Choosing Chairs and Reno Finishes

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I’m officially back from our trip to France to visit my French mom and say our goodbyes and enjoy our babymoon in Paris. 

In today’s episode, we’re answering questions about finding high quality armchairs online, selecting a kitchen backsplash and renovating an apartment. 

This episode, we discuss…

[5:45] Finding high quality armchairs online (Cara) 

[9:46] Choosing a kitchen backsplash (Cindy) 

[18:44] Renovating an apartment (Denise) 


[5:45] Finding high quality armchairs online (Cara) 


Hi Betsy, as always, thank you for your amaaaazing podcast! My question is about chairs you can buy online. What is a good go-to source or two for high-quality side, chairs, upholstered armchairs, etc.? I haven’t liked the quality I’ve experienced on Wayfair or Overstock or Amazon, so I’d love your insight on finding chairs online that are shipped quickly, and are great quality. Thank you!



I have two thoughts about chairs. Some chairs are very important, and you need them to be very comfortable because you need to be able to sit back, relax, read the New York Times and enjoy some coffee. Sometimes a side chair is just a cute object that is just an accessory in the room which is meant for guests or just additional seating but it’s not really the primary seating in the space.

For me, those are the two types of armchairs. When we’re looking for that very important chair where you read the New York Times, cuddle with kids, etc. The recliner to watch all your shows, when it’s that very important comfort chair. I would not order it at an online only store. I would go somewhere where I could actually sit and experience this chair in person. My favorite go tos for chairs are Room and Board and Crate and Barrel. 

They are a little bit pricier and I totally understand people’s hesitations but you’ve told me by selecting armchair option A that this is a very important piece in your room and you want to be super comfortable, and I would personally never buy a sofa without sitting on it. I’m also not going to buy a very important armchair without sitting on it. 

If it’s more column B and this is decorative and pretty and maybe a conversation piece, but really it’s not going to be always lived in, I love Tov Furniture. Of course you can spend a little bit less and so Tov has great prices. A lot of their stuff is sold at Anthropologie for a lot more so that’s why I love going directly to the source and going to TOV Furniture. Additionally, I do love Anthropologie’s armchairs. They are pricey but they are not always super comfortable but they are those conversation pieces that you can just look at while you’re seated on the sofa. West Elm also has pretty good chairs. I don’t love their sofas, but I do really like their chairs. 

I also think if you’re willing to just kind of take your shot, Grandin Road is really nice. I like their quality. Of course, you can’t sit on that in person but if your looking for armchair option B, I think I would look there because they have really good prices and good quality for the prices so that gives you a few places to get started. Cara, please let me know what you wind up with. I’d love to hear what you ultimately buy. 

[9:46] Choosing a kitchen backsplash (Cindy) 


I sure do appreciate and love your show. I have been following you for years now. This is not the first time I have submitted a question. You have helped me solve my design dilemma and now I am back for more of your practical advice.

We have completed a major home renovation that began in January. Right now all that is left is my kitchen backsplash. I am struggling with this decision and my hubby is patient (somewhat) for me to finalize my decision.

Our kitchen is u-shaped with cream thermafoil cabinets and I do not want to paint them. The countertop is aspen white quartz. It will take 60 square feet of backsplash tile in this narrow kitchen. I thought cream and white tile would work to pull the two colors together but I simply cannot find any cream and white tile that I like and so have decided to look at other options. What do you think would work in this space? Please help.

I have included one picture of the rest of our open concept space. The picture was taken from the kitchen. I am not done decorating yet but am working on a cozy beach house style.



These pictures are very helpful. When we look out into this main room from the kitchen, I’m seeing a lot of transitional style. Is it transitional? Is it eclectic or is it traditional? Several of these pieces look like they might authentically be antiques like the blue sofa with the ornate legs, the wooden frame, etc. this really beautiful sort of baby blue velvet. 

Then you have a cream wingback chair, and then you have two floral wingback chairs. Then you have spindle dining chairs at a circular table. Maybe I’m gonna say the style is traditional. 

When I say the style of this room is traditional, then when I look in the kitchen, it’s very contemporary. You have shaker style cabinets and in a pure white. You have this natural wood floor, almost kind of a white oak floor, you have stainless steel appliances, and I’m not seeing any sort of traditional elements in here.

I am feeling very disconnected in these two open rooms. The first thing that I would suggest is that I would replace these knobs on the cabinet with a handle. The handle could be your sort of foray into bridging the gap between this traditional living room and the kitchen. So picking a handle that has a little bit more ornamentation, picking a handle that maybe has a ceramic element as well as a metal element, just picking a handle that kind of softens the shaker style cabinets that are so stark white, I think would really help. 

Also, I could see doing an indoor outdoor rug on the floor because not only do you have a nice open space there but also I think that that could be a nice way to soften this space that feels so contemporary, almost cold because it’s sort of stark in its way and the other half of the space doesn’t feel that way at all so I could see bringing in like sort of an overdyed Persian rug or something that kind of harkens back to a more traditional pattern rug so that way it really ties in the other space. You’d also want it to be pretty heavily patterned because we don’t want to show stains or it needs to be something that’s easy to clean and it also needs to pull the colors from that family room area into this area. 

That brings me to your actual question, Your actual question is what should I do with this backsplash? More white and more cream is just going to make it feel more stark and less cohesive with the rest of the space. In my humble opinion, I think you need to do something that’s a little bit softer in terms of its edges. If you do something like a subway tile, I’d want it to look hand glazed. I’m looking to bring some of those older world elements that we have in the other room in here.

I would choose to go with a tile that has a lot of curves, like maybe an arabesque tile. My tile from my previous house would look beautiful in here if you’re going to keep that pale blue sofa in the other room because I had Home Depot arabesque tile in this porcelain blue. The colors of blue varied from tile to tile, but it all looked hand glazed, it was so affordable and it made a huge impact. It would look great with these white cabinets. I think a pop of color is really needed to merge the two spaces so that this starts softening and drawing in the rest of the space. 


[18:44] Renovating an apartment (Denise) 


I have one other question I wanted to answer. This is not actually a submission that came in from the podcast. It’s from a friend who writes me. From my past life as a cater waiter at an organic catering company, one of my fellow cater waiters is friends with me on Facebook. She asked me a question that I think would help all of you. Denise wrote in and she said, I’m having a great time and I’m socking away some money in preparation for a planned renovation of my studio apartment in Queens, New York. I know that your expertise is home decor, but perhaps your project planning skills can lend themselves to advice on my situation. 

What started out as plans for a modest kitchen, reno has expanded into plans for a kitchen, bathroom and new flooring throughout this space project. Right now, I am in the dreaming and Pinterest phase and I haven’t a clue as to really how to proceed. 

I have a contractor in mind, who’s done several apartments in my finicky Co-Op so he is known and accepted by the building and has a track record with that. Can you give me advice on the next steps to take? Do I tell him my plans and then ask for an estimate? Do I give him my budget and have him tell me how much he can do for that much? Can I get him started when I’m home in July, and then again in September, but have the work actually done while I’m away traveling? I’m on my own, and I have never done anything like this. Thanks for any advice you can share. 



Well, Denise, it is great to hear from you. As you already know, I responded to you on Facebook, but like I said, I want my listeners to maybe learn from your questions as well. 

So one thing that I would say is that, I would ask for a quote on the different elements of your project. Instead of one overall quote, I would ask for a quote for the kitchen quote, the bathroom quote, the flooring, and have it broken down into three pieces, so you could choose really what you want to do. Also, I wouldn’t show him my cards. I wouldn’t say I have this much to spend. I would instead inquire about what his quote would be but I’d also let him know that I’m getting other quotes from other vendors and then I would actually do that. 

Now I know, you’re thinking to yourself, this is a finicky Co-Op, I’m gonna have to get approvals. I don’t want to use somebody that’s not familiar with our building. Well, I’m sure that the management company and being on the board of a former finicky Co-Op myself, I can tell you with pretty good confidence, that there are multiple contractors who have worked in your building, different companies that have been approved and that could easily pass through the board approval due to their knowledge of your building, and due to the fact that they’ve already been pre approved. So I would get multiple quotes. 

Now personally, I always like three quotes. I let the companies know that I will be inquiring with others, so that they give me something competitive, rather than this guy, just thinking has a monopoly on your building and that you’ll just go with whatever he says, because he’s the most commonly used. I would also want to check out his previous work in your building. So you can ask the management company, or you can post something in the lobby that says, I’m thinking of hiring this guy, could I come see the work that he’s done in your unit, and that way you can actually feel touch and get a sense of what he’s done. 

Then, once you get those quotes, my advice would be to not leave them alone to do the work while you’re away because so many times, I see contractors who are working while the client is away, because that’s really convenient. You have a place to stay, you’re out of their hair. They can be noisy and messy and whatever, because you’re not actually living there but if you don’t have somebody professional or somebody who knows what the end goal is, like the client, supervising them, how many times have I seen them lay the tile the wrong way? How many times have I seen them have questions, and then feel like they couldn’t reach out to you or it was just too much hassle and then they just do something that really is out there and not ideal. 

Now keep in mind, I’m a micromanager with these projects. I have a strong vision, I know what I’m looking for, I know how I like it, I’m going to be on them with the timeline, you might be more flexible and laid back but it’s really hard to ensure that the work is getting done in a good efficient way and getting done properly unless you can check in at least once every one to four days. I would not let it go more than four days without seeing what’s up. The more you can be there, the sooner you can catch these issues because if you don’t catch them quickly and the contractor has already cleaned up his work, you’re gonna have a very hard time getting him back in there so you want to be able to catch the issue quickly, give the feedback so that they immediately make a correction or don’t make a mistake in the first place. 

Renovations can be so complicated but actually I do help with renovations all the time at my firm. What we do is we pick up the pretty stuff, we pick up the tile, the vanity cabinets, the light fixtures, the floor stain, all of that. We just don’t manage the contractors because like I said, you have to be on site all the time. And if you want us to be on site for you, that’s just kind of a steep day rate for us to stop by all the time, even though it can be worth it if you absolutely can’t be there, or you want that micromanaging expert eye. I’ll walk in and in two seconds, be able to sum up what’s going on, how it’s going, what they’ve missed. It’s very important.







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