Episode 357: Creating a Color Scheme and Choosing Window Treatments

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It is officially the holiday season. If you’re watching on YouTube, you can see behind me this light dusting of snow over my Connecticut landscape. The previous homeowner warned me he said Betsy, you are going to love this home in every season but I know the other seasons won’t be as magical as the winter time and he was not wrong. Last night, these huge flakes came down and just lightly drifted over every little thing. It just turned into a winter wonderland. 

In 2023, I will be dropping a brand new idea that I’m very excited about. So hopefully that’ll keep you on the edge of your seats because the best ideas can come not when you’re grinding in the day to day worried about payroll worried about clients worried about invoices but when you finally step away, and are in a totally new different environment that triggers different synapses in your brain to be firing. And an idea that had been floating crystallized in my mind, and I’m so excited to share it with you. 

Most things in my life have come from bravely following curiosity. Not being sure, not planning too much ahead. But being curious and curious enough to do the work to see. What’s that, like, you know, even as an interior designer, I just liked watching it on TV. I was like, Well, why don’t I go work with somebody on TV? Why don’t you just write to this person? I didn’t know what it was going to be like, I didn’t know the hours involved or even really much about this person. 

My advice to you is to bravely follow your curiosity wherever it leads, even if it leads to a new hobby, or just a new afternoon adventure, or a completely new vocation. 

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

This episode, we discuss…

[11:40] How do I create a color scheme when designing for people afraid of color? (Emily)


Hi Betsy! I’m working with a client currently who is all about neutrals, and HATES color. Her current living room, which I’ve attached here, is all taupe, beige, and grey. She’s recently mentioned wanting to attempt to add a bit more color to make it more wintery, and cozy. The one color she suggested was eggplant. I know that purples are a difficult color to find as designers as there are so many shades, and I fear if I find anything “bold” she will turn it down. I’ve attached 2 pictures of possible options, the first from English Elm, and the second from Society 6. I’d love to hear your thoughts on designing for people afraid of color!


All right. Well, I’m happy to give you those thoughts. Emily, thanks for writing. And yes, you know, this living room is beautiful. It’s stylish and inspiring, for sure. But it is drab. And when people design with all neutrals, they need to buy expensive things, or else it looks cheap. Now luckily, a lot of the things in these pictures look pretty expensive. So that’s a good checkmark. But then even when they do look expensive, they look like a boutique hotel. There’s no personalization, especially in this frame that you’ve shown me here because there’s no art. There’s no color, there’s barely any pattern. It’s really hard for me to get a read on who lives here besides the sneakers in the corner, right. 

So I just think that adding color, maybe not purple. But adding color is a really quick way to add personality, especially when people are afraid of showing their personality through mementos, tchotchkes, souvenirs, things they’ve collected throughout the eras or things that have been passed on to them. When they’re afraid to show personality in a more revealing way, then by all means, let’s use color.

 The other reason I love to use color, as you already know, is because we don’t have to spend so much when something is cream when something is beige. You know, it’s so boring that people are looking for those sumptuous textures, those rich details. And when they look close and find wonky seams from Ikea, or mild discoloration from Target. Well, it doesn’t look luxe, it looks like they’ve made no choices and shopped the bargain bin for Home Goods. That’s why I really want to infuse this space with color and personality. 

But as a designer, I would hope that you would know that we’re not just going to arbitrarily pick colors. I mean, I’m excited that your client likes eggplant even though it is a nightmare color. But the problem is that we need an entire color palette. You can’t just rely on one color to fuel a space or else it’s going to look like the purple room. Right? So we need a piece of art or a drapery or a significant pillow or something that’s going to provide the color palette for the room. And this inspiration piece that I call it needs to have three roygbiv colors or more. So those rainbow colors right can be neutral and need to be prominently placed in the room. So when I walk in the room, I can visually understand where this palette derives from. 

In this case, you’ve already got a rug, I can only see one wall, which appears to be, even though I don’t think it’s well used. And then, there’s opportunities on the couch for pillows, and I can’t see the window, so I can’t see if they’re well set up for window treatments, or if they already have those in place. Let’s go with two toss pillows on the sofa, which could be the focal point in terms of the seating area. And let’s make them in a pattern. So two in a pattern and two solids. And when I do the solids, I typically like to do some kind of texture, either a raw silk or velvet or something. So there’s got a little bit of something going on. It’s not just a cotton twill. Right.

All right, so we’ll do two pillows, and that will give us the color palette. The other trap I wanted to quickly mention is that I do not design for the seasons. I am sick of magazines writing to me and saying, Betsy, tell us about how you switch things out for winter. Tell us about how you totally change your decor seasonally. And the answer is I don’t. I add different accessories, certainly a Christmas tree, a garland, some houses and some additional candles, but I don’t change my rug. I don’t take down my translucent drapes and put up opaque ones. I don’t even change my pillows, I really just change my pillows whenever I feel like it. Same with the throw blankets, which tends to be every six months, but does not correspond with seasons or seasonal colors.

I think that that might be a problem. This space is already a little moody due to the rich tones of brown that this client has used. And I would want to lighten and brighten. I worry that plum could get a little muddy or I’m sorry, eggplant. Same idea to me, but maybe slightly different in execution.

But I worry that that could get a little muddy as well. I highly recommend brightening this space with a warm color. I could see a yellow even if it’s a yellow ochre, right. But we definitely need to move away from drab and dark and move into the light and convince your client by sharing this episode with him or her or telling them everything.

[18:41] Help choosing the correct window treatments for my kitchen space (Maria)


Hi Betsy, I love your podcast and recommend it to everyone I know! You’re an excellent host and I love the show blown away too! My husband and I bought our first home last year. We live in Brooklyn. Throughout the home we have hardwood floors with a red mesquite color. The walls are painted with a warm white (Creamy by sherwin Williams). The crown and shoe moldings are extra white.

We are now in the process of getting window treatments. I am going to do Roman shades throughout the house. I like neutral colors like gray and beige. I wanted your opinion about what type and color of window treatment would work best for the kitchen window and sliding door that goes out to our balcony? I was thinking of light beige Roman shades for the kitchen window and maybe vertical blinds for the door? Also, do you think I should paint the medium brown wood trim that is around the window and the door? Perhaps in a white or gray to break up the medium wood that is in the kitchen.

After the window treatments, we plan on updating the backsplash and countertop in the kitchen. I am thinking a white stone countertop with a white/ beige backdrop. I will not choose white on white as I have learned that from you. We will also change and get an aluminum sink with a black handle (so I can mix metals/ see I listen to your podcast!) and change out the current white knobs for nickel or even copper or rose gold.

I am open to your ideas about what to do with this window and doorway to help break up the wood in my kitchen!


All right, well, I love the pictures, they are really illustrating the situation. So I greatly appreciate you sending those in Maria, I want to challenge one thing that you said. You said you’re a regular listener. And I think you’re gonna have to go back in the database a few years, maybe you’re a new listener, because you should also know I do not like rose gold. I love rose gold for jewelry. I love it if you’re shopping at h&m and find something rose gold and want to layer it on. But rose gold is just too trendy. And not only is it too trendy, it’s a trend that was happening three to five years ago, rose gold is over. 

And if you start doing things in rose gold, you’re going to quickly run into a roadblock because nothing’s really offered in rose gold any more. It is super dated, it is obsolete. If you want to wear a ring or necklace, go right ahead. If you want to do something like put it in your kitchen. Think again, I’m open to the other metal suggestions like nickel, I’m barely open to copper. Copper is going to be very difficult to work with. It’s not trendy, I would say that it’s pretty timeless. But you are going to have a really hard time replicating that copper tone in anything else. So sticking with warm metals like gold or brass, sticking with cool metals like nickel or chrome, and then sticking with black metals like wrought iron or bronze are really going to be your best choices. 

Any metals that are more exotic than that are going to be really difficult to back up with other things. All right, let’s get to your real questions. But I just couldn’t let that slide by Maria. As a fan, I want you to know everything that I know. I want my brain to be transmitted through the airways into your brain so that you don’t make bad choices. And I’m worried that you’re going to make a really bad choice or something really important in your kitchen. 

Alright, now let’s talk about the roman shades. Now you know that I don’t care for Roman shades in a lot of applications, because they have a huge header. So roman shades are fabric blinds that go up and are a rectilinear kind of piece. And all that fabric has to nest at the top. So if you’re going to do a Roman blind, either, you need a really big window, right. And that means really high and gets a lot of beautiful natural light, because you’re going to lose eight to 18 inches at the top where all that fabric comes together when you’ve got the window open. And the other thing I don’t like about Roman blinds is that it’s fabric, and in a kitchen that would trouble me. Especially right above your sink where it might get splashed, it might get grease book, I don’t love a fabric window treatment in a kitchen. Because it’s going to be impossible to clean. You can’t take that roman shade down and put it in the washer, and they tend to be expensive if you’re doing custom. So you’re really going to invest in something that could get pretty gross pretty fast. 

Now, going back to my first objection, if you wanted to prevent the blind from eating up all that beautiful window light because this window is not tall in your kitchen, it is squat and wide, then you could outside mount the blind, which means not doing it inside the framing, but rather above the framing. And the thing I like about that is that you do have some drywall there that would then gain some visual interest and it would make your window look a lot taller. The thing I don’t like about that is when you outside mount a Roman blind, unless you have a very deep sill, which you do not in this case, the Roman blind is not going to have a place to rest it’s not going to meet the window when it’s fully drawn, which means that it will just dangle there just hanging in midair. And of course, you’re going to do it custom. So it’ll fit just perfectly but I don’t love the dangle above a kitchen sink now. Maybe all the time you’re gonna have it up. 

But in that case, what you’ve created is a valence. And if you’ve read my book chapter nine, you know my feelings on valances. Can I just dissuade you from doing a Roman blind in this kitchen? Is there anything more I can say or do to help you pivot in a way that would make sense and be most cost effective? I am open to you doing a roller blind, a wood slatted blind, potentially no treatment at all. If you don’t need privacy, even in Brooklyn, I’m having a hard time imagining a space where you don’t need privacy. But you’ve got such a big space here for Brooklyn, that I’m just wondering where you’re located at all, you have a slider, all this amazing stuff. 

So let’s just assume you’re in an urban environment, which I assume you are in Brooklyn. And that you do need that privacy. You also want to be careful because you have a hand crank to open the window. So you need something that’s going to fall in front of that without catching on the hand crank. So you do seem to have a deep window box. And I’m excited for that idea of a roller blind or that wood slatted blind. With the sliders, there have been a lot of good recent innovations in sliding door treatments. Of course, you could do the vertical. It’s not the worst idea. But there’s all sorts of different things. So I would want you to explore other options, I would want you to get somebody custom in this room to give you the other options, because there’s constant new things coming along. They’ve got these things called a panel track that has a wider sort of slats.

But it can look a little bit IKEA, they have fabric sliding panels, they have cellular sliding panels, so you may want to explore the different options. And of course, all of those come at different price points. 

Now let’s get to your next question. This place is so Woody, you have those kind of rich wood cabinets, you have that Miskito wood stain floor, you have wood trim on the window and the slider, you have a wood dining table and you have wood chairs and a wood ceiling fan. I mean, come on, we’ve got to escape all this wood. And you do have crown molding in this room that has been painted white, I highly recommend painting the sliding door frame and the window frame that same white from the trim. I don’t recommend using a different trim color. 

Now guys, you will see in historic homes, you will see in other types of homes, sometimes different rooms that are painted with different trim colors. And I think that is amazing. I think it’s really fun. I also think you have to have an amazing eye to do that. I don’t think that’s something that just the lay person can throw together. And the molding needs to be really interesting if you’re going to draw someone’s eye to it. And in this case, the molding is rather simplistic. 

Definitely just keep it the same trim color. So keep that extra white that you’ve been doing the rest of the trim, but I think it will really lighten and brighten the space and also update it because I’m really excited to hear that eventually you’ll do the countertops as well as the backsplash. 

This place needs an update. And if you take my advice, which I think that you should and you don’t do the Roman blind around the window, I highly recommend bringing that backsplash tile, not only all the way up to the rangehood but also that sheetrock above the window will look amazing with the same backsplash treatment.






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