Episode 350: Nursery Safety When Designing, Proper Sectional Placement, and Styling A Large Open Kitchen Space

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Things are a little different because I just got back from a whirlwind trip to Toronto. Very exciting. What a beautiful town. What a fun time. Lots going on, I go to either Toronto or Chicago for my business class. And so most of the time I spent in the hotel right outside the airport learning and on long drives listening to audiobooks was very exciting. But I’m so glad to be back with you. My WiFi is still spotty in the cottage.

So you’ll see I’m phoning in, if you’re watching on YouTube, I’m recording here in my husband’s office, which is filled with boxes, DVDs, and bare walls. It’s an evolution guys, it’s been a more painful evolution than I’d hoped. But we are getting there slowly. But surely, I hope that you’re doing well. I hope that you’re evolving, changing for the better, whatever that looks like for you.

Alright guys, well, a lot of questions have been coming in, like I shared with you. Everybody, including my interior design firm, gets the itch to design right about now. This is our busy season. October is always a booming month for us, where people really get into gear and want to take their place to the next level. And from the looks of my mailbag. You guys are feeling the exact same way. 

So let me optimize our time together and dig in and answer your questions. 

This episode, we discuss…

[4:45] Are there other safety concerns when designing a nursery?  (Emily)


Hi, Betsy, I’m starting work on a nursery. And I’m thinking about putting framed artwork over the changing table. Is this a bad idea? You’ve covered nursery design before but I don’t remember any episodes covering where design ideas meet safety concerns. Are there other safety concerns when designing a nursery? 


Oh goodness, yes. Goodness. Yes. So I would never put anything framed over a changing table. And a frame means something you know, like a hard edge right? It could be a framed canvas that wouldn’t necessarily have glass, it can be a framed picture. 

Even if it’s not glass, if it’s an acrylic or plastic that covers the artwork, because the little ones while they’re laying down on their back, getting their diaper changed, can kick, can pull, can grab things, things they of course, wouldn’t be able to normally reach. So I prefer to do something like a macrame, I prefer to do something maybe just stretched on canvas or a decal is always nice, because then it’s just stuck to the wall and they can’t pull it down. 

If you feel really confident that you want to do something framed about the changing table, I would make sure that it’s screwed into the wall at all four corners, or at least top and bottom, that it cannot move in any way, which typically damages the frame and makes it look less sophisticated, then you’d have to use some wood putty or something to fix that. 

So personally, decals are my favorite way to go above a changing table. Then you also want to be mindful above a crib, right? If initially the baby comes home and it’s just laying flat, we want to be thinking that that baby could possibly be in that crib for two or three years. And by that time, they’re standing up pulling on things again. So I like to be mindful that I don’t want any framed piece above a crib either. We go back to the macrame, back to the decal, back to something soft, like even a tapestry.

Or even maybe mural wallpaper behind that area. I do like to use a piece of artwork, a piece of framed artwork on a wall where it can be hung appropriately high, so they can’t pull it down. But I’m always very mindful of can they reach, can they jump, could they climb on something, speaking of climbing on something, we of course want those anti tip kits, so that you can fasten even something like a three drawer dresser to the wall, you want to be very careful with bookshelves, dressers, even nightstands.

In a room where a child has access, I really recommend those anti tip kits. You can buy them separately from the furniture online at Amazon. Or of course, most of them come with the furniture. 

What’s another thought that I have? I mean, there’s lots of baby tips. And I highly recommend if you’re really serious about this, that you hire someone like a baby proofing company. But as a designer, I tell the other designers I work for,  no glass in a baby room at all. They could jump on the piece they could, fall things like that. I don’t love hard edges. So I’m always asking myself if it is grounded, and I’m always imagining that the child could knock it over. 

So with a table lamp, I’m not going for anything ceramic, I would go for an acrylic base or metal base. You just want to think about that worst case scenario. For a floor lamp. I like something that has a tripod base, which makes it much harder to knock over. You just want to be thinking about all the different permutations of what that baby could do in the future. Even if the baby’s not doing much right now, that newborn is not moving, not rolling around. Soon it will be and what kind of things could it get into and what kind of things could it lift up? What would be a problem? 

So I really love woven textures, but you want to be careful because some of them can be sharp if they’re too basket-y. I really like Canvas bins that have handles so that they can pull it down themselves and you don’t have to worry about any hard edges. I love soft rugs, but I avoid anything too plush because then the baby could, you know, lose things in the fibers like Cheerios, or sometimes those thicker shaggy or rugs do tend to shed. So your baby’s drooling on her little hands and then she touches the rug and she lifts those drooly hands up and there’s fibers all over it that she then puts in her mouth. Cringeworthy. When I see a shag or a flokati on the floor in a nursery.

If you want to have that sumptuous, soft texture, do an amazing throw blanket that you drape over the glider, do a little flokati over the back of the glider, but I really avoid it as a rug with a little crawler, little drooler. 

So those are just a few things that come to mind. I’m sure there’s lots, lots more. But again, you know googling safety tips for kids rooms or even paying a professional is just so worthwhile. I remember when I had babies I lived in Park Slope which is the land of babies and there were so many services that would come to your home and point out all these things that you would never imagine could be a harmful situation that would need to be secured or changed. So consult with the pros, but those give you a few tips to start with.

[13:39] Where do I place the chair of my sectional? Part up against the wall, or use that wall for an end table? (Deborah) 


Hi Betsy! I currently live in an apartment. I was thinking of getting a chaise type sectional similar to this one from Joybird. My question is, do I place the chaise part up against the wall, or use that wall for an end table? In that case, the chaise would stick out a bit into the room, but there is plenty of space for it, and then I could have both end tables for drinks! Or, do you prefer sofa tables, like this one from West Elm? Not sure I like the thought of reaching back for items. Thank you!


Okay, so let’s go with your first question. With a chaise sofa. This one from Joybird is very loud in this kind of salmon pink color. So I would like you to reconsider your upholstery choice. But I don’t tend to put the chaise up against the wall. I do like space, I would be open to having an end table on that side. You just want to make sure it’s the same height as the arm, right? Because sometimes the arms on those Chase sofas can be like a three quarter arm or something like that, where it’s almost the back of the sofa.

And then it would look weird to have such a tall table. In that case on the side of this chase, I typically like to do a floor lamp. I always like to mix it up personally, and have an end table and an end table lamp on one side of a sofa whether there’s a chase involved or not. 

Traditional space that really calls for that symmetry. I think it’s nice to have floor lamps in the mix, because they typically provide more atmospheric lighting because they’re tall and can kind of have a larger range with the light. 

But also, it’s nice to have everything on kind of undulating levels. So the end table lamp on top of the end table is only a little bit higher than the sofa. But then the floor lamp is quite tall. So it gives us that sense of like an undulating space. It’s why I love to incorporate bookshelves, but also have lower things you don’t want everything too tall, but you also don’t want everything on that lower back of sofa height level.

One example, I like to share what you may have heard on the podcast before is thinking of your room as a panorama. People rarely buy panoramas of Iowa, no offense to Iowa, because everything’s so flat and just plain right? It’s not dynamic and not visually interesting. 

People are more inclined to buy panoramas of, say New York City where there’s some low parts, some high parts where you’re seeing the skyline, but you’re also seeing the West Village go low and the Empire State Building go big. That undulation is so interesting, not just in a picture format, but also spatially. So as you’re designing your room, think low and think high. 

In terms of a sofa table, I understand your concern about reaching behind you. When I think of a sofa table I think of it less as a place to service me while I’m actually sitting on the sofa. Like I wouldn’t put my drink or my snacks or my book there because it is awkward to reach back. Rather the sofa table is there as a display. It is there potentially for illumination if your couches are floating in the middle of the room and you need sort of a place to have a lamp. 

It is there so that you don’t see the back of the sofa, so if I’m approaching the sofa from the entryway and the back of the sofa is facing the entry door, it’s nice to have a sofa table there, it’s more welcoming than just seeing a wall of fabric. Or if you do have something like a chaise sofa where there’s a seam in your couch, seeing an unsightly seam, which really bothers me.

I don’t actually mind seeing the back of the sofa if it’s clean and unbroken. But it’s when it has those sectional seams and those breaks that I start to feel less excited about it. So there we go. Sofa tables purely for display, not generally for snacking, drinking, book, etc.

Let me be clear on the book thing really quickly, I definitely display books on his sofa table, like coffee table books or something like that. But if I was reading my Kindle or my kid is reading Dog Man, we’re not going to use the sofa table to throw it on there while we switch to snacking and vice versa. 

[16:00] How do I style my Large Open Kitchen Space (Kay) 


I’m a new, first time homeowner and I have a large open space in my kitchen that I’m not sure what to do with! My style phrase is Cozy Boho (Sophisticated implied!!).

There are about 60”-100” inches from the wall to the angled peninsula counter (distance varies as you go along the angle). There are about 100” from the counter to the back door. The window sill is also about 12” deep but I don’t want a window seat. I’d like to incorporate plants! I was thinking maybe a small 2-person round table? I also have a separate dining room and space for 3 bar stools at the peninsula.

I could also do a bar cart? I could just leave it open and put no furniture there. I plan to put bamboo/woven window shades on the window and maybe also hang sheer-ish white linen drapes, but am open to other ideas.


All right, Kay, let’s get into it. First things first, I completely agree with you. So many people, when they have a deeper windowsill, want to turn it into some kind of seating, right? They want to turn it into a window box where they’ll put some pillows, where they’ll read that book. I referenced that earlier, where they will have a custom cash cushion created? And my answer to that is no, no. 

The reason is because it would have to be more comfortable than sitting on the other furniture in the room. Why would I sit inside this window that’s only 12 inches deep? Typically a seat is 18 inches deep. So my booty is not even going to fit on here comfortably. Also, I’m going to be pressed up against the blinds or pressed up against the glass, I’m going to smudge the glass. I mean, it just doesn’t make sense in most people’s faces. Even if their window box is deeper. Even if you do have the full 18 inches like I have on my two bay windows downstairs in my living room. It just does not make sense.

Nobody’s going to sit there when you have the beautiful couch, the beautiful armchair and the daybed right there. So lots of my clients come to me with that dream. And the only person who winds up sitting there is the cat, right? The cat is the only one who enjoys that amazing custom cushion that they had made. 

Now it’s hard for me to tell you exactly what to do. Because I love to use my floor plan software, I love to check my math, I always subtract for baseboards, right? It can be deceptive. And I don’t want to assure you that something will work when there’s math involved, especially because you mentioned the distance from the peninsula, you mentioned the angled wall.

But I don’t remember you referencing this door outside, you need to accommodate the door swing. So the important things to keep in mind when you’re trying to decide, do I put a table, do I put a plant stand? What actually fits here? You want to think about the measurements of the piece. 

So we know that a small table, if it’s going to fit, needs to be at least 18 to 24 inches round or square. So if we know that that’s the case, and I am saying at least. We need at least 30 to 36 inches to push out our chair without hitting something. So already we’ve got some math going and then we’re walking around this peninsula. So we need a walkway that’s completely clear by 30 to 36 inches as well. 

So we know that we wouldn’t want a walkway and then if you only have 60 some interest there and then a table that has a chair coming out because that violates our principles right there. So you want to do that math. You want to take those numbers you already know, the size of the table, the amount of room you need to pull out a chair or a bar or counter stool because I know those are involved as well. 

What are some other measurements we need to keep in mind? Well, for this particular instance, it’s really just about the walkway and the push back. But also you want to keep in mind the door swing, right. So whatever the doors width is, is the amount of space is going to need to swing into the space. And it’s going to need to be unencumbered. If somebody you know, pushes out their chair after having their breakfast cereal and forgets to push it back in. This door is going to hit that chair, we want to be very mindful. 

And personally, just eyeballing this situation, I think the plants are the best way to go. Now you could do a real plant stand because I don’t love anything in a windowsill. Sometimes it’s just like tchotchkes or junk, right? It could tend to look very cluttered, and we lose that sophisticated word. But a really beautiful sculptural plant stand would be fascinating here, especially if you can keep your plants alive, more power to you. 

And I think that it would also really break up all this cool color because right now, the tile is like a gray, the walls appear to be like a bluish gray, the backsplash is like kind of a marble herringbone it appears, then the cabinets are a darker gray, we need to warm up this space. And green while not purely a warm color, like red or yellow or orange does have yellow in it. So it is a warm type color in terms of bringing a little balance to the color palette here. 

And also it’ll be so nice in this land of rectangles, everything in these pictures as rectangles, rectangles, linear lines with the blinds, etc. We need to bring in some curves, we need to bring in some organic shapes. And I think plants and their leaves and their vines would do just that. So that’s my two cents there. I hope it was helpful for you. 






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