Readers’ Design Dilemmas- Solved! Part I

Monday, February 08, 2010 | Category: Contests, Designers

Back in November, we hosted a giveaway for Elaine Griffin’s book, Design Rules.  In order to enter, participants were asked to pose a design question in the comments portion of the post- a question that they had always wanted to know the answer to.  We ended up receiving sixty one awesome questions and Elaine, herself, will be answering each and every one of them!

Elaine sent me the first batch of her answers tonight and I’m so excited to post them!  I loved reading her responses.  You can tell through her answers how enthusiastic she is about design.  This woman surely loves her job and why shouldn’t she?  She’s great at it!

We hope you enjoy her responses as much as we did.

How big is too big for wallpaper patterns in a small powder bathroom?


Powder rooms are perfect spaces for sheer drama, and the more, the better.  In fact, if people aren’t still talking about how nifty/quirky/cool one of my powder rooms is when they walk out of it, my feelings are HURT!!!  They’re the perfect spaces for your wildest design fantasies, and also the most luxurious materials and finishes (wallpaper, marble, stone, etc) you wanted for your home – the room’s diminutive size means you’ll only need small amounts of the pricey stuff (as opposed to oodles for your master bath).

To answer your question:  You should be able to see the full width of your pattern horizontally, and several lengths (at least three, on at least one wall [important if the room is under the stairs]) of the repeat vertically.

{California Home + Design via Girl Meets Glamour}

This is more about kitchens. I’m tired of granite counter tops (except honed black). I love marble, concrete, slate (like you see in laboratories). I have seen some quartz counter tops that look great…even honed quartz. What do you think will have staying power and/or desirability if you should put your home on the market?


I always say “trust your instincts” when it comes to design, and Marcie, girlfriend, you are SO on the money!!!!  Engineered quartz countertops actually make SOOOO much more sense than pure marble or stone tops, in lots of ways.  Know that they’re not counterfeit goods – quartz countertops are made mostly of crushed quartz stone with a bit of resin to hold the material together and give it “oomph”.  They’re ecologically friendlier than pure stone (less diminishing of natural resources, dahling).  They come in a gazillion colors that brilliantly match your design scheme but may not even exist in stone (like crimson red, although that probably isn’t your best bet for re-sell, sugar).  And best of all, they’re virtually STAIN-PROOF and can take the heat, wear and tear that pure marble or stone countertops simply can’t.

TRADE SECRET:  My worst days at work are when I’m at a client’s having coffee in the kitchen and have to obsess over my coffee cup leaving a stain on the stone countertop.  And a drip of salad dressing is tantamount to disaster.  Confine the high maintenance items in your household to your shoe closet, girlfriend, and install quartz countertops toute de suite! Choose something that LOOKS like a marble or stone you love, and you’ll be fine for resale.  You ALSO won’t have to have your stone countertops resurfaced and worked on to death to have them looking fantabulous when that moment comes – quartz countertops are A BREEZE to keep up!


Is it a bad rule to have a mix of modern furniture and a few antique pieces for contrast in a room such as living room or bedroom?


Eilla, you are genius!  That’s a PERFECT rule!  Homogeneity in both life AND ESPECIALLY décor is a recipe for boredom!  Every room full of blondes needs a couple of brunettes for spice, just like every modern space is enhanced by the texture, contrast and depth of a couple of antiques (and vice-versa).  Try varying the finishes on your contrast pieces – in a room full of brown antique furniture, metallic (gold or silver), painted or ceramic finishes add diversity and zing, and vice-versa.

{The Boston Design Center Dream Home}

Any tips on determining if a new design is just a fad or something with real staying power? I want to invest in timeless decor, but it’s hard to not get caught up in the trend of the moment.


Great question!  Fashion and design are first cousins, and I like to compare the two for questions just like this one.  You know how you can have a navy blazer or a great coat that you can wear for 20,000 years and it still looks fresh?  You might change everything else about the outfit BUT the jacket (and even then, you might change the shoulder pads in the blazer every so often, even), but the blazer is one of the timeless eternals in every girl’s wardrobe.  The same thing is true of classic sofa and chair styles, for example.  When you look at rooms of design industry icons like Billy Baldwin, John Fowler, Geoffrey Bennison and Renzo Mongardino, they could have been done centuries ago, but they still look great today.  (Only the art and the plants date them, and sometimes – but not always – the window treatments, too.)

Your most expensive pieces – sofas, big casegoods like tables and chests, rugs if you spend lots on them – should be classic and timeless (you’ll know this because they will mostly have acquired names over the years, like the Bridgewater sofa [that’s the standard George Smith unit], the Tuxedo sofa [straight arms, Jean-Michel Frank], or a Parson’s [a pair of L’s upside down] or waterfall [upside-down “U”] table).

Indulge your trendiest (and cheaper :)) fantasies in throw pillows, budget art, smaller side tables, accessories and other items that you’ll be fine with replacing in 5 years or so (like the chartreuse industrial desk from that I’m typing this on, which only set me back $149).

{Hampton home via Habitually Chic}

Is there a cheap source for simple curtain rods?


Tons!  Lowe’s has just introduced a private label line called Allen + Roth, and they look great!  The ones at Bed Bath & Beyond are also super-stylish (hit the larger stores for better selection).  If you are in the trade, I love Vesta out of Atlanta.

{Elle Decor}

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6 Comments to 'Readers’ Design Dilemmas- Solved! Part I'

Alison 08 Feb 10 at 1:22 pm

She has such good advice I was wondering if I could still ask a question and have her answer it for me or if anyone else could give me some advice on it, my question is:

I have an antique cast iron bed, it is painted an ivory color and then has brass scrolling in the middle of the head board and foot board. I have always had chinille bed spreads and pillow shams on it to go with the style, however I am 22 years old and would like to have a more modern bed spread with brighter colors and more funky/fun patterns. I was wondering if its okay to mix the styles in that way or if it would look weird?

Janis 08 Feb 10 at 8:10 pm

Fantastic advice and I love her style and sass.

Just found your blog and can’t wait to check it out.

Aansy 09 Feb 10 at 7:46 am

Awesome, and the pattern of small powder bathroom is so cool.
and the chandelier in elle decor is fabulous

Haidy 10 Feb 10 at 9:31 am

This is all such great advice. How fantastic that she has put in the time and effort into not only answering these questions, but to also put in such well thought-out quality responses.

The pictures look great too!

Lauren 12 Feb 10 at 12:56 pm

elaine answered my question! how cool! i bought her book and have already read it cover-to-cover – love her practical advice, like how big area rugs should be and technical bits like that, and her great style. thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions, elaine! i can’t wait to read the next round.

Madella's Decorating 15 Feb 10 at 10:09 am

Some good advise here! Totally agree with the powder room advise on going bold. It is the perfect place to show your true colors and to experiment moving out of your comfort zone. You can get tons of impact for a low cost.

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