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Ask Maria: My Walls Bother Me, Can You Help?

By 11/30/2013December 6th, 201745 Comments


Mary, one of my long-time readers (since 2009) booked a consultation with me. When we got on the phone, the first thing I said to her was “What are we doing here? I love your space!”

She said, “This is BM Quiet Moments and it’s everywhere in my house but it bothers me in the living room and I don’t know why.”

Ask Maria

Here is her entry, she made the valance and drapes herself.

Ask Maria

I love this powder room. It follows the principals of this post I wrote about bathrooms: Is your Bath Perfect or Perfectly Nice. Find the one piece, whether it’s the vanity or the mirror that makes your bathroom unique from the rest of the planet and then design your entire bathroom around it.

Ask Maria

Here is her so pretty, master bedroom. Love the pink lamp shade and the combination of blues!

Ask Maria

The guest room with the fabulous sconces, headboard, area rug, drapes. . .

Ask Maria

I love this wall of plates! So awesome!

Ask Maria

Okay so here it is.

See the brighter turquoise in the drapes? It’s cleaner than the more muted turquoise on the walls. Also I have found that blue is cool as a neutral in general, although before the drapes went up she loved it so that wasn’t what she was reacting to.

Once I pointed it out she said, ‘Yes and I tried to repeat it in the space with the bowl on the coffee table and the teardrop vases.’.

I recommended repainting the walls BM Muslin.

That’s the reason why greige/grays are so popular, because they provide the crisp backdrop required for clean and bright colours.

Since so many of us are now decorating with colours we previously kept in kids rooms, we can’t paint the walls a bright turquoise too! Well of course you can, but it depends on the interior in question, I certainly would not have suggested that here.

Ask Maria

Mary is not prepared to re-paint because it’s the main colour everywhere so I said “Now that you know what’s bugging you, maybe you can live with it. I think your house is beautiful and I love the way you’ve styled it.”

Ask Maria

Here’s the other thing I love about the way she pulled the colours together. See the pink beige fireplace surround? It’s repeated in the seagrass rug and burlap pillows on the sofa.

Ask Maria

Another view of the drapery.

Ask Maria

Mary said the drapes were previously white but she wanted to add pattern with the drapery which is how they came to be in the space.

Thanks Mary for letting me show your lovely home to my readers!

If you have a question for an Ask Maria post email me here.

Related posts:

Bright Colour needs a Healthy Dose of White

A Dirty Answer to a Clean Question

Clean vs. Dirty Colours


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  • Kathy says:

    At first I couldn’t understand why you would recommend a pink beige wall color (BM Muslin), but once you mentioned the fireplace, rug, and pillows, it made sense. Lovely home….

  • BillP says:

    The rooms are lovely. Really, what doesn’t work seems to be the bossy fabric of the curtains.

  • Judy says:

    Yes, I think the curtains don’t quite do it for me either.

  • Rob says:

    I appreciated all the rooms until I scrolled to the first one of the living room which appears almost confusing. The rest of the living room pics help to clear the confusion but the elephant in the room for me is the sofa covering. Maybe it’s just my monitor. A lovely home though.

    • Lynne says:

      I thought the same thing about the sofa. It is too bright-white where the rest of the room seems to be more tranquil tones. I wondered if it was the photography or my monitor too, making it glare in the space.

    • I understand what Maria is saying about the curtains, however they don’t bother me as much as the colour of the couch – I am with Rob and Lynne here. The house is lovely and I could live with the window treatments, but that pale blue sofa colour is off in this room. The good news is, as it’s a cover, it’s an easy fix!

      ps – I love the wall of plates, they look fab!

  • Louise Dubois says:

    I agree with other comments. Although the living rooms drapes are lovely on their own, they really don’t compliment this room. If it were me, I’d go back to a plain fabric. The cow hide rug is also a bit too busy for my taste.

  • Bev says:

    Are the floors in Mary’s living room laminate? What colour/brand are they? I need to do some doors and it looks similar to one I was thinking of, but so much better. If you have the answer I thank you in advance!

  • Bev says:

    Oops! Typo above. Indeed to do my floors.

  • Louise Dubois says:

    I agree with the other comments. Although the living room drapes are lovely on their own, they really don’t compliment this room. If it were me, I’d be going back to something a little more simple/plain. Ditto for the cow skin rug (too busy for the room) for my taste.

    • Mary says:

      I agree with Louise, cowskin is too busy for the room, it is unnecessary.
      The rest of the home is lovely.
      Mary in Ohio

  • Jeanie P. says:

    I think Mary’s home is absolutely lovely. Very warm and inviting. I see a lot to emulate. I love your bedrooms and I think the photo ledge is a great way to display family photos. What a shame that the fabric for the curtains is slightly off. They are beautifully made and I never would have guessed they weren’t professionally done. Thank you for sharing your home with us Mary. (I have the same round mirror that you have in your plate room.)

  • Amy Burger says:

    I love these posts.

    As for the space, I too like it. (LOVE LOVE LOVE the plates!)

    It is different, unique and must truly reflect her own style. I don’t mind the cow rug…it kind-of goes with the ecclectic funk of the place.
    You have a beautiful home Mary!

  • Brenda Sloan says:

    Beautiful and inspiring room! I would not give up on the drapes or BM quiet moments. Do you have any fabric remaining from the drapes? Or even the drapes with darker colors in the bedrooms (? with brown in them hard to tell on my monitor) Your living room sofa could be grounded with a patterned oblong pillow in the center. The black of the TV and fireplace surround make it appears a little “floaty” to me….
    Thank-you for sharing this beautiful home.

    • keira says:

      I second Brenda Sloan’s comments re possibly adding some darker pillows/accents. I love the pattern the drapes and cowskin bring to the living room. Great job all around!

  • Ann says:

    Beautiful home, beautifully decorated. I like the drapes too, the setting with the two chairs and white drum table is crisp and interesting against the backdrop of the drapes.

  • Maria Killam says:

    Thanks everyone for your comments, however I’m actually not soliciting decorating advice on this post. It’s here to teach/show you an example of clean vs. dirty colour. Mary is very generous to share her home with my readers.

    • Mary says:

      Thanks Maria,
      I am appreciating what everyone has to say.
      Especially Sam’s comment.
      I have a feeling I will need to hire you again to help me pick fabric for new drapes.

  • Rhonda says:

    Mary, you have done a lovely job decorating your home! I know how hard you’ve worked, especially making all those window treatments! There are so many elements that I love, but the plate wall and the bathroom are especially eye-catching. Thank you for sharing!

  • Linda says:

    First, Mary your home is well done and I see your own personal style continuously thought out. As for you window treatments, you could start a side business, well done. My 2 cents to all is to listen to Maria, and change out the wall color and as much as I love your coffee table you need something that the scale is heavier and maybe even a painted piece too. The scale of your sofa and side chairs are too heavy and large for the small simple and visually light coffee table. It gets lost in the space. Maria, what color do you think the coffee table could be?

  • Lorrin says:

    Be kind folks. There is no need to be rude. In my opinion her home is beautiful, however, if it’s not your cup of tea, that’s fine. It is HER home.
    Mary- Thank you for sharing your home. It’s lovely!

  • Debbie Bruna says:

    i love the guest room. Great job, Mary.

  • Diane G. says:

    I think Mary has done a lovely job with her home. I wish I had as much energy/ingenuity! Being from Texas, I like that cowhide, y’all! I would love a source for the attractive sconces in the guestroom. I have a feeling that when things settle in and Mary does a little tweaking (not twerking!) She’s going to love her room. Nothing in my living room especially goes together…everything was acquired at different times, for different rooms, in a different house… but everyone seems to think it works! Just need that perfect wall color…..

    • Mary says:

      Oh Diane! You just made me laugh.
      The sconces in the guest room are from Pottery Barn. Not sure if they are still available. I bought them several years ago.
      And thanks for appreciating my “Bessie”.

  • Angela T. says:

    This post was very helpful for me as I am having to choose a colour for my new home. I get to pick one colour for the entire house (1700sq feet) and it is a single level home. I was thinking Cashmere Gray, but I will check out BM Quiet Moments.
    Thank you for sharing Mary, your home reflects who you are and I love it!

  • Tracy says:

    BM Quiet Moments is such a tranquil soothing beautiful color. Your home is lovely and thanks for sharing it with us! With some tweaking with fabric it will look amazing as you have gorgeous furniture and style. Love how you styled your rooms too!

  • SandyCGC says:

    Thank you for the lesson on clean vs dirty colors, Maria. And thank you, Mary, for having the guts to allow Maria to use pictures of your very lovely home to illustrate the lesson. And thanks, too, Maria for gently reminding us this is not a Design Dilemma being posed on HOUZZ – it’s so hard to resist offering advice, even when not solicited. It’s just natural to want to do. But now that Mary’s learned the lesson and understands what’s bugging her about the room and why, I suspect, with her demonstrated creativity throughout the rest of her home, she’ll come up with a solution for this room that makes her happy and I hope she’ll share it with you, Maria, and that you’ll share it with us in a future lesson.

  • Kate says:

    Well, I reviewed these pics twice. Mary’s design sense is bold, provocative and engaging. I love what Mary has done and I think Mary is being much to much hard on herself. To change the living room would alienate it from the rest of the house. Mary, you are trying to improve on “perfect”. Leave it alone – it is beautiful. Many times I have seen where the room has been so over tweaked it just looks bad. The rooms end up looking staged. I would not change a thing. Your decorating is very forward thinking – the pattern is correct. If I had to say one thing that stays in my mind when I looked at these pics was your use of color. If you change – these rooms will look lifeless.

    Best regards, Kate

    • Diane says:

      I agree with Kate. I love, love love your home and it looks so personal and unique. As I say when I teach writing to young students… “It has your own voice. I know who wrote this.” You must feel so happy in your space.
      I really like how you layered the plates on the wall to add depth. Did you hot glue gun them?

      • Diane G. says:

        I agree that her home looks great…Except… She’s not happy in her LR space. She!d like, to paraphrase, Color It Happy! The plates are abfab…I’ve also seen that done with all white mismatched, collected plates and loved it…it’s a bold statement that’s also …whimsical?

  • Sarah says:

    Thank you, Maria for these client features and thank you, Mary for sharing your lovely home. Such an inspiration.

    I am not a designer and I appreciate the free education Maria provides through her blog. these client, real life examples illustrate Maria’s wisdom so well.

    I hope all the unsolicited opinions don’t discourage clients from allowing her to feature their projects. Maybe comments should be turned off for these.

  • Suemi says:

    A very lovely home. I would feel comfortable in every room. Thank you for sharing.

  • Virginia says:

    If the turquoise in the drapes is too clean for the walls and Mary is not going to repaint, then wouldn’t the solution be to pick out new drapes to tie the whole space together?

    • Mary says:

      Hi Virginia, Yes, my plan is to make new drapes. I’m not excited about it but it will eventually happen. Making 8 panels is a lot of work!

  • Cat says:

    Hmmmm – a complete mess? Really, Sam? Ouch!
    I agree – perhaps comments need to be approved by Maria before they are posted. Thank you for sharing Mary! I’m not a sewer but I can appreciate the amount of work you put into those curtains – I find that just going out, buying store bought and hanging them is a production – can’t imagine actually making them! We all have different styles and I agree with the writing teacher – when she commented o “hearing” someone’s voice in their writing. So – too with your home. I once was told by a well-meaning friend that I “could admire the things at the store and didn’t have to bring home everything.” She very thoughtfully took all the extra things home to her house – 🙂 I say that everything has a place, if you love it – it’s a matter of finding the right place. But – I guess some things I could have left at the store (impulse buying). lol
    You did a lovely job, Mary!

  • Angela says:

    LOVE everything about the guest bedroom – especially the headboard!

  • Kate says:

    I know the feeling – the vision is lost in translation and you can’t put your finger on it. Again, I reviewed these pics of Mary’s house. I am amazed at the thought and intricacy put into each room! However, there is one thing I notice different in the living room that the bedrooms, kitchen and bathroom have – an eclectic mix of color done with the bed pillows, the dark blue/black on the headboard, the striped shower curtain,edgy artwork, etc. I also notice a contrasting solid blue insert for the foyer valence – why not use this same solid blue to band the drapery allowing a more natural transition between the drapery and the wall? You have that great striped runner in the foyer, the blue/black bathroom vanity, edgy art on the walls, those same elements are missing in the living room. This is just from studying the pics – I love, love, love the provocativeness of these rooms – these rooms are engaging, I want to enter, the french have a saying “Ă  lĂ©cher Ă  l’oeil” meaning “to lick with the eye”. I certainly do that – and I think everyone else has too!

  • Rosemarie Clair says:

    I am grateful to learn so much from your blog Maria, from brave and generous souls like Mary, and from the tweaking that everyone shares. Could do without the unkind “twerking” (shout out to Diane G. :)) from provocateurs.

    Even when it is not my personal taste, I learn – it expands my view. Thanks for the lesson on clean vs/dirty Maria and thanks for the share of such a personally invested, forward thinking, and pretty home. Absolute favorites are the powder room – ! and wall plates – the different depths. Thank you!

  • Carol says:

    Ohh good reminder on clean vs dirty. I’m repainting
    my living room and after the very pale cream Behr’s
    Informal Ivory I see that it doesn’t go very well with
    the woodwork and I think now its because the woodwork is more “dirty”… the way I will be
    switching to Benjamin Moore paint as the Behr
    is really runny……
    I was wondering about the sofa too tho?? Is it
    kinda a clear white compared to the rest of the
    room? Can white be a dirty color sometimes too?
    Thankyou Mary for sharing your pictures and being
    so brave. I’m not sure I would want to show the
    world my decorating dilema’s

  • Cathy Z says:

    Before you toss the curtains out along with all your hard work, maybe throw them in the washing machine for a tea soak. The tea stain might be just enough to bring the clean turquoise to a dirtier shade and warm up the white to a pale beige – working with the fireplace tones, etc. Keep us posted with progress. I think you have a beautiful home!

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