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Another Round Of Rapid Fire Design Questions From You, Answered By Me

Today is round two of my Q&A design lightning round series (if you missed round one head here). You have questions, I have answers… and you also have some questions and that I also sometimes don’t know the answer to even though I kinda think I should at this point (ha!), but HERE GOES.

design by tom filicia | photo by pieter estersohn | via architectural digest

“Colored trim: yay or nay? Can you just do one room, or should it extend throughout the entire house?”

Colored trim – YAY, but know that it’s a choice that you might change your mind on long term (and it’s ok, it’s just paint). Now painting trim is harder than walls for sure, so it’s not such an easy “don’t worry!” kind of advice. Here’s what I’d do – mock it up somehow. Either paint a piece of paper and tape it along the window or use colored tape to do one window and see how it feels before you do all of them. By the way, I think the crown and base mouldings aren’t that big of a deal to paint more than once, but door and window mouldings are because they need to open and close without sticking and the amount of times you paint does affect that.

And oh my gosh I’ve wondered that second part of your question so many times myself. I think ideally anything architectural should be consistent throughout the house (or consistently inconsistent). We wanted to paint the kid’s room trim (base, window frames, and doors) the same as the walls, but it was weird because then do you paint one side of the door one color and the other (say into the hallway or bathroom) another? That felt weird. So I think you’d do both sides. BUT what if that color didn’t look good in that next room? I think this decision is easier when you are renovating and you make that same decision throughout the whole house – where the rooms can be different, but at least they are all different. For us, we stayed with white because the entire house has white trim and it felt a little try hard to have just ONE room different. Also, our windows are so old and have been painted so many times that we didn’t want to accidentally paint them shut. I think one thing I’ve always gotten stuck on is I thought that the door color needed to match the moulding. It doesn’t. I’ve toyed around a lot with painting all our doors upstairs a color, but then I get scared…

“I get overwhelmed with choosing colors for each room of the house. How do you determine what to use in each room so everything looks like it flows together?”

I think it really depends on the house. Here’s what I’ve learned – older homes or more traditional homes that are more chopped up with traditional “rooms” can have different colors and can really be addressed design-wise as individuals. Once you get to a more open space plan and you can see rooms through other rooms, you need to be more curated. The mountain house is so open that I want it all to flow and to visually not break up the space with colors. But I’ve been to so many homes where each room is its own thing and that is very exciting, too. I love when you walk into a room and you get a new experience from it that you didn’t in other rooms. Dee Murphy (above) is a GREAT example of this. We shot her house for the book (not those photos) and I was so impressed with her bravery, she just went for it in each room and while they all feel collected and happy, they feel different and individually designed.

design by thurman design studio | photo by david tsay

“Are any matching sets ever stylish? Or should we always mix and match? (Bedroom, living room, dining.)”

Yes, they can be stylish. They are coming back, guys. I think eclectic is ALWAYS in, but I think for minimalists who want to play with just a few finishes and get a more streamlined look it can look really good, if you choose wisely. I think it more comes down to what you choose. Very few “sets” of furniture bring in personality (except when you have chairs like the two above that Laura Thurman used above). Generally, I would stick to a simple headboard with simple nightstands, that really just create a basic backdrop (if you are going for a set). For the living room, I like a sofa + matching chair set, but I haven’t seen a room in a long time that I’ve loved where the sofa and both chairs all match. I’m not saying it can’t work, but it can also look like you just went to your local furniture store and bought floor models. It’s also a bigger commitment that you might regret, whereas doing a more eclectic look is actually easier to pull off (especially when you mix in vintage).

from: the portland dining room reveal

“I’m looking for dinner plates and wallpaper (unrelated) but I’m having so much trouble sourcing them because there are so many options for both and I can’t tell where to start or what’s good. Are there any Em-Henderson-approved suggestions so I can at least narrow my search parameters a little bit?”

I REALLY wanted you to say that you want your wallpaper and dinner plates to match, I would LOVE to be your friend and eat in that dining room. Short answer, yes, there are a WHOLE BUNCH of Em Henderson-approved vendors in this post. Scroll down to Tabletop and then to Wallpaper — these are the brands we turn to when we’re sourcing for a shoot or for our own homes!

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | book 2 sneak peek 🙂

“Can you have two different ceiling lights in the same (small) room?” (And another, similar question from a different reader: “How much should lights coordinate within an open space? Are similar finishes enough?”)

It really depends on the style of your home and the space. This is a whole chapter in our next book so its kinda a long answer, but here goes. The answer is yes, but there should be a reason they are different. Maybe it’s a different function, or they are to help separate the space (chandelier over the dining table, pendants over the island). The above image we shot for the next book and they mixed two different vintage lights in the same room and we thought it was quirky and fun, but the whole house is quirky and fun so it works.

Generally, they should have either something in common or be VERY different because of function. Look at my kitchen (below) – it has modern lights over the windows, then a vintage milk glass pendant over the island.

from: emily’s kitchen and dining room reveal

“So do you not have an exhaust over the 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.”

We have a downdraft (see above)! You press a button and it pops up. Although yes, the window and the wood frame have gotten splashed with oil which sucks, but so far I’m glad we have the downdraft.

photo by geneieve garruppo | from: a boathouse makeover with the frame

“How wide should a pouf be relative to an armchair?”

Smaller but hard to say without seeing your chair. It’s really just to rest your feet on so it shouldn’t be as wide. Just make sure that it’s not too high. It should be lower than the seat of your chair both for comfort and to look visually balanced. I like a wide pouf that can also double as seating.

“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.”

I think err on the side of bigger, but if it’s beautiful then always err on the side of more beautiful. Here are two examples above that we’ve done of BIG mirrors.

This one, below is technically too small, but you could make it work like we did with a big, visually powerful lamp 🙂

from: 4 ways to style that credenza for “real life” 
design by allprace | photo by jessica alexander | styled by a 1000x better

“Are accent walls ‘out’? I don’t see them on too many design blogs anymore, but I want to add some color to my house without painting the full room. What do I do?”

The answer is yes… and no. Not all accent walls are created equal. I think just one wall in a room can be fine IF if it’s different architecturally. The only other exception that we’ve made before is a headboard wall. I once had an architect tell me that if you are going to treat a wall differently it the other walls have to dead-end into it, it can’t be floating in a room or have a reverse that goes away from it. Man, even I don’t understand what I meant. It has to be contained was his point. But we wrote a full post about it here.

Keep those questions coming. We’ll compile and do some on stories as well. And don’t forget to come back today for our big home decor list of Black makers/designers and Black-owned shops (but if you miss it – it will all be added permanently to the site).

Opening Photo Credits: Photo by Tessa Neustadt | From: Emily’s Kitchen and Dining Room Reveal


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43 thoughts on “Another Round Of Rapid Fire Design Questions From You, Answered By Me

  1. Please keep doing You Ask, Emily Answers posts! Looking forward to seeing the afternoon post, too

  2. I love these posts!

    Regarding painted trim, I think it’s fine to paint the door different colors on either side as long as: the colors aren’t radically different in saturation and the house is either old/historic or eclectic.

    1. I agree. I also think you can away with it more easily on pocket doors. In that case, you don’t see the “wrong” color in a room when the door is open.

  3. How do you choose the right colored area rug with out blending into the couch?

    1. I actually have something new to say about this (stay tuned). sorry for the suspense. xxx

      1. Hi Emily please share all the rug rules and instances when the rules can be broken. Also please share your recommendations for easy to clean rugs. I want my house to look cozy but also need it so be sanitary especially in these times.

  4. All those blueish greens made me think of Arlyn. Ha!
    Love this new feature post. I’ve thought of fhese questions but never asked or researched. Interesting! Fanx. 😁

  5. I have a design question. I have a large bedroom with two twin daybeds. I like both of the beds but they are very different, one rattan and the other one a white wood. How do you place and coordinate two very different pieces in a room, besides coordinating their bedding? Do I try to make two separate areas? I have been trying to find rooms to look at but haven’t found any so far. Thank you.

    1. I’m not a designer but I think my first impulse would be to give them each a nightstand or side table or something that “speaks” to the material of the other bed.

      This is the kind of design situation that I would love to see a photo of a successful end result!

  6. UGH when does your book come out?!? It’s not even available for preorder on Amazon yet

  7. I have a question I don’t ever remember being address here or on any other design blog. How do you work in a wall clock to a room? While you can think of it as ‘art’ and work it in that way, I rarely see them in the ‘designed’ rooms on blogs or in the design books I see. When I go to different large retailers, whether online or in person, I’m always confronted by two choices – cheap looking plastic clocks or larger more expensive ‘theme’ clocks – very cheesy with “Paris” or “London” written on them when it is very clear that this is just printed on the clock. Where do you find a nice clock that won’t cost a bunch? Can you give some examples by style of room? I don’t want something that is obviously faux old, but I would like it to fit the room. Help!

    1. I kinda have the same question – how to design into home decor the husbands mounted pheasant and set of deer horns….smile.

    2. I got a lovely modern simple wall clock from Muji and have it hung above a wall shelf, making a composition with a plant and a candlestick to make it look part of the styling. Schoolhouse has some amazing clocks I’d buy in a second if their international shipping wasn’t bananas!

  8. Can you talk about closet door options? I am moving into a new home and the previous owners removes all the closet doors and just did curtains on a rod. I’m researching door options, and all the standard bypass sliders etc. look so sad to me. However, if you can a big closet door opening (ours is 118 inches)- its too big for just two doors, it needs 3, but I really don’t want a slider!

    1. OMG yes! Second this! We have a large closet opening too (~88″) and hate our three door slider. Only one of us can access the closet at a time and the middle of the closet is largely ignored because it’s annoying to access. We’re having trouble figuring out alternate options.

    2. Idea just popped into my head: how about a combo French-door setup with a sliding panel for the middle? If it could slide either way you would have 2/3rds access at any time.

  9. I have the Thos Moser Vita sofa, loveseat, chair and ottoman in my living room. I hadn’t intended on a matching set, but when I went in their showroom, that’s what I ended up with. And it is pretty darn special. However, I originally wanted to mix pieces, and do sometimes wish I had. Not because my set isn’t beautiful and wows anyone who visits, but because there’s so much amazing furniture out there, and I want an opportunity to use more of it.

    As for the transition of the trim color, we have a mix of white trim and stained trim in our 1912 Craftsman. It works. The jam matches the room in which it is visible when the door is closed. I think the same can work with painted trim. Emily has a point that transitions like this make more sense in an older home, either with wall color or trim color.

  10. Love this post! I have a design question. I moved into a house where the previous owners had recently replaced the kitchen and bathroom counters with granite. It’s not what I would have chosen, but also not a cheap or damaged surface that I feel good about replacing (nor do I have the budget to replace). However, the busy-ness of the granite is making it hard for me to envision the rest of the design choices. I chose a plain white subway tile for my kitchen backsplash that I was and am still not excited about, but I felt it was the only thing that worked. Now I want to use a wallpaper in my half bath, but will a pattern be too much with the granite?? (The granite has shades of taupe, cream, and black in it.) Do I suck it up and replace the granite with an Ikea white countertop? Do I use marble contact paper (I would go this route for sure if it was a formica countertop and not real stone)? I can’t find any kitchen or bathroom inspiration photos that have granite and don’t look dated. Please help!

    1. I have granite in my kitchen that I really dislike and have disliked for the 10 years I have lived there. I had it honed a few years ago, and this really helped. It took the shine off and mellowed the color (it was quite an orange toned granite). I spent $700 for a fairly large kitchen so I thought it was an ok amount to invest. I still don’t like the granite, though, and am really thinking about finally replacing it. I just came across an add for epoxy painted counters. Zero idea if this is a good idea, but I’m going to explore it. Not sure if this is local to me (Atlanta), but may be worth checking out.

      1. Hey Molly- Sarah’s kitchen update post has a lot of comments about not doing epoxy painted counters as people have said they don’t wear well. You may want to scroll through those before you make a decision. Good luck!

      2. Thanks for the suggestion, Molly! I’m definitely going to look into this. (and thanks Steph T. for the word of caution– I’ll definitely read up before doing something I might regret!)

    2. I feel you on the granite quandary. It can be gorgeous or a bit much, like I suppose a lot of statement finishes are. I’m no designer, but I think you should totally find a wallpaper that can work with it. It may take some time, but think of it as working with mixed patterns or texture – lots of inspiration in home and fashion for how to consider scale and color compatibility. Prolly even on EHD archives. I don’t think you should deface the granite, especially with a lessor material like contact paper or paint. But I do think you can draw your eye to something you love. Let them compete for your attention! As long as it stays friendly and looks intentional. If its truly deep, deep loathing, I’d replace. A lot of countertops can be salvaged and reused. You may find a builder or buyer willing to get a granite counter on discount. I’d work out a deal before you remove it, but someone out there will find it divine.

  11. Oh how fun! I have one, how do you do stylish and functional window treatment for the long annd narrow sidelight window?

  12. Where can I get a tailored white/off white linen cover for a loveseat?

    Not one of those stretchy thingies you can “Saran Wrap” your furniture in, but something that’s fitted but also still has an upholstered look. Etsy and other places have a billion shabby chic / country cottage super frilly, feminine ones. Need one with a little more “fade into the background” kinda look. What I would expect Pottery Barn to stock, but they don’t seem to.

    Have a 20 y/o Thomasville loveseat in absolutely perfect condition save for the upholstery color. Want to put in a sunroom that flows into living room. Frills would gross hubby out and class with my modern/boho/industrial look. Want to be able to live on this loveseat and throw in washer weekly. Also on Etsy I see I can commission one to be made. 1) Most of the seamstresses are in Eastern European countries. Nice people, I’m sure, but Greta Thundberg would haunt me for the concept of flying a cover to the USA. Some stateside seamstresses on Etsy, but pretty darn expensive.

    I’ve spent hours and hours looking but no luck. And, sadly, my sewing skills are less than minimal.

    1. It’s hard because every loveseat has different measurements, especially in the arms, so nothing mass made will fit quite tailored. Have you tried an upholsterer? That’s totally their thing. And they can do any request you want…pleats, welting etc. I even told mine that I wanted a certain area to fit tightly and he hid a little velcro tab internally. Tip: If you do go with an upholsterer, have them wash and dry the fabric before they make the slip cover. That way it won’t shrink when you wash it.

    2. Try Bemz! Their stuff is gorgeous! It’s mostly for Ikea sofas, but they still make a multi-fit one for other brands. You could also see what Ikea sofa your Thomasville loveseat is closest to in size and then get a looser fit one.

      They’re expensive but so beautiful!

  13. These are great! I would like to see an updated version of the style roundups from a few years ago. California Casual Cool and French Art Deco were my favorites. It would be need to see updated versions of these along with resources on how to get the look.

  14. I live in a city rowhouse and the living room doesn’t get a lot of light–there’s one (not huge) bay window and that’s it. Right now it’s painted a really drab greige, which is just blah. Are there any specific colors you’d recommend? We’re open to everything (except greige!) Thanks!

  15. I love these posts, they are super helpful! I have a question that’s stumped me…there is no overhead lighting in our living room! Can you create effective lighting for a room with just different kinds of lamps or should we definitely look into a plug-in pendant? Any plug-in pendants you like or sources you recommend?

    Thank you again for these posts!

    1. Years ago I read that you should have a light source in 3 out of 4 of a room’s corners. I haven’t seen that advice anywhere else which is surprising because works SO well. Lights a room up perfectly (I think because it gets reflected into all the right places).

    2. I have the same issue, although we have two large windows so during the day its only a question of balancing when we need it. I did manage to light with two large, matching lamps, on either end of the couch, plus a table lamp. I use candles when its deep winter and we don’t have a fire going. I also think plug in sconces are easier to work with than plug in pendants, but you have to embrace the visible cord. Tip: Invest in smart tech so you can turn all the lights on/off or dim them with Siri or your phone. I’d build that in to your budget. Also lighting seems to reward patience and shopping – such HUGE price ranges for basically the same look… I’d love to see how a designer tackles this, especially with a long/narrow living room as so many places seem to have.

  16. I painted all the trim in a bedroom the wall color, and I just painted the one side of the door and half the trim. It works for me, but it’s a very pale blue so it’s not a jarring transition to white on the other half of the door frame.

  17. Love these! I just moved into a recently renovated house. The kitchen hardware, cabinet pulls, and faucet are brushed nickel and the appliances are stainless steel. I don’t love the brushed nickel so was thinking of switching the cabinet and drawer pulls (but not the faucet) out for another metal. The kitchen is very white (white cabinets, white honed marble counters) Do you think matte black would work? Or would you go with something else? Are there rules for mixing metals? Thanks so much!

  18. I want to replace my two identical sofas in my living room and try out two sofas that speak to each other without being identical. I’m lost though! It’s so hard! Can you do a post on sofas or sofas and loveseats that go together but aren’t a set?

    1. I really LOVE this idea and tried to work it into our long narrow living room too, but it didn’t quite work. I second the idea of getting the EHD team to set up some pairings. Matching can bring such order and refinement, but leather and velvet or leather and linen….those are interesting and memorable to me. Do you have to contrast color or is texture enough?? Do they need to be the same size?? Good luck!

  19. I just went over to the list you linked after the dinnerplates/wallpaper question and it would be absolutely amazing if you noted which shops are Black owned/POC owned/women owned, etc. That would make it a really unbeatable list. For some reason I couldn’t comment on that post directly though.

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