Episode 321

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We finally did it! We decided to take advantage of the real estate bubble and put our house on the market. Not knowing where we are going yet is so discombobulating and distracting. As an interior designer, I need to design my next home. I also need to know what to take as I pack our current home. My heart is aflutter, but I am choosing to surrender and see what opportunities arise. I am going to have faith that the right thing will show up at the right time. I’ll let you know when it happens, but in the meantime let me answer your questions!

This episode, I answer questions about…

[6:28] Investing in a leather couch (Lorri)


Hi Betsy, I have just moved into a house with my new husband and I must tell you, your podcast has changed my life.  Every decorating decision is well thought out and deliberate instead of buying all the things I love. I love a lot!  The money that I have saved asking myself ‘does this fit my 2 word design profile?’ is more than you can imagine!  We both purged almost all of our belongings so we could start fresh in our house. We are going for Industrial Ranch. He likes Industrial and I love Ranch/Western. We have found some nice tables and accent pieces, however it’s time for that major investment: the couch.     I know how you feel about leather couches, however I have my heart set on a chunky leather couch with nailhead trim, inspired by my favorite show: Yellowstone.

Here is my question: We have barely started shopping and are already confused about the different types of leather that is available.  Full grain, top grain, split grain, bonded…Considering how expensive, and important, this piece will be, I want to make sure we buy a high-quality couch that will be durable and functional, as we also have dogs. Is there a certain type that you can recommend? Thanks again for your guidance!


I do not enjoy leather couches. They turn into a slip and slide for all your throw pillows and blankets. Additionally, when you’re curled up on your leather couch to binge watch Yellowstone (which I have yet to watch, but I hear is amazing!) then you get sweaty because leather doesn’t breathe like fabric does. If you’re wearing shorts, your skin might actually stick to the leather. Fabric can stain, but you can often get them out – especially if you pick a performance fabric. Once leather is scratched, however, it is hard to repair.

While I do not typically suggest leather, sometimes it makes sense. I did a little research for Lorri because I have just enough knowledge of leather to be dangerous. I have bonded leather dining chairs, and a beautiful leather ottoman that has a nice patina, but I wanted to get you the straight story on each type. I went to shinola.com and they outlined the different types of leathers, so I’m going to go through what I found.

[9:36] Full Grain Leather

Full grain leather is a top of the line leather crafted from the outer layer of the hide. It contains densely packed fibers with a finer grain. Usually only the hair on the hide has been removed, leaving natural imperfections in the material. Full grain leather without imperfections is very rare and highly prized in the leather goods world. This piece of leather is praised for its high durability because of its natural production process. It will also slightly change color over time with continued use. Full grain leather is most often found in saddles, footwear, and upholstery. Many high-end leather producers also use full grain in their products. This is going to be a really expensive option.

[10:30] Top Grain Leather

According to Shinola, top grain leather is a cut of leather almost identical to full grain. Top grain leather is also taken from the top layer of the hide, but the major difference is that top grain leather has been sanded or buffed so that all perfect imperfections are removed. The sanding process results in a leather that can be easily dyed or shaped. Top grain leather is still considered a high-end leather and it’s used in many consumer products: wristwatches, handbags, wallets, book casings, upholstery, and shoes.

[11:07] Genuine Leather

Genuine leather is down the list in terms of quality, and genuine leather is crafted from any layer of the hide. There is no specification for it. The leather goes through a good sanding or buffing process, which removes those imperfections. Genuine leather is typically used for belts, clothing, footwear, and upholstery.

[11:30] Split Grain Leather 

Split grain leather is cut from the lower parts of the hide. It’s called “split grain” because you use the bottom material after you split the hide. It’s not as strong as full grain or top grain, but it can still serve a valuable function as material for shoes, purses, and sofas. This type of leather is also used to create suede.

[12:03] Bonded Leather

Bonded leather is a term that describes a material that is anywhere from 10-90% leather. It’s manufactured from a lot of different scraps. Bonded leather is typically used as a filler and the scraps are bonded together with something like polyurethane or latex. Since the amount of actual leather varies greatly with this bonded material, you don’t have guaranteed quality like you do with the other grades of leather. Manufacturers typically use bonded leather for couches or other furniture. The quality may not be as good, but I have found it to be durable. You can wipe it off or wash it, and it’s not fussy in terms of care. It’s much more affordable, but I don’t love a bonded leather couch. It does look a bit cheap. It almost looks like vinyl because of the synthetic materials they use to adhere the pieces together. Bonded leather is not the place you go for a chic, sophisticated look, but I have young children. I have a cat who likes to scratch. I have a lot of spills in my home. So for our dining chairs, it just made so much sense.

So Lorri, I know this is an investment piece for unity. You’re excited to invest in it. I want you, however, to consider your dog’s claws. I have dealt with leather couches that are supple and beautiful, but so sensitive that even grommets on jeans could scratch it. You want to make sure that it goes with the look you’re hoping for – and speaking of that look, I’m glad I saved you a lot of money with your two-word phrase, but I want you to reconsider it because I think you’ve given me two styles.

You have given the industrial style and the western ranch style, and you need to include a feeling word.  I think the style that best encapsulates western ranch and industrial would be “rustic”. Industrial is known to have hand-sewn things, things that look rough, pipes, unfinished wood where you can clearly see the wood grain, and concrete elements that look a bit worn or imperfect. That goes really well with western and ranch, so I think rustic is your style word. It is your compromise between these two looks. You still need a feeling word, so maybe that’s another place where you could compromise or check in with your spouse and figure out what your word is together.

If you’re worried you don’t know your style or aren’t sure how you want your space to feel, head over to my website. A quiz will pop up that will ask you a lot of style questions. You can answer it separately so you can get to know each other’s individual styles and preferences before merging them into this design for your new home.

[17:00] Coordinating curtains in a home with an open concept floor plan (Kirsten)


How do you go about coordinating curtains in a home? More specifically, if a room (e.g. dining room) can be seen from another room (e.g. living room) how would you go about choosing curtains? Thank you!


With an open concept space, you want the entire space to share the same color palette. It’s important to choose that inspiration piece wisely, and then you can pull your 60/30/10 from that piece.

Let’s use my living room for an example. My 60% is a wheat yellow, and I regularly switch out my 30% and my 10%. It used to be yellow, red, and green, and I have switched it out so it is now 60% yellow, 30% royal blue, and 10% bright orange. You can easily see my dining room from the living room, so I used the same color palette. The walls in the dining room are that wheat yellow, and then I’ve used the royal blue in 10% doses in that room and the orange is the 30%. So I basically just switched the 30 and the 10.

Say that we wanted to do something different in the kitchen. We could maybe use that royal blue for a backsplash, and use the colors in different amounts and in different ways. I also like to reiterate the inspiration piece. Of course you aren’t going to buy two of the same piece of art or the same drapes, and we’re going to get to curtains specifically in just a moment – but these are general ways to make an open concept space work. I have a big painting in my living room, depicting my family in Coney Island. It features that yellow, blue, and orange, in addition to red, green, and other colors. In the dining room, I reiterated the inspiration colors with lively Paisley drapes. As you flow through into my kitchen, which is open to my dining room (but not the living room) I have used a bright blue backsplash and the tile is that bright blue that clearly relates to the blue found in my dining room.

Now, let’s talk about drapes specifically. We want the drapes to be a part of that 60/30/10. I have the brightly colored Paisley drapes in my dining room and in my living room. In my living room, I have the wheat colored drapes mimicking the paint color in the dining room. They have a geometric white trellis pattern on top. Geometric patterns can be trellis, chevron, zigzag, and stripes. I would not repeat a colorful drape or a solid color drape with a geometric print in each room, even if the prints were of a different scale. This is not something I talk about often because it’s a little controversial in the design world, but I don’t like two patterns that are a solid with a geometric white print in the same space. I feel like it’s a little too iterative. It’s redundant. It looks like you didn’t use any creativity. It just not my jam.

I might do a solid in the dining room, with no print at all. Then I might do a geometric pattern in the living room that relates to the 60/30/10 color palette. Say you had brightly colored walls like mine – you might want to go for a neutral drape. With an open concept living/dining space with no true delineation, I would do the exact same color. I would keep the window treatments completely consistent. If there is a wall separation or a door, then I would make the drapes in the other room different.

[23:36] Installing Craftsman style door and window frames in a non-Craftsman style home (Monica)


Thanks for the awesome podcast, Betsy. You’ve taught me volumes. I’m wondering about installing Craftsman-style door and window frames without necessarily having a Craftsman-style home. We love the look but are afraid it may be an issue when we go to sell within 5 years. It is considered ‘farmhouse’ style (which I’m not a fan of). We’d chose and install the plainest Craftsman-styled frames for doors and windows and paint them white to match the wall trim (which will be plain to ‘go’ with the frame styles) – example #2 or #4 in attached photo. Former owner did a DIY with the current frames and wall trim and used regular plain planks of wood and it looks awful. Our ongoing design of our interior is probably considered casual rustic. Thanks!


As I mentioned earlier with Laurie’s question, I would challenge your two-word phrase. Casual rustic is a perfectly fine phrase, I just want you to make sure you lock that in before you make a lot of design changes. That being said, architectural changes do not have to reference your two-word phrase. You can move into a place and choose your two-word phrase based on what you want it to feel like. As long as the architecture is not so overwhelming – if I moved into a highly ornate Victorian (welcome to my dreams!) I will need to adapt either my feeling or style word to accommodate all the character that’s going to be oozing out of the doors.

In Monica’s case, it sounds like the architecture of the home may be more simplistic – or maybe even problematic based on the DIY from the previous owner. If you want to take a look at the outside of the home, you want to make sure any structural changes you make (like adding specific molding) tie in with the other structural aspects of the home. For instance, I don’t want you using chunky door frames if you have three-inch baseboards. Chunky door frames need to go with chunky baseboards, so you need to have five-inch baseboards or higher. Otherwise, it will look like you have these big, heavy door frames with tiny molding everywhere.

You really need to be cognizant of what else is going on in the home that you’re not planning on changing. What do the kitchen cabinets look like? Is there crown molding up top? Is it quite delicate or is it chunky and bold? The Craftsman style moldings that Monica showed in her pictures are more simplistic.

I live in a space that is technically a colonial, but it has seven-inch high baseboards that have some decorative trim. So, it looks a little bit ornate. If you had very skinny door frames, it would look out of scale. Let’s look at your front door, your baseboards, the crown molding, and make sure that the doors you’re putting inside these frames also go with the trend. While architectural finishes do not need to align with your two-word phrase, they do need to align with both the interior architecture and the exterior architecture of your home.

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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