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It may not have rained in a while, but our inbox and Facebook page have been deluged with your questions, so today we’re helping you solve some of your toughest design dilemmas. 

Can you tell me a little about paint color, finish, and shine?

There’s so much to say about paint, I have a whole episode of my podcast devoted to it! But here’s a quick rundown of my general rules:  

The condition of your walls dictates the finish. When it comes to the finish in a living space (bedroom, playroom, living room, family room), the key consideration is the condition of your walls. If they’re perfect – because you’ve recently skim coated them or you’re in a brand new construction – use a semi-gloss, like a satin or eggshell, because it will be more durable in terms of scrubbing off scuff marks. Otherwise, paint your walls flat or matte rather than glossy, because anything with even a tiny bit of sheen will render any imperfections, like patching or sheetrock seams, readily apparent. I really love Benjamin Moore’s Aura line – even the matte finish is super durable. When my daughter used marker on the walls, I just took a damp paper towel to it, and it came off like a dream with no residue at all! 

You CAN use matte in the bath! You used to have to do a shiny paint in the kitchen and bath to ensure it would be moisture repellent, but now we have matte paints with water impermeability. Benjamin Moore’s Aura Bath and Spa line gives you a matte finish that you can wipe down with a washcloth.

Paint trims with a semi-gloss finish. Using a semi-gloss finish on your trims (window sills, radiator covers, door frames, and doors) gives you a nice contrast with the walls. But the main reason I recommend a semi-gloss here is that these areas see the most action – fingerprints, soot from windows, boot dust – so it’s particularly nice to be able to wipe them down easily without harming the integrity of the paint.

Don’t get adventurous with your ceilings. Always paint your ceiling with flat or matte white. Anything else can look a little like the circus.

What is the best way to cover a pattern on a chair you don’t like? I’ve been using a quilt, but it’s always sliding off.

Tuck your quilt. To keep the quilt from sliding off, try tucking it into the middle of the chair and letting it fall down the front or the back of the seat. It’s a fun look, even if you like your chair!

Just say no to slipcovers. Loyal podcast listeners know I don’t like slip covers – they’re always ill fitting and they never look sexy.

Don’t reupholster, replace! If you truly hate the pattern on your chair, it might be time to get a new one. It’s often more expensive to reupholster a chair than is to buy one new, which you can do for under $250 – less than the cost of many throws. My favorite places for armchairs are WayfairOverstockRoom & Board, and West Elm.

How do I mix different patterns together?

I cannot tell you how often I get asked this question! Good thing I have a super easy formula.

Have a color palette in mind. Pick an inspiration piece – artwork, a drape, a rug, a pillow, etc. – that has three true RGB colors or more.  Then only choose patterns that have colors found in the inspiration piece. 

Determine its scale. To figure out the scale of the pattern, measure from where it starts to where it repeats. So if you have a floral pattern with a flower in the middle and two leaves on either side, you measure from the edge of one leaf to the edge of the other

Only choose patterns with different scales.  You can select small, medium, and large patterns to mix together, but not three small or large patterns – they’ll compete with one another and look frenetic. Varied scales look comfortable and like a nice, eclectic mix. If you want to do more than three patterns, no problem! Just add in an extra small or an extra large one and keep going.  

How do I add inexpensive kitchen storage to my small kitchen?

Working in NYC, I definitely have a few tricks up my sleeve for this one.

Add an island. One of my favorite fixes is to add an island that gives you storage underneath and a workspace on top. You can get a central island for the middle of your kitchen or a smaller one that sits against the wall. If you get one on wheels, it can be repurposed in so many ways in different spaces, like in the garage to store tools or in a play room to store art supplies. Ikea and Overstock have great, inexpensive options. Crate & Barrel also has beautiful islands but at a higher price point. 

Go vertical and make the most of your walls and ceiling. A ceiling-mounted pot rack frees up space in your cabinets and looks chef-y, which is always fun. A round rack can hang over a central island, a semi-circle can attach to the wall over your stove, or a flat bar rack can hang anywhere on the wall without taking up much space at all. Also consider a wall-mounted wine rack. There are so many cool ones at IkeaCB2, or Hayneedle. Not only do they give you some storage, but they look sculptural – it’s like having 3-D art for your wall.

Check out free-standing pantries. If you rent, or you’re not sure how long you’ll be in a space, you probably don’t want to invest in built-ins. Free-standing pantries look like armoires and are filled with shelving. Plus, you can close the door, so not everyone sees what’s in there. They cost a bit more, but they’re so versatile and you might be able to take it with you when you move or use it in a different way: storage for media in the living room, holding bulkier items in the garage, stashing seasonal and holiday decor in the basement, or it can even be an armoire. Pantries come in lots of different style options and finishes. Don’t try to match your cabinetry though, because it will never look like a built-in. Go for an intentional contrast, so it doesn’t compete with the other wood tone.

What do I do about wet boots in my entryway? I’m currently using a towel but it’s not really working.

I’m so glad you asked, because a towel is definitely not up to this task. It can quickly become saturated and stain your floor. But there’s a really simple and inexpensive solution. Pick up a boot tray that will capture all that moisture and keep it contained. There are plenty to choose from at OverstockPottery BarnCrate & Barrel, and Home Depot. As an added bonus, if you place the tray near the radiator, the boots will slough the moisture off into the tray and the insides will dry out more fully.

My radiator cover seems to disperse the heat, so I’m thinking about taking the cover off and just painting the radiator. Do I use the room color, white, or metallic silver?

I like the idea of painting them silver! A radiator is one of the only places where you should actually choose an oil-based paint, because it can withstand the heat. You don’t want to paint it the same color as the room; it’s better to have a little contrast. I also don’t like to paint radiators the trim color, because that’s usually white and will show all of the melted dust that tends to collect. A cover is still your most aesthetically pleasing option. My favorites come from Improvements, where getting them custom made is super affordable and even ships quickly!

I hope that helped solved some of your design challenges! Have a question for me? I’d love to hear it. Send it in to info@affordableinteriordesign or post it on our Facebook page!

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