Q&A: Nancy Fire of HGTV on what's in and what's out in home

Nov 15, 2018

Nancy Fire is the founder and creative director of Design Works International, a lifestyle studio in NYC that serves as a creative think tank made-up of designers from all over the globe. She is also the co-founder and creative director for Studio NYC Design and the design director for HGTV HOME. Fire has spent the last 30 years identifying trends that define home design. Nancy recently attended the High Point Furniture Market where she was tracking design trends

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers, Marie Kondo or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating, design and decluttering questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and organizing. For more than 20 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share your own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small.

Nancy Fire knows all the latest design directions and style trends. She is the founder and creative director of Design Works International, a lifestyle studio in NYC that serves as a creative think tank made-up of designers from all over the globe. She is also the co-founder and creative director for Studio NYC Design and the design director for HGTV HOME. Fire has spent the last 30 years identifying trends that define home design. Nancy recently attended the High Point Furniture Market where she was tracking design trends. Ask her what's on your mind as you get ready to entertain family and friends in your home. 

Hey everyone! Nancy Fire here, Design Director of HGTV HOME. I am also the Founder and Creative Director of Design Works International, a lifestyle studio in the heart of NYC. The amazing team of artists, designers, and trend forecasters at Design Works International have over 30 years of experience in the design industry. I'm excited to answer your questions today. Let's get started! Follow me on Instagram @hgtvhome and @nancy_fire

we are working on redoing our bath and are having the hardest time with the light fixture. I'm assuming that the 80s hollywood bulb strip we have is out. But what is in and would help give us a fresh modern look?

Great question! It depends on size and scale of your bathroom and the height of your ceilings. Don’t be afraid to mix different types of lighting like sconces and overhead lighting. Also, it is fun to add in vintage Edison bulbs for an updated and modern look. 

I love white stained/bleached floors but don’t have them now. I am moving and wonder if it works to have Persian rugs on white floors. My style is English cottage but I am sick of dark floors. I have bennison fabrics (linen), lots of books, old engravings etc. My colors are pale pink, pale green, pale blue and creams. The rugs are generic reds and navy. I also have some sisal on which I’ve layered the Persians. Help��

Mixing white flooring and Persian rugs is definitely doable. White floors add a much cleaner and fresh look to a space. When you add a deeper colored Persian rug it grounds the room. Great concept on layering with the Sisal rug! We love layering and bringing dimension to the room. 

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I painted & decorated my whole house in fall colors when I moved in 14 years ago. I know now that gray and blues are in style. How do I update my whole house when on a tight budget?

Easily! Look at the room colors that you really want to keep and decide what colors work for you. Then you can slowly add different colors to the mix. An example of this would be adding some blues and grey back into your home which will give your space a nice mix of neutrals with your fall colors. Think warm grey, softer blues, and some “greige" (mix of beiges and grey). 

Talk to me about the color gray. I'm hearing it's out. I just painted my whole house gray to get it ready for sale and I hope it doesn't turn off buyers.

Grey is the perfect neutral, and here is why: It is the perfect backdrop for any color. Don’t forget about your textiles where you can pop some color into your home as well. We love grey! It is here to stay and loved by many because it is such a universal neutral. Good luck with selling your house! 

We would like to update our midsized 80's bathroom and while were not a slave to fashion, not even thinking of selling anytime soon, I would like to know what features are considered a must today.

We love 80’s! It is actually so "on-trend" right now.  Especially tonal mixing in bathrooms. Tonal grout coordinating with tonal tile color. An example would be pink tiles and coral grout or grey tile and lighter grey grout. Some features that are considered a “must” are awesome lighting, smart tech details like faucets that respond to motion, or “smart mirrors" that tell you the weather, news, and time, and also don’t forget about textured textiles. Textiles bring a lot of dimension into the space. Think bathmats and towels. 

My living room has bookshelves surrounding the fireplace (filled with books) on one wall, and a large multi panel window on the other. How should I handle the other two walls (one opposite window with couch, one by door with console table) without the room feeling too cluttered?

Think gallery wall! Be creative in your choices because you don’t want the room to fill cluttered. You can leave more room between the frames and also leave more space around the matte. And make sure your imagery is varied. Example: some paintings, some photographs, some original family/ kids artwork, and great flea market finds. Depending on space, here are a few suggestions. A small bar cart, and smaller console, or a floating shelf that houses fun home decor objects like diffusers, knickknacks from travel, and coffee table books. 

Is there any way to restore "comfy" to my upholstered wing back chair? I chalk-painted it chair per video instructions on BHG.com. Now the upholstery's updated, but almost pleathery, not cushy. It turns out that the product instructions are different than those on BHG.com. Thanx!

You could start over with the filling of the upholstery and even add some tufting to make make it cushy!

I painted my bedroom walls Kendall Charcoal last year, and live it with the crisp white trim and other white in the room. But I’m feeling the need for a few pops of color. Thinking emerald green. Or perhaps a dark caramel to match a piece of furniture in the room. Your thoughts?

Yes, color, color, color! It is important to add color & texture into the room. Textiles is the most affordable and accessible way to do this. If your thinking Emerald green, utilize some black and don’t be afraid of using some warm tones of color like a nice pop of pink blush! 

My wife and I are renovating our kitchen and disagree about what to do with the designated eat in space. It has a half wall on one side that looks into a step-down family with lots of light and high ceilings on one side. On the other is the back wall of the house, shared with the kitchen, with big windows looking to the back yard. I want the character of the banquette and the environment it creates to get cozy and spend time together. She doesn’t want to commit to the built in solution and having to buy another table. We are renovating the kitchem because it is old but also to create a new hub for the family moving forward (3 Kid’s, large dog, us). The kitchen and it the eat in area are most of the back of the house and run directly j to the stepdown family room so sight lines are direct. Help us make this our home but also something others will desire if we have to move unexpectedly.

Easy solution! We are calling it the "movable feast." We are seeing banquets on wheels allowing you to move the furniture as needed. Your space sounds beautiful! I agree, do not make something to permanent. This way you can enjoy your space in many different configurations. 

Every year I wonder what to do with my large round wood table for Thanksgiving. I'm thinking tablecloths look at little dated, right? What else can I do to make it look festive and more formal than just set for our regular meals. Placemats? Runner? Thanks for any ideas.

Think layering your table by doing the following: Use a textured charger to create height, like something woven like sisal or raffia, then layer colored fabric that is smaller than the charger but larger than the dinner plate. Use a patterned napkin to bring in some color and design to establish a the aesthetic you're going for. Don’t forget about updated flatware finishes like mixing different metals or even matte black flatware! Have fun, be creative, and allow your centerpiece to work with your table setting. 

Something I've noticed on watching a myriad of HGTV shows lately is how little color people want or the designers choose. I can't tell you the number of homes that have all white kitchens, all grey bedrooms, or the horrid greige. What happened to color? I understand grey can be very soothing, but so can pale blue, pale green, pale yellow. Any idea when having color will go back into style?

Great question!! Yes, it is happening right now! People are not afraid of adding color to their homes through home decor, textiles, and even accent paint walls. We love your suggestions of pale blue, green, and yellow. You will be seeing more of that in the upcoming season. 

Hi there. I am in desperate need of new bath towels. Any recommendations? Nothing luxury if possible. Thanks!

My recommendation would be to do some research because there are so many great options out there today. One option would be going the sustainability route where you can purchase towels made of bamboo instead of cotton. I love a treasure hunt, so I usually go to stores where there are one-of-a-kind options that carry luxury brands at affordable prices. 

Hi Nancy - I was a huge fan in the early years of HGTV, when you had shows with real designers and real craftsmen - I learned so much and watched it all the time. When you moved to showing all reality-type shows, and emphasized drama over substance I stopped watching. Do you see your network ever returning to its roots?

That is truly a question for the network. We do see more requests for this type of programming! 

Help!!! We have decided on installing LVP flooring in our 1978, 2,000 sq f, front split home in the PNW. We were planning on just running it through the entry, both set of stairs (up and down) and the entire floor upstairs (living room, dining room, kitchen, hallway, bedrooms and baths. I am having a very difficult time because although the product itself is not extremely expensive (in comparison to wood) with the install we are looking at 15k. My biggest problem is finding a color and style that I like. Our kitchen cabinets have a very warm reddish color (not my choice). Finding a floor that looks great every where else in the home and not clash with the red in the kitchen cabinets has been very paralyzed with making a decision. Any suggestions on how to pick a good color and tone? What to stay away from? Granite is a very neutral (no red). Any favorite you like to use? Are home is a casual more contemporary/rustic sitting on 2 1/2 acres of woods. Any guidance would be so appreciated. Cat in Washington State

I would go neutral! You don’t want any flooring that is going to compete with your cabinets in the kitchen. Plus lighter, more neutral flooring will make the space look more open and expansive. Flooring is a big investment and what I would suggest is getting different LVP flooring samples to keep in your house and look at throughout different times of the day. The lighting changes and the flooring will look different at various times of the day. Then you will be able to make the most informed decision.

The fabric is stiff now, no 'give'. Plus this is one of those elaborately-winged wing chairs with a box cushion. I painted the fabric because I couldn't find a slipcover that didn't have a T-cushion ( the companies told me to buy one for a recliner and alter it to fit, but otherwise had no suggestions/ideas).

Unfortunately, it sounds like you will have to start over because it is very difficult to undo what has already been done to the fabric by the paint. A good suggestion would be to digitally print fabric to customize what you're really looking for. There are very affordable ways to do this and will give you the same DIY quality. 

I know farmhouse style is everywhere, but I do actually like it. Is it "trendy" or classic enough to not look dated soon?

Farmhouse style is here to stay, but updating is a must! We suggest mixing more contemporary items to refresh the farmhouse feel. Do not be afraid to add more pops of color and different types of finishes to your home decor. A great example of this would be a farmhouse sink in a different color than what or cream. Recently we are seeing a lot of matte black and color variations in the kitchen. You could bring in a few contemporary home decor pieces to layer into your personal aesthetic. 

Hi Nancy, what is the latest on displaying photos, just in frames on tables, collages on the wall, etc.? I have lots of old family photos and would love to do something creative to display them. Thanks.

There are many ways to incorporate photos into your home. We all know gallery walls are important but you can also have a floating shelf and create a stacked layout making a more casual aesthetic. Also think of hanging your pictures outside of your bookcase creating more of a unique look and curio-type feel. It really is about how you curate your photos to make them look new and inviting each season. 

We're thinking about completely gutting two fairly deep side-by-side closets and connecting them, which means we'll be working with a totally blank slate. Any suggestions to maximize space? We've got high ceilings, including in the closets, and would like to use that space as well.

What are you looking to create? A new big closet or a home office? Can you be more specific? 

I reeeeally want to paint my brick house, which has weird speckled bricks that are not pretty. It's from 1897. Although I normally think historic houses should stay brick, this particular brick is so bad. Is there a way to change the look of the brick itself, or can I just paint it? I was thinking either white or navy.

I love white brick with black shutters! The bigger the shutters the better. Great to update a historical home but keep it classic. 

I have heard that granite is now past its prime. What are some great options for kitchen counters? I'm looking for something that is durable and won't look dated in 5 years.

So there are a lot of options today! It really depends on the aesthetic you are looking for. We are seeing colored counters coming back into style but that is limiting if you are looking for something that is timeless. My suggestion would be that there are many materials other than granite that you should consider like caesarstone, marble, butcher block, quartz, concrete, recycled glass, tiled countertops, or even lava countertops since they are uniquely beautiful and highly functional. 

Hi. We have a very small eat-in kitchen space that I don't know what to do with. We don't use it at all (we eat all our meals in the dining room), so right now there's three pieces of furniture (antique sewing machine, and two desks) along the back wall of the house and the back of the kitchen cabinets which divide the kitchen from this space. Any thoughts on how to make this space more useful?

Why don’t you gut it and make it some sort of craft space?! There are so many creative ideas for small spaces. You could make it a personalized space or give it more of a lounge feel so people can sit while you cook. Another idea would be to make it into a working pantry. It is always great to utilize extra space! 

The arm of my leather sofa has ripped (about a inch long). Is this something I can fix myself or do I need a professional? Or should I just put a throw over it and pretend it isn't there? ;) Thanks much.

Too funny because I am in the same predicament! I have chosen to use a throw to put over my leather antique chair. You can have it mended if it a piece you are willing to invest in. 

Thanks Nancy. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. No chat next week. I'll return on Nov 29 with Carolyne Roehm chatting with us on entertaining ideas for the holidays.

How is it that TV shows on HGTV can renovate rooms for far less than the actual cost to an average homeowner? Is the labor on these shows free? Thanks.

Exactly, labor is not included. 

Is this just a trend, or will it go by the wayside at some point? It seems like that is all anyone on the TV reno shows talks about, but lots of older homes are anything but open concept.

Open floor plans are here to stay because there is a demand in newer constructions to have more open space to create more duality in the home. Not everyone uses a formal dining room anymore and want to be able to use that space as a home office, a she-shed, a man cave, or a yoga studio. It's all about flexibility in the home today. In older homes, we are seeing people using smaller rooms the same way keeping them a little bit more diversified for many uses. 

So are they out? Do they look granny?

No, they are not out! Be creative in your choices. Think about texture, color, and dimension while looking at ways to incorporate tablecloths. Many times I use fabrics in my home that are not tablecloths, for the table. You can drape fabrics to create that look on the table. 

What about Oriental rugs? Do they look dated?

No, just because it is how you style them. Try layering them or putting them on the bias of the room. Or do not center them in the room! 

I'll finally be able to repaint the walls of our family room due to some upcoming work! Currently the room is TOO neutral - walls are a sage-greenish color (from the previous owners), our furniture is pretty neutral (beige couch, taupe chair), and we have a fairly neutral (grey/white) rug. The throw pillows have some pops of blue and green, but I'm stuck as to what to paint the walls so it's not so drab. I would love to do a dark navy for contrast, but my husband thinks it'll be too dark. Suggestions?

Dark navy will make the space really moody..why not think of adding some grasscloth or wallpaper to an accent wall to create color/texture as a compromise to the both of you! 

Thank you so much for your awesome questions! Unfortunately we do not have time to answer all of them. Hopefully we will be able to this again soon. Have an amazing Thanksgiving holiday and best wishes to you and your family. I hope I inspired you to make your “turkey table" the best ever in your decor choices! -Nancy

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 and organizing.

Home Q&A archiveFind Jura on Instagram
Nancy Fire
Nancy Fire is the founder and creative director of Design Works International, a lifestyle studio in New York, and design director for HGTV Home.
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