Please Tell Me Your Biggest Decorating Problem

Hi Everyone,

Here we are; it’s the beginning of the year’s fourth quarter. Although, here in the northeast, we don’t need to look at a calendar to realize that.

The daylight hours are growing shorter. And in perfect Truman Show-esque synchronicity, Boston’s temps stayed below 70 degrees the third week of September. Last night, walking home after a gathering with friends, it was downright chilly.

Yes, winter is on its way.


photo @ditteisager @roman_and_williams_ Veronika bar

photo @ditteisager @roman_and_williams_ Veronika bar

(I’m adding a few images from the gorgeous Roman and Williams Instagram account. It’s quite beautiful)


This is also the time of year when I am the busiest, not only with the blogs but with updating Laurel’s Rolodex, The Etsy Guide, and an update to the Six Figure Income Blogger this fall.


The latter, I wish I had named it something else, like “How to Run a Website for Profit.” That’s because the information doesn’t just apply to people who blog. The guidance applies to everyone who has a website.

Blogging refers to the idea that one can make changes to their website without having to hire a developer to do everything for you. Websites that rarely change get shoved aside in favor of websites with a steady stream of new content.

Note: If anyone is looking for an update for their Rolodex, it gets sent out every year in November. Your download link never changes, so if you can find an old email from Sendowl, you can always use that link.


I am also busy with work having to do with my impending renovation.


Now, don’t get too excited. Work is not going to commence still for several more months. However, there is movement, and I hope to be able to give you some super good news this week or next.

There is also a fair amount of boring behind-the-scenes website stuff.


I may have mentioned this a few months ago, but every once in a while, I’m going to do what I’m doing right now, and that is to let you guys “write” the post.


Roman and Williams Instagram - lovely Veronika

Roman and Williams on Instagram


So, for this post, in the comments, this is a chance to ask your interior design and decorating questions or share what you’d like me to write about. Please share a decorating problem.


What is your biggest decorating problem?


This is an experiment; if it goes well, I’ll do it four to six times a year. For this first forum, we’ll call it; I’m keeping it fairly general. On other occasions, I might pick a topic for questions and discussion.


But, please know that some ground rules exist when sharing your decorating problem.


  • First and foremost, please be kind and respectful to everyone else.


Below, I’ll give you an example of the kind of comment I don’t wish to see.


A kind reader says:

“I need a washing machine, and in my 800-square-foot home, the only possible place is in the entry closet. But, since the home doesn’t have an entrance, the washing machine will effectively be in the living room.” Would that be so terrible? There will still be room to use the other half of the closet for coats, etc.” ~ Martha Washington


Below is an inappropriate response.


“Martha, Are you crazy? Who in their right mind would put a washing machine in their living room?”

It doesn’t matter. It’s not our place to judge or place labels on people we don’t know. Most of you fully understand. I’m only trying to head off potential problems. Also, if someone does say something nasty, please don’t jump in with something like:

“Nasti, I couldn’t agree with you more. Martha, for God’s sake, don’t put your washing machine in the living room. — Yeesh!”

This is why I don’t allow inflammatory comments. They’re not helpful and create ill will.


gorgeous design - no decorating problem here! interior design by@roman_and_williams_ on Instagram - photo Adrian Gaut @a_gaut - mural - Dean Barger @deanbarger


@roman_and_williams_ on Instagram – photo Adrian Gaut @a_gaut – mural – Dean Barger @deanbarger I adore this gorgeous interior design by Roman and Williams.


  • Please keep your questions to one or two at the most. And, it is easier if we can keep questions relatively brief and to the point.


  • You may also ask about a topic you’d like me to write a post about.


  • Please note: Spaces like basements, attics, and porches are not good blog topics because the number of readers who would be interested is too small a percentage.


  • Please address your answers to whoever is asking a question because otherwise, it might not be clear.


Since I haven’t done this before, I don’t know what will happen.


  • Also, it is possible your question won’t be answered.


Okay, I will turn it over to y’all!

What is your biggest decorating problem?

***Note from Laurel, Sunday 4:25 PM ET – I’m trying my best to read everything. One pattern I’m noticing is that a LOT of your questions are answered in one or sometimes numerous posts, already written. To find the posts, on desktop or tablet, there is a search box on the blog sidebar, directly under my little pic and mini-bio.

On mobile, there is magnifying glass icon in the header of every page. If you click on it, you find a nice big search box.

It works, I have used the search box thousands of times.



PS: Please check out the recently updated HOT SALES!


264 Responses

  1. I have a couple of dilemmas:
    (1) I live everything, leading to analysis paralysis. I cannot decide which I like more. I’ve been reading the blog for years. I’m working with some existing pieces, a very small budget, and coordinating with the rest of the house, in my living room, and I keep reworking what I’ve already done. It’s just enough smaller than Laurel’s floor plans to screw things up, but I think I have it worked out. I just have to decide next moves and I cannot seem to fire the bullet when it comes to actually spending some of my budget – I keep going to FreeCycle, etc. and “trying things”. BTW, I love the Cleveland Green paint – it really does go with everything.
    (2) I REALLY want a fox hunt panoramic wall mural in that room that I have yet to find. (Maybe that’s part of my problem in (1), since they are so expensive, even discounted – The Mural Source had one, but, I wasn’t in luuuuv . . . ). However, I don’t know what to do on the walls if one puts a mural up. All of the pictures I see online highlight the mural and don’t really show anything/much on the walls if there’s a mural up. It frightens me to put a hole in my (expensive) mural to hang a picture, light, etc. over it. Furniture (bookcase) in front of it? Where does this mural really end? All the way around the room – I have wall-to-wall floor-to-ceiling drapes on the one wall that I would like to keep. Thoughts?

    1. Hi Sue,

      It’s very difficult to give advice without seeing what’s going on and then taking the time to figure it out. You’re there and you’re struggling. This is why I can’t do consults any longer. Like now, I should be going to sleep. haha, but I’m never caught up.

      Perhaps you should find a professional pair of eyes to bounce your ideas around with. Believe me, I could use that too, sometimes. Decorating for oneself is never easy.

      At least it isn’t for me.

      1. Thanks, Laurel. In regard to (1), I went back to the basics, and started with your 12-step plan, and think I discovered the source of my anguish. While I really thought I knew my style (I liked to call it “European eclectic funk” or “Ralph Lauren’s fabulously gay brother”), I was actually wrong. When I started pinning rooms I LOVED, all of them (and I mean ALL) were monochromatic. So, kudos to you. Short-cuts never work. I should have taken the time to actually do the steps the right way.

        Re (2) Any thoughts on doing a blog about decorating around panoramic murals? What considerations re: furniture should one have when one decides if a room is suited to a panoramic mural v. panels – mirrors, tall case pieces, etc.? Does one bother to decorate the walls once one hangs a mural – pictures, sconces, etc.? The thought of puncturing one scares me!

  2. Laurel! Glad you asked! I hope I’m not too late to this party. I have a cute Nantucket/Victorian cottage. Almost a shotgun style. You walk into a sweet, small, brick floor foyer and are facing a small dining area. Turn to the left and you will see the dilemma…right past my living area there are three openings/doorways. One opening is to a our little coffered ceiling sunroom, the next opening is to the 20 ft long hall with builtins on one side (hall is about 5 ft wide) , and the last door/opening is what I call my Butler Pantry Closet which has louvered double doors. What do I do with all of these openings/doors that are right off the main area?? I know how to handle it in a hall area, but the living room? I’m stumped! I’m a faithful reader of your blog…I know you’ll have some great ideas!

  3. Any suggestions on how to create more of an entry when our front door opens up to our stairs? There is about 3ft of clearance between the stairs and front door and it is one right behind the other. Immediately to the left is the (small) dining room which you are basically in once you open the door. To the right is a living room, and the entrance to this room gets blocked when the door is open.

  4. I’m late in reading this great post! Lots to take in …
    My two biggest decorating dilemmas:
    #1 –
    Which wall paint color to use in my master bedroom. The room itself is too big and the furniture is dark. The current wall color is light maize, and trim is ivory. Carpet is ivory color. The room needs cozying up – more warmth and color! I do know the colors I don’t want, so that helps. Leaning towards a coral or warm orange! Definitely out of my comfort zone. I wonder how to know if this color will work? Should I paint one wall to see how it works before doing the whole room? It’s a major job, and I don’t have mood board software for preview.

    #2 –
    I need a large family room rug and prefer Persian or Oushak style.
    It’s difficult to select a rug pattern and color from a website. I am not close to any rug stores to see in person.
    When dealing with a large rug, it’s a pain to send back if it doesn’t work.
    I’m sure designers can visualize how a rug will look before placing it, but I have no idea. I’m still living with a rug bought 15 years ago that I should have taken back, but it was such a hassle.
    Also, they’re expensive, so want to get it right the first time. Again, I have no mood board.

    1. Hi! Here’s my designer trick for ordering rugs online: order the smallest size, usually a 2×3. You can see the quality of the pile, the colors, etc, although the pattern/scale will obviously be different. A 2×3 is easy to return, and if inexpensive, you might want to keep for the bath or another use!

      1. Thank you much! Guess I shouldn’t even consider those “antique” or one-of-kind rugs … to make the process simpler.

        1. Dee- I would never buy a true antique or valuable hand made rug without seeing it first (and adding several zeros to your cost) There are wonderful rugs out there now that are affordable, easily cleanable (Ruggable) and much more practical for most families!

      2. Thanks, I do need something family friendly with my bunch!
        But I heard of and was browsing there. They have one of a kind rugs. I would really need to make sure rug would work.

    2. About the color—isn’t orange a stimulating color? A pale salmon pink might work, if you want something warm. Or you could go dark and moody.

  5. Hi Laurel – Here is a how to idea: I want to make my on Chinoiserie Panels. I love them but really don’t want to pay an enormous about of money. I purchased 2 24×48″ canvas boards and can get the bamboo frame at and paint to my liking. My problem is finding the wallpaper. Do you have any suggestions. What do designers do with their leftovers? Is there a graveyard for discontinued wallpaper?

    1. Lisa-
      Murals are making a big comeback, and are not expensive. The nice thing is that you can order only the panels you want.
      Wallpaper could work too, but you have to order a double roll. Google Chinoiserie Panels and I’m sure you will find some great options!

  6. My dilemma- small living room without a single solid wall! 7’ wide opening from foyer, same size opening to dining room but with pocket doors, then another wall with single window and last wall with double window. It’s a 1910 Foursquare so all rooms are approximately 12 x 12 – lots of woodwork and large windows Furniture layout is so tough if you need to accommodate more than 6 people

    1. Our living room has the same issue. Wide opening to hall, French doors to patio, fireplace with tall narrow windows on either side, and a wall of built-ins about 2 feet deep, surrounding more windows. The floor area is about 12×14, but cabinet doors from the builtins open into the room, so we end up with about the same amount of floor space you have. Except for two small tables and a dictionary stand, our furniture floats, centered around the fireplace. If we want to seat more than four comfortably, we bring in chairs. It is what it is, and since there are only two of us, we don’t have a problem with it. But if our household were larger, we probably would have floated a sectional, with one small upholstered chair for balance, dispensed with the small tables and dictionary stand, and used standing lamps for light.

      One thing that helps with our arrangement is that three tables, including the small coffee table, have glass tops. They give a much lighter look to a tight space.

  7. My question is about decorating a living room and dining room that are separated only by a wide arch, really just the narrow remains of the wall that used to be there. Should the two rooms be painted the same colour? Should the window treatments use the same fabric?
    The living room was recently painted a deep inky blue, which I LOVE, based on a colour in the curtains, which I also love. But it’s a bit of an intense look and I worry that it would be overwhelming if extended to the dining room. They are not large rooms, about 10×12 ft dining room and 15×15 ft living room. If it matters, when we have all the kids over, we have to move some of the living room furniture and extend the dining table into the living room.

    1. Just paint the ceiling of the dining room the same inky blue. Repeat the color in window treatments, chair seats, or china, just to tie it together! Painted ceilings are very fun!!

      1. Wow, and I thought painting the LR dark blue was bold! This is a very intriguing idea, if I can get my husband to agree. Thank you for the suggestion!

  8. Oh thank goodness! I thought I was alone in having problems like these! I don’t think I’ve ever seen sooo many comments, Laurel. It’s a great idea, I think, to make your blog even more interactive with your readers. I was going to write that I have one problem, but reading Lisa’s post made me realize I have two.

    I share Lisa’s dilemma. I’m pretty good with scale, proportion, figuring out what furniture and placement works, even what shapes. I’m getting better at lighting and rugs (okay, I ask my oldest niece who is a whiz with such things), but finishing a room with art and plants and pillows and accessories–well, that just feels really hard, and I often give up. It’s kind of like an outfit that not quite right, but darned if I can put my finger on just why.

    My second issue is making my entry feel welcoming, or at least interesting. When you walk in the front door, there are tiny bits of wall to the left and right, ginormous openings to the dining room on the right and the little library on the left, then two more bits of wall. The door is white. The entry is China White–never again, such as tricky white. I’m thinking of putting up some wall molding to 2/3 height and then grasscloth. Anyway, I’m having trouble pulling the trigger on the next step—ooohh, that might make a good post, too! The procrastinating decorator!

    1. Why not just paint your entry walls an accent color you like (and is incorporated in your adjacent rooms)? White is so boring for an entry…and paint is your biggest bang for your $$$!

  9. My biggest decorating dilemma is my husband (haha). We recently bought a beautiful 1925 Tudor with amazing architectural details and all the necessary modern upgrades (double paned windows, updated systems, etc) so needless to say, I was excited to decorate. My issue is my husband doesn’t want to talk about decorating (or only has the bandwidth for 3 minute spurts), can’t really tell me why he doesn’t like something (which is most things “it just doesn’t feel good”), “doesn’t care” (the white walls are good enough because they’re doing their job of holding up the ceiling) but has tons of opinions when shown any options.

    Usually the interior designer will serve as pseudo marriage counselor but I really don’t want to hire anyone as I feel like this is a passion of mine that I’ve dedicated years educating myself on. He “doesn’t care” and I care so deeply … so how do you help your client (husband) find his decorating style and then mesh / compromise so everyone feels at home when it’s all done? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jessica: I am a designer and run into this all the time with my clients. With my own husband it of course is a bit different. I am passionate about my home and to him it is just a bathroom in the basement (our last project). So I just start. Make your plan (do not start with paint)! Figure out how you want your space to look, what you can do yourself and what you need to farm out. What you have that you can repurpose, and what your expectations of him are. Don’t overwhelm him with detail. Usually they just want to know what they have to do and how much it is going to cost! If he says he doesn’t care, trust him he probably doesn’t. The benefit to this is you’re free to do what you want.
      My husband is always thrilled with the end result. He actually struts around the space and pats himself on the back. I of course didn’t have a thing to do with it!!! But, he doesn’t have the vision. That’s my job. Not everyone is passionate about their home and that’s ok. We’ve been married for 49 years done tons of DIY and although this last one about killed us both we’re still married. Good luck.

  10. I might be too late to the party but could you do a post on adding character to or decorating a builder Spanish style house? I applied a lot of your lessons to my 1940s bungalow. But now I’ve moved to a 2007 “Spanish”. Adding interest with molding just doesn’t feel right in this house. I love the 1920s Spanish Colonials and a post on how to achieve that look would be wonderful. I keep on looking at Mark Sikes and Patina Farm for inspiration. Is there anywhere else I should be looking?

  11. Have you ever heard the following saying? “He/She is great at making the sale but just can’t close the deal.” Maybe I made it up – I don’t know but I feel like that is me with decorating. The bones (furniture) in my home are wonderfully curated by me overtime but it closing the deal that is frustrating and by that I mean the final details with the accessories and art – accessorizing can be overwhelming. Laurel your blog has helped tremendously with so many decisions. When in doubt, I go to your site and do a search. I also have your rolodex. Are we really never finished? I think it has morphed into a hobby because I like to move furniture and accessories around the house all the time. It is like getting something new when you see it in a new space. I shop thrift stores as well as nice furniture stores and even do furniture makeovers. I love a deal but I also put so much passion and energy in to everything I buy. I really have to love it and wear myself out trying to make a decision. So my decorating seems to go on and on endlessly. I searched for a table for 2 years for my new room addition and walked in a store the other day and bought it on the spot. I knew it when I saw it! Sometimes my taste exceeds my pocketbook and if I can’t get exactly what I want – I wait until I can. Is anyone else like this or are you spontaneous shopper?

  12. I have loved reading the advice on what to do to de-fugly brick fireplaces. I have a similar but different problem DH is one of those wood is good guys.
    The end wall of our living room has 4′ wide built in bookcases/shelving made out of some kind of solid wood on either side of a 6′ wide strip of floor to ceiling fugly brick behind a black iron woodstove. 3 problems. He objects to painting the bookcases/shelving and the brick, and I know the woodstove cannot be painted. The room is painted Farrow and Ball Cats Paw. I have thought about painting the bookcases and the brick the same color as the walls when he is out of town, and just living with one fugly thing (the woodstove). Any thoughts?

  13. Laurel, thank you so much for you constant and excellent expert advice and perspective, great humor, helpful information, and for all of the spectacular “eye candy” you provide in your posts! Even for those of us on extreme budgets, it is quite helpful. You may have no real idea how much you are really benefitting everyone, even those of us who are forced to be DIYers.
    I had been trying to keep up with the replies to see if I could weigh in on a couple, instead of creating my own, but you have SO MANY, and many great ones to read already (and I can’t keep up). I just know you will provide great content and ideas for those needing it the most.
    I JUST WANT TO THANK YOU for all that you do for all of us and for ALL the great content you provide! Your blog is the ONE that I will not miss!!

  14. Hi Laurel
    Have you got some work cut for you reading all these comments!! I’m a long time reader and can’t wait to see the posts from these comments!

    I hope you make it this far. My big hang up is my living room layout. The house is a 1970s colonial and the room is 16’10” x 14’10” with a big window on one long wall, opening to the foyer on a short wall and opening to the dining area on the far end of the other long wall. Furniture is a sofa, coffee table, 2 arm chairs, 2 smallish armoires and an upright piano. Right now the sofa is in front of the window but I would like to switch things around and put a console with shelves for plants in front of the window. I’ve played around with grid paper but just can settle on something that works well with the traffic flow through the room, good conversation and pleasing to look at.

    I know you have some posts on this issue and I love them. I could read those posts all day and wish you would do more of them with various layouts and modest room sizes like mine.


  15. Hello Laurel!
    Thank you for the opportunity to ask for help from your readers and yourself, if time permits. I know you have a lot of questions asked of you as we all trust your advice and experience.
    My question is concerning a stain color for our 2 1/2” red oak floors. We had a 50 gallon water heater spill in our narrow hallway and some flooring will have to be replaced and the connecting floors sanded down and restained. The floors include our hallway, den, front foyer (narrow), living room (yes, an under used room but I hope to change that) and dining room. Our current stain color is Min Wax provincial which has more of a yellow tone than I want now. We do not have a lot of natural light in any of our spaces so I am concerned about going much darker. My husband does not care for the “bleached “ oak look and I really can’t see this on our narrow boards. I also don’t care for a gray tone either. My dining furniture is mahogany and our den furniture is medium to darker oak.
    Any advice will be greatly appreciated as I will have to make a decision by Thursday of this week. Thanks again as this opportunity to ask a question came at a great time for me.

    1. We have the same floors and went with Rubio Monocoat, a European hard oil finish, in Castle Brown, a light to medium brown. Our contractor, housekeeper, and the floor guy—none of whom had had any previous experience with a hard oil finish—are total converts, as are we. The huge advantage, aside from beauty and ease of care, is that not only do you never have to refinish your floors again, but you can refinish in stages rather than all at once. The oil bonds with the wood fibers, and once bonded, the fibers can’t accept any more. We had to do our floors in stages, and no one would ever know. You can touch up small areas, such as scratches, if needed. There is a curing period of several days.

        1. You can order online. Fortunately our floor guy was willing to explore something unfamiliar.

      1. Unfortunately we can hardly get this guy to respond to a text or answer his phone. We have called the lady that recommended him and she says he’s busy. She owns a flooring store and knows him so I have to trust her. We have moved furniture and packed up so much stuff. It’s like moving only to unpack and be in the same place. We are going on vacation and will be gone long enough for this to be done. If I get home and it’s not done I will cry. A lot. This is so stressful and I know you understand. Thanks for being my listening ear.

    2. Hi, Paula– I just saw a video on Youtube by “Lone Fox,” a young interior designer who is renovating a Spanish style mansion. He had all of the floors sanded, and then got stain samples and did test stain sections. You might want to consider something similar. It sounds like you have a large floor area. I know from personal experience that choosing a stain without having tested a sample first can result in disappointing results. If you are interested in the Youtube video, the link is

      YouTube video

    3. Hi Paula, I read one of Laurel’s blogs a few years back about hardwood floor stain colors where she talked about the combination of 50% Jacobean and 50% special walnut had a “just right” outcome on some oak floors in Westchester. I don’t recall if the flooring was red oak or white oak. You may want to search for that blog to verify my memory and get other tips. I know about the decision making stress of stain colors! Good luck!

  16. Question / Problem – we bought a sofa with a “built in chaise” for our vacation home…thinking it would be “so cozy” – ONE PERSON gets the best seat…the other gets the opposite coffee table…and we have 3 other chairs…so the rooms seats 5 people for TV/ game day, etc…not IDEAL. I THINK I need to replace sofa w/ chaise w/ a small L-shaped sectional. It would sit where the current sofa is and “turn” in front of one side of the centered sliding glass doors…would this be a REALLY bad idea? We’re all grown ups and could “get used to” using only one side of the sliders? PS – 2 sliders open and stack over other “stationary” full glass “doors/walls”…Thanks for any / all opinions…

  17. Hi Laurel, You have been a great help to me in decorating two homes. I know everybody says it but I really mean it: Yours is my favorite blog; I so look forward to opening my email on Wednesday and Sunday mornings! My Issue: I cannot figure out for the life of me how to coordinate lamps in the same gathering room. This large open concept room incudes the kitchen and dining room. Table lamps are my biggest issue but you can throw in a floor lamp as well. I need to find four lamps to set beside two different sofas and one table lamp between recliners—all to coordinate. I understand lamps on either side of the sofa should match (is that still true?). I also don’t have a problem coordinating lamp shades by keeping them all a burlap type color due to my house being in the mountains. How do I choose base lamps that keep the personality of this modern/rustic room and not fight each other in style and color? Waiting with baited breath for your professional help!

  18. Hello!
    I live in the Tampa Bay Area of Florida. Thankfully we did not have too many issues with hurricane damage. But that brings me to my question. Like most older Florida homes, the porch has been converted to living space. So that means there is a step down from the main house. Well after this storm, we’ve decided to pay to have that room leveled to the main house to prevent flooding issues.I’m having a bear of time deciding on what to replace the existing aluminum wall with. Right now it has aluminum knee wall and big plastic windows. I don’t know if a wall of sliders, or French doors or windows would be better for reference it would be 29 feet across and the room is 11 feet deep. I can provide photos if necessary.

  19. Perhaps this is more of a question for a shrink. I am a talented shopper/forager/scavenger, and have decent rehab skills. I react to some beat up furniture like I do to shivering puppies ads. I have too much. Much too much.

      1. Hi Sheree. Cannot save it all, but I want to save the furniture made of beautiful hardwoods with excellent craftsmanship. Those young whippersnappers just do not appreciate it like they should.

  20. Hi Laurel,
    Thank you so much for this! I would have posted earlier, but I’m coming off surgery and am just reading this post. My dilemma is that we just bought a new build in North East Florida. We live on a barrier island and love is quaint charm. My dh, who is a gem of a man and doesn’t care how I decorate as long as we have a tv in the LR and loft, isn’t a handy man and didn’t want to buy one of the charming Victorian homes here, so we opted for a new build.
    The problem is that I LOVE vintage and antique. I adore anything that is got history, isn’t perfect and if it is painted has a few scraps and gouges. So how do I take a pretty straightforward new build in Florida and incorporate my style? The floorpan is pretty generic and uninspiring, but we choose some nice design elements and it is pretty much a blank slate. Will my style and love of all Gustavian and old French conflict with this new home or can I just go for it and decorate as I would an old charming Victorian home. Sorry so long winded, and thank you so much – you are so loved and appreciated!

    1. FWIW I live in a little box of a WW2 Cape Cod, but I have an Arts and Crafts-inspired living room and dining room (the rooms you see from the front door). No-one has ever walked into my house and said, “Hmm. This decor is not consistent with the exterior style” or even, “This is not what I was expecting.” So I’m no expert but I would say fill your new build house with what you love!

  21. Hi, I am attempting to furnish and decorate the living room in our condo. The problem is that my husband has a recliner. It’s just not fitting anywhere and looks terrrible. In addition, he really wants a side table with a lamp to the right of the recliner. The room is 12 x 16 – not exactly a huge room and has only 3 walls as one is open to the dining room (basic L shape layout). Dining room is only 9 x 7. Please help before there is a crime committed here. (kidding).

    1. You’re going to have to buy a new recliner. Laurel has a post with all sorts of beautiful comfortable recliners that don’t look like recliners. Check it out, you will be inspired. A small side table and a floor lamp should work. My husband loves me enough that if I just do what I think is right, he won’t kill me. And I can live with that. Sometimes the husband is just going to have to accept our decisions. Promise him something wonderful in exchange.

    2. Hello, I say look into a wall hugging recliner. They can be a huge help in a small room. Also check out wall lamps, they screw right onto the wall or side of bookcase. You can use a smaller end table if you don’t need to fit a lamp on it.
      Good luck! I totally get the recliner with lamp and end table to the right. I like that also.

  22. Hi Laurel. I have a lovely mid blue velvet couch. But it’s complimentary color on the color wheel is orange. Oh I can’t live with oranges. Can you suggest a sophisticated cushion color idea? Beige walls. Thank you.

    1. Orange can also be peach. A pillow with some peach, blue and green on a beige background would be lovely.

    2. I’ve had a lot of luck embracing monochromatic decorating. It automatically looks sophisticated, like I know what I’m doing, but is pretty foolproof.

    3. Hi, Danielle,

      I painted a 16.5 x 23.5 family room in Benjamin Moore’s Wolf Gray — a very mid-toned blue/gray that, in this room, reads primarily as blue. And I, too, hate orange. TBH, I don’t love either as a home decor color. But lo and behold, when putting out Christmas decs that year, I found that a (small) set of Scandinavian reindeer made out of balsa, and inexplicably painted orange, looked FABULOUS on the mantle. It’s more of a red-orange, with a bit of a gray cast to it, so it matches the gray cast in the wall color. What I learned from this is that a.) relationship between shades and tones really make the match, and b.) less-is-more can really work wonders with a complementary color. I now have just a few pops of orange and even fewer of red, just to add another layer, but most of it is in the artwork on my walls, and a few personal objets on coffee table or bookshelf. And I love it. But I wouldn’t put orange or red on my throw pillows — too much 🙂

      1. Thank you Risa2. Sounds like maybe it’s time I grew past ‘resistances’ to certain colours, and let them work (albeit in a small pop way.) I’ll give it a try. Thank you for the thoughtful reply🥰

  23. I would like to hear your ideas on how to decorate with/display collections – whether the collection be dishes, glassware, salt dips (my grandmother’s choice), baskets and/or the traditional stamps, coins…

    I’m also interested in hearing what you think would be a unique, lovely item to collect. Perhaps you will provide ideas of things I could start collecting for my grandkids. It’s always nice to have a “go-to” for birthdays and holiday gifts. I’d love the collection to add something beautiful to their future – far future – home.

    1. Have any of your grandkids shown an enduring interest in anything that could be collectible? As a kid, and as an adult, I would have rather my grandmother collected savings bonds for me! Seriously, maybe collectible books?

    2. Hi Kelly, My best friend has been gifting my daughter, her goddaughter, with a piece of holiday china every Christmas. My daughter is now 22 and has about 18 Tiffany Holiday dinner plates, 6 salad plates, and a couple other pieces. It’s now discontinued, but could probably add to it from Replacements.

    3. My aunt has a lovely tradition for her children in that she gives them a piece of Cutco cutlery for each present event. Cutco is NOT a discount line and they guarantee their pieces for life so her children have a great knife selection now, as well as secaturs, scissors, and spatulas. Good knives are always a fantastic gift and unlike Disney statuary, do not lose their appeal over time. I am not a Cutco person myself; I think you could do this with Wusthoff or other good brands.

    4. Hi Kelly!

      When I was 10, my Grandma started buying my Waterford crystal goblets, one for my birthday, one for Christmas. I was the kind of 10 year old that really appreciated getting something beautiful, that had staying power. And all these years later, I still love and use my crystal. The key thing is finding what resonates with your grandkids and then taking a chance.

      We’ve begun getting US Mint proof sets for 3 of our grandchildren each year.

      Food for thought – When my daughter was 2 my Gram decided to gift her the Growing in Grace set of Precious Moments figurines. They depict girls from age 1 through 16. Gram was about 85 at the time and said – “This way Glennon (my daughter) will have a birthday gift from me until she is 16 years old whether I’m here or not.” She purchased them a few at a time, when they went on sale, of course. One day while I was visiting, she asked me to get this big box from her closet. She brought out wrapping paper and tape and set me to work wrapping each individually boxed figurine. We made tiny cards signed “Happy Birthday – Love, Great Gram”. We talked and laughed like we did during any visit, but the specialness of that afternoon wasn’t lost on me. I took the box home, my 2 year old daughter none the wiser. Each year I’d bring out her gift from Great Grandma, sometimes on her birthday, sometimes a few days later when I’d remember the box of wrapped packages tucked in our linen closet. My daughter and her Great Grandma had a special relationship and were able to spend lots of time together. Gram passed when Glennon was 8 years old. Those remaining boxes became more and more special as the years went by and the figurines were displayed in her room, a reminder of love. As you can imagine, that final box, sweet 16, was a poignant moment for me and for my daughter.

  24. Hi Laurel, I’m having trouble with too tall ceilings in my living room. And really all over my house. We bought a builders show house and the downstairs rooms are 14’ tall, upstairs and 13’ and the living room, no joke, is something like 30’. It’s also got a ton of crazy angles and not symmetrical. How do I make it more comfortable and cozy? My other idea for a blog post- how should we be thinking about decorating with plants. Thanks. Love your work!

  25. I read your blog regularly. I think I have beautiful collected items in my house but I have a LOT of beautiful, meaningful, expensive, collected items! I know I’m lucky to have this problem but….My biggest decorating question still is….What of my items in my house bring it down? What isn’t fresh? How do I get an idea of what I may need to get rid of? I’ve lost my eye in my own home. Do I ask a friend? Can I hire a decorator just to look at my home and make suggestions that I can work on?

    1. I would pack it all up, then see how your house “feels” without it. Then slowly add it back and live with each stage of the lesser amount in your home until it feels like you want it to.

      1. Agree with Margaret. We were forced to do this when we moved. I couldn’t bring myself to let go of anything, but there was TOO MUCH STUFF. So I packed it all carefully in boxes, with detailed labels (so I wouldn’t have to open the box just to see what was inside). And then I stacked the unopened boxes in closets. We got busy… and 3 years later, I was so over the maroon cushions and the rustic western picture frames, and the… well, you get the picture. Once I was over stuff, I could easily let it go to charity, or relatives with growing families, it was easy. And the few items I was still attached to were there, safe and sound, and were special all over again.

  26. When you are hanging a mirror above a piece of furniture, like a buffet in the dining room or a console table/cabinet in the entry, how much space should there be between the top of the furniture piece and the bottom of the mirror?

    1. The usual recommendation is 4″-6″ above the buffet to connect the mirror (or art) to the piece of furniture visually.

  27. Hi, Laurel! would love to get your take on the “coastal grandma” trend. Is it even a trend, or is it a tried and true way of decorating and living that will be around for a long time to come? I love the look and I think it would be interesting to hear how you would incorporate the look/vibe into traditional-ish interior design. Thanks!

    1. Yikes, what a horrible name for a style that is neutral and chic with seaside colors. I’ve never heard the term before, but I would say that this style has been around for a very long time. Maybe that’s why it’s called “coastal grandma.”

  28. Hello from San Francisco. I am trying to do over my bedroom. Keeping the classic cherry dresser from my set but want to replace the armoire and end table. Already ditched the cherry headboard for a fabric one and eliminated the footboard. But worried it won’t have a look if I mix in new pieces. Do they need to match each other? Did get beautiful pillows from Arianna Belle at your suggestion. Stymied at what to do. Looked at new sets but nothing I love.

  29. Laurel, While I do have decorating problems, it seems I cannot receive you blog any more. I get a little message asking me to sign up, but can’t enter my email in it. Can you add me to your email list please?
    Now for my decorating problems. I’m moving into a new home and reconstructing most of it and painting all of it.. But my biggest problem is color. I know all the advice that says pick one color and do variations, but I love color. Lots of color. I want to paint every room upstairs a different color and am worried it will looking horrible or jarring. I have different colored rugs for each room so other than just doing a neutral (which I hate) how do I create cohesion for someone of my preferences — or can’t I?

    1. Hi Wendy,

      Yes, you’re one of the thousands of subscribers who have been unsubscribed by MailChump without their knowledge or consent. It’s your email server. Even though you’ve received nearly 400 emails from me and opened up and read most of them, all of a sudden, I’m a spammer and they are trying to protect you from the evil me.

      I am leaving mailchump asap, but that won’t probably happen for a few weeks because it’s a complex operation.

      The easiest way to get back on is to use a different email address. You can also try adding my email list to your email address book. I’ve set up a link in the blog posts, but am not sure if you saw it. It’s been there for about three weeks.

      I will forward the email from my personal email and hopefully, it will go through.

  30. I am wondering why posting pictures is impossible and why links in comments are not a good idea here?

    I have often wanted to post a pic in order to make a comment or ask a question.

    My biggest decorating problem right now is not really a decorating problem. Relatively simple renovations led to huge repairs AND a tile store is trying to get me to pay extra for my order after everything was paid at the time of purchase. I have never even heard of such a situation. The brand new owner apparently made a mistake in the charges, but pages and pages of numbers do not reveal the error to me. It is pure insanity and friends and relatives have told me to just cut this person off (as in block phone calls, emails). What is the legal advice if a store tells you almost two months after the fact that they have undercharged you? As I paid up front, even before delivery, how can anyone ask me for more if they have made the mistake? Have you encountered a similar situation, Laurel?

    In addition, one of the delivered tiles was the wrong tile. I had to go elsewhere to buy the correct tile during the installation process. This is all complicated and messy. I do not even understand what happened.

    As for my most difficult decorating problem: I think it is cohesiveness. My budget is on the small side, and I try to buy on sale. Often what I really love falls into place — or nearly so — but I need ideas about how to finish rooms cohesively when something is slightly off.

    I love this blog and have learned much from it. I even think I know the answers to the cohesiveness problem in general.

    So to put it succinctly, rooms get to a point and something is off — how to fix/edit those problems. As some have already posted, add a fabric, add a bit of black, etc. But I think these problems are very particular, so how to find a strategy/formula for addressing them?

    I agree with the comments about dealing with contractors. I now fully understand why even minor renovations can cause extreme emotional and financial stress. Were contractors always this way? It seems to me that people had pride of workmanship and a basic notion of fairness which is lacking right now.

    Luckily for me, I finally found a very reasonable and careful contractor who held my hand as things went spinning out of control. I had to suffer through some nutty stuff before I found him though.

    1. Ramona, your issues with contractors have been shared by everyone, it seems! So glad you found someone who is good. I would not pay for the tile if you already paid the price once. It is very poor customer service to ask for more money! Have a talk with the manager of the store. As to cohesiveness, have you tried making mood boards before you embark on the journey of designing a room. That has been so helpful for me. I just use Power Point, because my hubs could teach me but there are other options, as well.

        1. JoLyn, I replied to you in your previous post about how I used a free online website called Canva to create mood boards (like a digital collage) for my son’s apartment. I had him take photos of every area, uploaded the photos to Canva, then cut and paste pics of furniture, rugs, artwork, wallpaper, etc on top of his photos. It helped so much to see how things would look together. It’s pretty easy to use and of course, it has a tutorial to help you get started. Hope that helps.

    2. Ramona – this is just my opinion based on 70 years of life; I’m not a decorator. But I’ve found that, when a room is not quite coming together, the trick is to repeat an existing element, not add a new element. For example, my family room and eating area are all one big room, mostly shades of cream and brown. I wanted a color, so I picked a cream carpet with soft sage green border. The room looked a little lost. I added 2 flower arrangements in sage green vases. It looked a bit better, but was still missing something. I added sage green placemats on our brown wood table… and presto! the two rooms looked “decorated”. It was the repetition of the selected color that did it.

  31. My issue is our BM Bleeker Beige walls in the living room and dining room. I recently purchased a beautiful antique Heriz Persian rug with reds, blues, ivory and black for the living room, and have another red vintage Persian rug in the dining room. The predominant red in the LR rug is almost a tomato red and the blue is a soft almost aqua blue. My drapes are ivory as is most of the LR furniture. I want to repaint the walls in both rooms in a greige color with less green undertones than Bleeker Beige, but need to keep it a little warm so I don’t have to repaint the whole house, which is mostly a yellowy off white. Any suggestions for a great greige color? BTW, both rooms are fairly dark as the house is surrounded by mature trees. In metro DC.

    1. Of course each house will show colors differently, but check out Grant Beige and Manchester Tan. They are both neutral greige colors. I’ve used them both and have used them with various Oushak rugs.

  32. Hi, Laurel. Thanks for asking! I love your blog and especially enjoy your beautiful photos of Boston, your descriptions of the seasons, life in the city, etc. The beautiful doors in your photos remind me of the amazing doors in Charleston where I live. Boston is next on my travel bucket list because of you!

    Here is my design dilemma. We’ve lived in our river side condo for thirty years now and have recently had a full exterior renovation, all new windows and doors. Now we need an interior makeover. Our flooring particularly is looking shabby and needs to be replaced. We’re tired of our same old look and really want to make some major changes. I’ve been looking through blogs, Pinterest, Houzz, all the usual places, but just can’t wrap my head around where to start. Like many people have said, we don’t want to make expensive mistakes and we’ll be living with the changes for a long time. At this point, I don’t know where to begin and feel completely overwhelmed because there are so many choices to make. Of course, I want everything to look and feel pulled together. Any idea how to get started and how to weed through all the choices?

    Secondly, I feel I need a design app that I could use to see colors, styles, materials, etc, together, but I can’t find anything but games, nothing serious. I’m willing to pay for something, but can’t afford expensive professional software. Do you use something like this and can you recommend something? I would be ever so grateful.

    Thanks so much for everything you do to educate and inspire us. I love your ideas and the clear detailed way you explain things. You’re the best!

    1. One thing I do is tear pages out of magazines of everything that I really like and wish I could afford. Rooms I love on the internet, I copy and put in my wish file. Once you have accumulated quite a portfolio, go through all the photos. You will see a pattern. There will be a common tread of everything you like and what style you are drawn to. This is where you should begin. My taste runs toward neutrals with a touch of black and traditional furniture. I am also drawn to dark and moody rooms with dark walls and antique furniture. You will never see mid-century modern or bright colors in my portfolio of wishes. Show your friends and see what they notice.

      1. Great suggestion, Christine. I have also used Pinterest to do the same thing – I save images of rooms that appeal to me, and look for themes or trends. I’ve learned I like botanicals, and the color cobalt blue. Neither were on my list before making my Pinterest collections. Pinterest also made it easy to share my image collections with distant friends, relatives and consultants, when I was looking for feedback.

    2. Hi,
      I am (also) a pro designer (but I love Laurel’s blog!) and due to the pandemic, I had to create digital ‘mood boards’ to send to my clients rather than meet in person. I’m still doing it; it works so that clients can ‘see’ the room. I use snip and sketch (on my PC) and there is something like it for Mac, and I search for images, snip what I like, and arrange it all on a word document, organized by room. It is really helpful. I snip paint samples, rugs, furniture, fabrics, anything I find online, I can snip and organize on the sheet. Hope that helps

    3. JoLyn, I’ve used a free website called Canva to create mood boards when I helped my son decorate his NYC apartment recently. I think creating a mood board (or several) is essential to help visualize how everything will look together. Best of luck to you!

      1. Thanks, Sheree. I use Canva a lot for book publishing, but never thought about using it for mood boards. I’ll definitely look into that! I have lot of saved photos on Houzz, but maybe making a mood board would help narrow things down a bit. Thanks, again for the tip.

  33. I’m tardy to the party! Throwing my queries out into the ether, regardless:

    I have a tight back English roll arm sofa that needs reupholstering but I’m concerned about fabric longevity. It currently has a muted gold cut velvet (oversized damask pattern) that is incredibly durable and dirt resistant. I am struggling to find a more modern pattern that I love/will look timeless (and more importantly will stand up to dog household abuse & hide fur). Suggestions welcomed! My darling dogs are allowed on the sofa and one of them “digs” quite aggressively to make a “nest”. So the outdoor woven fabrics that are often suggested with pets, I’m concerned will eventually pill. Was thinking of trying to find “hotel & restaurant strength” fabric (blanking on the actual name for this category of durability). Are there good sources & aesthetically pleasing brands available to the average shopper who lacks a decorator? Preferably ones that won’t bankrupt me when I buy the yardage! Final question is: we are designing a home and I’d love to design it to be as dog-proof and easy to clean as humanly possible. I’ll take any and all recommendations: floor type/color, sink material… you name it, I’m in need of it!

    1. There are lots of wonderful fabrics out there in all price ranges that are virtually indestructible! CRYPTON is a favorite.
      Also most “performance fabrics”. Just google “indestructible contract fabrics” and you will be amazed!! Always order a cutting or sample first if you are ordering online!

    2. Outdoor or performance fabric in a flat textured slip cover! Nothing nubby their nails can catch on. I’m so thankful I went slipcover for my last couch with my great Pyrenees and two cats. It’s brushed crossweave by Pottery barn and its holding up brilliantly. I love that I can wash it and clear out the pet dander for my wonderful allergic husband. Technically it’s not an outdoor/performance fabric but almost any yarn dyed synthetic is going to hold up really well.

  34. My biggest problem right now is furniture. We now have a living room over double the size of what we had and I’m excited to furnish it. Right now it’s a bunch of random pieces and I need to figure out how to make it all pull together. My husband is tall and has always wanted a couch that fit him. So we bought a big couch and we all love it! I think we need another full size couch and was considering buying another of the same one. Thinking that would help it all look more pulled together. But I am not sure. It would be nice to have a couch that I, and others that visit who are my height, could sit comfortably. So how would it be to have one big couch (88″×41″) and one smaller. Maybe same length, but not so deep or with the seat so high. It is a large rectangle living room. 30′ length for long wall. The couches would not face each other. One on long wall one on short wall. Or is it a mistake to have different size of furniture in the same room?

    1. Amanda,
      Will your large room have more than one seating / conversation area? If not, I wouldn’t go for 2 different sizes in the same room, but if there will be 2 distinct areas you could possibly do a smaller size sofa that isn’t so deep…perhaps back to back with a console between, or a center table dividing the room. BTW, as a sbort woman, I understand your predicament…I learned a long time ago to never keep my feet on the floor 😉

  35. Today we signed the contract to see our 3,700sq ft home and sold it furnished. They really liked our decorating! We’re empty nesters relocating to the coastal south east to be close to our children and grandchildren, probably another home of 3,000 sq ft or more. We are taking all the smalls but rugs, lamps, drapes and all the furniture is sold except a few small antique family pieces, couple lighting fixtures and some artwork. Our style is traditional, classic, leans Early American or Federal, lots of coastal accents. We’re collectors, love consignments store, antique malls and have a vast amount of curated items we like to display and enjoy. I’ve done 7 homes for us but always had something to work around. I’m not sure where to begin.

  36. Hi Laurel,

    I’ve been a fan for many years. Thanks for this opportunity to get your feedback. We live in a not very exciting 1940’s house with lots of doors and nooks & crannies and cutouts in the living room. My biggest decorating problem is furniture layout around all these things. Plus lots of oak paneling. What to do? Thanks, April

  37. Hi Laurel and Laurel’s Readers and Designers:

    I’m in a cape built in the 1970’s, still with untouched, 70’s bathrooms and kitchen desperately needing updating. However, lack of funds prevent me from tackling these projects. So let me try for one that might be doable…… As one enters the front door you immediately face a staircase and to its left down the hall about 20 feet you see the bathroom door. How does one make that look better without remodeling?
    Thank you,

  38. Hi Laurel, I feel comfortable picking individual pieces but have a tough time pulling everything together in a cohesive way. I am also of the ‘more is more’ mentality and love mixing patterns, colors, styles etc. But again, not sure how make it all come together on a large, house-sized scale. Love your blog, thanks!

  39. Opps, the evil autocorrect elves are at it again! Please change the “carped stair rectangles” in my first response to “CARPET stair rectangles”.
    Thank you!

  40. Hello Laurel,
    My staircase had beautiful wooden treads that we loved until the day our senior dog slid down. We immediately ordered carped tread rectangles that had glue down strips on the bottom. Now she can negotiate the stairs again and is not afraid to come upstairs at bedtime.
    I know I need a prettier solution, but am frozen in the decision making process. Number one, carpeting a staircase is an expensive proposition and I’m afraid to make a mistake.
    With animals in the house, I’m afraid a solid will look dirty too quickly, but picking a patterned runner has problems, too. The entrance hall has a great rug with a leopard pattern surrounded by a greek key border. The living room and dining room, which flank the entrance hall, both have muted oriental rugs. What in the world can I put going up the steps that will stand up to the traffic in this house?
    A post on suggestions for picking carpet runners for stairs would be helpful!
    Thanks, and happy fall!

    1. If it were my house (I’m a designer) I would look for a quality nylon or polypropylene low pile tight loop in the same colors as your leopard runners. Could be a tweedy mix of the colors, or a small diamond pattern, even a leopard print if the colors and scale are right! Just have it bound and run down the center so some of your pretty wood still shows. Should not be a very expensive project, won’t show dirt, and dog will be happy!

  41. My home was an 1895, one room schoolhouse.It originally had 13 ft ceiling, with 10 ft tall windows on each side. Last owner lowered ceiling to 8ft. to make a 24×24 bedroom, and baths upstairs. Also, 8ft. ceiling in center, with slanted walls because of hip roof.
    One problem, he had to build boxes around the 10 ft windows downstairs, so they weren’t covered up. But…upstairs these boxes look like 4 deep freezers on the sides of my bedroom, 31″H x 31″D x 70″W! There is 4ft between them so a chest of drawers fits perfectly in one gap. The slanted walls, because of the hip roof begin 2 ft above them with (not so lovely) skylights built in the slanted walls. I can’t come up with a use for these boxes to make something pretty, or diguise best way possible.
    Do I paint these monstrosities the same color as the walls? (I would love a dark color with light contrast on doors and skylight frames.) Should the two slanted walls be lighter color ? Flat walls on ends of room and all lower parts of walls one color, slants and center ceiling, (10’x24′), different color? There is plenty of light. I’ve been creatively stuck for 5years because of these ugly boxes that just collect dust. Help, if possible!

    1. What if you just built them straight up so they connect with the ceiling? Still awkward, but without the dust factor.

  42. Hi Laurel.

    I’d appreciate a posting that would address selecting upholstery for a living room with an antique oriental carpet. Other than solid colored chairs and loveseats, upholstered furniture seems to “fight” the pattern and colors in the rug.

    Secondly, when choosing window blinds should the color of the blind match the white painted woodwork?
    The blinds will be unlined and visible from the exterior of the house.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi.
      I would suggest a tone-on-tone pattern if you feel you need one on the upholstery or a fabric with some texture rather than pattern. Or keep the solid upholstery and pull in the rug colors in the pillows.
      For blinds, no they don’t have to match the paint color of the trim. Match them to wall paint color and room colors in general, depending on the blind material…
      Good luck!

    2. I have patterned sofas and pairs of chairs in a different pattern on all my oriental rugs. Just be sure you love all the patterns and that the colors coordinate with the primary colors in the rug. Don’t be afraid to mix patterns.

      As for blinds, I always match them to the window finish.

      1. Christine, I agree with Sandra that the blinds should match the white trim color of your room. This is assuming you are referring to wood blinds (and not fabric coverings like Roman shades, pleated shades, etc). Also remember that all the windows facing the street ideally should be the same shade of white or cream in blinds and lining fabrics seen from street view!

  43. What can one do with an unused guest bedroom?

    I know the oft-used advice is to turn it into a home office. That doesn’t work for me because we are hybrid now and I may not use it much in future (so why make it into another mostly unused room). I don’t really like the idea of putting exercise equipment in there (we have a gym in my park) or a television (which I have’t owned for 35 years). It’s unsatisfying to see it with nothing but a well-made bed that will probably never be used. Please, any new ideas for using unused rooms!

    1. Hi Lauren–Is there a hobby you enjoy that you’d like more space for–painting, crafting? I’d love a craft room where everything could be organized and there would be space to work. What about a library/reading room with bookcases and a comfortable chair.

      1. Hi Barbara,

        I don’t have a hobby. I used to collect antique bookmarks (to hold your place in books) and had a lot of them but sold them when I lost my job for 18 months quite a while back. It was painful but you do what you have to do. So I did. But painting, sewing, etc. have never interested me so I don’t have crafting supplies of any kind. I also tend to minimalism. I am a reader but seriously downsized my library over several years and now own only 119 books which all have their place so no need for a library. I’d thought about a reading room but I have this kind of odd space; it has a comfy chair and some small bookcases so I use that or the living room.

        I am not discounting your ideas In fact, I very much appreciate them. But none of them work for me and that’s where I am stuck. If I could afford a serious renovation I’d just get rid of it.

    2. Here’s what I did with my small spare bedroom: I turned it into a wine tasting room. First, I bought a custom-fitted wine rack and had my son install it to completely fill the closet. Then I bought a beautiful rug and placed two comfy leather chairs and a small round metal table between them. On the table, I have a tray with a whiskey decanter and a few bar glasses. In one corner I have a three-panel screen and on the walls wonderful art. I recently had the opportunity to acquire jars, cans, and packages of fancy Italian food. So, I bought a tall slender etagere and I displayed the Italian foods. Woven wine jugs on the floor, another small table with flowers, and done. It looks very inviting, but truth be told, I use it when I’m on the phone with friends having long conversations sitting in the leather chair. The wine closet is full of wine, sparkling Italian sodas, and beer. The “grocery store” is very handy and I do use it.

    3. If the room is truly so little used that you would pay to get rid of it in a renovation, I would just shut the door and pretend it doesn’t exist. I admire your restraint in not filling your house and your life with unnecessary stuff!
      To use the room more, it sounds like you would have to start doing some new activity. If that’s the road you want to go down, here are some possibilities:
      Invite overnight guests more frequently
      Rent the room out on airbnb
      Rent it out as temp/flex office space
      Rent it out as storage space
      Set up a big table and host game nights (board games, card games, puzzles, etc.)
      Start a home-based business
      Offer storage space to friends with crowded houses or to a small charity
      Run a group activity (coach a robotics team, direct a small choir, etc.)
      Learn a (new) instrument and have a music room
      Set up a recording studio and post videos teaching about something you enjoy
      But again, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not using a room that you don’t need.

  44. Hi Laurel,

    I’m looking for a sofa without chemicals. That is, no performance fabrics, no stain resistant treatments, no fire resistant treatments, etc. I’d like to find a sofa made of real wood, not particle board, with down cushions and cotton or linen fabric. Any ideas? Thank you

    1. Also, wall to wall carpeting without chemicals. If carpeting is laid over plywood, it’s less expensive to replace carpeting than to install hardwood. (I don’t like look-alikes.)

    2. @Mary – I believe Crypton fabrics are eco-friendly, so you can have your cake and eat it too as far as performance fabrics. As far as sofa brands, try Lee Industries or C. R. Laine. Laurel has several posts on sofas.

  45. Hi Laurel, I’ll make this short and sweet. I’ve been following your blog for years and have learned so much from you. I have a really easy and quick decorating problem. What to do with bathroom mirrors when updating a Florida master bath. Currently the two bathroom cabinets are connected via counter tops and include a corner vanity area in the middle. The plain plate mirrors are all connected for all three areas. I’m thinking to add an interesting frame design around the plate mirrors? Any ideas? I would love to show a picture but don’t see an option to upload one.

    1. Hi. I created a simple wood frame around the mirrors when I redid a bathroom. There is mirror above the sink and one to each side over the vanity- I framed each one but the edges are connected. Hope that makes sense.

    2. HI Dawn,
      I would buy a beautiful, hopefully antique, mirror and hang it over the center or focal mirror. Either something gilded or white lacquer. It will draw your eye to the beautiful mirror and the plate mirror will just become a “wall”. I hung art over a mirrored wall in our previous home. I think there is a photo of that bedroom on Laurel’s blog from a few years ago.

      1. Nancy, what an honor to see your response. I know exactly the picture you are referring to when Laurel posted it on her blog, I loved it immediately. Thank you for taking the time to respond and for your idea. Your design work is so inspiring!

  46. This makes for interesting reading, but without photos, it’s impossible to offer any suggestions apart from one’s own probably irrelevant experience! The main themes seem to be dealing with an open plan home, dealing with spaces that are awkward or too small or both, and how to get a mix of styles to look cohesive rather than junky.
    Betsy: just a word, no, it isn’t you; well do I remember being told “mais Madame, techniquement ce n’est pas possible”, which I soon realised was code for “I don’t want to do that”; the other thing is that no tradesman had any respect for the work of the other trades and was quite happy to wreck other people’s work. (That was during our first renovation 40 years ago; the second renovation 25 years ago went much better, partly because we picked the tradesmen ourselves rather than having the work put out out to tender, and because we had a much better idea of what we were doing.) But what you’re saying seems to imply that there isn’t any complete schedule of work with full description of the works and then estimates from the various trades. They’re there to execute a plan.
    My own problems are more mundane: after the worst drought and heat in history, cracks have appeared in many of our indoor walls and I’m going to have to wait for a while before doing any repairs while the house settles again now that we’re getting some rain. That’s what comes of having a house with no foundations! The other problem here which is pretty much permanent is how to house over 4,000 books, and that’s after a major cull.

    1. Reinforce your floors! That’s what an academic couple we knew did. Our books (and thousands of classical records and CDs) are mostly in a dry, partly finished basement.

      1. Kay, thanks for the suggestion, but we don’t need to reinforce the floors as both ground level and first floors are on concrete slabs. And we don’t have a basement! I often wish we did, but all we have is a semi-buried cellar under the barn ramp.

        1. Use “Yankee insulation,” shallow (6″-8″) bookshelves on every available wall you don’t need for furniture or art. We still have too many books but more of them have a home now.

      2. Floor to ceiling bookcases on every possible wall. Shorter ones in every room. Pull out cases under stairwells. Under bed storage. Make your children leave home and take their books. If they have left home, take their books to them. Don’t “style your bookcases, books are decorative as is. Buy a house with a room(s) that can become a library. We bought our last 2 houses with a library in mind. One realtor’s eyes just glazed over and the fact we were serious never really sunk in. The other one picked up early that we were serious and really got into suggesting where to put books. Book people gotta book. One suggestion, you said you had done a major cull but when I turned 65 last year, I started rereading with purpose. If it was a book that I really enjoyed and could see myself rereading in the next 10 years, I kept it. If it was enjoyable but not something I would reread in the next 10 years, out it went. We have about half what you do but after 6 moves with an increasing number of books, we decided it was time to start letting go.

        1. Thanks for the list of ideas, DebMac. Most of these are already implemented: see my reply to Emily just below. Underfloor heating throughout the house precludes storage under beds. I’ve never styled bookcases: all the space is used for books. The number I gave covers only the study; there are more in various places in the house (probably another thousand), but downstairs offers very little space for books, given the configuration of the walls and doorways and the need for other forms of storage. Finally, I know another cull will soon be needed, but the vast majority of my books are required for research, and until I stop that very enjoyable activity (wish I hope is never), there’s not much that can go!

    2. One of the prettiest rooms I ever saw was at a Frank Lloyd Wright house in, I think, Illinois. The downstairs was made into a library—it was garden level with beautiful windows and lighting. The shelving extended into the room, perpendicular to the walls, from both sides. I recall a table or two in the middle. Obviously a huge room. But perhaps this kind of set up could be modified.

      1. Thanks for the suggestion, Emily. This is in fact what we’ve already done. The study upstairs has two library bays made of white-painted brick, each forming a U-shape, with 8 shelves on all of the three sides. One outside wall also has brick pillars with 7 shelves housing taller books. But the room has sloping ceilings following the roof line, so the vertical walls aren’t very tall. I didn’t want to cover all the upper walls with books, as this 70-square-metre room has two windows and one slit window, so some light-coloured wall spaces are necessary — and one wall is largely taken up by the stone chimney rising from the kitchen below. So there are also 5 bookcases, but more isn’t an option.

  47. Hi Laurel! What a fabulous idea! I’ve been grappling with a problem for about 5 years now – which is really dumb. I’m not sure why I’m so paralyzed about paining my office; the small, dark, low-ceilinged room I use for my office. The room is in the carriage house behind our main house, so coordinating color or design really isn’t an issue. The only real natural light I get is from the large south-facing window at the front of the space, but spring through fall into winter the tree outside is in full leaf. The two other windows; one facing west and one facing north don’t provide don’t provide much light as they are also shaded. The door next to the window is solid, but I plan to replace it with a door with 8-10 lights. For lighting, so far, I have 3 pendant lights with drum shades over my work table (a 9ft long antique farmhouse style table), plus a floor lamp on one end of the wall opposite and a lamp above a credenza below the stairs on the other end. My dilemma about whether to paint the room white, despite all wisdom saying not to is that I use it for my office and a work room for sewing and so on. Otherwise, I’d love to have it dark and cozy and paint paint it in Mouse’s Back or a similar color. I’d also love to finish the room with maybe some upholstered chairs and a large painting or faux fireplace on the all opposite the table. There are mouldings floor and ceiling, a center beam and shutters. All currently painted white. The credenza is black, the table is pine and the rug that is in there currently is soft white with shades of brown and green. Please and thank you!!

    1. Hi Debbie! This sounds like a wonderful place to work (given I have zero private space for myself at home, a coat closet or a dungeon sounds like heaven to
      me). May I suggest a subtle shift in your thinking? Instead of trying to make your office brighter (which you’ve already thought through extensively), why not try making it cheerier? You can do this by saturating it in a color you love or a wall paper that brings you joy. Something to the effect of what Heidi Callier did with this home:

      The pink/peach/terra cotta she used in slides in 12-14 is wonderful. The saturated green in slides 16-17 or the muted sage in slide 33 is lovely. And the mix of wallpaper and paint she uses in slides 21-26 and 31 is gorgeous. None of the rooms are particularly bright, but the colors and wallpaper make them look so cheerful.

      I would also either replace your black credenza with a warm wood tone one that matches your antique farmhouse table (9ft long????? Gahhhhhh that sounds beautiful!) OR I would paint the credenza in a coordinating or contrasting cheery color with the rest of your office. I imagine the black credenza is sucking some of the brightness out of the space underneath your stairs. If it fits, a mirror resting on or mounted above the credenza with a table lamp would bounce additional light around your office.

      Good luck with your space! I would love to see what you do with it!

  48. I’m loving reading everyone’s questions! And have been appreciating all your posts about your kitchen, as we’re in the middle of a LONG-awaited reno of our own. Which I designed myself with a lot of help from your blog.

    I have 2 problems:

    1. Pinterest fatigue! Which covers a lot more than just Pinterest. Right now I’m focused on lighting for kitchen and great room, and everything looks the same! I scroll through page after page after page of the same stuff, and it’s no different when I go to showrooms. Doesn’t matter whether it’s super expensive or entry-level price point or anything in between — it’s all just variations on the same stuff. I don’t need to have The Most Special and Unique Pendant Lighting Ever, but I don’t want to walk into my kitchen every day and see the same thing I see everywhere else. How does one shop interesting options these days? (Also an issue with furniture…)

    2. Alas, I don’t live in a lovely vintage house with good bones, and certainly not one with gorgeous high ceilings, stunning windows, gorgeous old wood flooring, etc. I live in a circa early 90’s Developer Special in a neighborhood that used to be a farm field until the owners sold the land off in the late 80s. It’s a fixer-upper mess, but we like the layout. BUT…most of what we see in the design-o-sphere is the gorgeous old bones or fabulous high-end urban renewal stuff. How does one decorate a stamped-out house with 8-foot ceilings in a lovely and personal way without looking pretentious and out of sync?

    Thank you!

    1. For pendants, try 1st Dibs or Chairish. The former is where I found pendants for our kitchen—and later saw larger versions in a kitchen of the month in House Beautiful!

    2. I find that a lot of store-bought furniture and decor looks a bit soul-less so maybe scope out good quality antiques (not necessarily super old, maybe pre-1970s). Those sorts of pieces make things look a lot less 90s subdivision. Antique rugs, especially, are a game-changer.

  49. Help.
    I am moving from a house that we custom built to have separate rooms. My kitchen has walls. My living room has walls. Now I am moving to a house that has a kitchen/breakfast room/ family room that is one large space with twelve foot ceilings.

    The kitchen is at one end, the eating area is in the middle, and down at the other end is the seating area with a fireplace.

    The cabinets in the new house are currently brown shaker with absolutely no wood grain so I assume it is paint. The floors are a beautiful medium tone oak throughout the house so at least they aren’t an issue. Every wall and piece of trim work in the house, with the exception of a beautiful home office/library, is currently painted SW Alabaster, apparently on the advice of the seller’s realtor.

    My furniture is either mahogany, walnut or black chinoiserie. My upholstery iWork’s with warm -toned hand-knotted area rugs.

    My issue is; If I paint the cabinets Alabaster and do a compatible white quartz counter, or even a black, will that end of the room look unbalanced with my traditional , not gray or white furniture at the other end of the room?I am concerned about making expensive mistakes!

    My hand-knotted area rugs are in warm tones and my furniture is either a traditional wood tone ( mahogany or walnut) with some black chinoiserie.

    1. Hi, Risa! I’ve got no advice to offer, but as a fellow Risa wanted to say hello — there aren’t many of us out there 🙂 I was scrolling down to the comments so I could post and yours was the first comment at top. When I saw “Risa says…” I thought, “Huh. I haven’t posted anything yet!” Good luck with the big open space.

      1. Hello, Risa! It is nice to meet another one! And thanks for the good wishes on my decorating dilemma, I am going to need it!

    2. Risa,
      Pop a little white in on the family room side possibly with lamp shades, add a little mix of cooler toned metals with warm metals and some black and I believe you’ll find that the two ends tie together. We recently bought a second home with a similar situation as you described. The kitchen was in all cool tones from the previous owner who seemed to fear anything other than cool neutrals in ALL finishes. I have learned to mix warm and cool together and I get a ton of compliments on this home One fun trick was to add chrome base lamps with white shades into a traditional room with warm area rugs and furniture, add an accessory here and there to pull the same colors into both ends of the huge room and it all flows together nicely.

  50. I would love to have a deep dive into lighting with product recommendations on recessed lights and specific light bulbs. I’m talking about the type of lighting a custom home would have if a good lighting consultant was involved. There is plenty of lighting advice on the internet that explains how each room should have several layers of light and how high to hang wall or ceiling lighting. This post wouldn’t be that.

    First, why are builders still using giant 5″ or 6″ recessed cans? Instead, what is the best and most economical small recessed ceiling fixture that provides directional lighting to be used as accent lighting? For those of us who inherit “swiss cheese” ceilings, is there a way to minimize the large holes with a conversion fixture?

    What about light bulbs? Most of us know that 2700 – 3000 kelvin (K) is warm light and any higher should be reserved for operating rooms or security lighting. The light quality of bulbs varies so much from brand to brand. What is the best dimmable light bulb? I’ve found the Philips light bulbs to be the most like an incandescent bulb. However, their dimmable bulb turns very orange as you dim it down. Cree is another good brand but feels flat when it’s dimmed.

    What about the new integrated LED ceiling lights that can be installed on the ceiling without housing units? The product offerings in the big box stores claim to be 3000K but the light quality has a cold and uninviting feeling. Same with integrated LED wall sconces. Is there a brand/product out there that is dimmable and gives a look similar to a halogen bulb when dimmed?

    Last, I don’t see uplighting used much. Maybe it’s because the products available are so limited? Is there a simple torchiere-style floor lamp that doesn’t look cheap or fuddy-duddy? A late interior designer in San Francisco used to sell one from his shop that was a simple white rectangular column shape. Here is a real estate listing with beautifully done layered lighting. Where might one purchase the uplights used throughout that is not an integrated LED fixture?

    1. Hi Lauren – I don’t know much about lighting, but I did learn something recently that made a huge difference in my house. Some LED bulbs produce a white light that is actually missing some of the colors of the rainbow, while others produce a more full spectrum. You need the fullest spectrum possible to get the best look from fabric, paint, artwork. The industry has a measurement for this, called the Color Rendering Index, or CRI. A CRI of 100 is sunlight; anything lower than CRI 90 starts to look washed out or flat. More bulb manufacturers are now printing the CRI number on their packaging, so with a little hunting, you can find better-quality bulbs that make your interior look fresh. Doesn’t answer many of your questions, but its a start.

      1. I learned this and then also learned that the manufacturers don’t include the CRI on the box. I have 4″ halogen lights in my kitchen (low voltage). I love the clarity and warmth but they are hot.

  51. My dilemma is how to appropriately combine elements from different styles. My home was built in the 20’s and is neo classical and I’m lucky to have several family ‘antiques’ that fit that aesthetic. But I also love the look of a Paris flat where ornate antiques are juxtaposed with sparse modern art. The older I get the more I like Skandi minimalism. And my husband prefers mission style woodwork and craftsmanship. Occassionally, something boho catches my interest. Mostly I’ve stuck to a casual version of the classic stuff that fits the house, but I wish I were more confident in how when and where to mix in the other things I like.

    1. That sounds really cool! The 1920s were sort of a blend of styles anyway. Mission/craftsman certainly fits in historically. Generally, though, I’ve read (on this blog and other places) to have approximately an 80/20 mix of those styles. If the vast majority of your stuff is “traditional” styles, which is itself a mixture admittedly, then the remainder can be those special pieces that will really define your space as yours and stand out. The modern art, Skandi, that bucket. Although with a truly eclectic mix like you describe, I personally would skew more 90/10, but that’s really arbitrary and it’s going to be a piece by piece thing to build up. Everybody wants that “collected look” haha. Sounds like you are already most of the way there!

    2. You sound like me! We’ve mixed antiques, mission, traditional, painted and unpainted furniture in different styles quite happily. But I don’t know what Laurel would think!

    3. This is similar to my issue -how to integrate my love for European (especially French) with rustic antlers, animal hides, and even glam, to be a cohesive best-designed look, but still not be boring.

      Highly agree with others that having pictures of the dilemma would go a long way in helping others envision the problem.

      It would be great to have laurel critique the issue from pics and offer advice.

  52. What a wonderful idea! I have a basic flooring question. My house is a nondescript 2 story California tract. The first floor has the 80s awful golden colored wood floors in the front hall, guest bath, kitchen and family room. The living room, dining room and bedroom/office (which is right off the front hall) have newish carpet. I want to pull up the carpet in the office and replace it with something easier to clean since I have 2 Golden Retrievers that are always in there (they don’t go in the living or dining rooms).
    Question: Can I add a third flooring to the downstairs (and what should it be) or should I match the existing hardwood? If it makes a difference, the bedroom/office has an in suite bath with tile floors.
    While the ideal solution would be to refinish or replace the current wood, that is not within the budget.
    Thank you all!

    1. Hi Barbara. Why not use tile with an area rug? If you can’t match, or don’t love, change it out. Carry the tile through the office into the bath. That will make the flooring choice look purposeful. I think tile is an underused solution. It also juxtaposes wood nicely. Good luck and thanks for sharing.

    2. Hi Barbara,

      As a doggie mom of two shedding Labs, may I first recommend getting central vacuuming installed. I can’t live without it. Second, if the flooring is hardwood you might consider getting it sanded and then do a darker stain and refinish. We did this on 50 year old builder-grade oak and it turned out very well for a decent price. Very little dust as well.
      Then I got to binge on some beautiful, dog-friendly carpets.

  53. Hi Laurel,
    This is a great idea for a post. My biggest decorating problem is coming up with the money to do all the things I want. Lol! Maybe one day prices for goods will go back to what they used to be.
    In the meantime I’m going to enjoy reading everyone’s comments.

  54. I have a beautiful home that’s furnished mostly with interesting, fairly good antiques.. like tapestry screens, distressed painted tables, fine paintings, etc. This is fairly beautiful and classy, but feels a bit dreary. How does one give such a space a little spark of something without ruining what’s there that’s good?

    1. CarolRose,
      What about painting the walls and/or ceiling(s) in a fun accent color you love? That could modernize and make the room less “serious/dreary”…. Paint is the biggest bang for your buck, and easy to change too!

  55. Oh Laurel, you opened up a spider’s nest here; so many questions and dilemmas. My problem is carpeting. I moved into a 5 bedroom Santa Barbara style home with 10ft. ceilings and dark wood doors and .mouldings All the bedrooms have wall to wall carpeting that needs to be replaced. I need a fabulous resource for carpeting, plus a specific neutral color choice that will work in all the bedrooms. The master: put in wood flooring to match the living areas of the house or keep the wall to wall? Wood floors would be expensive and then I will need to get an area rug. I used Masland broadloom carpeting in my past house and now most of my living areas have sea grass carpets over wood. Keeping within a modest budget is important, but so is quality.

    1. Christine S
      When I needed to replace a bedroom carpet I just went to the local carpet store and looked through their wool berbers. I was delighted to find one tan color in their cheapest (least plush) line that had the look of a natural fiber rug. I’m not a fan of wall to wall broadloom; this carpet looked great. Sorry I can’t find the info on it, but there must be others out there.

  56. My tradtional 60’s colonial is lower level white painted brick,pale yellow(ugh) small vinyl shingles second floor and black shutters. I have added a new garage door with small windows, and it helps but I want to update the exterior. All windows are six over six, raised panel front door with sidelites,new winding red brick walk and slatetopped front stoop. Driveway is edged in belgium block and has a slight curve. Any suggestions wouldbe welcomed!!

    1. Hi Caron, your house sounds very charming. It seems like you dislike the yellow vinyl shingles. Perhaps if you can replace the vinyl shingles with Hardie board shingles or clapboard. Then paint it the same color as the brick. Paint the trim the same color as the siding. That would give you a nice cohesive look. You could paint your front door a beautiful red. Laurel has a post about front door colors. The red door would be pretty with the white siding and black shutters. Some black planters would be nice too near the front door. Like a Chinese chippendale style. If you feel like the landscaping is a problem, go to your favorite garden center and ask for suggestions. I also love a YouTube channel called HortTube. He is from North Carolina, but he is very inspirational. Also, if you can grow these in your area, I think Hydrangeas are so beautiful and cottage like.

  57. I love this, and out a vote for me also. I need some new sites to enjoy reading, because I’ve devoured all of yours more than once, Lauren. I’d like to find a few more that are worthwhile and professional, which is hard to do.

    1. Try my favorite not just for gorgeous design but also food and fantasy travel ideas. I especially like the lengthy commentary that shares ways of thinking about design choices, not just pretty pictures with advice focused mainly on style as in so many US design blogs. Hope you like it!

  58. Hello Laurel!
    I’m having trouble trying to disguise the lake of symmetry in my Cape Cod Master Bedroom. The window behind my bed, appears to be in the wrong spot, and my hubbie won’t let me cover it up. There is significantly more space on my side of the bed for a nightstand. I’m having difficulty figuring out how to cover the window as well.

    1. It’s hard to give advice without seeing, but how far off is the window? Are there muntins? It may be possible to cheat with how you hang the curtains, so that they are hung as if the window were correctly placed, the side casings stay covered, and none would be the wiser! I plan to do something like this in my living room where there is an awkward bump out on one side of the windows only. Although you say “significantly” more space on one side so this may be terrible advice!

  59. No questions currently, just COMMENTS >
    1) That ROMAN and WILLIAMS room featured is perfection. I’m sure I have the skills to accomplish the faux wall treatment, no time. Someday I hope that my time can be opened up and I can go to town!
    2) I super love this SANS SERIF FONT. Already forgot its name, but nonetheless … glad it’s not helvetica or ariel. Last weeks subject was a treat for me 😉
    3) If a person can finally happen upon CONTRACTOR(S) that do a great, proper job (I’ve been through plenty that are not), be kind and respectful and keep them in your lineup for future needs. They are probably not the cheapest, but if they keep their word and -do things right- that is worth its weight in gold. One is a retired architect that likes to keep busy and the other … the Skunk Brothers (they have a pet skunk named Spritzer, lol). I have to get in their line-up for scheduling.
    4) EDITING > is an important concept in design. We may have access to a lot of inherited pieces but some just may have to be packed away until a later date (or sold, or donated). And for us folks who love cool stuff from Estate Sales and such … sometimes we win and sometimes we don’t. I’ve bought plenty of neat stuff that in reality just doesn’t work and we have to ‘woman up’ and relegate it to some other realm in life.
    5) I look forward to your blog every week. Glad you don’t inundate us all week long because I wouldn’t be able to keep up. THANK YOU!

  60. Laurel, you may have already done a post on this before, but if not, it would be most helpful to have a list of designer websites that you personally go to for inspiration.

  61. Hi Laurel!
    This may be a small problem in the scheme of things, but how do I decorate a kitchen island and counters to look cohesive and not junky? I have a very long kitchen counter (cooktop in the middle) and a good sized island (8ft) and I’m at a loss as to how to make this area sing. Many thanks!

    1. Cathy,
      Sounds like my kitchen! I’m constantly trying different arrangements, but currently I’m liking a very large low pottery bowl of fruit on the island. (I’m not above mixing in a few faux pieces to take up space.) On the countertops I use a basket to corral what I must have out for cooking, large salt and pepper shakers, a small brass bowl of fresh garlic and two types of oil. There’s also three different size cutting boards, and of course, our espresso machine. Truthfully, I’m happiest when the counters aren’t cluttered – I’ve tried small paintings, more appliances, etc.-nope! Good luck, Dot

    2. Hi Dor! Yes! I’ve tried small paintings, small lamps, trays, baskets, faux flowers, you name it and it still looks spread out and disjoint. There’s got to be a technique or something for doing this. I feel so stupid because I just redecorated my great room and it came out well, but it opens to the kitchen and the kitchen? Not so much…

  62. Thanks for asking, Laurel! Here’s my dilemma…my home is just 4 years old and it’s a beautiful custom country “ ranch/cottage”. The 16’x23’ family room has a vaulted ceiling, large faux beams, and a stacked stone fireplace, with a rustic reclaimed wood mantle. Together the beams and the fireplace now seem a bit overwhelming to me. And I’m not so crazy about the dark stain on the beams. Seems very heavy over my head. They’re attached at the ceiling height, 8’, then go up to 12’. If you get what I mean. Would it help to paint the beams white, or at least a pale color like the walls? They’re Pale Oak, BM. This is a north facing room with only two windows. I don’t want to change the fireplace. It’s beautifully rustic. Any ideas? Thanks so much, Laurel. And I love your blog, your style, your terrific humor! 😀

  63. Hi Laurel, I am trying to pick the right size subway tile backsplash for my kitchen. I have a long space on one side and the other side is short in height. Should I use the traditional 3×6 tile or the larger 6×12? Is 6×12 considered trendy?

  64. Hello, I love your blog and have been reading it for years. I can’t tell you how many things I have changed since following you and your wonderful advice. We build our home almost 2 years ago and have done many changes to ad character to it. We are lucky to have crown molding and framed windows which I love. It’s mostly open concept except for an office/ den that has French doors. There are lots of windows throughout the house, which leads me to my question. Should all the windows have the same shades? I have curtain panels that I really like with 2 inch cordless blinds on all the windows but I really love the look of woven shades. Do I do all the windows with woven shades or can I just do the office/ den. Also I’m not sure how they will look from the outside of the house.

  65. Storage space! My specifics are a little different, but I think a lot of us in smaller houses struggle with storage. Similar to a few other commenters, I live in an old home – probably built in the late 1890’s. Because it was a millworker’s cottage in an old cotton mill village, it was built with very little in the way of storage space. I would love advice on how to add storage space to a small old house. Would love to hear the pros and cons of modular storage units vs. reconfiguring existing spaces vs. adding built-ins. Those all represent very different price points. And while you’re at it, how do you stay true to the cottage feel of the house? Thanks so much!

    1. Your house sounds wonderful. Without seeing it my suggestion may be completely wrong, but I love using height when space is tight. I’m our 400 sq. ft laneway house, we did tall built in cabinets and a loft with a library ladder. The tenant loves it. A friend of mine had her tiny spare bedroom built into a library. The shelves go right to the ceiling even across the tops of the doors and windows. It’s fabulous. Good luck and have fun. Thanks

  66. Sherry,
    Regarding your “blah” rooms, Laurel always says “every room needs a little black”. I’ve found this to be a great tip, adding the spark that blah rooms need to be special. Try just a little – lamp bases, picture frames, etc. Hope this helps!

  67. Hi Laurel, I move country every 3 to 4 years with my husbands job. With every move a new life style and new style of housing. My latest move gives me something completely different – a big footprint, open plan with very high ceilings. How do I make the dining area separated from the main foyer and stair case.

    1. Love my 12 foot ceilings and open space but you don’t always want to be in your kitchen and living room at the same time. Do you think adding 2 lights hanging from the ceiling over the kitchen island would help make it feel separated?

    2. Hi Ann. Since you move so much, I would imagine you don’t want to spend a lot of money. Kallax cube shelves from IKEA Can be stacked and configured into wonderful room dividers. Decorate with some books, plants and family photos and you’re good to go. Look up “Kallax room divider hack” on google for some great ideas.

    3. Perhaps a large area rug for the dining table and chairs? Large plants? Trying to think of ways to give a hint of separation without investing in structural changes since you will likely move again.

  68. My biggest decorating problem is figuring out exterior home colors. Is there a method that I can use myself instead of just getting someone else to do it?

    1. Consult Pinterest for inspiration photos. The internet is your friend in your search. Drive through your area looking for exterior colors that you find appealing. Once you’ve narrowed it down, consider ordering square foot stick-on samples from Samplize in your chosen colors. You can place them on your house to get a good idea if you’re pleased with your selections.

    2. I drive around and look at other houses to get inspired. Sometimes you can straight up copy and get a great result.

  69. I have redecorated my house in the last few years. I am pleased with furniture, rug and paint choices but some of the rooms still look sort of blah. I often don’t know how to pull it all together so that the room looks finished and “special”. I am a less is more type so don’t like too many pillows, throws, knick-knacks and pictures (particularly don’t care for picture walls). My style is a mixture of mid-century mostly with a few asian touches and several older/antiques pieces. The current room I’m working on is the primary bedroom. Any ideas?

    1. I second Sherry’s request for help about pulling everything together so that a room looks finished and special — the “swoon” factor LOL.

    2. Yes, Sherry, this is me too! I get paralyzed at this stage and run out of steam and feel burnt out on spending money.

  70. Three years ago I bought an 1890 Victorian Cottage. It is a basic 4 room (each 15×15), central hallway design with a kitchen, laundry room/pantry, and enclosed porch (my library) on the back. I have decided to use the room nearest to the kitchen as a family/tv room. My problem is that this room has 4 doors, a fireplace, and one window. Under the window is a 12×12 HVAC grate. Any furniture arrangement suggestions?

    1. To Laura – Oh I have house just like this! An old Victorian with many doors, windows and grates to work around. And then a fireplace on top of that in the living room, like yours too. I don’t know if this will help you, but one thing that has worked for me is deciding which of the two, three, or four doors (or in some cases, windows) in a given room I can live without. I keep that door permanently closed, paint it the same color as the surrounding wall, and pretend it doesn’t exist. I’ve put furniture in front of doors, hung pictures on doors – just treated it like another piece of the wall.

      That gave me a lot more flexibility in a bedroom that had four doors, three windows, and no place to put a bed without blocking at least one of them. I sacrificed one door (no problem, there are still three other ways out!) and one window by draping a very wide curtain over it, behind the bed headboard.

      Sorry not to have any other specific advice. Good luck with your room!

    2. I am struggling with this also. I’m thinking of having 2 or 3 love seats and 4 or more comfortable chairs to make several seating arrangements. My first inclination was long sofa’s but then I have to pick 1 focal point and don’t know what to do with the rest of the room. With love seats, I can have 2 or 3 small seating arrangements. My living room used to be 2 rooms and is now 30 x 15 with 6 doors, 4 windows, a fireplace, a corner cabinet and a small upper closet.. My partner doesn’t want furniture “in the middle of the room”. Also have a tv in there which I refuse to put over the mantel. What’s the easiest way to test designs? pencil & paper?, software program?

    3. Laura,
      Our primary suite has a large window on the bed wall over the bed with two others on the sides going almost to the 12 ft ceiling. We have a magnificent whole wall of floor to ceiling glass doors that disappear when open. It felt like too many windows with no coziness. I hired a designer to create a floor to ceiling drapery treatment that then canopied out 5 ft over the bed. The look is dramatic and solved my endless open look. In a living area as you described, can you picture in your mind what door to the exterior could disappear behind a beautiful fixed set of drapery panels? Maybe put your sofa or love seat in front of it? I had to live here for two years until the solution came to me.

  71. Current problem is finding comfortable, transitional, upholstered seat and back dining room chairs with open sided arms that don’t weigh 40 pounds! Who wants to drag a heavy chair across the carpeting?

  72. My biggest decorating problem is the color of the woodwork throughout my home. It’s a lovely old house but whoever restored it in the 90s thought ‘antique ivory’ would be a good color. Nope. It’s ugly and it looks dirty (although it isn’t). I’d like to have it all painted white, but there’s so much of it! Not just window & door trim and baseboards, but crown molding and those medallion things on ceiling lights, and some chair rails. And then I’d have to replace ivory curtains, and probably repaint a few rooms. And where do I park my husband while all this is going on? Aghhh… nevermind. Moving will be easier.

    1. Hi Carol!
      Ohhh! I understand your frustration! It seems so overwhelming when looked at on the whole.

      Can you work on it in a piecemeal fashion starting with rooms that are somewhat separated? When changing our beige moldings to white, I started with the upstairs hall through the downstairs foyer. Bedrooms were tackled individually, and the kitchen was done along with the attached family room.

      If you’re hiring the work out, they will move much quicker than you
      would think. Hopefully, it won’t impact the hubby much!

      Good luck!
      P.S. I heard somewhere that Cotton Balls is a fantastic color!

      1. Cotton Balls is a terrific warm white. When we bought our home, I spent hours and hours pouring over white paint colors – mind boggling!. Laurel has recommended Cotton Balls as a favorite white once or twice and I said OK, painted a wall, loved it and the entire interior of our “LOTS of natural” light house is now the most most beautiful warm white. Never looked back!

        1. Lizo,
          Same here I took Laurels advice and used Cotton Balls on all my walls and I love it. Best decision ever.

      2. Oh this brings back memories! We bought a ranch home and every piece of woodwork, trim, doors etc were stained a very dark walnut. 2600 square feet of brown boxes and lines! Made the ceilings seem low and looked awful! I went through the home first and cleaned all the woodwork with TSP, and filled dings and dents with wood filler, then sanded. After everything was clean, I made an appointment with friends and family and we had a painting party. I purchased a bunch of tarps and a ton of painters tape, foam rollers, brushes and paint f course white paint. Day one was taping & priming everything. I bought a few Critter paint guns, (they attach to mason jars) and borrowed a couple extra air compressors. Once everything was ready, three of us went around and sprayed trim while the others prepared the paint, and kept taping. It was spring so we could remove the screens (from overspray), and open the windows! We had a lot of fun and although it was a ton of work, we knocked it out in a weekend. Although the house was relatively empty, which made it easier, as long as you tarp and tape well, it goes rather quickly with sprayers.

    2. Carol,
      We have the same problem. Only we have antique white. On every baseboard, door casing and window, molding… throughout the whole house (6,300sqft). And when we want a crisper, white look, or when we choose a color we love, it never goes with the dirty, creamy color of the trims.

    3. Hi Carol. Lol “park my husband.” Love it. Can you put him to work painting? I’m a DIY woman but hired out painting the upstairs in my 1911 home. I may never paint again. They work so quickly. It may have been the best money I ever spent. Good luck.

    4. My favorite classic white, goes with everything white is Benjamin Moore White Dove. I would paint all the doors, mouldings, and trim White Dove, and then worry about repainting the walls. Easy for me to say, uh? So much work! But start slowly, one area at a time.

    5. Hi Carol! I’m currently having a good deal of my woodwork painted… Ballet White! I don’t know what “antique ivory” is of course, but it could be close. The walls are Cotton Balls in the kitchen, and the Ballet White matches the cabinet color. We decided to carry the Ballet White to adjacent rooms rather than flip to a brighter white. This house was also redone in the 90s and the trim color is not that different. And yes, it looked dingy. Even when clean. The difference now is we’re pairing the off-white trim with deep or bright wall colors, so the contrast is still high, so it reads as white trim. The foyer and living room have dark wood trim which is lovely.

      My point is… It could be more cost effective to update your wall paint choices. We’re using Cotton Balls, Coastal Fog, Night Train, Backwoods, and Crowne Hill Yellow with our Ballet White trim. And for what it’s worth, I plan to mix it with white curtains in at least the yellow dining room. I hope this helps!

    6. Hi, Carol!

      1) I too used Cotton Balls, but over the pale blue kitchen walls, 3 coats look pale green, so do use a primer if needed.
      2) I second using a painting crew, and here’s how we found ours: we had a house we rented…absolutely beautiful interior. We got to know the landlord, and asked for his painters. His painters have done our rental houses, the interior of our church sanctuary, and I’m waiting until they are free to do an exterior on a rental house. A real estate agent may be a good resource also…sometimes they can recommend painters for folks selling their homes.

      I can’t paint well any more due to some arthritis in my hand, so painters have been a godsend. Good luck!

      1. Gabrielle, and others …. thank you all for your suggestions. Painting all the woodwork ourselves isn’t an option due to our age and physical issues. We could hire someone of course, it’s just the thought of putting up with the mess and disorder that discourages me. I do appreciate the color recommendation and will put Cotton Balls in my long term memory!

  73. Dear Betsy, I feel your pain. Working with contractors is the hardest job and takes a great deal of patience and confidence to confront an issue with them. I had a carpenter tell me after I asked some general questions about his proposal that he could not work with me, I was too picky. Anyway, if you already have engaged your contractors my advice on talking to neighbors about who they have used is useless. Essentially you are “committed” once you have engaged the contractor by giving him/her a down payment and they have started taking your plumbing or room apart. I do not think there is an easy solution if you are acting as your own general contractor. My personal experience is to try to establish a friendly but not too personal relationship. Be clear about my expectations and time line – and talk to them frequently about progress so that surprises or delays are caught immediately. That said I once had a house painter who took off during the job only to show up days later. Seems he had over committed and was painting more than one house in the same time frame. He did do a great job finally, none the less I was unhappy and did not use him again. I also had a carpenter who was excellent, everyone in the neighborhood used him. But while he was meticulous, he was slow and always underestimated the number of materials needed and incremental cost. I did not use him again either. I have had good, positive experiences with professional contractors who employ several workers. The difference in expense was slight over using individual self-employed guys. Yet, it comes down to project management (what I did for a living). I found you have to stay in touch, ask questions, confront issues in a positive way and gain commitment. Not easy especially if you have a full time job and family for which to care.

  74. My decorating dilemma is similar to Kim H. I have awkward floor plans with too many openings and traffic flow that has to go thru areas. For instance, the typical way we enter the house is thru the garage and entering into the house pass a laundry room and pantry and then into the kitchen where the path goes right in front of the cooking area -( which by the way has absolutely no prep area by it,) to the rest of the house. There is a peninsula in the kitchen and if you open the dishwasher you can open the cabinets to the side and I can’t reach the cabinets above the dishwasher when it’s open. I could remove the peninsula but that would probably mean redoing all of the hardwood floors and I know that’s not in the budget. The same issue for the main living area – too many openings – 5 – so furniture placement is really hard! Yikes!

  75. Laurel, thank you – this is a great treat. My current problem has is my family room. It is time to get rid of the 20yr+ old (recovered once) sofa and just as old 2 recliners (also recovered once) whose parts are failing. The issue is the shape of the room (24 x 20) and position of current furniture. So the long north wall wall is made up of built in bookcases with large enclosed tv cabinet. In the middle of this run built-ins is a double hung window with built in window seat connecting all the cabinetry. The south wall has double casement windows on either side of fireplace, the west has 2 french doors leading to living room and the east 4th wall has a double double-hung window in a short wall because the very wide entry into the kitchen is on this wall. At present all my furniture floats: 2 recliners with lamp tables either side of fire place, sofa parallel to bookcase/tv with rectangular coffee table in front, antique chest as sofa table with lamp behind it. I have an 2 electrical outlets in the floor allowing me to swing the current sofa to be parallel to bookcases/tv or to fireplace with windows. So you ask what is my issue. The arrangement parallel to tv has never looked right. Nothing anchors it on the left side. It looks best facing the fireplace – but then watching tv is very awkward. Now that we are ready to replace the furniture, I am struggling with what do I replace with? My husband demands one recliner – which I have agreed to and which I get to pick. So okay that is one thing out of the way. But do I invest in a chair with ottoman and sofa (I want the english arm style) or do I go sectional with chaise? The sectional fixes the tv viewing problem and will face both tv and fireplace because of its shape. Yet I am uncertain about sectionals. This may seem a simple problem – but the price tag will be considerable given the cost of upholstered furniture these days. What do you think?

  76. Hi Laurel, My biggest headache is our central staircase in an old Arts and Crafts house built in 1922. After 4 years living here I still haven’t come up with any ideas for pictures/mirrors/whatever on the tall wall that goes from the landing up to the ceiling which you face directly going up the stairs, nor for the walls in the upstairs hall. I’m thinking of having a Velux suntube installed to bring in light, and we’ve painted the entire hall a much lighter colour than the original dark yellow and dark old oak door trims and pickets and risers on the staircase, which has helped enormously, but I need some ideas on how to make it a welcoming space. What does one hang on a tall staircase wall?

    1. Paula, so I have had the same problem meaning very tall staircase wall flanked by just as long a wall as you go up a turned staircase. The tall wall bothered me for years. When we re-decorated, like you I chose a lighter color to open the space. And then we invested in a large piece of art proportional to the space. I had thought about a mirror but decided a piece of art that we could enjoy every morning as we came downstairs and evening as we went up. And it adds some color and depth to what would be an empty boring space. We can view it from above on the second floor landing and from below as we stand in our foyer. And we love the piece, have yet to tire of it over the years since it was hung.

    2. Moved from a historic Tudor house to a large modern place. Love the space, high ceiling in the living room with soaring brick fireplace …. But it’s so modern, and my furniture is mostly antique, or at least old fashioned. There are so many articles about combining modern touches in an older house, but none on how to make my furnishings look more comfortable in this modern home.

      1. Sherry, I agree with the other comment about a touch of black. I’ll add that every room needs a great textile. I used to be afraid to use prints in fabrics because I wanted to avoid my mother’s style, but I’ve found an amazing, usually pricey, pillow with a gorgeous print can make the room. Even an understated watercolor blend of colors. Adds movement to the room.

        1. I’ll second Robin’s suggestion to include one great textile—-i splurged on one wildly-patterned throw pillow that ended up serving more purposes than I expected. The colors serve as inspo for other accessories (flowers, throw, coffee table tchotchkes) and it provides a nice bit of ooomph in a small space. Maybe I give it too much credit but its value has far exceeded it’s price. 🙂

        2. Fabulous pillows are totally worth the money. They are the “art on the sofa/chair” and make a huge splash.
          Art/Rugs/Pillows are what I design around!!

    3. Paula, just a suggestion: in an Arts & Crafts house, maybe a hanging in a William Morris pattern? One can find reproduction Morris tapestry hangings, and of course there’s also fabric by the yard. If you want a visual example, on the UK House and Garden magazine site (open access) there’s a video with Joanna Plant showing a hanging on her staircase wall — a seventeenth-century crewelwork panel — but Morris was using this sort of thing as inspiration.

  77. Aside from a very limited budget — money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy all new furniture — my biggest decorating problem is how to update my home gracefully. I have a lot of stuff, furniture and whatnot, that we inherited from our parents, grandparents, aunts uncles, you name it. The architecture of our house is good, but I need to pull together the furniture mishmash with an updated color scheme and slipcover some faded upholstered chairs and a couch.
    I am leaning towards a white or natural linen slipcover for one of the couches. What wall paint will work with that?

  78. Greetings from Atlanta! My biggest decorating question is how much and where, to hang art without making a room “too busy”. In bedrooms, I find it hard to select and arrange art for the bed wall, especially if you have a higher than normal headboard. Also, I’d be interested in ideas for wall arrangements incorporating other items in addition to art. I’d also love to see some posts on table top and bookcase arranging. Love everything you post Laurel!

    1. Dear Susan Dorman,
      Art is usually hung at a 58 to 60 inch center. If the wall above the bed requires that you hang art higher than that, try to keep whatever hangs on the other 3 walls at 58 to 60 inch centers.
      When doing wall arrangements I try to set them out on a piece of craft paper on the floor that is the same size as the space they will hang on. When I think I have something good I squint or blur my eyes–this helps to see if anything seems out of place.
      When doing tabletop and book case arrangements it can help at the beginning to set things up with the pieces set up like they are soldiers in formation and then play with moving them in and out and side to side and to set up relationships between among them. I sometimes think of the pieces talking to one another.

  79. My upstairs bedrooms are full of funky half walls and slanted ceilings. This makes furniture placement and decorating very difficult. I have also read different opinions on painting such rooms. Some say paint the entire room (including the ceiling) one color. Others say paint just the knee wall a color and do the slanted walls the color of the ceiling. Many others say paint the knee wall and slanted walls one color. Please help—I am so confused and paralyzed when it comes to decorating these bedrooms. My first floor is done but I can’t figure out what to do with these bedrooms.

    1. Hi Susan…i too have upstairs bedrooms with slanted walls. Over the years i have lived in several houses like this. I have never considered the sloping walls to be part of the ceiling. They have always been paìnted the wall colour. I could see possibly painting the ceiling the wall colour as well. But, for me, i would not paint the ceiling colour on the sloped walls….oh, hand good luck with furniture placement. The only assistance i could offer would be to use low headboards!

    2. Hi, Susan, I have lived in 2 houses with these ceilings/walls in the bedrooms. I think they are charming and I like them best when the walls and ceilings are all painted the same color. If you go with something lighter you might feel more comfortable with this application. Good luck and enjoy your charming spaces!

    3. I would also love a post on this topic beyond painting – but also dealing with placement and types of furniture (beyond low headboards), including interesting uses of built-ins to “normalize” and maximize the space. We’ve been looking at Cape Cods and beach cottages on the East coast and this is a frequent issue we encounter and generally most say the solution is adding a dormer. But that’s not always feasible or desirable, and often doesn’t completely fix the problem!

    1. Jodi, I agree! I love those posts, Laurel, especially when you follow up with links to “get the look” items. Those posts really take the inspiration photos from conceptual to practical. I also enjoy browsing your weekly widgets – they’re like mini lessons in design.

      1. Thank you Robin. I think so too! That’s what people who don’t read the HOT SALES are missing out on. I don’t expect anyone to buy anything. (although I sure as heck appreciate it when people do) But, I do frequently share tidbits in the captions, such as “I’d use this piece in the entry, or between two windows or two could be used in a dining room, flanking one doorway as mini sideboards.” Most aren’t that long, but I’ll also point out things such as: This piece needs a large wall or room. Or, this would bookcase would be incredible in a dark library or den.

    2. Jodi, I agree with you. Those are my favorite posts and the other reply which mentions links for (affordable) look alikes.

  80. What are the best ways to blend vintage furniture and decor items with new pieces? (Or are there things to avoid when doing so?). Im downsizing and have some favorite things but also need to replace some seating and other items. Thanks- love your blog.

    1. Hi Barb, You’re lucky to have vintage pieces – they add soul to a space. A rule I’ve heard is either 80/20 or 90/10, in which one number is the percentage of new and one is the percentage of vintage. In my case, as an avid estate sale and auction participant, it’s 90 vintage and 10 new. (Also, I like saving money!) Scale might be the most challenging element when mixing eras, as new furniture can be much larger than old. Laurel has a great post about gigantic furniture! Seating heights are something to really keep an eye on. Another rule of thumb for case goods is to always have at least two pieces of the same wood or finish. If you don’t, the room ends up looking like a garage sale. Best of luck, and have fun with it!

      1. To Kathy O.

        Yes, yes, yes to the 80/20 or 90/10 rule. It works! So, even if one’s style is predominantly modern/contemporary, a smashing traditional case piece, mirror, lamps, Oriental rug, art, or fabric create a space I think is more interesting. There’s a post on here somewhere about mixing traditional and modern furnishings. If interested, please use the search box to find the post(s)

      1. Well, would love to hear your thoughts! Ive seen other questions and comments that are similar- guess a lot of us need your insight and talent!

  81. Morning all. My biggest decorating challenge is that architectural decisions made mumble-mumble years ago (OK, almost a decade) have left me firefighting as I try to finish my renovation. The sitting room is long and narrow, and almost impossible to lay out. There are so many doors and doorways in the kitchen-diner (I’m responsible for one set of those, as my ‘isband’ constantly reminds me) that it’s impossible to lay it out comfortably. The chef is stuck cooking behind a wall. The table is in the way of something wherever it goes. And the moment for changing walls and doors has long gone. Twelve layout options (only a slight exaggeration), none truly practical. Is there anything you can help with, dear Laurel? I’d love some ideas for the kitchen-diner with too many doors and entrances. I was so relieved when I saw your bedroom suite layouts. I thought I was going nuts drawing up so many options until I read your ‘explore every possibility’ mantra. I’d have to send you my layouts by email. I might do that on the off chance. Meanwhile, to everyone renovating — first off, take your time in the planning, as much as you can or need. And second, I really hope we can help each other figure this stuff out, because living environments do matter – they have a massive impact on our well being. Love to all.

  82. My biggest decorating issue is that in my living space is a huge open area connecting the large entry hall, living room, kitchen, and dining area. I would love for you to write about adding walls to all these open floor plan houses that have been so popular the last couple decades.

    I can picture very clearly how nice it would be to divide my cavernous space into two or three smaller rooms but anytime I mention it to someone, they look at me like I’m crazy. But it would be so lovely to invite people over and not too have to worry about a mess in the kitchen.

    When we first moved in 8 years ago, the first thing we did was install some small walls and a couple of doors to close off an additional family room and we have never regretted it. That was pretty simple because the main opening was only about 5 feet wide. Dividing the kitchen from the living room is going to be a bit more complicated. And it has to wait until we save money to replace our roof first so likely it won’t be for another ten years.

    So I guess after that long rambling comment, my simple question is: am I crazy for wanting to put up a giant wall? Though with Laurel’s rules, you aren’t allowed to call me crazy 😂 but of course please tell nicely why it might not be a good idea. One problem with it off the bat is that the kitchen has no outer walls so it wouldn’t have any natural light from windows.

    1. Jenny, you’re not crazy but I would suggest waiting until that time arrives and then decide. Who knows, in ten years, we could be back to smaller rooms and you’d be the trendsetter at least in thought. Just see what trends and changes in your life bring and decide when you’re ready to do the project.

    2. Hi Jenny,

      My husband and I had similar challenges, you are not alone! We moved into our house TWO WEEKS before crazy Covid and the pandemic hit. We have 12 foot metal front doors that enter a small foyer, straight into the living room, dining room and kitchen, all combined into one large space with 16 ft ceilings.

      I’ve been retired from corporate life for several years and I’m an abstract art painter, so I used the isolation time during covid to address the house design challenges while my sweet hubby completed his cancer treatment successfully.

      The 3 Savoy House bronze traditional chandeliers in this massive space definitely create clear separation for each area.

      Since this is a Mediterranean style home, I used paint colors in a limited Mediterranean palette to denote separate each area. The Sherwin Williams enticing red reads as a deep coral, in the foyer entry and the kitchen in the back. Sherwin Williams Santas Beard (which is similar to Benjamin Moore’s heavy cream is in the living room and dining area and the arches in SW Connors lakefront frame each area. (so much color is NOT for everyone, but the art definitely moves the eye from front of the house to the back and makes use of all the visual space and unifies the palette) to create visual separation.

      Once the home colors were done and we both thought we could live with them, we set up home living zones, each distinct (a LOVESAC Mediterranean blue couch is perfect with the arches in the SW Connors Lakefront, a cream rug anchor the living area and cream walls, with a Hooker credenza and lighting behind and clear walkways).

      That flows immediately into the dining area with a Sarreid ebony jupe table and tapestry chars and an Oriental rug in the current red, cream and blue, (our 18th century Ogee chest on one wall with soft lighting and art and the other wall with a primitive style sideboard, added candlestick lamps and more art to balance that side) and then a few feet going straight into the kitchen, with our 16 foot copper vent hood and 12 ft island, the Cream stools under the island for seating and the Sherwin Williams Enticing red in the back.

      Each area has distinct separation because the interior Mediterranean arches create obvious separation – 3 large arches in Sherwin Williams connors lakefront (deep turquoise blue) frame each room, which assist with the distinct color and visual separation.

      I prefer an organized space and I too wished to hide the kitchen mess, eeeeek!
      We had originally planned to install ceiling to floor drapes in soft cream, for each arch to close off the different areas, but for now, this living functions comfortably and the colors, furnishings and accessories create a continuity and surprisingly lovely flow. (We often have 6 or 8 friends here in the neighborhood over for potluck dinners so we move the dishes to the butlers pantry side of the kitchen, pop the dishes in the 2nd sink in the back and 2nd dishwasher and visit and then clean – so I’m learning to visit and spend the cleanup time once the evening ends…truly hope this helps, Jenny!

      We live in a verrrrry social neighborhood (we now play Pickleball on the weekends with a rotating group, movie time in our theater room some weekends, happy hour and turns with each house hosting etc.) so we have a stream of neighbor friends in and out regularly.

      With such a social group and an age range of 30’s to 80’s in age, lots of common ground and discussion about homes and colors and furnishing selections and for almost all of us, design challenges – and a few are in the interior design field or accessories biz, so while daunting for my family to buck the current trends with color, we have received a lot of positive feedback – be true to your own aesthetic so you and your family love your place and space. Wishing you Good luck!)

    3. Jenny, walls are what make a Home cozy and comfortable! The open concept is an HGTV trend, you aren’t crazy for wanting to block the kitchen messiness. Maybe in the meantime you could add some double sided bookcases or etagere for distraction?

    4. Hi Jenny! We just moved into a home that we love that has completely open space just as you described. It it clear (from the lighting) where every “room” was supposed to be, but the layout wasn’t as inviting as we’d thought once we lived in it for a while. We recently decided to reverse two spaces, by swapping furniture pieces and temporarily raised a chandelier. The key for us was adding two area rugs where we wanted each new “room”. Now we have a conversation area off the kitchen (four swivel chairs around a coffee table) that we LOVE, giving us a cozy casual feeling in the area. We moved the dining table to sit between the conversation space and a living area that is also anchored by a larger area rug (there is no rug under the dining table but we could add one). That helps keep the kitchen just a little further from the dining area so that any mess is less in the line of sight. It seems now the rugs divide off the spaces well. We will eventually change overhead lighting in one space, but won’t add walls because we would block natural light. You’re not crazy to add walls, but since it may be awhile, try the area rug idea if you haven’t, and maybe try flipping the purpose of a space of two? I love my home so much more now that right off the kitchen is our go-to hangout space instead of a dining area that the builder intended for me to put there. Good luck, and have some fun with it!!

    5. Jenny, the first comment that caught my eye was the problem of a messy kitchen. I am the messy kitchen queen. I am wondering if an island that has a taller “back” would help in this situation. I am a fond follower of Architectural Digest, and I see many modern kitchens that do not look like kitchens, with this. Also, have you considered a wall of French Doors to divide your kitchen from the remainder of the area? This would solve your problem with light.

      My issue is that I believe more is more, and that and estate sales get me in trouble!

    6. Would a partial wall work to conceal the kitchen mess? As in about four feet high? There must be attractive ways of doing that, and it wouldn’t block the light. A kitchen with no source of natural light is dreary (unless you can turn it into a jewel box, like Laurel’s).

    7. Hi Jenny,

      I just realized, that I should set a good example and avoid links in the comments. However, if you look up “open floorplan” or “open concept” in the search box, you’ll find some good information. There are a few posts where I’ve done exactly that; take an open plan and add in the walls, half walls, and columns (not necessarily all of those in one home) that should’ve been there in the first place.

    8. Jenny, I’ve seen interior “walls” made of paned glass. Sometimes floor to ceiling, sometimes partial, sometimes with the bottom wainscoting and panes on top. You could use the same concept but use a lightly frosted or seeded glass which would shield the view but still let light enter the kitchen.

  83. Blog idea:
    1) creating better zones in an open floor plan kitchen/family room through archways, detailed columns and other architectural suggestions.
    2). Painting floor tile (or specifically streaking my light wood look tile with a darker wood color accent that will hold up…gel stain?)
    3) Weaving warmth into a white kitchen using wood accents both on wall and counter
    4) Summer Thornton gutsiness applied practically in regular homes
    5) Good graphic fresh textiles for curtains in a white room (specifically greens)

    1. Hi, I have bookcases on each side of my fireplace. The fireplace is the focal point straight in front of the door. I have my TV hanging above the mantle and the bookcases on each side go down about 3/4 of the way and then there are doors at the bottom on each side. How do I decorate? I have a few books scattered and pictures but it looks junky! Please help. Thank you very much! Teresa

      1. @Teresa Jackson I had the same layout. My 1990’s custom bookcases/cabinets on each side of fireplace always looked a mess and cluttered in our open floor plan. That area lacked light as well. I was so aggravated and constantly trying to adjust it. Finally I had enough – One day my husband walked in from work and found me and a handy-man tearing them out. He was used to me making changes but his expression was so funny. I moved them to my garage. Fantastic idea (great storage). : ) On a side note another reason I wanted it done… We were refinishing our floors and I was not sure if there was wood under the builtin cases and figured it would be a good time to add wood if not. And I was right – there was no wood so we had floor guy add more oak boards before he sanded and stained. Now I was ready to do anything I wanted in that space. You never know what your will find when you start tearing out.

        In place, I purchased 2 beautiful chests with 5 foot mirrors, beautiful pair of lamps (now I have light), temple jars and I love how much more modern and clean it looks.

    2. Laurel, Is there any hope of locating more of a fabric I have and love but do not have the actual information on it.

  84. How do you make a focal space in a 2 story living room with no fireplace and off centered windows and doors??!!

  85. figuring out what we need now (newly retired) in our home office – new carpet? or hardwood floors and area rug? keep the bookcases? get rid of them? get more bookcases?
    two separate desks with separate computers? best setup for small office equipment? file storage?
    yikes! I’m overwhelmed therefore no progress.
    Also doubles as a workout space – no machines, tho. just computer screens…
    Appreciate any suggestions… thanks

    1. Dearest, would love your thoughts on how to place furniture in a small living room with a corner fireplace? It’s small enough that we are having problems following your rule not to let your chairs “overlap” with your sofa. It’s a very old farmhouse. Thank you! Xoxoxo

      1. I,too, have been paralyzed with indecision over how to furnish a small living room with a wood stove in an odd spot – sort of in the middle of a rectangle that divides one floor into kitchen, dining, and living. The stove is off to the side, but at the boundary of the kitchen, which occupies the back right third of the space. When you enter the house you are facing the kitchen and the stove is slightly to the left. I’ve thought about a sectional on the left exterior wall, but that gets me close to cutting off passage to the dining area in the left back third of the space. I’ve thought about a sofa (with maybe an ottoman) on the left exterior wall, but the wall is full of windows, so I can only center a smallish sofa. And where do I put some occasional chairs? If I put one near the door, it’s uncomfortably far from the sofa and there’s really only room for one. I am quite flummoxed.

    2. Hi! I live near you, in West Hartford, CT. I’ve been trying to renovate a house built in 1920’s for three years now. My biggest problem has been dealing with painters, carpenters, plumbers and electricians. No one seems to care, no one finishes anything, they leave a mess, they barely return phone calls etc. And no one has any ideas.. they all need to be told exactly what to do, and never suggest anything. Is this just me? Am I lacking a Laurel finesse with these people?

      1. I think you just need to ask more questions when you are getting quotes from contractors, at least that’s what has worked for me. Start with the basic idea of what you want and need in as much detail as you can, then ask for suggestions to save on the budget, what potential problems the contractor may have seen with similar projects, what problems they anticipate with an old house, ect. Have a conversation and get a feel for how you feel about working with this person in your house. And ask for references and call them, ask about if they showed up ready to work on time, was everything cleaned up each day, how did they resolve any issues that came up or what other concerns you have. Even better if you can go see a completed project. It takes time but for me it’s better to put that time in upfront and have a better chance of getting an end project that makes me happy. Good luck getting through the rest of your renovations!

      2. Hi Betsy,

        No, it is not just you; not at all. I sometimes have the same problem. And, especially with returning phone calls. Yes, it’s maddening. Of course, get lots of references. If they can’t or won’t produce lots of references, then you can move on. If they do give you at least ten, call all of them. If nobody gets back to you, it’s not a good sign.

        Communication is HUGE. Most problems wouldn’t be problems if both sides would talk about it if there’s any question whatsoever.

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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