Home Front

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius
Washington Post Home Staff
Thursday, October 5, 2006; 11:00 AM

Every week, the Washington Post Home staff talks about various ways to improve your home. Find out about new trends, upcoming antiques shows and a variety of how-to help.

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

You may also browse an archive of previous Home Front discussions.


Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Hi everyone! WHEW!! We are happy not to be attending a design preview event today. LOTS happening in Washington right now in terms of interior design and we have hoofed it all over town. More on that later. Now, QUESTIONS!!!


Pittsburgh, Pa: I need a coffee table for my living room. A traditional style is my favorite but I love oriental pieces too. I have a bronze wrought iron bakers rack/secretary with a chair with an upholstered seat, a pale beige upholstered sofa and a walnut, orientally infulenced sofa table, and a medium sized walnut stained bamboo club type chair in the room. What shape or style of coffee table can you suggest?

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: You might get a simple black lacquer coffee table with ogee legs - Kindel makes a nice one in its Dorothy Draper collection by Carleton Varney. Also, in West Elm, a new piece for fall is the Geometric Storage Coffee Table in chocolate for $329.


slipcovers and faux flowers: Slipcovers are a frequent topic so I wanted tolet you know how thrilled I am with Urban Castle in Rockville. They did a fabulous job on slipcovers for my sofa and loveseat. The workmanship is outstanding and they were delivered ahead of schedule.

Also, I went to Merrifield Garden Center looking for a porcelain cache pot and noticed they have gorgeous silk flowers and plants - much better quality than the craft stores.

Thanks for all of your fab tips and insight - you ladies are the best.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Love the name Urban Castle. Thanks for sharing that. And also good news on the pottery front. A friend in Richmond loves Waldorf Pottery on Route 301.


New Canaan, Conn.: Good Morning Gals!

I just moved to a townhome that doesn't have a fireplace, and with the winter coming upon us, I know I will miss the one I had at the old place. I don't have an outside wall to install a real one.

What are your opinions on the fireplaces that take the cans of fuel? Any problems with using the cans of fuel with another fireplace mantel, and not the ones that are sold just for using the cans? Do the 'flames' look real enough? Any warmth from those flames? Any opinions welcome.


Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Has anyone checked out the Washington Design Center rooms we wrote about last week - that were done in conjunction with Met Home magazine? We'd love to know what you think. Just to remind all of you, we have some great design events going on right now where you can see the work of some top talent designers. For the Design Center show, go to www.merchandisemart.com/dcdesigncenter. For the NSO show house, which is in today's HOME section, go to www.kennedy-center-org/showhouse; and for the Rust Manor show house in Leesburg, go to www.loudounarts.org. We have also heard of another fab gothic style house opening in Easton, Md. on October 11 www.hstc.org. It features local designers as well as Richard Keith Langham, a talented decorator from NYC. So check these places out. Any other show houses out there we should print for our fall viewing pleasure? Send em in to this chat.


Mt. Rainier, Md: Question about the Traditional Builders Show mentioned in today's Post. The article made it sound like it was open to the public and would be good for homeowners. The website seems like it's for industry insiders, builders, designers, etc for continuing education, trend watches, and networking. Is this appropriate for homeowners? What can I expect?

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Annie says it is super for homeowners, decorators, architects or antique buffs who are looking for reproduction or authentic hardware and other home accessories and buildling materials. Admission is free and it is in the exhibit hall of the Hilton Washington. It's called the Traditional Building Exhibition. www.traditionalbuildingshow.com. Hours are Friday - tomorrow - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Bethesda Md: I love IKEA and normally put their furniture together myself. But a kitchen is a little too much for me. Any recommendations for contractors who will do an IKEA kitchen for you?

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: We don't recommend contractors ourselves here. Does anyone out there have one to suggest? We would think most contractors could be hired to install one, unless they insist on only doing high-end jobs.


Chicago, Ill: I might need to buy slipcovers for my 86-inch Jasper sofa from Room and Board because the movers roughed up the corners. The covers will cost $550. I'm wondering if this price is about average - it seems high to me (original cost of sofa was around $900-1,000). Would it be even more expensive to have another store do the covers?

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: It sounds like you are ordering these from the store. The price is a bit high, but not out of line for the fabric required and the work. You could take a photo of your sofa to a local seamstress and ask what she would charge, and then price out fabrics to see if that would be cheaper.


Arlington, Va: Do you have any suggestions for how to keep a slipcover from wrinkling? I have Ikea's Klippan loveseat in Almas red, and I love the cover but have a terrible time trying to iron the wrinkles out. Thanks!

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: The only way to keep it from wrinkling is to not allow somebody to sit on it!! You might try steaming it with a professional steamer rather than ironing it.


Alexandria, Va: Hi Ladies! I have a very ugly air intake vent on my wall in my condo's entrance. It's large too - about 70" high by 40" wide. Do you have any suggestions for hiding it? I can't put a piece of furniture in front of it because the air needs to flow into it. Thanks!

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Yikes! This is a large problem. Could you put a sheer billowy curtain over it? We have called Patrick Baglino a designer with an office in Washington. He says air ducts on the floor usually have decorative grates available. He says for windows, they have constructed a hardwood frame and stretched fab

ric across and set it into the window. Maybe here you could do a frame and stretch a breathable fabric like a linen or something attractive, but keeping in mind that air could circulate through it.It could be attached with hooks so it could be removed for cleaning.


Rosemont, Ill: Sorry for such a simpleminded question - but does a sofa look better up against a wall, or moved away from the wall? My living room is 17 x 14, so there's enough room to move it away from the 17 foot wall and have something like bookcases, or a console table, or a bench against the wall. Will this look visually cluttered?

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Patrick Baglino,Washington designer, says don't put too much behind the sofa if you choose to keep the sofa away from the wall. If you put up a console table and clutter it up with accessories and lamps and stuff, it would just be too much. One thing Baglinoloves to do is not necessarily place a console table behind the sofa, but just do backlighting - can lights - that would illuminate the back of the sofa. It just shines up at night and looks beautiful.


Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Oops. Back to the Traditional Building Show. Annie says admission was only free if you pre-registered before Sept 20. So we think there is a $10 admission fee but we can't find anybody in their offices to confirm this. Bring a $10 dollar bill just in case... and know that parking in that neighborhood is tough.


Re: slipcover wrinkles: When I bought my (cotton) slipcovered sofa from Crate & Barrel, they recommended not drying the cover all the way before putting it back on the sofa. By leaving it a bit damp, it dries to a snug fit -- I would think this helps with wrinkles, too!

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Great great tip. Totally cool. Jura wants to report that she bought a slipcovered sofa from Restoration Hardware a few years back. Although the hang tag said the slipcovers could be washed, the tag sewn into them said dry clean only-- so beware. Jura had hers cleaned at her local dry cleaners and was pretty satisfied with the results.


Washington, D.C.: Someone last week asked about lettering for walls -- there's a company called Wonderful Graffit that does just that. You can buy ready-made, or custom phrasing. www.wonderfulgraffiti.com

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Oh thats a super idea. Thanks.


Upper Marlboro Md: Good Morning,

I have a buffet table that has screw in legs and the wood is stripped and therefore I can't get the leg in. This practically a brand new table, is there anyway this can be fixed???

Many Thanks

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: We are talking to Keith Fritz, a master furniture craftsman, who just flew back to Indiana this morning after debuting his pearwood tables at the NSO Show House last night in Potomac.

So, Keith says that what he would do is to buy a threaded insert- there is a company called McFeeleys that makes them - its a specialize piece for the furniture industry. This can be inserted into the underside of the table and ithas threads in it for a machine screw.Otherwise, he says the best idea might be to take a couple of tooth picks and glue them into the hole. It would make the hole smaller and the screw might just hold. You could use wood glue.


Maryland: I have wallpaper over a wallpaper liner (damaged wall). I now want to paint. Can i paint over wallpaper? I am afraid if I remove the paper it will also remove the liner which corrected the damage on the wall. Should I just try to find a solid color of wallpaper in the color I want and paper over it.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Painting over wallpaper is usually a horrible idea.


Rug question: During my post-college broke years, I always bought inexpensive solid colored jute rugs from Pottery Barn. I recently moved and upgraded to very nice hand knotted wool rugs with a pattern (not Oriental). The one in my bedroom is subtle, but it does have a floral pattern in muted greens and blues. I am searching for new bedding. Am I doomed to have to buy a solid color duvet? I love patterns, but am worried it will look too busy with the rug.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: What about something textured? And don't be afraid to layer colors. You don't have to stay in a rut!


IKEA kitchen: I'm in the same boat. IKEA does have full installation service. They'll even come to your house and measure your kitchen before you order your cabinets.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Oh great.


Washington, DC: Hi Ladies! What color would you paint a living room that has woods, browns, and reds as its vocal points? Thanks!

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: What about a paper bag color called CHAI by C2. By the way, if you you go to the NSO SHOW HOUSE you will get a very wonderful card listing all of the paints used by the designers in their rooms. C2 was a sponsor of the show house so many of them are made by C2. Our favorite color: Potsticker in the Master Bedroom Closet by Closets by Design and Sea Mist on the ceiling in David Mitchell's living room.


Alexandria, Va: This is for the woman who posted last week about building her dream home and wondering how to furnish it. My husband and I built a beach house a couple years ago, and one thing we did was use a decorator VERY early on to work out a proposed furniture placement diagram, which she then used to figure out a diagram for the electrician about where to put sockets and so on. The house included a great room and I wanted a curved sectional sofa in the middle of the room; the decorator figured out where to put sockets in the floor so I could put lamps on end tables at the ends of the sofa. Also I wanted sockets at specific places in the bedrooms, under the windows, so I could put up electric candles at Christmas. You need this info for the electrician pretty early in the process, before the drywall goes up, so I hope it's not too late for the woman posting to do this.

You aren't committed to buy any particular piece of furniture at this point; it's just to plot out the general idea. My decorater did it for free; perhapss some might charge a little bit but it's well worth it to establish this plan early. It will save a lot of frustration later.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: This is all very helpful. Many thanks.


Springfield, Va: We need new flooring for our townhouse. I was thinking of carpeting but my neighbors have suggested wooden flooring instead. We will be moving in a couple of years so we are thinking ahead. Which do you think would be preferred by potential buyers? I admit that I haven't been paying much attention to the current trends in flooring.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Wood floors are usually more desirable. You could save them by buying inexpensive area rugs until you put the house on the market.


Alexandria, Va: I'm a young professional female, mid-20s, and my roommate has decided to move in a couple of weeks -- taking her living room set and kitchen table & chairs with her. I'm torn. I want to invest in good-quality furniture that both fits my style and will last. Part of me says, wait to buy furniture until I can afford and have found exactly what I want, even if it means having a lot of bare space for awhile. The other part of me says, are you crazy? Go on Craigslist, find things that will get you through the next 4-5 years (give your dinner guests something better than folding chairs to sit on, and pay off your college loans!). What do you think?

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: This is a VERY difficult question. Paying off those college loans would certainly be a priority. If you have a lot of free time and enjoy poking around, start making the rounds of yard sales every fall weekend until it gets cold. You'll be surprised what you'll find for very little money. We don't want you sitting on folding chairs - you can do better than that, even if its some stackable plastic chairs from Ikea.


Sterling, Va: Regarding air intake register:

If by "air intake register" the writer is referring to her HVAC's cold air return, then do NOT block this!! She could affect her system's operation and efficiency. The best she can do is paint the wall the same color as the register (usually white or off-white).

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Hmmm. Good caution.


Washington DC: Wine Rack -- PLEASE help -- I am looking for a console type wine rack. I know I've seen them before, but suddenly I can't find a single one. You know the concept -- iron bottom with marble top or all wood, but a side table type format. Can you suggest one or new places to look? Thanks so much and keep up the good work!

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Have you checked out www.ballarddesigns.com? Also www.homedecorators.com. and www.nexttag.com


Arlington, Va: I'm not sure if this the type of question you ususally handle, but my husband cracked the toilet tank in our guest bathroom (he dropped the lid on it while trying to fix something), and we need to get a replacement. Are there any brands/styles that are better than others? We don't want to spend more than $300.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: This is Jura. I admit I have never purchased a toilet myself. But my sister LOVES Toto toilets which might be a little more than $300. Annie bought an American Standard toilet at Home Depot for like $150 and she loves it. Annie says she would rather spend more money on tiles and towels, not toilets. YOU GO GIRL.


Washington, DC: So, I'm living with a hodge podge of furniture in every room of my house. Some of it is IKEA from right after college, some West Elm, a few cheap antiques I picked up here and there, and one or two inherited nice pieces. My budget is still small, but I'd like to start getting everything to look nice and put together. Like the home of, I don't know, an adult. But, I'm a little overwhelmed at where to start. Some days I'd like to chuck it all, but I don't think that's practical or affordable. Any suggestions?

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: If you are getting overwhelmed, it might be time to simplify. Only keep the pieces you really like and put the others in storage or give them away. You might try and buy a nice new rug to pull it all together.


Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Annie has just confirmed that the Traditional Building Expo is $10 at the door, if you did not pre-register. SORRY.


IKEA Kitchens: I got my Ikea cabinets put together and installed by the contractor from Ikea (subcontracted through Ikea). He did a great job.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Good to know.


Electric Fireplaces: To respond to the fireplace question - electric fireplaces plug directly into the wall and cost about $500 if you find them on sale. They're great for someone who doesn't have a fireplace but doesn't want to spend a great deal of money installing a real one.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Thanks.


Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Dear All - You've been so great in past responding to our queries, it's time to ask again...

Annie is doing a story on bereavement etiquette, how to overcome awkwardness in extending condolences to family members, friends and colleagues who have lost a loved one.

We would love to hear from you (please include your city and state and a daytime phone number) on things you found personally useful in handling this difficult bit of social navigation, and things you found really awful.

Will try to call you back next week. Thanks again. This is a topic where we could all use a little guidance and sensitivity training.

You all rock.


Loudoun County, Va: We have a center kitchen island that is sort of an octagon shape, you cannot put stools at the counter and sit comfortably because the counter does not extend.

We were thinking of changing the counter top to accomodate stools and thus eliminate our kitchen table.

Problem is, we can't find the exact same counter top, So we would either have a mismatch or we would have to replace all the counters in the kitchen and butler's pantry. Would it look horrible to have a different countertop on the island? I don't want to spend lots of $$$ especially because the counters are in good condition.

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: No it would not look horrible. Either pick a neutral color like black or taupe. Or go for broke with something wild like a metallic or bright lipstick red.


Asbestos...: We were planning to install hard wood floors in a room that likely once functioned as a screened-in porch on our old tudor house. In ripping up the carpet, the floor technician found asbestos tiles. He claims we should not remove them, as breaking up the tiles will upset and distribute the asbestos, and instead he recommends painting over the tiles with a sealent and then laying the hard wood floors on top of them...sound like a good idea?

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: We have heard that this method is indeed the best. But you could also get another opinion if you are concerned.


Kensington, Md: This may sound odd, but I am having a really tough time finding a large, round bathmat. Any suggestions?

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: Try www.garnethill.com


Arlington, Va: I'm looking for suggestions for what to do with about a tiny half bath that has plastic tile going up the walls. I'm at a loss as to how to begin to tackle this - chip all of it off and put up new drywall? cover it up somehow? Any suggestions would be welcome!

Annie Groer and Jura Koncius: We would say get rid of the plastic and start fresh. And we're out of time for today. Annie asks that if any of you have ideas for her bereavement story about writing letters or condolence gifts or visits, please email her at groera@washpost.com.

Thanks everyone for checking in today.


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