Home Front: Thanksgiving Table Decor, Christmas Decorating Without a Fireplace, Shuttered Shelter Magazines, Closet Organizers, DIY Classes and more

Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Home Staff
Thursday, November 20, 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, November 20.

A transcript follows.

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


Terri Sapienza: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us today. Am I the only one who is having a hard time believing Thanksgiving is next week? Our section today is filled with lots of great ideas and tips for entertaining during the holidays, but we'd love to hear some from you as well. What's your best tip for holiday entertaining?

Okay, let's chat...


Great Falls, Va.: Anyone have experience cleaning a large dining room crystal chandelier with one of those spray cleaners - where you let it drip off? Does it work? Is there a better way? Thanks!

Jura Koncius: Love that question! I have never used one of those spray cleaners. I have a feather duster that I use. Let's hear from everyone else... Meanwhile we received a card about a chandelier maintenance service company locally. Tim Wainscott Chandelier Cleaning, Restoration, Repair, Packing and Transport. 301 379-1715.


Greensboro, NC: Wrapping paper -- arrgh!!

I thought I might give my mother and sister-in-law a few rolls of nice wrapping paper for Christmas. Everybody needs nice wrapping paper, right? And it's something that gets used up and needs to be replaced. I want something a little nicer than run-of-the-mill (not Papyrus, which everyone can get), but that won't break the bank. Looking for on-line sources, since I'm not in D.C. I am having the hardest time finding anything, and I thought this was such a good idea and was going to be so easy! Help!

washingtonpost.com: Here are a couple of suggestions: www.paper-source.com and www.katespaperie.com. - Elizabeth

Terri Sapienza: That is a nice idea. Our producer, Elizabeth, has offered a couple great suggestions. I would also try www.pikkuwares.com and www.rettaleritz.com.


Cottage Living Dies: Hi: Submitting early... Time Warner has closed down Cottage Living and made cuts in Southern Living (to include most of the Alabama-based senior editors), and will be re-organizing with much of the editorial work out of NYC.

Mind you, these are the folks who thought Architectural Digest would fill the niche of House Beautiful.

OK... rant over- here's the poop.

Memo Pad: Cottage Living Closes... http://www.wwd.com/media-news/fashion-memopad/cottage-living-closes-tasty-delight-1865731

By WWD Staff

COTTAGE LIVING CLOSES: Yet another shelter title has closed as a result of the recession. Time Inc., in the midst of a major restructuring that will result in cutting 600 jobs, shuttered four-year-old Cottage Living, effective with the current November/December issue. Its Web site, cottageliving.com, will also close, but the company said it will "keep the Cottage Living brand alive in one of its other leading shelter titles, and these plans will be finalized over the next few weeks." Further details were unavailable. The magazine employed 47 staffers, of which nine will be placed within other Time Inc. publications.

Cottage Living was considered a success when it launched and expanded its rate base from 500,000 in 2004 to 1 million in 2007. The magazine was named Startup of the Year by Adweek Magazine in 2005. Just last month, the title named a new editor, Lindsay Bierman. Cottage Living launched as a part of the Southern Progress group, which was folded in October into the newly formed Lifestyle Group of titles. The cluster includes all the magazines under Southern Progress, as well as Real Simple and All You.

"Since its inception, Cottage Living attracted significant advertiser support and fostered a loyal following among readers," said Sylvia Auton, Time Inc. executive vice president, who oversees the Lifestyle Group. "However, the economic downturn has particularly affected the shelter market and, while the brand was genuinely loved by readers and advertisers alike, the economy inhibited its ability to grow and therefore, sadly, we had to make the decision to close it."

According to Media Industry Newsletter, ad pages for Cottage Living through 2008 fell 5 percent to 514 pages. And it's not the only shelter title struggling in the current economy: ad pages at Country Home shrank 24 percent to 631; Metropolitan Home's have declined 3 percent to 1,008, and Elle Decor's pages are off 2 percent to 1,261. Some titles haven't survived the year: in August, Hachette Fillipacchi Media closed Home, and Hearst Magazines folded spin-off O at Home back into its flagship, O, The Oprah Magazine.

- Stephanie D. Smith

Terri Sapienza: Yes, this was very sad news to me because I love Cottage Living and got excited when it arrived each month.


Penn Quarter: Hi there -- thanks so much for doing this chat, it's great to read!

I'm starting to decorate my new condo and am looking for some places to shop where I can purchase some items for my wall in the $200-300 range. I am looking for mirrors, paintings, etc. Any suggestions as to the best places to buy some of these things, without resorting to the chains like Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel? I'd like to contribute to some local store owners.


Terri Sapienza: Some locally-owned shops to check out are:

And Beige on Florida Ave., NW

Random Harvest in Georgetown, Bethesda, Old Town and Arlington

Red Barn Mercantile in Old Town

Oliver Dunn in Georgetown

I also recommend hitting the local flea markets regularly on the weekends (Georgetown on Sunday; Arlington Sat and Sunday) for antique, vintage and one-of-a-kind finds. Good luck!


12th and Mass DC: Hi Jura and Terri! I'd love to learn how to lay tile, fix floor boards, install new light switches and fixtures, minor house repair/improvement stuff. Is there anywhere in the DC area that offers classes like this? I tried Home Depot, but every time I signed up for a class it was canceled.

Terri Sapienza: Did you try Lowe's?


appliance color: My fridge, I think, is dying, so am looking for a replacement. I was hoping to update my kitchen soon with all new appliances and countertops but thanks to the economy will be waiting a year. All my other appliances right now are white, my cabinets are a honey cherry. So wondering what color you would recommend for the fridge? Is stainless truly a classic or is its popularity starting to fade?

Terri Sapienza: I think stainless still has a lot of staying power and will be around for still quite some time. It has a classic look and goes with practically every color and decor style. If you plan on replacing all of your appliances some point soon, I would go with the stainless for everything. But if you were only going to replace the fridge and keep everything else, I would stick with white so all appliances are the same.


Bethesda, MD: We recently purchased a 1500 sq. ft. 2BD/2BA condo; the walls and ceiling throughout are all the same off white color; the condo was built in '72, with golden oak parquet floors throughout and plain trim. Most of our furniture is traditional, in medium to dark woods, with tans and gold. I was thinking about painting an accent wall color, in the den and in the dining room (both are open to and visible from the living room), and repeating that same accent color in the back bedroom walls and in both bathrooms. The color is Tyler Taupe (HC43) by Benjamin Moore. My thought is it would create a theme; would it be too boring or jarring in this space?

Terri Sapienza: I'm curious: why just accent walls rather than painting entire rooms? Is it because you like the white and are just looking for a punch of color?


New York, NY: I'm moving to Bethesda soon. Are there any alternatives for closet installers besides California Closets? I'm worried they are too expensive... Container Store makes you measure the space yourself, which I'm not comfortable with, and Home Depot doesn't offer the service in the area. HELP??

Jura Koncius: Yes. Here are some others. Closet Factory 301 893-1605; Perfect Closets 301 721-0450; Closet Stretchers 301 468-1090. Do others have suggestions?


Today's house calls: I like the concept. Good thing the look can be accomplished for a lot less! Unless the homeowner doesn't care about cost. But boy, somebody went to a lot of trouble with that harlequin/carousel motif! (And I can see the decision to retire it.)

washingtonpost.com: House Calls: A Petite Powder Room (Post Home Section, Nov. 20)

Jura Koncius: A House Calls opinion. Any others?


Thanksgiving entertaining: One of my favorite things to do at Thanksgiving is use pieces I inherited from my mom. They don't necessarily match the tableware I usually use, but the relish tray (clear and cranberry glass), the ironstone turkey platter, the glass cake stand and the milk glass fruit bowl remind me and my sisters of Thanksgivings past and connect my children to their grandparents.

Jura Koncius: That is a great thought. Every year I haul out a little china pilgrim that reminds me of my childhood in New England. And I have a small turkey-shaped cookie jar that comes out after tha Halloween decorations are put away.


Baltimore, MD: I have a very small bedroom with a sloping ceiling, I've been that told to make the room look large, hang curtains close to the ceiling. Over one window, the ceiling line is straight, but over the other one it slopes up away from the window edge. If I hang the curtains at the same height, will it look weird? On the one side, the curtain will be "floating" on the wall..... Any suggestions for me? thanks so much!

Terri Sapienza: Another way to make a small room with a sloped ceiling feel bigger is to paint the walls and ceiling the same color so the lines are blurred. I think I would try that and use Roman shades or blinds on the windows instead of installing curtain panels.


Bethesda, Md: Do you have a source for adjustable desk chairs that can be upholstered? I don't like the way the nylon mesh looks and would prefer to have the chair blend in better with the rest of the furnishings in my home office. Thank you for any suggestions.

Terri Sapienza: How about having a slip-cover made for your office chair in a fabric that goes with the rest of the room?


Fairfax, Va.: Where is the flea market in Georgetown located? Is it every Sunday? Sounds interesting

washingtonpost.com: Georgetown Flea Market

Terri Sapienza: here you go...


Anonymous: Table settings: I bought inexpensive but pretty dinnerware years ago. Setting the table formally with wineglasses and candles and a lace tablecloth gives a holiday flair. Over the years I bought elegant serving dishes that were seconds. I then end the evening with coffee in teacups and a over the top dessert from a pastry shop. My rule of thumb is the fancier the table setting the simpler the menu.

Jura Koncius: That is good advice about the simplicity of the food. This weekend is a good time to go up in the attic or into the basement storage area and dig up some lovely old silver serving pieces, a carving set or some other serving platters or bowls that belonged to your family or your in-laws.


Closet Organizers: Try Lowe's - we used their service and it was fantastic. They subcontract out to other vendors, and are more diligent about checking up on their subcontractors' work than Home Depot is. As for the concerns about the Container Store: We used them for the closets in our previous home. All that you are doing is measuring the width and height of your walls. Pretty simple stuff. Their closet designers do all the rest, and installation is a snap.

Jura Koncius: Thank you.


Another paint question!: I would like to paint my bedroom yellow. Any suggestions?

Terri Sapienza: Yes: be very careful about going too bright. Many designers agree that yellow is one of the most difficult colors to paint with because as light as you think it is, it will almost always appear much brighter on the walls. I recommend finding a shade you like on a paint deck and trying the (lighter) shades above it. Or mixing a yellow you like with your trim color (if it's white) for a lighter and softer version of the color.


Reston, VA: What is your opinion of Zodiac countertops? Would you consider them a better choice than granite?

Jura Koncius: Engineered stone, of which Zodiac is an example, is a very popular countertop material these days. They are hardwearing and come in a variety of colors. You have to compare prices and the look and see which you like best. Both are terrific.


to 12th and Mass DC: not sure about DC and other counties, but Fairfax public schools often offer such classes through their adult education program.

Terri Sapienza: great tip. thanks!


Closet Installers: For the person asking about closet installers: About six or seven years ago, we used Euro Design Center (they have a showroom off Rockville Pike) to do three bedroom closets, including one that had a very weird shape. We found their price to be reasonable, their work was done quick and well, and they came up with an ingenious solution to our "weird-shape" closet that maximized the use of the space while minimizing the cost of materials/installation.

Jura Koncius: Great. We will add them to our list.


Replacement Fridge: If you're planning to replace all the appliances and the counter tops next year, you might consider getting a white secondhand fridge now (check out CraigsList, for example) and then replace everything later. Can't comment on whether the stainless has staying power - I'm one of those who doesn't like it outside a restaurant.

Terri Sapienza: a good suggestion for a replacement fridge...


Alexandria VA: Curtain rods for patio doors or long windows: I was browsing a couple of old chats and remembered a few years back when I was in a condo with a triple paned patio door and could not find any curtain rod long enough, my handyman went to the nearest Home Depot and in the plumbing department bought two six foot pieces of about one-inch copper pipe and a connector; came back, cut it to length. It worked beautifully with light weight sheers on those sliding hoopy-things and gave me privacy and shade. I stuck some cute drawer knobs on each end with glue to hold it in place on the brackets he put up. This is sort of a random submission but it might help someone with a curtain rod problem.

Terri Sapienza: thanks!


Silver Spring: A paint question for ya--I'm painting the guest room and plan to use a light blue color to play off the dark brown and white curtains. Any suggestions? Ben Moore or Behr paints preferred. Also, we have a sloped ceiling on one side that I plan to leave white--that will work, right? Love the chats!

Jura Koncius: In Benjamin Moore, like Morning Sky Blue.

Ralph Lauren has a new line called Modern Light Paints and two colors are a beautiful pale blue: Organza and Beach Water.


D.C.: Love that photo of Ina Garten's kitchen in the barn. Any guess as to what that nice neutral paint color is? Love it.

washingtonpost.com: Just Another Day at The (Gorgeous) Office (Post Home Section, Nov. 20)

Terri Sapienza: I know, that color is pretty great. It's Farrow & Ball Light Gray. (She has a resource list for her barn in the back of her new book.)


Union Station: Hi ladies. If my only fireplace is a wood stove in the basement, is there a good solution as to where to hang stockings? As the tree will be upstairs, I'd like the stockings near there. Thanks!

Jura Koncius: Hmmm. Do you have kids in the house? Hopefully not as they will wonder how Santa will get in if you hang the stockings on another floor from the wood stove! If you have nice windows, you could hang a stocking inside each window. You could hang them on a coat rack or on a quilt rack. Any other ideas?


Midwest: Are there any options for blocking cold air seeping under a door that do not come in the form of a homemade gingham cat with button eyes and a long sand-filled tail?

Jura Koncius: Yes. Those country draft dodgers are not the perfect accessory for many interiors. You could make your own, using a designer fabric or something discreet like black felt, sewing a long tube and filling it with sand or kitty litter. Has anyone seen a modernist draft dodger out there? Maybe this is a niche market we could invest in...


Fridge Issues: Fridges don't "die," really -- the most likely problem is a very slow leak from the freon coil. It's a cheap fix once you find the leak (other than recharging the gas) and can buy you at least a couple more years.

Or you can do what they do down here in Floriduh: find a foreclosure and help yourself!

Jura Koncius: Wow...


Jura Koncius: Any good Thanksgiving centerpiece ideas using natural stuff?


Fort Washington, Md.: Hello Ladies,

I'm having my family room painted; I need your suggestions for a color. My sectional sofa is a light cream/beige color with light green and peach accents in it. My carpet is peach. We also have a large brick floor to ceiling fireplace that is a peachy/red color. What do you suggest for the walls? It's a huge area and gets adequate light. I do not want white. Thanks.

Jura Koncius: I might suggest a very pale green. Citra Lime by Benjamin Moore is nice. Also I'm loving Garden Moss, again by Ralph Lauren's new line Modern Light.


K Street: I think I like today's House Calls. I'm just not sure if the tiled walls would look fabulous or like someone made a poor wallpaper choice. Our powder room is the only bathroom the previous owners did not update before we bought the 24-yr-old house. I want to do a simple updating - pick a clean and modern vanity/sink and toilet and paint over the faux finish beige-y walls. I've been thinking the Ralph Lauren metallic paints. Any favorite shades from you ladies or chatters? I guess it shouldn't be too dark. Oh, and the floors are gunstock oak (I think that's what the stain is).

Jura Koncius: What about Parlor Gold or Looking Glass Silver by Ralph Lauren Specialty Finishes?


Shelter Mags: I've also heard that Domino is just hanging on. These magazines are my real indulgences, especially at times when I only have the resources to dream rather than totally redecorate!

The world is a little less fun without these respites from the real world.

Jura Koncius: We agree. I hope more of them don't fold on us.


Closets: I had a handyman install Closet Maid Laminate (available at Lowe's). It was just as nice as a professionally installed closet and was about 1/3 of the cost. I even have drawers and shoe organizers!

Jura Koncius: Thanks. Good for you.


Cold air under the door: Go to the hardware store and buy a door sweep!

Jura Koncius: You are right!


Arlington, VA: Regarding today's House Call: Is there a reason you're not recommending a dual-flush toilet? Do they not come in that 'elongated' style? Seems to me like all new toilets should be dual-flush nowadays.

Jura Koncius: Dual-flush is an excellent idea.


Detroit : My roommate pulled a little too hard on our circa-1930's built into the tile towel rack, and we now have to deal with the crumbling grout around and behind it in order to re- attach the piece to the wall. Normally I would just rip the other half out and get a new rack, but I think it's Pewabic tile and I'd like to keep it! Help! How can I get the whole mess back on the wall and have it stay there?!

Jura Koncius: If you really have Pewabic Tile, which is a treasure in the Detroit area, then you should not mess with this mess. Call in a professional painter or plasterer and let them fix it for you in a fine fashion so it won't pull out again.


Mirror, Mirror.... : Hi, I've got a brand new wonderful closet with hinged doors, and I need a full-length mirror mounted on the inside of one door. I'm in Silver Spring, and need a source of a GOOD beveled mirror of an off-size.

(I bought a cutie from Target and indeed my bum DOES look big in the reflection, and my head got flat-- it's subtle, but real).

Anyone out there found a source of GOOD mirrors?

Jura Koncius: You could go to Columbia Mirror & Glass, 2212 Wisconsin Ave. N.W. 202 333-3037. They can custom make any size for you and hopefully, you will look more beautiful in it!


re: hanging stockings: As a longtime apartment/condo dweller with no fireplace, one option would be to get those decorative weighted stocking hangers/hooks and place them at the edge of a console table or sideboard, even a shelf on a bookcase. You can decorate the flat surface like it was a mantle, with garland, candles, etc.

Jura Koncius: Oh yes! Brilliant. Lots of stores sell those weighted stocking holders these days - and most should be 50 percent off by now...


Shelter mags: I'm so upset about the end of Cottage Living and possible Domino. Those two and House Beautiful are the ones I look forward to the most each month. They fill that intermediate area between the kinda chintzy and extreme celebrity living. It seems like now would be an ideal time to keep them in business since they bring comfort to so many of us! I wonder what they'll replace my subscriptions with. When Organic Style went out of business, they replaced it with US Weekly - so not the same demographic. Makes you wonder what these people are thinking??

Jura Koncius: What you say is true. But maybe in this economy, there isn't room for all the specialized decorating magazines. I am still sorry House & Garden is gone...


Maryland: About Santa and the wood stove - unless their wood stove looks like a traditional fireplace, I doubt their kids will believe that Santa could come in there anyway. When I lived in a house without a fireplace, we hung the stockings on the wall, then made a big deal about leaving the window unlocked so Santa could come in.

Jura Koncius: If you live in a safe neighborhood, leaving the window unlocked may be okay for one night...


Anonymous: Hello! I am looking for curtain advice for my formal living and dining room. Both are painted silver sage. They will eventually have dark hardwood floors, but now (and probably for the next 5 years) have an oatmeal-colored shaggy carpet. Both get lots of natural light from the South and East. The dining room has dark honey-colored furniture that will stay long term and a brushed nickel chandelier; the living room furniture includes a red sofa that will go or be slipcovered soon and mahogany-colored side tables. I'm trying to go for a contemporary/transitional look (think Storehouse furniture, may it rest in peace) and am having a hard time finding non-custom window treatments that work with the brushed nickel hardware. I'm considering Country Curtains' Moire Stripe Lined Tailored Curtains in Mist, or a dark brown curtain panel with grommets. Any thoughts?

Jura Koncius: You have made a nice choice. Other places you might look for panels are JCPenney, Restoration Hardware, Ikea, www.silktradingcompany.com. Definitely stick with something neutral since you have a lot of variables going on. But you could do something with texture.


Bethesda, MD: Centerpiece for Thanksgiving: In my family there is ony one acceptable Thanksgiving centerpiece, and that is a cornucopia. The reach of the spilling fruit, nuts, dates and figs has increased over the years. Now, it's all over the table. I've done it since I was a little girl.

Jura Koncius: Love it.


Second Closetmaid: I also hired someone to install Closetmaid and it was great. If you go to Closetmaid's website and input dimensions and what you want in there, for five dollars they will email you two design plans that includes a detailed shopping list. I ended up using one of the plans and thought five dollars was a bargain.

Jura Koncius: Wonderful. Thanks.


Rockville: Hi. While walking the dog a couple of days ago, my husband and I saw a couple of rats outside a neighbor's home. Anything I can do to make sure they stay far away from me? We keep our trash in tightly-closed trash cans, but our non-paper recycling is an open bin, outside. Is that going to entice them to my yard?

Jura Koncius: Rats are not welcome in any neighborhood. You should call your local government and ask for Vector Control. Hopefully they can send someone out to help you.


Ohio: Santa coming through the window -- One could leave it unlocked until the kids go to bed, then lock it. Santa is magic, as we all know, and he could magically lock it on his way out after delivering the goods.

Jura Koncius: Santa IS magic. You are so right.


Santa's Magic...: He doesn't really need the window to be unlocked - he can do it himself!

Jura Koncius: I didn't give Santa enough credit!!!


Re: Laying Tile: Check out the Tile Shop in Rockville on Saturday mornings for free tile laying classes.

I have a paint question too: I'm torn between Duron's Queenly and Drama Violet for a girl's bathroom with black and white tile, white fixtures, and one small window over the tub. I'm worried about Drama Violet sucking up the light. Any thoughts?

Jura Koncius: I like Queenly better.


Stockings: We spent one Christmas in an apartment while we were waiting to move into our house. No fireplace. We decided to hang stockings on the knobs of our bedrooms. The kids enjoyed having their doors decorated for the holidays, and it actually helped spread the decorating throughout the apartment rather than restricting it to the main living areas.

Jura Koncius: Another terrific idea. Thanks.


"natural T-day": Pomegranates!! They are in Giant right now.. big, round, and glorious color. Stack them on a gold trencher, add bosc pears to tone them down, or add greenery (holly or magnolia leaves look fab) to punch them up, or even wedge in a candle or two. And when the time comes... eat them!

I am soooo over with the pumpkins, gourds and mums.

Jura Koncius: Pomegranates rule.


Re: Draft stopper: If you google "draft stopper" with the name of a color it will pull up plenty of modern options. We have a plain blue one that no one has ever even noticed under the door to our basement.

Jura Koncius: Thanks.


Maryland: Please tell me what a "door sweep" is. I have never heard that term.

Jura Koncius: It is weather stripping that attaches to the bottom of your door and usually has a vinyl piece that "sweeps" over the floor when you open it, but keeps drafts away when it is closed.


Jura Koncius: I'm going to a pot luck Thanksgiving in New Jersey this year - we are all discussing the table settings more than the food! What about you guys?


Energy Department here: Don't get an old, used frig, you'll spend a fortune on energy bills. ENERGY STAR qualified refrigerators require about half as much energy as models manufactured before 1993. Check out www.energystar.gov for more information.

Jura Koncius: Very good point. Old refrigerators use a ton of energy - very wasteful.


washingtonpost.com: I am going to Cape Cod for Thanksgiving. It's closer to the Pilgrims than here in Washington!! -- Elizabeth

Jura Koncius: I WISH I was going to Cape Cod! Good for you!!!


Jura Koncius: Well, we are out of time this week. Terri and I wish everyone a wonderful holiday. We won't be doing a chat on Thanksgiving Day, which is a week from today. But we will be back on Thursday December 4 to discuss what colors to paint your dining room for Christmas and more on great gifts for under $50. Safe travels everyone. And Elizabeth, enjoy the New England Thanksgiving.


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