Home Front: Your Design and Decor Dilemmas, Solved

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Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Home Staff
Thursday, September 24, 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.

A transcript follows.

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

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Washington, DC: We plan to install hardwood floors in the main living areas of our condo, but can't decide on the stain. We're torn between a more traditional golden brown oak and a darker, espresso color. Any advice on how to choose?

Barbara Barry: That's a good one! This is a big investment and a long-term decision and I would opt for a rich deep brown to straddle the two. It marries all woods and feels grounded.

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Brandon, Vt.: We have low baseboard radiators in all of our upstairs rooms on the outer walls under all of the windows. How long should drapes be for these windows? To the top of the radiator looks funny, but if they are to the floor, they'll block the heat.

Barbara Barry: I would suggest your take the drapes to the bottom of the window sill as a visual resting point or do a Roman from just under the crown molding to the bottom of the window sill.

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Jura Koncius: Hi everyone and hello Barbara Barry from Los Angeles, who got up early to join us today. We are excited to have her share design tips and sources with us. And meanwhile, what do you guys think about the simple idea of making your sink area look chic? After interviewing Barbara, I went home and threw up a sponge and put "scrub brush" on my shopping list. Where can we find neat liquid soap dispensers? I hear Sur la Table's vinegar bottles make nice ones. Little things mean a lot in design, as we all know. Let's get going.

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Lodi, Calif.: For "Painting in Boston" - We used Aura on exterior of our home in California. Painter said it went on like butter. We are very pleased. Beautiful surface, good coverage, easily dusted and washed. Painters brushed paint on, it wasn't sprayed. Of course, our weather is milder. Just wanted you to know.

Jura Koncius: Thanks, Lodi.

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Hughesville, Md.: Love Love Love this forum! (My first post after reading for a couple of years!) My 4 y/o has a huge bedroom (bedroom area, play area, and huge walk in closet) and we are going to paint her bedroom soon. She wants the colors Pink, Purple and Yellow. Will this work? Suggestions? I have been all over the net looking for ideas!

Barbara Barry: Great question! True to my principles in interior design, I believe even your daughter will want calm. I would choose one of the three colors, paint the walls and the ceiling the same and use the other two for accents. Remember, the stuff of life and toys make the pattern!

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Reston, Va.: I have a dog who is an incredible shedder. We are in the market for a new couch, and I'm wondering if a certain fabric is best for homes with dogs. For example, it seems to me microsuede seems like it would grab the dog hair and not let go! Are there fabrics that are better!

Jura Koncius: That's a good question. Some dog owners dodge that issue by buying good looking throws to keep on top of the furniture and then washing them. Animal prints are fun. Williams Sonoma Home has some great looking ones for fall I just saw. I would also say that a printed fabric might not show shedding as much as a solid velvet.

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Washington, D.C.: My kitchen is currently a color that I would describe as French's mustard yellow. This was a style choice by the previous owners, not me. I've decided to finally repaint and I think I want to go white. The kitchen is pretty small so I'm hoping this will open it up some, but I'm also worried that it will end up looking institutional or boring. Your thoughts?

Barbara Barry: I love this questions because Kitchens are one of my favorite rooms, and although white is fresh - you're right it can be boring and a bit cold. I would opt for a pale, warm, French gray, or a rich cream! Look at Farrow and Ball colors - they're from England. They know they're kitchens! Happy cooking!

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Frederick, Md.: I need a new family room sofa. I was looking at the slipcovered sofa from Ethan Allen. Anyone out there have one of there sofas? I currently have a T-cushion from the now gone Storehouse. Loved it and I got 14 years out of it. But I think its time for a change. Any other slip covered sofa recommendations?? Should I go with downfill or is it to soft? Thanks for any input...

Jura Koncius: Any Ethan Allen sofa customers out there? We hear good things about their products. It's nice to get a sofa and get a slipcover for it so you can have a change of looks.

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Laurel, Md.: What is the best way to clean dusty lampshades? Traditional dusting doesn't seem to be cutting it. Thanks!

Barbara Barry: There is a sponge at most hardware stores or you can go online. I use a slightly damp white wash cloth. Good luck!

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Arlington, Va.: Design and decor question for a spare bedroom. We just moved into a bigger place, and have an extra room that currently has our many bookcases and some boxes, but no place to sit or lie down. We have our desk and computer in a separate office room, and we own an air mattress and have a convertible sofa elsewhere in the house.

I'd love ideas of what piece of furniture we should put in this room which we will use for hanging out and reading the vast majority of the time, and as a guest room only rarely. I hate to regress to a futon, because I think they are generally uncomfortable for sitting but OK for sleeping and could be a good platform to raise the air mattress off the ground. A daybed wouldn't take up much space, but would only work for 1 person to sleep, and I'm not sure it's comfortable to read on with no softness behind you. What do you think?

Terri Sapienza: I think I would make that room into a den with your bookcases, a comfy chair and pull-out sofa and, maybe a small television. You can make the pull-out more comfy for guests by using a featherbed on top of the mattress.

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Ashburn, Va.: I would like to replace the carpet in my son's bedroom with either hardwood or laminate, to ease allergies. There is hardwood in the hallway outside the bedroom -- is it necessary to match that flooring, or is there some way to make the transition to a different type of flooring inside the bedroom work?

Barbara Barry: Great question! This is a great opportunity to do something fun, and I love linoleum! It comes in all colors, washable, and super easy to live with. Go for it!

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Rockville, Md.: Hi. I have a set of three clear, glass cookie jars. I like them but don't like to keep them filled with cookies. (My toddler will stand and cry for one if they are filled.) Can you suggest any other items with which to fill them? Thanks.

Jura Koncius: What a great question. What about beans in various shapes and colors? Terri would put dog treats in them. Pasta in various colors. Cereals.

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Pigtown: Hi Y'all... I wanted to alert readers to a great sale taking place in Baltimore on Friday and Saturday. It's at McLain-Wiesand, a custom furniture-maker. The owner's having a warehouse sale of architectural elements, soft furnishings and more. I wrote about it here and here.

Terri... I was so delighted to finally meet you this weekend!

Terri Sapienza: Thanks for the heads-up Pigtown. And, great to meet you (and finally put a face to the name)!

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Rockville, Md.: More questions for Barbara! Barbara mentions two of her favorite colors in the article. Would also be interested in other favs. Also wondering how she feels about painting ceilings a color other than white. Thanks!

Barbara Barry: I believe there is a beautiful shade of ALL colors, but for our homes they have to paler than one imagines. Other favorites include pale pale mustard and khaki. Always paint your ceiling the same as the walls. It actually makes the room look bigger!

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Odenton, Md.: I know it's been discussed before, but how do I get the 'smell' out of towels (that are clean!)? I use Tide Free because of dry skin issues, and don't use dryer sheets since I read that it takes the fluff out, but what do I do about the smell?

Terri Sapienza: Try washing them every so often with a combo of water and white vinegar. No detergent.

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Burke, Va.: A burst pipe has ruined the carpet in our basement. I'm not really disappointed, as I was never happy with the Berber carpet, which was impossible to clean. My question now is what to replace it with?

The only thing that wouldn't be ruined by a future water leak (the basement is always dry, even during hurricane-level rains) is ceramic tile, which I think would be too cold. What about a laminate or cork?

Jura Koncius: Never say never. We have had many conversations on this chat with people whose basement flooded for so many different reasons. A storm of the century can come at any time and you'll be sorry if you put in expensive laminate or cork. A lot of people like Flor carpet tiles which are easily removed and cleaned in case of a floor. Or, how about painting the floor - if its concrete or whatever - and using an area rug you could get out of there in case of flooding.

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Rockville, Md.: Good morning Ladies. Loved today's article on Barbara Barry and love her style! Two quick questions for her--I noticed in one of the photos that there is one curtain rod going across two fairly closely-set windows with artwork in the middle. I have the exact situation in my very small living room and wonder if that is a preferred option, rather than 2 separate rods. There is also a rarely used entry door that opens directly into the same room, and was thinking of trying to camouflage it with a matching drape/rod treatment. Thoughts?

Barbara Barry: This is a great solution because you have to remember, if you did two rods, you would have four panels of fabric covering your windows. This solution really expands the room. I love your thought of camouflaging the door with drapery!

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Foyer question: Submitting early...Hello,

Barbara, I have seen your work in magazines and it is always stunning.

I have a small foyer with not much light. I would like to change colors from a sage (too heavy/dark) to a lighter color (white with a hint of a taupe). Could you recommend suitable colors for my foyer? I have ordered this light to replace the existing brass fixture.

What are your suggestions for having a fabulous foyer? Many thanks.

Barbara Barry: Continue the same color from the hallway or adjoining rooms. It will make the space flow together. How about, an ottoman and a tapestry, a fabric that can take a lot of wear and won't take up a lot of space.

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Washington DC: Good morning ladies!

I truly appreciate these chats -- thanks for all of your good advice and counsel. I would like to ask for some recommendations -- the wood floors in our house need to be refinished. Can anyone recommend a good vendor to use?

Many thanks

Jura Koncius: Lots of people and designers like DC Floors 202 291-1677. Also Hightower Floors has been around a long time 202 726-6795. Universal Floors is another one people have mentioned to us 202 537-8900.

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Falls Church, Va.: Hello Jura and Terri! Thanks for taking my question!

I have two bay windows, one in my living room and one in my dining room. My home has an open floor plan, so both windows are in full view of each other no matter where you stand. Does this mean that I should treat the windows with the same drapes, or might I be able to choose complementary treatments in different fabrics to bring the rooms together? Thanks!

Terri Sapienza: I think a good rule of thumb in an open floor plan is to make sure that all windows share one of the same element. For instance, if both bays have the same woven shades or shutters, but different curtains panels, that would work.

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Washington, DC: We have one of those ubiquitous Washington, DC center- hall colonials, where the stairs are featured prominently when you open the front door.

Any advice on how to make them look nice? Leave them bare wood? Carpet? If so, what kind won't get worn and scruffy looking? We painted the banister a shiny black to at least give the entry a bit of spunk; we like a contemporary look despite the style of the house exterior.

Jura Koncius: That's a good question. I also painted my banister shiny black. I put a nylon diamond patterned rug in black as a stair runner. Here is a tip - do not use a wool needlepoint style rug as it wears out very quickly. If you want a contemporary look, think about a sisal runner. Bare wood can be dangerous.

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Rockville, Md.: Good Morning! I'm looking for help with my dining room which is a 13' x 13' square. We have a 60" round table in the room. We're having trouble finding a rug for the space. What size/shape would you recommend? Also, can you please advise us on a chandelier? I like many of the round drum shade models at Restoration Hardware, but I've also considered a square shade.

Thank you!

Barbara Barry: I love a square dining room! It's best to go to a local carpet store and choose a simple wall to wall carpeting and have them cut it to fit the room. I would definitely do a round shade on your chandelier. Good luck and happy dining!

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Wheaton, Ill.: Our closets seem depressing. Any thoughts on good paint colors for clothes closets?

Terri Sapienza: I think it just depends on your taste, really. I had the inside of my linen closet painted a very sale and soft pink and the contrast of the white towels and sheets on the shelves makes me happy whenever I open the door. Of course, clothes closets are going to have more than just white as a contrasting color, but I think you should just go with a color that makes you happy and one that won't be too jarring against your wardrobe. An alternative would be to wallpaper the inside of your closet.

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Re: bath bottles: You can buy the bar tender stopper for bottles and use any old bottle for liquid soaps. Stoppers are a few dollars and you can always find neat old bottles at yard sales for a quarter.

Jura Koncius: Wonderful idea. Thanks.

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Lusby, Md.: I love your chat I look forward to it every Thursday. Is there any chance it can be expanded to twice a week say every Tuesday and Thursday?? PLEASE!

Jura Koncius: Lusby, we like your spirit! But I think we need more time to report for our articles!

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Houston, Tex.: Good morning! I'm hoping you or the chatters can offer an objective opinion. Our whole house, except the carpeted master, has medium stained red-oak floors. I received many quotes, but nobody will put new floors in the master without refinishing the whole house, for a total cost of $12K. We could have nice pre-finished floors installed for about one quarter of the costs, but they would not match existing floors. We are thinking about doing something totally different in the master, like bamboo. Would that be too weird?

Terri Sapienza: That sounds odd to me. What reasons are you getting from companies not willing to lay floor in a single room without refinishing all of the existing flooring in your house? Weird.

As for having different flooring in the master BR: my personal preference is to have all the wood flooring in a house match. But I like wall-to-wall in a master bedroom. why not just replace the carpeting?

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Arlington, Va.: Hi, do you have suggestions for where to look for area rugs? I'm in the market for something about 8x10 with red in it. Our house is contemporary. In the past, I've tried rugs from World Market, Pottery Barn and The Company Store. Would like to upgrade quality, but I'm intimidated by the oriental rug stores. I've seen something in the Garnet Hill catalog that looks promising, but I don't have any experience with their rugs. Any ideas?

On an unrelated topic, there has been a lot of chat about green for baby rooms. I used Ralph Lauren Thistle for my son's room and would recommend it; it is nice and soft - not too green. (It looks grey on-line, but it's really green.) Love the chat! Thanks!

Jura Koncius: My son's room was always green too so thank for that suggestion. As for your rug, my sister went out to Green Front in Manassas yesterday and was amazed at all the rugs and how nicely they were displayed. If you go to the Farmville mother store of Green Front, you'll find a dizzying array of rugs and styles. I would also suggest hitting Ikea.

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Stair runner in Black?: Jura, does it show every bit of lint and dust??

Jura Koncius: No it actually does not. Maybe because its nylon it sort of sheds it off. I had a beautiful wool rug but in less than two years it looked shabby and worn on he edges. I'm very happy with this one.

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Sisal runner: Will all the friction damage the wood floor or finish?

Jura Koncius: Not if you have the right pad.

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Oakton, Va.: I have recently acquired an oil painting which is hung on a side wall in our family room. The painting is quite large. During the day the painting is well illuminated from skylights and natural light. However, at night the painting gets lost because it has no lighting. How should I illuminate this painting so we can enjoy it at night?

Barbara Barry: Great question, a good painting really comes to life when properly lit. You need to get a clip on light that specifically designed to illuminate paintings and hopefully your painting is located with an outlet. Some come with cords to be plugged in. I would not do a recessed lighting in the ceiling. Too many shadows! Good luck...

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Omaha, Neb.: My daughter has decided she wants to paint her room either pale yellow or pale pink. I am a fan of her choices, but my issue is that her current room is has deep red and gray stripes on the walls (it looks really cool, I promise). What is the best way to cover the paint? How many coats of primer will I need? Should I push her to take a slightly darker pink or yellow to help cover the red? Room is small - 10 x 12 - do I need to paint the popcorn ceiling?

Terri Sapienza: The best way to cover the existing paint is with primer. The number of coats will just depend on how many it takes to cover up the darker colors - you don't want to be able to see it before applying lighter paint to the walls.

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Ceiling Paint Question: Just had this conversation with our contractor - as the ceilings were originally white, we decided to go ahead and paint them white again. Was this the wrong call - should they match our walls, which will mainly be neutral beiges and grays? Our rooms are large with lots of windows & trim, which we also plan to paint white. (We still have time to make that call, painting scheduled to begin next week.)

Barbara Barry: Always match your ceilings to your walls, it makes the room look bigger! :)

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Toilet comment.: Last week a poster was looking for colored toilets to match tub and tile in a bathroom. If you can't find a match at the stores, consider calling in a tub refinisher to change the color of a new white toilet.

Jura Koncius: Wonder what that costs?

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Washington, DC: I have a birch shelf (same wood as my cabinets) that runs above my sink from end to end (connects the 2 wall cabinets). Above the shelf is a long, clerestory window.

Problem is I have NO idea what to put on this shelf. It's only about 6" wide, so I can't store plates there and I'm not a fan of kitschy things that collect dust. Any canisters that might work? I do cook with a lot of dried beans and grains. Other decorative objects? Any advice appreciated!

Barbara Barry: Less is more! I think this would be great for whatever is fresh in the season! An eggplant! A gorgeous heirloom tomato. It's your own little artscape...

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Alexandria, Va.: I hate to admit this but I have been obsessing about switchplate covers ever since the old ones were removed and my townhome was repainted (and, yes...it's been awhile). I have a floor plan where the foyer, living room, dining room and kitchen are open to each other, with creamy/yellow/gold walls throughout. Do you have any suggestions as to whether all of the switchplates should be brass (brushed or polished?!) or if white or cream switchplates with a simple crown molding type detail would work well? Should they all be the same for continuity? My style is more traditional-transitional, but not too formal and definitely not modern. All crown molding and trim is painted white and the tables in my living room are brass with glass tops. Thank you!

Jura Koncius: What an interesting question. In most of my rooms, the switchplates have been painted the color of the room. Terri has had her switchplates wallpapered in the rooms where she has wallpaper. We don't love the look of brass switchplates except in very historic homes. It draws attention to the switches. I would go with white. What do you guys think?

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Alexandria, Va.: My kitchen has gotten a much needed makeover and one of the elements is a glass subway tile (1x2) back splash. Well, it looks like my contractor installed some of the tiles crooked - I didn't see it until after the grout went in. It's driving me crazy - is there anything that can be done? Or am I going to have to live with it?

Jura Koncius: Ugh. I would have him redo it.

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Glass cookie jars: I store my collection of cookie cutters in my glass cookie jars.

Jura Koncius: Lovely idea.

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Arlington Va.: Barbara - Hi. You mentioned painting the ceiling the same as the wall cover. How would it be handled in a L shaped space where the dining and living room connect but each is painted a different wall color? The living room is a pale gray blue and the dining room a strong yellow.

Barbara Barry: Ohh that's a tough one without being there! Could you add a strip of molding to clarify the spaces perhaps? Or, lose one color to add a deeper value to the other color!

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Frederick, Md.: Do roman shades need to sit inside the window like a blinds or can they hangout the sides of the window a bit. Reason I ask most pre-made romans don't fit my windows that are 33x64. They are either 32 or 34 wide.

Barbara Barry: I like that question! I like to hang the Roman from the ceiling and at least a few inches wider at each side of the window. It makes the window seem taller and larger, and you lose the headache of trying to fit it perfectly.

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Washington, DC: Where are your favorite places to buy baby furniture/bedding? I'm looking for a little more selection than Babies R Us.

Terri Sapienza: Oh, there are lots of other places you can look for baby bedding and furniture: Pottery Barn Kids, Land of Nod, Target (they carry the modern Dwell Studio furniture and bedding line), Serena & Lily, Giggle, Ikea, Stanley Furniture, etc., etc. If you look around on line, you'll find you have tons of options.

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Potomac, Md.: Barbara:

What is your favorite room in your own house? Tell us how it is decorated?

Barbara Barry: My bedroom!! It is soft and luxurious in tones of dusty amethyst and silver counterpointed with crisp white. This is the room I recharge in, and dream in. Spend the money here...it will pay you back in spades!

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90 Pound Boxer : Leather is the only way to go, unless you're going to put washable throws on. Anything else involving cleaning upholstery will wear the sofa out way too fast.

Or, you could train the dog to stay on the floor. Saddest day of his life, but training is important.

Jura Koncius: Well, you certainly are an expert with a 90 pound boxer - thanks for the tip. Leather is a great choice.

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Dusty Lamp Shades: I use a lint roller on a my non-pleated lamp shades and it works like a charm!

Jura Koncius: Charming!

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RE:But I think we need more time to report for our articles! : Ok, that's fine, I love your articles also, its just I have learned so much from these chats, and you guys have answered several of my questions. Keep up the great work!

Jura Koncius: We really appreciate your support.

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Rockville, Md.: Hi Ladies. Love the chats, hoping you or other chatters can help me out. So I found the perfect sofa in the Domino decorating book. It's a Billy Baldwin tuxedo style sofa. It appeared in the March 2006 issue of Domino magazine. Would you or anyone happen to have a copy of that issue and if so does it say where that perfect sofa came from? When I Google tuxedo or Billy Baldwin sofas I don't get the classic look - all of the hits have a higher back than arms. Thanks for any help you can provide in finding this supposed classic yet hard-to-find sofa!

Terri Sapienza: I have the March 2006 issue in front of me. Can't locate the sofa you are referring to. can you give me a few more details?

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Fairfax, Va.: Re: hardwood floor stain. The person asked HOW to choose, not WHAT to choose. I would think they'd want to consider what the furnishings look like (light or dark colors and finishes), how light the room is, whether they prefer a contemporary or a traditional look, whether room is large and open or small/crowded; things like that. Dark stain will make room dark, small-looking, more traditional. Light will look airier, more modern, brighter.

Jura Koncius: All good ideas. Thanks.

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Bathroom Paint: Hi -- We redid our old, small bathroom by taking out the decrepit tub and ancient (60's) tiles, replacing all of it with slate up to about the 6' mark. We topped that with Behr Premium/Primer in a chocolate shade (can't remember the name), with an eggshell finish. Is there a second coat of something we should use to keep the moisture from beading up? There's no mold issue, but no exhaust fan either. Thanks.

Barbara Barry: Talk to your hardware store where you purchased your paint. Paints today are formulated for this purpose and have a washable surface to them for both kitchens and bath.

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SS, Md.: Re: Black Banister...I like this idea, did you leave the slats wood or white? Mine is all white. I also like the idea of painting the inside of the door black but worry that since my living room does not get a lot of natural light it will be too dark. Barbara I LOVE your designs!

Jura Koncius: The slats are white in my house. Painting the inside of a door black might be a bit gloomy if there isn't a lot of light in there, you are right.

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Baby bedding: Daisy Too in Bethesda has a sweet selection of baby bedding/furnishings.

Jura Koncius: Thanks.

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Hardwood floor color: If you have floors that are stripped and ready to stain ask the floor guys to slap some sample colors onto a small section. Good refinishers will mix to order right on the spot to get the blend you want - ours is a cross between brown walnut and reddish cherry.

Jura Koncius: Thanks.

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Richmond, Va.: My favorite switchplates are the mirrored ones in the bathroom and master bedroom.

Jura Koncius: Love that.

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Takoma Park, Md.: I would like to paint my basement floor white, so it looks less like a dungeon down there. What paint would you recommend for a cement floor, circa 1940? It does get wet from time to time.

Barbara Barry: Why not choose a happy color like a red or apple green? Speak to your local hardware store because these paints are specially formulated and the color range might be limited, but see what they can do.

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Lusby, Md.: Ok, now here is my question...whats better a round or rectangle dining table? Especially, for a small space. Thanks ladies!

Barbara Barry: I always think a round is best. It is more intimate, and you can squeeze more people in a pinch. Happy dining to you...

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Lamp shade cleaning.: I vacuum my lamp shades with the small brush attachment. Works great!

Jura Koncius: Who knew so many of you knew so much about lampshade maintenance! I actually bought a lampshade brush at Gaylord's in Chevy Chase a few years ago. It has nice long soft bristles.

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Del Ray, Va.: For the Washington, DC colonial looking for contemporary stair treads:

http://www.lizaphillipsdesign.com/

We have the set in red and love them.

Jura Koncius: Marvelous.

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Waffling in Virginia: Faced with renovating my Master Bathroom (at last!). I am afraid I will choose something too trendy and/or will look dated at resale time (10+ years) Long term, which would you recommend - use of slate floors/shower area or use wainscoting and white tiles?

Thanks.

Barbara Barry: Go for the wainscoting and white tiles...tradition never dies and that is a fresh classic look that you won't regret and easy for resale.

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RE: closet paint: I painted my 5-year-old's closet bright red. The bedroom was painted yellow many years ago and I didn't know what the color was (didn't know better then to write these things down). We wanted to do shelves and lower rods for her and the closet was still builder grade white. The red looks great and I found great curtains at Ikea with lots of color...

Jura Koncius: How fun to open a closet and see that pop of red. Good ideas.

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Boston: Do I have to be afraid of color? I am moving in a few days to our first home, and I've never been able to paint before. One of the rooms in our new place will be my office, where I'll spend a good amount of time as I will be 50% telecommuting to my job. I really want the wall to be a saturated bright green--like BM Apple Lime Cocktail or BM Napa Vineyards. Of course everyone is telling me that I will get tired of it. What I think I'm tired of, after 12 years of rentals where I couldn't paint, is a boring white wall. It's my room and I can always cover it back up, right?

Terri Sapienza: Those are pretty intense colors, but it's your house you should do whatever you want. And you're right, if you get sick of it, you can simply re-paint. Go for it.

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Alexandria, Va.: Thanks for picking up my back splash question! Can he just pull the tile off the wall and start again or will I have to order new tile? As you can tell, I'm a first time home buyer and a total newbie at all of this.

Jura Koncius: I think you will want him to start with fresh tile. You deserve a good job and you don't want to walk into your kitchen each day and focus on the crooked tile. Professionalism is important.

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Aldie, Va.: You are my favorite furniture designer, Ms. Barry! Your designs evoke elegance, simplicity and calm. I plan to own (at least) one of your beautiful pieces some day. In the Post article today about you, a photo on the lower right on p. 4 shows two matching off-white chairs with gorgeous conical legs, mostly fabric covered. I couldn't find this chair on your website; what is it called?

Barbara Barry: I love these chairs too! I wish you could see more of them in the picture. Go to barbarabarrycompany.com --> furniture --> chairs --> Joan chair. Thank you for your kind words!

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Hanging a roman: Do you mean hang it a few inches wider than the window itself or the window trim?

Barbara Barry: To clarify, I meant the window trim...

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Central Pennsylvania: Watermarks on newly painted bathroom walls: Recently had the bathroom remodeled, including new (and presumably better) exhaust fan (which we run during and after showers). Paint is a semi-gloss, bright blue (water-related name from Duron). Now I'm constantly seeing marks on the walls where water vapor has condensed and then dried. I didn't notice this before when the walls were white. Do I have a problem, or is this common on colored bath walls?

Jura Koncius: I think this is common. I installed a fan in my bathroom a few years ago. It did help but did not eliminate water spots or sometimes a bit of mold in muggy summer months. Be vigilant about wiping down. White is more forgiving than a blue color unfortunately.

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Stafford, Va.: Barbara, you've designed a ton of timeless home furnishings. What project have you enjoyed the most or found most challenging?

Barbara Barry: Thank you for asking. I personally find my own house the most challenging! What we can do for others, we often cannot do for ourselves, so I'm really appreciating this chat! The richness in my work comes from seeing the joy people get out of spaces that serve their lives in ways they never knew "decorating could." I'm decorating right now...I'll keep you posted.

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Centreville, Va.: We are moving our 14-month-old daughter into a new room so that the new baby can have the nursery when he's born in January. We have white furniture for her but I'm having trouble deciding how to decorate her room. I know I want to paint the walls in some shade of lilac so I would love some suggestions on a specific shade. Also, do you recommend using a theme or should I just try to buy items for the room that match the lilac walls? She has a butterfly theme in her nursery so I was considering using that in her new room. I would appreciate any advice you can give me.

Terri Sapienza: Benjamin Moore's Sugarplum might be a good place to start your search. If that color has a little too much pink for you, take a look at BM's Nosegay. I'm not a fan of theme rooms, but if you want to bring them into the room, I would suggest doing so with bedding or accessories that you can easily and inexpensively swap out when she grows tired of them.

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Ashton: Hardwood floors: Had kitchen/dining room/foyer slate torn out while redoing kitchen and replaced with new wood floor. Hawkins Flooring did a superb job and matched my old but refinished adjoining floors perfectly. They are in Damascus/Gaithersburg, MD.

Terri Sapienza: suggestion for a flooring company. thanks.

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Re:cookie jars: I put my wine corks in clear glass jars. Its a nice collection...

Jura Koncius: Nice.

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Bethesda, Md.: Barbara: What are your favorite cities for shopping? I know you travel a lot. What's there to buy in Moscow?

Barbara Barry: Great question for a shopaholic! I can find something anywhere, but my favorite shopping trips are usually in European cities like Paris, London, or Amsterdam. The rich history always gives up some gems. This will be my first trip to Moscow, I'll keep you posted!

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Takoma Park, Md.: Wise women, Love your chats! I am on the hunt for a rug or mat to help create an entry space in my small bungalow. Ideally it would be about 3x5 or slightly smaller, simple, washable and rugged for housing wet shoes, etc. I did a bunch of web searches but am not finding much. Any suggestions? Thanks for all the great advice every week.

Jura Koncius: I actually have a small Oriental rug from Green Front in Farmville (or Manassas) in my entry. I replace it maybe every five years or so. They cost like $59 if you get one on clearance there. They are durable and don't show dirt.

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For Boston: Consider Behr's 'Pear' a bright green I used in a bathroom with white fixtures and light beige tile. Love it but will probably cover it with a neutral before resale.

Terri Sapienza: A color suggestion for the chatter who wants green walls. Thanks.

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Arlington, Va.: Since you design china, tell us what kind of dishes you use on your own table?

Barbara Barry: Another great question! As a designer, I am always looking for the perfect line in anything. I have enough tea cups and dishes to throw a Mad Hatter Tea Party, but recently I made a purchase of my own Radiance dinnerware from Wedgwood, it just arrived and I can't wait to set the table and have a dinner party. Entertaining is the best expression of personal style. I like to break the rules and think of my table as a blank canvas...each time a new painting. I hope this inspires you to do the same!

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Richmond, Va.: Is it possible to get a leather sofa restuffed? I have a leather sofa that I love but one arm has gotten used so much from elbows leaning on it that the stuffing has squished/disappeared to the point that we're practically leaning on wood now. The seats could use some fluffing up too. We really don't want to buy a new sofa as the material is fine.

Thanks for the chats?

Jura Koncius: Yes. This probably could be done. There is a company called Leather Medic that might help you. Go to www.leathermedic.com.

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For the birch shelf...: I put these on mine in front of a window above our sink - I bought them on a business trip.

We have different colors, but I think all of one - like the cobalt blue - would look great. They don't seem to attract dust all that much.

Jura Koncius: Thanks.

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Maryland: I have a basement nook where I sew and do other crafting projects (so yes, please keep the monthly craft article!). Three sides of the nook are doors to storage. I'd like to do some sort of "inspiration wall" but can't figure out the best way to do this. Simply hang cork boards on the doors? Completely cover the doors in cork? Any other ideas?

Terri Sapienza: Do the doors have raised panels? If so, you could always paint or wallpaper the panel then hang cork or a linen bulletin board (or several in a vertical row) so that the color or paper can be seen on the sides and in between the boards.

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Alexandria, Va.: My dining room and kitchen are painted red. Do you really advocate painting the ceiling red, too? Wouldn't it be cave-like?

Barbara Barry: Let's make an exception here...I'm a California girl and I'm used to pale colors. I would suggest a rich Ivory as the white would be too much of a contrast. Hope this helps!

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Washington, D.C.: Loved the section today! Question for Barbara: I'm planning a trip to L.A. later this year. Do you have any favorite home decor stores you'd recommend?

Barbara Barry: Yes, I have many...I would make a point to stop at Grace Home in Brentwood. Safe travels and enjoy.

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Falls Church, Va.: The previous owners of our house did a messy job of painting the walls, and the colorful wall paint is flecked on the door and window trim in a lot of places. We want to touch up the white trim, but don't want to repaint it everywhere. Any tips on matching to an existing white trim? Thanks!

Terri Sapienza: can you contact the previous owners and simply ask them what color they used. That's probably the easiest way to find out.

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Alexandria, Va.: Where is a good place to buy quality slipcovers? Or is it best to just have them made? Where do you go?

Jura Koncius: Custom slipcovers cost more than something readymade but look far more polished. Make sure the sofa is worth keeping and that you can find fabric you like for a reasonable amount of money as labor can be expensive for a job like this and you need a lot of yardage. Try your local fabric store - like Calico Corners or G Street Fabrics.

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Domino March 2006 Question: Hi, the sofa is in yellow -- here's a link to the picture. Thank you!!!

Terri Sapienza: you didn't include the link. We're running out of time, so why don't you email me at sapienzat@washpost.com (with the link included) and I'll see what I can find out.

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Washington, DC: Barbara:

How do you wash your sheets - I know they are all high thread counts. What detergent products do you use and do you use dryer sheets?

Barbara Barry: I wash them twice. One cycle with soap, and one without. It's a really important point not to over dry my sheets because I like to iron them slightly damp as it is so much easier. If you don't iron your sheets, take them out of the dryer still slightly damp (80% dry) and lay them on the bed, smooth them out with your hands, with each fold...and stack them tightly in your linen closet and they will feel as if they were ironed. I never use fabric softener on anything, especially sheets as it coats the fibers and dulls the crispness and hand of the sheeting over time. Freshness is key! Sweet dreams...

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Jura Koncius: Here is a great tip from my colleague John McDonnell. He has a great framer to suggest in Middleburg. at 9 Madison St. Waller Picture Framing. Bill Waller runs a business that has been around since 1969. John says he can match any frame molding and can create custom frames to fit any decor. So nice to have this.

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Jura Koncius: Barbara, thank you so much for joining me and Terri today. I'm looking forward to going back and reading the discussion archive online to find out what you told everyone! Thanks to everyone for being with us today. See you next week.

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Calif.: Hi,

I recently bought a house, and have a fireplace with a slate surround in my living/dining room. Currently the room is a creamy beige with the wall where the fireplace is a dark olive. Any suggestions for a different accent color to use, maybe a slate blue? I don't think all beige will look good, and the room connects to the dining area and kitchen so I'm afraid to try a bold color for the whole space.

Barbara Barry: Call me boring but I would go with the beige throughout and save the accent colors for the furniture, flowers, painting, etc. If you must, choose a slightly different shade of beige.

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