Home Front: Your Design and Decor Dilemmas, Solved

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Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Home Staff
Thursday, November 5, 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, Nov. 5, at 11:00 a.m. ET to take your questions and suggestions. Joining them will be Kelly Porter, a designer and color consultant from Ellicott City, Md.

Local Living cover story: Her kind of office (Post, Nov. 5)

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

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Terri Sapienza: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us. We are excited to have designer and color consultant Kelly Porter joining us today. Kelly recently transformed her family's former dark and masculine home office into a bright, fun and modern space using budget resources and lots of great colors. If you haven't seen today's story about the makeover yet, definitely check it out - it's very inspiring. We'll post a link here in a minute. In the meantime, let's get started with your questions.

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Washington, D.C.: Gorgeous office! I have a chocolate brown office, too, and have been looking for an affordable cream and brown zebra rug like the one in the picture -- can you share your source?

Kelly Porter: Thank you! I bought my zebra rug from HomeGoods (you may have noticed that it's one of my favorite stores!). I've also spotted stylish, affordable area rugs at Lowe's.

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Washington, D.C.: Great job this week, ladies! I just want to say that I loved the office makeover today! It was fun, showed me how I could do something similar by highlighting the design principles and the stores used, and relatively affordable.

Overall, I enjoy your stories that focus on one room, like the nurseries of a few weeks ago or even the closet space in old houses, more than those articles that are one designers take on a whole house. Just my $.02.

washingtonpost.com: Her kind of office (Post, Nov. 5)

Terri Sapienza: Thanks, Washington! Glad to hear you enjoyed today's story. Thanks for comments about the section. I'll be sure to pass them along to my editor.

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Richmond, Va.: A few weeks ago, someone asked about high-efficiency toilets in vintage colors (I think she was in Vienna). Anyway, she might want to look at this product, which is a retrofit: Brondell Bathroom Supplies

Jura Koncius: Wonderful.

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Boston, Mass.: I'm looking for a set of hat boxes, 3-4, in cascading sizes so they can be stacked. They'll be part of the storage in a craft area. I'm having a hard time finding anything that doesn't feel like junk or isn't printed. I'd prefer white or natural but would consider some other solids. Any sources for this? Online would be best.

Terri Sapienza: When you say hat boxes, I assume you mean you want them to be round boxes? If you're willing to comprise with the shape, the Container store has lots of storage box options in neutral colors. From my experience, products from the Container Store are very well made.

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Fairfax, Va.: Re today's home office. It looks nice but there's not a good chair in it! I can understand having dad's old chair as part of the decor -- as a side chair, maybe -- but an office that someone is really going to work in needs a well-designed, adjustable, comfortable office chair. You can get a good one at Ikea or elsewhere for a couple of hundred bucks.

Kelly Porter: I actually have a very comfy velvet chair, and a leather ottoman. As you observed, the desk chairs aren't as comfortable, but I tend to move around in my office and not stay in one chair very long. Also, when my Dad's chair starts to feel hard, I grab a pillow and sit on it!

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Jura Koncius: There was a question on the chat last week regarding the energy efficiency tax credit mentioned in Local Living - so we asked Denise DiFulco who wrote the terrific piece to comment on it. "The Energy Efficiency Tax Credit on the items that qualify ONLY in 2009 and 2010 (i.e. windows and doors) maxes out at $1,500. So yes, you will receive a total tax credit of $1,500 no matter what you spend on those items in either or both years. Just a reminder that the credit is for 30 percent of the purchase price, which is why you can spend up to $5,000. (Thirty percent of $5,000 is $1,500.) The only way to get an additional tax credit is if you purchase items eligible through 2016, such as a geothermal fuel pump or solar water heater. There is no ceiling on the tax credit for those purchases."

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Washington, D.C.: Responding to today's House Calls. Another solution to the sometimes jarring angles that cathedral ceilings can create.. ... paint ceilings and walls the same, light color. We painted our master bedroom BM Woodlawn Blue. Because the light hits the angles of ceilings and wall differently, it looks like we used different colors, but the angles are much softer. Makes it feel more like a cocoon than an unwieldy, cold space.

Terri Sapienza: Good suggestion. We've heard many designers echo the same thoughts. Thanks for writing.

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Lusby, Md.: Thanks ladies and the Washington Post for featuring Mrs. Porter today. If you look at all the design shows on TV one would think African-American designers didn't exist!

Terri Sapienza: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'm glad you liked today's story. I enjoyed working on it and spending some time in that cool office space!

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Black-out curtains: Hi -- I'm looking for bright red, cotton curtain panels that are black-out for our nursery. I'd also like to keep them on the inexpensive side (and not shades/blinds)I've checked Target but those are either more of a dark red or the wrong material. Do you have any idea where I can look? Thanks

Terri Sapienza: Have you tried Ikea,Pier1 or West Elm? Pottery Barn often has simple cotton panels on sale, too. If you find a style and color you like, but they are unlined, you can always have the black out lining added later.

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Denver, Colo.: I'm looking for paint ideas for my north facing kitchen that is currently painted a dull white. Although it has large windows, it doesn't get much natural light between the northern exposure and a tall, spreading shade tree. Cabinets are a golden/orange maple with black appliances and counters. It has cathedral ceilings with espresso rustic wood beams (which carry through the house into other rooms) and is part of a semi-open floor plan with rooms painted in pale ocean colors, blues and greens. Would pale blues or greens make the somewhat dim room appear darker? Is there a brighter color (golds, sands) that could complement the blues and greens in other rooms? Or should I stick with white? Should the walls and very high ceiling (which seems to dominate the room) be the same color?

Kelly Porter: North facing rooms can be tricky. You'll need to select a color that has more clarity and brightness to it, even if it seems a little too vivid. Try Captivating Cream or Honey Blush from Sherwin Williams, or Honeydew is a nice green. I would recommend painting your ceiling the same color as the walls or even go a shade darker, to 'bring it down' some.

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Arlington, Va.: Could you please recommend a couple of places to have persian and/or asian (from Iraq and Pakistan) rugs appraised? Or a place that appraises rugs in general. Thanks.

Jura Koncius: I know of two local auction houses that have regular appraisal days when you can bring things in, including rugs - in fact today there is one at Wechsler's until 4 pm. Up to five items are allowed. (I was actually going to go today with a few items I've been wanting to unload, but am too busy here at work to go at lunch.) They are at 909 E St. NW and have an appraisal day 9 to 4 on the first Thursday of the month. www.weschlers.com. Also Sloan's & Kenyon has regular appraisal sessions. They are at 7034 Wisconsin Ave. in Chevy Chase. www.sloansandkenyon.com Phone: 301 468-4911. They have them 10 to 1 on Tuesdays every week. Good luck.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Jura & Terri, Thanks for taking my question! I have the C and B Hennessy sofa in tomato (Hennessy Sofa) and a room with a lot of light (skylight and 3 large windows). I've tried a number of colors with it but have settled on green...it just seems to go the best. Do you have any recommendations on a specific green or even green tones to avoid? Obviously, I don't want it to look like Xmas 365 days a year!

Thanks!

Kelly Porter: Great color for a sofa! I would stay away from yellow-greens, but how about trying a silvery, organic green such as

Saybrook Sage from Benjamin Moore. It's a soft, subtle green that would not compete with your sofa color.

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Cleveland Park, D.C.: Our new home has a beautiful wood staircase, which I would like to partially cover with a carpet runner. I've never had a stair runner installed before -- what steps should I take to get the job done? Do I shop at a carpet store or a rug store? Who installs a staircase runner? How is it installed? A follow-up design question -- should I have the runner continue down the upstairs hallway?

Terri Sapienza: It's really not that complicated; they hardest part is picking out the rug you want. You can shop at any carpet store (rug store: same thing) and they will install the runner for you. The store will likely have someone go by your home to take exact measurements before the install, but before you start shopping, make note of how many steps you have and the length and width of the hallway, if you want that covered, too. That will give the shop a rough idea of how many sq. feet of carpeting you need.

As for continuing the runner in the hallway, that's a matter of personal preference. I always think it looks great and adds a lot of warmth and continuity to a house.

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Springfield, Va.: We have started searching for a new house, and we've been very frustrated that we can't find any green homes. Seems like everything we've seen in the Virginia burbs are energy hogs -- high ceilings, tons of windows, poorly insulated. Do you know of any builders/communities we might want to consider?

Jura Koncius: You just missed the Charityworks Green Showhouse in McLean, the first carbon neutral show house in our area - it closed last week. You might want to contact www.greenspur.com, a company with sustainable building in mind.

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Jura Koncius: I just ran into my friend Sandy who slipped on an acorn in her driveway and broke her ankle. Are you all having tons of acorns in your yards this year? Any creative solutions for gathering them up or what to do with bags and bags of them after you've collected them. Meanwhile, this is a warning - BE CAREFUL.

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Rug Appraisal: Jahann and Sons in Kensington does great rug appraisals as well as estimates for repair and reweaving. They are free if you want information for yourself, and they are relatively inexpensive if you want a copy in writing for your records. They helped me get enough info about my rug so that I could sell it on CL!

Jura Koncius: Great tip. Thanks.

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Falls Church, Va.: Hi Kelly (Jura and Terri)! Nice job today!

I have a question about the color consulting world, as I think I need a couple hours from a color guru!

Is it reasonable for me to believe that if I had a color consultant come to my home, that he/she could help choose one wall color in a gold/beige tone for my open concept home where we can tie my existing colors together? We need help finding the one color to draw the existing rooms together, and then deciding a ceiling color for all the rooms.

Can this be done in the span of a single visit if he/she brings paint decks to add to mine from Benajmin Moore?

Kelly Porter: Absolutely! A good color consultant will cater to your color preference (and even ask to see paint chips of what you already have in mind). I sometimes like to get clients to think out of the box and consider a variety of hues, but I also understand that I will go home and you will live with the colors, so you need to feel comfortable with your choices. It sounds like the job could be done in one visit, but it also depends on how quickly you make your color decisions.

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Washington, D.C.: Any advice for where to look for upholstered furniture on a budget? I'd also be interested in finding something used and recovering. Any thoughts on Ellicott City shopping -- is it worth the trip?

Terri Sapienza: Craigslist is a great place to look for used upholstered pieces that you can recover. So are flea markets and places like Miss Pixie's on 14th Street and Luckett's in Leesburg.

In today's story, Kelly Porter, who lives in Ellicott City, recommends Main Street in historic Ellicott City as a great place to shop. Her favorite places to go along this strip are: Discoveries, Original Souls and Antique Depot.

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Green homes: The greenest thing to do would be to buy an existing home, rather than a newly built one!

Jura Koncius: Ha! You are right!

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Painting restored: Hi -- I'm looking for a place where I can get an old painting (1800s) restored. I'd like it to be done well but don't want to break the bank! Do you or the chatters have any suggestions? Thanks.

Jura Koncius: You might take it to one of the auction house appraisal days I mentioned earlier. They usually maintain great lists of local restorers.

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Dublin, Va.: I recently cleaned out a closet in our old farmhouse only to discover that many of the clothes stored in there had mildewed, so they had to be thrown away. This is a closet that was added on in an existing bedroom, so there are no unfinished walls, holes, etc. Other than running a dehumidifier, are there any products that could be kept in the closet to absorb moisture? Thank you for your help.

Jura Koncius: Is there an outside wall in this closet? If so, it needs to be insulated. There must be something bringing moisture to that closet, which is disturbing - there are products you can buy in a hardware store to put in closets to absorb moisture and dry the air. Keeping the door to the closet open would help - also keeping a dehumidifier running in the adjoining room would be good. Put clothing in sealed garment bags in there to be safe.

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Acorns: The squirrels are going crazy hiding all nuts they can find. I hear that's a sign of a bad winter to come.

Jura Koncius: Joy.

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Sunny Salt Lake City, Utah: For the person asking about Black-Out Curtains for their nursery -- we came up with a great solution which may help you.

My daughters' room has one window with blinds and a valance curtain rod across the top. We didn't want to have curtain panels to the floor because its a small room but needed to keep the room dark so our baby could sleep.

I bought an adjustable tension rod that was placed inside the window frame and hidden from view by the curtain valance. Then we just drape dark twin sheet folded over twice over it and tuck it under the bottom of the blinds when its naptime or nighttime.

Its nice because when its daytime - you don't have any extra dark panels keeping out the sun and really shows off your window treatments!

The tension rod only cost me $18 .. . We already had the twin sheet...cheapo idea!

Terri Sapienza: Thanks for sharing your solution.

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Washington, D..C.: Hello. I recently bought a house where the window treatments are shutters. It's not my favorite look but I'm accepting them at least for now. But as some need repair, would it look odd to remove them in some rooms? Any suggestions as to what to replace them with? Thank you.

Jura Koncius: Shutters are highly prized by many homeowners and are not cheap to install. But if you aren't crazy about them in some of your rooms, by all means take them off. You might want to keep them in a garage or basement in case when you sell your house the next owner wants them as they are custom. You could replace them with some sort of shades or off the rack panel curtains.

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Ladybugs! : The acorn comment made me think of what my house is contending with en masse -- ladybugs! They are everywhere inside our home. Any ideas about how to get rid of them, or why they're here? We're not the only ones who are hosting them -- they are all over our area. Ugh!

Jura Koncius: Yes. It's their moment before it gets really freezing out there. Just remember they are good luck!

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Washington, D.C.: I have a leather bed (head and foot board) and I want to have something to sit on at the end. Would you recommend a bench or chairs? Should they be fabric opposed to leather? Can you suggest where to look?

Thanks!

Terri Sapienza: I think a bench at the end of the bed sounds like a better option for you, especially because you already have a footboard. Because you already have lots of leather in the room, I would go with a fabric, which will add some softness and a different texture to the space. Most furniture stores carry benches for this purpose, so I would just search around for a style you like best.

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Furniture refinishing: I have a solid teak dining table from India which I want to have refinished. It was poorly refinished in the 1960s and needs to be stripped. I got an estimate from American Hardwoods, but it was $900, which is more than I want to spend. Any other recommendations for refinishers in the DC area? I do want this done right, but I'd like to get a few other estimates for comparison. Thanks!

Jura Koncius: Try Upholstery & Restoration at 4267 Howard St., Kensington, Md. 201 564-0223.

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Q for Kelly: Your office is divine. Does it actually look like that when you are working there or did you set it up a little for the photo shoot? I feel the need for huge, clear work surfaces when I am working, so I never feel like I can dress up my desk.

Kelly Porter: Yes, I must admit that I did tidy up a bit for the photo shoot, but I do keep all of my accessories and photos out. I also usually have fresh flowers somewhere, too. The picture ledge (from IKEA) really helps. Installing it low on the wall makes it perfect for displaying accessories.

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Mt. Airy, Md.: Hi -- I have a newly finished basement, which is fairly large. We painted with Navajo White and Polar Bear and put in a 2-tone dark brown frieze carpeting through the whole basement. Now, we buy furniture. I know -- backwards! What color/s would look nice in a loveseat and chair? It has both Western and Southern exposure, so fairly good light. Thank You!

Terri Sapienza: The white walls and brown flooring you've chosen for your basement has provided you with a completely neutral backdrop, so I think you're free to go with any color or colors you like.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hello. Do you have any ideas on how to organize mail, magazines, paper, etc in a small one bedroom apartment without an office? We are drowning in all the little things that don't have an exact place, but I don't know how to create an organizational system that isn't a desk or an office space. Thanks.

Jura Koncius: Do you have a console table or a small chest with drawers that you can dedicate to this project? I actually use a bookcase in my guest room where I bought wicker organizers at The Container Store. I put my bills to be paid in one of them, school papers in another, and letters to archive/save in another. I also have bins and notebooks for financial statements and health insurance papers. Keep a tray for the day's mail and when you are done looking at it, throw out, shred or recycle as much as you can and file the rest.

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AU Park, D.C.: Hi Ladies -- Beautiful office -- sure I'd get more work done if I ditched our tan/red color scheme. Sorry the hear about the broken ankle. There certainly are tons of acorns this year! I've gathered several to place in large hurricane vases. Just add a chunky candle and you've got a great addition for your fall/Thanksgiving table.

Jura Koncius: Lovely idea.

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Washington, D.C.: Anyone been out to Greenfront lately for rug shopping? I seem to recall it was mostly traditional stuff, and I am looking for wool sisals and more modern rugs. Has it updated its selection?

Jura Koncius: Green Front in Farmville and Manassas is known more for traditional rugs, but they do have many other styles especially in Farmville. You might also try www.capelrugs.com or www.westelm.com.

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Dublin, Va.: Re: moisture in the bedroom closet. No, there are no outside walls in the closet but the floor is over a crawl space. Do you think that could be the source of the moisture? Should we put down a barrier of some kind on the floor?

Jura Koncius: Yes. That certainly could be the issue. Insulation would be your best bet.

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Washington, D.C.: Thanks for taking this question. I'm trying to decide on a rug color for a seating area in the living room. I've got honey-colored parquet flooring (can't do anything about it -- apartment), two dark chocolate arm chairs, and a table of the same color. The sofa is a lighter, cream color. I don't really want to do an area rug, just a rug under the two arm chairs. Other colors in the room (pillows, throws, etc.) are generally light green, sort of seafoam. I do have another set of eggplant colored throw pillows, but I'm not married to either set of pillows and they can be changed easily.

What color(s) would you recommend for under the chairs? The walls are white (again, apartment living, can't do anything), and I want something to break up the dark tones in that area without adding to the general brown-ness of the room. It's a fairly small space.

Terri Sapienza: Why do you just want the area rug under the chairs? Without seeing the space, I would recommend placing the rug under your entire seating area, which will delineate this specific space. And it sounds like you have lots of different colors going on in there already, so I think I would just opt for a plain sisal rug (PB and West Elm and Ikea, I think, have great looking affordable options).

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Omaha, Neb.: I really liked the office redesign! I REALLY liked that the steps and materials involved were reasonable for people on a budget. The "Dream Makeovers" are fun, but it's great to see something I could actually afford to do, too! Thanks again!

Kelly Porter: Thanks for your comment! You're right. The Dream Makeovers are fun but not always realistic for many people. I enjoyed sharing my budget-friendly make-over, and I hope that other readers were inspired, as well.

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Organizing: Ladies, last year one of your Home staff showed how she reorganized her attic space with the help of a professional, I believe the series spanned nearly three months. I would love to know if she's been able to keep the space organized and has gone on to do the same in other rooms. Do you remember the feature? thank you.

Jura Koncius: Here is the answer from Liz Seymour,editor of Local Living: "Yes it is still organized! Frankly, I still have trouble keeping my paperwork and bills organized. But otherwise it's FANTASTIC. I go up to the attic once a month just to make sure everything is still nice and neat. It is one of the best things I've ever done for myself and my house."

I'm going to ask her though where she puts her NEW stuff to store...

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Bethesda, Md.: I love your weekly blog recommendations. A few weeks ago, you highlighted one focused on rugs -- selection, and where to buy. Going nuts -- I can't find it. Can you help? Thanks.

Terri Sapienza: Sure thing. That post was done by local blogger, Pure Style Home. Here's the link: http://purestylehome.blogspot.com/2009/09/natural-rugs-seagrass-sisal-jute.html

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Arlington, Va.: Just a caution on the window tax credit -- as written by Congress it does not give a tax credit for the most efficient windows for northern climates (those that let sun in during colder months). So for best result, make sure and ask lots of questions about whether the windows are truly the best for your climate. Hopefully Congress will fix their mistake soon but until then buyer beware.

Jura Koncius: Thanks.

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Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: For the chatter looking for a bench for the foot of the bed. I just purchased one on line from Ballard Designs. They have a terrific variety of styles and fabrics. I'm very pleased with mine.

Terri Sapienza: Good suggestion. Thanks!

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washingtonpost.com: Organizing the Attic

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Painting Kitchen Cabinets: Hello! I wrote in a few weeks ago about painting cabinets when the rest of the wood in the house is "natural" and then wasn't able to join the live discussion. Yes, we'd like to paint kitchen cabinets (we are thinking white) in our 1940s house. The molding around the doors (there are 4 of them in the kitchen) and the baseboards are all stained but not painted. Do you think this will look ok?

Jura Koncius: It's hard to say without seeing it, but painting something white really doesn't clash with wood.

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Home Remodeling Newbie: We live in Baltimore rowhouse and are undertaking a basic renovation of our small kitchen. New cabinets, sink, countertop, and stove. My plan is to paint and install the cabinets ourselves and to hire an electrician to update the wiring to grounded outlets, install a power strip and hire someone to install the gas stove, and microwave range hood, and hire the measurement and installation of the countertop. Walls will be painted with a tin backsplash. The floor is basic white ceramic tile but in good condition. We are meeting with a potential electrician on Monday. Am I on the right track? Any advice?

Kelly Porter: How fun! Baltimore row houses are very charming and they look so stylish when a modern renovation is done. I love the idea of the tin backsplash. Include stainless appliances (or even small appliances, such as a toaster and coffee maker). Whatever color you're painting the cabinets with, use that same color for accessories and maybe even a painted chair or two.

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Jura Koncius: I asked Liz what she does with the new things she might be storing in her attic. This was her answer. "I don't have any new stuff. I have one large plastic bin up there reserved for things I'm going to donate. Every time Value Village or one of those places calls I bring the box down, itemize my items in writing for tax purposes and then bring the empty bin back upstairs to the attic."

Wow! This is very impressive and clearly her organization tutorial had a huge impact on her!

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Acorns Again: Last year there was a shortage of acorns and squirrels going hungry. So maybe put the acorns where you won't step on them but the squirrels can still get to them would be a great gesture.

Jura Koncius: That is very thoughtful.

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Terri Sapienza: We're out of time today, folks. Thanks for joining us and thanks to Kelly Porter for answering our questions and welcoming us into her home. Chat with everyone next week.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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