Home Front: Your Design and Decor Dilemmas, Solved

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Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Home Staff
Thursday, October 8, 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, Oct. 8, at 11:00 a.m. ET to take your questions and suggestions. Barry Dixon, an interior designer from Warrenton who chaired the design committee for the CharityWorks GreenHouse, will join the discussion.

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

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Jura Koncius: Hi everyone. Terri and I are thrilled to have designer Barry Dixon online with us this morning to answer questions. Barry chaired the Charityworks Green House show house which opens this Saturday in McLean (see today's HOME section for details). The house is full of great tips for eco-friendly living. But fortunately, Barry will answer questions not only about green living, he will even share his favorite paint colors with us. Yeah! So let's get going!

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Desk Chair: I am in search of a desk chair for my husband. His requirements are that it has a high back and has wheels. My only requirement is that it is more interesting than the typical office chair (or at least not ugly). We did not like the options at Staples and Office Depot. Where else should we look? Thanks!

Jura Koncius: What a great question. I would say Design Within Reach and Ikea would have some stylish models. What about all of you out there? Have you found stylish ones? Terri says check out Ballard Designs.

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Glover Park, D.C.: It took forever to find just the right shade of blue for the nursery we just painted, and now we're left with about 6 quart-sized buckets of sample paints, and one full gallon. Other than throwing them out (following District disposal rules, of course) is there anything else we can do with them? We don't have room to store them for potential projects for later on. I'd love to be able to donate them, since each one is basically full, but I have no idea who might actually want them.

Barry Dixon: So thoughtful of you to want to donate your excess paint. I'd suggest Habitat for Humanity (there is a local office in Washington), or a local shelter supported by our numerous indigenous charities. Cheers!

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washingtonpost.com: A Green Scheme (Post, Oct. 8)

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Alexandria, Va.: Good morning, ladies. I always look forward to the Thursday WaPo because of your Homes section and this discussion.

A while back you cited a particular blog, Eddie Ross, which I have been following. However, when I try to pull up this Web site now, I get only related Web sites and can't access the one I want. Do you have any info about this?

Terri Sapienza: I just tried pulling Eddie's blog up and I had no problem. Try doing a Google search for it and clicking on the link.

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Lusby, Md.: Hi ladies, it's your favorite chatter from Lusby. Quick question, I need a great tan/beige color for my living room. I want a warm color that colors great with brown wicker and warm red/burgudy. Something by BM would be great, I leaning towards dark beige or camel back.

Terri Sapienza: Take a look at BM's Clay Beige and Manchester Tan.

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Paint question...: I've got a tiny apartment. The living room is painted Behr Calm Air, and I'd like a pale blue or pale green for my bedroom. I'm sensitive to having some flow between the rooms given the small size. Any ideas? Thanks!

Jura Koncius: Calm Air is a really nice choice. I've looked at the Behr fandeck for choices in blue or green. I like Home Song for a green and Snowdrop for a blue.

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Powder room: Hi Ladies -- I am redoing my small windowless powder room. I have a cream painted vanity cabinet and am thinking of painting the walls in Ben Moore's color 1632(don't know the name) and am thinking of wallpapering the ceiling in a large geometric print with a similar color background. What are your thoughts on wallpapering a ceiling in a small room? I want to somehow give the room some punch.

Terri Sapienza: I think I would do the opposite of what you are thinking: wallpaper the walls, then put the blue on the ceiling and use a white for the trim.

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Rockville, Md.: Good morning ladies and Mr. Dixon: The GreenHouse is fantastic. I absolutely love the balsa wood sphere lamp. Where would I be able to purchase such a lamp (or something similar)?

washingtonpost.com: A Green Scheme (Post, Oct. 8)

Barry Dixon: So happy you like these lights, I do too! I originally saw these green wonders in New Zealand, designed by David Trubridge, an eco-friendly architect. Now they are available in the U.S. through Essenze America in Austin, TX. Fax 775-923-4128 at $315 each. Hope you enjoy them!

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Leesburg, Va.: We would like to paint our basement, which is a long room with some natural light at one end, but not the other. The room is multipurpose, with space for some exercise equipment, TV viewing, and a kids play area (table, chairs, bookcase). The only furniture with color right now is a navy blue sofa that we would like to keep. I don't want it to be too kid-ish, but I'd like to keep it bright -- any suggestions? Oh, and my husband does not like yellow, which was my initial thought. Thanks!

Jura Koncius: Let's see. You want to keep it light and you have a navy sofa. Yellow is out. Navy blue and crisp white is of course a classic look - like Duron's Extra White. What about peachy = Nearly Peach by Duron?

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Washington, D.C.: I want to make my apartment a nice, neutral white color. Any recommendations for the most popular color out there?

Jura Koncius: Many designers swear by Benjamin Moore's Linen White. Some designers mix half and half, Linen White and Decorator's White. Pratt & Lamber's Seed Pearl is also a fave.

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Washington, D.C.: Great article today on the green house. How much more does it cost to build a "green home"? Also, will a family purchase this home or will it remain a "show house"?

Barry Dixon: Thank you for your compliments. Typically, initial costs to build "green" are 10-15% higher than conventional standard. That said, long term savings start immediately with lower energy costs, lower water bills, etc. After 3-4 years the typical homeowner has paid the extra difference and really begins to reap fiscal rewards, not to mention their lowering of environmental costs to future generations. This home is for sale to any lucky family who loves it as much as we do!

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GASP!: Today's House Calls has the dreaded Accent Wall. Whatever shall we do?

Jura Koncius: Take a deep breath and turn the page.

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Need nursery help, please!: Hi there,

Long time reader and first time submitter!

We're expecting our first child in the spring and I'm beginning to think about nursery decor. I'm a big fan of the color scheme in this picture: Color Scheme

But I'm having trouble translating that to actual paint colors. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks oodles!

Terri Sapienza: Congratulations on your baby! If you're just starting to think about a nursery, you're in luck: i'm working on a story for next week about designing a nursery with lots of tips from local designers. Stay tuned.

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Washington, D.C.: Barry: Do you always use low VOC paints? Which brands do you think are the best. Thanks!

Barry Dixon: I personally love the Farrow & Ball green paint collection, not only because of the quality of the base and the pigment saturation, but because of the beautiful range of historic colors they are available in. I always say that looking for a color with Farrow & Ball is like fishing in a very well stocked pond, anything you catch is great! Also, Behr has a new eco-friendly paint collection worth checking out.

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Blue about thowing away leftover blue paint: Freecycle -- someone out there will pick it up from you. People are always posting leftover paint on Freecycle. You can join the D.C./you local Freecyle -- it's a Yahoo group that connects people who have stuff to give away with people who needs stuff. Usually the recipient collects from the giver. The only real rule is that you have to give away the item - you can't sell it.

P.S. - give empty paint cans back to where you bought they paint -- they will properly dispose for you.

Jura Koncius: Great idea.

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Upper NW, D.C.: Any chance the great Ken Burns series on the National Parks will lead to a design trend of bringing the great outdoors indoors? Are there more faux antler lamps in our future?

Jura Koncius: Oh yes. I'm looking for antlers all over Rock Creek Park. Check out the really cool antler curtain tiebacks in the Charityworks Green House show house today in the Home section.

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NW, D.C.: I live in a 1937 row house in upper NW, D.C. It was renovated by its previous owner, who did a great job using high-quality materials. I'd like to make sure to maintain that high-quality look whenever we make changes. Currently on the agenda are new blinds for the living room, which is very close to the street and at street level (that is, passers-by can look directly into the room). For that reason, I'm considering honeycomb shades that can be lowered from the top (lets the light in, but not the neighbors' eyes). Are honeycomb ok, or are they not considered higher-end? Thank you!

Terri Sapienza: I think honeycomb shades are...fine and they'll do the job. Personally, though, I would go with a natural woven shade.

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Dim rooms: I live in a heavily forested area and my house does not get much natural light. At the moment, the entire house interior is white but we'd like to paint to get some colors in the room. Should we stay with very light colors? Thanks for the chats.

Terri Sapienza: How about a nice pale green to reflect the greenery outside?

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Tiles and paint: The tiles in the bathroom are sort of a light orange/peachy color. They're in good shape so I don't want to rip them out, so what's a good paint color for the walls to tone that down? If the vanity cabinets are a dark espresso color, can I get away with a white-ish countertop with the orange-y tiles? The shower and vanity are on opposite ends of the bathroom, so that should help.

Jura Koncius: Peachy and dark espresso. Have you thought of doing wallpaper that would pick up both of those shades? Otherwise, I think a pale peach would be your best bet. What about Delicious Melon or Applecrunch by Behr?

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Help, I need paint advice today!: We're having our downstairs painted. The dining room is Sherwin Williams Antique White and Inviting Ivory (below and above the chair rail, respectively). The attached foyer is Antique White. All trim is Panda White (an off white) All of that looks great. But we are painting our banister rail (the previous owner installed a low quality piece of wood and painted it, so there is not an option of getting a nice wood railing) and don't know what to paint. We chose a sage green and they painted it and it looks awful -- too country! (We're going for "rustic elegance" in our 81 year old home). If we go with the trim color, I fear the rail will get dirty instantly, and that won't look nice.

I need to tell the painters a color by tomorrow morning. Any ideas? Thank you -- Love the chat!

Jura Koncius: I would suggest a glossy black for the railing itself.

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Washington, D.C.: What does "green" mean? and how about "sustainable?" these terms are being tossed around but what do they mean with regard to energy use and savings. Something I can wrap my mind around, please . . . are they just catchy phrases or do they really mean something?

Barry Dixon: Though it can be confusing, they actually do mean something. The thought of going green is synonymous with reducing one's carbon footprint, i.e. consuming less than you put back into the environment. Sustainable refers to products we use in everyday living and designing, i.e. wood, cotton, linen, etc. By employing fast growth, natural products, naturally raised without harmful pesticides, etc. and finding even faster growing substitutes, such as bamboo, balsa wood, etc. we decrease the toll on our natural environment in the process. I also like to think that timeless, classic design is by definition sustainable since it stands the test of time and therefore doesn't need replacing.

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Southwest DC: I live in a studio and am looking for a new sofa. Everything seems to be made for McMansion-sized living rooms. Do you or your readers know of places to find non overstuffed sofas? Ideally I'd love all the love seats from "Mad Men."

Jura Koncius: Love the Mad Men stuff too. You could go vintage and check out thrift shops and consignment stores. Try Belfort Furniture, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Ikea and West Elm.

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Burke, Va.: Uh-oh. I'm a little bit behind on interior design and just found out about this accent wall thing. I was going to repaint my master bedroom with one. Are accent walls now Wrong?

Terri Sapienza: There's nothing "wrong" or "right" when it comes to decorating your own home. You should do what appeals to you and what makes you happy. That said, I personally do not like accent walls. I think that they can work in some settings but that they have to be executed properly. Most of the time, however, I think an accent wall looks non-committal. If you like the color, why not paint the entire room in it? Or keep things neutral and bring the color in with accessories, window treatments, bedding, art, etc.

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Wallpaper ceiling: If your heart is set on a design on the ceiling (interesting idea!) you might want to try the Wallies -- peel and stick decorations for the walls. They are done as murals or as smaller pieces. If you hate it, it's a LOT easier to remove than wallpaper.

Jura Koncius: Adore Wallies.

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Arlington, Va.: In your article, you mentioned using LED lights. Where can I find some?

Jura Koncius: Home Depot is one place.

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Rockville Again: Ok, don't keep us in suspense. What are Mr. Dixon's favorite colors?

Barry Dixon: Asking a designer that question is like asking a mother which is her favorite child. I love so many colors but understand that they aren't all always appropriate in every situation. I often look through the windows of a room to help me decide which favorite to employ. If I see sky and water then moody tints of aqua and blue-green might rise to the surface. In a sunny bedroom facing east I might celebrate the helios gamut of yellow/orange/red. Some recent favorites that evoke these qualities include Farrow & Ball's "Borrowed Light" #235 and "Green-Blue" #84 for the watery tonalities while their "Citron" #74 and "Orangery" #70 will warm the cockles of any room's heart.

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Treadmill solutions: Today's House Call made me wonder: Does anyone have creative solutions for concealing a treadmill, or at least making it less obvious? We use ours several days a week. It's already slightly out-of-the-way in a sunroom. The solution must: 1) ensure that the user is comfortable while jogging (not too cramped, decent ceiling height and ventilation), 2) be safe (e.g., no wobbly decorative screens nearby, as the running causes vibration), 3) permanent (treadmill cannot be moved daily). I don't feel the treadmill needs to be 100 percent concealed, as it's part of our lifestyle and casual home, but it'd be nice to block the view a bit when we have company.

Luckily, we got one with muted colors, so that it kinda already blends with the decor! (If anyone's wondering, it's a Precor, and the newer models are a nice off-white & gray with pleasant orange screens; so much better than gym-like and garish black and red!)

Terri Sapienza: I think a decorative screen would be your best bet. You could keep it folded and put away most of the time and bring it out when you are expecting company. Even if you like to keep it up, folding it and moving it to the side when you use your treadmill would be easy.

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Benjamin Moore: Do you have a sponsorship agreement with Benjamin Moore Paints? I am being facetious, of course. I love this chat and read it regularly. However, I've noticed that whenever a reader (poster?) has a paint question, nine times out of 10 you recommend BM. While I do love their colors and quality, there are other paint lines of good quality that aren't as pricey as BM, and I think you do a disservice to your readers by not suggesting them (i.e. Ralph Lauren, Behr). The walls of my condo are painted a lovely color by Ralph Lauren -- Canvas Neutral, part of the Vintage Masters Collection -- that I got from Home Depot. Just wanted to give RL a shout-out.

Jura Koncius: We try to use paint brands that are easy to find and popular with professionals. Please feel free to chime in with your favorite colors anytime.

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Southern Maryland: I'm considering buying a new sofa from a local furniture store where most everything is custom-ordered. Unfortunately, they do not have a floor model to look at, sit on, etc. Does anyone have experience with England Furniture? They are owned by La-Z-Boy. I've never ordered furniture without being able to look at it first. Thanks!

Jura Koncius: Anyone?

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Paint colors: Barry, thanks for offering to share your favorite paint colors! What would you do with a combo living/dining area (smallish -- in a one-bedroom condo) that has a chair rail? I wanted to leave the chair rail white and have neutral colors, but I'm open to suggestions. There's also a trey ceiling over the dining area.

Barry Dixon: I might offer my favorite new neutral, a warm, embracing off-white from Farrow & Ball called "Clunch" #2009. Slather walls and ceiling with the flat emulsion and, since your room is small, paint all trim, including the chair rail, the same color but in their estate eggshell finish for a subtle gleam. It works every time.

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"Bring the outdoors in": The most overused phrase in decorating -- ugh!

Terri Sapienza: Agreed. Did I say this and not realize it? I'm also tired of hearing this: "...will make it pop." It's like nails on a chalkboard.

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Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: Can you recommend some colors that will open up a small space with lots of windows but no light?

Jura Koncius: Behr's Social Butterfly. Duron's Timid Blue and Martha Stewart for Valspar Silver Artemisia.

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Virginia: On Trading Spaces, I think it was Hildi who covered the walls of a room with fabric.

A small hardware store is going out of business nearby, and they have spools of fabric on sale... and the idea hit me.

I'm thinking about using staples. And I'm getting closer to doing this project. Should I?

Barry Dixon: Definitely, follow your instincts because they are good. I upholster at least one, if not multiple rooms in every home I design. Aside from the color saturation and richness that only fabric affords a space, there is the added "quietness", a blessing unto itself, that the process instills into any project.

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Sheers as shades: The great guy at The District Shade Shop solved the same problem for my mother with Hunter Douglas Silhouette. Mum's is set back from the street -- but is still on street level. These are great because they can act like sheers, like closed shades and you can also let down the top a foot or two for total view of sky -- treetop.

Here's the link to the shades themselves: Hunter-Douglas

Jura Koncius: Thanks.

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re: Hhome in the forest : What light green colors would you suggest?

Jura Koncius: Lab Cabinet by Martha Stewart for Valspar, Farrow & Ball's Cooking Apple Green or Benjamin Moore's Chic Lime.

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Smaller scale furniture: I had the problem of finding only oversized furniture that was not suited for my small LR. At Lay-Z-boy, I found a "loveseat" for a McMansion that was a perfect sofa for my LR. I also purchased a smaller scale modern looking recliner there; it's my favorite reading chair!

Jura Koncius: Oh great. Thanks for telling us.

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Benjamin Moore: Please keep recommending Benjamin Moore! It is the top choice of contractors and designers for good reason. I made the mistake of buying paint at Home Depot (Behr) and ended up having to do three coats and it still looks uneven. You get what you pay for. Ralph Lauren is fine, but it's overpriced and doesn't have the selection of BM. Farrow and Ball is beautiful but I'm not paying $100 for a gallon of paint! That's the one I wish you would stop recommending.

Jura Koncius: We could do a whole chat about this...

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D.C.: For office chairs, try Bova (in old Scan store in Falls Church; also on Rte. 1 north of beltway) or Healthy Back Store, or a "real" office furniture place -- not big box.

Jura Koncius: Great ideas. Thanks.

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Manassas, Va.: Re: the house in the woods -- We're painting our open living area Flowering Herbs by Benjamin Moore. I love it! Warm, neutral, not dated.

Re: bathroom tiles -- We were stuck with turquoise tile on lower walls. I took a piece of tile (removed for new vanity) to the local BM dealer, matched it, then got paint 2 shades lighter for upper walls and ceiling. It looks really good.

Jura Koncius: You rock.

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Green remodeling?: Mr. Dixon, do you have any experience in making an older house (say, pre-1960) green? How difficult/costly is it?

Barry Dixon: I do have this experience and personally, I do not believe it is any more costly than conventional remodeling. Ripping out the standard HVAC system and the unfortunate condenser units that mar our garden landscapes and replacing them with the much more efficient and conveniently buried underground Geothermal systems can be especially rewarding. That's a great place to start. Windows, electrical, and even eco-friendly carpets and materials (no toxic emissions for kids and pets) are other fairly easy green fixes. And don't forget to repurpose what you remove from your old home.

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Potomac, Md.: I would like to put a corkboard face on sliding cabinet doors. Where can I find rolls of 1/4" corkboard locally for this project. I know it can be ordered through Home Depot and Lowes, but I'd like to see the product first.

I will be affixing the cork to a piece of 1/4" inch plywood that will slide on a track.

Thanks.

Terri Sapienza: You might try a smaller, locally owned hardware store and see if they carry it on the floor.(Neither HD or Lowes has a sample on the floor?) Otherwise, I think corkboard is corkboard and probably not too expensive, so you may just want to order it. Can't you return it if you don't like it anyway?

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Fairfax, Va.: Sorry this has nothing to do with going green but I need a professional's take on painting the ceiling the same color as the wall. My husband and I will be rolling the paint this weekend so please, please, please take my question!

Jura Koncius: Some designers do like to do that - it risks making the room look smaller if you use a dark color.

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North Dakota: Love HomeFront and the fascinating questions/answers.

People keep asking about tile colors they don't like. Rustoleum has new products for painting tile and even countertops! Rust-Oleum

Poster asked about tubular skylights last week. My brother put two in his house by himself and he's only moderately handy. Makes a world of difference in those previously dark hallways!

There was a clarification about linoleum last week. I'm so tired of everyone, even decorators on TV calling sheet vinyl "linoleum". Maybe Farbo/Marmoleum should start making a fuss about misuse of the term.

"Milwaukee" was looking for unscented candles. Hobby Lobby has lots, if she has those stores in her area.

Jura Koncius: Thank you North Dakota! You're a wonderful source of info.

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Studio sofa: I had the same dilemma -- I got a Sherrill sofa at Random Harvest that I love love love. You can buy your own fabric and have it recovered. It was $2k but for a small space very worth it.

Jura Koncius: love love love it.

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Potomac, Md.: For everyone considering paint colors for dim rooms, check out the Colour Me Happy blog by Maria Killam (learned about it from WP). One of her entries makes a pretty good argument for why NOT to use pale colors in poorly lit spaces (basically, the pale colors will tend to "gray-out").

Jura Koncius: Great tip.

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RE: Jura Koncius: Behr's Social Butterfly. Duron's Timid Blue and Martha Stewart for Valspar Silver Artemisia. : I see you guys took a posters advice and offered paint brands other then BM.

Jura Koncius: We always love our reader's comments!

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Annapolis, Md.: I am struggling with a flooring choice for the lower level of our split foyer with really low ceilings (about 7"). We fell in love with a cork floor that clicks in place. The planks are wide and dark which we love but we're concerned whether that will make the room appear even closer in. Would this be a bad choice? Our walls are painted BM Camouflage with an off white ceiling. Thank you!

Barry Dixon: First of all, I love your paint colors. I have used BM camouflage before to great effect. The natural and organic nature of your cork floor selection is well suited to these tones. I would run the wide plank in the short direction of your assumed rectangular floor space. This, like vertical stripes on a short wall, will add perceived scale and dimension. Cheers!

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Alexandria, Va.: The dining room chandelier is supposed to be centered over the table, correct? My chandelier is smack in the center of the 11 x 11 ceiling. I can't place the table in the center of the room because that would mean no space for my server. So the table is placed off center, and the chandelier is not centered over the table. Now, I want a new chandelier. As long as I'm getting a new one, should I swag the chain so the light is over the table? Is swagging still in style? Thanks.

Barry Dixon: Though we have seen the swag chain effect many times, old sets of the Mary Tyler Moore show come to mind (great show, bad interiors), I think the effect is as out of date as Mary's pant suits. It is definitely worth the extra effort to center the light over your dining table. Small, thoughtful, and efficient details like this produce the best interior spaces. You won't regret it!

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Rockville, Md.: I want to do a backsplash in my kitchen I have dark green granite countertops, the walls are a light green, cabinets are sort of a medium honey color and stainless steel appliances. It's a small condo kitchen what kind of tile or material would you suggest for the backsplash? I would just be doing underneath the countertops. Also where is a good tile store? Thanks!

Jura Koncius: Have you thought about a mirrored backsplash? I love mine and it makes a small kitchen look larger and gives it a great sparkle. Renaissance Tile in Alexandria and Architectural Ceramics in Rockville are two good tile sources that we know of. Anyone else have a tile place name to share?

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Donating paint:: Don't forget about Rebuilding Together (formerly Christmas in April), which repairs, rehabilitates and makes accessibility modifications for low-income homeowners who are elderly, disabled and/or families with children! To find your nearest chapter (there are quite a few in the DC area), go to Rebuilding Together.

Jura Koncius: great.

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Reston, Va.: Do you know of anyone who will paint a metal chandelier for me? It is just plain metal, not brass or anything. I have painted it by hand a number of times, trying to get close to the right color but now I am tired of painting! I have called a number of auto body places but haven't found anyone who is willing yet. Thanks so much.

Terri Sapienza: What color are you trying to paint it and not getting right? Are you painting with a brush? I think spray painting a metal chandelier would be quick and easy.

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Picture Frames, Va.: I bought 5 matted photos at an arts festival last weekend and didn't splurge for the custom framing, so what's my next step? With the matte it measures 7"x7." I bought a frame from Michael's, that I was about 8x8 and it doesn't work. Some of the photos are more vertical than square, if that makes sense, so in the Michael's frame there was just too much white space, overwhelming the tiny photo. I'd prefer not to spend a ton of money either.

Jura Koncius: You might consider having them rematted to fit a standard size frame.

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Pigtown: After years of reading about paint questions, I finally understand the quandary that people have with colors. I am charged with selecting a paint color for the 1850s house where I work. Although it's not a "historic" house, we do want to respect its age and history.

After painting samples of six different yellows, and four other colors including the famous Silver Sage, we've finally settled on one: Pale Cowslip by Laura Ashley. I've been writing about it on my blog and have gotten tons of great suggestions that I never would have known otherwise.

Terri Sapienza: thanks, Pigtown! Laura Ashley is such a name from the past. My bedroom at my parent's house was wallpapered in a LA print. I loved it.

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Alexandria, Va.: For leftover paint -- try a local middle or high school drama department!

Terri Sapienza: Yes, another good suggestion. thank you.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi, I have two questions.

1. Is the Washington Design Center show this weekend of interest to someone on a budget? Or are the discounts from say $10,000 to 5,000 for a carpet?

2. I am moving out of my rental apartment tomorrow. I have a feeling the landlord is going to think my bathtub tiles are dirty. The grout has blackened over time. I've tried cleaning with Method and Soft scrub with bleach and it doesn´t come out. Is there something else I can use or should I just forget it?

Thanks!

Jura Koncius: It's always worth checking out the Washington Design Center sale - some floor models and accessories or fabric samples can be really good deals. As for your grout, I'd say forget-about-it! You did your best!

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Exterior paint color: I posted this later during last week's chat so didn't get an answer, and need help. I'm having the outside of my house in New England painted, and looking for the right yellow. Can you please suggest a few yellows, in Benjamin Moore or other palettes? I want yellow, not mustard or cream.

I know it's a challenging color to get right for an interior, and need advice for the right exterior...this will have to last for a while.

Thank you.

Barry Dixon: I have one you may wish to try. Farrow & Ball's "Dorset Cream" #68 is actually, contrary to its name, a cheerful, but not overpowering yellow for an historic exterior. Remember to factor in the bright yellow inducing light of the sun on your home, which exaggerates warm and yellow tones. Good luck!

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Alexandria, Va.: Our row house has two staircases in the same room (one goes up, one goes down). One railing is original to the house, with white slats and a dark-brown painted hand-rail. The other railing is newer and was part of a renovation, with white slats and a natural oak hand-rail. They're in the same room with an oak floor, and I'd like the handrails to match. There's nothing else the dark-brown painted hand-rail matches, but I don't know if I should paint both hand-rails white, or strip the paint, or something else. I'm also not crazy about oak, so painting is fine with me. What do you suggest?

Barry Dixon: I'd bite the bullet and paint all the handrails and railings as well as the stair risers and stringer the same white tone. Be sure to use an eggshell finish paint and to think "eco-friendly".

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Office Chair: I'm a big guy, and the $700 I spent on my Aeron chair ten years ago has paid me back many times over. Now that the economy is in the dumper, you can probably find great deals on Herman Miller through Craigslist or anywhere failed mortgage brokers sell their stuff.

Terri Sapienza: You could also check out eBay to find deals. But, I would definitely test one out before you buy. Some people love them, but others don't. I had one at work and hated it - I felt like it didn't provide me with enough back support. Someone once told me that men like them better than women typically do. But, like I said, like this poster, some people swear by them.

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Paint and tiles: Thanks Manassas for the great idea! I think a light peach would like nice on the walls and contrast nicely with espresso cabinets. Now, will a white countertop still work? Is there an eco-friendly one I can get?

Jura Koncius: White or off white. Or a neat texture. Eco by Cosentino (www.ecobycosentino) is featured in Barry Dixon's kitchen in the Charityworks Green House. It's made of 75 percent recycled materials including glass bottles, salvaged mirrors and porcelain from sinks, etc.

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Re: small sofa: Crate and Barrel carries "apartment-sized" options in many of their sofas. Look online or ask a sales rep at the store. Also, Room and Board has some nice streamlined options, and I think they also offer a couple of lengths.

Jura Koncius: Terrific. Thanks.

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Embracing old tile: Just wanted to write with a success story. After 4 years of trying to downplay the floor to ceiling pink tile in my bathroom, I decided to embrace it. I found a rug at Anthropologie with a rich orange and deep dark pink pattern and added towels with those same deep pink and orange colors. I added a collection of antique glassware to the small shelves over the toilet (some with pink and orange to tie in, but also other colors) and hung a piece of art that features the deep orange prominently. While all of this may sound odd "on paper," embracing the pale pink of the tile and kicking it up a few (many!) notches with saturated, dark pinks and oranges really made all the difference -- love it!

Jura Koncius: How fabulous! Send us a photo. It sounds like you did a great job working with what you had and making it stylish!

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Chandelier painting: I am painting it....a magenta plum color, which is why I am not spraying it with premixed spray paint. (Really, it's going to be beautiful eventually!) I am using a brush and it is tedious. Sometimes too lipstick-y, sometimes too purple, changes with light, first coat looked pepto-ish despite perfect paint match with chairback upholstery. I need a professional! Thanks again.

Terri Sapienza: The Benjamin Moore paint store located at 504 K Street NW will put any paint color you want into a spray can.

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Clifton, Va.: How's about a cost analysis of your eco friendly designs?

Cost non eco friendly Cost eco friendly

Any payback?

I wouldn't mind using reclaimed hardwood for trim or my floors but how much more is it going to cost me?

Geo thermal or a high efficiency HVAC but how much more?

And the same with dual flush toilets? How much more and how long is the back which I suspect is a decade or more.

Barry Dixon: I hope you'll be able, since you have so many valid and pertinent questions to visit the CharityWorks GreenHouse, featured in the Post Home section today. I believe that each of your questions are addressed in depth through the various booklets and pamphlets we're giving away in our resource room. Hope to see you there. Best of luck!

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Jura Koncius: We'd like to thank Barry Dixon for joining us and sharing some of his favorite paint colors as well as his green wisdom. See you all next week.

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