Episode 333

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I’m officially engaged to the lovely house from Connecticut with 15 acres! The caveat is that we don’t have a date yet, so I don’t know when to break up with my current partner – or house, that is; even though we’ve sold the house, things are still up in the air for now.

The beautiful dream house is everything I could have asked for. I can’t believe we got it after looking for a year and a half and losing no less than six places with astronomical bids. Again, I can’t believe we’ve got a home, but there’s a catch. We made the offer with no contingencies and no inspection. After having the inspector show up as my cousin for my second visit to the house, he said the house looked phenomenal. So the offer has been accepted, and we have signed the paperwork, but we are waiting for the current homeowners to sign the contract. What an exhausting process this has been. In the meantime, let’s dive into some of your fabulous questions from the mailbag before all the noises of my neighbors’ leafblower, and jackhammer begin again!

This episode, I answer questions about…

[5:42] New layout for a living room that was once a dining room (Alicia)


Hi Betsy, I am hoping you can help us with our main living area. We have recently moved what used to be the dining area (sofa with chandelier above) to create a bigger seating area for entertaining. When we first bought the house, it was very glam with crystal pendants and fixtures.  I hated it, as it was not me. I like a cozy feel to a home! Though I am stuck with a lot of silver hardware throughout the house, the only thing that remains glam is the chandelier which I am happy to get rid of. I would like to warm up the wall color from the bluish grey to a greige or even white.  My problem with the furniture is I don’t know what goes together and what doesn’t.  All furniture and rugs have been bought at different times (some much newer than others), which I fear makes nothing pair well. We desperately need a new sectional sofa although we have a very active puppy and two children with sticky fingers. Can you help me with color of the sofa? And sizing? Can we go any longer on the chaise or will this make the room appear too small? What about the rustic iron and wood coffee table? Does that need to go? The Union Jack ottoman needs replacing as well, but have no idea with what. Any thoughts on light fixtures? Rugs? It’s a hot mess.


I’m going to look through these pictures and give you advice. You have this gray stained or mid-tone wood floor with an ashy-er tint rather than something warm. In the seating area, you have a chair rail with some molding. So there are these two distinct zones in the room. One has a sectional with a three quarterback, which means that it does have a partial back on the short arm, but it doesn’t have an arm to that partial back. So people can potentially sit there comfortably, but they wouldn’t have an armrest.

The other area you mentioned used to be the dining area; you’ve made it an additional seating space. However, these are diagonal from each other. It could be hard for them to interrelate because in between these two areas is this built-in bar setup, which defines the spaces even though it’s an open concept as separate and distinct.

The chair rail molding does that because chair rail molding, as we discussed in a previous episode, is typically in dining spaces, not in a living space. Then, smack dab in the middle of the room. You have this bar area. I can’t tell if the bar area is connected to some kind of kitchen or if it’s on its own. It appears to have a kitchen application and a fireplace tucked in the corner.

So I recommend you convert this area back to being a dining room if you’re going to have a function for it. I don’t fully understand why someone would sit on this side of the room; that’s pretty far from the other side where that comfortable seating faces the fireplace. It’s closer to the windows and feels intuitively right. It is more significant, so it can accommodate that sectional sofa much better.

Ask yourself what type of conversation is happening in this little alcove nook that wouldn’t happen in the other area or would need to happen simultaneously but be separate. Not much, right? Suppose you made this into a particular reading nook with bookshelves and one chair like you are away from the TV and the fireplace. In that case, it becomes isolating and creates a different reading experience. I could see that, but as it is now, it just feels redundant. So I would convert this space back to a dining area if you would actually use it.

If you couldn’t see yourself using the space that way, the reading nook is also possible. I don’t want you to start buying things for this until you determine what you’re doing here. Speaking of not buying things until you make some decisions, you need to decide on the style of this space.

I get a definite rustic vibe, which works well with the gray. Those natural woods are warming up the gray undertones. I see what you mean about the walls being a little bluish, but you have that stone around the fireplace, which is decidedly gray and white. I would get a paint fan or take paint swatches, hold them up next to that stone and pull out a color that you like to help coordinate the stone with the fireplace. I’m not seeing many warm pieces in the stone as it looks primarily gray and white, so maybe a color that is a bit darker than the color of the stone that leans both gray and beige. Color match it so that this fireplace is more of a feature than something tucked away in the corner.

With kids, dogs, and sticky fingers, I wouldn’t recommend going too dark for the upholstery because it shows every little thing. But, on the other hand, I wouldn’t go too light either. Going with mid-tone neutrals will help set the foundation for the paint. If it’s on the more gray end, you should do a slightly darker gray for the upholstery; just don’t go to that super dark charcoal or midnight gray. If it does go grayer, you’re going to pick something more mushroomy or taupe for that sofa.

You had asked about sofa length. From the pictures you shared, I think it’s hard to go too much bigger on either wall because you have that built-in bar that I discussed on the long wall that’s opposite the fireplace. I think an end table on this side of the sofa would be lovely. On the other arm, which is currently the shorter one, I wouldn’t go much past that first window because you need some kind of walkway to get to the fireplace.

You don’t need an end table against the window wall on that arm. However, I would want you to have an end table on that other arm of the sofa, the longer arm. It will help it to feel more formalized and not like there’s just a couch over there. I just think it’ll feel more like a gracious home and less like the place where you plopped your big couch.

Looking back over the pictures, the space is getting a little bit visually heavy. I like that the chandelier and your pendants above the bar bring in some glass. One of my concerns is that in this space, you have a lot of silver metals, dark bronze, or even black metals with nothing to combine them. I look one way and see silver, and when I look the other way, I have the black metals. Still, I would be looking for something, whether it’s that chandelier over your dining table because I do think you should replace the crystal bubble chandelier that’s currently there as it is too high and small. If your style is not glam, this is not the piece for you.

When picking a chandelier or a lamp for the top of that end table next to the sofa arm, look for something that combines both the silver and the black metals because that will allow this space to make visual sense to someone who’s just looking at it. As a result, it’ll look a bit more interesting, complex, and cohesive.

I would also watch your wood usage in this room. You have a huge wooden coffee table, wooden bar stools, and prominent wooden floors. I think the sectional is also taking me there, along with the leather ottomans and the jute rug. So let’s stop going to brown town. You can fuse this place with a little bit of color and even a little bit of pattern. I love the art piece above the fireplace. It’s like an ocean scape that has this cool jetty or boardwalk. It’s got these teals, navies, and grays, which work so beautifully with the stone. If you pulled some color from there, I think that’d be a huge help.

Ultimately, that artwork cannot be your inspiration piece because it only features variations of blue. You want multiple ROY G BIV colors that apply to the 60-30-10 rule. I want you to keep searching for another piece in the meantime, whether it’s the rug, drapes, or whatever that may be, to help this space have a color palette. Currently, the color palette has lots of brown town tones with gray mixed in. That doesn’t work for me. Well, there you go, Alicia. You got a little more than you bargained for with that answer.

[18:15] Flooring decisions for a kitchen and dining room (Ranae)


Hi Betsy! I thoroughly enjoyed your diary episode, but I hate to hear that you’re out of questions. Our house, built in 1970, is a wealth of questions. We love the wooded lot and contemporary features. What would be your ideal kitchen/dining flooring for this style of house? We recently realized that our cupboards are never going to be awesome because they’re not scrubbable, and the interiors were cheap when they were installed in 1981. Would tile be ideal? Or should we try to match the oak in the rest of the house—that also needs to be refinished? Right now, we have lumber liquidator’s cheapest laminate. I like it, but it looks funny next to the oak. It’s all in the future, but I’d like to start wrapping my head around all the things that need to happen.


I completely agree that the laminate looks cheap next to those beautiful oak floors. I love oak flooring because it’s natural wood and has many variations. It is versatile and can work with so many styles. Love it! That being said, the oak appears to be a yellow honey-type stain. It’s not my favorite. When you refinish those floors in time, you could choose something a little bit more of the moment, like ashy walnut. I need to know a bit more about your style to best direct you on that finish, but the honey is definitely not in vogue right now.

If we look in your kitchen area, you mentioned those cheap cabinets, which hopefully you’ll replace sometime soon because if this is your forever home, I’d hate for you to live with cabinets that you can’t clean. They are also wood, in the mid-tone or even a dark wood shade. So now, we’ve got three tones of wood within one view. If you don’t have enough money to change out the cabinets, they probably won’t hold on to paint very well if they’re cheaply made. If they are veneer, the paint will easily scratch even if you apply it. I’m just not convinced that these cabinets will be worth the investment to keep and fix up.

I am not a fan of many wood grains touching, especially different types of wood grain and color stains. But I’m still a big fan of a tiled kitchen. If your kitchen is anything like mine, it gets a lot of water. There’s always some kind of surprise, right? So, I would do tile here in the kitchen. It’s hard for me to tell you what color tile and what shape and size to do because I just have these very zoomed-in pictures. So I can’t see your countertops. I can’t see your other decor. You can always write in with another question, which I can count on you to do, Ranae, but I do know that I would not do any more wood for the kitchen flooring. So, go with tile and keep me posted.

And since my next question is too long, I will circle back to it next week. I hope I have more news to share with you about the new house! Maybe the contract will be signed by the current homeowners, and I can start getting a plan put together for the interior. I’ll see you next time!






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