Kitchens, Fireplaces, and Decals

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Summer is quickly approaching and I am definitely not prepared. I’m honestly never prepared for the summer but this time I am blaming it on the fact that I am pregnant and the idea of planning a vacation in advance is not appealing. 

We have two weeks at the end of summer where my kids aren’t in camp so I am ready to get out and explore the world before we have a newborn again but we may just be spending the summer exploring the local beaches and finally finishing our home. 

Last episode I shared that I have been working on a really fun creative project that has been on my mind for years and I am excited to finally bring it to fruition. This project is a book of personal essays about my interior design career, my journey, the highs and lows as I have been in the industry for 18 years now. If there’s something you want to know more about, please send me an email at be***@af**********************.com with what you’re wanting to learn so I can make sure to include it in my book. 

Without further ado, let’s dive into the mailbag. 

This episode, we discuss…

[8:58] Changing up the backsplash and counters in the kitchen (Mel) 

[14:03] Decorating fireplace mantles (Kristin) 

[20:46] Using wall decals is a child’s room (Sara)

[8:58] Changing up the backsplash and counters in the kitchen (Mel) 


Hi Betsy! I’m looking for help with my kitchen. The previous owners put in this granite and backsplash. I think it’s outdated and way too brown for my taste. The rest of my house is very colorful. We have other renovations to get to first, so it will be a year or two before we can replace the counter and backsplash. Is there anything I can do to make it look more updated and colorful in the meantime? Also, the kitchen gets no direct sunlight so tends to look very dark. Thanks! Love your podcast 😊



Even though there’s only two pictures and I have a limited view into the rest of the house, I can see between the lemon wallpaper and the room adjoining the kitchen and sort of palm frond artwork that the rest of the house might have this light beachy vibe whereas the kitchen is really stuck in the late 90s, early 2000s with the chocolate brown cabinets, the chocolate brown Island, the kind of modeled countertop, that’s granite that has the gold flecks with the brown, then you’ve got these large format beige tiles that are meant to like stone with a lot of movement and variation. And then the backsplash, oh my goodness, it’s got the chocolate, mocha Chino, different kind of color range of brown mosaic tiles that are the tiny squares.

You’re asking how to brighten and lighten this kitchen. And you know, you could do that with a more colorful runner rug, you could do that with some accessories on the countertop. But that’s clearly clutter. And I don’t want you to get clutter for clutter sake. 

I know that this isn’t a priority for you but I would pop out that backsplash. It’s very affordable and not too hard to do. Having a different tile behind the stove beneath the cabinets would make a world of difference because it would break up that brown on brown and brown. 

You’ve probably heard of the peel and stick versions of tile but those are really best when put on a wall not when applied directly onto other tile. Because of the tiny mosaics I don’t even think the tile tattoos would work well here. If you’re completely resistant to changing out this backsplash due to budgetary constraints, the one other thing you may consider is painting this tile.

Painting it one clean color would even be a big help and breaking up the brown. Also, I can’t see the bar stools and the limited pictures but if the bar stools were a different color, that could certainly help. When you’re inside this kitchen, you’re not going to see the bar stools just like I can’t see them from the picture. The key would really be to either bring in accessories which may just be counter clutter, change out the backsplash or paint the backsplash. 

As I mentioned earlier, bringing in some different runner rugs that would go with the color palette you create with that backsplash would also be helpful. Just keep in mind, you want to make sure to keep this space relatively cohesive so if people are coming from that adjacent room that has the wallpaper with the lemons, you want to incorporate some of those colors into the kitchen. 

I think the green would be really nice because too much of that baby blue is just going to be a huge dose and blue is not a color that we readily associate with kitchens just because there’s not a lot of food that’s in the blue color range. I think yellow would just be too vibrant and overwhelmingly cheerful. So I think one of the variations of that green would not only go beautifully for the backsplash, but then would also tie in the artwork that I see in the other adjacent area to the kitchen. 

[14:03] Decorating fireplace mantles (Kristin) 



Hi Betsy! I am submitting this question on behalf of my mom. She is stuck on how to decorate her fireplace mantles. I have attached a photo so you can see exactly how the fireplace is set up. It has 2 firewood boxes built-in that protrude from the front, which creates a very interesting shape. The tops of the boxes are perfect squares, which also makes it kind of awkward to decorate since they are so deep. She mentioned that she would like some kind of lighting, to add interest to the space, but there are no outlets nearby. I am stumped on how to decorate these mantles without the decor looking dwarfed by the height of the fireplace. I am thinking that taller pieces would look better, but we don’t want to just fill the space with random objects. Help!! What do you think would look nice in this space?



You have these unusual protrusions that stick out that are made of stone with a silt stone slab surface on top, and that are housing the wood, and they are calling for some kind of sculptural object. Now, we’ve already got a place to store the wood in those niches that are under those deep ledges so it really will look kind of silly to put any additional wood there. These ledges are calling for large, perfectly selected objects because the fireplace space is so high. 

The thing that you have on the fireplace face right now is a wall clock that’s between two and three feet in diameter. It is rustic red in color and metal so you can clearly see the stone behind it. What is troubling me is it’s kind of not doing much and just fading into the background. 

Personally, I think this clock is all wrong. The stone is so much more interesting than the clock. The clock would look better on a simpler background where it could really stand out. I think we need something really grand and oversized above this fireplace and then we need something less grand on those ledges because those ledges are awkward and unusual and we don’t want to draw tons of attention to them.


I would replace that clock with a large vertical mirror, maybe something with an arch at the top, something that isn’t squared at the top because these two ledges are squared so that’s just a lot of either vertical or square edges and we need something to break that up. 

I would either consider a large arched mirror, or a very large circular mirror like think four or five feet in diameter, something dramatic. You could even do like a very large scale piece of art like four or five feet square. 

When we do this very large dramatic moment, we then no longer want something large and dramatic on either side on these ledges because that would really be overkill. My recommendation then would be to do something simpler, like pictures in picture frames. We want to avoid doing anything that would just fade into the background on this stone so I would do something metal that uses the same metal finish that you’re using throughout the space. 


[20:46] Using wall decals is a child’s room (Sara) 



I have been listening to your podcast for over a year, purchased your book, and purchased the three-class bundle. All of these resources have been immensely helpful as I learn more about interior design so I can make my house look more designerly and less like a hot mess :). Recently on one podcast episode, you mentioned that you used wall decals in your son’s room as a way to add elements that interest your son without spending too much or having anything permanent. I have never used wall decals so I am wondering if you have recommendations on the best brands to use that won’t peel the paint when I remove the decals in a few years when my daughter has new interests? Or is removal more dependent on wall prep and removal techniques? Do you have a recommendation on how long to let the paint cure before putting up wall decals? Our daughter’s bedroom will have a mermaid/under-the-sea theme.



Let’s just say that for both my daughter and my son, I have used a variety of decals from Etsy. I’ve used them from Amazon, because my kids have all these different interests. My son wanted something personalized with his name which came from Etsy. Then he wanted some life size figures, which I think came from I think there’s so called Fathead Decals. I have not only used a ton of decals for my children’s room, my daughter went down a Frozen path and then we did flowers and then we did butterflies. I have also use them a ton for my clients. I’ve done personalized names, wall maps, unicorns, and the key is, you want these decals to stick.

I’ve used a variety that peel off too easily and you want to make sure they’re not marring the paint. But then, you have to find a way to fasten them. I would definitely leave a couple of weeks between painting the wall and applying the decal. After the two week period, I would put those decals on and you want to press these on properly so that they stay and the edges don’t peel up. 

Gosh forbid you have to move that decal but if you remove it and try and put it back, it’s going to peel off so you want to kind of do a one and done application. You willl find that no matter the brand, it will peel the paint and I have found that it’s more a function of how long the decals on the wall. The longer they stay on the wall, the more they are going to peel the paint upon removal. 

When you’re taking them off you want to go very slowly and gently. I use the same piece that I use to apply it to remove it, which is either a credit card or most decals come with this plastic tool that mimics a credit card in the kit. I use that same thing to gingerly peel off and I go around all the edges before kind of peeling towards the middle. Even then, the paint may chip and peel. 

I found it quite easy to sand those places and repaint and you can’t tell that anything happened but it did take that extra couple of steps. You can’t really determine in advance how long this is going to be up, but also which ones are going to do the damage and my experience because I haven’t been dependent on a certain brand, rather I’ve gone for the imagery I haven’t noted which ones are less likely to peel. Instead, I’ve used such a variety, hand applying them myself that it’s really hit or miss. If you don’t feel comfortable sanding and painting, just hire a handy person to do that afterwards but I found it to not be a huge ordeal.




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