Libby Langdon on last-minute design tips for your home before Christmas | Home Front

Dec 19, 2013

Designer, author and makeover television personality Libby Langdon is the creative force behind New York City-based design firm Libby Interiors, Inc. She has been on television, authored numerous books and been featured in national newspapers, magazines and more. Langdon is also a "House Beautiful" contributor and her one-day-makeover project, "Daykeover," is on the cover of magazine's current December/January issue.

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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We are happy to have Libby Langdon, designer, author and makeover TV personality with us today. Libby Langdon is the creative force behind New York City-based design firm Libby Interiors, Inc. She has been on many TV shows, authored numerous books and been featured in national newspapers, magazines and more. Libby is a House Beautiful contributor and her one-day-makeover project, called the "Daykeover," is on the cover of House Beautiful's current December/January issue. Great chance to ask questions about holiday decorating and more. Let's get going! 


Hey!! I'm so excited to be doing this! Let it rip and ask any and all design/holiday decor questions! This is so much fun!!

I have a red brick rowhouse with a Spanish tile roof. The sleeping porch in the back of the house is stucco and I'm planning on repainting it yellow. What do you think of BM's Morning Sunshine? I like bright colors but don't want to upset the neighbors with something overpowering.

I don't think that's the right has a little too much orange in it. A better choice may be BM Weston Flax (HC-5.) It's a little softer, both you and your neighbors will be very happy with it!!!

We have two small blood spots on a year old butterscotch colored chair. Who repairs this?

First things first - try a Q-tip and dabbing a little hydrogen peroxide just on the spot! And, if that doesn't work, this could be an opportunity to add a fresh new fabirc, reupholster, and spice up your space!!


We just noticed this was for a leather chair - the hydrogen peroxide trick should only be done on upholstery!

Hi, Jura. I enjoy your Home Front articles, and have a question. Often on HGTV, we see designers (e.g., Sarah Richardson) take old wooden pieces of furniture to be spray-painted some new, vibrant color. [Love this!] Where in the DC-area can we find this service, do you know? Thanks! - Susan

This is a really great question and I'm hoping that someone on the chat can add to the little information I'm able to offer. Some chatters have taken pieces to Maaco auto body spray centers and had luck. But does anyone have any other ideas???

Libby, I want to make some kind of art for my walls because I cannot afford the good stuff and I cannot find it in the colors to match my decor. What can I make?

What I'm loving right now is taking natural objects - like a sea fan, starfish, agate stone, pressed botanicals, etc. and hot gluing them on a linen background. Frame these items with big mats. A good frame suggestion is the Ribba frame from IKEA because it allows space within the frame for items that are dimensional. You're using nature as your decor!!

Initially I thought that the "music" played by the new GE dishwashers might be fun. However, after listening to each one that WaPo posted, I don't think I will be a fan. I don't mind the very brief beep sound when the dishwasher is finished. These pieces go on a bit too long. I play music throughout the house, most days, and if I had company these "tunes" would get int he way -- a bit obnoxious to me.

Thanks for chiming in so to speak on that. Actually, only very short snippets will be played during cycle changes, etc. So you would not hear the entire melody! For those of you who missed it, GE Appliances is writing soundtracks for its four brands of appliances to be kinder and less intrusive than the buzzes and beeps of today. Read my article here.

I am ready to throw away all my Christmas tree lights because it is too hard to find the one bulb that has gone out and taken half the string's lights with it. Are there any lights that still stay lit when one goes out? Where can I find them on sale after Christmas?

The question of lights is close to my heart. Each year, when I retrieve my dozen or so strands of drugstore white lights from the attic, at least half of them don't work. Do they get frozen and broiled up there during the year and break? Who knows... So I'm off to CVS or the hardware store each year to buy more - at $2.99 a strand of 100, it's not a major investment. But they should last more than one season!! LED lights are the latest thing and they last longer but they do cost more. Does anyone out there have anything else to suggest???

I have 12 people coming for Christmas dinner and haven't even put up a tree yet! Which to be honest, I may not get around to doing. What are some Christmasy things I can put around the house to make it feel more festive? Or should I just focus on the dining table?

Tune into the Today show with Kathie Lee and Hoda on December 24th for some of my uber-last minute holiday decor ideas!! But for now, let's get you started! Take a simple glass vase and fill it with a mixture of candy canes and simple sphere ornaments. Another idea - take a little sprig of greenery, wrap holiday ribbon around it - do a few of these and place them on top of frames around your home. Go to Libby or follow me on pinterest for lots more last minute decor ideas!

I just moved into a home with less inherent character than my old one (narrower wood trim, no window trim, flat doors, etc.). In my old home, I painted most everything white, matching trim and walls, because there was plenty of character and interest even when monotone. Would my new home be too boring if I went the same one-color route? Or should I do a slightly different wall color (lighter gray or creamier white), to help the little bits of character stand out better? (Feel free to offer up specific paint colors, too! I prefer Sherwin Williams.)

I would keep all the trim and doors white (Sherwin Williams Pure White SW7005) and paint the walls a color! This will make your minimal tim detail seem more architectural. Here are some of my favorite Sherwin Williams grays, creams, and one icy blue that's a homerun everytime!

Essential Gray - SW 6002

Perfect Greige - SW6073

Upward - SW6239

Doing the room makeovers must be a lot of fun. What do you think the biggest mistakes most people make are?

They are a blast!! And, I hope you can check out the Dec/Jan issue of House Beautiful - I made over 3 rooms in under 12 hours! And it's so much fun because one of the rooms is on the cover of the magazine!

One of the biggest mistakes people make is they don't look at the "big picture" as far as the design of their room goes. They rely too much on small items to make a big difference and are dissappointed with the outcome. My suggestion is, buy a 30-dollar gallon of paint and paint an accent wall in a room where the focal point is. Be bold in your choice of the wall cover and pull it out of art or accessories you have in the room. It's a great way to tie the space together and refocus on the big picture! In House Beautiful, I used orange as an accent color from artwork the client already owned.

Do you have any ideas for stocking stuffers for a boy in 5th grade? I don't want to spend more than $10 total.

Here are some fun ideas: a key chain; a DVD; a flash drive; pens; hot chocolate packs and, of course, candy!

Remember the paper chains that kids made some years back (ok, a lot of years back)? I made some for my daughter's birthday party - along with a balloon garland - and they were a hit. Bright, colorful, and easy. If someone is going for informal Christmas décor, these could be perfect in green, red, and white. I was surprised and pleased how well the ones I made turned out. I think they might be great for Christmas (as they were when I made them as a kid).

Thanks for this great idea. Simple and festive. For more holiday decorating ideas, check out my article today in Local Living on a charming country home decorated for the holidays in Fauquier County. Owner Brooke Gilliam has lots of great holiday tips too. There is also a photo gallery of lots of other homes decorated for the holidays. Check it all out right here. 

What do you think of mixing real and faux together in holiday decor?

I love to combine natural elements with sparkly, artificial elements. It adds depth and dimension to your decor and it's also a great way to offset the cost of creating a stylish holiday home. 

I love to cut twigs out of trees in my backyard and fill a glass vase with simple ball ornaments (you can buy inexpensively at any local drug store), place the twigs coming out of the vase nestles among the ornaments. The natural elements feel festive because they are coupled with holiday items!!

I'm afraid our guest room looks drab and we have family coming. Should I get new bedding? Pillows? What else?

New bedding is always a lovely choice.  I would also recommend that you have two great lamps.  Often times in a guest room people dont have good lighting and it's a nice way to add some style and brigten up the space to make it more inviting. I find some of the best lamps at great prices at Home Goods.  Fresh flowers or some herbs in a vase on the bedside table and a scented candle also add a special touch to make your guests feel special.

Got any ideas for holiday table centerpieces? We always do the same thing and it's getting boring.

For a quick, simple, and stylish look for your table, but greenery from your backyard (or use herbs), place them in the bottom of a tumbler glass, fill the glass with water, place a floating candle in the water (I like white), surround the floating candle with fresh cranberries - they float beautifully! Do several of these to run down the center of your table! They add a beautiful holiday color combo as well as candle light for ambience!

Which stores have the best after Christmas sales on Christmas decorations?

Michael's slashes their prices right after Christmas. So does Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware! Also, online, check out Frontgate, because they have wonderful pre-lit wreaths that are very discounted (this makes a nice gift for someone next year!)

Hi Libby - How do you store or organize holiday decorations?

I like to use big plastic bins.  The most important thing for me is that I use my Christmas decor in a fresh and different way every year.  Often times I find that folks use the same items the same way every Christmas.  Part of the fun for me in decorating our house is to reimagine different items in new ways.  I don't always use a garland around the door. One year I might use it down the middle of my dining table peppered with votive candles, ornaments and pine cones.  Some years I don't put all of the ornmanents on the tree; instead I put them in various tall glass vases on a table in our foyer.  However you organize your holiday decor, there are no rules on how to display them - seasonal decorating is all about having fun!

Libby, Can you please offer some suggestions on making a dark living room look lighter. I have wood furniture in dark finish, the carpet is mix blue/cream and the wall color is blue/ grey. Should I start with decor or paint or something else? Thanks.

If your room is feeling dark - you have a few options to brighten up the space! The most important thing is to think in terms of contrast which means mixing light and dark. 

If you have darker walls, bright them up by bring in a grouping of large framed pieces. Be sure to you big white (or light colored) mats with smaller openings. You can print your favorite photographs to fit in the smaller mat openings. Target has great, inexpensive, big frames!

If your funiture is very dark, bring in lighter accessories like throw pillows, throw blankets, and decorative items.

If you can hang mirror on a wall directly opposite a window, it will reflect natural light and brighten up your room! A window multiplier!!

Often times a room feels dark because it's dimly lit. Fill all four corners should have lamp light to illuminate the room. So you can enjoy your dark furniture and dark colors, but still have a space that feels bright and cheery!!


I saw the house you designed for House Beautiful, and loved it! Where are those orange chairs from? They are great!

Thank you so much!  I loved designing it!  The fab fish painting over the mantle was the springboard for the color combo in designing that room.  I thought it would be so much fun to repeat that vibrant orange in two of the smaller pieces in the rooms!  Those two chairs are actually from my Libby Langdon Upholstery Line for Braxton Culler – they are the Dresden Chairs in “”Nectar” Schumacher linen.  These are such fun chairs because they're small in profile but super comfortable and since there is not a lot of upholstered space you can have fun using a bright fabric on them!

Libby: Do you have any ideas for a tired looking front flower bed and barren porch for the holidays?


Blanket your flower bed with evergreen branches and spring in pinecones throughout!

For the porch, if you have empty planters, place tall sprigs of evergreen in and wrap a colorful holiday ribbon around the top of the planter. This will add a little kick of holiday color!!


Please tell the poster that only a professional should clean the chair - to use anything chemical like hydrogen peroxide would ruin the leather and be costly to repair.

Thanks for your input.

Hi, Libby! I love your style, and really enjoyed your commentary on Small Space Big Style on HGTV. Now that we have a dog in the house we are at a loss as to how to display wrapped gifts under the Christmas tree before Christmas day. He loves tearing up paper (at least he it isn't something more destructive) so we are afraid to leave wrapped gifts on the floor. Do you have any suggestions?

I do!! Put your wrapped gifts to work and let them create a holiday display on a foyer table or a buffet, or even some on your fireplace mantle!! Artfully stack and arrange  the gifts (like you would see in a stylish store) and maybe even mix in tall candle sticks (of course, no flames near any paper!)

I'm hosting Christmas this year for my huge family, but I have a small home. Whats the best solution for seating to accommodate all these people.

Bring in some small cube ottomans... these can be found very inexpensively at Home Goods or Target.  They do double duty as seating or a spot for a tray to rest a drink.  Plus, because they're small, they can easily be moved around.  Think about using items that you already have in a new way. Turn your desk into a bar or your printer cart into an appetizer server.  Use a bench at a dining table because you can seat more people on it!  Also, even if you don’t have an island in your kitchen, don’t be afraid to bring in some backless bar stools – they can be moved around for other items, not just seating.  

Got any great ideas for last minute gifts?

A framed picture is always a good idea! It can be printed from your computer in snap and is very personal! Chose a stylish frame that works in the recipients space!


And Cheese! Seriously, online you can order a beautiful and delicious selection of cheese from Artisanel cheese. If it shows up between Christmas and New Year's people have it for their new year's celebration!


I was looking to re-do my daughters bedroom and really wanted to wallpaper one wall. However I rent my home but the landlord wont allow wallpaper. What is a better solution?

That's a great idea! A low commitement and fun way to incorporate wallpaper into a room is using adhesive wallpaper that is peel-and-stick and removable.  I have a fun line of adhesive wallpaper I designed for Casart Coverings - you can see it on my website  I love wallpaper!

We appreciate Libby being on with us at this busy time of year. Great ideas! Thank you so much. Meanwhile, this is the last chat of 2013. Thanks to all of you for being loyal participants. We are taking off December 26 and will be back on January 2, 2014 with an organizing chat with our Washington Post organizing  columnist Nicole Anzia of Neatnik. Join us then. And happy holidays to all.

Thank you everyone for your wonderful questions! I loved getting a chance to share my experience and tips!! Please stay in touch with me via twitter and facebook, because I love nothing more than sharing design tips and decor ideas, so we can all live beautifully!!

Please check out the current issue of House Beautiful magazine for a lot more design tips and makeover ideas!

Thank you so much to the Washington Post for inviting me to be a part of this fun online chat.

Healthy, Happy Holidays and a Well-Designed New Year to All!!

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.

Home Q&A archive
Libby Langdon
Designer, author and makeover television personality Libby Langdon is the creative force behind New York City-based design firm Libby Interiors, Inc. She has been on television, authored numerous books and been featured in national newspapers, magazines and more.
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