Q&A: Avoid the wrong-color bathroom



Sara Peterson, editor in chief of HGTV Magazine, was the guest recently on The Washington Post's Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt:

Peach works better than pumpkin orange for a bathroom's color. (SHUTTERSTOCK  PHOTO)

Peach works better than pumpkin orange for a bathroom's color. (SHUTTERSTOCK

Q: I have a bathroom attached to a bedroom that is painted a light pumpkin orange. The decorator said not to paint the bathroom that color (because it would make you look funny when you put on makeup). Are there colors you should not paint a bathroom for that reason? What colors would you suggest? The bathroom has white tile and no window, and is of average size.

A: I think the decorator was right. Pumpkin orange would not be flattering in a bath. Lighter colors, even pink and peach, are great options because they flatter your skin.

Q: I have 20-foot ceilings in my living room and tons of light. The furniture colors are neutral light and medium browns and some blue for color. I'm looking for a light gray for the living room and entryway. What do you suggest?

A: Check out White Duck from Sherwin-Williams. It's a very pale gray and super pretty.

Q: We recently installed an asymmetrical island, made with a beautiful piece of granite (lots of color, lots of movement). It's huge and beautiful, but now the expanse of granite seems to call for something to break it up -- an art piece, pottery, plants. I would love to have some suggestions. I would also love some recommendations on where to buy counter stools.

A: Big islands need big things on them, such as large bowls or trays, and we also love tiered fruit and cake stands. Look for tabletop items with height. For counter stools, try Ballard Designs and Ikea.

Q: I have a wall of windows in the breakfast area that is part of my kitchen, and the kitchen has a large window over the sink. There are also French doors in this combined area, with a transom window. So, a lot of windows. Are there any new ideas for window coverings that could be adjusted to let the light in during the day but could also be adjusted to ensure privacy at night or when we are away on travel? Right now I have a lot of wooden blinds.

A: Have you seen the window shades that can be adjusted from the top and the bottom? They're fun because they can be custom-sized to any window. Check out Smith and Noble and www.blinds.com to see some design options.

Q: I am really tired of sisal and seagrass rugs. Do you have any ideas for some fresh looks in the rug department that aren't too expensive but wear well?

A: I had seagrass for a long time and got tired of it, too, plus it can be scratchy under your feet. There are so many great flat-weave cotton rugs out there that are easy to clean and have great colors and patterns. And more than ever, outdoor rugs are being used indoors. They are softer now than they used to be. Check out www.rugsusa.com and www.overstock.com and www.homedecorators.com.

Q: I am interested in painting my living room and dining room and all the trim. Can you suggest a neutral color for walls and trim that would make my room feel brighter?

A: I love White Chocolate by Benjamin Moore for walls and trim. If you're doing walls and trim the same color, do a glossier finish on your trim. It's really pretty. Another great neutral color for walls is Maison Blanche from Sherwin-Williams.

Q: After spending many thousands of dollars with an architect drawing up plans to expand our house only to find out that it's not feasible, we would like to work with what we have and redo the less wonderful aspects of our home (namely, a kitchen gut and renovation and master bath gut and expansion). What is the most economical way to go about designing this to maximize space? We are tapped and can't think of going back to the architect. Do kitchen and bath showrooms offer design services?

A: Yes, often kitchen and bath showrooms offer design services. I would definitely try to take advantage of those and get ideas from the pros in those places. Stores like Home Depot and Lowe's can help, too.

Q: What do you think of the Pantone color of the year, Radiant Orchid? I think it's a hard color to use except in small doses.

A: Agreed. I love the color but it's very rich, so it would look great in small doses. I think it would look stunning in a small room like a guest bath or in a dining room that you don't use every day.

Q: I just read the piece in The Post about using things from nature. It reminded me that I have two things in my basement. I not only have two tortoise shells, I have the whole turtles. One turtle is from the Pacific near Okinawa and the other came from somewhere near Panama. We lived in Okinawa and my dad did some work in Panama, so you could say there is some family history there. What should I to do with two whole turtles? I'm not sure how I feel about having these creatures in my home.

A: I can understand not wanting to get rid of anything that has family history, so I'd say just don't go overboard by putting too many on display in one place or room. Scatter them around your house. What if you put one on display on a wall surrounded by pictures of your dad and maybe some photos to make a sentimental gallery wall? I think that would be sweet.

Q: I bought my house four years ago and every room had crown molding -- something I really like. However, it's starting to separate from the ceiling. I'm going to be listing my house to sell next month and this is something the real estate broker said to fix. How do I get the crown molding back up? 

A: I had this problem, too, in my old house that was a 1930s bungalow. It has to do with the foundation settling, so it's best to call a contractor to get his or her professional opinion on what to do. Good luck!

Q: Do you have any ideas on how to replace those dreadful vertical blinds that many rentals come with?

A: They're so hard to clean, too! Unless you really need them for privacy, I'd take them down or if you can push them all to one side, then you could camouflage them with curtain panels. I love West Elm for finding inexpensive panels.

Q: Our master bathroom will be renovated in May. Our contractor will be removing the old Jacuzzi tub and putting in a new bathtub. I see my choices are cast-iron or even composite bathtubs. What is your preference and why?

A: I like the look of both, especially cast iron in older homes -- but if you don't necessarily want to go for a vintage look, I'd go with the composite. They seem easier to keep clean and they come in lots of different styles, from classic to modern.

Q: Any colors you're seeing a lot of, or readers seem to be fans of? I really love summer colors, but it feels strange to seek them out for pillows, accessories or paint in the middle of winter.

A: I love talking pillows. At the magazine, we're always talking about simple seasonal switches you can do around your house. We like richer and warmer colors in the fall (like persimmony orange, deep red, emerald green) and in the summer using brighter, more poppy colors like lemony yellows and teal/turquoise. Also, purples are really popular now. Richer eggplant colors in winter and fall and lighter lavender tones in the spring and summer.

Q: What color would you recommend for the walls in my living room if I have gray couches? I know the possibilities are endless, and I'm afraid to commit.

A: With gray, I love pale blue, or you could do a light blue with some gray tones in it. If you want something brighter, soft yellow always looks nice with gray. You could add some teal and dark blue pillows on your couches. That would look stunning and sophisticated.

Q: I live in a studio. What can I use to separate my bed area from my living area that isn't too bulky or obvious?

A: How about a tall open shelf of cubbies? Check out the Expedit series from Ikea. It's a great room divider and you can fill it with books, small artwork, baskets and colorful canvas bins.

Q: We are just starting to work with a designer. The first in-person meeting was last week and it seemed to go well. Any tips on having a good relationship (and good result) going forward? What do you like clients to do and not do?

A: If you haven't already, I'd suggest putting together a file of pictures from magazines of rooms, colors and looks you love. It's always easier to talk about decorating when you have pictures you can look at together. And start a Pinterest board of looks you'd like in your own home and invite the designer to look at your picks.

Last modified: February 21, 2014
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