Episode 316

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Happy Valentine’s Day week! Are you guys feeling the love? I am totally feeling the interior design love. Lately, I’ve been working on a lot of projects so I’ve been really busy.  The other night I was stuck on one of my projects, and I told myself that I needed to get up, move around, and stop looking at the computer. If I take the pressure off for a minute, by the time I’m done getting my refill of water (or grabbing some ice cream!) and I go back to the project, I have some inspiration. As I was walking through the kitchen, I thought that if my biggest stressor is having to find an amazing rug tonight, then I’m pretty lucky. I love what I do, and I was just feeling all “Valentinesy”.  I think it’s easy to take things for granted, and I want to inspire you all to take a look at your own lives and tap back into the love as well.

This episode, I answer questions about…

[7:32] Choosing throw pillows for a couch (Rebecca)


How do you like to choose throw pillows for your couch? Do you use the ones that came with the couch or do you replace them? Our couch is dark gray. Our accent chair is a dark, but vibrant blue. Thanks!


First things first: You should absolutely never use the throw pillows that came with the couch. Typically, the throw pillows that come with the couch are the same material as the couch. So if your couch is dark gray, typically the pillows would also be dark gray. Accent pillows, however, are meant to accentuate something different and to provide some contrast. In fact, all good design provides contrast. So if the items you are putting on your couch (whether it is a throw blanket or additional pillows) are not providing contrast, that is a problem.  When you squint, if you can’t really differentiate the pillows or the blanket from the sofa, you’re doing it wrong.

We need contrast. So if the sofa is dark, we may want to pick lighter throw pillows.  If the sofa is a cool color, as gray is, we may want to warm it up a little bit with yellow, orange, red, or cream throw pillows. We could think about doing true ROYGBIV colors rather than just neutrals, and that is the way I tend to go with throw pillows.

If you regularly listen to the podcast, you know I regularly change out my throw pillows. I get sick of them about once every eight weeks, and changing the throw pillows changes the entire vibe.  I recommend for a standard sofa (between 75-85 inches in length) to have four pillows: two of one type of pillow and two of another type of pillow. I usually do one solid set that has texture, and one set that is a pattern.  With a sectional, I recommend at least five pillows.  My sectional has five pillows, much to my husband’s chagrin.  But I use them all the time, because my husband wanted a deep, loungey sofa.  So I always have to have a pillow behind my back, and when I’m reclining and sourcing for clients I have one behind me as well.  Sometimes I like to have one under my feet. I’m always using those pillows, and they bop around the room. Sometimes they sit on my armchair as well.

Speaking of armchairs, Rebecca mentioned having a dark, vibrant blue chair.  When I’m selecting throw pillows, I don’t just look at the one other element in the room – though I am looking for contrast, so my pillows would not be a dark, vibrant blue. What I would do is go back to the reference point, which is always the inspiration piece. In Rebecca’s case, it might be a rug. The rug has a pattern with more than three colors. So maybe one of the chairs is blue and another is heavily patterned. It has a lot of colors we could pull from to create our color palette. So, it’s usually an upholstered piece of furniture, artwork, or a rug that would be the inspiration piece.

I would go to that inspiration piece and select my 60/30/10.  We already know that probably the 60 or 30 is that dark, vibrant blue, but we still need to pick the 10% color and the other color.  We’ll just say it’s the 60% because we don’t want this room to get too dark.  If we have a super dark couch that is gray and a very dark armchair that is blue, then we need to lighten, brighten, and warm up the space. So while I can’t say exactly what to do without seeing the inspiration piece, what I can say is to look for the contrast.  Good design is all about opposites that attract.

[13:05] Using couch covers while waiting to replace a couch (Charlie)


Do you have any couch covers you can recommend? I have a cheap-o couch that I purchased with the intention of only keeping it a couple of years. Three years later, it is now pet-damaged and showing its age. But with the supply chain issues and not being sure how long we will stay in our current home, I am keeping it for longer than I’d like (but I WILL be replacing it within hopefully the next few years when we move to our forever home). Throw pillows and artfully draped blankets just don’t adequately cover the cat scratches.

So while we are stuck with this less-than-ideal couch, I’ve gotten the okay from my wife to find a leopard print couch cover, if I can! The style of our living room is sophisticated lush maximalist, and we LOVE loud patterns. I know you don’t love printed furniture, so I’m ready for a Betsy Smackdown…but any guidance will be SO appreciated! Do nice couch covers even exist? Should I get a nice blanket to tuck in to the cushions instead of a stretchy cover? Help!


If you have the ability to hop over to YouTube, you are going to want to see Charlie’s home. He is definitely a maximalist.  There is lots of draping ivory, I think I can see a palm in the corner, there is a heavily printed rug, and a cow printed pillow. The gallery wall has an eclectic mix of pictures, embroidery, and frames.  There is a kidney-shaped coffee table, an emerald green wingback, a Tiffany style lamp, and thick teal drapes.  In addition, there is a floor lamp with three shades and a plaid ottoman in the corner.  Charlie has a lot of look going on.

My problem is not with the word ‘lush’ or the maximal nature of the style, but more with ‘sophisticated’.  It’s like sophisticated and maximalist are not jiving with what is going on here. I love patterns, but remember they have to be of a different scale. Right now there are a few big patterns, and I feel like we need to get focused. I don’t know what the pattern piece is, and I can’t find the pattern scale.

If you have read my book, there is a checklist that goes through what you need as you finish a room. The thing that Charlie’s room is currently missing is good chi. That empty space or empty spaces, ideally just a few pockets, where there is nothing going on.  It could be one wall where there is no art, or one nook where there is no plant.  We want the eye to rest and settle so good energy can live because there is nothing else cluttering the space.  I think of it like Chanel said, where you put on your jewelry and then take off one or two pieces. We need to critically look at this room and remove a few pieces because it’s a little overwhelming.

That being said, I totally get it. I’m also in limbo. I’m not yet in my forever home, but I don’t want to invest in my current home because I know we’re moving and those items may not fit. That being said, a standard sofa almost always fits in every home. So if you’re looking to buy a new piece, just make sure that the sofa is between 75-85 inches long. Whether you move to a home with a small living room or a home with a larger living room that you can just augment with chairs, it will certainly work.

If you know that the next space you’re moving is going to be a home with a large living room you could even skew for an 85-95 inch sofa.  If you did want it to have a chaise, just make sure that the chaise is reversible and gives you a lot of flexibility.

To answer your question, there is absolutely no such thing on the market right now as a good slipcover for your sofa. I can certainly tell you that there is no such thing as a good slipcover that is in a leopard print. The leopard print with the cow print is going to push me over the edge – unless your next move is to an exotic animal farmhouse.

I do think that maybe strategically tucking a blanket could be a good idea. The problem with that or with slipcovers is that they get schlumpy frumpy. When the dog or cat jumps on the sofa, when you sit on the sofa, it’s going to look ill-fitting and you’re going to have to fix it every time. Perhaps it will look even worse than it does with the cat scratches right now.

So I would suggest maybe just invest in that sofa that meets the size requirements, and then you can try a pheromone spray.  You can easily buy them on Amazon or at any pet store, and they are supposed to deter pets from scratching or being attracted to that furniture. I sprayed it on all my furniture and my cat is pretty well behaved. Just make sure you try it on the bottom first, in a spot you can’t see, to make sure it doesn’t harm the fabric before spraying the entire piece.

[20:24] What to keep in mind when picking paint colors for a windowless basement (Ranae)


What should I keep in mind when picking paint colors for a windowless basement office/rec room? Basements can get creepy. Ours originally came with plush red moldy carpet,  and yellowed ceiling tile full of mouse poop! My husband is handy and we’re confident we can paint the cement wall and paneling after we finish carting the clutter to Goodwill.


This is a cinder block basement with some wood paneling on the sides, and it looks like concrete down below. The ceiling tiles appear to be missing, so now you can see the pipes in the ceiling. The wallpaper reminds me of fruit stripe gum. It looks like it is purple, orange, yellow, and maybe a little green. There might be shag carpeting on the stairs. Wow, there is a lot to do here. I’m so glad that Ranae’s husband is handy.  I did an episode last month where I talked about how to cover wood paneling. It is so easy, and I think it will make a huge difference. How to cover cinder blocks, however, is a whole other thing. I have not had the opportunity to do that yet, so you may want to consider painting those or looking that up separately.

The thing that you want to think about as you’re designing a basement is that they tend to be cold and cavey – especially ones that don’t have big windows or a lot of natural light. Mine is the same way. It doesn’t get a lot of natural light through the one window, and it has rock walls. It’s not the most inviting space. So when we were thinking about painting it and adding new vinyl flooring, I made sure that I chose things that warmed it up.  I don’t mean accents or even wall paint, but I mean those neutral foundational elements.

When I’m working on basements, I avoid gray, blue, and sometimes even green. Those colder colors add to the cavey feel of the space. Instead, I’m always trying to think about how to make the space warmer. We might use a different type of bulb that is more yellow than blue or stark white, and maybe using more ivory or beige paint. We need to think about what we can do to make it feel warmer rather than cooler.






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