Chat With DC Designers Liz Levin and Sally Steponkus

Read the transcript from these two interior designers, who gave advice on everything from too-masculine bathrooms to light fixtures.

Do you have a design dilemma? Help is on the way! Submit your questions for DC designers Liz Levin (web site) and Sally Steponkus (web site) and they'll write back with ideas and advice during a live chat on Wednesday, July 29th at 11 am.

Levin got her start as an in-store designer at Vastu, a furniture store near DC's Logan Circle. She launched her own design firm in 2004, and has made a name for herself with modern yet comfortable interiors.

Steponkus is known for putting an updated twist on traditional styles. In this year's DC Design House, she used cheery yellow accents and geometric patterns in the sitting room. Steponkus opened her design firm in 2001, at age 24. The 29th also happens to be her birthday.

Submit your design questions in advance now, and check back on July 29 at 11 am to see them answered. 

Liz: Alright fellow Washingtonians, this was a real treat to answer all of your burning design questions- I wish you all the success in your decorating endeavors! (insert personal plug here) For more info on my work visit us at

Sally: Thanks, DC, for writing in!  Had such fun answering your fantastic questions!  If you’d like to see more of my work, please visit:

Takoma Park
I have a bedroom that gets very strong sunlight in the morning. Would painting it a warm color make it feel too hot?
Liz: A light warm color will certainly feel bright in strong morning sunlight. I painted my daughter’s room an interesting yellow (Farrow & Ball’s Hound Lemon) and her room has intense afternoon light which has a very bright, but not necessarily hot effect. It is especially lovely in Winter! A warm dark color, like chocolate brown, could feel too hot. Instead, I would try a cool tone such as a spa blue or soft gray.
Arlington, Va.
I just moved and am looking for a new dining table that's nicer than something a la IKEA (not that I have anything against the place, but…). Problem is, everything I find at West Elm or Crate & Barrel or wherever is too large for the space. Do you have any suggestions as to where I can find a modern-looking dining table that seats four that's about 40"-48" in length or diameter?
Liz: West Elm usually has reasonably priced solutions for smaller spaces. I saw this modern dining table that is only 42”

And this Parsons style 36” Square table is also chic. In that same price range I would look at CB2 as well, here is a glass and chrome option that is 48” round and takes up less visual space with its see-through top.

Washington, DC
All the furniture in my contemporary dining room is cherry or pear wood – basically, a light colored wood. The floor is also a similar color. I need a sideboard or buffet for the room and am wondering whether I should try to find cherry that might not quite match (NOT easy to find cherry anyway) or go for a contrasting color. Most everything comes in chocolate these days and that doesn't seem right. Thoughts?
Sally: I would go about this in a different way and decide which finish you like best and keep that piece in that finish, i.e. if you like the cherry best, maybe keep that piece that finish, then maybe refinish the floor in another color (whitewashing is great and chic and light and pretty looking) and get other pieces that match the cherry of the table.  OR if you like the light tones of the floor, maybe repaint the table white, get upholstered chairs and maybe get sideboards/accessory pieces that are painted in a color or that go with the drapery and upholstery fabrics (I specifically love furniture painted in a sturdy, lacquer finish).  I do not care for “suites” of furniture, unless they’re old, but even then I happen to like using other finishes than the usuals – cherry can be boring and in a contemporary setting often looks like office furniture, and “builder neutral” floors are often dull as well and are easily jazzed up with a very dark finish or a very light one.  Also, don’t forget to use an area rug for the Dining Room!  The bigger the rug is, the larger the room feels – don’t just get a rug that fits under the dining table – it’ll look silly AND trip up your guests as they pull their chairs in & out.  Make sure though that the rug has reveals a wood border so you can still see the hardwood.
Falls Church, VA
I'm a bargain shopper for quality furniture. My shopping buddy in Anne Arundel County, Maryland and I want to start the hunt for dining room and living room furniture, style transitional to slightly traditional. What stores in Maryland are your favorites? I really like Green Front in Manassas but that's too far for my Maryland friend. 
Sally: Greenfront is good if you like pretty traditional or transitional pieces, but it is also sort of homogeneous to me.  I’d rather find something old in a neat shape or style and have it refinished, repainted, reworked or recovered.  In AA county, most of the transitional pieces are going to be found at big box stores.  For more interesting pieces, I’d look on Craig’s list, ebay and at flea markets.  There aren’t too many one of a kind stores in that area that specialize in well priced new furniture, sadly.
How does DC inspire you work as an interior designer?
Sally: I think my work is directly influenced by the Classical architecture that is all around us in DC, and which I was surrounded with as a child growing up in Foggy Bottom.  I was a Classics major in college so I’m especially aware of Greek and Roman motifs, styles, etc. that abound downtown, on the mall, at the Capitol, etc., i.e. Greek key border, the egg & dark design, the use of columns, and pediments, just to name a few.  I was taught at school that to understand the future, you must study and understand the past.  I feel the exact same way about design.  I like to be aware of the styles that came before and were popular, and why and when and where THOSE came from.  These make a great foundation for using traditional styles but modifying them to fit modern day life.
Where can I shop for budget furniture that won't make my entire house look like it was outfitted by Ikea? Also, what pieces should I consider "investing" in?
Liz: A lot of the big-box retailers have affordable options since they deal in so much volume. West Elm, CB2, Crate and Barrel  and even Target are all popular ones. I have also sourced select items from catalogs like Chiasso, Ballard Designs and Wisteria. Also research the outlet sales for those aforementioned Big-Box retailers –Crate & Barrel has a good one in Old Town. Flea markets are great places to find unique pieces for less!

I would invest in pieces that you use a lot and that make great style statements. A quality sofa is a big one to get right since you’ll have it awhile. Invest in accessories you love and I tend to invest in window treatments, as I think they elevate and finish a space. Cheap ones look just that. It’s a splurge for sure but I try to get the best I can afford.

alexandria, va
What are the starting steps to transform from living like a college dorm room to actually living in a well designed space.

Liz: When I think of dorm decorating, my mind goes to posters, plastic crates and lots of clutter in tight quarters. You’ll need to rid yourself of all of the above! I would say first look at your space, and if it is a small space like a studio apartment, it’s worth it to design a super functional floor plan and invest in attractive storage- be it a built-in or decorative storage baskets uniting your collections of media, books and other things laying around.

Often missing in dorm living, are interesting throw pillows, which can energize the most boring sofa. Pick a color scheme and mix patterns in the same color family and toss in odd numbers- 3 pillows is a good place to start. A nice throw in your new color scheme will add cozy pulled-togetherness as will a pair of matching lamps lending symmetry. A framed mirror works in lieu of posters and is less costly than a lot of artwork. That said, if you can find interesting art at a flea or are willing to invest piece by piece – that certainly elevates a space; and art can move with you to your next place!

Even if you cannot afford expensive furniture, you can pull together items that are united by a neutral palette, that looks sophisticated and allows you to mix and move things around as you mature into bigger or different living spaces.

I live in a one badroom apt with the smallest bathroom ever.I am trying to get some ideas how to make it functional and pretty. Thanks Daira
Sally and Liz: Wallpaper!  Definitely in the bathroom, and maybe paint fun coordinating colors in other areas to keep the flow going.  Also if you put the same window treatments (white wood blinds, natural grass shades, etc.) in every room, it creates a continuity that will help expand the space and therefore appear larger.
Washington, DC
Hello! Any suggestions for stylishly dealing with a bedroom skylight? I love the light that enters from it during the day, but it's really hard to get a full night sleep (my bed has to be situated right under it) when the bright rays enter my room and wake me up at 6 AM. I was thinking of some sort of scarf (it would have to be a big one) that dims the light some but doesn't completely block it out, but I have no idea where in DC I could get one.
Sally: I think the best and most “finished” looking option to deal with the brightness of the skylight in the daytime is to have a motorized duette or solar shade installed.  A shade of either type would be mounted inside the frame of the skylight and would be operated by remote control (it’s not like you’ll be able to reach up there!)  It is hard to do anything more decorative (plus a fabric shade up there would look weird) so if you had a duette (honeycomb shade) that is light filtering but not necessarily room darkening, hopefully that would cut down on that bright sunshine.  You could also use a solar shade, which is, in my opinion, nicer looking, and you could select one that suits you depending on the percentage of light they allow to come through.  By making them operable via remote, you have the option to open, close or pull partially open at your discretion.
Silver Spring, MD
We have a mission/arts & craft style in our condo. We have a LARGE space on one wall that we are trying decide how to best fill. A painting we supposed, but we haven't found one that seems to work well. Thoughts?

Sally: Since you didn’t mention what room this is, I sort of imagine it being in a hallway where you don’t know what to do about furniture arrangement, etc.  I often like to use a console table that is somewhat narrow (max 20” deep usually but it depends on the width of your space, of course) with one or two good sized lamps on top (depends on if you are OK with asymmetry or not), a mirror hanging above (ONLY if you’re reflecting a piece of art or a nice window, etc…  when choosing a mirror – the most important thing to consider is what you’re reflecting…) and accessories on top that reflect you.  If this space is at the entry of your home or in a hallway, it’s also nice to sometimes throw a funky bench underneath as extra seating, or if the console has stretchers or is a full-bodied piece of furniture like a chest, if you could flank it with a pair of interesting chairs, as this can make for a very inviting, interesting and functional space.  You may also want to use a cool, old tray or platter as a catch-all for keys, cell phone, and all of the stuff that you dump out of your purse at the end of the day and have no time to put it away but don’t want to just chuck it somewhere and leave it out.  You can consolidate your items there so they won’t look messy or out of place.  Sometimes I like to put big wicker baskets under a front hall console that you can use for quick storage for kids’ mittens, boots, umbrellas, etc.  Another tip for having this entry hall area is to really show some fun color or pattern that embodies YOU (you can always wallpaper one wall!  I did in my front hall – see Washingtonian August 2009, page 133!) and set the tone or style for the rest of the home.  You could showcase a collection of some sort:  shells, little boxes, tchotchkies, etc. and give your guest a quick overview of you, your style and your home.

Liz: Either a large scale piece of artwork that is proportional to the space, or I often group a collection of items linked by frame, color or style and stagger them. Another impactful option is to buy inexpensive white wooden Ikea frames- 30” or so square or rectangular -and make a grid on your wall. Pick a theme like abstract photography or some graphic image in each one. In a condo I worked on, where the living room had a huge wall up to a loft, I used 9 open square boxes from West Elm and we left them empty as this interesting geometric wall installation. Drew the eye up and was the right scale for the space! 

Washington DC
I love leaving my windows open during the summer. The only problem is that I live on a very busy street and hear traffic, busses, and people all day. Whats an attractive way to reduce the noise from outside?
Sally: I have the same problem, living over Wisconsin Avenue in Cathedral Heights!  Unfortunately it is SO loud with the busses and traffic that I only open my windows for a little while at a time, i.e. when I’m not entertaining, talking on the phone or sleeping!  Once in a while I’ll leave the windows and balcony door open when I watch TV but often have to turn the volume way up to drown out lively DC beneath me.  I really don’t think there’s an attractive way to reduce the noise from outside, I’m sorry to say.  I have floor length draperies in every room, but worry that they’re going to turn filthy immediately with the grime and dust that floats up from such a busy street if I were to draw them or closed, so even when I do leave windows and door open, I make sure it’s not for very long and shake out my curtains each time so they stay in good shape.
Washington, DC
I really don't have an eye for design at all, but would like to live in an awesome space. Have any low cost alternatives to hiring an expensive designer?
Sally and Liz: Read Denise Kersten Wills' article in this month’s Washingtonian– it’s all about this and has tons of great tips!  Good luck!
Washington, DC
This chat couldn't be more timely — we need help! The bathroom in our one-bedroom condo has gray tiles 3/4 of the way up the walls. Currently, the top 1/4 is painted white, but we'd like to brighten the room up a bit. Can you suggest a paint color that will complement the gray — and increase our chances of finding a shower curtain and hand towels/rugs to match? Thanks so much!

Liz: Try a light yellow paint with the grey and add yellow and bright white towels and accessories. That color combo is hot right now and Sally did a lovely show house in that scheme for more inspiration! White lacquer, daffodil yellow pattern on the shower curtain, fresh white towels.. pretty and clean!

Sally: I agree w/ Liz…  yellow is the perfect compliment to gray.  I used Dayroom Yellow by Farrow & Ball for the ceiling of the room, whose walls were painted Mouse’s Back, a very striking grey – take a look here on my photographer’s website.

They’re also on my site, but I can’t link you to a specific shot…  site is  As far as bath rug & all of that is concerned, Restoration Hardware has lovely white bath towels, rugs, shower curtains, and accessories that are white with a piping of yellow.  I believe they also have it in a gray color called Ash. 

Washington DC
I just came back from a semester in Europe, and am looking for a interesting way to display the hordes of free postcards I collected while over there. They're just standard 3×5's and some 4×6's, and I've probably got 15 or 20 of them- any suggestions?

Liz: I am going to go back to the "grid" approach on this one. Go to Ikea or find inexpensive white wood frames for your postcards and tile them on your wall for one big graphic installation- gives greater impact than scattering them about in smaller groupings.

Sally: Congrats on your semester in Europe!  I lived in Rome for my 2nd semester of Junior year.  If I were you, I’d get some inexpensive white or light wood frames at Ikea that are pre-matted for those sizes and then hang them in a huge collection, maybe over a sofa, or in an entry hall – a big group of them will make a bold statement.  You can hang them symmetrically, maybe 3 across and 3 down, OR in a random arrangement, that’s a little more organic. 

Washington, DC
I'm toying with the idea of replacing my desk with an architecture drafting table. I enjoy sketching in my free time, but most of my school work involves research and writing papers (I'm an undergrad in DC), so I'd need something that could still hold my papers, pens, and books. My bedroom has enough room for a fairly large piece of furniture, but I'm looking for something that won't overtake the space, and that still has some character to it. Any chance you can suggest a stylish yet functional option?

Liz: Ah-ha I just solved this problem for myself! I just ordered this desk from CB2 that looks like a drafting table but with two nifty drawers for small items. Love the white, love the wood edging and metal drawers- modern, clean and great price!

Sally: I’d go for something white and sort of open & airy like the Cadman workstation from West Elm.  It has both a large writing table type space as well as an area for storage.

Washington, DC
My living room currently consists of a busy floral patterned armchair (Pottery Barn) with an off-white background and a warm brown sofa. I have been searching for a rug solution and would prefer to avoid a flat neutral rug. Do you have any suggestions for a neutral colored rug with an interesting texture or raised pattern?

Liz: I nice seagrass or sisal rug would add neutral texture and warmth to compliment your furniture yet not compete with your busy floral pattern. These natural rugs come in many patterns. Sally and I are both a fan of the "Pueblo" pattern sisal rug of large diamonds. Basketweave is a perennial favorite too!

Sally: Chiasso has a lot of fun, patterned rugs that would work with a print on your wing chair and solid brown sofa.  You want to be careful of scale – pattern on pattern is fine, but make sure the scale of the pattern on the rug is either significantly larger or smaller so as not to compete with the floral.  One nice way to avoid patterns clashing is to select something that is graphic/geometric and regular in nature – i.e. a design with a trellis pattern like this from Ballard Designs.

Jonathan Adler also has wonderful (but pricier) rugs in wild graphic patterns.

Chantilly, Virginia
I know this isn't a design related question, but after reading that both of you own your own firms, and at such a young age, I have to ask: How did you get where you are today? I am a young professional without a degree or any relevant experience in design. It was only after I graduated from college with an english degree that I realized that I wanted to pursue interior design. How would you advise getting my foot in the door?

Liz: My best advice, especially in this economy, would be to apply for a couple internships with designers or showrooms that can teach you the ropes and give you experience quickly doing hands on work. Ask to be shown how the business operates and to attend client meetings, if they'll let you, in exchange for your more administrative help. I also enjoyed the continuing education courses at the Corcoran in their Interior Design Program. You can take one at a time in areas of color or space planning. Personally, I learned mostly by doing, I had wonderful internships and employers that gave me a lot of creative freedom.

Sally: I started working at the Design Center at age 19, in the memo room of the Robert Allen showroom.  I learned so much from the people who run the memo library that I was able to work on their sales floor every vacation that I was home during college and I was able to even intern with a local showroom near my college in Connecticut.  Frankly, it’s all about connections at first (my cousin is the VP of Robert Allen), but then I just kept working & working, studying the history of fabrics, interiors and decorative arts so that I grew to have a very good vocabulary in the trade.  I worked for 8 months on the Robert Allen sales floor learning the showroom side of the business when a designer hired me and I worked for her for 2 years.  I worked part time with other designers, shopping for them, etc. while establishing my own business.  If I were you, I’d get an internship at either a showroom or for a designer (I’m looking for an intern for this fall!) and then see where that takes you.  And if you can go to any lectures, presentations, etc. that could introduce you to more people in the design field, the better!  GOOD LUCK TO YOU!

Silver Spring, MD
How do you figure out what a remodel will cost so you can start budgeting for the expenditure? We live in a 40's Cape Cod with very little storage space and a kitchen that no one would ever think about keeping. We want to break down the walls between living and dining rooms and the kitchen – make it an open space concept. We'll need a designer, but do we also need an architect? A contractor? And would 40K be enough? Thanks, Linda

Liz: My advice would be to ask around and find contractors and designers that people have worked with successfully. There are a lot of bad stories out there. Once you have a short list, invite a few over to go over your project and ask for a proposal or bid. Then you can compare apples to apples. Cost varies widely, and $40K can go quickly. I easily dropped that in two small bathrooms trying to be conservative! Kitchens alone are costly and I would recommend finding a kitchen designer specifically as there are special issues to address in that area that Kitchen Designers know best.

Sally: Yes – I think it’s worth going w/ an architect to get this right.  Always better than relying on a contractor to design the space.  OR hire a designer who is experienced in renovations (let me know if you need a rec- I don’t do Kitchens really but know someone great locally who does!) 

Springfield, VA
We have several large boxes of photos, negatives and photo albums that we'd like to put away in our living area. We were thinking about a cabinet of sorts to store them in. Any ideas for something that isn't run of the mill boring to add a splash of interest to our living area? The room is a blend of chocolate brown, brick red, gold, and light blue accents with medium hardwood floors. Any suggestions? I've tried some of the basic furniture stores and haven't had any luck. We don't want to spend a fortune, but wanted something interesting and decent quality so that we can have these items put away, and not in boxes in a closet any longer. Any ideas would be fantastic! Thanks in advance –

Liz: I think this piece is interesting from Crate & Barrel because you can use it in several different configurations.

It is open storage which is more airy than a heavy cabinet, but you'll need to organize your photos in coordinated albums and negatives in decorative storage boxes. You can pick up your colors in the storage boxes- red or light blue.
Check out the many options at Exposures Catalog.

Sally: I have all of my photos in choc brown West Elm fabric covered boxes on the bottom shelf of my bookcase…  they look neat and tidy, are super for storage and create an interesting visual layer to the bookshelf that mostly has books, art, photos and tchotchkies on it. 

Arlington, VA
Hi! Am buying a condo that has a VERY dark bathroom – dark brown slate in shower/tub and on floor, black granite sink, amber wood cabinets, and no window. It's very stylish but masculine and I have NO idea what I can do to make it feel lighter in terms of colors for towels, shower curtain, etc. Ideas? Thanks so much!!! Laura

Liz: Wow that is a lot of dark finishes in one small space! What about adding a shower curtain in a more feminine pattern. I like this shower curtain from Crate & Barrel which brings in a brighter blue that you could pick up on the walls in a lighter shade and add in lots of fresh white towels and sink accessories.

You could also try wallpaper in a chocolate and white damask or more curvy pattern.  I think you need to balance out the masculine solid finishes with lighter more feminine wall color and fabrics.

Sally:  Hi Laura…  well, Liz and I will probably have the same answer to this question:  WALLPAPER!  Since the bathroom is a small space, you can easily find a vinyl wallpaper (vinyl or wipeable is best in bathrooms and YES it is OK to hang paper in bathrooms) that has a light background that is maybe a light taupe or grey, whichever suits both the counter top and slate in shower area, and that has a pattern on top that brings in those darker colors in small amounts, with maybe an additional color.  This way you can add a color or a pattern that is more “feminine” or you feel like represents you more.  Something organic like stylized flowers or curvilinear vines, etc. will soften the hard, dark edges of the rest of the bath.  This one doesn’t introduce another color but the pattern might work with the slate and browns.

Here is one that has a white background but brings all the neutrals together.

This paper would be LOVELY and girly!

Washington, D.C.
Hi, I just recently moved into a studio apartment, and I'm starting from scratch again. With the recession now with us, would you have any exciting tips on furnishing and decorating my apartment? Thank you kindly. Sincerely, "Stylish male in the city."

Sally: Dear Stylish Male in the City:  first, PAINT is cheap and fast, buy a good quality sofa and good lamps, a neutral rug and everything else you can buy readymade that brings in more color and pattern, that can be changed every couple of years ‘til if you get sick of them or ‘til you find something you love that has colors you want to commit to.  Good luck!

Liz: Amen, Sally! I concur Mr. SMC. For inspiration, troll around 14th & U, go into my former haunt Vastu and swing around to And Beige for accessories and stylish yet comfortably masculine design ideas. Good Wood on U has great finds too! All three of those places have great people to work with. Mitchell Gold on 14th is not an indie store, but has good sales and solid style too.

Logan Circle
I recently bought a small one bedroom condo, and I'd like to leave my post-college Target furniture behind. I'm definitely still on a budget though–what are the pieces I should think about spending more on? And are there any stores/sites you like for furniture or accessories that won't be the equivalent of a mortgage payment? Or special sales to look for? Thank you!
Sally: If I were you, I’d spend more $ on a good sofa than anything else.  Crate and Barrel upholstery is pretty good (don’t go for the slipcovered pieces though, they don’t last and look messy) but I’d prefer you even look at Mitchell Gold for a nice, neutral, well-made sofa that will last.  That way, you’ll also be able to choose your own fabric, sometimes at C&B you only have a couple of fabric choices.
Washington, DC
I recently relocated from Atlanta, where there were some great "design districts" with clusters of furniture stores, and great places to find lighting, rugs and accessories. I'm having trouble finding similar areas in DC (other than the fairly high-priced stores in Georgetown). Do you have any "go to" areas for finding unique accessories and furniture pieces?
Sally: I know!  I have visited Atlanta twice in the last year to shop for clients.  Sadly, we don’t have as many boutiques here in DC.  I’d definitely try the 14th & U corridor, including some of the vintage places like Miss Pixie’s and of course Craig’s List…  but don’t necessarily rule out Book Hill in Georgetown, the block that starts w/ A Mano at the north end, and you’ve got 1659 for great, well-priced mid-century modern pieces that may or may not need to be refinished, then you’ve got Moss & Co. for fantastic accessories, and apparently there’s a new place I have yet to check out called the Georgetown Birdcage there as well.

Liz: Welcome to D.C.! I love Atlanta's design districts too! I have already mentioned the U Street corridor as there are a bunch of gems around 14th and U Street. Good Wood, Pixie's, And Beige and Vastu. Plus some interesting places to grab a bite if you're strolling around. Georgetown does have some pricey options, Cherry is a fun one on Wisconsin for vintage finds. I think Random Harvest has some good deals on accessories too but leaning a bit towards the more traditional or transitional style. Across the Potomac in Old Town there are some great shops: mid-century finds at Daniel Donnelly and Asian accents from Qi (pronounced CHEE).

Arlington, VA
I'm getting married (hooray!) and registering for new bed linens. We get pretty fickle about our colors, and I'm worried about registering for a colorful scheme that I might grow tired of in a year. Is a white bedspread the most effective pick, or does it end up looking like a hospital room? Are there wall colors that can help preventing that from happening?

Liz: Congratulations on your engagement! Isn't registering fun with the gun? I personally LOVE a white bed. I don't think it looks too hospital room if the rest of your room is working. I like layering textures in white and off white- delicious. An all white bed also allows for some killer Euro Shams and pretty quilt or spread folded at the foot of the bed. Pick up your accent color in the pillows and continue with bedside lamps- maybe curvy ceramic ones. I love pale aqua blue wall color in a bedroom. I've said it a  million times Palladian Blue is my fave! (Benjamin Moore) Serene and restful. Have a great wedding!

Sally: Congrats on your nuptials!  I think if you can’t agree on a paint color and bedding scheme, maybe just paint the walls a neutral beige (like Ben Moore HC-81 Manchester Tan, eggshell finish for walls, 2 coats please) and then ANY bedding you get will look good.  If you think you’re really fickle, maybe buy a set of bedding that’s on sale or really inexpensive…  like from Macy’s (Martha Stewart’s stuff is GREAT and they’ve always got a sale on and coupons in the paper).  The other option would be to spend a good chunk, but divide it in two  buy 2 sets:  one for spring/summer and one for fall/winter, so you don’t get sick of them.  Hope this helps! 

What do you guys think of DWR's flight recliner? Have you seen it? Think it's worth the money?

Liz: I have not seen the flight recliner in person. But, I see online it is a very nifty concept! I don't think the price is outrageous. A similar non-reclining chair from our custom vendors with designer fabric is about $1,300.

Sally: I’ve never seen this in person and frankly, I think the proportions are weird (leg base seems odd to me), and I definitely don’t think it’s worth $2800 unless it’s the most comfortable thing you’ve ever sat in (and you’d have to be the judge of that!) 

Wash, DC
Where should I look for a modern light fixture for my kitchen?

Liz: Try or Illuminations here in town.

Sally: Let’s see…  mod light fixture…  so many options.  Depends on your budget.  If you don’t want to spend much, try CB2, Crate & Barrel or Room & Board, if you want to up it a little, I love Circa Lighting ( or even find an old lantern at a garage sale and flea market and take it to Artisan Lamp in Cleveland Park on CT Ave to be fixed up, rewired and even repainted. 

Do you have favorite gray paint colors? I'm looking for both a dark one and a light one.

Sally: My favorite dark one is Farrow & Ball’s Mouse’s Back (see answer earlier about gray/yellow), for a medium gray, I also love Sag Harbor Gray HC-95 from Ben Moore, which I just used for my boyfriend’s Living Room.  For light gray, I like Ben Moore’s Coventry Gray #HC-169.

Liz: I know what Sally will say on this one Miss Mouse Back Gray (nice medium gray). A great color. Benjamin Moore has Coventry gray which is light and I love the blue hue in their Wickam grey also on the lighter side. 

Arlington, VA
What is the best way to brighten up/decide what towel/shower curtain colors to use in a bathroom that has brown slate shower/flooring, black granite sink/white toilet. All of the different colors have me confused!

Sally: I’m all for white towels, pretty much all of the time, as they’re always classic.  but to bring in other colors, I’m ALL ABOUT the monogram!!!  Restoration Hardware has a super line that’s fine and they’ve got plenty of choices of piping and embroidery colors but if you can REALLY splurge, check out Leontine Linens – they have tons of colors for embroidery, monogramming, piping, etc.

if you’ve purchased towels where they don’t do monogramming, take them to get embroidered…  my local monogrammer is Debbie Whyte at Whyte House Monograms… (be sure to call or email for an appointment)

Liz: What is going on with all of these dark slate and black granite bathrooms? I think as we said with the previous dark but too masculine bathroom is you need to find a wallpaper or shower curtain that ties those colors together and can add a new accent color to pull from and white to brighten. And P.S. to all the builders out there, black granite shows everything and is tough to live with. You could consider changing the countertop to a lighter stone which isn't terribly costly. More than a shower curtain of course, but we're throwing out ideas here!

silver spring
HI! My son has dust allergies and because of this we cannot keep rugs or curtains in his room. Without them, I feel as if his room looks cold – are there any tips you could give me to make his room seem warm and inviting without the use of rugs or curtains? Thanks so much.

Sally: This is a TOUGH question.  Well, even though you can’t use fabric in the room, I really think you should still pay attention to and treat the windows.  My best suggestion would be white wood blinds…  they’re good for privacy, blocking some light and also are timeless so they’ll be classic.  For the floor, I would have a faux painter come in and paint the design of a rug, something with a pattern and maybe a border to simulate the color and warmth and presence of a rug.

Liz: I agree with Sally here on the floor painting. A border or interesting design or even white washing would be fun. I would also add that woven grass shades are a lovely and warm fabric-free option. They add something natural into the room and come in lovely warm tones. I'm a big fan of the grass shades- they work in modern and traditional settings easily. See the board I did for Denise in the current issue of Washingtonian where there is an example.