Episode 331

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If you have been following along on my house hunting journey, then you know what I mean when I say that I have a new online boyfriend and just had my first date. That’s a house, of course. It’s this beautiful yellow house with teal shutters and a cottage in the backyard in the Connecticut area. I’m obsessed! I wasn’t allowed to go see this house for two weeks, but I have finally been able to take a look inside. We just got over covid, and with it being Memorial Day weekend, I decided to pack up the kids to hike a nature trail right by the beautiful yellow house to take a peek at it. My boyfriend looked amazing, but the catch is that we couldn’t look at one room inside the house. No one is allowed to look until it is sold. Who knows what I’m getting into with this whole online dating thing, but I’m planning to put an offer in on it tomorrow even though my husband hasn’t seen it yet. That’s just how I roll! To help keep my mind off of my new boyfriend, let’s answer some of the questions you’ve sent me in the mailbag.

This episode, I answer questions about…

[8:20] Finishing a basement with shelving or decorative paneling (Brenda)


We are getting ready to finish our basement and want to know your advice. We were thinking of installing built-ins and wainscoting. We are contemplating having the built-ins black as well as the wall because they will be installed on the same wall as the tv, but we were considering the wainscoting to be white which will be installed on all the other walls. What color would you suggest for the built-ins, wainscoting, and the walls? Our design style is Scandinavian/Coastal/Farmhouse. Thanking you for all your helpful tips I receive listening to your weekly podcast. I look forward to hearing your advice.


Typically, built-ins are the same paint color and finish as the trim and molding in the room, and wainscoting is considered molding. In contemporary society, we would do it a shade of white. Back in the day, they often used to paint the trim a color and have the walls be that much lighter, neutral, even white. Nowadays, people pick a color for the walls oftentimes and do that white for the trim. That’s what one would typically do.

You’ve mentioned that this is a basement, so it probably does not get a lot of natural light since it doesn’t have a lot of windows. I certainly don’t see any in this rendering, so I’m worried that if you paint the built-ins black, not only is it going to be a little unconventional, but it’s also going to make this room quite dark and cave-like as basements tend to be. They don’t all have to be damp or stuffy.

I’m going to recommend that you keep it light and bright so the space is inviting versus something that you really don’t want to hang out in. The flip side of that is if you’re trying to make this a really moody movie room, which you didn’t tell me in the email, nor do I see that reflected in any images, but if you were going to make it a really moody movie room where you’re going to turn off all the lights and have thick velvet curtains, I might be giving you different advice.

In general for a basement, I want to warm the space up. I would do the built-in the same color as the trim, which would be a version of white. I would do the wainscotting that same version of white in either a semi-gloss finish if the walls are eggshell, or a satin finish if the walls are flat or matte. Then I would do some kind of warm color on the walls. If you want to keep it completely neutral, maybe do a cream versus a cool white. If it’s a buff kind of color, that skews almost yellow or a wheat type of yellow color, you can even think about a cool color that ideally has a touch of warmth like a green. Green has a touch of warmth because yellow plus blue make green so it’s a little bit of both, but I would just make sure not to do anything too dark like emerald or rich Kelly. Rather, I would skew towards a lighter perkier sage, maybe even a silver sage, but you don’t want to get too gray because again, it’s going to be cold.

If you can choose anything you want, I would always start by choosing that inspiration piece first like a rug, artwork, or drapes if there are windows in this space because then that can guide you to the paint color. If you pick the paint color first, you’ve pigeonholed yourself into working with a certain color in a certain palette. Unless you’re going with everything neutral, like that cream I referred to earlier, pick the inspiration piece first. Then I always choose the paint color. After I’ve selected all the items for the room, I can see what the room needs, and I can do a color match if I want. There are thousands of paint colors at my fingertips, but maybe only 50 rugs that meet the size, texture, and color specifications. Let’s start with the harder things and find the easy thing afterward.

Another thing that I just can’t move to the next question without telling you, Brenda, is that no, you are not scandinavian coastal farmhouse. You mentioned that you listen to my podcast, which I love, but I need you to also retain when you listen to my podcast, Brenda. This might be a little bit of a Betsy Smackdown, but we’re only one style word in this space. So upstairs, maybe your Scandinavian, downstairs your farmhouse, and in your bedroom, maybe you’re coastal, but for rooms that open up into each other, you want to make sure that you keep that style word consistent. You can change the feel word, but you can’t have three styles going on at once, in my opinion. You need to go back to what I’ve mentioned so many times before, which is that two-word phrase, one style word. That’s the style of the space and one feeling word, how you want to feel in the space.

Then if you want it to be really designerly, which if you’re listening to this podcast, I know you do. You’re gonna make it a three-word phrase instead of a two-word phrase and you’re going to add that third word which never changes. It’s always sophisticated, all right. So Brenda, when you’re shopping for things, when you’re picking paint colors, you’re going to put it through that litmus test. Does it fit the style word? Does it fit the feeling word and is it sophisticated?

[14:49] Creating a cozy open concept space to piece everything together (Justine)


Hi Betsy! You said you were out of questions so here goes!  We recently removed the wall between our dining room and kitchen. Now that the space is opened up, I’m unsure of how to make the space feel cozy and where to place our dining room table. Should I move the dining room to the room off of the kitchen? (It used to be a playroom). Should I create a seating area in front of the kitchen? I hate that when you walk in our front door you are immediately in the dining room. What’s the best way to separate the entryway from this room? The furniture that you see in the photos is being replaced but I haven’t picked out the new pieces yet. The only thing that is staying is the island with marble top . The cabinet color is Benjamin Moore Boothbay Gray which is a blue/gray/green – it looks baby blue in the photos. Also, I’m not committed to the accent wall color in the former playroom – I can change that easily. Any help would be appreciated! Thank you so much!


Justine has sent me lots of great images to help illustrate the situation so make sure to go ahead and check out our YouTube channel for those images. It can be really challenging when you open up a space because you’re basically removing the delineation, you’re saying what used to be a room is now no longer an architectural room. It could be a zone, right? We could define that zone with rugs. We could define that zone with color palettes as separate from this other zone because we’re using the color palette in a different way, but it is harder when you break down walls to create that separation.

Now with the pictures, I’m having a hard time piecing together exactly how this room fits. A floor plan might have been helpful in this tricky situation because I can’t really understand where the entry door is. The one thing I will caution against is if you do have a dining area right next to the entryway, you want to make sure if you’re not fastidious and super tidy, that you have some kind of console, some kind of place that’s very specific, very intentional, where you’re putting your handbag, your coat, your keys, your mail, otherwise your dining table becomes that console. In other words, it’s not a dining table, but a dumping ground. Even if you’re quite fastidious, the rest of the members of your family may not be, and then that could become a point of contention with you.

You just want to make sure, with these open spaces where the dining table is so accessible, that you create other landing spots before you get there. It’s an interesting idea to swap the placement of the dining area and the living room. The only problem with that is that there’s a chair rail in the dining area and that molding comes up one-third of the way. However, a chair rail typically connotes a dining room because it’s called a chair rail when you push out your chair. It’s not going to hit the wall, it’ll hit the molding instead. That chair rail somewhat protects the wall from chairs and scuffs. It’s prominently featured in that dining area and may look a little strange if you put a living area in there, especially because in the living area, there is no chair rail.

The other thing that you might want to think about is, which of the spaces is larger? That would really be the determinant because they’re both right off the kitchen. Both have easy access for carrying the platters, carrying the dishes, and seating, but the bigger open zone should really house the comfortable seating and the TV viewing. I don’t have the measurements here, but I would request that you take those measurements yourself.

The other thing is the family room that you’re using right now, it has lots of walls and is very enclosed. The thing I love about lots of walls when you’re trying to watch TV is that you have options for that parallel TV viewing. The area that’s currently the dining area right when you walk in, it is quite open and only appears to have two usable walls. Also, it’s going to be quite tricky to place furniture in that area. To make sure you have good Feng Shui, you can clearly see the main points of access for people coming and going, but also you have a wall for the TV so that you can watch TV in comfort without craning your neck in some awkward way.

The other thing to think about when you are envisioning being in the kitchen or dining room that is open to a living room is whether or not you want to hear your kids watching TV in the next room over. If that resonates at all with you, then it might make sense to leave that dining table right where it is and not have it be so open to the kitchen. The family room looks a little bit more separate, so you can get a little bit more separation in terms of those two activities if that makes sense. There’s a lot for you to think about as you’re evaluating the floor plan, but my number one piece of feedback for you is to take a measurement and whichever space is larger, should probably be the family room. I hope that helps and that I’ve given you some good guidance there.

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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