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Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Home Staff
Thursday, October 9, 2008; 11:00 AM

Home Front is an online conversation between two Washington Post Home Section writers and their readers about the best way to feather the nest. Every week, Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza help you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. They were online Thursday, October 9.

A transcript follows.

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

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Jura Koncius: Hi Everyone. Are you feeling poor after this week? Everyone we spoke to is. Any good sales to report for this weekend? We hear Leesburg Premium Outlets has some good stuff marked down. On another topic, here's something that bugs me. I was at an office this week where four forlorn poinsettas left over from last Christmas were sitting in the window with FOIL still on and just a few green stalks left. Don't you think its time to toss these items out? It's pumpkin time...

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Washington, DC: Hi, I am submitting early, I hope you take my question! Is there a standard white trim color you recommend? I am redoing trim work and painting a radiator. I want white but nothing too bright. Thanks for the advice every week!

Terri Sapienza: Take a look at Benjamin Moore's Dove White. It's a white with a hint of gray, so it's white, but on the softer and warmer side.

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Thereabouts: Morning. I'm looking for paint in a peacock blue shade. Could you suggest the name and brand of paint that I might find in that color?

Jura Koncius: Regatta Blue by Pratt & Lambert would fit the bill. Also Behr's Royal Peacock. I remember that in the 1970s, using peacock blue ink was very cool.

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University Park, MD: Greetings! I was lucky enough to score some beautiful pieces on Craigslist, but now I need some professional help to pull my living room together. Is Fall Fix-Up coming up soon? Thanks very much!

Jura Koncius: It's actually Spring Spruce up!!! So you have a bit of time to go. Get more info on that from ASID's DC office 202 488-4100. Meanwhile, Elizabeth our trusty producer is going to find an article I did recently on four ways to get decorating advice by the hour... that might be what you need.

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Teen Library Makeovers: These are great!

Would adults be restricted from hanging out there too?

washingtonpost.com: The Library Teen Scene (Shh...) (Post Home Section, Oct. 9)

Jura Koncius: What a great question! Teens would probably prefer an Adult-Free Zone. Libraries have really changed though. My son called me from his college library the other day. They allow cell phone yakking on one floor AND they have a coffee bar that's open until 2 a.m. right in the library! It doesn't look as good as the spaces that Kat wrote about today though!

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Neutral Confusion: Any suggestion for a neutral paint color to brighten up an already dark living room?

Terri Sapienza: You don't mention any colors you have in the room already, so it's difficult to suggest, but what about a light gray, like Benjamin Moore's Classic Gray? For a more beige neutral, take a cool at C2's Cricket White, Reflection or Rice Paper.

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washingtonpost.com: Making a Plan (Post Home Section, Feb. 21)

Jura Koncius: Here are people who can help with decorating.

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Severna Park, MD: Hi Jura and Terri - I wonder if maybe the other chatters can help me out and provide a recommendation for a chimney cleaning company in the Anne Arundel county area? Thanks for a great chat, I look forward to it every week.

Terri Sapienza: can anyone help out this fellow chatter?

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Washington, DC: Jura and Terri - Just wanted to keep you in the loop with a quick FYI!

This Saturday (10/11/08), the DC Design Center is holding its semi-annual Public Sample Sale from 10am until 3pm.

This one-day sale event offers a wide array of furniture, rugs, accessories, lighting, and more... with savings up to 75% OFF retail pricing.

Participating showrooms include: American Eye, Arbiter, Baker, DSA Associates, Ebanista, Galleria Carpets, J. Asher Carpet Couture, Pugrant, Rist, Robert Allen/Beacon Hill, and Schumacher.

Located at 300 D Street SW Washington, DC 20024. Metro accessible via Federal Square SW (3rd and D Sts SW).

We hope your readers will have a chance to visit us at the Design Center this weekend! - Rick

Jura Koncius: That is so helpful! Thanks so much. And in these days of scary economic news - gulp - this is a great way to get a bargain. Share with your friends!

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Fairfax: When I moved into my townhome, there was a ceiling fan with one relatively dim light bulb in the kitchen. I'm going to replace it soon. Should I get another ceiling fan? Is that normal for a kitchen? Also, what should I be looking for in terms of bulbs/wattage to sufficiently light up the kitchen? Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: Sales Talk (Fan Fair's going out of business sale) (Post Home Section, Oct. 9)

Jura Koncius: Now is a good time to buy one on sale...

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Green idea: I was recently doing some work on my sunporch and wanted a few bolster pillows. I took some old bed pillows that were past their prime, rolled them up very tightly, stitched the roll together and covered with fabric. Looks great and was almost free.

Jura Koncius: So green.

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Mantel dilemma in Potomac: I have a 5 ft long or so wood mantel over my fireplace that is currently empty. Are there any design guidelines about how to fill up this space? The entire wall behind it is all old red brick that is very nice and the rest of my room is tan and blue. I was thinking maybe some black objects like candle holders since I need some height. Please help me fill it up!

Terri Sapienza: Mantels can be tough, I agree. For starters, you could hang a large piece of art or a mirror over the mantel, which will give you instant height. You could also layer a few pieces of art on the mantel (leaning against the brick wall as opposed to hanging them) - they should vary in height and shape to make it interesting. You could also group a small collection of items (in different heights and shapes). Rather than candlesticks, you could use a pair of hurricane lamps.

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Washington, DC: I know that you get plenty of paint questions, but I am clueless. We are struggling for a grayish-blue for our guest room. I didn't think this would be such a hard task, but the colors we have tried are either too aqua or too baby blue or too purple. We are determined to get this done before the weather turns cold. Any thoughts to guide us?

(Furniture is dark brown, moldings are white, bedding is white and chocolate with light blue accents.)

Love the chats!

Jura Koncius: You must know our favorite is Palladian Blue by Benjamin Moore. I know we sound like a broken record!

But other choices might be Martha Stewart for Valspar at Lowe's Boathouse Blue.

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Detroit, MI: This isn't really a decorating question, but maybe you can help me. I got home from work last night, and my whole condo smelled like onions. The smell seemed strongest in the basement. I haven't cooked with onions recently. Any ideas on what might cause this?

Jura Koncius: Hmmm. Have you checked your neighbor's dinner menus?

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Prince Aha stools: looked great in that one teen space design, but way too costly. Target calls them Sally Stools and sells them for half the price.

Jura Koncius: An AHA MOMENT!!! Thanks

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Pigtown: Some comments: - I am amazed that C-Mart is going out of business. In this economy, it would seem that places like C-Mart would prosper. I am thinking that the guys who bought it a couple of years ago, and then moved it and expanded it to DC, got in over their heads. The last time I was there (on the way back from the Restoration Hardware Warehouse sale which is this weekend, too.), there was just junk, junk, junk!

- Eddie Ross has one of the best new design/decor blogs around. I found him really early on and am amazed by his multiple talents. Especially since he's so young (30).

Terri Sapienza: Hi, Pigtown. Thanks for your comments. Eddie is impressive, isn't he? He's fun to chat with, too. I am anxious to see if he wins Top Design.

Have you been to the Restoration Hardware Warehouse lately? They are closing, too. Last sales are this weekend and next month.

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Greenbelt, MD: I want to teach myself how to sew. I received a Singer machine as a gift and I just bought a starter kit, and some fabric. Do you have any books that might be a good starting point? My first interest is to brighten up my sofa with some new pillow covers.

Thanks!

Jura Koncius: I just tried to call G Street Fabrics but the manager is off today. I would suggest going there and seeing their book selection or suggestions. They are experts on this. 11854 Rockville Pike in Rockville.

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Logan Circle, DC: Has anyone out there ever polished their cement floors as a do-it-yourself project? If so, please share the tools used and any tips. Thanks.

Jura Koncius: Anyone?

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Jura Koncius: Well more sad news on the home store closing front. We hear C-Mart is closing its last store in Joppatown - it should all be sold by October 18. No more online sales too. Wow. What a horrible economy we are in!

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Washington, DC: Hi, thanks for the chat. Has the Post ever done anything regarding design for small spaces (like "studio apartment" small, not "living room the size of a studio apartment" small)? I know mirrors are useful for making a room look bigger, and using smaller and multipurpose furniture (like an ottoman that can be used as a coffee table) is also useful, but I'd love to see some resources beyond dorm room furniture stores.

Terri Sapienza: Hi, DC. Yes, we've written several stories over the past year with small space solutions that go well beyond mirrors and ottomans. Our lovely producer, Elizabeth, is in the process of posting them now...

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washingtonpost.com: Living (small) (Post Home Section, May 24, 2007)

Terri Sapienza: Here's one...

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washingtonpost.com: Apartment Therapy: The Doctor Is In (Post Home Section, June 19)

Terri Sapienza: another small space story...

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washingtonpost.com: Small Spaces, Big Ideas (Post Home Section, Sept. 20, 2007)

Terri Sapienza: and another small space story...

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Baltimore, MD: After spending almost 2 yrs renovating my home, I'm in need of some budget friendly stores. I'm looking for stores where I can buy kitchen supplies, rugs, curtains, etc. all on a reasonably CHEAP budget. Is there such a place in the DC area?

washingtonpost.com: IKEA!!!

Jura Koncius: Yes. I'm afraid it's the same old suspects. Ikea. West Elm. JCPenney. Don't forget Craigslist. Pier 1 Imports. Marshall's. TJ Maxx.

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Blue v Gray: No question, just a suggestion for the chatter looking for a perfect blue gray. I tried Palladian Blue from BM and it was still too far on the blue side for me. Nantucket Fog, on the other hand, was perfect. It looks gray on the card, but on the walls, and as a backdrop for my antique patchwork quilt, it's just beautiful. I painted it three years ago and still love waking up to it every morning.

Jura Koncius: Love the name and love the color. Thanks.

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Gaithersburg MD: Hi - trying to find quality bedroom furniture of simple design something similar to the furniture SCAN used to have. I live in a condo and I don't want a huge bedroom set.

Jura Koncius: You know, so many people miss the SCAN furniture. It was simple, well made and classic. You might try Belfort Furniture in Sterling which has a very large selection of furniture. Also Ethan Allen.

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Palladian Blue: Please continue to recommend PB! Yes folks, it is as terrific as Terri and Jura say it is. I suggested it to my cousin based on the comments in this blog. When I saw the finished bedroom, I was amazed at how lovely it is. The newlyweds are simply thrilled with the choice and it's their favorite color in their new home.

Jura Koncius: That's great to hear. My dining room is painted in PB and I find it very soothing and it's a color that changes with the sunlight.

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi ladies - Yes, I'm feeling poor after this week! And with my first baby on the way, I'm trying to figure out how to decorate a small nursery nicely but inexpensively. Any ideas on where to look for furniture, mainly a crib, dresser and bookshelf?

Terri Sapienza: Hi, Bethesda. Congrats on your baby! For a dresser and bookshelf, I would search Craigslist. I would buy the crib new. I believe, as a rule, buying new is recommended because safety standards are constantly changing.

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Alexandria, VA: RE: white recommendations - We used Behr "Cotton Whisper" in our sunroom which is soft and warm and are very happy with it. We also are pleased with their "Antique White" in another room which has a muted and classy tone to it.

Terri Sapienza: thanks!

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so where are the good bargain places?: I'm looking for a cheap futon (the mattress, not the frame). My parents got one for $100 at a Macy's furniture clearance center. There used to be a Hecht's clearance center, but Macy's website didn't list any centers around DC. With Restoration Hardware and CMart closing, where are the bargain basement hunters going these days for hit or miss bargains?

Jura Koncius: You are so right! Leesburg Premium Outlets does have a number of home store outlets in it including Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn and there is a Restoration Hardware outlet there as well. I just called to get the scoop on what's on sale this weekend at the Leesburg Restoration Hardware outlet - they have all kinds of leather, slipcovered sofas, accessories. They got a big delivery on Wed. and they are ready for this weekend's sale, I was told. The big news is also that they are offering an additional 20 percent off all prices until Monday, starting today. HURRAY!!

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Chimney Sweep, Anne Arundel: We use Bay Stoves in Edgewater. They installed our fireplace insert a few years ago and also do sweeping. I'm having mine done next week for $225. Don't know if that's the going rate, but I like them.

Jura Koncius: Thanks.

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smelly kitchen: I have the same issue in my apt where I'll cook and the apt will retain the aroma even with windows open and a fan on. Any recommendations for how to mask the smell besides plug in air fresheners or candles?

Jura Koncius: Fans and candles are about it as far as I know! Open windows are a must.

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Ohio: My husband and I are starting to pick things out for a nursery for our first child. All of a sudden people are asking me about our "theme." I had not realized I needed one... we were just going to pick a nice pastel color and go from there, all we need to buy is a crib and some decor items/linens. Any ideas on reasonably priced art? Good blogs for inspiration? Should we just frame some things from a place like art.com? I'm starting to feel lost now.

washingtonpost.com: Imagination at Play (Post Home Section, Sept. 4)

Terri Sapienza: Another chatter with a first baby on the way. Congrats! I definitely don't think you need a "theme" to your room, so not to worry. As for art, how about finding a children's picture book you like and framing some of the pages? The Ribba frames from Ikea are a nice choice.

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Palladian blue: OK, so I have to ask. After hearing so much about it, and seeing it in someone else's living room, we painted our office in Palladian Blue. The room gets A LOT of light. And my walls are GREEN. this color is such a greenish gray to me. Is it just me? Did we get a mislabeled paint? Is it the amount of light?

It is seriously closer to Silver Sage (Restoration Hardware) than any color of blue.

Jura Koncius: It is probably the amount of light. I must honestly tell you that my room is bluish gray. It could also be the furnishings you have in there...I have a mirror in a big wooden silvered frame, a white cabinet and a brown rug.

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Alexandria: So based on the popularity, I'm wondering if Palladian Blue is on the way to becoming the avocado green of the 70's, and 20 years from now people will be saying god, how could people like this color so much back then?

Jura Koncius: Oh gee. I hope not. Palladian has been in for hundreds of years...

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Richmond, VA: Dissenting opinion - I'm not sure why you would include West Elm in a list of inexpensive stores. I think they're way overpriced for what they sell. It's the IKEA aesthetic (which I love!) at nearly Pottery Barn prices.

Terri Sapienza: true, West Elm isn't a total bargain, but their quality is usually good and they have great sales.

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Annandale, VA: I have Palladian Blue in my bedroom and love it. I'm looking for the perfect fabric that I won't tire of to make curtains and bedding with. What do you think of a graphic black and white print? I love the soothing tone of the paint but think I will tire of beige-ish or brown tones in curtains.

Jura Koncius: Love the idea of black and white. Go for it.

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Wash, DC: Re: Learning to sew -- G Street also has some great classes. I think I took something like Beginner 2, and it was very helpful. It can be pretty hard to learn to sew just from books. Of course, a crafty mother is always a good place to turn, too!

Jura Koncius: A crafty mother is the best. In my family, my sister got the crafty gene. My mom is an amazing seamstress and created some fabulous fashions in her day and still sews beautifully. But I could never do it.

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Moth Attack?: I don't see moths in my house but my wool sweaters are mysteriously becoming full of holes. How can I tell if I have critters and how do I get rid of them?

I don't have space to store the sweaters in an enclosed area like a dresser or wardrobe where I could easily put cedar blocks. They are on a small open shelf.

Oddly enough, many of the holes were discovered after I had the items cleaned. Is it possible that they could have picked up stowaways there?

Jura Koncius: Oh dear. That is HORRIBLE. I now store my sweaters in underbed storage boxes, after having them cleaned at ZIPS for $1.99. Holes mean critters found their way into your home and onto your shelves! They are devious and you won't always see them.

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Gaitherssburg MD: Re bedroom furniture: Just checked out the Belfort and Ethan Allen websites per your suggestion. Looks like they have what I want and Ethan Allen was more affordable than I thought. Thanks for the great suggetions!

Jura Koncius: Oh terrific! I recently was in Ethan Allen after not having visited an actual store for awhile and I was very impressed at their selection and all the design help they offer.

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smells: I recently bought an Oreck air purifier and it took care of food smells for me. I cooked something smelly that was lingering in the air at bedtime and turned the purifier up to high over night (it's in the adjacent dining room). The next morning the smell was gone.

Jura Koncius: Wow. Great tip. Thanks.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi I am on the look out for a good king size bed. Could you recommend some stores please. Thanks!

Jura Koncius: You have to try a lot of beds. Do you like firm or pillow top? Martha Stewart has just come out with a line of beds which I will see in High Point in a few weeks and report back to you. A lot of people like the Westin Heavenly Beds which you can order directly from the hotel. Do people out there have brands they like to suggest?

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a red to go with a bunch of pale greens and blues: Leftover paint solution: I am using leftover paint (semigloss works best) to jazz up our dining room -- I sand, prime, then paint otherwise boring wooden chairs I've found at yard sales and on the side of the road. Colors so far (all BM): Palladian Blue, Wythe Blue, Sagebrush Green, Chopped Dill. Am about to paint the walls Nickel (a violet-tinged gray). Vintage glass-doored cabinet in the room is a pale mint. Trim is Ivory White. Question: I think I need a nice bright red chair to balance all those cool colors. Which red should I go with?

Terri Sapienza: Sounds like you have a lot of colors going on in that one room already! But if you're looking for a bright accent to your greens and blues, I would go with orange or tangerine rather than red.

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Phila., Pa.: I would like to change our living room walls, which are now Swiss coffee (a white). My furniture is an off white and carpeting is merlot. End tables are cherry, along with the entertainment center. Any ideas would be helpful.

thank you

Jura Koncius: Let's see. You have off white and burgundy. I'd go for a rich khaki color. Maybe Thunder Bay by Ralph Lauren paints.

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onion odor: I may be really off base here, but I have heard that sometimes people smell onions when there is a gas leak. They might want to check this if they have natural gas in their home.

Jura Koncius: Wow.

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DC: Re: blue-gray. Be sure to test a BIG sample in your room, in both daylight and the kind of artificial light you will be using in the room. It's amazing how different soft, muted colors can look in different lights.

For bedroom furniture "like Scan," we bought our bedroom set at Indoor Furniture in Columbia. If they're still alive, try them. (the websites with that name aren't it!) Ours is made by Copeland, a Vermont company. Crate and Barrel sells some Copeland stuff, too, at top dollar.

Jura Koncius: Thank you for these tips.

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Lusby, MD: As you can see I'm submitting real early. I have a screen in porch on one side of my house. Which also serves as the main entrace to my house. I want to close in the porch to be a year around living space as a den or living room. We need more living space but by converting the screen porch we won't have any outdoor space. I don't have a deck or patio. Will converting the porch hurt when I go to sell in about 5-7 years?

Jura Koncius: Wow. Who knows what the world will be like in that long a time! Could you have glass panels put into the sides of your porch so it would be good three seasons a year? I am a big fan of screen porches and I think it would be a shame for you not to have any outdoor space at all...

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Re: smells & air fresheners: I encourage people to research the indoor air quality effects of air fresheners. (People worry so much about polluted outdoor air, while indoor air is usually -more- polluted!) Here are some sources for more info:

http://www.nrdc.org/health/home/airfresheners/fairfresheners.pdf http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/fake-fresh-air-scents-44072408?src=nl&mag=tdg&list=dgr&kw=ist http://www.seventhgeneration.com/learn/news/indoor-air-clean

Jura Koncius: Thank you so much.

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Mirrored Placemats - Help!: I've been searching (for forever) for placemats that are mirrors. Have you seen such a thing anywhere? My mother saw a table setting once in a magazine that had mirrored placemats and the look was very elegant and full of sparkle... especially for the holidays. Any ideas where I could find such a thing? Thanks!

Terri Sapienza: I don't have a source for mirrored placemats, but you might consider contacting a local mirror shop and asking how much it would be to have them made.

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Washington, DC: Okay - had to put this out there because I just can't get over how amazing Freecycle is, and I know your readers are always looking for ways to declutter. I've been giving stuff away on Freecycle for years -- usually stuff that can find a good home. We do not bring junk into our house (we don't buy stuff on sale just because it's on sale, or kitsch for the sake of kitsch) - we always ask "Do I need this?". But we nonetheless end up with things that we thought we needed and for whatever reason don't need any more, or we are gifted. Everything goes in Freecycle, nothing in the trash, and my "living lightly" mantra continues to flourish.

We are downsizing into a 2 bedroom condo for a couple years for a job transfer, so we decided to finally go through all the boxed up books in our basement. I thought: these are the books we don't even want on our shelves so no one wants these. I assumed they'd have to go in the garbage. A ton of books from our various college courses - US history, WWII, political science reads, Latin American history. Then just some books from life that we don't want anymore: recent bestellers, old classics, cookbooks. So I took a couple hours last night to divide them into themes, and I posted them as "themed collections" on Freecycle and the response was overwhelming. Within 1.5 hours, I had given away 8 big boxes of books. They ALL were snatched up. Even, to my shock, all of my law TEXT books from 5 years ago, and the study guides that go with them! Who wants those? I figured they were out of date. But someone came right away this morning and grabbed them. Amazing! So much stuff that doesn't have to go in the trash (because they are all glossy and non-recyclable). Anyhow, I encourage you all to post stuff on Freecycle instead of the garbage. You can join your local group through the Yahoo groups feature.

Jura Koncius: Thank you so much for sharing this. You put a lot of work into getting things to the right people for free. How terrific. I think in this economy, we will be doing more of this and helping our neighbors with stuff we don't need.

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Washington DC: I'm back. Thanks to your links, I now feel less color challenged. Another question: What power bulbs do you recommend for chandeliers? My husband wants to use 60 watt bulbs in our 12 lamp crystal chandelier. Yep, that's a blazing total of 7,200 watts filling the dining room, with a dimmer switch that lurches. What would Maria Theresa do?

Jura Koncius: I use 25 watt chandelier bulbs.

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Middletown, MD: Hello! I am trying to decide on a good neutral paint color for the main upstairs living area(living/dining room, foyer, and hallways) of my small split-foyer house. I would like something warm, not too light, not too dark, not too gold... We just painted the adjoining kitchen Benjamin Moore's Gray Wisp, so we'd like something that will flow nicely from that since the kitchen is very visible from the rest of the floor. I just got small samples of BM's Bennington Gray and Shelburne Buff, but I'm not sure I'm crazy about either of them. Maybe Manchester Tan, which I was going to use downstairs? The walls don't need to "match" anything in particular, since we will be getting new furniture (probably brown leather). Floors are medium oak. Thanks for your help!

Jura Koncius: Manchester Tan would be my vote.

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Need paint advice in Falls Church: Thanks in advance for your advice... My husband and I are redesigning our kitchen: white cabinets, black appliances, black w/white marble Silestone counters, and some shade of dark cherry floor. We're stuck on a wall color. We live in a townhouse and the kitchen, which has a cut-through, dining room, and living room are basically one big space. Do we paint the whole floor one color? Do we paint the kitchen a color in the same family as the rest of the floor but maybe a shade or two darker? Any particular colors you'd recommend? The living and dining room walls are currently Behr's Sensible Hue and the trim is Pot o Cream, but we're not opposed to changing that color. Again, many thanks!

Jura Koncius: Don't get too hung up on matching the other rooms. The kitchen can be a little different. What about Behr's Clam Chowder or Behr's Celery Bunch?

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Washington, DC: I am trying to decide whether to re-paint our dining room. When we moved in to our row house, we originally painted it a darkish terra-cotta color, which I love and we get compliments on (BM Savannah Clay). Now, though, we wonder whether it is too dark and are trying to decide whether we should paint it a lighter, and more neutral, green to brigthen it up and make it feel larger. Any suggestions on light green paints that would be good for the dining room (preferably BM)? We want to avoid limes and mint greens. Our kitchen has maple cabinets with a light thyme-esque granite (green, white, gray and ivory fleks) and matching greenish/grayish (again light thyme) tile, and are hoping to match this lighter style.

Terri Sapienza: BM's Hancock Green is nice, as is BM's Hollingsworth Green (more of a blue-green). For a lighter shade of green, take a look at Restoration Hardware's Eucalyptus. Or C2's Lichen (may be too minty, though) or Greige. Good luck!

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Arlington, Va. : What's the difference between firm and pillow top beds? I'd like my bed to be large and comfortable. Thanks!

Jura Koncius: You must try them out! It's a matter of comfort to each individual!

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porch person again: Glass windows is what I'm considering by closing it in. So it still feels porchy but could be used year around.

Jura Koncius: As long as they are removeable, I think it's a good idea.

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Alexandria VA: We have a small unfinished basement, about the size of a two-car garage, which we want to finish and use as a hobby/exercise/all-purpose room. Ceilings will be about 7' high in one part, 8' high in another. I love the look of beadboard, but not sure about putting up beadboard paneling in such a place. In a catalog recently, I saw beadboard wallpaper, that is a heavy, textured paper, seems to really capture the look without the price. It can be painted, if desired. Have you ever used such a product? Is it a good option for that space?

Terri Sapienza: I'm curious as to what your hesitations are about the paneling.

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Re-finishing: I bought a set of shelves at a thrift store. It's been painted a few times, it looks like. I want to re-paint it, but what should I do - can I just sand, prime it and paint it or should I try to strip the many layers of paint before sanding, priming or painting?

Also, I'd like to use a low-VOC paint, but don't want to pay $40 for a bucket of paint that I'm only going to use on a small set of shelves. Do you have any suggestions for low-VOC paint that comes in small cans?

Terri Sapienza: I think you'll be fine with a light sanding (so the paint has something to adhere to, then a layer or two of primer then paint.

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Derwood Md --sweep recommendations: Go to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (www.csia.org) to find a certified sweep in your area.

Terri Sapienza: great suggestion. thanks!

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Jura Koncius: Out of time. Keep sending us your ideas for bargains. We're going to need them all through the holiday season to get us through making our houses look good for the relatives and gift buying.

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