Transcript: Thursday, May 3, at noon ET

House Calls Live

Helena Peck
Principal Designer, InDesign
Thursday, May 3, 2007; 12:00 PM

Give your home a modern update with help from House Calls. The Post's room makeover series provides design tips and advice that can help transform any problem room.

Homeowner Mary Ebersole wants to update her home's family room, but has no idea where to start. With three small kids and an elderly father to care for, she's strapped for time and needs help. Ebersole wants to redesign her space and make it a relaxing and fun area to hang out and watch TV.

In need of expert design tips, we turned to Helena Peck of InDesign in Arlington, Va., for advice. With her help, Ebersole's family room is now the perfect place to kick back and relax.

The transcript follows below.


Helena Peck: Good afternoon.

_______________________ Welcome to this week's edition of House Calls. Homeowner Mary Ebersole is too busy caring for her three small kids and elderly father to find time to figure out how to decorate her home's family room. Designer Helena Peck provides expert tips that Ebersole can use to spruce up her digs.

Helena, welcome. What inspired your design concept for this room?

Helena Peck: I wanted to create a comfortable, functional and beautiful space for the adults, and children. To cozy up the large room I used warm colors, and various textures. Storage was a challenge for the family so I created an entire wall of storage-not visible from the perspective of the rendering.


Northeast D.C.: I just had a room painted a very neutral color in my house and I plan to add some darker but still neutral colored carpet. I don't know what to do about window treatments though. The room has two skylights and two bay windows so it's REALLY BRIGHT.

Helena Peck: I would look through some design magazine, and create a scrapbook of window treatments you like. You may find that you chose a consistent pattern or texture. I would ensure regardless of your choice that you ensure it is lined to help control the amount of light.


Ashburn, Va.: The rug in the "after" room this week is gorgeous and really seems to warm up the room. How do plush rugs like this look on top of a neutral carpet rather than wood flooring? I'd rather not replace my carpet at the moment, but everything is really beige in my house (much like the "before" pic). Would it be too heavy to have both rug and carpet?

Helena Peck: I absolutely think you could place an area rug in your space on your existing carpeting. This would be a good way to warm up the room. Consider using a size that could anchor a seating area.


Fairfax, Va.: I love your design! I am looking to freshen up my family room on a limited budget. My furniture is in good shape. Do you have any ideas? Thanks.

Helena Peck: Thank you. I would consider looking around your home for items you could possible trade into your family room for a fresh look. Painting the room has a tremendous impact, and is friendly on the decorating dollar. New accessories can also make a huge impact. A few places that are budget friendly are: Home Goods, West Elm, and the Georgetown Flea Market.


Silver Spring, Md.: Helena: In your critique, you stated that the best way to make a space feel cozy is not to get too monochromatic ... but I must say your design is looking pretty monochromatic to me. Do you have any suggestions in regards to bright colors (either for the walls or furniture) that would make it stand out a bit more?

Helena Peck: The rug has a lot more color then shows up in the article. I also added color in the artwork, throw and accessories. The wall color(Pittsfield Buff) will really warm up the room.


Fairfax, Va.: Hi, Helena. I absolutely love your makeover of Mary Ebersole's family room. What is your suggestion for a townhouse with a small living room (10x15) adjacent to the kitchen, open space, separated by a kitchen island that want a similar feel. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen and when we have company they like to gather in this area. I would really love to have some seating where people can just hang out and chat while we are cooking in the kitchen. Currently, we have two chairs and a TV in this family space. I can't imagine a sofa or huge seating as space is limited. Help!

Helena Peck: Thank you. If you have a wall to mount the TV on maybe you could add additional seating. Banquet style seating in the could also allow for extra seating.


Bethesda, Md.: What inspired your choices for the lighting in the room?

Helena Peck: I wanted to have plenty of light by the chaise for reading the paper, or a book to a child. I like the Restoration Hardware lamps because they are on a dimmer. Having the ability to adjust the overall lighting is very a important design feature.


Silver Spring, Md.: My question is about art ... how should I go about picking out new art for my house? Any ideas?

Helena Peck: Art is very personal. Having said that there is no right or wrong art for your home. I always tell clients to pick things they really love. There are great options in our area for art- Torpedo Factory, Local Art Shows, flea markets, and many galleries.


Falls Church, Va.: Hi, Helena. Do you have a Web site? Thanks.

Helena Peck: My web site is


Annandale, Va.: I love your ideas and they fit my budget too! My question: I need a new sofa but don't have a big budget. Where would you shop? P.S., I love the flat screen over the fireplace -- especially the adjustable mount!

Helena Peck: I would look at Room and Board. They do not have a local showroom, but they will send swatches. They also have a very low delivery fee.


Arlington, Va.: What are the top three room decorating mistakes?

Helena Peck: I would say:

-Not considering the scale of furniture vs. the room

-Not having an overall plan to ensure adjacent rooms work well together



22102: Really great choices and it's even affordable! I love the detail in the artist's sketch too. What are some of your favorite stores that inspire your designs?

Helena Peck: I like Random Harvest in Georgetown, Greenfront(especially for rugs), and Decorium.


Largo, Md.: I have wall-to-wall carpet in my house and was also thinking if this was the right answer. What made you want to replace the family's carpeting with hard wood floors?

Helena Peck: The family has small children and had white wall to wall carpet- not a good combination. I think having the large area rug will show a lot less dirt, and will still allow the room to feel warm. The wood floors will also be easier to maintain compared to wall to wall.


22205: This is my favorite column every week! Thanks, Washington Post! Looking at Helena's design, I really like the wall color choices -- I think!?!? I can never tell whether the final color will be too much once it's painted. How do I make sure I don't find out too late whether or not I've picked the wrong color?

Helena Peck: Many companies offer sample cans of their colors. I definitely recommend painting a small area with a sample if you are making a major change in color. "C2" also makes large painted boards that you can buy for $6 to try out.


Washington, D.C.: I like your suggestions. They are very practical. I saw your suggestion about curtains. Do I really need to spend the extra money to have them lined? Thoughts?

Helena Peck: I recommend lining curtains for the following reasons:

Curtain fabric is protected by the lining

Curtains also hang much better when they are lined


Springfield, Va.: Is it really practical to have the TV over the fireplace? What about the wires and the viewing angles?

Helena Peck: The wires can easily be moved up to the wall, and concealed by the TV. Some of the new TV's have built in DVD players. The TV can be on an arm that allows the TV to move up/ down to ensure a comfortable viewing angle( as I suggested for this room).


Beltsville, Md.: The after picture looks so much less cluttered. What's your strategy for decluttering a room (and keeping it that way)? Love the Wallace Cube ... might need to go to Pottery Barn today!

Helena Peck: Clutter is always a challenge. I recommend find a place for everything- from new mail to the dog leash. If you are going to buy something consider where it will go, and what you will get rid of in it's place. Also consider double duty furniture whenever possible- like the cube.


Arlington, Va.: I love the sketch and the design. What is the piece of furniture in between the two couches? It's not listed.

Helena Peck: It is an ottoman from Horchow. I picked it because of the leather top, shelf for mags., remotes, and it had a couple storage drawers.


Falls Church, Va.: I read this column every week and love the ideas. I always think about hiring an interior design coordinator but worry about the cost. Can I afford someone like you? What's the best way to get help without spending an arm and a leg?

Helena Peck: A designer can save you money by ensuring you do not make costly decorating mistakes. You can also hire a designer just for ideas, and then implement the design yourself.


Alexandria Mom: This may be a little off topic, but I thought I'd ask. The room looks great but I instantly envision it a week after it's completed and my kids have done their damage. They are forever spilling snacks (they LOVE popcorn) and leaving their toys laying around. Any one suggestion to keep the newly designed room looking fresh?

Helena Peck: Have a place for everything- so it can be easily picked up. I also recommend a portable vacuum


Helena Peck: Thank you all. Have a wonderful day.

_______________________ That's our time for today. Thanks again to Helena Peck for taking on this week's design challenge and answering reader questions. And don't forget to tune in to next week's edition of House Calls.


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