Dealing with Brown Kitchens

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I’m heading off to France for a few days to see my host mother who is terminally ill. It will be a sad trip but she is who sparked my love for interior design so I am forever grateful for meeting her. 

In this episode, I share more about my experience with my host mom and what led me to finding my passion for interior design in addition to answering two of your burning questions. 

This episode, we discuss…

[1:51] What sparked Betsy’s love for interior design 

[11:16] Lightening up a kitchen (Leslie) 

[17:37] Refreshing a window and making it the focal point (Bailey)  

[1:51] What sparked Betsy’s love for interior design

When Betsy was in high school around 15 or 16, her mom sent me to live with a host family in the south of France for the summer. At first, she didn’t have the best experience with her host family because they were very late picking her up from the train station and not very nice when they finally arrived but over time she came to love them and grew very close to her host mom. 

She’s the one that Betsy attributes with getting her into interior design. She would get up really early to make sure that she got her pick of breakfast and while she was up and waiting for breakfast, she would get bored and pursue through the moms stack of interior design magazines. The mom really enjoyed decorating and had her home decorated to the nines with tchotchkes, tapestries, art, and furniture. On the weekends, they would go shopping and pick out all kinds of antiques and then Betsy would mail it back home to the United States so she didn’t have to worry about transporting it on the airplane at the end of the summer. 

At that time, Betsy had no aspirations of being an interior designer and even after she left France, she never really thought about it besides looking at interior design magazines here and there. Her host mom would mail her the Art Deco magazines from France and she would look through but considered it more of a hobby or passion than a career path. 

[11:16] Lightening up a kitchen (Leslie)


Hi Betsy! Love your podcast and I am a long time listener! I have submitted a picture of my kitchen/keeping room. It is narrow and doesn’t get a lot of natural light. I am redoing cabinetry, countertops and paint. I was thinking about Accessible Beige cabinets, aesthetic white walls, and a white quartz with beige veining. I also included a picture of the tile I was thinking about. Thoughts? Do you have any other suggestions on how to lighten the space up. 

Pendant ideas, different paint colors, sconces, etc. I want it to be warm and inviting, while still being light and airy. You are so talented and your advice would be very much appreciated! Thank you, Betsy!


You sent in some wonderful pictures. The first picture that you sent in is of that tile that you referenced for the backsplash. And it’s a square tile that’s got a rustic finish that looks hand hewn and hand glazed.

Looking at your other pictures, you’ve got this really open kitchen space. I’m excited for what you mentioned in terms of the beige cabinetry, the veining on top, etc. because I think that will be a really nice touch. I think part of the reason it’s feeling so dark is because of the dark wood floors, which I wouldn’t want you to change, but you also don’t have a lot of natural light in this space which a big part of that is because the shades are down. Also, you seem to have a eucalyptus wreath hanging over the kitchen window, which isn’t helping with the illumination.

 I recommend removing the wreath, maybe pull the shades up a bit if you don’t need it for privacy. In terms of augmenting the light, I think I’m seeing the finished product here but if you wanted to make this space a little bit lighter and brighter, you could always add a mirror opposite that window. So you have this kitchen cart/ butcher block cart that’s opposite the window so if you put a mirror above that it would not only reflect the natural light from the window, but it would also reflect the light from the pendants above the peninsula. The longer the mirror on that wall because you do have a relatively long wall, the more it might reflect light from even the adjacent open living rooms so that could be quite interesting. 

The other thing I might consider is swapping out the wooden stools because they are starting to feel a little bit too brown. I might do something in an ivory leather just to make it pop a little bit or even a color because I’m really drawn to all the beautiful colors and the huge floral artwork in your adjacent keeping room. If you could pull one of those colors, say that teal or even the green that you’ve already popped in the pillows and use them for upholstered stools I think it would really add to the space.

Now let’s talk about your tile selection. For your tiles, I think based on what I’m seeing in this space, they might be too rustic for the space. For me, it looks a little bit out of place, because they are so imperfect. I would really suggest that you go in a different direction if you don’t want to do the stools in a color, it might be fun to bring a little color to this backsplash. 

The backsplash is the one place that I think that you can kind of make a statement or a trend. For something like a backsplash, you need so little of it that it can be worth the splurge and the investment to do something rather bold. Since you’re worried about getting dark over here, I would avoid anything navy or black, or even dark in terms of a neutral. Instead I might go for that beautiful sage green, or something that also has a hint of warmth to it so that’s my suggestion. 

The other thing I’m seeing as an opportunity for color or brightness would be the rug in your kitchen. Right now it’s like this woven mat style rug that’s in a light beige and again, it’s just contributing to the issue where there’s neutrals on one side exclusively and color exclusively on the other side. These two spaces are not really feeling cohesive, not feeling like one because of that stark dichotomy. 

[17:37] Refreshing a window and making it the focal point (Bailey)  


Hi Betsy! Hope all is well. We recently moved to a traditional brick home in southern Georgia & slowly making each space more our style. Please help me with our kitchen! My words are curated traditional and hoping to work with a $3,000 budget.

You will see some pictures of our kitchen. It’s…brown. My main question is how to dress the big window to make it a focal point. Any other suggestions about rugs & lighting are appreciated! I just bought polished nickel cabinet hardware.

There is also a picture of the rug in the disconnected living room. I included it to avoid the skittles effect. The light blue color is the main color in the formal dining room (now office & play room). We came from Arizona so it is more suited for the southwest but it’s fairly new so I don’t want to ditch it yet. Do with it what you want.

Thank you, Betsy! It needs help but I’m not sure where to start!


I love that you’ve sent in pictures because that’s always a big help. For those of you not watching along on YouTube, let me describe it to you. Bailey’s kitchen is brown. It got mid tone wood floors that have a very conspicuous woodgrain which I actually like. I think it gives a lot of character and drama to the space. Then the cabinets are the same wood tone, but they are not as varied with the wood grain and their wood grain is more subtle. Then you have a lot of bronze light fixtures. You also have bronze handles on the cabinetry. You have a bronze pendant light above the kitchen. 

Above the dining area that it’s adjacent to, you have a bronze chandelier. You have a beautiful arched window in the dining area. There’s no natural light in the kitchen area, which I think is also contributing to the fact that this feels very dark. I think that there’s a lot of opportunity to make this space more interesting and more dynamic, and to really embrace that window. 

I see the rug that you’re bringing with you and it is very southwest. It has a geometric pattern with the diamonds repeated. It has, some checks, a lot of different colors, including burnt orange, faded denim, a kind of dusty teal and then a cream with fringe on the outside. I really love this rug, you may think because you’re coming from Arizona, that it screams southwest but to me, it can be used in lots of different applications. 

However, I do not think that it aligns with your words curated traditional. I don’t even think that the space aligns with your words, curated traditional. When you’re talking about traditional, you are talking about a lot of decorative molding, which you do not have. You don’t even have crown molding in this space, which for me is totally fine but I’m just telling you that I don’t think that this space is not traditional.

Your cabinets are not traditional, they do have an inset framing with an arch at the top, which does lend itself to something that’s not contemporary so I would call it transitional but you have standard baseboards. There’s nothing truly ornate, decorative, or over the top in terms of its decorative features. When I’m looking at your furniture it’s really not traditional. In fact, your furniture, having these simple shaker back chairs that have much cleaner lines than I typically see with transitional, these kind of lend themselves towards mid century modern. 

Then you have a cabinet in the corner that looks like a bar cabinet that’s kind of in the style of Crate and Barrel. You are definitely not curated traditional right now, that rug that you’re bringing in could be boho, could be international, could be southwest, it could go in several different directions. Certainly eclectic would work well with that rug, but it is not traditional. 

The items that you’re currently working with including the architecture, the rug, none of that is saying traditional. Additionally, I don’t typically think of polished nickel as traditional. There are certain applications where that can be proven wrong but typically traditional is like a brass or gold metals that have a warm metal finish. 

I think you need to get a lot of clarity around your two word phrase. That being said, I can still help you dress this window. When you have an arched window, the best thing to do is to put a rod over the top of the arch. So you’re going to need really long drapes, because you’re going to put a straight rod over the top of the arch extending past either side of the window, and then do two panels that go all the way to the floor from the top of the rod. The panels should just cover the window frame, but should then go out further, at least eight to 12 inches past the window so that way it really enlarges this window and makes it feel much more grand than it currently feels. 

Now these drapes unless you do them double wide, which would be a lot of fabric, would not actually be something that you would draw, they would be purely decorative adding color, pattern, and texture, and really emphasizing the gorgeous height in this dining area/kitchen but you would just leave those drapes hanging to the side all the time. When you do want that privacy, you would close the blinds that are already on the window. That’s my opinion there. 

It really doesn’t matter what style you’re going for. That approach to this window is going to work beautifully, then you’re going to want to pull a color from your inspiration piece and that very well could be the rug in this scenario because it’s so multicolored, and use that for the drapes. 

If you’re going to do polished nickel on the cabinet hardware, I really want you to reconsider those light fixtures that are dangling down from the ceiling because they are going to be in competitive. So you have a lot of thoughts to think through and get clarity on before you make these changes because I’m also seeing that the door handles are bronze, as well as the hinges. So do you want to reinvent the wheel? And if so, you need to have a lot of clarity on where you’re driving.




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