Design Q&A: What to do with purple bathroom?


Interiors and textile designer Kathryn Ireland of Bravo TV's "Million Dollar Decorators" joined Washington Post staff writer Jura Koncius recently for an online chat. Here is an edited excerpt:

Q: I recently moved into a house with a principal bathroom that has gorgeous, deep-purple walls. I found a bright purple/green/turquoise shower curtain to go with them. Now I'd like to choose a single metal finish to replace the mishmash that's currently there (dark metallic shower rod, satin bronze tub fittings, brushed nickel sink tap, etc.). Which would you recommend? The floor and shower are tiled in beige-toned ceramic, and the fixtures and trim are white.

A: There seems to be a lot going on. I would go for the brushed nickel, but I would also reconsider using any other color there if the purple is to stay. If you do want to use a pattern on the shower curtain, then make sure you incorporate the purple.

Q: We are updating our kitchen with soft white painted cabinets and white marble tops. We will have an island that is on the smaller side. Should I keep it simple and paint it white, or add interest with black or maybe a wood tone?

A: I would do it a different paint color. See my book "Timeless Interiors," which shows lots of kitchens with islands painted a different color. Or, find a vintage piece that will add character to the room.

Q: What kitchen countertops are timeless? I feel like granite is becoming dated and quartz is trendy. Things like marble, butcher block and soapstone seem more timeless to me. Or is the timelessness more in the finish (matte/honed vs. shiny)?

A: Avoid granite as you are right, it is dated. Go honed if doing a marble, but also check out Cambria's Torquay, which is a marble look-alike. I have it in my office kitchen. It does have a polish to it, but there will be no maintenance. Also go with a thicker built-up edge.

Q: I am adopting a toddler and will bring him home in December. I selected a transportation-themed quilt from Land of Nod with blue and gray. I'd like the walls to be gray as well. It's hard to find true gray that doesn't have blue in it. I want gray, but I want it to be a zen, peaceful gray, not a depressing gray.

A: Congratulations. Farrow & Ball's Elephant's Breath is a good gray. Grays are hard. Farrow & Ball's Purbeck Stone is also a great color.

Q: I'm remodeling a hall bath. What do you recommend for tile, vanity, etc., that will stand the test of time?

A: I love the carrara hexagon for tile on the floor. A classic pedestal white china vanity with polished nickel taps. Add in a fun light fixture overhead. Counters should also be carrara honed, as should the shower surrounds. There is nothing chicer and more timeless than all in carrara.

Q: I'm building a new kitchen. The wall cabinets are natural cherry with mocha glaze. The island cabinets are a light gray with same glaze. I'm planning a stainless backsplash and have not selected granite yet. Can you give me a few color ideas in lighter-hued blues/teal/gray? There is one north-facing window and one skylight.

A: You are bringing in too many elements. For your counters, use a honed black granite, or my preference would be soapstone. It needs to be properly sealed and kept up.

Q: How much does your British background influence your design aesthetic?

A: I've been in California half of my life now, but growing up between London and the Scottish coast has been a huge influence on my designing. I love the relaxed comfort of an English country house. I have developed my own style, drawn from my summers in France and the beaches of Santa Monica and Malibu. Mixing color with European antiques and layering textures is my favorite way to decorate.

Q: What are some of your ideas for changing it up this fall in your home?

A: I've just got some of my new tartans from the mill I work with in Scotland and I'm going to be making some throw pillows and reupholstering a couple of chairs. One of my new prints (debuting early 2015) is inspired by an 18th-century document and will be used for lampshades.

Q: I live in a typical 1950 brick Colonial and am thinking of painting my dining room red above the chair rail (either Sherwin-Williams's Salute or Fireweed) and Sherwin-Williams Latte below the chair rail. I currently have samples of both colors on the wall. While I like Fireweed the best, I'm worried it's a little too dark for a small room. The room is only 12 by 11 feet.

A: If you're going for red, I would keep the whole room in one color, or you could do red in two tones in the room. If using one color, go 35 percent lighter above the chair rail. It also depends on the ceiling height and how high the chair rail is.

I would continue the paint color on the ceiling but go lighter again. Maybe 20 percent lighter. You really have to play with the colors. If money is not an issue, lacquer or high-gloss would be great.

Last modified: October 17, 2014
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