Marika Meyer on updating the home and back yard for summer – SFGate


Washington designer Marika Meyer joined staff writer Jura Koncius last week on The Washington Post’s Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.

Q: I love the look of wallpaper, but I’m afraid of making such a permanent commitment. Any thoughts on other ways to add pattern to a room?

A: I have a lot of clients who express this concern, but once they take the plunge, they never look back. Wallpaper not only adds pattern to a room but papering the walls brings in texture and warmth (especially a grasscloth style). Sometimes you can achieve some of that same feeling by using art. Frame and hang a tapestry or vintage textiles. I filled a wall with a collection of framed Hermes scarves at last year’s DC Design House.

Q: I have noticed a lot more color in kitchens. I would like to brighten ours but I don’t want to make any big structural changes. What else can we do?


A: You are right. Color is in for kitchens, especially cabinets and tile. But without making those big changes, there is still a lot you can do. Painting your walls is an easy option and wallpaper is becoming even more popular in kitchens. Or, why not swap out your counter stools for a more colorful option? For a smaller change, look for vibrant accessories such as a fruit bowl or salad plates in an attention-getting pattern.


Q: What’s your favorite white paint and trim color combo?

A: For clients who like warmer tones, we use Benjamin Moore White Dove on trim and walls. On projects where we want a clean, crisp white, my favorite is Chantilly Lace. I just painted my older son’s room Chantilly Lace paired with a blue and white chevron paper. It’s very fun and will last him years.


Q: We love entertaining outdoors in the summer. Is there anything fun we can add to our usual decor?

A: It’s all about casual, approachable materials and lots of texture. Linen is always a great choice for a tablecloth, napkins or place mats. Layer on some texture with rattan or bamboo napkin rings or place mats. If you want to add some color, I love a colored water glass. Also, try incorporating metallic elements. I love that gold and brass are back. There are some fabulous options available in glassware and even silverware.

Q: My oldest child is 10, with a bedroom in desperate need of a rehab. It’s time to lose the safari animals and grow up a little bit. But I’m struggling with what to choose so that we don’t have to update it again in three years when he is a teenager. Help!

A: The key here is balance. Make sure the larger, more expensive furniture pieces are something he can grow up with. Drop the kid’s furniture store and look for simply styled adult pieces. Room & Board has great transitional items, and Anthropologie sells unique finds. Changing out bedding and accessories over time will allow the room to grow with your child and won’t cost you a fortune.

Q: We are perhaps a rare family in that we often eat dinner in our dining room (not only on special occasions). We are looking to update the room and I am struggling with wall colors. I have it in my mind that the wall color needs to coordinate with both our everyday dishes and our formal china. Am I overthinking it? Both are shades of green.

A: I love that you use your dining room. My mother-in-law has a wonderful saying — “life is not a dress rehearsal” — and I always think about that in our home. For the dining room, lots of shades of green can work. I would do something in a mid-tone range, such as Farrow & Ball Pigeon or Lichen. They can be dressed up or down, based on your plates. I also would not be afraid to create some contrast to your plates. Contrasting colors can add a new dimension to the room.

Q: We live in an older home and some of the rooms get especially dark in the summertime. Any suggestions for brightening the space? Should we add more lights? What about fabrics and wall colors?

A: Think about wall color first; painting in a bright neutral will help lighten the room. Window treatments in light, sheer fabrics also help dress the space without making it feel too heavy. I would keep the larger goods light so they do not darken the room.

Q: We recently renovated our beach house.I would love to update the decor but I always resort to buying seashells and coral. Do you have suggestions for other ways I can make my house feel like the beach without using the typical items?

A: Spending time at the beach is all about relaxing with family and friends. Your decor should be just as relaxed. Look for durable materials, casual upholstery and relaxed furniture. It’s all about natural materials and textures mixed with soft shades that reflect the outdoors. But I’ll never shy away from a beautiful piece of sculptural coral and neither should you.

Q: I have a wheeled desk chair at home. I’d like to avoid having it chew up the hardwood floors. Can I use a rug instead of a plastic office chair mat? If so, what type of rug material should I look for? Any other suggestions for protecting the floor?

A: I recommend as flat a weave as possible so that the pile does not show signs of wear.

Q: I don’t like faux candles, but lighting my outdoor table with real candles is frustrating on a windy day. Have any new ideas?

A: I use hurricane candle holders on our outdoor dining table and side tables. They prevent the wind from blowing them out, and you can use a large candle for events that go long into the night. I also layer in color with fruit or flowers on the bottom for a colorful touch to the table.

Q: To freshen up our carport for summer, I’m thinking of getting a Chilewich rug. It would be used in a covered space that gets heavy foot traffic. How are they cleaned?

A: We often use Dash & Albert rugs, which can take heavy foot traffic and are easily cleaned with soap and water. I even have one in my family room and so far my two boys (ages 5 and 8) have not been able to destroy it.

Q: What do you think of having a chaise in a living room? We don’t do a lot of formal entertaining, but it is the only formal (non-dining) space. Do you think it is too casual?

A: I would avoid a chaise in a formal living room where it may feel too casual. It could work well in a family room or library.

Q: Do you have any other sources for inexpensive outdoor pillows besides TJ Maxx and Marshalls?

A: I find great options on Etsy. There are so many colors and patterns.

Q: We love our open-plan living space, especially for entertaining. But we are struggling with how to arrange the space and make it feel cozy at the same time. How do you deal with this kind of floor plan?

A: When I sit down to create a floor plan, I always ask, “How will this space be used?” Ultimately, a room will feel like a space you want to live in if it is designed with a purpose in mind. Also, scale is key. Some new homes with open floor plans have large common living spaces. Make sure your furniture is sized appropriately so it doesn’t get lost. If everything is too small, the room will feel cavernous and cold.

Q: I’m painting a tiny, windowless, half-bath with Benjamin Moore Hale Navy and am tempted to paint the ceiling navy, too. Is this a bad idea?

A: Hale Navy is one of my favorite blues. I would paint the ceiling at 50 percent of the wall color so that it does not contrast too much but keeps the intimate feeling that you are creating.

Q: We love our weekend summer home. I want to update it gradually but start small. What are your suggestions about where to start?

A: The easiest way to update a home without spending a lot of money is with paint. You can really transform the feel by repainting walls, trim and ceilings.

Q: What are some of your favorite places to find vintage accessories?

A: I love using vintage and antique accessories on projects. I pick up items whenever I travel and keep a closet full of treasures to use on installations. Locally, I always search at flea markets and thrift stores. Etsy is a great resource but watch out — you can spend a lot of time online looking.

Q: I loved the Hermes scarves you framed in one of your DC Design House rooms. Where did you find the vintage scarves and were they expensive? Any tips for framing scarves without breaking the bank?

A: Thanks! I actually found the scarves on eBay and they were very affordable. We had them framed in a simple white-wood frame that was budget-friendly. Because of the size and weight concerns, the framer used a plexiglass, which also helped our budget. It is a great way to creatively and inexpensively fill a large wall.

Q: I have an old wooden bureau that I would like to put outside on my patio by my front door. Is there some way I can make it more weatherproof?

A: If your summers are humid, I would avoid putting the bureau outside as it will likely swell a great deal and you may see splitting of the wood. I found an old wicker piece and painted it for our porch. We sprayed a protective coat on top and it has lasted years.

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