Episode 329

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You might be wondering why my episodes have been a little all over the place this month. That’s because of two reasons. One, after this episode, I am officially out of questions as the mailbag is now empty so make sure to go submit your burning questions over at affordableinteriordesign.com/podcast. The second reason that my episodes haven’t been consistent is because well, life has been pretty chaotic lately. We have been house hunting like crazy and coming up empty. Both my daughter and husband also caught COVID within the last two weeks so my son and I booked a hotel room for a week because with my line of work, I cannot afford to get sick. Both of them recovered and were feeling great then we had a death in the family and my husband flew to LA to attend the funeral. Once in LA, he started feeling sick again and turns out COVID struck again. I appreciate you sticking with me while I release episodes on an irregular schedule.

This episode, I answer questions about…

[6:07] Choosing the best finishes for kitchen cabinets (Bobbyee) 


Hi Betsy, I love your podcast. It has helped me in so many ways as I recently sold my home and didn’t have any kind of one style. I was able to choose neutral colours and stage my home in a way that showcased the best qualities. We are in the conditional stages of buying a new home but because of the current housing market, our closing date may not be until end of June. My parents will be moving into the basement and we are going to put in a kitchen for them so they have their own separate space. My question is about kitchen cabinet colour and how to choose the best finishes. My step-father is a mechanic and therefore has made his “mark” (ie: greasy finger prints) on whatever space they live in. Originally I had thought a nice white kitchen would be best for them as the space is in a basement and it would make it look brighter. But my mom does not want white cabinets due to the hand prints. She wants black appliances as well. We will probably be doing an IKEA kitchen, and I thought maybe black upper cabinets with a light wood base cabinets. My step father never uses anything in the bottom cabinets so they can be lighter, but she would prefer a dark colour up top to not have to constantly be cleaning daily. We are thinking quartz for the counters and a white backsplash to also brighten up the space. I’ve looked on pinterest and found some beautiful combos with light wood base and black top, but I am asking for your advice on any other possible combos that would work. We would like to stay with neutral colours as opposed to “trendy” colours as it will probably not get updated for another 15 years. Thank you so much!


While I do think IKEA has some beautiful cabinet options and is a great place to start, another option to look into is a website called Semi Handmade. They have a large selection of cabinet fronts that fit the IKEA cabinet so you will have a lot more to choose from. Of course, that will raise the price a little bit but it may be worth the investment to be able to choose from a broader range of colors than IKEA’s limited selection. However, if we’re just looking at IKEA, I do have some thoughts.

I absolutely love the idea of doing a two tone kitchen. If there’s a lot going on in a two tone kitchen it can make it look more chaotic, especially if it’s a small kitchen. It can make it look more cluttered versus clean, classic, and simple. So it would depend on how big the kitchen is and how nice the basement is. If it is feeling a bit dubious down there, I would just do the kitchen in one color.

My first thought is that a wood tone would be really nice on either the uppers, lowers, or both. You do want to consider the flooring throughout the space. If you’re envisioning light wood but the flooring in an open or adjacent space is a mid or dark wood tone, then that would be a problem as it wouldn’t look cohesive.

You also need to consider the flooring in the kitchen. Are you going to continue the same flooring from the living space whether it’s a fake wood or real wood or use tile instead? If there’s going to be tile, then you need to think about how the tile which ultimately touches the bottom cabinets will look next to that. I typically don’t recommend very dark or very light tile because it shows every little speck of dust so sticking with that mid tone for the floors is a safe bet. Then from there, you can coordinate the wood tone that you chose for the kitchen with the wood tone in the surrounding areas.

Now, it’s time to decide what color the other cabinet is going to be if we’re sticking with the two tone. I know your mom said no white, so being cognizant of that here. I would also steer clear of black since you mentioned that you would be doing black appliances. IKEA has a really nice taupe color and some other more interesting colors that you may want to consider. They have a really beautiful silver sage, aqua teal and they also have some great gray options as well.

You will also want to consider the style of the space. I’m guessing that your parents aren’t completely contemporary so maybe consider something that is a little more transitional like a shaker front.

I recommend picking the floor, cabinets, and appliances before you select the countertops. I love your idea of doing a bright white backsplash because the space is getting a little dark with those black appliances. So that is my two cents.

[14:11] Sprucing up a bar area (Michelle)


I’d love help knowing what to do with this “bar area” (not wanting to display liquor bottles) what to do with the seating area (which seats) abs what to do with the big long wall to break it up (a mirror maybe!? Art work?!


Michelle sent in some great photos so make sure to go ahead and check out our YouTube channel. You have a very mid century modern space which I love. It looks like you have some tile flooring and you have a beautiful walnut tone wood ceiling and walnut tone wood trim. You have a rich green backsplash in your kitchen which opens up to a sitting area/bar zone.

You’re calling this a bar area but personally it doesn’t really give me that vibe. There is one side that has a glass front cabinet and on the bottom it has enclosed cabinets which could certainly read as a bar but it could also read as hutch display shelf. Then on the other side there’s a strange opening that is equidistant in terms of size but doesn’t have any doors on it. So it’s open with two exposed shelves at the top, no exposed shelves at the bottom, and you’ve inserted a wood credenza in this wood tone sort of vacant space. You’ve put a record player and some speakers on there which is a super fun vibe.

However, I think that this area needs to be a little more intentional and holistic with the rest of your space. It looks like you have a sitting area right next to the bar area so you need to be considerate of what people are looking at. I’m a little unsure of where we are at from the pictures but when you have an interesting niche in your home you want to be considerate of the surrounding areas. If it’s next to your office, I would style it with functionality that leans towards that. If it’s next to your dining room, then maybe style the upper part as the hutch with some beautiful dishware and vases and then take advantage of the other space to enhance that vibe.

No matter what the function is that you foresee for this space, I would consider a couple of things. One option is to remove the credenza. Well actually, that’s a must because it’s ill fitting and awkward. I would consider making additional shelves so that way you have open shelving on one side and the sort of Hutch type idea on the other side. You could style it with baskets, books, picture frames, etc. Just don’t make it too cluttered.

Another thing that might be nice is maybe removing the doors on the lefthand side – both the glass doors and the opaque wood paneled doors. You can remove them and wood fill in the gaps from the hinges, stain it all because it looks like its in need of a little TLC. Maybe you can even separate the middle portion just remove that and make elongated shelves. If you decide to do that, I think it would be a good idea to just lose the wood paneling behind there all together since there is so much paneling. I think it would be fun to do some kind of wallpaper or some kind of colorful paint treatment.

If you don’t want to remove the doors on the left side, you could still do the paint treatment and I think it would really brighten and freshen up the space. But the number one thing I would recommend is to replace the knobs on the doors. Changing these would immediately update the space and be a quick and affordable fix. Don’t go too bold with the new knobs but this is an easy and quick change to make if you decide to keep those doors.

[21:33] Finding your design style (Heather) 


Hi Betsy! You answered one of my questions recently and I know it was good advice but I’m afraid it only left me with more questions. I want to add color to my living room and from the pictures you said I was having a design style crisis. So I don’t want to move forward in any direction until I have a firm idea of what that direction is. I decided to step back and maybe start in my kitchen because that opens into our living room. Obviously that room is less flexible because many of the elements are fixed. I thought if I could pinpoint my two word phrase for that room, then it would make the living room direction more clear. Do they need to be the same phrase exactly or just related?

My big problem is I’m not sure what style I’m really seeing in the kitchen either. I have lots of wood tones that warm up the space and balance the white, which makes me lean toward rustic. I have natural wood range hood, although I really consider that more of an art piece than rustic. The lighting feels maybe industrial or modern farmhouse. The metal dining chairs also feel industrial. The island chairs and arm chairs have mid century modern lines. The vertical tile feel like it could be mid century or even modern. And the rug has a tribal vibe to me. (I know you’re going to suggest a rug under the dining table but I have a hard time committing to one with how many spills we experience each dinner.) Also, you had said previously the pendant lights were too low but they are 33”, which is in the range you suggested. We do have lower ceilings which could visually throw it off a bit?

Is there a word and/or style you feel like encapsulates this or is my kitchen in crisis also? What would you change out or add to give a more consistent and cohesive feel? I actually really love my kitchen but I want to keep an open mind so I can have a clearer vision for the rest of the house. Thank you for all you help and ideas!


I actually think your kitchen is awesome and would not change much at all. It looks like you have white shaker front cabinets on top and on the bottom you’ve got a walnut tone shaker front cabinet. They have long gated brass poles and you have a rustic hood above the range. You have subway tile that’s stacked vertically and it’s a rustic type glaze subway tile. On the island, you have this beautiful gray marble or quartz and it’s a big visual element in the space because it’s also the countertop.

For me, it’s the stools and the pendant lights that start to cause a problem. Now, I know you said the lights are 33 inches from the top of the countertop on the island to the bottom of the fixture which is great but I think the pendant itself is so tall thus the cord is too short. This very tall pendant with this very short cord feels a little disproportionate. This isn’t something you need to rush to change out, however, these fixtures are solely bronze. If they were two tone, I’d be more excited about them but you haven’t introduced bronze anywhere else. When I’m going to use two different metal finishes in a space, I make sure to choose at least one prominent piece that features both metals that is a two tone piece. This will visually tell people that you will be mixing these throughout the space.

The other thing I do not like in this space is that the stools are kind of a darker wood and they are right underneath the wood island so it’s wood on wood and the wood doesn’t really coordinate and the flooring is also wood which is kind of a lighter, rustic flooring so it’s just a lot of wood. Obviously, keep the flooring but the multiple different wood tones isn’t really working so I’d recommend painting them a fun color or even black.

Rustic is definitely a style that’s happening here whether you like it or not and rustic is happening here in a very contemporary way. But here’s the thing, rustic should definitely be a through line in any space that this kitchen opens up to. It’s that secondary word how you want to feel in the space that might change from room to room because how I want to feel in the space may be very different than how I want to feel in the adjoining living room may be very different than how I want to feel in the adjoining family room.

Or if you want to keep the two word phrase the exact same throughout the whole say bottom floor, what you would do is then use that 60-30-10 but change up the amounts. So when I’m referencing the 6030 10, I’m talking about color palette, right? Those 3 ROY G BIV colors that you’re going to be using throughout the space.

So let’s say you did 60% charcoal gray, 30% of a muted magenta or maybe it’s a burgundy, and 10% of a russet orange in your kitchen. Well in the living room, then you would just mix that up a little bit. So your 60% could be the magenta or burgundy, your 30% could be the charcoal gray, and then the orange could stay the 10% again so there’s ways to shake things up a bit and make a space feel cohesive without it being identical.

Right now, the pieces of furniture in the other rooms are a little random. There’s mid century pieces, industrial pieces, rustic pieces, and contemporary pieces so we need to pick a side. The flooring and kitchen as a whole have already picked a side with the rustic. Now, rustic and industrial have a lot of parallels because you’re using these materials in their primal state. So I think that the chairs really work, and then your chandelier has a cool rustic vibe as well.

I know you may still be a little confused, but that’s because the pieces you are using are confused so it’s time to pick a side. While I enjoy all of your pieces separately, there is a lack of cohesion that concerns me. I know you mentioned that me answering your question previously opened up a can of worms in which you had more questions so if you have any more questions that come up, feel free to send them in because the mailbag is officially empty. Go to affordableinteriordesign.com/podcast to submit your questions today.

To see the accompanying pictures, make sure you head over to affordableinteriordesign.com/links and check out the YouTube channel or our social media pages.






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