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Home Front

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius
Washington Post Home Staff
Thursday, April 21, 2005; 11:00 AM

Every week, the Washington Post Home staff talks about various ways to improve your home. Find out about new home trends, upcoming antique shows and how to reupholster your furniture.

Ask Post staff writers Annie Groer and Jura Koncius about all things home related.

Live Online photo of Post Home staff writers Jura Koncius and Annie Groer. (Jennifer Crandall - washingtonpost.com)

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Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Good morning everyone. We have just moved to new dazzling quarters here and we are ready to chat with you about anything and everything. How about this marvelous weather. Well here we go.

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Leesburg, Va.: I love these chats yet I am still chromatically challenged. Can you find a way to find out what paint colors they are using for the walls in the rooms on "Extreme Home Makeover"? I love how they have different colors on the main level but they look great together (probably most people can do this on their own without having to copy off of a TV show). I have tried the Web site to no avail.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear Leesburg: We will send your query to our talented and paint loving assistant editor Liz Seymour. She is always looking for new paints to feature in her HOMEfront column. Good question.

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West River, Md.: LOVE YOUR CHATS! I want to paint my front door yellow but am having a hard time picking the right shade. My house is white vinyl siding with gray shutters. Any suggestions?

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear West River - A yellow door with grey and white sounds lovely. Try Benjamin Moore's Montgomery White. It's actually a buttercream.

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Washington, D.C. : Hi there -- Can you suggest a nice sage green that does not look too "minty?" This is for a living room with dark wood "British Colonial" style furnishings, neutral fabrics (although I do plan to add some colorful pillows and a neutral/muted rug), and hardwoods. Duron is easist for me to get, but also open to other paint brands. Thanks a ton!

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Sorry to lead you a bit afield, but given your particulars, we vote for Martin Senour's Willow Gray.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Dear Annie and Jura: I have black accents throught my house, I like the sophisticated look it brings to my small, neutral space. I have a large black TV that sits against the wall facing the front door. I'd like to blend it in to make it less noticeable. How do you feel about painting the wall behind it black?

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear SS - We love the black accents, but a black wall...no way. It will look entirely too cave-like. We'd rather you just went to a framer and got a really sleek black frame around this high-tech art machine.

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Arlington, Va.: Not a paint question! I need something above my fireplace mantel and was thinking of putting an oval shaped mirror, but I'm open to other ideas. BTW, the fireplace has a brick surround with a traditional mantel painted white. I have Chopin sconces from Restoration Hardware just above the mantel. The room is painted P&L's Woodgate. Thanks!

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear Arlington, We love oval mirrors over a tradtional fireplace. You might also try a Federalist-style fish-eye mirror.

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Arlington, VA: Happy Thursday! I just had granite countertops installed yesterday (yay tax refund!) This morning, I wiped it with a damp paper towel and it still looked kinda cloudy. Any ideas how to make it shine without harming the stone? Thank you!

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear Arlington - Congrats on using your hard-earned tax refund on such a glam and homey thang. Our colleague Sandy Fleishman in the Real Estate section did a great piece last year on caring for kitchen surfaces so don't despair (it's Jan. 10, 2004). You can buy special cleaning products made for granite at hardware stores but others swear by soap and water, window cleaners or liquid all purpose cleaning.
We assume you had the surface sealed, but if not that couldbe the problem.
The main thing to avoid in cleaning granite are abrasives and those containing lemon or vinegar. So no steel wool and Comet, and don't leave any alumnum cans on the counter.

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Ashburn, Va.: Color question: When you walk in our front door you see our dining room which is fairly dramatic in light blue and navy blue. To the right is the "living" room. It is a fairly open floor plan. The stairs are to your right. What color could we paint the living room that would look nice with the dramatic blues in the dining room?

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: If you're feeling really bold, you could paint it a deep garnet red, like Duron's Mount Vernon Historic Colors "Powel Coach."

Or you could go a kind of yellowish straw color from the same collection called "Thrashed Wheat."

In either case, you could then trade on or two accent textiles or pillows in the opposite room for a pulled=together look -- a splash of navy blue in the dining room, some red or wheat in the living room.

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Alexandria, Va.: Do you have an idea about a general price range I would be looking at to have a 650 foot condo professionally painted? There are some imperfections that I would need smoothed out and a couple plaster cracks that need to be fixed, but otherwise, it would be the standard paint job of walls, baseboards, and ceiling. I have no idea what to expect for a price range and am hoping I am not looking in the $5000 range. Thanks!

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear Alexandria - When you say plaster patching, if you mean real plaster and not drywall, that will add to the expense.

Neither Jura or I have had this kind of basic paint job in many moons.

So Home Team fans, let's hear from any of you who have had this done recently.

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Washington, D.C.: My pet - I love him to death - sheds a LOT! Can you recommend a vacuum cleaner that picks up dog hair well? Thanks!

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear DC - Treating yourself to a high-end vacuum these days is another form of house bling. The two top names are Miele and Dyson. The latter is a bagless upright with endless suction mechanism and is domestic eye candy. But they can be heavy to schlep up the stairs. The Meile has a more lightweight canister.

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Alexandria, Va.: For the sage hunter. I just painted my living room in Behr Rejuvenate and cannot tell you how many compliments I've received on it. It's a lovely, relaxing green with yellow undertones; not minty at all. Good luck!

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: thanks. it must be great if people love the wall color.

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Montgomery village, Md.: I've just bought a house with bay windows and haven't any idea how to treat them. Specifically and most urgently, I need some suggestions for window treatment options in my east-exposure bedroom window which will give me privacy and block out some of the early-morning sun (I'm hoping to sleep in some days!). The usual options for traditional flat windows don't seem like they would work. Or would they?

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear MV - Jura happens to have a cute little colonial house with double bay windows in the front - living and dining rooms. For two decades she has struggled to find the appropriate treatment. For a long time each bay wore only a 1980s-style simple swage in black-background chintz (an homage to Mario Butatta).

However, they have now been replaced by simple, fitted white pleated shades in each section of the window, which are also painted white. When they are up, there is so little massing at the top you don't notice they are there.
Jura's came from Next Day blinds. You might also consider putting a decorative cornice at the top of each bay to finish the look.

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For the hairy pet: Don't forget one of the world's greatest inventions, the cotton dust mop. Unless you're willing to vacuum every day (and shlep around that equipment), the dust mop is a pet owner's best friend. That, and a damp rubber glove to swipe fur off the upholstery (unless your Fido's significantly better trained than mine).

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Thanks...And pet owners also love Swiffers and similar wet and dry mops.

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HELP IN WISCONSIN: My front door is fiberglass that is embossed to simulate woodgrain. It was stained and sealed ten years ago. But I was very bad and neglected it since. Now it needs a total redo. My question --- can you strip a fiberglass door or how do I go about fixing the finish? The bottom half (exterior) of door is all faded out and some what chipped off in places. The top of the door is pretty good actually. Could I just stain over the entire door and then seal it or must I first attempt to get the old uneven finish off? Thank you from Wisconsin.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear Wisconsin - There seems to be so much labor involved in prepping the door and refinishing it, you might consider buying a new one and vowing to maintain it. It would spiff up the front of your house and make you smile as you came home each day.

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Washington, D.C.: Not a question but a big thanks to you for all your help a/b choosing paint colors. Also a tip to all choosing BM colors in red: Beware of colors that look deep such as Tucson Red but yet belong to a strip with some pinks. Tucson red for example ended up a bluish pink!! On the other hand, Copper Clay by BM is a beautiful deep rich earth red.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear DC - Thanks for the great tip. We always like to hear reader endorsements of great paint colors.

So we'll return the favor by alerting you all to one of Sherwin-Williams'new reds, which looks like a rich tomato-soupy Tuscan red but in fact is called Enticing Red, SW 6600.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Any ideas on what kind of flooring could be used to replace the carpet in upstairs bedrooms to reduce allergen sources? Hardwood is nice but would be a bit chilly in the winter.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear SS - There is a solution, and it's currently on the floor of our esteemed editor, Belle Elving. As the hardwood floor was being installed, contractors also put in a system of heating units under the boards.

It can be heated either by hot water or gas. Ask your flooring folks about it.

And we'll ask our fab readers.

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Washington, D.C.: I am considering painting my bedroom aqua/turquoise. The colors will be white, light gray and aqua. What do you recommend? I don't want it to be a jewel-like color, but I don't want it to look pastel either.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius:
Dear DC - Annie seconds that motion enthusiastically. She had a turquoise bedroom in her '57 house in Chevy Chase, which also sported a turquoise and brick exterior. (We notice the new owners have turned the outside beige, and we are saddened).
Anyway, the bedroom color I chose was Benjamin Moore's Jamaican Aqua. Jura thinks its too wimpy (trust me, it wasn't) and suggests the next most intense color, Tropicana Cabana (which wins the prize for best name today); if they're both too dark (and we love the idea of grey accents) go for Barely Teal.

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Annapolis, Md.: Re vacuum question: I have a Dyson Animal and it does a great job of picking up pet hair. My Oriental rugs actually look brighter since I started using it. I use a lightweight vacuum on the steps because the Dyson is too heavy. By the way, I have five cats.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Meow!! Five, you say. No wonder you use a Dyson.

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Akron, Oh.: Any ideas on how to clean a stone fireplace? Vacuum it? Wipe it with a wet sponge? There is no ash/soot, I just want to be sure it isn't dusty.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear Akron - Try a damp rag or sponge and warm water.

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Falls Church, Va.: Re color trends. I've lived with the same upholstered living room furniture for ten years, and it's time for an update. My wood furniture is mostly maple. Calico Corners has some nice fabrics with a color scheme of tobacco brown, wheat, and a grayish aqua. Restoration Hardware's silver sage paint is a great match for the walls. Do you think this is too trendy? Will it look dated after only a few years? Should I add another accent color?

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: No, it's a great and enduring color.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I have paint regret! My kitchen is mostly a buttery yellow, but I made the unfortunate decision to paint the backsplash green. I wanted something dark, but it came out too olivey even with four coats. I've lived with it for a year and still hate it. What color would you suggest for my redo? I'm leaning toward reds/pinks.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear SS - No pink. Repeat, no pink. But be warned, as we learned in 3rd grade art class when studying the color wheel, red and green makes brown. So make sure you've got a really thick good paint for maximum coverage. Try Farrow & Ball (yes, it's pricey but it covers like a charm). Blazer is a great red. But if you really want to make a statement, consider a deep, deep purple or aubergine try Brinjal.

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Arlington, VA: I'm planning on painting my bedroom bluish/tealish to complement my espresso-color furniture. Any suggestions for the kind of blue/teal (think Pottery Barn) I should get (BM preferrably.) Thanks.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Try Ben's Alberquerque Teal. It's yummy

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Crofton, Md.: I have decided to paint the walls in my kitchen/dining room BM Shelburne Buff. The dining room has wainscot. Can you recommend a color for the wainscot and trim? The floor is red oak.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear Crofton - Shelburne buff is a really great paper bag tan...not wussy, but good and clear.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear Crofton - We're having technical problems here (okay, it's pollen allergy meds and we're a little stupid this morning...the count is about a zillion particles per square paint chip so we're a mess). We love Shelburne Buff, one of Ben's Historic Colors.
For a classic look, do white wainscoating and trim

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Raleigh, N.C.: Good morning! Looking for a warm creamy neutral paint color for my LR. I have honey wood trim, and fireplace surround in that room. Room gets lots of light. I have a brown leather couch and tapestry style drapes on the wall of glass doors in the room. I need a neutral, but one that will "pop" against the woodwork. My attempts so far have seemed too yellow. Thanks.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear Raleigh - If you have the nerve and really want some PoP, try Sherwin-Williams Saffron Thread. It makes a statement.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: I have a small two-story house. I'm wondering if it's better to go with one carpet style for the entire upstairs (for continuity), or if it's OK to have different styles in different rooms. I really, really want shag carpeting, but I've pretty much been told by my partner that it needs to be confined to "my" room!

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear Gaithersburg - We're with your partner. Quarantine that shag in your room, and do something else. You can carpet the rest of the space uniformly, but be warned. Our Esteemed Editrix has decreed in her story about The Kip's Bay Show House in New York that sisal may be on the way out...

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Leesburg, Va.: Hi. My fireplace is a white painted brick. With the warm weather here we're not using it for fires any more so it's a big black hole surrounded by white painted brick. I don't have a screen (don't like them) so what can I put in front of the fireplace to cover up that black hole and jazz up that wall? I don't really like the tiered candles look. Do you have other suggestions? Thanks.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear Lisa - You are right. Fire-labras are so 1990s. We suggest painting your entire fireplace surround black, as Jura has done. It unifies the space and eliminates that gaping maw look.

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Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear All- It's noon and we're history. See you all next week.

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