Home Front: Guest Chatter Kitchen Designer Christopher Peacock, plus Tips for Rookie Painters, Favorite Blues and more

Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Home Staff
Thursday, March 5, 2009 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. Terri was online Thursday, March 5, with special guest chatter Christopher Peacock, a kitchen designer featured in the Home Section.

A transcript follows.

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


Terri Sapienza: Hi, everyone. thanks for joining us today. If you've seen our section this morning, you know that we're all about kitchens today, including a Q&A with designer Christopher Peacock, whose beautiful, high-end kitchen designs have been featured in just about every magazine and whose ideas are copied by the masses. Mr. Peacock's kitchens may be out of reach for most of us, but we have him here for the next hour to grill him about kitchens (pardon the pun). And I'll be here to handle the rest of the questions. So, let's go...


Princeton, N.J.: I love the look of your white cabinet kitchens, but unfortunately I have reddish-brown cherry cabinets in my kitchen. Do you have any suggestions for wall paint color and curtain colors that would work well in this situation? The kitchen is not open to other areas, is rather large, and has lots of big windows in the breakfast area opposite the wall of cabinets in the kitchen. Thank you in advance for any help that you can provide.

Christopher Peacock: My first suggestion is the re-paint the walls in a light neutral color but then add color to the ceiling which will reflect down into the room. Soft greens and olive colors will help the look of the cherry. Check out peacockpaint.com for great wall emulsion colors.


Cambridge, Mass.: If you have brand new butcher block counter tops, if you use a polyurathane finish suitable for kitchen counters can you retain the pale color they were when installed, or will they yellow in time?

Thank you!

Christopher Peacock: Typically, the poly will yellow and not the wood underneath it. If you want to keep a pale color you will need to sand and refinish the tops from time to time.


Arlington, Va.: I have to miss the chat, sadly. But I've been wondering, is it still true in this lousy real estate market that you'll get back whatever you invest in your kitchen (within reason)? We are contemplating a small bump-out to create eating space in our modest kitchen. Would that still technically be considered a "kitchen" improvement? Can you offer advice on what works/what doesn't in such a project?

We are not planning to move in the near term so would enjoy the benefits of the expanded space for at least a few years. Currently we eat meals in our formal dining room on our cherry table (with three small kids, we eat ALL meals at home). It's not ideal.


Christopher Peacock: Instead of going to the expense of creating another eating space, re-decorate your dinning room to make it less formal and invest in a table that is more "user-friendly". People don't tend to eat formally very much so make the room work for you.


Federal Hill: I went to Second Chance over the weekend and found some great 6' long church pews. I would love to use them to create a dining nook. Do you think it would be possible to turn them into an L Shape? Also what shape table would work best?

Terri Sapienza: Hi, Federal Hill. Sounds like you got yourself a great find. I'm not sure about the possibilites of turning it into an L-shape, as that would mean cutting it in half? or were you thinking about using two together to create the L-shape? If so, that's a mighty-long dining nook. In any case, if you were to create a nook like that with the pews or something other, I would recommend a round table to balance out and soften the angles of the L.


Anonymous: Chris, In these tough economic times, should we consider it a better value to order custom built cabinets, versus going with the prebuilt? Thanks

Christopher Peacock: There has never been a better time to buy custom and if you're in your home for the long term it is a very sound investment.


Arlington, Va.: First time painter here. I am going with Benjamin Moore's Natura and have excitedly picked out colors, but I feel a little clueless about the tools and other supplies I need to purchase. Since the paint is coming from a local BM supplier, am I better off getting the rest of what I need there, or should I go to a big box store for my supplies?

For the kitchen designer: I don't want to get "too much counter" for my kitchen, meaning it is not a granite kind of house, but I do want something special and can afford to splurge a tad since it is a small amount of counter. What is your opinion of newer green products like ice stone? I would rather not have to seal if I can help it.

Christopher Peacock: go to www.peacockpaint.com for great paints and brushes. Also, check out silestone for countertops.

Terri Sapienza: I can't imagine there is too much of a price difference in terms of supplies, so just for convenience sake, I would just get everything I need at the paint store.

Does anyone else want to chime in here? I could be wrong.


Fort Washington, Maryland: I am interior design challenged.

What should I do with a small 10 x 10 bedroom so that we can use it as a mini-family room? We need space for a loveseat, computer, computer chair, printer, file cabinet, 19 inch flat screen TV, DVD, cable box,and lighting. The room has two solid walls, the window gets only morning light and right across from the window is the closet.

We have a milk chocolate brown loveseat that we love. Right now the room is painted a light yellow that works well with the morning light and reflects light at night. But we are open to another color.

Thanks so much for any suggestions!!!

Christopher Peacock: Paint the walls in a pale cream or white, but put a strong color on the ceiling. The color will reflect down and create a wonderful glow. As you may know we introduced Christopher Peacock Paint last year. There are many wonderful colors -- visit www.peacockpaint.com.


Newport, Vt.: OK. Not a fancy question. Just right to the point. How many years should I allow my Maytag mid-to-upper range dishwasher before I should think of replacing it before it fails?

washingtonpost.com: Getting the Most Out of Kitchen Workhorses (Post Home Section, March 5)

Terri Sapienza: Hi, Newport.

You're in luck. We ran a story in today's section about that very topic.


Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thanks for taking my question. Not a kitchen question, but... we just bought a lovely 1920s bungalow. Of course, it needs a LOT of love, including paint! We could use some help on paint colors. The trim is beautiful wood, but that orange-y brown natural color you see in these bungalows. My husband refuses to let me strip and paint the trim, but every color we try looks different next to the wood (yes, we bought that paint colors book you recommend). Any tried and true favorites? We're willing to stay fairly neutral, but some color would be great!

Christopher Peacock: I do recommend you staying neutral for the most part; however -- and you may have seen my recommendation on a color for the ceiling (try it) -- but, say, consider the dining room . .. could you create a chair rail and panel below it and paint a cream or white?? Then, perhaps, a color above it? Our Plum color -- CPP1 31 from Peacock Paint would look outstanding.


Columbia, Md. -- mismatched dining room chairs?: Hi Ladies! My husband and I just bought a house that has a formal dining room, so now we are going to look for a larger table and chairs, but not something too fancy--more of a casual feel with clean lines and a spot of fun, if that makes any sense. ;) I'm thinking of starting to look at antique stores. My question is, what do you think of mismatched antique chairs in a dining room? I've only seen one picture where it seemed to work well, but it also really went with the decor of the rest of the house. Plus, I've seen in stores that the price of a set of matching chairs is way pricier than the table itself. So is the concept of mismatched dining room chairs too new and adventurous? Have you seen other examples? Thanks so much!

Terri Sapienza: Hi, Columbia.

I have seen many examples of people using mis-matched chairs around a dining room table, and I think it can be a really charming look. But I think it ultimately comes down to what you like and what looks good to you. An alternative would to be to have the side chairs match and then have different end chairs that match.


Fairfax: I am 4' 11" and I can't say enough good things about setting counter heights to match users. Until universally-designed adjustable kitchen units are easy to get, this is the way to go for us short (and some very tall) people. I am so glad I insisted on a lower stretch of counter for my cooktop. I find myself doing everything there. And I can finally see what's in the pot at the back of the stove! I can cut better, handle heavy pots and pans better, it's great!

Christopher Peacock: I think this is a great comment. Typically, kitchen countertops are at 36 inches from the floor; however, when designing a kitchen I do like to drop a portion down as a separate prep area for cutting or rolling dough, etc... it's helpful.


Stratford, Conn.: Is Christopher Peacock a real person?

washingtonpost.com: I am pretty sure he is! I just talked to him on the phone... -- Elizabeth

Terri Sapienza: Yes!


Pot Racks: I'd like to know your guest's opinion of pot racks, especially in small galley kitchens.

Christopher Peacock: In general pot racks really need to work for the cook using the kitchen and the space. That said, in a small galley kitchen storage space can be an issue so suspending your cookery or even hanging them on the wall can be an attractive option. Again, they need to work aesthetically and functionally for the person or persons doing most of the cooking.

Terri Sapienza: Finally - An expert's opinion on the recently hot topic of pot racks. I didn't weigh in on the last round of the debate, but I will today: I'm not a fan.


Reston: Hi there! I am interested in taking some courses in interior design. I work in Reston and would like one or two nights a week to learn basics. Any ideas of where I can find such a thing?

Terri Sapienza: I know the Corcoran offers classes, but if that's too far of a hike, you might try looking into a local community college.


Arlington, Va.: Federal Hill, it wouldn't be that difficult to convert the pews into a L shape dining nook. A little dry wall, some studs, a reciprocating saw, a circular saw, drill and drywall and some imagination and you have it. Table would depend on the final design and dimensions but rectangular would work. A good craftsman could match the table to the pews. Glass and metal would work for a table depending on your decor.

Terri Sapienza: I stand corrected on the "making church pews into an L-shaped banquette" question. though, I still like the idea of a round table better.


Columbia, Md.: I am currently getting ready to redo my kitchen (it is about 20 years old and old appliances have leaked, which caused substantial damage to the flooring). So, we are looking at this as a chance to create the kitchen of our dreams. What do you recommend are must haves? We are contemplating a built-in oven with a hood vs. a double oven - we wouldn't have much use for the double, but we are looking to do whatever will be better when we sell the house. Thank you for your help.

Christopher Peacock: Congratulations. The first thing I'd recommend is what you're doing and that is investing in the most important room in the home (for comfort and re-sale). I'd welcome the chance to help with your design. That said, there are many things to consider and one is the size of your family. A deep large main sink, undercounter refrigeration, 2 dishwashers and substantial and well built cabinetry are several items you should consider for your comfort and for resale. Regarding ovens, a gas range with ovens below AND an electric wall oven (not necessarily double) would be excellent for resale.


first time painter: Be sure to get a Purdy brand angled brush. It's more expensive but worth every single penny. Much straighter, consistent lines and if you clean them well each time, will last forever. I would also highly recommend getting a brush comb cleaner. It makes cleaning the brushes so much easier and is worth the couple bucks (something I wish I had known when I first started painting six years ago). Drop cloths... don't get plastic (just slip everywhere and don't absorb the paint). Go to a thrift store and get some old comforters or lined curtains. Much easier to use.

Terri Sapienza: Some painting supply advice. Thanks!


Corcoran: Their courses are great! they're pricey but excellent. I did a graphic design course there and several people I know have taken other courses. We've all been very happy.

If it's an option for you, go for it!

Terri Sapienza: Some feedback about classes at the Corcoran. Thanks.


Hoboken, N.J.: Hi, My husband is excited to have a room painted blue in our first home (he has only lived in apartments with white walls). I would like the living room, which has floor to ceiling red brick fireplace with a mantle and one window, to be this blue room. It gets AM sun (window faces east/northeast) and has medium toned pine hardwood floors. Any ideas for a blue shade? We found Cumberland Fog, by Behr. The building was built in 1928, if that helps. Any thoughts are greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Terri Sapienza: Hi, Hoboken. Quick question first: are you planning on painting the brick, too, (another color, not the blue) or leaving it as is?


Silver Spring: My gas range is not broken, but it's old and has few features.

Are those new big oval burners and warming drawers worth an upgrade? How about convection, for an enthusiastic bread baker?

Christopher Peacock: If you haven't been used to a warming drawer I wouldn't recommend it. Typically, when folks buy them they don't use them; however, a commercial-style gas range is a great addition or replacement to one's kitchen. They not only help the look and feel of the kitchen, they help resale and are a work horse for cooking. I recommend a 48" range with a range top and an oven 1/2. the 1/2 is for baking. Convection is great!


Bathroom Question: I am so excited to have a paint question finally! We are re-painting our bathroom this weekend (after last weekend's attempt turned out to be a terrible color) and want to get it right this time. I have two questions for you and the chatters: (1) We plan to use a dark navy color (BM Hale Navy) and there are plenty of opportunities for light highlights (trim, shower curtain, mirror, etc.), but is a dark color a bad idea for a small space? (2) Should bathrooms have a semi-gloss finish? I prefer the flat finish for this space, but if there are legit reasons for a semi-gloss (moisture, etc.), then we'll go with that.

Thanks chatters!

Terri Sapienza: I feel like there are two schools of thought on using a dark color in a small space. Some say that it will make the space feel smaller; others say it makes the walls recede, therefore, making the room feel bigger. So, bottom line, I think, is if you like it, go for it. But some things to consider: Does the bathroom have a window to bring in light? Is it a main bathroom or a powder room? If it's a powder room - a bathroom that you don't use very often - then a darker color might be fine. But if's a bathroom you use often and every day, you may prefer something lighter in the long-run.

As for the finish, semi-gloss is your best bet.


Richmond, Va. re ceiling paint: Mr. Peacock,

It's interesting that you have suggested using color on the ceilings, since usually people say to use white to keep the space bright. I know it's impossible to suggest a color without seeing the room and what is in it, but out of your own line of paints, could you suggest a few colors you think have been used particularly well on ceilings? Thank you for joining the chat.

Christopher Peacock: You may want to consider our low lustre (wall emulsion) for the reflection properties. It also comes in Matte. It is difficult to suggest colors without seeing the space and I'm not sure what your wall color or room decoration looks like. It is good to contrast the wall color and accent/color coordinate the room decoration. Indian Red and Satsuma are colors I've recently used on ceilings.


Fairfield, Conn.: While reading your article on Case Design/Remodeling, I saw a picture of a remodeled kitchen with a backsplash I really liked. I called Case, left a message requesting information, and truthfully never expected to hear back from them. I was proven wrong when I received a message on my machine with all the info I was looking for from Herb Stanwood at Case. So 18 months after we remodeled the kitchen, it looks like I'm finally getting a backsplash! Kudos to Case.

Terri Sapienza: That's a nice story. Herb is great. I worked with him on a story I did last year on bathrooms.


Ranges: So, this is an odd question. Let me start by saying that in a normal situation, I tend to prefer gas ranges.

I am building a cabin the woods with my husband and the in-laws. It's going beautifully and we are getting along, the decisions are easy to make so far.

We're at the phase where we are choosing appliances. The cabin has only electricity--no gas line. I think we should get an electric range. The in-laws so vehemently hate electric ranges that they are considering running a gas range off a propane tank buried in the ground. I think this is silly and possibly dangerous (certainly inconvenient). I have stated my opinion, but am also choosing my battles.

What are your takes on electric ranges? Are the newer ones better than those of the past?

Christopher Peacock: there is nothing inherently wrong with an electric range. It's just folks like to see the flame and they tend to respond better to the controls. There is nothing wrong with using the propane tank. I agree that you should choose your battles and go with the gas range.


Silver Spring, Md.: Can you give me tips on how to find a Certified Kitchen Designer in the area? I have a contractor I love, but really need professional advice on best use of space, etc.

Terri Sapienza: If you're looking for professional advice on kitchen design, you should check out a online service from local kitchen designer Jennifer Gilmer, which we wrote about in today's section. I'll post it in a second...


washingtonpost.com: Kitchen Design Advice Online (Post Home Section, March 5)

Terri Sapienza: here's the info on the online design service...


Countertop question for Mr. Peacock: Many of your kitchens haved honed Carrara or Calacatta marble counters (at least it looks that way from the website photos). Are there concerns about keeping these counters pristine, or do you tell your clients they should expect the soft surface to show wear and tear? What do you think of "green" products like icestone (which a previous chatter mentioned) or Richlite (compressed paper)?

Christopher Peacock: You're correct. The honed or semi-honed marble is my first choice when designing a kitchen so it is part of the look. Sealing the marble and having some Soft Scrub with bleach on hand is my recommendation. The marble will show character as you use it. I love that.


Cap Hill: Do y'all have a favorite blue - I'm thinking a Grecian/Mediterranean sort of bold blue for a bedroom with white linens and dark wood. Thanks!

Christopher Peacock: Essex Blue or Ash Blue from the Peacock Paint collection would look stunning in the room you're describing. Our Blueberry color looks beautiful against white. Visit www.peacockpaint.com

Terri Sapienza: Palladian Blue from Benjamin Moore is a Home section favorite. Other nice blues: BM's Woodlawn Blue and Farrow & Ball's Pale Powder.


Springfield, Va.: I really enjoyed the photos of people's china and place settings. I wish we could upload photos for the Home Front discussion each week. Then we could reference the photo # in our question and everyone could know what we are talking about.

Plus we could have a "brag time" and upload a photo when we finish a decorating project we've done. And you could select your favorite photo of the week.

I don't know about other people, but I have very few people that I can discuss or share my decorating interests with. My best friends are having financial problems, the rest aren't interested in decorating, and my mother doesn't want me to spend any money on anything. I couldn't make it without Home Front each week!

washingtonpost.com: Glad you liked the photo gallery! Here it is if you missed it: Your Fancy China Photos (washingtonpost.com Home Section). Do people have ideas of other kinds of galleries you'd like to see?

Terri Sapienza: Thanks for comments. Glad you enjoy the chats each week!


Arlington, Va.: We have a warming drawer and use it... to store pans.

The one appliance we use every single day (besides the coffee maker) is our toaster oven. It was worth every penny. I am wondering if there are "built-in" small ovens that save you having to turn on the big oven, but look nicer and don't take up the counter space. Thanks.

Also, do you prefer separate range hoods or the over-the-range microwave models? We have the latter and I'm not too thrilled with it. It seems to be dirty all the time and not that efficient. thanks!

Christopher Peacock: separate range hoods definitely. Electrolux has a great speed oven which is convection as well as micro. GE Profile recently introduced a great small oven that does the same. I'm not sure about toasting.


Ohio: Pot racks: I have used one for at least 30 years. I love the fact I can reach up and get the pan, etc., that I need without digging through a cabinet. (My kitchen is skimpy on those). They might not work for a lot of people, but if you have a lack of storage, they are great. Of course the pans need to be cared for properly, don't let the brown, burned on stuff accumulate on the bottoms. If you don't let it start, it is easy to keep them clean. My collection is mostly stainless, but I do have some copper bottoms and enameled cast iron.

Terri Sapienza: The pot rack debate continues!


Blue Room: I have Martha Stewart's Vintage Map in my dining room and as an above the chair rail color in the living room and everyone loves the color, including me! (Below the chair rail is Martha's Chamois Cloth.) I would, however, recommend getting the small paint sample from Lowe's and putting it on different walls and living with it for a few days because it does seem to change a lot more than other colors in different light.

Terri Sapienza: Oh, yeah, that's a great color! Thanks for mentioning it. Does it read more blue or green on your walls?


Richmond, Va.: What is your take on the use of Aga ranges? Since the heat is always on, is it too hot to have them in the south? My sister-in-law lived in Yorkshire for a while and had one that she loved. Are they completely impractical for warmer climates? Are they hard to get used to cooking with?

Christopher Peacock: I do like an Aga range. In fact, I had one growing up. Like anything, they take a bit of getting used to. My experience has been that once one does get used to them they wouldn't use anything else -- even in warmer climates.


First time painter: Wrap some painter's tape around your new roller before you use it. It helps get the little "fuzzies" off the roller before they end up in your new painted wall..

Terri Sapienza: interesting tip - I've never heard of doing that. thanks!


Grecian/Mediterranean: For the chatter looking for a Grecian/Mediterranean blue, BM's "Clearest Ocean Blue" is exactly that sort of color. With lots of light and white linens, it would be beautiful.

Terri Sapienza: thanks!


Rockville, Md.: Hi, I just finished remodeling my kitchen with new cabinets, appliances, porcelain floor tile, and granite countertop/backsplash. I am stuck and don't know what to do for the light fixtures. Can you offer some ideas for American manufacturers of light fixtures? I currently have recessed lighting which I will keep but I need a light fixture for the galley part of the kitchen (my kitchen is L shaped). Thanks.

Christopher Peacock: Remains lighting and Circa have high quality beautiful products.


Backsplash: Chris, what are my option for decorating the area between the countertop and the wall cabinets? I like tile, but once it is dated it will be very difficult to get off. What else looks good?

Christopher Peacock: like anything, I don't recommend trendy or fashionable items. Our designs are timeless and not over designed. My recommendation is that you pick something classic and timeless that you won't even have to consider removing ever or until you want a change. Paris Ceramics or Artistic Tile are great companies to consider . . . also, a little inside info here -- we're planning to launch Christopher Peacock Stone + Surfaces later this year.


Vintage Map: I have Martha's Vintage Map, too -- on a wall with framed vintage maps! But it's definitely on the green side.

Terri Sapienza: Sounds lovely. It looks like the kind of color that can look blue or green depending on the light in your room.


Bethesda, Md.: Good morning - Could you please recommend an off-white/cream paint color for my crown moulding, window casings, and beadboard that would look okay with my ivory curtains and ivory-background furniture but not be too yellowy? Thanks!

Terri Sapienza: A popular trim color is Benjamin Moore's White Dove. It's a white with a little gray in it, as opposed to yellow. Marble White might be a good choice, too.


For the smaller counter area: What about concrete or recycled glass? Some of it is beautiful, and I think the concrete may be less expensive.

Christopher Peacock: I think the more eco-friendly the better. We were just certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council and the Rainforest Alliance because we get all of our wood from managed resources.

I think recycled glass is good and I do like concrete depending on the look you are trying to achieve.


Springfield, Va.: I really like all the corbels, rope trim and other decorative trim of the high end kitchens. I also like a white kitchen but not the ones with glaze - they look dirty to me. What brands carry the decorative trim for white kitchens?

Christopher Peacock: Christopher Peacock Cabinetry does :) -- but not too ornate or over-designed.


Rural Indiana: Regarding last week's discussion about flat paint: One of the very best things about flat paint is how well it hides flaws in walls! Especially on old plaster. Everyone thinks I have great patching skills because the walls in my 100+ year old house look so good, but flat paint is about 60% of it!

I even put it in the bathroom, which is a total no-no. I tried going with satin, but the walls looked so bad with every flaw reflected that I decided I'd rather just repaint on a regular basis.

And yes! You can touch it up any time, and no one can tell. Especially great if you like to move paintings around.

Terri Sapienza: Agreed. I have flat paint on 90% of the walls in my 100-year-old, plaster-walled home, and I love it.


Your paint: I'm checking out the Peacock paints website, and want to know what the color card is vs. the traditional fandeck. Does the purchaser specifiy a few colors that he is particularly interested in? Thank you.

Christopher Peacock: the color card is smaller and represents 90 color chips while the fan deck offers a 3" x 7" swatch of color.


Carpet question: Good morning! We are thinking of replacing our wall-to-wall carpet on the stairway and second floor of our house. For a unified look, how important is it to have the exact same color and pattern of carpet on the stairs, landing and three bedrooms? I'm wondering about whether it makes sense to buy a more durable carpet for the stairs and landing than for the bedrooms.

Terri Sapienza: It's not at all necessary to have the same carpet in your bedrooms that you have in the hallway, though they should relate to one another in some way. I'll post a story we ran on this very topic.


washingtonpost.com: Step by Step: Carpeting for Stairs and Hallways (Post Home Section, March 8, 2007)

Terri Sapienza: Here's the stair carpet story.


Highlands Ranch, Colorado: I'm at work on Thursday mornings, but I never miss reading your chats later in the day. You're my Thursday girlfriends! My question is what to do with my dark, gloomy family room. It has a 20 foot wall, which is covered by brick from floor to about 4 feet up the wall. There is a fireplace centered on it, and built-in bookshelves above. Any easy ways to lighten this space up, with resale in mind? Thanks so much for all of your good information.

Terri Sapienza: Hi, Colorado. Thanks for tuning in each week. Regarding your room, have you considered painting your brick? Then, repainting your walls if they are not currently a light color?


New Market: I have white cabinets with brushed nickel hardware. I just got a new Viking range and hood, all stainless. My husband thinks we need to replace the white fridge and dishwasher. We have been in our house eight years. I think we wait it out until they poop out but he thinks we need to replace it all to match. What do you all think??

Christopher Peacock: I think the stainless refrig is a a good idea and a new dishwasher with an applied white panel. They both would be a stunning addition!


Terri Sapienza: Looks like we've run out of time today. Thanks to Christopher Peacock for joining us and for all the great advice. Chat with everyone next week.


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