Sara Peterson is the editor in chief of HGTV Magazine, a home and lifestyle magazine published by Hearst Magazines in partnership with HGTV Network. Peterson has been editor in chief of HGTV Magazine since its launch. Previously, she was editor in chief of Coastal Living and the home editor of Southern Living.

Peterson joined staff writer Jura Koncius for a recent Washington Post Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.

Q: What’s the first step in painting old furniture? Should you sand it, or is priming good enough?

A: You should absolutely sand it first, or at least smooth out the roughest spots. Give it one or two coats of primer, then paint. Two coats of paint is always best.

Q: What’s a soothing paint color for a bedroom?

A: I’m going to recommend colors that are soothing and flattering. Stay away from minty greens, because they can make you look washed out. Check out Cockleshell by Behr, a peachy shade; Serene Breeze by Benjamin Moore, a tranquil mossy green; and Veiled Violet by Sherwin-Williams, a dusty violet.

Q: I have a home filled with antique oak furniture, eucalyptus hardwood floors and a rock-faced fireplace. I also have lots of big windows for natural light. What paint colors do you recommend to complement all this wood but that will make things bright, without going for a plain white? I tend to like the Craftsman style.


A: One great idea that we’re seeing a lot of designers and homeowners doing right now is to paint the molding the same color as the wall. The wall can be eggshell or matte finish. The molding should be semi-gloss or high-gloss. It’s a seamless, chic look.

Q: I would love to paint our hardwood floors white, but I’m intimidated. Any tips you can share?

A: If your hardwood floors are in so-so shape, painting them a glossy white or gray can look terrific. Use a paint that’s designated for porch floors. And yes, you can use it inside.

Q: Other than white or gray, how do you choose a paint color that will add some color to walls but will also be more of a neutral? I’ve read that blush is now considered a neutral.

A: Blush pink is a great neutral, because it does go with everything. I love it on walls and ceilings.

Q: What are some of your favorite basic white paints to paint an entire house?


A: Extra White by Sherwin-Williams, White Dove by Benjamin Moore, Polar Bear and Bit of Sugar by Behr, Slipper Satin and Lime White by Farrow & Ball, and Whipped by Clare.

Q: I’m turning my guest bedroom into an office, and I need suggestions on the most comfortable sofa bed. What colors should I use to keep the room inviting, but not so much that I’m tempted to fall asleep during work?

A: A guest bedroom is now my work-from-home office. Gray-blues and buttery yellows are energetic but not too energetic, so you can still fall asleep. For blues, check out Parma Gray by Farrow & Ball and Jamestown Blue by Benjamin Moore. For a buttery yellow, try Buzz-In by Behr and Golden Honey by Benjamin Moore.

Q: How do you add color to a room without making it feel one-note? How many colors is too many?

A: I don’t like strict decorating rules, but sticking to two or three colors in a room is a good idea. Put color on the wall or amp up color in a room with accessories. For example, you could paint a wall your favorite color or paint the walls white and bring in color with pillows, rugs and art.

Q: What’s your favorite blue paint color? I’m looking to paint an old piece of furniture, and I want to make a statement.


A: Drawing Room Blue by Farrow & Ball, Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore and Blue Nile by Sherwin-Williams.

Q: How would you decorate a small space, such as an apartment, that doesn’t have much storage available?

A: Even if you don’t live in an apartment, look for pieces that are labeled “apartment size” and for smaller-scale furniture. There’s a lot of big furniture out there, and it’ll just hog your space. For example, consider a love seat instead of a full sofa. Look for chairs without arms. Get cute ottomans for extra seating; some even have storage inside them. Think vertically for storage. Do you have wall space you can hang shelves on? Hang curtain rods all the way to the top of the ceiling to make your walls look taller.

Q: I have an all-beige kitchen, which includes light-colored cabinets, beige tile and a beige, black and gray countertop. I was thinking of painting the walls white. Is that going to be too stark of a contrast?

A: It depends on how much wall space you have, but my gut says no, white will not be too stark of a contrast. I would suggest a warmer white with some brown or tan undertones for the walls instead of a crisp, bright white. Try Antique White by Sherwin-Williams. I also love Manchester Tan by Benjamin Moore if you want to go all in with beige — which is fine, too.

Q: We have a dining and living room that is one space in an open plan; the kitchen is somewhat delineated by a high bar and sink island. We have pale blue paint on one wall in the dining area with white beadboard. We’re looking to revamp the space to be more midcentury-modern. We’re probably getting a gray couch, because the colors seem to be limited, at least in our budget. We also have a large, very colorful art photograph of mountains and wildflowers that will be a feature piece. What are your suggestions for a wall color?


A: I would go crisp white everywhere. On every wall, on the beadboard, on the ceiling, the doors, the trim — everything. You can’t go wrong with Super White by Benjamin Moore.

Q: I live in an apartment in New York City, and I want to cheer up my living area. I bought various accessories/pillows in different colors and designs, but I might have overdone this. Can you share your point of view on this? I now have two different patterns/designs and a third color for solid pillows. Have I gone overboard?

A: I feel like I’m always buying pillows. The key is: You don’t have to use them all at once. Use some and change them out. On a sofa, I like one or two patterned pillows, the rest solid.