovely. He and the homeowner sourced a vintage metal factory window that lets light into the kitchen, and, when closed, provides a sound barrier. I actually think there is a move away from the entirely open-to-the-living-space kitchens, where everything is on full display (dirty dishes included).

Jura, what was the coolest holiday decor/concept you saw this year at the White House? And what did you want to transplant to your own house?

It's always fun to cover the White House Holiday decorations. I really loved that lavish mantel we pictured from The Red Room. It had yard of balls, berries and glitter and was draped over the entire fireplace. Really glamorous. Would love to have it!

My living room has sliding glass doors that open to a patio, but no windows. We could add a window, but it would face a lackluster view of the side of our neighbor's house. When we first moved here, I thought the room needed more light and felt a little too closed in (adding lighter wall paint helped). But now, I wonder if it would be worth it to remodel in order to add a window?

If you do go ahead and add a window, you could consider using a frosted glass or a ribbed glass (I have a ribbed glass window in my bathroom that lets light in but provides privacy and obscures the view). There's a company called Bendheim ( that makes architectural specialty glass for these situations. Good luck!

I know most people don't like formica counter tops these days, but stone just isn't in our budget. Any ideas? We have an island with about 40 square feet of counter top, and another 30 square feet in the work space.

This is a great question. Actually, I think Formica is just fine; especially if the edging is done right (I like it if you can see the sealed plywood edge and the Formica just reads as an overlay). Check out this post:

You could also consider a composite countertop like Richlite, which is less expensive than stone. I have it and it's great. Good luck!

Julie, I really loved your first answer in which you defined what the "considered home" was. We should all print that out and recite it each morning before we go out shopping. Thanks everyone for being here, especially Julie. We wish you luck on the two weeks of holiday preptime that's left. See you next week.

Thanks so much, Jura, for having me on your "show"! Lots of fun. Anyone with lingering questions, feel free to come over to and continue the conversation. Happy holidays, everyone!

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.

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Julie Carlson
Julie Carlson, the editor-in-chief of, founded the site with three design-infatuated friends in 2007. Previously, Carlson worked at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York before joining the editorial staff of The New Yorker. A graduate of Brown University, she lives in Mill Valley, California. She is the author of "Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home."
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