Episode 348: Wall Decor Options, Warming Up The Space and Solving The Radiator Curtain Problem

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Hello, I have very exciting news to report. In fact, I am more optimistic than I have been since we moved into this place because the squirrels have been humanely eradicated. Yes, that’s right. I am pretty confident all squirrels are gone. Now it is mating season and squirrels can have 27 to 30 babies. So we can’t be totally sure that the last ones are out. But we’re fairly confident and we have a video camera on surveillance watching for squirrels. 

I feel very excited and very optimistic. In fact, if you’re watching on YouTube, that is why I am in a robe. I don’t actually own a robe myself. I borrowed my son’s Harry Potter robe. I think this is the house of Gryffindor. I’m not sure I haven’t read the books myself. But one of the charms of this cottage besides the squirrel infestation is that there is a really delectable hot tub right upside. I have yet to use it because I’ve been so preoccupied with everything going on. But in celebration of my squirrel eradication, I will be in this hot tub mere moments after this broadcast. 

Now that I’ve got some things under control. I hope you’ve got things under control. I hope you’re feeling good. I hope you have an opportunity to relax this week. One of the things I love to do to relax besides soaking in a hot tub is answering your questions. Do you have any questions for me? Sure. It could be about squirrels, it could be about hot tubs. Even though I don’t know much about hot tubs. I haven’t been in it yet. But asking me design questions is where you’ll really tap into my expertise. 

Without further ado, let me get to the questions that are already in my mailbag. 

This episode, we discuss…

[4:45] How to choose your wall decor, how many photos are too many? (Kelsey)


As a family photographer with loads of beautiful images of my family, I feel the need to hang photos in my home. BUT as a kid who grew up in the 90s in a house ***PACKED FULL*** of picture frames (and all of my friends’ homes were the same), I question – what’s the right amount of framed photos in a house? I live in a small, 3 bedroom ranch. We have 1 gallery wall above our piano, 1 large acrylic print above the fireplace, and maybe 3 or 4 small picture frames throughout the rest of the house. We have plenty of bare walls, but I get overwhelmed thinking about what to put on them. How many framed photos are in a home? And what other options are there for wall decor? Are your walls allowed to be bare? In a fear of overdoing it, I think I’ve underdone it. I would love your advice!


Well, I definitely have opinions on this because sometimes I walk into people’s homes and it’s like their photo album exploded and there’s family photos everywhere. And while it’s very interesting, in fact, they might even be some conversation starters. It’s not very inspired or creative or unique. And it can be very overwhelming visually. I think it starts to look like a museum exhibit right if there’s too much of the same kind of art everywhere. That’s not just for photos. 

By the way, I feel the same way. If you had paintings on every wall Kelsey, it would feel like I met the Guggenheim, instead of in your three bedroom ranch. I feel the same way about sculptural wall hangings, if you had baskets, and floating shelves and wall sculpture all over, well, that would also feel pretty oppressive and one note. 

So the key is to look throughout your space, and make sure that you’re mixing different types of art, as well as different shapes of art. For instance, in my primary bedroom, I found this really amazing vertical piece like this Victorian lady. And she’s blowing like a huge bubble with bubblegum, she just perfectly matches my paint color and my palate, and she just makes me smile. And it’s kind of from the era of the home, and I got her cheap on society six, and I just really love her, right, but she’s vertical.

And then when I was going to look for other pieces of art for my room, I said to myself, I know I don’t want an art print, because I’ve already used that, and I don’t want anything vertical, I could pick something square, I could pick something horizontal, certainly I could do a wall sculpture that’s asymmetrical, or even, you know, elliptical or circular. But I want to make sure that I’m not using too many vertical pieces throughout the space. 

So you always want to be thinking about contrast and contrast doesn’t just mean dark and light. Right? It doesn’t just mean heavy and airy. Contrast can also be with shape and contrast can be with types of pieces, right? Too much framed photography can feel like you didn’t make any choices, like you just opened up your Shutterfly, printed things out in different sizes and said, I’m done. And that doesn’t feel very designerly. 

Now, do you need a piece on every wall? The answer is absolutely not. In fact, we need some empty wall space for our good chi to circulate. So when I’m planning out my artwork, I think about where do I want people to focus? Where do I want their eyes to be drawn? 

I also want to think about incorporating drapes, because for instance, in my primary bedroom, I’m going to hang those drapes well outside the window to enlarge the width of my windows visually. And when I do that, I have less wall space. In fact, I’m just gonna have a very small amount of wall space above my bed. So I need to be cognizant of the fact that you know, even though technically I have walls, the drapery counts as a wall hanging as well. These are things I want you to be thinking about as you’re planning your art. 

Where do I want people to focus? Where do I want the wow factor? In my case, I have to do a piece above the bed. You have to do a piece above the fireplace, of course. But do I really need a piece on either side of the hallway, typically, I choose one side. And then maybe further down the hallway, I’ll choose the other side. 

You also want to be mindful, and I think this is something that people forget of any architectural clutter that’s on the wall. Sometimes there’s a lot of light switches. There’s a lot of switch plates, there’s a lot of outlets, there’s a thermostat. And all of that can be visual clutter on a wall. I told my contractors to plug up any switch plates that we weren’t using, because there were a few things that we weren’t going to use a few sconces, we weren’t going to install, eliminate that sheetrock over it. 

I’ll remember where it is if I ever want to incorporate a sconce or ever want to put that switch plate back, but I probably don’t and I’d rather have a really clean wall on which I can put some artwork that’s not visually cluttered with architectural gunk. 

The other thing to think about is that too many gallery walls ruins the specialness of the gallery wall moment. That means if I’m going to use say a gallery wall above the piano, I wouldn’t do another gallery while probably at all downstairs. 

Now I know you’re in Rancho it’s all downstairs but maybe I might do one and say the den right? But definitely not within view, two gallery walls within one view is just overwhelming. I also typically don’t like a gallery wall in a hallway because oftentimes it will get bumped as people are carrying laundry or suitcases or grocery bags. So I like it to be in a place like above a piano where people aren’t walking by and can you know make the pieces go askew.

All right, well, that’s a lot more information than you needed about artwork hanging. But I hope it inspires you. And in those places where you really want people to focus above the fireplace, above the sofa, it could be the perfect place to bring in that really special photography, especially because you are a photographer. 

But in those other places layer in canvas art layer in wall sculpture layer in clocks, layer in framed prints, layer in maps, drawings, all sorts of things that can be a wall hanging, including drapes, without being a framed photograph.

[13:39] How do I warm up the main floor and make it feel more cozy and bright? (Rebecca) 



I am trying to learn about interior design to improve my own home and am finding your podcast an incredible education! I moved into this house a year ago – I will call it the “home depot special”. It has an open concept main floor, with both north and south facing windows. The kitchen cabinets are a creamy white. There is one wall of exposed red brick (which I love). I want to warm up the main floor and make it feel more cozy and bright. I am interested in changing the kitchen cabinet handles, the faucet, and the island light fixture. Handles and light fixtures are currently shiny chrome, faucet is brushed nickel. As well as paint the walls for the whole space. Do you have any advice on what finish of metals I should choose for these changes? And the wall color? I hate gray, so please don’t do that 😉 I do not have a clearly defined style yet – working on it. Something transitional, with quirky art. Pics below! I plan to keep the cabinets and countertop and floor. Happy to also change the backsplash. Thank you SO much.


All right, let’s look at these pictures Rebecca and let’s take a deep dive. So yes, I definitely see the creamy cabinets. I definitely see the handles that are currently the brush silver, and that are very simplistic. You know, they’re just basically a kind of C shape with some kind of rounded edges. And they’re that brush silver. So personally, I mean this is all personal. I like to do silver in the kitchen, I typically like to brush silver. 

The reason is because oftentimes they’re stainless steel with the appliances and it will really go nicely with that finish. The other reason is because in kitchens, there’s a lot of fingerprints, right? I’m constantly pulling on the cabinet polls. I’m constantly using the faucet and I don’t want to see those fingerprints. Those are going to stress me out. So I think the brushed metal finish is completely appropriate for the kitchen.

Do I feel like it needs to be consistent between the cabinet hardware, the faucets and fixtures and the lights, the ceiling fixtures or pendants? No. Typically, I think I do keep it relatively consistent. Definitely the things I’m touching in the kitchen I like to keep brushed, but I would be okay if you did chrome or polished pendants. It would still look great as long as you stay in that cool family of the silver metals. 

Now in the bathroom I feel very differently and you’re like Betsy, you know, you’re still pulling on the medicine cabinet. You’re still turning the faucet, for some reason I don’t prefer brushed in the bathroom. And this is truly personal preference. There is no rule there. I just love Chrome in the bathroom and you know what I think it is in the bathroom. The number one thing that is important is not that the bathroom is stylish. Not that it’s particularly inviting, it’s that it feels clean. And to me that shiny sparkle of chrome or polished silver just exudes a cleanliness. That’s my preference. But like I said, no hard and fast rules there. 

Now let’s talk about the other things that you had mentioned, you were talking about maybe wanting a backsplash. Now, I think it’s very dangerous. I’m going to put this out there, Rebecca, that you are making design choices without starting with a two word phrase, I would not be choosing new cabinet hardware, I would not be choosing a backsplash until I had honed in on my two word phrase, because I want to make sure that everything is cohesive.

And these structural elements, these architectural elements need to be even more cohesive than, say, the dining chair or the artwork, because you don’t want to change them out. You want them to have a lot of longevity, you want that backsplash to be something you enjoy for the next 10 to 15 years. You want to make sure you have a lot of clarity on the style, you’re going for something that will be cohesive with what’s already architecturally happening in the space. 

So we know that we have a shaker style cabinet that has some ornate detailing that definitely feels transitional because of the sort of curving lines of that inset frame. So I would say right now your cabinetry is leaning towards transitional. But the hardware is definitely contemporary because of its clean lines. The pendants are contemporary to super modern, there are those glass tubes that have the elongated bulb inside. Right now we’re a little bit of a hot mess with our style. And I want you to get more specific before you make even one additional choice. Please take my advice Rebecca. Please listen to a couple more episodes, pick your phrase and then pick your hardware and backsplash. 

[19:33] Help solving the New York City Curtains and Radiators situation (Rebecca) 


Hi! I’m wondering in the case of radiators like this, how long would you make the curtains?


Well, that is a great question, Rebecca, because it does get complicated. If I have a space where there is a radiator directly under the window and I need those drapes to close, right they’re not just going to be decorative I want to draw them, then I am definitely not going to use drapes that go all the way to the floor. I do not want that big belly bulge underneath the drapery of a radiator. I also don’t want my fabric getting hot, right? 

Same thing goes with having an air conditioner in one of these windows. If I’m going to draw the drapes, I don’t want them to be in front of the air conditioner and have them billow out, blocking my cool air and wasting my electricity. So my recommendation for a window that does have a radiator or does have an air conditioner and you do need to draw the drapes is to not have drapes. 

There are times when you need drapes exclusively. There are times when you need blinds exclusively. But a fully dressed window has both blinds and drapes. You only manipulate the blinds and the drape is just there to look pretty, add softness, color, texture, etc. In the case of your radiator, because it extends past the window frame, drapes are going to look ridiculous, even if they were decorative, because you’re going to be able to see the sides of the window frame and the drapes are going to look like they’re kind of hanging out there in no man’s land versus being sort of a crucial part of the window even just visually if not functionally, I would highly recommend in your windows that you only do blinds. 

That way they can stop right above the radiator at the bottom of the window frame. And if you do install an air conditioner in here, then they can stop right at the top of the air conditioner. It just makes a lot more sense even if it’s not as visually appealing. 

Now, if you are just set on doing some kind of fabric treatment, we’ll do a roman blind. Now a Roman blind is made of fabric right? And it comes down in those rectangular type chunks and again, you can stop it right above the radiator, right above the air conditioner. My only reservation with Roman blinds is that I find them to be beautiful, I love the texture that they add. It’s such a good compromise when I can’t have drapes. 

The problem is, I can see that you have an amazing panorama of the Hudson River. And these drapes are going to cut off some of that window, right, you’re gonna lose some window at the top, because all that fabric is going to come to rest at the top when you open the blind fully.

And so you lose about eight to 12 inches of window. And it’s a real shame unless you plan on outside mounting it but when you outside mount your blind, that means that when you close it, it’s going to fall in front of the window frame and it’s gonna land right on top of the radiator. And that is not sophisticated, right? I want the window sill to be the thing that stops the roman blind, not the radiator. There we go. Did that help? Did that illuminate the situation? I have lots of strong feelings on window treatments and so much more.






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