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You Ask, I Answer: Design Lightning Round Questions and Answers From You Guys


We get a ton of questions on social media either in comments or through my DM and while we try to answer them in real time, it is hard to keep up so we thought we’d try a post where I do a quick lightening round to answer the latest questions. Keep them coming (this is fun!).

How do you know when to stop looking? Do you keep going until you find the perfect piece, or do you justify some “meh” feelings? Do you put off a project until you can find the right fit?

Never stop looking 🙂 I think it really depends on how desperate you are and how much joy you get out of the hunt. Not every piece has to be THE ONE, but in order for you to truly appreciate it in the long run sure, you are going to need to have a more positive response to it than just “meh”. I heard this quote years ago and I remind myself all the time – it either takes a lot of money or a lot of time to make a house look and feel “done”. I have a team of people and it still takes us years to finish some projects, so be easy on yourself. It takes time 🙂

Is there a max height for chair backs in an open living space? I don’t want them to visually cut off the room.

You know, ideally it wouldn’t be over 48″ if it’s floating, but it really depends on the height of your room and how big and open your pass-through space is. I recently saw a super high sculptural floating between a living and dining room and it broke all the rules and looked AWESOME.

How do you clean an outdoor rug?

I haven’t done this myself but I’ve seen it on social – powerwash. You can buy something for your hose that turns it into a power washer and just spray away. Since its mostly just dirt and dust, most of it should come off.

When you’re designing for a teen, how involved do you keep them in the process? Do you give them free rein, or do you narrow down choices for them?

I think you should give them choices and empower them to creatively express themselves, with some guidance.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: sara’s living room & dining room reveal

What colors are you loving the most right now?

Right now I want happy colors – blues, greens and lots of pops of red. Even while we are in this neutral house the green from the surrounding trees brings that color into every room.

Where do you store your everyday appliances, like toasters and kettles?

If it’s a cute kettle you can leave it on your stovetop, but otherwise in a cupboard nearby. If you are renovating or updating your kitchen I strongly suggest an appliance “garage” which is a cabinet that is dedicated to just this – everyday appliances that are housed with an outlet so you never have to take it in and out.

I’m thinking about painting my walls gray. How can I make sure that the space doesn’t get TOO dark?

I would paint your samples on a lot of big pieces of paper (as big as possible) and then tape them to the wall and be in the room both in the day and at night. If you select from the middle of a paint strip (a mid-tone) you are likely not going too dark, but it also very much depends on the direction of your room and your natural light.

What should I keep in mind when I’m trying to implement vintage pieces — in this case, crystal bowls and vases — into more modern decor?

It can be tricky as they can look out of place. At the same time, these antique pieces can be what gives the room more soul and personality. I love a collection displayed together, so consider corraling them in the same place to display them as a team, rather than tchotchkes.

How do you like having your stove under a window?

I LOVE it. Mostly because I love having my sink on the island. I find I do the dishes all the time having it there because often there is someone sitting at the counter keeping me company.

What’s the best way to pick an ottoman for an existing couch? How much should they match How do you decide on a shape?

I think they should feel like they are in the same style family, but they certainly don’t need to match. I like a patterned ottoman that has the same color as the sofa in it so it looks pulled together but not too matchy. And for shape – I like rectangle for a normal sofa and round for a sectional (but that’s just an easy go-to and there are a lot of ways to make it look good).

Do you have a recommendation for a good dish drying rack?

OOh, I just ordered this one for everyday drying and I’m very excited: This one from Food52

Shams: When do I use them? Do I even use them?

You don’t NEED them and they are kinda formal. The Euro sham (typically a 24 or 30″ square) adds height more than a normal king pillow. But on a king bed, even two can look small. I guess we haven’t used them in years so that indicates how I feel about them 🙂

What’s on your wishlist right now?

Garage storage shelves (HOW FUN) and a new black outdoor dining table that seats 8 but isn’t a fortune. We put an indoor wood table from Ikea outside last summer when we got our custom dining table and let’s just say it didn’t fair well, and I’m ready for a black table anyway to have it work with the house more and not “pop” so much. But finding one that’s black and seats 8 isn’t easy!

First lighting Q&A complete! Please keep leaving comments on the blog and DMing on Instagram and I will do my best to keep answering. Have a good rest of your Wednesday!

Opening Photo Credit: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Mountain House Reveal: Our Light-Filled Neutral & Textural Living Room

Fin Mark


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In my new house, I have a corner rock fireplace (that needs to be mortared/whitewashed/something). On one side is the lake, on the other is the large expanse of white wall where the TV will need to go. The ceiling is vaulted (dark wood with darker beams), the floor is some kind of faux yellow/orange wood. I’m considering ripping up the floor and replacing with white oak planks. My question: How do I deal with three focal points (fireplace, lake, TV)? In particular, how should I design the TV wall so that it all doesn’t look disjointed?


Such a great question!

SORRY I know I work here but I LOVE THIS ADVICE: “I love a collection displayed together, so consider corralling them in the same place to display them as a team, rather than tchotchkes.”

Never thought about treating some of the decor pieces that don’t really ~go~ with my style anymore as a collection!!! V EXCITED TO PLAY AROUND ON MY BOOKSHELVES TONIGHT.


This was very fun!


Emily, it seems like for your outdoor table, a light wood option you could stain black might work well and be easier to find.


I was wondering – why not just sand and stain the IKEA table you already have?


What kind of dining table will truly stand up to life with little kids and not sport scratches and nicks if they drop a fork? Is there a particular finish that is extremely durable, or looks better with age and doesn’t resemble a barn? Finding this unicorn of a table has been very hard. 🙁


Hahaha… you are living my same life. Right now we have a trash table: one I picked up for cheap and painted. And it shows the abuse, but at least I don’t care about it! My husband has promised to build me a table with a quartz top (from a remnant). That should hold up to my monsters… I hope. If it doesn’t, nothing will.


We have three school-aged kids and our live edge reclaimed/salvaged wood table from Urban Hardwoods (Seattle, WA) is indestructible. It’s at least 2-3 inches thick with a thick lacquer coat. In the event it were to get a huge gouge in it, or a burn, it’s theoretically easy to have it re-sanded and recoated. We love it!


Lighting question: Can you have two different ceiling lights in the same (small) room. I have a traditional crystal chandelier in my living room, which I love, but I’d love to also hang my small Tom Dixon-ish rose gold round pendant light over a reading chair in the corner. Too busy? Too disjointed? What are some other options for a good sconce reading light that won’t be too bright on people sitting there when they aren’t reading? thanks!

Nancy L

I need a dining room chandelier. My dining table is the short end of the “L” shaped open room with living room in the longer end. My table is a 82″x42″ travertine rectangle. The tricky part is the room has 16 foot ceilings. I feel any pole or chain or supporting part of the fixture would look weird being that long. I also don’t know what shape the fixture should be-if it needs to be different from a rectangle so it won’t look monotonous over the table. My style is clean organic contemporary. Thanks for your thoughts!

So do you not have an exhaust over they range or is it a downdraft? Asking because we’re planning on building a home and I really hate the exhaust hoods as a rule.

Thank you.


It’s a downdraft – Emily had a post where she talked about it. I’m sure you could find it if you search mountain house kitchen 🙂


How wide should a pouf be relative to an armchair?


How wide should a mirror be over a buffet? Does the answer depend on if the mirror is a circle? Same question for a mirror over a bed headboard.


The advice I see on this over and over is to have it fill btwn 2/3 to 3/4 of the space. So it your buffet is 100 inches wide the mirror would be between 66” to 75” wide.

Kerry Doyle

What are the best paint colors for rooms with no natural light and/or low ceilings?


Go dark and moody. Embrace the feel of the room. It will be cozy. They did a post on it a while back.


Looks like you’ve opened the floodgate 🙂


Hi! We are cabin neighbors 🙂
Would you please share your Lake Arrowhead GC? Thank you


How do you create a unified space using art in an open concept area? I don’t want the art to compete with each other, but I want each space to feel complete.


This is a great question!


What’s the best color scheme and decor design for really small bathroom areas?🤔


Depends on what you are keeping and replacing. And what you like. Whatever is unchanging – like the tile or countertop, work with those colors and use it as jumping off point.


I need advice on best looking, durable, large sofa and rug to buy if you have toddlers as well as a safe coffee table and storage options, please?


(1) How much should lights coordinate within an open space? We need to pick lights for a space that comprises the U-shaped kitchen (pendant over the sink in the corner and two pendants over the island), dining nook (semi-flush?), and the living room (no lights to be added). Must the pendants be the same, or should the one over the sink be different from the island? How similar should they be to the one over the table? Are similar finishes enough?

(2) Thoughts on tile as a flooring in this main area (living room/kitchen)? We’re considering a cream or grey 24×24 porcelain for its durability (two big dogs, two little boys, and a baby, so think claws, pee, and everything else). My husband’s super psyched about tile, I’m nervous. Will it feel like a hotel? Too cold/modern? (Our house has huge windows and lots of light, but no real style era. And we’ll do heating underneath).



We had tile in our last kitchen and eat-in dining space, and the grout never looked clean, so I vowed to not get tile in a main living area ever again. We sealed it, etc and it still looked dirty with our three big dogs, their drool, dirty feet, etc. Too much stress from being disappointed in the look of the grout.

Steph T

What about wood effect tile which would look warmer but still be durable?Chris loves Julia uses that in their previous home which looked great,and they had their lovely big dog Charly (RIP sniff) then and 3 little ones

We are putting in garage storage shelves right now, using Ana White’s super easy design.


Love the lightening round !


Suggestions for affordable yet durable sofas? Two young kids, and we need to replace the one we have, but it seems like they are always spilling something.


There’s a company called Bemz who makes high end slip covers for ikea sofas. If you spill you can remove and wash it.
They have some beautiful linen covers <3


Velvet! It’s AMAZING for repelling spills and is super durable. Get mostly or all polyester for colorfastness and a high rub count. I bought the Andes from West Elm recently, in the distressed velvet, it is so dimensional and gorgeous but it also holds up to anything!

Molly H

A dream come true! Two q’s please: New house can get final interior paint job when our state opens up. Door and window trim is a very nice wide trim already painted in Sherwin William’s “Construction White”. (Think basic, plain white, like computer paper.) Kitchen cupboards will be mostly bisque white with a few warm gray cupboards/hutches. Medium intensity, warm gray backsplash, countertop white with streaks of bisque and same gray. Loving colors and materials I picked out that got a thumbs up with my picky kitchen designer. Kitchen flows into living room, etc. so we want same wall color throughout house. Warm yellow looks absolutely fab with kitchen colors. Rest of house will have white walls, eucalyptus hardwood floor which is med/darkish brown with gray streaks. Lots of med and dark blue and warm yellow throughout house is my color scheme. Tons of wide windows and lots of natural light. Q: What is a good white to paint entire interior based on above that will keep everything light and warm looking, look great next to blue and yellow, and will make the super white trim pop? Have thought about gray but husband hates idea and I’m afraid it will… Read more »

We just organized our garage using the Rubbermaid FastTrack system, and we love it! They make shelves, hooks, and pretty much anything else you might need!

What colors look good on garage interior walls. I see a lot of grays online but haven’t been able to find a cheerful and lovely garage.


What kind of window treatments would you recommend for very recessed windows (about a foot deep)?


How do you make a new build house feel like a home?


Interior door handle finish…does it have to match some of your cabinetry (some satin brass and some black from kitchen to bathrooms)? Thinking graphite nickel handles for new build style of craftsman classic with modern touches to give it an upgrade in the tropics! Too many different finishes?


This is really fun!

I need garage storage shelves too so would love to see what you end up with!

Maxine Becker

Recently purchased Surpahs Over the Sink drying rack ( very similar to Food 52 rack). Love it, best kitchen aid I’ve purchased in years.


We’re in our first home and I finally feel comfortable investing in designing our space. We’ve been working on our guest room but my initial design plan has completely changed multiple times (wall colour has remained the same). How often is too often to change the plan? Eventually I’ll have to commit to something.
(Our initial plan was monochromatic moss green room with brass fixtures, but now I’m thinking more of a textured room with oatmeal woven curtains, linen sheets etc )


How do you choose lighting if you’re decorating over a long period of time? We’re buying one fixture at a time but contemporary pieces at good price points sell out so fast.
Target has great lights at good prices but they don’t deliver to Canada 🙁

I have always loved Yves Klein blue ( and would like to use it in my house or in the outdoor area. What do you suggest?


Many building codes prohibit a stove under a window unless it is un- operable. A gas range can be blown out by a breeze, and curtain can cause a fire. I would check with the local code before this placement.


Tips and tricks when the layout of your bedroom kind of forces you to put a bed under a window?

Also, how to mix decor styles successfully. I moved into my home about 6 months ago, so I’m still shopping for some major furniture pieces and designing all the spaces in this place. I still like some mid-century furniture, and have a handful of pieces in my home that I love, with shades of light grays, bronze, marble, and darker walnut wood… the MCM greatest hits. But I’m also enjoying the current transition we’re seeing to more of a streamlined Scandinavian vibe with lighter blonde woods, caning, and (gasp) beige elements. Buuuttt I’m not about to ditch all my existing furniture for a new ~trend~ SO how do I merge these 2 looks successfully in my home?


Emily … You totally nailed this! Pure gold! x

Lisa N

My husband broached the idea of getting a pool table instead of a dining table in our formal dining room. I don’t hate the idea because we have used our dining room twice since we moved in over two years ago, and we would undoubtedly use the pool table more. I’m also a believer in living the way you live currently rather than how you might live in the future. Are you aware of any magic hack to doubling a pool table as a dining table should we go that route?


Check out the instagrammer Frills and Drills. She showed her dining room/pool table on her Story a couple weeks ago.


Hi! Any tips for dealing with baseboard heaters? I’m frustrated with how limiting they are. I can’t place bookshelves or other solid pieces along baseboards, which in some rooms run along half the walls.


I would like advice on pairing kitchen pendants with an adjacent dining room chandelier in an open concept room. Do you have rules on the proper sizing of kitchen island pendants, and could you do a roundup of budget lighting for kitchen and dining room pairs? Do you also notice how clear glass pendants collect dust like crazy and are a PITA to clean, so maybe add some semi-transparent/white glass ones too 🙂 Many thanks, as this is a shopping task I have been putting off because I don’t know how well two styles should relate, etc. without being matchy.


Hi! Would love your suggestions for paint colors for a North facing bedroom with two small windows. I have been trying samples of blue/gray colors but they all look cold and depressing!


My daughters room is super small, approximately 10 by 10. What size rug is the right fit for her room?


Hi! What size rug works in a very small bedroom (approximately 10 by 10)?


This is great! My burning question is for Julie – can you PLEASE DISH on what it’s like to housesit for Emily? Are her gorgeous tile showers ridiculously difficult to clean? What dirty secrets does she have stashed in her closet? 😉

Myra saephan

Can you recommend a hardwood floor, maybe laminate that is affordable and kid/dog friendly. Looking for something more natural.. our house is mostly white, light grey couch.


Thinking about buying the Project 62 Esters Wood Arm Chair in the Sherpa rocking chair model for our nursery. We have the other Esters chair in our living room and love the look. We know it’s not going to be as cushy and comfortable as a traditional glider, but we wanted something that we like and would stick around. I think you have a set? What are your thoughts?

Donna Ehring

You asked for opinions for Chandler’s apt. May I suggest the following: Silverado for the walls and add the dark moodiness he likes by showcasing dark, dramatic curtains/drapes along with dark accents in decor (art, sculpture, lamps, etc.) Also the lounge and ottoman are way too big for the space; they are blocking a clear path to the kitchen. Either lose the side chair or reposition and downsize the Ottoman and lounge. Thanks for letting me add my two cents!

Sharon Erickson

You can find a beautiful black outdoor table at Living Spaces. Extends to much bigger too.

Dawn Stahulak

How do you choose the right colors for an area rug with out having it blend in?


How do you mix and match rugs when several (in my case, 5) are in sight of each other?


Where do people get their thin, simple non telescoping curtain rods? Are they custom made? Popular stores don’t have them and it’s never mentioned on sources (magazines, blogs, etc.)

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