Joanna Saltz, the editorial director of House Beautiful and Delish, joined staff writer Jura Koncius last week for The Washington Post’s Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.
Q: As a real estate agent who primarily shows houses to buyers, I have seen hundreds of kitchens with white shaker cabinets and white and gray marble or granite counters. Backsplashes always seem to be subway or a geometric — white and gray. What’s next?
A: Rather than relying on the backsplash, we’re seeing so much wallpaper in kitchens now. It allows people to keep the fixtures neutral (great for resale) but still push the boundaries. Also, because you’re a real estate agent, you know people shy away from wallpaper, thinking it’s hard to remove. These days, that’s not the case. People shouldn’t be afraid to try it.
Q: My kitchen includes a desk nook overflowing with papers. I would love a file drawer. To the side of this desk is a built-in Miele steam oven I never use. Could I get a drawer made to fill this space? I assume I could never get it to match 10-year-old cherry cabinetry. I was thinking a stainless steel front to mimic the steam oven so it looks like an appliance but is a file drawer. Is this crazy? If not, who do I contact do make it for me? Or do you have other ideas?
A: I’m sure you could have something made, but rather than try to match, why not try something colorful or a vintage storage piece that could add character?
Q: How do I make a tiny studio feel really large?
A: Cover the walls! Everyone says that pattern and color really do expand a space. If you’re renting, there are so many great removable wallpaper options now. Take a chance.
Q: I still love my dark cherry kitchen cabinets, but after 25 years, some of them need refinishing. I’ve tried to find a company in my area (San Francisco) to no avail. Is this something I can do myself? Would you suggest painting them?
A: I would not refinish them yourself. Painting could be nice, though, and professionals can do it beautifully. I’m obsessed with the high-gloss kitchen we featured in the March issue. A lacquer finish could be amazing.
Q: The paint/enamel finish in our bathtub has begun to peel away. It is spreading the same way paint peels from a wall defect, but the chips are brittle, unlike wall paint. Is there an easy and lasting way to touch up or redo the coating? The bathroom was remodeled four to six years ago, but I do not know if the tub was replaced or refinished at the time.
A: I’ve never done this before, but apparently you can have your tub reglazed by a professional, which I would suggest over a bathtub liner. It would cost you a few hundred dollars.
Q: I bought a lacquer coffee table about 10 years ago. However, it is more purple than red, so doesn’t fit my living room and it has been chipped (white shows through). Thoughts for me instead of giving it away?
A: Can you afford to re-lacquer it? It sounds amazing, but it also sounds like it’s gotten its wear. Might be time for a re-coat.
Q: I know spring is around the corner, but it still feels cold and gray. How can I make a dreary, wintry room more cheerful?
A: I’m obsessed with plants right now, like the rest of the world. I kill every plant I buy, but that doesn’t stop me from buying more. Buy yourself flowers. Buy tons of plants. I can’t bring myself to buy fake ones, but I know people who swear by them.
Q: I am redoing a dark, dingy basement with one tiny clerestory window. The floor will be maple wood-look tile, and the ceiling and trim will be bright white. I’m looking for a light blue that will have enough color to stand out against the white but not be overwhelming. I’m thinking of Sherwin-Williams Byte Blue or Soar. Do you think one of those would work? Anything else I should consider?
A: When I asked a designer recently about a color he had used and whether it would work for my space, he said: “People ask me that all the time, and what I say is that your space is unlike any other space in the world. You have to test and test and test until you find the shade that works with your particular lighting, windows, woodwork.” I love blue, but the wrong one can look really wrong, so I would say try until you get it right.
Q: Do you personally attend trade markets to find what’s new, or has the internet eliminated the need? Are your readers more interested in what’s new, or what works to solve their decorating challenges?
A: This is a great question, because trade shows and market appointments do take up a lot of time. It’s important for our editors to meet people at trade shows and market appointments, and our audience loves knowing what’s new. But in this day and age, we need to be faster to report on what’s happening. A lot of times, we can’t wait until our print deadlines to report on new products because at that point, the news is old. So you will see that the magazine will help designers and homeowners solve decorating challenges, while still including some news. It’s a balancing act.
Q: What is your social media strategy? It seems to have moved away from design and praising designers to pop culture and clickbait.
A: I like having fun. I like people who like having fun. I love design, but I also love having a conversation. I think we should be allowed to take ourselves a little less seriously while still enjoying great design.
Q: We are stumped on what color to paint our dining room. The adjoining rooms are painted Benjamin Moore Wickham Gray (sunroom) and Ralph Lauren Stone (living room). We love both of those colors. The dining room, however, is painted Portage (C2), and it reads very dark and green (I really don’t like green paint). The room doesn’t get a ton of direct sunlight. We were leaning toward a warm gray to bridge the two rooms, but the paint samples we’ve put up so far haven’t worked. Any suggestions?
A: I’m a sucker for grays and stone colors, but having met with so many color experts recently, I’m inspired to push it. Everyone who’s come through the House Beautiful doors recently has been gushing about yellow. Have you considered it? It casts a gorgeous glow on food, would give you a little color and would bridge those rooms beautifully.