Home Front: Your Design and Decor Dilemmas, Solved

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Heloise visits her alma mater, Texas State University at San Marcos, where she spends the day with students at the Honors Summer Math Camp. She visits her old room, holds a roundtable with students to answer questions and give tips on dorm living, and even holds a boys vs. girls fitted sheet folding contest. Video by Jura Koncius, edited by Ashley Barnas/The Washington Post

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Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Home Staff
Thursday, August 6, 2009; 11:00 AM

Every week, Washington Post Home Section writers Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza help you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. They were online Thursday, August 6, at 11:00 a.m. ET to take your questions and suggestions. They also featured household hints columnist Heloise who visited a college and advising college students on Dorm Living 101.

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

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Jura Koncius: Good Morning! Terri and I are excited to have Heloise live with us today from Heloise Headquarters in San Antonio. I had a terrific trip to Texas to do a story on Heloise visiting her alma mater Texas State University at San Marcos and talking with high school and college students attending the Mathworks honors math camp. We drove through snake farms and outlet malls to the college in 103 heat and spent the day watching Heloise trade hints with the students. They had some amazing questions for her and we hope we can bring on more today so let's hear from you. Also, Marvell in the Washington Post cafeteria is a huge fan of Heloise and met her a couple of years ago when Heloise did a drive-by at the Post, where she is a syndicated columnist who appears on Tuesdays in the Style section. Marvell and I have a question for Heloise -- how do you get coffee stains out of khakis? Let's get going.

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Arlington, Va.: My foyer/living room is currently painted BM Primrose Spring (green). I'm already tired of it, can you suggest another green that might be a little warmer, but not so dark? The kitchen is painted Palladian Blue, and the foyer goes right into the kitchen.

Jura Koncius: What about Iced Mint by Benjamin Moore?

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Great Falls, Va.: What is the best lighting solution for dark dorm rooms? I hate studying in a dark room, and I don't like the classic desk "spot" light.

Jura Koncius: My son complained he didn't have enough light in his dorm room. His arsenal of lighting eventually included a clip on light for the back of his bunk bed, a small high-powered desk lamp and a standing lamp from Target to add even more light.

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Rockville, Md.: Good morning, ladies. I need a color suggestion for a sunroom that is adjacent to a kitchen painted in BM Balboa Mist. Floors are tile, white with light gray. Thanks!

Terri Sapienza: How about a sunny, pale yellow like Benjamin Moore's Pale Moon or Palm Coast Pale? Or Duron's Daybreak? I think yellow would be a cheery complement to the gray. Remember, though, that yellows are notoriously tough to get right and often appear much brighter on the wall than they do on the paint deck, so be sure to test the colors first. If you find a shade you like try testing that one as well as the one above it on the paint deck. Good luck.

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Heloise: Hi everyone, I am so excited to part of this! Jura and I had such fun, and learned a lot about what students do and DON'T know! I am here to help! You can also, go to my web site www.Heloise.com for more help.

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Del Ray, Va.: Good morning! Your article on Loi Thai and his amazing home inspired me. We are having our house repainted in two weeks! I love the look of Loi's home -- we live in a 1950s row house in Del Ray. Do you know the paint colors used in his home? Our kitchen is open to the living room with an open staircase to the upstairs. Any help is much appreciated! Thank you!

Terri Sapienza: Hi, Del Ray. Yes, Loi's home was inspirational, wasn't it? I loved doing that story and spending time in his beautiful home. Loi used the same paint color (Benjamin Moore's Classic Gray) throughout his home. Here's his answer from the chat a couple weeks ago: "I did vary the same color throughout. The north facing/darker rooms were painted with lighter tones. Ex: had BM mix in 50% - 75% of the formula. The brighter rooms were painted 100% of the formula.

He also painted the trim the same color as the walls. The walls are a flat finish; the trim is low luster.

If you end up using the same formula, we'd love to hear how it turns out. Email me and let me know: sapienzat@washpost.com.

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Arlington, Va.: What is the best flooring to get when I have children that spill things and an old dog that has accidents?

Jura Koncius: Either wood or laminate would be great. Or you might think about a canvas floor cloth or possibly one of those indoor-outdoor carpets that you can hose off.

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Washington, D.C.: What is the best way to keep white sheets white?

Heloise: Well, this used to be an easy answer. Bleach! But today, many sheets and towels are manufactured with an optical brightener in them. The care label states no chlorine bleach! So, wash them only with other whites, rinse two times and pray!

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Northern Virginia: This is for Heloise.

What are the questions you get asked the most (and what are the answers)?

Heloise: That one!

In fact, the most often asked questions over 50 years are about stinks and stains, so I guess some things just don't change! Smelly clothes, stinky sinks and stains on clothes.

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Towson, Md: Hi Home Divas, and Heloise, too. Heloise, I want to thank you for always including helpful hints re: pets in your columns, and for suggesting people donate towels, blankets etc. to animal shelters. I volunteer at a shelter and at different times, people have come in and said Heloise told them they could make a difference. I just wanted you to know that, and to know how greatly your common sense and humor are valued by all who read you.

Heloise: Thanks for the kind words, and Cabbie, my mini-Schnauzer, says woof woof! For college students, don't forget that at the end of the semester or year when moving, the shelters would love all your bedding and towels!

Plus, donate a little time, too. It's good for you.

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Alexandria, Va.: Sunroom furniture that's not wicker? Is there a term I'm missing in seeking furniture for a sunroom? It seems like I can find either 'patio' furniture or regular room furniture. I'm looking for something bright, vivid and comfy for a sunroom, but all I can find is wicker, which I do not care for.

Help!

Terri Sapienza: Is your sunroom outdoors? If not, what's wrong with "regular" furniture upholstered in brightly-colored fabrics, if that's what you're looking for?

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Chevy Chase, Md.: Should you always wash whites in hot water?

Heloise: Good question! You must read the care label....today's whites are not your grandmother's! Some you can use chlorine bleach, some you can not. The "bleach" for colors is safe on most. By the way, it's not a bleach in the sense that chlorine is...it's hydrogen peroxide based.

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Boonsboro, Md.: My wife and I are finally getting around to painting the master bedroom -- large, high arched ceiling, northern windows -- and, as usual, cannot decide on a color. Would a jade green work? She keeps going to coral colors, which look too pink for this guy. Home Depot has a new low-VOC line called FreshAire we were considering.

Jura Koncius: Jade green is a lovely choice for a bedroom. Green in feng shui is the color of the life force. I think Martha Stewart's greens for Valspar are really beautiful. I would go for something like Green Pressed Glass or Green Fiddlehead for a restful green. I agree that green would be a bit more gender neutral than coral. What about a coral bathroom? Coral Spice by Benjamin Moore is great.

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Cutting back: Hi, Ladies,

Due to the economy, we decided to cut back on our once-a-month (life-saving) house cleaner. I want to start getting a chore chart in place so we don't get completely chaotic. Do you have a good place to start?

Jura Koncius: That is such a great idea. I agree that having help cleaning at home is a wonderful treat, but in this economy if you have time to do it yourself, sometimes you have to give it up. I don't know how many people are in your household, but you should make a chart to hang in the kitchen of the days of the week and all the chores that have to be done. Rotate the tasks, unless there is someone who just LOVES doing laundry or scouring toilets and won't mind doing it each week. Try do do a little something each day, so weekends aren't spent doing a lot of crummy jobs. Good for you for saving your pennies.

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Arlington, Va.: Can you recommend how to go about having bathrooms renovated for a reasonable cost? I'm looking to replace my tub, separate shower, toilet, double sinks, single cabinet and tiling replaced in my 10 year old home's master bathroom. Basically, I want to upgrade from the builder special bathroom. I'm not planning to move any plumbing or walls and am not looking at extravagant replacements for all of the above. It seems like it should be a simple "rip out and replace job", however, I am getting contractor quotes around $45K which seem fully unreasonable. I'd really appreciate advice on what I can do a bathroom remodel that's more affordable.

Thanks!

Terri Sapienza: That does seem like a awfully large amount of money, but hard to say without having all the info. Have you gotten estimates from several contractors? If not, I would start there. If they are all coming up with the approximately the same number, then it's probably accurate. Why not ask a contractor you like how you can cost costs? Maybe give them your budget and see what you both can do to come down to that number.

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Heloise: Coffee out of khakis! First, coffee is not just coffee anymore! Cream, sugar, latte, spices! For washable clothes, flush with cool tap water...several times if possible. If you are wearing the pants, go into the bathroom and put a wad of paper towels under the area, dab, dab, dab with water. Then a little soap and water, and dab with water again. When home, pre-treat with liquid laundry detergent or stain remover, then wash. Do NOT put in the dryer...air dry. Check the spot and treat again if needed.

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Maryland: Hi, my boyfriend and I are in our early 30s. I just moved into his place, and we have a few guest rooms that have mismatched furniture, white walls, and no decor at this point. How do we start identifying options for improving things, in a simple manner? I have a home decorating book, but the ideas still involve choosing among endless options. How to hone in on what I really want?

Jura Koncius: I think you are asking about decorating guest rooms? A guest room is likely also a spare room or a gift wrap room and needs attention according to Amy Elliott, author of "A Warm Welcome: How to Be a Gracious Host to Friends and Family," published by Ryland Peters & Small. I think our producer Leslie will link to my story last December on guest rooms. This book is a terrific place to start and has lots of great ideas. To tie together mismatched furniture, consider painting it all white or another color. Bring in other hues in bed linens, rugs, pillows and curtains. Find a nice lamp at a yard sale and splurge on a custom shade in a beautiful fabric.

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washingtonpost.com: Be Our Guest (Post, Dec. 2008)

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Falls Church, Va.: I am looking for a shade of paint that is gray with a little bit of purple/blue undertones. Do you have any recommendations, and what do you think of this as a foyer/living room color? I want to stay out of the warm color family, but still want the room to feel comfortable.

Jura Koncius: I'm mad for Wild Bayberry by Martha Stewart for Valspar at Lowe's.

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Chore Charts: Real Simple has some good ones and a "periodic table" of what needs to be done how often.

Jura Koncius: On that's a great great tip. Thanks. We could all use one!

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A modern stink: Hi Heloise, Thanks for taking my question! With all of the new technical fabrics for running/working out, I'm finding they get particularly stinky and don't seem to get clean in the regular laundry. I know they make specialty cleaners for these, but I'm wondering if there is any cheaper way to clean them thoroughly with things I might already have around the house?

Heloise: Very good question, and one that the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team members asked me when I got to do a tandem jump! Their black T-shirts are part microfiber and do HOLD the odor ( a stink, really)!

First, wash as soon as possible ( no stuffing in a gym bag and leaving it in the trunk of your car in 100 degree heat!) -- wash often! Turn inside out, put liquid laundry detergent on the "target" areas...wash alone if possible ( the clothes--not you!), and don't over stuff the washer.

Use the highest water level, and rinse twice!

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How to dispose of acrylic paints?: I know they tell you to open the can and let it dry out, but what do you do if you have about a 1/4 to a 1/3 can of paint left and you know you are never going to use it again (changing paint color in room)?

Thanks!

Jura Koncius: I have heard you can fill it up with kitty litter to absorb it all.

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Fitted Sheet Folding Contest?: I HATE folding fitted sheets. Even though most of the fabric is flat, by the time I fold it, it looks like bad origami. What is the secret to perfectly folded fitted sheets?

My linen closet thanks you profusely in advance.

Heloise: You are not alone!

Watch the short video that is on the Washington Post site, I show how to fold a fitted sheet. You put all four pockets together like puppets -- the trick is to make it into a rectangle by tucking in the corners. Then you can fold in to make it look like a nice little package.

Bonus hint..put the flat sheet and pillow cases in the same package, and you are all set.

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Ellicott City, Md.: Hope I will get an answer. My 16 year old daughter suddenly decided that she would like to have a pink room. I don't want to disappoint her, but I feel she is little old for pink. So we had a compromise. We have painted one wall a dark Disney pink from Behr, but we don't know what to paint the other three walls, ceilings and the trims. Any suggestion is welcome. Also what kind of furniture should we get? I read through today's article which was very timely, but I could not find a tip. Thanks again for your valuable suggestions all the the time.

Terri Sapienza: Well, I'm no fan of accent walls, so if it were me, I probably would have just painted the entire room a nice pale pink with a creamy, off-white trim. I don't think one can be "too old" for pink, just certain shades. There are lots of sophisticated shades of pink out there (by the way, a dark pink from the Disney collection sounds a little young to me). But, if you're sticking with the one bright pink wall, I might tone it down with an off-white on the other walls. As far as furniture goes, I would invest in a few pieces that she'll have for a while and can take to college with her or that you can re-use in other rooms after she leaves home. With a color palette of pink and off-white, both white painted pieces and dark brown furniture pieces would probably work well.

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Houston: What is the most important item for a boy's dorm room? What is the most forgotten item that is needed?

Jura Koncius: I have a boy that went to college last year and I must say I went wild buying everything on those lists. Here's my hint: don't bother with the shoe rack -- it was returned unopened! We went out and bought a small Elfa three drawer storage unit to put in his closet on the day of move in because there weren't enough drawers for all his tee shirts and crew gear. Boys don't use their closets as much as girls do, so there is usually room for a small storage unit in there - that would be a good thing to bring. Also, make sure your laundry bag is sturdy -- we bought a cheap one at Target, and the handles ripped off in the first semester! They really jam them full. We got a terrific blue denim sturdy model -- the Umbra Crunch Can -- that is fabulous and holds a lot plus crunches down when not in use. Do you other college parents have hints to share? Let's hear from you because all these new parents spent too much money on stuff they don't need!

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Washington, D.C.: Jura has written a lot about green trends, which is wonderful. What are positive things to do for the planet in dorm decorating and living?

Jura Koncius: Last year we did a whole big story on green dorm decor, which I think Leslie is going to post shortly. One good thing to remember is try not to buy individual water bottles -- bring a water filter and keep water in a pitcher in your dorm fridge. Consider organic fabrics when buying sheets and towels. Keep a recycling center for your trash. We found great products out there made of bamboo and recycled tires. Check out Container Store, Bed Bath & Beyond and Target for products that are made of recycled materials.

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washingtonpost.com: College Greening (Post, July 2008)

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Bathroom Quick Fix: We just bought a house (yay!) with a usable but rather ugly second bathroom. Think concrete floor, plain wood paneling, and tiny, wall-mounted sink. We will probably renovate come next spring, but in the meantime, do you have any suggestions for making the space nicer, while not putting a huge amount of work or money into it?

Terri Sapienza: If the second bathroom is a powder room, a quick fix could be painting the wood paneling and buying a sisal rug remnant (if the room is small, you won't need much at all) from a carpet place and having it put down wall to wall. Add a couple monogrammed hand towels and you should be set until the renovation next year.

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Another White Laundry Question: What will happen if the care label says 'no chlorine bleach' but I use it anyway? I'm getting strange orange stains on my white sheets...Could it be due to using chlorine bleach or to dorm shared laundry machines?

Heloise: The sheets will turn yellow! As you have sadly found out.

But, if you are getting ORANGE stains, that may be a different problem. My guess? The washer and or dryer has been nicked inside ( this happens with metal things like buckles and snaps hit against the drum) and there is rust. The porcelain enamel coating is gone and rust shines through! Very Important -- Chlorine Bleach accelerates rust..it makes it worse! So, NO CHRLORINE BLEACH on rust stains EVER. You can use a rust remover to get the stains out -- some say lemon juice and salt, but it's an old hint that may or may not work on fabric today.

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Silver Spring, Md.: What's the name of the laundry bag, the denim one? We have got one from Target but I'm thinking it may not work.

Jura Koncius: Crunch Bag by Umbra. Look at www.amazon.com. I think we got ours at Container Store.

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Alexandria, Va.: For Heloise: is there any safe way to brighten or whiten a white wool sweater that's gotten a bit yellower with age? Sorry it's not a paint question, ladies!

Heloise: Well, many things age and yellow...ivory and some old things. Sorry, but wool is wool! You should not use chlorine bleach or the even the other -- hydrogen peroxide acts like a slower bleaching agent.

Maybe one of our chatters has a hint for us!

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Charlottesville, Va.: If your kids don't have air conditioning in their dorms, get a QUIET fan -- my mom and I got a really strong fan because I knew it was going to be hot, but it kept both my roommate and me up at night all September because it was so powerful and loud!

Jura Koncius: Wow. Great tip. It gets hot in those rooms because sometimes the AC isn't really good or maybe it doesn't exist in some older dorms. Some people actually like white noise provided the noisy fans as it drowns out the hall noise. Figure out what is best for you and your roommate.

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Re: stinky workout clothes: I toss them in the washer a for a quick spin cycle rinse after E-V-E-R-Y workout and let them dry.

Heloise, I love you and use so many of your hints! The Post used to publish you with the comics, and I've read you every weekend since I was, oh, 10.

Jura Koncius: Thanks for this. The Post runs the Heloise column on Tuesdays in the comics section in Style.

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Not a Paint Question, Md.: Is there any way to clean a sisal rug? My poor golden had several bathroom accidents on it, and I've cleaned it as well as I can with traditional cleaners. The smell is gone, but the stains are still there. I was thinking of taking it outside on a hot day and spraying it down with some kind of cleaning solution, or should I just throw it away? Thanks!

Terri Sapienza: I also have a dog and sisal all over my house. No accidents from the dog yet, but we did have a candle wax incident that left a huge stain in my living room, and I was unable to remove it. Unfortunately, rugs made from natural fibers are not easy to clean, and you're not supposed take water to them. I fear that a cleaning solution would also ruin the fibers. Before throwing it out, why not call a couple carpet places and ask them the best way to clean sisal? They would probably know best. Be prepared to have to live with the stains, though.

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Silver Spring, Md.: My twin sons are getting ready to go off to college as freshman next week. I have seen info that the Tide stain pens work well. Is it worth getting them? And if I do, how I can ensure they will remember they have them?

Jura Koncius: I'm grabbing this because Heloise isn't going to have time to answer all the questions meant for her. I've heard a lot about the Tide Stain Stick - I think Tim Gunn even uses it! Maybe you should put it on a piece of string and hang it in their closets! Lots of people swear by it, and Terri carries one in her purse. She's sold on it for white shirts, which she wears a lot.

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Shepherd Park, D.C.: For the people with the yellowing sheets and clothes: the best (non-chemical) whitener is the sun -- dry them outside on the clothesline.

Jura Koncius: A natural solution and so green.

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Bathroom Renovation: For Arlington: if the contractors are not giving you detailed breakdowns of their estimates, ask them for this. Then you will see where the costs are. If you pick out the tub, cabinetry and fixtures yourself and have them delivered, you will save money. If the contractor has to order it and pick it up, he'll mark it up and also charge for his travel time.

Jura Koncius: Thanks.

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Alexandria, Va.: I am so glad you have Heloise today! Perfect timing. After dry cleaning I unfolded a white tablecloth (I think it's called Belgian lace - with some cutout lace work in a rectangle in the middle and at the corners). It has a yellowed spot. Should I put a little bleach on it and put it in my washer on the hand wash cycle? I would take it to the cleaners after for cleaning again and ironing.

Heloise: Stop the bleach! Not on old lace!

You can try a little 3% hydrogen peroxide on a cotton swab, dab at the stain. Let set for 24 hours...it takes longer to work then chlorine bleach. It should start to fade.

Heloise's Three Steps to Stains

SOON -- get to the stain soon!

SLOW -- work at the stain slowly!

SEVERAL TIMES -- it may take several attempts to remove.

My Heloise Motto -- If all else fails, cover it up!

Use a piece of white chalk and rub it into the stain!

Don't tell, and no one will know.

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Outdoor Furniture Care: What's the best way to take care of teak outdoor furniture? Does it need to be treated or stained or does it just weather? Thanks!

Jura Koncius: The natural oils in teak make it a great choice for outdoor furniture and weathering the elements. There are teak protector products or sealers you can apply, but if you like the silvery gray color, you can let it age naturally. If you do stain it, that will have to be maintained several times a year with another coat.

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Dorm Room Needs: I have a girl but also two beloved nephews who have each finished college. They would unequivocally agree on one item I bought for them: collapsible crates. They used them to move in/out, tote folded laundry, carry stuff safely in the trunks of their cars. The uses are really endless. They each still have and use theirs.

My favorite purchase for their segues to college was the heavy duty folding cart we used for each and every move!

Jura Koncius: Great suggestions! Thanks.

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Leesburg, Va.: We're getting ready to renovate our 1962 master bathroom. It is a small room, 5' X 7' with a narrow dormer window. Currently it has a pink tub, toilet and sink surrounded by gray 4 X 4 crazed tile walls. My plan is to replace the pink fixtures with white fixtures and large natural stone rectangular tiles. In addition, we will purchase a recessed medicine cabinet, sconces on each side and a ceiling fixture. Because the room is so small, I want to maximize storage area. I want to have a recessed shelf built into the tub/shower wall for hair products, razor, soap, etc. Do you have any other recommendations for good design for storage while we are doing this bathroom renovation? We will probably be in this house another 10 years but want to design the small bath for good resale value. Thanks, and love your discussion!

Terri Sapienza: Hi, Leesburg. My husband and I are also about to begin a bathroom remodel; the demo starts Monday, in fact. We have designed the space ourselves, but to ensure we maximized storage and made the best choices in terms of fixtures and lighting, etc., we called a bathroom designer and paid for an hour of her time to consult with us. It was the best, best decision. She made fantastic suggestions to improve on our original design, and she pointed out a few things that we hadn't considered. For us, the cost of her time was a great investment.

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Red Laundry, Md.: I wonder what is the best way to wash clothes with bold red and white stripes? I would like to keep the white from fading to pink, which always happens to me. Thank you!

Heloise: Red laundry is sort of a rights of passage for freshmen in college!

Cold water is your best friend. Do not launder with other colored clothes. Be sure the detergent ( this is why I like liquid rather than powder) is dissolved before you put the clothes in....no pouring on top of wet laundry in the washer.

If it still fades onto the white part, there are products that will remove only that.

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Silver Spring, Md.: For the closet, do you recommend hanging up the pants folded on a plastic hanger with a bar? What about shorts? My sons are not that interested in drawers for tee shirts, either. Any ideas?

Jura Koncius: I bought one of those multiple pants hangers that hold something like five pairs of pants -- the hangers are coated with a neoprene like finish so the pants stay on them. My son really liked it. I think shorts belong in drawers, personally. My son hangs some of his prize tee shirts on hangers, too.

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Takoma Park, Md.: Orange for a girl's room: Re: Toddler to Teen article today. My daughter chose a bright orange color for her bedroom walls when she was 10 years old, with pink, purple and red accessories. I thought it was an atrocious choice, until I saw the same color combination in beautiful rugs and throws at IKEA. The orange has grown up well with her, and she still loves it at age 18. So orange is not just for boys!

Terri Sapienza: Wow...that is definitely an interesting color combination. Glad it's worked out for you!

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Alexandria, Va: Is there a discount fabric warehouse in Northern VA? My sister turned me on to a great one in Richmond, and I'm wondering if there's anything similar around here. Thanks!

Jura Koncius: Was it Williams & Sherrill in Richmond? That is a fab one. Of course, we have Discount Fabrics in Thurmont, Md., and in Marshall, Va. we have Haute of Middleburg.

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Washington, D.C.: There was one dorm item I hung onto well into my graduate school days. One was a very narrow wheeled shelving cart that just fit into the small space between my dresser and closet (from Container Store, I think). I stored all of my vanity items in it and only pulled it out when getting ready in the morning to save space in our 10 X 12 room (no kidding). My roommate also had a stuffed chair that unfolded into a small bed that we got a lot of use out of for study groups and pajama parties.

Jura Koncius: Thanks for these terrific suggestions.

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Best floor for kids and dog: There's a plank vinyl that really looks like wood called "Konnecto." Easy, easy, easy to install, easy upkeep, and people keep asking what kind of wood floor I put down!

Jura Koncius: Great.

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Alexandria, Va.: I need to paint the guest room/office/TV room: oriental rug with teal, garnet and beige, black desk and file cabinet credenza, large white wall to ceiling bookcase. Would a deep garnet-y red be too overwhelming? I like the idea of a library look, but think a beige-y khaki might be too blah. Any ideas? And by the way, I never ever leave home without my tide pen in my makeup bag!

Jura Koncius: I would definitely not use garnet red. Too much. I would try a paper bag khaki color to tie it all together. What about Duron's Practical Beige?

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Re: pink walls: Disney pink may seem a little young for 16, but when I was that age, I wanted to paint my room black. Considering that teens' decorating choices usually reflect their state of mind, methinks the person with the daughter who wants pink may have lucked out!

Terri Sapienza: My point for the pink room was that the mom thought her daughter was too old for pink, yet she chose a Disney shade -- a counterproductive choice, it seems.

And, though it's definitely not for me or my house, I've seen black painted rooms that are really chic.

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Boys in college!: For college boys -- do not spend a fortune on sheets or comforter as you will probably throw them away at the end of the year because they are so disgusting. No dust ruffles if you ever want your son to talk to you again. I've heard of some moms who actually put two or three bottom sheets on their son's bed when they first put them in the dorm to make it easier for them to change sheets. Wish I'd thought of that! I agree with Jura on the other items. I also got a couple of 3-drawer units with a wood top from Bed, Bath and Beyond (two years ago) that could double as a nightstand or printer holder. And most important -- use Bed, Bath and Beyond's college service. They give you a scanner to go through the store here and it is ready and waiting for you at your son's college town store. They were super organized and let you review everything there before you purchase it if you change your mind on something. You can also order a dorm fridge/microwave at Sears online and have it waiting for you in your college town.

Jura Koncius: Now HERE is a fabulous hint for Heloise! Put three bottom sheets on your son's bed when you drop him off so he might actually sleep on clean sheets once in a while. Bravo, Mom!

Love all the other hints, too!

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Washington, D.C.: Heloise, What's the most important hint you learned from your mom?

Heloise: What a nice question!

My mother the original Heloise taught me to think!

Don't just jump in and start scrubbing stains, doing work or using the wrong product.

I call it SAT:

STOP -- don't just jump in!

ACCESS -- look at the situation, what do you have, what has worked before ( or not worked).

THINK IT THROUGH -- think through the steps..you may find you don't need to do it all, or that something will not work, so why waste your time?

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Re: Having bathrooms renovated for a reasonable price: Amour Home Improvement out of the Woodbine, Md. is great! We are having our kitchen done (rip out and replace) for a WONDERFUL price...not the $30K we thought and got from 2 other vendors.

Terri Sapienza: Good for you! Thanks for the tip.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Ladies,

We have a white tile floor in our kitchen that gets so dirty. Since we have small children and dogs that lick the floor, we'd like to use something non-toxic to clean it with (or at least, less toxic). Would baking soda or vinegar work? Something else?

Thank you!

Jura Koncius: A little soap and water, and rinse really really well!

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Rockville, Md.: Hi. My husband and I are considering moving our "master suite" to the bedroom in the basement. That would leave two bedrooms upstairs (one occupied by our little guy) an the other would be vacant. What would you consider before making such a move? Thanks!

Jura Koncius: Sounds like this would give you more privacy and I assume you have a nice bathroom down there. Why not? You could turn the upstairs room into a play room for your child, a guest room, a work out room, a yoga studio or a craft room!

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Great Falls, Va.: Should you coordinate your decor with your roommate, or is that old fashioned?

Jura Koncius: If you are a girl, I think it's expected. If you are a guy, I think most of them don't really care.

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Southern Maryland: I have an open entry to my home where you can see into almost each room on the middle level of the home. Right to your right as you enter is the formal living room, which gets absolutely no use. I would like to make it my office and move my office from one of my upstairs bedrooms. I was thinking about building a knee wall with a column accent (my home has arches and columns elsewhere) to give it some separation from the foyer. I would also have lots of storage to conceal the clutter and probably a built-in, concealable desk/bookshelf area. Any thoughts on having an office right as you enter the home?

Terri Sapienza: You need to use your house the way that's best for you and most conducive to your lifestyle. That said, if you're asking for my personal thoughts, I don't think I'd like to have an office as the first thing I see when I walk into my house. I think it would stress me out.

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Sisal Rug: I have a carpet cleaning company, and I hate to break it to you, but sisal never turns out well. Water even stains it! What we've done in the past is wet down the entire rug so that the color darkens and you have an even, covered-up stain.

Terri Sapienza: That's what I was afraid of. Very helpful. Thanks for writing in.

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Sun Prairie, Wis.: Your column is the can't-miss part of Thursdays. My wife and I are looking for a new paint color for our guest room. We have an 1820 tiger-maple bed, 1920s walnut Hepplewhite dresser, cream color lace curtains, and two different comforter sets we change out for winter or summer. We would like a warm Cappuccino or Fawn brown color, maybe a little towards the peach side. We have a Home Depot in Madison, and our local lumberyard carries Pittsburg/Dutchboy. Thanks for your help.

Jura Koncius: Thank you so much! What about Casual Conference by Behr?

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Anonymous: Heloise, what can I use to hold my work out clothes to keep the smell in?

Heloise: How about a steel laundry bag! You need a container that will hold in the clothes. Maybe a plastic bin witha lid, or a bag made from nylon ripstop, even a sturdy plastic garbage bag?

You can also spray the clothes with a fabric spray or even deodorant (many college kids do this!) before putting them in your bag.

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Great Falls, Va.: Where can I find the perfect bar, bar stools and kegarator for my dorm room? I prefer something in an art deco motiff or mid-century modern like Otter's room from Animal House.

Jura Koncius: Ha ha ha.

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Safe Cleaner for White Tile: We have a white tile kitchen floor -- my favorite cleaner is my Shark Steam Cleaner! So easy and safe for everyone.

Jura Koncius: True.

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Discount fabrics: The Second Yard in Fairfax City has good prices and a great selection; I've had good luck in their sale section.

Jura Koncius: Oh yes!

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Cleaning up dog accidents: Woolite Pet Oxygen is amazing at cleaning both the stain and the smell. It gets up whatever the ammonia-type chemical is so the dog isn't reminded he went there once every time he passes it. I adopted a dog who immediately got terrible diarrhea, and I had 10 messes to clean up. This stuff was a godsend!

Jura Koncius: Sounds like it was.

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Rockville, Md.: On my bathtub faucet the handle is made of some kind of clear material -- probably plastic. How can I get that clean with out damaging it? Thanks!

Jura Koncius: I would use a microfiber cloth, although I'm not Heloise... Meanwhile, we have come to the end of our time together today. And I know I'm going to go back and read all the hints that Heloise has shared with you all on our transcript. Thanks again to Heloise for taking the time to be with us today and good luck to all of you that are getting your kids ready for college. See you next week.

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More laundry: Underarm stains -- how do you treat women's blouses to get the yellowed look out when you can't use bleach?

Heloise: Vinegar may work..wet the area and let soak..rub in laundry detergent and let set for a few minutes before washing. If the yellow is a fabric change, I don't know what else will work.

This has been great! Very good questions and a lot of traffic. Please know I am here to help! Visit my web site www.Heloise.com for more hints! We have a college check list posted that is a must for anyone going to school. Plus stains and stinks hints!

Adios, Heloise

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