Q&A with Decorating Tips and Tricks

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I am joined today by repeat guests, Kelly and Anita of Decorating Tips and Tricks and we’re tackling your design questions. 

This episode, we discuss…

[1:57] Window Coverings in the Kitchen (Hannah)

[12:58] Dressing up an office with lockers (Allison) 

[24:57] Making a large living room more inviting (Emily)

[1:57] Window Coverings in the Kitchen (Hannah)


Hello again. Thank you for answering my kitchen design questions earlier in the year, my new house is now finished and I could use some help with decorating! 

I would love to know your thoughts on window coverings. I feel like the window above the sink needs something but I still want it to feel light. I am going for airy transitional/farmhouse. I was going to do side panels on ends only of big windows (not designed to be closed) and nothing on the sliding glass door.

Ideas on where to find stools for the island? I’m looking for affordable. The dining table I have for the space is dark wood and traditional style. I attached a photo of my inspiration piece for your reference as well. Thank you Betsy!

Kelly’s Answer: 

Congratulations that your renovation is done. Your home is lovely. You’ve got great bones going on in that kitchen. The cabinets are beautiful, you’re definitely hitting the marks on the sort of fresh farmhouse feel. I love the cow image and I think that’s your inspo. So keep the cow, we’re going to find a great place for that.

To point right towards your direct question. I have some other ideas about this room too. But do your exact question regarding the window treatments. I like the idea of having something on the bigger windows that don’t close. It is going to give some softness to the room, you can add some texture because there are a lot of hard surfaces in a kitchen. I like to treat a kitchen like any other room. Don’t make it just utilitarian. So if you can add more texture, that’s a wonderful way to go. 

You can definitely get that feel and add some color or at least some texture with the drapes. I’m not sure if I would add anything over your kitchen sink or where that other window is. It might be a little complicated and you don’t really seem to need privacy there. I don’t like the little bloop of a valance that’s kind of an older look so I might just go with the clean lines there and do what you suggested about having the drapery panels flank the windows but not actually be enough fabric to close or not be something that you would close. 

Anita’s Answer: 

 I love what you said Kelly, and I think we’re in we’re simpatico on the window treatment dilemma because we both love looking outside and so Hannah looks like you’ve got some beautiful views there. 

I agree with Kelly that I would probably not have anything on that you need to close. So maybe leave nothing on that window above your sink. If you need to maybe a Roman curtain if you feel like you need some privacy, but I would go with something fabric. If you don’t feel like you need something for privacy, leave that as it is, as you were saying you are going to do the same with the sliding doors.

I think definitely add some curtains for softness on that back window. Again, if you feel like you need some privacy, you can add some shades or blinds or bamboo shades if you need to but I think just some curtains for softness there. Back to the idea of counter stools. I think World Market, Wayfair, Overstock, and Amazon are all great sources. 

If you’re looking on Overstock, you’re going to really need to make sure and check those reviews and make sure that you know those are stools that people like since you can’t see it in person. Amazon also has lots of reviews. You’ll also need to check the seller. Two brands that I know they carry on Amazon that Kelly and I both really like are Christopher Knight Home and Safavieh and they’ll have some great chairs as well. 

Continuation of Kelly’s Answer: 

If you want to go super reasonably priced, you could get simple wooden stools unfinished and paint them a pop color, or you could stain them to match the cabinets or maybe do them any kind of wash that maybe a whitewash or something like that, and just make sure that you’re getting the right height. So there’s counter stools, there’s bar stools, and then of course, the 18 inches or so off the ground is really a chair.

Betsy’s Answer: 

Your island would be that counter height. The only thing that I would add to these very complete answers is that I feel like we didn’t specifically dig into the slider. I would treat the slider the same way that you treat the large window. I would do a rod at the same height even though the slider is lower than the large window and two panels on either side. 

Now for both of these windows – the slider and the large window, these would be purely decorative, you would not draw them because you would need so much fabric. You need double the width of drapery that you have with the window and that would just be so bulky. 

As Anita and Kelly mentioned, it looks like you live in a rural area where the only people peeking in are maybe chipmunks, deer, and bears so I think you’re pretty good on the privacy component. Again, I’m a little dubious about treating that window above the sink. Reason being all the things that they said and also I don’t love a fabric above a sink just because of the splash and things like that it can get really messy and gunky.

The other thing is you have a crank window at the bottom so if you were to do anything inside mount, it’s not going to fall all the way to the bottom and look ill fitting and then if you do an outside mount blind, it’s just going to be so bulky and potentially, a little bit of an eyesore, so leave well enough alone if you don’t need the privacy but I think what would soften and sort of add the color to this side would be a really cool backsplash. 

Bringing in a color from the drapery or from the inspo piece which was that amazing cow painting onto that backsplash would liven up the kitchen which is somewhat muted and neutral right now with the oak colored cabinets, the black countertops and the navy Island with the white countertop on top of that. So I think we do need a little bit more pizzazz, especially for doing fun drapes on the other side. 

Continuation of Kelly’s answer: 

One quick thing to add. If you are using that area by the large window, maybe for a table with a rug underneath it would be another opportunity to bring some softness into the room. If you have children, maybe you’re hesitant to do a rug, but keep it in mind for down the line, or maybe one of those Ruggables or something that’s a polypropylene that you can actually just drag outside and hose off if you ever needed to. 

I think that would add another layer, as Betsy mentioned about the backslash. It’s just another way to add some color and interest to the space and warm it up a little bit and then you can hang up that cow.

[12:58] Dressing up an office with lockers (Allison) 


Hi Betsy! My team at work wants to give our office a more home-y look and we have one big obstacle. Lockers! The whole back wall of our office is school lockers. We do store things in them and would need to access things in there, but we were thinking we could paint/contact paper/cover them in some way. What do you think?

Betsy’s Answer: 

There’s some questionable design choices that I think would make this place feel more homey. Getting rid of the Christmas lights could be a big first step. And kind of getting a design vision. Because right now, everything looks a little bit hand me down from past eras and maybe past teachers. 

Kelly’s Answer: 

I feel like if you’re not really utilizing the lockers and each person doesn’t have their own locker for their lunch and their belongings, if you could just remove those lockers. 

If you need some storage, adding in some Billy bookcases or something inexpensive from Ikea might solve the problem, make it homier, but also make it more useful and cost less because sometimes when you try to make something work, and you’re really never going to be able to achieve the result that you want you throwing time and effort and money at it. 

Those lockers no matter what color you paint them are still going to look like a row of lockers.If that’s not the look you want, you want something cozier and warmer and less utilitarian feeling than maybe take them out. 

On the other hand, you could lean further into the look where a locker would be appropriate, and do some other things to create a cozier atmosphere, like a much bigger rug, maybe with some interesting colors or even just positioning the furniture differently. I was thinking even if the lockers couldn’t come out, because maybe they would damage the cinderblock wall or something like that, maybe get a sofa and put it in front of them. Then you could hang a piece of art from the locker and just use the lockers that are accessible, maybe three on each side for your storage. 

 It is hard to tell from the photo how you could play around with the furnishings. But maybe doing something like that, then taking some of those accent chairs that were there in creating more of a conversation area with a big enough table where your team could come together and have discussions about work. Then they could go over to the big table on the other side of the room. So if you couldn’t take them out, then disguise them. 

Continuation of Betsy’s Answer: 

I think it’s going to be awfully hard to disguise the elephant in the room so good luck with that. But here’s something that I want to say –  sometimes when we have something in the room that we really don’t like, we blame the entire room’s failure on that thing we hate. I think that this room has bigger fish to fry than these lockers. I think it could be quite difficult to take the lockers out. I think taking them out, even though you’re losing a lot of storage would be the best solution because then you could bring in something homier as Kelly suggested. 

If you did do that large rug that incorporated this yellow ochre color and had other fun patterns and if you changed the orientation of the seating so it wasn’t facing the lockers so maybe it was facing the beautiful windows that I imagined on the other side, I think that you could make them less conspicuous and keep them just as they are and focus on giving the room just a different look and feel.

Anita’s Answer:

If the lockers have to stay,I certainly would come up with a cheerier color than that, maybe a nice navy blue or something. Also, like Betsy and Kelly have both been saying the rug is not helping. Now, it would be nice to have a better  rug there. I think there’s some other things that they could do with it, too. 

Continuation of Kelly’s Answer: 

You can also add a nice big plant and some lamps to add to the space. If everyone in your office brought one or two things from their storage, or their basement or a lamp they had in the garage, and you played around with it one day, you might come up with something that really suits everyone, and then everyone would have something from their own home there, which might add in a more visceral way, the cozy feel.

[24:57] Making a large living room more inviting (Emily)


How to make a large living room feel more inviting and put together: I have a large living room with cathedral ceilings. The main seating area is focused on the fireplace with a large sectional in the middle of the room. Should I add another seating area to fill the space? Should I add drapes to soften and warm the discs? We don’t need privacy and love the natural light so I have not added drapes. Paint color: I am leaning toward a lighter white for the walls, but perhaps I should add warmth with color on the walls, what do you think? We love the room but it is a challenge to design.

Kelly’s Answer: 

Well, it’s beautiful and those high ceilings are coveted but they are hard to deal with because it’s not a human scale. So I think we have to do some things in this room to make it more inviting. And maybe that’s what Emily’s feeling, it just feels like the furniture is too low, the ceilings too high, the positioning of the pieces might not be right. So I have a few different ideas. 

First, I would think there’s too many little things in the room, too many little plants, maybe too many frames and that’s an easy change. Just take those out and see what it feels like without them. Then if you want to put plants back in, I would do something very large.

Something that really struck me was that the sectional is facing the fireplace, but there seems to be a TV on the opposite side so that is probably the first thing that you want to deal with. I think you have to decide what this room is going to focus on because I don’t know what people will be watching the TV on. Unless they’re sitting on the couch and looking over it because there’s a cow, the sectional and then a console table behind it. Maybe you have little kids and they’re just pulling out pillows or something like that but it feels confusing in the room. So I don’t know if maybe you have another room that you could use as your TV room. And this is more of an adult space and entertaining space, a Zen space to look at the fire and read something like that. 

There’s a few ways that you can deal with it. If it has to have the TV in that room, then you might want to just put it over the fireplace. Sometimes that’s just the best way. I guess you could do something where you had back to back sofas, but that might feel like a hotel lobby rather than a person’s home. 

As I mentioned, some of the objects in the room are just too small. I would add into the room and where you have that lovely arched window, maybe a pedestal table with a couple of chairs. I think that would be a lovely place just to sit with a coffee doing a puzzle or a kid doing homework or open up your laptop or something like that. Because oftentimes, if particularly if this is not your “TV room”, these rooms don’t get used as much as they could because there’s really not a reason to be in there unless it’s Christmas or you know you’re having company or something like that. One more thing before I let you go I would change the fan to a very large chandelier.

Anita’s Answer: 

I highly recommend doing the drapes. I feel like the room needs some softness but I would make them on the sides  where you wouldn’t actually close them, but just to soften the windows. And there’s windows flanking the TV and windows flanking the fireplace. I would do a curtain on the left side of the left window and the right side of the right window for each side of the room, and then curtains on the right and left side of that large window that has the arch at the top.

I’m kind of thinking about what Kelly said about the sofa and that certainly is an option to put the TV above the fireplace. I would also be interested in seeing back to back sofas. I liked the idea of the sofa, facing the fireplace and when facing the TV, but the difficulty there is I feel like they need to either be the same sofa or very similar. You wouldn’t want to put a traditional sofa behind the sectional, you would need the sectionals to be the same. So you might need to start over on that. 

 The other thing I would suggest is to possibly change the colors where you take out the red and black checks, it would open up a lot of possibilities for a lot of color. I would go to a local store, maybe buy some different pillows, maybe two or three different colors and different patterns and see if they don’t work on that sofa. The great thing about that is the throws and the pillows, you can just take them back if they’re not working but I would like to see more color in that room and I think that’s a great way to do it.

Betsy’s Answer: 

I think those colors that are found in the rug that’s currently there would just be beautiful on the sofa. Basically using the rug as your room’s inspiration piece potentially.

Oftentimes I see this with my clients who live in apartments in the city, and then they move to larger homes in the suburbs. Whether it’s in a bedroom or living room, they don’t expand their furniture, they keep it all tight and together because that’s how they’re used to living in their apartment.

Because this room is so large, that yes, it could have two sectionals and eat. You also have this huge parameter of wood flooring around this tiny island of a sectional and a rug floating in the middle of this space. You’re not using the edges of your room. Especially if you go with Kelly’s tip of putting the TV above the fireplace, you’re going to want to move this couch back to have that depth so it doesn’t feel like you’re in the front row of a movie theater. 

I just don’t think you’re using this room to its full advantage. I think you’re living like you came from some kind of small bungalow, or maybe even an apartment. And then you got this massive house and didn’t know what to do with yourself. So while I think the sectional is probably a good size for the room, I think the rug is probably too small. I think once you get the larger rug and move that sectional back, you’ll find that you have this huge expanse like if you didn’t feel like you wanted to put the TV above the fireplace, you have space on the right hand side after the window to potentially have the TV and maybe the TV is not a big draw for you because you have it on a cart with wheels. Maybe you just move it over sometimes. 

That might be your lifestyle or you could easily put the TV on the wall that’s got the large window, because you have an L shaped sofa and part of that L is facing the fireplace, but the other part is facing that large window. What if we put the TV on the wall next to the large window. The great thing about a sectional is you get two focal points and you can choose where you want to sit, and you can choose what you want to look at. 

My main issue with this room is that you’re living like it’s two thirds of its size, and 1/3 of it is just not being utilized at all. When we move to a larger space, we need to increase the scale of what we’re used to. I went from a 10 foot sectional to a 15 foot sectional in my family room and it felt obscene. And now it’s perfect. Sometimes we just can’t fathom that jump, especially if we move with our pre-existing pieces. 

I agree with the window treatments and chandelier for sure. I don’t think you should lighten this pink color at all. I don’t want it to just be a white room because you have this beautiful white trim the chair rail. I think that because this room seems like it could get a lot of light, has so many beautiful windows, and you don’t have very much furniture in it, it doesn’t feel dark and heavy. I would keep a color on the walls.

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