DIY Décor Advice

Words By Jura Koncius, (c) 2017, The Washington Post


Holley Simmons, who wrote about affordably decorating her apartment, joined staff writer Jura Koncius last week on The Washington Post’s Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.


I have a small patio but want to be able to entertain guests outside. What are your recommendations to make the most of my space?


Benches! They take up less room than individual chairs and can seat multiple people. Also, small side tables for drinks, etc., if you don’t have room for a large table. And have you considered a vertical garden?


Do you think spray-painting second-hand furniture is a good idea? It’s hard to find a place to do that if you don’t have a back yard.


Yes, yes, yes! It’s such an inexpensive way to give an old piece of furniture a new look. But you’re right, it should absolutely be done outside. I have a parking spot in the back of my apartment where I do all my spray-painting. If you don’t have a similar spot, you can probably do it on the sidewalk or street. Just make sure to (a) wear a mask if you’ll be spraying a lot and (b) put something down so you don’t mark up the surface. A flattened cardboard box works fine.


I have a couple of wicker chairs that I got for free. Can they be spray-painted, either a clear coat or a colour, to make them waterproof for the outdoors?


Yes, you can definitely paint them or use spray-paint, and then top them off with a couple of coats of marine varnish. It’s designed to withstand extreme weather.


My brother and his family got bedbugs and are in the expensive process of getting rid of them. Meanwhile, they are looking to acquire some new furniture. Is there anything they need to be thinking about? Their current setup is an accumulation of his stuff and her stuff mushed together. Now they get to pick coordinated items.


Oh, no! That is so unfortunate. I’d start by scoping out local estate sales. That’d be one way to get a lot of furniture in one fell swoop at a good price. Perhaps they can divide and conquer: He can choose the linens, and she can select the furniture. That way, the rooms are a reflection of both of their styles.


I like having a TV in my living room, but I don’t want it to be the focal point. Any ideas for covering it up yet still having it accessible?


My first thought would be to paint the wall behind it a dark shade so that it blends in a little better. If that’s not your cup of tea, I’d also suggest placing it on a shelving unit and filling the shelves with other items, such as books and knickknacks. You may also consider hanging art around it.


What design blogs do you read?


There are tons out there, but here are a few of my favourites:


Vintage Revivals ( This woman is a magician with DIYs. They can require a bit of skill, but it’s definitely aspirational.


Justina Blakeney ( I’m a sucker for the boho-chic aesthetic, and Justina brings it. Lots of bold prints and greenery. Swoon.


Apartment Therapy ( I love this site for inspiration, particularly because it features home tours of real people (including my old apartment).


Domino ( Very nice roundups!


And, of course, Pinterest: What did we ever do before Pinterest?


Modern dining table with leather chairs and bench. Image: Hue Graphy, Unsplash


I would like to know the colour and manufacturer of the blue paint you used in your living room, the coral paint in your dining room and the pink paint on your front door. Those colours are my favourites.


Yes! I love when people aren’t afraid of a little colour.


Blue: Blueberry Hill by Benjamin Moore


Coral: All-a-Blaze by Benjamin Moore


Pink: Best Friends from Clark and Kensington


I purchased custom living and dining room curtains in a taupe-beige colour for my east-facing apartment. Without them, my place becomes a sauna! What is a good wall paint to pair with them? I want a grey but can’t seem to find a shade that works.


Something with the slightest hint of lavender might be lovely. Because the room gets great sun, you can probably go a little cooler with the tone.


Where do you get cool counter stools? I’m having a hard time finding a match for my counter-height dining table because it’s made of wood and marble. What stool material do you think would match best?


Houzz would be a great place to start. A quick search for “stool” returned more than 50,000 results. You can use the filter function to narrow down the options. Your table sounds lovely! Because it’s made of mixed materials, you have a lot of flexibility. I think something metallic would look great.


I’m interested in purchasing a platform bed, but I’d like one that’s both solid and easy to take down and move. Most product descriptions don’t address the “how easy will this be to take to your next place” issue.


Your best bet would probably be to avoid anything made of wood. Unscrewing and re-screwing can strip the material and create weaknesses. Opt instead for metal or wrought iron. Wayfair is a great place to start your search. They publish PDFs of the assembly instructions, so you can see what you’re getting into ahead of time!


Because of limited space in our bedroom, the bed is in the corner. We don’t use a headboard because we think it might make the room feel small. Thoughts? Headboards on beds in corners look strange to me.


Agreed, I don’t think I would use a headboard. Instead, try a few floating shelves to create some depth.


Featured Image: Dan Gold, Unsplash