Q&A: Bravo's Jennifer Welch on how to make your home a sanctuary

Apr 16, 2020

Jennifer Welch is an interior designer in Oklahoma City who also stars in Bravo's "Sweet Home." On the show, she and her team transform blah homes and offices into eye-catching spaces. The results are major transformations that the owners are presented in a big reveal.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, Marie Kondo, the Property Brothers or Amy Astley, editor-in-chief of Architectural Digest, 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, our Thursday Q&A 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.

Well its been weeks now since we have been staying home and feeling a bit anxious and a bit annoyed at our chipped woodwork and cluttered countertops. Interior designer Jennifer Welch is based in Oklahoma City and has 20 years of experience designing homes in places such as Dallas, Palm Springs, Hawaii, Durango and Los Angeles. She is also the star of Bravo's Sweet Home and can give you many great ideas on how to keep calm and carry on as you stay home.

I'm excited to have an hour with you all today.  I hope you all are staying healthy.  I imagine you've been spending an extreme amount of time in your home and I look forward to answering your questions. 

How does lighting affect the feel of a home? I usually keep my blinds closed, but since being home they stay open.

Lighting is EVERYTHING in a home. Natural light and ambient light have a huge impact on our moods and the vibe of your home. Definitely get the natural lights infusing in your home during the day, and turn on lamps in the evening to add moody ambience. 

Technology can be really instructive. What are some practical tips on eliminating disturbing technology, but also using technology for soothing purposes to create a relaxing atmosphere?

Televisions have made great gains over the last decade. Samsung makes a TV called "The Frame" that we use a lot on projects.  Not only does in function as a normal TV, but when "off" it projects a piece of art.  In my home, we love to play music and project our travel photos via our apple tv. You can set them up like a slide show. I am not tech-y enough to do this, but my husband sets it up and it's really great.  Especially during this lockdown, it's nice to see images of yourself out LIVING!

What are some of the best indoor plants to create a “sanctuary” feel? can artificial plants provide the same effect?

Orchids and succulents are great! Both are easily and inexpensively purchased at a grocery store like Whole Foods and others.  For years, I had an incredibly adverse reaction to fake plants.  However, I've evolved a bit lately.  There are incredible fake orchids and succulents on the market.  One cannot even tell that they are fake.  I have a tendency to kill plants, so these fake orchids are fantastic for the non-green thumb types, like myself.

I live in a one bed room apartment. I'm not able to paint the walls during this quarantine or make any extreme changes. Can you help me with some ideas on how to make my apartment a sanctuary. I love design and color. I'm able to hang art, so I do have art hanging around the house to bring in color. Thanks for your help!

Focus on toss pillows, rugs, and over-sized art - specifically travel photography.  My firm recently designed an apartment community in Oklahoma City.  Not only did we design the common areas, we staged a 1 bedroom model unit.  We chose textured rugs, organic textured pillows, and oversized images of the Amalfi Coast.  Don't let your vanilla backdrop deter you from going bold with the items place in your apartment!

what are some family friendly paint colors that are lively but also soothing?

I typically stick with neutrals on paint colors.  They tend to age much better.  One caveat to this: we often intentionally paint a wood paneled room (study, dining room; etc) a bold jewel tone lacquer.  Another way to add a lively feel is the use of wallpaper.  Wallpaper is great in dining rooms, powder baths, home office, and the main wall in a bedroom.

My small master bedroom is outdated with rattan furniture, light yellow walls and beige carpet. I can’t afford all new furniture but I want to repaint the walls, get new drapes, improve the lighting and purchase a new comforter. I want a relaxing feel and nothing heavy or ornate. Any suggestions?

Since you are still using the rattan furniture, surround it in neutrals and textures.  Try Sherwin Williams "Incredible White" for your walls in eggshell.  Paint your ceiling the same color in flat.  Then, go for some boho chic style bedding.  Check out Anthropologie, Citizenry, and Urban Outfitters. Think Tulum type of vibe.

How do you balance decorating for significant holidays or events and not look tacky? Rick asks, how many decorative pillows should a bed have?

Mom, is this you?? LOL. (My Dad's name is Rick and my mother uses the adjective "tacky" quite a bit!)  However, for Holiday's you can SLIGHTLY break the "less is more" rule and go with "more is more."  I say this with some hesitation b/c I've walked into client's home during the holiday's and they have 200 Santa statues out and I just die a little bit inside. 

As for pillows on the bed - use one large body sized pillow in a great textured fabric OR 3 euro sham sized pillows.  We almost always opt for the 1 large pillow - it's clean, easy to make bed, and different.

Is the show Sweet Home coming back for season 2?

There are no current plans to gear up another season :(  However, follow along our @jenniferwelchdesigns IG to see all of the incredible projects we've been working on!

How can I give my bedroom a facelift in these dreary days at home? I don't want to buy a lot of new stuff or paint.

Consider changing your bedding.  It can give your whole room a new feel.  There are incredible deals online right now that you can take advantage of to give your bedroom a whole new vibe.

I can’t help myself. I have a crush on Josh. How did you meet? What’s the most annoying thing about him? Love you and your work.

Hahahahaha.  I would remind you of the phrase, "the grass isn't always greener!"  Just kidding!  Josh is adorable and fun and smart and a complete pain in the ass!  We met at a local bar and I couldn't stand him. He was so persistent he finally beat me down.  And, I'm grateful for it.  We've had a roller coaster relationship, but deeply love each other and our family. The last five years have been our best :)

I loved your cat room on the show. Any tips on how to create the "purrfect" cat room?

The cat room on the show was a very first for me! I tried to educate myself as best I could, and in the process found out that there is a real psychology to cats and they like to  live. They like option: hang out low or hang out up high.  Amazon has a lot of things you can purchase to get your kitty the perfect perch.

...and am just glad I didn't hit a brick wall (yet). Very fortunate to be healthy in a pandemic where many or not, and still employed. My four walls of my home and dining room/office are closing in on me. Being home so much is making me look at areas of my home that I'd like to improve and frustrating because I had vowed to take 2020 off from home improvement (preferring self improvement) and if I were to want to do a project, I can't during the pandemic. What would you say for clutter that's accumulating from too much togetherness with my home right now? And how to start decluttering when I'm working full time? Please help. Thank you.

You've got to get a trash bag out and get rid of this stuff!  Clutter really messes with my serenity.  My husband, Josh likes to leave stuff out on coulters and it drives me insane.  I grind my teeth while putting his stuff away, and toss the unnecessary items that he or my children are too lazy to put away. I always feel much better after the purge. We cannot control what is going on around us, but we can control the serenity of our own home. Stay Safe!

what's a paint color that will look great as we are all working from home and doing video conferences?

I think warm colors look best on video conferences. Try Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore. I really love this color.  

Here's an article that I wrote with Roxanne Roberts about the homes of media anchors on TV.

I have a large sort of open pre war apartment in NY . We need a good paint job soon. Should I keep the open flow rooms one color or should I paint rooms different colors. Can you suggest a good color to keep it big and bright .

Keep all of the rooms the same color - the space will age a lot better.  Bring color in through art, fabrics, rugs. For a warm, darker white try Incredible White by Sherwin Williams. For a lighter, yet slightly warm white go with White Dove by Benjamin Moore. I have White Dove in my house and LOVE it. 

Your ole j prof wants to know, what are the decorative penalties for spelling an expert’s name in-correctly? #notmom

Gwin!!!  I'm glad you and Rick joined me today :)

Where do we see this chat?

You see it here.

Marie Kondo, the diva of decluttering, offers her own experiences of working at home and how to make the most of your time. Read my story here.

I loved seeing your relationship with Kyle Bunting on your tv show. It was amazing to see two creative minded people working together like that. It was amazing that if you thought of something, he seemingly read your mind and just made it happen. How did you meet? Has he ever not pulled something off? Question 2: Can you tell us about your favorite space that you've designed?

Kyle is a dear friend and wildly creative! He has NEVER, EVER said no to anything I've asked him to make.  I met Kyle through the industry.  I placed a custom order for successful musician - a circular rainbow rug with a pot leaf in the center. Kyle immediately called me and said, "Hey, this is Kyle Bunting, what the hell is going on in Oklahoma City?"  We were instant friends.

Often, my most favorite space is the one that I most recently installed.  A few months ago we installed a vacation home in Durango that ranks at my fave of all time. Load of Kyle Bunting in this house - the hide rugs are fantastic in this setting.

How do you rate the decor of various network news reporters' home sets? Lots of books (but how many are fakes?). PBS's David Brooks' looks like an enclosed patio, but others are far more elegant.

It's so interesting that you asked this! As I've watched these reporters from their homes, my mind has wondered to their surroundings. I watch Chris Cuomo in the evenings. He has COVID-19 and continues to air from his basement. There are these 2 chairs flanking him a few feet back with fluffy pillows in them. I wonder if there is a sofa on the other side of Chris that the chairs arrange with? My mind tries to construct the rest of his basement - haha!

Can you get specific with how to style a kitchen? I have a modern sculpture and a tray with all of my salts and oils on my kitchen counter. What else could be placed on the counter that is FRESH AND NEW! I’m stuck! Really enjoy your fresh look on interiors....Thank You!

I don't like a lot of things on kitchen counters. We typically do a large bowl with orchids in center of island OR an over-scaled bowl full of fruit. I know the urge tends to be "I have this countertop space, therefore I need to put something on it."  Resist this urge. Just because you have a open space doesn't mean you need add things to it.  Less is more, in my opinion, on kitchen counters. 

Got any good thoughts on charging stations? What products do you like that can charge two or three devices at once?

Yes! Have an electrician change a typical outlet to one that adds USB ports. They take the same amount of space, and allow you to charge more. We install these close to nightstands and on kitchen islands - the places you charge most. 

Whats a good way to organize all the cleaning supplies we are using all the time in our kitchens and front hallways?

Follow @thehomeedit on Instagram. These gals have the most aesthetically inspired organizing ideas I've ever seen.  You can really take a deep dive on this IG page to get loads of ideas. 

Can you recommend a nice throw blanket for a sofa? I'd like something soft and really warm. Thanks so much.

Yes, try Little Giraffe. They are known for baby blankets, but also have larger ones for adults. They are fantastic. We also use Alpaca throws from Restoration Hardware. 

Hi Jennifer - you answered earlier that you often "paint a wood paneled room - a bold jewel tone lacquer" do you have an online pic you can point us towards? I'm having trouble imagining it. Thank you!

Yes, check out @jenniferwelchdesigns on Instagram. You will see a deep emerald green sitting room we recently installed. It's fantastic. 

Last night on the "PBS NewsHour," reporter William Brangham's pet (cat, I think) was lying on the nearby couch, bathing itself!

Ha - how fun.

I am lucky to be working at least full time while in quarantine, so I do not have extra time for projects. However, all I seem to see in my old row house is the problems. Many of them are projects that require skilled labor/contractors. Any advice for how to stop obsessing about what is wrong with my house? Also, having spent a lot of time in the Nordic region, I truly understand the need for light. Open those curtains and blinds and bask in the sun, whenever possible.

I think what you're experiencing is widespread during quarantine. We all have issues that need tending in our homes, and now we are myopically staring at said problems all day. I've encouraged my quarantined clients to make a wish list of post-quarantine repairs/upgrades. Photograph the areas and make notes about what you'd like to do. Add an inspiration photo or two to help you visualize your future improvements. I hope this can tide you over! Stay safe :)

What’s with all the can lights everywhere? I now the days of the single ceiling fixture in a room are gone, but isnt’ there something better than a zillion can lights for a big room?

Well placed can lights, large windows, and the use of ambient lights sources (chandeliers, lamps, etc) can mitigate the need for an abundance of can lights. But, I hear ya! Sometimes these ceilings end up looking like a slice of swiss cheese with all those cans!

Did Josh really photograph Joe Exotic?

Yes!! Josh photographed Joe Exotic in 2015 and has thousands of images of him in action at his zoo!  Insane how this has blown up!

How does Jennifer spell her last name? It would help in following her... Thank you,

Welch

Thank you all so much for joining me today!  I wish you all safety and serenity in quarantine.  I'm very much looking forward to better days for us all. xxx

We hopefully will get a photo of that Cat Room for our print version of the excerpts of this chat in next Thursday's Washington Post. Thank you for all the good advice, Jennifer. Next week Ashley Moore, an herbalist and expert on homesteading will be here to talk about how we can be more self sufficient at home. Until then, be well and stay home.

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.

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