Mina Fies | Home Front

Mina Fies
Feb 11, 2016

Mina Fies is the founder and CEO of Synergy Design and Construction. She is passionate about empowering others to take a methodical and holistic approach when renovating their home.

After experiencing the frustration of homeowners during the remodeling process, she developed the Renovation Roadmap, a system choreographing all aspects of the remodeling process.

Fies is a certified practitioner of interior alignment (instinctive feng shui) and certified green professional, and believes understanding the spaces around us is the key to living healthier, happier and more environmentally friendly lives.

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.

Mina Fies is the founder and CEO of Synergy Design and Construction. She can answer your basic remodeling questions as well as talk about holistic approaches to renovating.  Her Renovation Roadmap system choreographs all aspects of the remodeling process. And I love this  - she is a certified practitioner of interior alignment (instinctive feng shui) and certified green professional. Let's chat. 

Hi!  Mina Fies here.  I'm thrilled to be chatting with you today, so let's get this party started!

Is it possible to paint over stain? We have a dark checknut brown banister that really needs to painted white. The angles of the cuts are almost impossible to redo so I'd like to just paint it instead of having to build a brand new banister. This will give more dimension to the space and match better with the rest of the house to have it white. How easy is this and what steps do I need to take? I had stained the wood a dark chestnut brown maybe 4 years ago and I now hate it.

Absolutely!  You'll need to sand the wood first so the paint has something to adhere to, but with a little elbow grease you'll be well on your way to that fresh look you want in no time.

We are going to be replacing our foyer light which is an ugly gold color into a nice globe light that's in an antique bronze color. The dining room light will be in the same antique bronze color but now I'm second guessing everything. Our kitchen is white and the knobs on everything in the house are silver. Should the pendant light and dining room light also be silver? We want to go with the more inexpensive option because we're going to put our house on the market in the coming months.

You can certainly mix up your finishes to create an eclectic look that suits your tastes.  With that being said, since you're putting your home on the market and some people prefer a more matched and cohesive look, you may want to stay with the silver for resale purposes.  As a bonus, bronze fixtures often cost more so going with brushed nickel may help out your pocket book at the same time!

My husband and I have been thinking of remodeling the upstairs bathroom due to tile coming up off the floor. We wanted to use more environmentally friendly material that is mold/mildew resistant. What is the best material to use?

Using more environmentally friendly materials is so easy these days and I'm thrilled you're thinking along those lines!  There are many tile manufacturers that use recycled materials. One of my favorite tile shops in this area is Mosaic Tile (they have several locations) www.mosaictileco.com. I'd suggest visiting one of their showrooms and seeing all they have to offer.

What is feng shui?

One of my favorite, down-to-earth explanations of this ancient Chinese practice is this:

"Feng Shui (pronounced "fung shway") examines how the placement of things and objects within it affect the energy flow in your living environment, and how these objects interact with and influence your personal energy flow. Your personal energy flow affects how you think and act, which in turn affects how well you perform and succeed in your personal and professional life. Feng Shui affects you every moment of the day — whether you're aware of it or not."

Bottom Line - Feng Shui is about aligning the energy in your environment to flow freely so the things in your life that are important to you also experience that same flow :)

The code for today is HF5640

I will be re-doing my small 1940's bathroom sometime this spring. I won't be changing the footprint--just updating. Years of rental living has taught me that going cheap at the on-set can be more expensive soon after because things don't hold up. I'm particularly concerned about not spending money on fixtures that will corrode or chip or dull quickly. I'm on modest budget, so how do I find the best quality for my money?

That old adage "you get what you pay for" certainly does apply here doesn't it? You're smart for taking the long-term view and with today's online access to quality manufacturers, it's easy to find name-brand fixtures without paying showroom prices. I suggest looking for trusted names like Kohler, Delta, etc., but purchasing them direct through websites like:  faucetsdirect.com or lighting fixtures at lightingdirect.com. This way you can find the brands you trust, but at a better price point!

We are half way through a renovation to our kitchen and it's been a complete nightmare. The walls and floor are torn up and it just seems like the work will never be done. We are in the 3rd month since construction started and without a working kitchen. We never anticipated this would have taken so long!! Our contractors have us managing the whole process and it's been dreadful trying to coordinate everything with our busy work schedules and the kid's school and social lives. What advice can you give us and how can we help this process get completed so we can get back to our normal lives?!! Please HELP!

I'm so sorry you're going through such a terrible experience!  Without knowing the specific's of your situation, I would say first and foremost, it's time for a serious sit-down with your contractor so you can get clear on what still needs to be done and how they plan to get your project to the finish line.  If they have not provided you a detailed "Production Schedule" which outlines when particular pieces of your project will be completed, ask for that immediately.  Although you didn't sign up to be the project manager, holding their feet to the fire and ensuring they have a clear plan going forward is critical to you both getting this experience behind you.

I have grainy oak kitchen cabinets. If I paint them, will it still look grainy? I would love a sleek look.

It depends on the color you plan to paint them. If you're going with a white, the grain still be there, but it will be greatly minimized. It may not be as "sleek" as you'd like, but it'll go a long way to freshening up your space!

Grey is the new neutral for walls, but I am not a grey person. The walls in our home are a soft beige with lovely detailed moldings and built ins painted in a soft white. Tile on the floor also has hints of beige and hardwood has tones of red. Though I have bold bits of color throughout, including one wall painted a soft sea blue and other rooms in other soft shades, I sometimes I think the beige is making out home look dated - because its not grey! Any thoughts?

I'm a huge proponent on creating a space that YOU love and not always going after the trend. If you don't like grey, don't feel compelled to bring it into your house!  I'd ask yourself why you feel it's dated. Maybe you just want a change and can do that by bringing in some accent pillows, rugs, or artwork to freshen up your space.

We need to update our whole house. What is the best way to get started? It seems overwhelming. I'm a stay at home mom so I think I have the time to manage hiring contractors but I don't know what I don't know or who to trust. Any advice?

Hiring your own contractors is fine when you're updating your flooring or remodeling a hall bath, but when it comes to tackling several projects at a time,  you want to hire a professional firm that is used to multi-room renovations.  Depending on the amount of design help you want, a design/build firm is usually your best bet.  They will help you conceptualize your new space, meet you out at showrooms to choose your materials, design to your budget, and manage the construction phase so you have one source of accountability throughout your project.  If you don't need as much hand-holding, you can go with a straight General Contractor, but make sure they're average project size is in-line with what you're looking to tackle within your own home.

Hi. I am expanding a small bedroom by opening it to an area above the garage which will give me a sleeping area (existing room) and an office/sitting area with a large walk-in closet. Have changed my mind several times on how to address the doorway but have decided I do want a door and have become intrigued by the sliding doors that run on a rail above the opening. It would be on the office side so not visible from the bedroom when opened. The wall space I would lose when the door was open isn’t a concern but I’m wondering what things I should consider, such as the mechanics of it (including any weight restrictions on the door) and if a rustic style door would be the only type that would look appropriate. Thanks.

I love sliding doors (also known as "barn doors")! Don't let the name fool you though, you don't have to go with that rustic feel, you can opt to go with a more traditional (or even modern) door painted an accent color (or white if that's what the rest of your doors are). There really is no limit to the type and style of door you an choose.  As you've noted, the hardware is key! You don't want to skimp on the rail system you choose and you want it installed by a professional to avoid any issues.  We've used www.rusticahardware.com in the past.  It's a great website to help you see all the options available to you!


Hi, I have a 20 year old leather sofa that has some minor cracking/alligatoring plus some discoloration from what I think are dirt stains. Do you have experience with a local firm around Arlington that could take a crack (no pun intended) at fixing it?

I have heard in the chat that www.leathermedic.com can help with that.

We need to replace the vinyl floor in the kitchen of our 1918 farmhouse. The rest of the house is heart pine and there’s pine under the vinyl as well. So we can either pull up the vinyl and refinish the floor and replace the vinyl with tile (or my choice, linoleum, but husband disagrees). The considerations are first, that we and our dogs practically live in the kitchen and do a lot of cooking and eating there, subjecting the floor to claws, spills, drips, etc.; and second, that a breakfast nook was created out of a porch at some point and there’s plywood, not hardwood, under that part, which is visually distinct from the rest of the room. So will wood stand up to that kind of wear and tear and, if so, would it look odd to have different flooring in the "nook" part?

Since your home has such unique character to it, I think staying with the pine floors would be ideal. The beauty of hardwood floors is that they are durable and you'll still have the option of refinishing again years down the road if necessary.  As far as your "nook" goes, I don't see an issue with switching up the floors...as long as there is some sort of visual break, you should be fine.

It's going to be a cold cold weekend. Have you read my piece about fireplaces? Gas vs. wood. Where do you stand? Read it here.

The finished bedroom over our garage is always cold, even though it's a new house (built in 2014). We have proven that room is consistently at least 5 degrees colder than the rest of the upper floor. The builder swears that's "just how it is over a garage" and refuses to do anything. Will spray insulation or blown in insulation help with this issue, and what would be involved? Would we have to remove the garage ceiling?

Unfortunately that is "just how it is over the garage" when the builder doesn't take the extra step to insulate it properly! Yes, spray foam insulation should make a huge improvement to the temperature of the room (blown in...not so much). Unfortunately, the garage ceiling would need to be removed so the installers would have access to the joists.  It may be a pain, but well worth it in the end. Another option would be to add radiant heating to your flooring in the bedroom. It can now be added under carpet and hardwood, so if you have carpet up there, that may be an easier fix!

I have so many things that need repairing, replacing, etc. in my home. I am a senior citizen and my track record of being taken by substandard workmanship in the past, I am very hesitant to deal with contractors myself. Is there a service out there that would work with me, deal with the contractors, purchase the needed supplies and see the job through to the end?

I agree that trying to manage individual contractors is not always ideal and requires a lot of trust on your part. For repairs and replacement work, there are several professioinal handymen services that act kind of like a General Contractor. They will manage multiple trades people for you and give you that one source of accountability you're looking for. 

It was fun having you on the chat. Going to check out my home's feng shui this weekend. Meanwhile, join me next week for The Property Brothers, stars of HGTV and much more. Have a great weekend everyone.

I can't believe we're already out of time! I really enjoyed my time with you all today and wish I could've gotten to more of your questions. Thank you for having me Jura!

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 archiveFind Jura on Pinterest
Mina Fies
Mina Fies is the founder and CEO of Synergy Design and Construction.
Recent Chats
  • Next: