Home Front: Design advice from Terri Sapienza

Dec 22, 2011

Terri Sapienza gives advice on interior decorating and home improvement.

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Good morning, everyone. Well, it's only a few days until Christmas, so I thought in addition to our usual decorating questions we could discuss great gifts. What was the best gift you ever received? Please share and give us all some great last minute ideas. Jura is taking a holiday break, so it's just me today. Let's get started.

So, this title is a little strange! I don't follow this chat regularly, but suddenly it's just Terri? Has Jura retired? If so, I wish her all the best. And good luck to you, Terri.

No, no, no...Jura is just off for the holidays. She'll be back for our next chat, two weeks from now, on January 5th. 

Love the chats! Thanks for the great advice. We have a small family room with a Design within Reach sofa, coffee table, side chair, and a 46 inch HD tv. The DWR sofa looks good but does not work well for lounging and watching tv. Should we try a small sectional, a couple of recliners (not the puffy ones) or do you have other ideas?

What exactly about the sofa doesn't work? Can you be more specific about the model/style so I can get a better idea of your issues with it? 

Years ago, when I did the colonial holiday arrangements for a historic house museum in Old Town Alexandria, we used to spray the arrangements with hairspray to preserve them for as long as possible. It also made them shine. One New Year's Day, we came into work and noticed that the guests at a private party the night before had eaten our arrangements. Bet they weren't just hung over the next morning. We had been spraying that fruit with hairspray for four weeks!

Yikes! Good to know when attending future holiday parties!

Hoping you or the chatters can give me some good ideas for me on decorating a girl's room. We're getting ready to move my daughter into her first big girl room, and the furniture we got is a gorgeous navy blue. Not the perfect color for our all-pink toddler, but it was a great set at a great price, so we snagged it. I'm searching for the perfect color scheme that will still allow her to be girly, but go with the blue. So far, I've thought of gray, white and pink (pale or bright?), but would love other views! Any rec's on paint colors, and stores for the linens would be really appreciated.

Actually, you're in luck, because hot pink and navy is a great combo for a little girl. I think I would paint the walls an off-white and accessorize with hot pink. I think it could be great!  For more ideas on working with navy, check out this story from a few months ago.

Hi and hope you can help... when we moved into our new house a year ago, we had some contractors in doing various jobs, including painting ceilings. I asked if I needed to sand the trim and doors which were stained a very dark color before painting over it with Decorator White in gloss finish. They said no. Well, now if it gets bumped or anything, it immediately goes completely through the 2-3 coats of paint to the stain. Is there any fix for this short of replacing doors and trim? Thanks!!!

Oh, that's too bad. Instead of replacing everything, I would just repaint. Sand first, then prime and paint.

I have a VERY large litter box (the uber-awesome self-cleaning Litter Robot) and no place to put it except the living room. My husband built it a "crib" to prevent the dogs from getting into it but it looks ridiculous and takes up a fair amount of real estate. Do you or others have better suggestions on how to hide a litter box? Relocating the box is not an option; neither is rehoming the cats, as much as my husband would like that.

Would something like this work?  There are lots of different companies that make furniture like this, you just have to do some searching.

Anyone else have suggestions?

We need a new kitchen faucet and are considering one with a built-in sprayer. We'd love to hear from any chatters who have one -- pros and cons, what to look for (or avoid) ... Thanks!

I like having a sprayer on my kitchen faucet because it makes cleaning the sink easier, but I don't think it's a necessity. Would also love to hear opinions from other chatters, so please chime in.

Besides trolling craigslist and furniture resale shops, are there any stores I can look at for a dresser that can function as a changing table that would be under $400? I know of Ikea but my husband prefers dovetail drawers. Yes, I know I'm kind of asking for the moon here, but any pointers on where we might find a sale would be great. We're running out of time for something for our new baby girl!

If you're looking for details like dovetail drawers, I think it's going to be difficult to find something new for less than $400. I think your best best is Craigslist. You can really find some great pieces at great prices. And there are usually tons of options for dressers.

A previous renovation eliminated our smallish coat closet and things are completely out of control now with 3 school-aged children in the house. And 3 out of 5 in our family are female so unfortunately we have A LOT of coats in the winter. We are renovating our basement and opening up the stairway that leads down there so the entrance way and hall to the dining room will feel a lot less cramped. I see this as an opportunity for a new system but what should it be? My husband thinks we can just put the coats in the new closet at the bottom of the stairs. Yes, he seriously thinks the kids will walk downstairs and hang up their coats! Heck, I'm going to be the worst offender on that one. That closet will be for out of season things. Any suggestions for reducing the enormous sculpture that is our coat stand? Is there a way to put hooks on the wall going down to the basement that won't look like a mess? I am desperate for ideas.

I would get several of these kind of hooks, hang them in a continuous line down the stairway, and keep the coats you wear the most at the top.  I just grabbed this example online, but I'm willing to bet you could find similar racks elsewhere for much less expensive. You could also probably find them unfinished and paint them any color you want.

I have a newly renovated bathroom in my art and crafts house - with the craftsman cabinets and 1 inch black and white tiles and a black counter top an d clawfoot tub. The walls are a light blue - it looks great. However there is a space at the top of the cabinet that cries for some decoration. I have tried vases and it looked ok but not "decorated" - do you have any ideas of something that would look intentional and also withstand the humidity of a bathroom

How about a rectangular basket where you could store extra toiletries or toilet paper? A wicker or rattan basket would add some nice texture to the room, too.

We just moved into a home that has one and love the convenience. However about a month after moving in I was hearing a suspect "drip, drip, drip" after running water in the kitchen. We had a plastic boot tray under the sink, thankfully, that caught the water from the leak. The sprayer had somehow turned loose and we had to tighten it back into place to keep it from leaking whenever we ran any water. It was an easy fix and we now know to keep an eye on it, but do be prepared for the possibility. As a sidenote we've now had 2 kitchen sink leaks in 2 months of living in our house and so appreciate having something protecting the undersink cabinet! I highly recommend it.

Good to know. thanks!

I broke the bank having a Grohe faucet with built in sprayer installed, plus a soap dispenser. Best decision ever! For resale, our realtor suggested a high end kitchen faucet as a crucial item.

Interesting. thanks!

for my husband who would leave the tea kettle on the stove for hours, burning out the stove burner elements, a Krups electric kettle that heats faster than anything else and has an automatic shut off switch

Great gift. I'll bet he loves it. Thanks!

They look great, but I cannot imagine them lasting the 20+ years I'd expect a regular faucet to last.. And the side-sprayers are more hassle than they are worth... I simply put one of those plastic swivel nozzles on the faucet -- yes, it looks cheap, but it works, it's efficient, it's easily replaced, and does not interfere with basic function.

Another option. Thanks.

Saw your advice to the chatter on the navy furniture- I have been wrestling with something similar myself. My daughter is 8, and the bedroom furniture in her room is an mahogany antique set I inherited from my grandmother- 4 poster bed, tallboy dresser, and vanity. It's beautiful, solid, and I have no other place to put it- but it doesn't exactly scream "8-year old girl!". She's not the girliest of girls and asked me to paint her room navy, but that would be too much dark in one place. I'm hoping you or the chatters might have other ideas on how to make the furniture look more age appropriate in her room.

Could you move at least one of the pieces out? Maybe taking out the vanity and replacing it with a more modern style table, like this? Having a mix of furniture styles would make the room feel a little less grandmotherly. And I assume you don't want to paint any of it, but that could be a good solution, to0. Changing the hardware might help a little.  Add cool bedding and a overhead light fixture that's more age appropriate would help, too.

Concur with Craigs list... lot's of well-made (PB for Kids, etc) will show up on that site. What about the unfinished all-wood furniture shops? They tend to be sturdyt and paint is cheap.

Yes, great idea about the unfinished furniture. But I think CL would be my first stop.

I knew a family with 4 kids who installed gym lockers in the garage, one for each kid. They also had a long row of hooks for coats and jackets.

Cute idea for a garage, though I don't think the original poster has the space to do something like that.

Awesome! Have had one for the past 6+ years and love it. Don't always use it, but it's really handy when I need it.

thanks for chiming in!

When we remodeled our kitchen in December 2000, my husband found a KWC faucet that has the sprayer as part of the faucet itself. I loveloveLOVE it! IIRC, it cost almost as much as the stainless steel undermount sink that I love too. In eleven years, I haven't had any problems with it, but it was $300-$400 at that time.

More sprayer faucet love...

We got a white dresser from JC Penney. Beautifully made, just the right height and space to add a changing pad (which comes with screws to attach to the back of the dresser) and still room for wipes, lotions, etc. on the dresser top. We did not pay an arm and a leg, and it has been a workhorse for us through two kids. Highly recommend JC Penney.

Thanks! Does it have the dovetail drawers the original poster was hoping for?

You get what you pay for--the saleman at Home Depot told me that, and said he bought a Kohler for his own kitchen. Expect to pay at least $300 for a good one that won't drip, or stretch out. My kitchen contractor showed me the hoses that came with the kit and pointed out that they were smaller than my existing hose, so that the water flow would be reduced. I'm used to it now, but it was a bit of an adjustment. That being said--I love the flexibility of the faucet, pull out sprayer, and the sink had an extra hole, so I put in the dispenser and now get dishwasing liquid with a pump--better than I had imagined.

Yes, actually, I have also been told that when it comes to sprayer faucets you truly do get what you pay for. If you're considering one, do your homework before buying.

Happy Holidays ladies! Do you know of a good carpet remnant store in Northern Virginia? I have been looking for an odd sized beige carpet to serve as a runner, but I've resigned myself to knowing I'm just going to have to have one made.

Any carpet store should have remnants available.

Hi. I have some living room windows that need shades and/or curtains. Unfortunately, I have no sense whatsoever about windows, so my question is Where do I start? My home is modest, so when I look at books or magazines, there's nothing comparable to this room. Should I go to a window professional? It's just three windows. Thanks.

Check out this story I did a few years ago with a local designer and window treatment specialist, Claire Schwab.  Lots of great advice.

Do you know or any of the readers know if there is any place in the DC area where you can have furniture spray painted? Example: On Sarah Richardson show she is always buying older furniture and then they show it being sprayed painted. Thanks

I know Avery Studios in Alexandria does this. Try calling them for a quote. 703-823-3935

I used to live in a condo with a sprayer built into the faucet, and it was fine. It was about 7 years old and never leaked, and I think it was a moderate-priced Kohler. I prefer a separate sprayer like I have now (Moen) because I think it's easier to clean the main faucet and to replace the side sprayer if ever needed (my parent's sprayer has lasted 38 years so far), but it's only a slight preference. A built in is sleeker. I definitely recommend a sprayer over the nozzle one chatter recommend. It really helps clean objects that don't fit well in the sink and allows one to get it in close for maximal power.

Great advice. thank you!

Good morning Terri! Hope you can help me figure out a problem I've encountered twice now. When painting over a gloss finish paint, it's like the new paint won't adhere to the gloss finish and it kind of slips, if that makes sense. Is there special prep required when painting over a gloss finish? Thanks!!

Morning! Have you tried sanding first? That should help the new coat of paint adhere to the surface.

Good morning, We are beginning to discuss the layout of our "finished" basement and how we want to redecorate. I say "finished" because it has laminate flooring and wood-paneling throughout. I would love to have wall-to-wall carpet as we have young boys and we are looking for a more comfortable feel compared to the hardwood throughout the rest of the house. But at the same time, we have young boys who tend to bring in a lot of dirt and stuff from the garage (which the doorway is at the one end of the basement). Do you have suggestions for how to have carpet, but at the same time create some sort of mudroom feel (without the separate mudroom)? Should we only do carpet in part of the basement? My husband is also pushing cork floors.... Happy holidays!

What about FLOR carpet tiles? You could use them wall to wall or as an area rug in one portion of the room. They are easy and inexpensive to replace, too. 

We use a long dresser for our son's changing table. I find it works much better, because with all the drawers, his clothes are right there, so I never have to step away for anything. We used the straps on the changing pad and slipped them between the dresser top and the attached mirror to secure it. Plenty of top space for supplies, and best of all - re-used, and usable for his big boy room later!

Great idea. Thanks for sharing!

Now is the time to start thinking of the new year and a clean slate for your home. Start by clearing out the clutter, disgarding items no longer useful and donating your clothes, your stuff and even your time to those in need. Please stop the madness of buying things you do not need or giving all the pretty crap to your friends and relatives for the holidays. If I see one more kitsch item, kitchen gadget, unwanted article of clothing or stupid knick knack or the like I will scream, If you didn't want it chances are neither will I want it either. Save your money, quit going into debt and start to clear out your home from clutter and see how much more you appreciate what you have. Think minimalist. Think clean slate. Think new beginning for the new year. My two cents.

Whoa...I like your idea, but I think you need some holiday egg nog, stat!

If you are handy (or know someone who is), you might be able to find a dresser like you want at the price point you want at an unfinished furniture store. A lot of stuff there is quite nice, but as the name implies, you have to do some work to it once you bring it home! http://www.lambrothersunfinishedfurniture.com/bedroom/5drawer605.html


That's all we have time for today, but thanks for the great questions and the lively chat - it was a great way to close out the new year. The chat will resume two weeks from today on January 5th, with Chris Plantan from Russell+Hazel as our guest, so please join us then. In the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful holiday. Chat with you in the new year.

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Terri Sapienza
Terri Sapienza is a staff writer for The Washington Post's Local Living section.
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