Skip to main content
Advice for HomeownersAsk MariaColour lesson

Ask Maria: About Carpets, Oak Cabinets & Dining Chairs

By 02/12/2016January 23rd, 201742 Comments

I have received a few Ask Maria questions recently and some of the answers are too short for a whole blog post so I’m grouping four of them together in one.

So here’s the first one:

“I have oak cabinets that I can’t afford to replace. I need a smaller table for my kitchen.What color table Should I look for?”

Normally, I need a photo in order to give the right advice but I think this question is all too common because let’s face it, there are still lots of oak cabinets out there, right?

More oak will most likely look 80’s, and espresso brown tables and chairs (while certainly abundantly available) will look too much like “Dated kitchen, new furniture”.


via Emily Clark

You can purchase a table that looks just like this Saarinen table (above) from IKEA here.

white potterybarn

If that’s too modern for your taste or too small, then this white one from the Pottery Barn (above) is a great kitchen table. Goes with many chairs that you can tie into your existing colour scheme.

Here’s the second question:

I fall into the not a design/colour natural category for submitting a few pictures for “what is wrong with this room”.

I inherited a fine oriental rug from my parents and put it in the dining room of our turn of the century house. Somehow it doesn’t look right.
I wonder if the rug would go better in the adjacent room (living room).

The wall colour there is BM butte rock. We think that color may have pink undertones and the rug may have yellow undertones. In that case, it wouldn’t go in the living room either!
But we don’t know if we are seeing the undertones correctly.

Would sure appreciate your expert “eye” for helping us to figure out what is wrong with our room.


This is such a great question because I have been in MANY homes throughout my career where clients are trying really hard to work with this persian rug because it cost $10,000 and up or it was inherited, as in your case.

Unfortunately, trendy expensive furniture and furnishings dates just as fast as inexpensive home decor.

Here’s the thing, this rug will NEVER be beautiful no matter what you do with it. This is NOT an undertone/colour problem, it’s just a dated rug and we’re just not doing this anymore.

The trend with area rugs now are larger scale patterns. Your navy blue walls look great, but I hope you won’t be too cranky when I say that your rug has to go.

Here’s a watery one from Anthroplogie that relates to your sailboat painting.



blue dining room

via Stacy Bass

Your chairs should be upholstered in white or you could paint them the same colour as your existing trim and fireplace mantel.

Here’s the third question:

I found your Ask Maria column on your blog and figured I would see if you could help us. We just moved into an awesome new house but our living room is still unfinished because we are STUMPED. We painted the walls Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter  and bought a sofa (radley sofa from Macy’s, chrome) and now we are feeling drab and monochromatic.

We have no idea what colors will look good now and bought this green rug today to test out– lets just say we are not sold. Can you please help? Do we need to sell this sofa and just start over ? Thanks in advance. Signed:  totally not a designer 🙁


First, don’t worry about not being a designer, we all have our gifts!

Here’s what’s bothering you, your area rug is almost the same value as your taupey coloured sofa and there’s not enough contrast. You might have liked it more if it had your sofa colour in it but it doesn’t, so then it’s much harder to like it.

Should you nix the sofa? Well not for that rug because it’s not beautiful enough to keep.

Here’s a rug and some pillows that would work better with the taupe undertones of your sofa (below).



PillowsPottery Barn Rug

If you wanted green for this sofa, it needs to be a much brighter, fresher green which would feel a lot more current.


Then I would consider replacing your sofa because it’s starting to look too beige to work with a green this fresh.

Here’s the fourth question:

I’m happy with everything I’ve purchased to date except for my fatal error of pinky taupe dining chairs.  They are very comfortable to sit on for long dinners but the colour offends me every time I see it.

The room lacks soul and feels cold even to minimalist me.  I’m at a loss and don’t know how to proceed because I’m totally out of my element in this look.Would you please help me?


Okay so I have bad news, your chairs are too big for your Duncan Phyfe dining table. And you’re right, the pinky taupe chairs will never look right. You need to inject some yellow in this room to pick up the accents in your living room and the art in your dining room.


Serena & Lily

I would repeat the yellow in lamps on your sideboard too. Something like this inspiration photo below:

yellow lamp

via Victoria Smith

If you have a room that’s bothering you and you can’t figure out what it is, clean up the space, take some photos without flash and in good natural light, and email them here.

If you would like to transform the way you see colour, become a True Colour Expert.

Related posts:

Ask Maria: How Do I find a New Area Rug to Work with my Old Furniture 

Ask Maria: How do I work with Taupe and Blue Grey?

How to Choose an Area Rug

62 pins


  • Sue says:

    Loving your Ask Maria posts! You are such a blessing.

  • Linda Fitzgerald says:

    I wonder if the owner of the ‘Inherited, Persian Rug’ could find a professional company to dye her precious piece and make it current. I know the ‘over-dyed’ process is very popular now and is being applied to these heirlooms to bring them current and is right on trend.

    I just hate the thought of this precious gift being rolled up and put into a dusty corner of the basement or given away when there might be a solution.

  • Liz Palmer says:

    Maria, I just emailed my friend in NYC who owns Manhattan Wardrobe Supply. They have a fabulous daylight area. Maybe this will work for your class. U can reach her @ [email protected]

  • Donna says:

    I think the shape of the dining room is wrong for such a large rug. It pretudes into the doorway in an awkward way. If the rug represents family history, I’d design the living room around it even if it means painting. Styles go in and out so I’d keep something I love. It will be back or who cares? Pick a color from the rug and use it as an accent. I like Maria’s suggestions for the dining room chairs.

    • Brenda Schmidt says:

      I think you are right on, Donna!

      • mrsben says:

        I also agree with Donna, I would consider using it in the LR (or even a bedroom) before ruling it completely out. As for its replacement, I wonder if a Sea Grass one would work that she could have cut to size for the space and bound in a colour of her liking. (Do a web search: Cote de Texas sea grass carpet to see how versatile these rugs can really be.) -Brenda-
        P.S.: Another issue she may wish to address, is reupholstering her chairs in a different pattern/colour as it is something she can most likely do herself.

    • I agree that the rug doesn’t sit well in the dining room. I would not be quite so hasty to get rid of it either. Not everyone wants a contemporary space and this rug would have quality that many rugs today would not. I agree with Donna. If this rug is important to the homeowner, find a way to integrate it. Not every area rug needs to command attention. Some just sit quietly and provide a subtle pattern and warmth.

      • David says:

        Did someone just say that something people have been decorating their homes with since the 16th century is “dated”?

        • Maria Killam says:

          Haha, well I have NEVER seen this rug look amazing and I have seen it A LOT, there’s a large Persian community in Vancouver and I have been in MANY homes with this exact rug. Never had it looked fabulous. Also, I have worked with many clients who are simply held HOSTAGE by something really expensive that was bought years ago but is no longer their taste or something inherited. If that THING is holding up your entire decorating process, GET RID OF IT.

          And if there is a beautifully decorated room with this rug, please post a link, I am totally willing to be wrong! Maria

          • Carmen says:

            Seriously? I think you just don’t like that rug. It’s traditional, not dated.

            On the other hand, the shiny brown dining table is dated!

          • Salvin Hansen says:


            This is a great use of a traditional rug

          • Di says:

            I agree completely Maria. You have to be brave in these decisions some time. The new book that is selling millions of copies ‘tidying up’ is about what Maria is saying. If it doesn’t bring you joy, or is a problem every time you look at it… then letting it go will make you feel better. It isn’t right for the room.
            I also appreciate Maria saying she is willing to be wrong. In this case… she isn’t.

  • Darlene says:

    I enjoy reading the “ask Maria” posts – please keep them coming!!

  • Flying Carrot says:

    I loooove Donna’s idea to make the rug work in her LR. Sometimes, and especially with inherited pieces, we have to rethink.

    Another idea for the rug is to use it in a bedroom where the bed hides a good amount of it.

  • El says:

    Here’s a location that really complements your philosophy – an abandoned former Salvation Army building, located two blocks from the beach, is being rehabed into a hotel known as The Asbury, and opening in May 2016! Asbury Park has great energy and has been undergoing an amazing renaissance – check out this article in NY TIMES – And NO – I do not work for the hotel or the town – just live near it and LOVE IT!

  • Finding your blog was the most important thing I’ve done for my business in years. It’s provided validation to tell clients what I already suspected about their space. Your advice is always spot-on. I love the way in each of these cases, you are able to cut straight to the heart of the issue. Thanks for all of your helpful tips.

  • sandyc says:

    I love the suggestion of the white table with the oak cabinets. It’s really helped make my kitchen bearable since I haven’t been able to paint my oak cabinets white yet.

    Since Not a Designer recently bought the sofa and if she can’t return it, perhaps a good slipcover, even in a white, could rather inexpensively free her up to try other easier-to-swap accessories (rug, pillows, art) until she finds something that speaks to her. And maybe some googling of living rooms at HOUZZ and other sites might inspire her.

    I love all the yellow accents suggested to your fourth questioner. I’ve realized that inspired by your love of yellow and my loved golden yellow fall “aspens – they could be birches” artwork inspiration pic in my LR, yellow has become my second favorite color behind green of the fresh and yellow-kissed shade.

    This is a great idea for your Ask Maria column.

  • Carol Landt says:

    Wow, Maria, your advice in these rooms makes all the difference.

  • Kathie O says:

    If someone (me!) wanted to paint an 80s oak pedestal table to look like the Pottery Barn one in the photo what color of white would one (me!) use? Should I match my Swiss Coffee trim from that room?

    • mrsben says:

      Kathie: Hope you don’t mind ‘my two cents’ …. ☺ … but if your table top is in good condition you may just want to only paint the table’s pedestal and apron (leaving the top stained) particularly if it has matching chairs. -Brenda-

  • Maria, don’t you love questions like this?! It makes all the thought, effort and training
    Self training, in your case) all worth it! To be helpful to people who have humbled themselves and admitted their need is a great first step. Actually, they don’t realize that they have taken the 1st step— realizing that something just isn’t right.
    Your advice is so good– ineach case! Like a cool drink of water on a hot day. I would hope they send after photos so we can all see!
    Wish I could help the 1st gal get her DR chairs re- done! So easy & fun.
    Start your staple guns ladies! Best of change to all!!!

  • Jo says:

    I disagree about the Persian rug, especially since it is something that’s been handed down. If you love it, keep it. Who cares if it’s not trendy? I don’t get the whole trendy thing anyway. Decorate in the style you love, you’re the one living with it.

    The rug looks too big for the dining room, also not feeling the angled table, and why is there a sofa in the dining room? I’d put the rug in the living room and repaint that room to go with/compliment the rug. Then find a rug for the dining room that compliments the Persian but is a different style /pattern. You can totally make this work.

    The post about the oak furniture … to me, the white looks out of place with the oak. Or maybe it’s the other way around. In any case, I’d paint the oak up pronto (white or soft cream) then go look for a table.

    • Marguerite says:

      I think it depends on the quality of the rug. If its a 10K persian, (I can’t tell fro the photo, if the knots are tiny ) its worth using in a room. if its a less expensive on (say worth $1000 or less) then, Id give it to a relative who loves it. If it IS a fine persian it would look great in a room painted in a beige with the same undertone and an oxblood accent wall or even the whole room in that color (a library? den? ) with a light sofa and light floor underneath, with some oxblood sofa cushions and other accents. Not every room needs a trendy modern rug. A fine oriental rug IS timeless. I just cant tell from the photo if this one is.

      • Lisa says:

        Exactly. If this is machine-woven in an “Oriental” style, never mind how much it cost. But if it is hand-woven, or even better, antique and hand-woven I think you could make a room around it – white walls, eclectic furnishings in multiple colors – the “boho” look that is popular these days. Imagine a post-modern table, metal chairs, colored cushions etc.

  • Some Persian rug companies will consign expensive Persian rugs. They become like fine art. Maybe she should have it appraised to find its worth. I like the idea of putting it in a bedroom if she really wants to keep it however. I love the rug you suggested for her but feel that it is too contemporary for the rest of her furniture. The sisal would be a better choice.

    I aways like these posts and the feedback you get!

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    I think your third question is a perfect example of what happens when folks paint the room before the furnishings are selected. Now the paint color is bossing them around.

  • Adrian says:

    Ha, I had to laugh- “this rug will never look amazing” printed right on the picture! I LOVE your honesty, and totally agree- not just about the rug’s virtues but the whole concept of trying to make something fit just because (insert so many reasons). Of course, I am going to try to get my act together and send you pictures and questions about all the stuff of my grandmother’s I wont get rid of! But, she was hip and cool and I like her stuff better than anything I’ve purchased so far 🙁 That anthro rug is stunningly perfect, BTW

  • Ann says:

    I agree with Lisa. Keep the Persian rug but use it in a different room. Add some boho elements to keep it fresh. Make sure you mix new elements with old, like the dining table and a fresh new rug. For the Persian rug, update it with some modern style furnishings or even some slip overs and pull out an accent color in the rug. It’s really hard to tell in the picture what accent color to use. Add a little bit of black too.

  • Kay says:

    Love the blue rug and pillows for the living room. Hope she gets them, they would make everything look so good.

    Agree with comments about keeping the Persian rug and building an eclectic, colorful room around it. I admire those rooms so much in pictures, but one has to make decisions and, unless you want to throw out and bring in all new, there is always something bossing you around.

    Which brings me to the other dr. The table is so small that six of any chair might be too much. And comfy chairs when you give dinner parties are a major factor in keeping your guests happy. (The craze for benches and hard chairs around dr tables puzzles me, unless you never give dinner parties.) So I don’t agree with losing the chairs. Can’t they be slip covered? And multiple chairs are expensive– more so than a dining room table on sale. Is there room for a larger table?

    The other thing that would make the room feel less cold is to bring in a touch of informality. It looks stiff. And the table is bare–you need something pretty on it. Balance the tall lamps on the buffet with something lower, maybe a group of three at different levels. Bring in some asymmetry. Mix it up a bit!

  • Michelle says:

    Hi Maria, Finding your blog has been such a delight. I’ve been reading it for a couple of months and bought your ebook How to Choose Paint Colors. Your are so incredibly talented; I’m continually impressed with your expertise and your willingness to share it. I’ve been pouring over your past blogs and learning so much! I love your Ask Maria posts. I don’t feel confident in offering any feedback on the dilemmas (yet) but thanks to you, I’m getting there.

  • Mary says:

    That rug, if real and not a lesser copy, is TIMELESS.

  • Karen says:

    I agree with all the objections about your opinion on the Persian rug. The rest of the comments/opinions seemed helpful. The thing is, design is subjective!

  • Rob says:

    Whatever that colour is in the living room, it works much better with the rug than that blue. paint the dining room the same colour and reassess the issue, The blue needs to go, should not be anywhere near the mahogany table and chairs.

    • Rob says:

      I would also add that this is the dining room and the focus should be on the table. Choose what works with it and the chairs.

  • Joanna says:

    I think a white table would look perfect in the oak kitchen. Love your inspiration picture from
    Pottery Barn.
    As far as the Persian rug being valuable or not, it will never suit that room – too big and too drab. I think a sea grass bound rug would be lovely. Don’t cheap out on one, as the less expensive ones shed. I also like the idea of reupholstering the chairs in white to lighten the set.
    It seems the homeowner likes her chairs in the modern dining room. Replace the table with a lmore substantial one, so the chairs are in proportion.
    And lastly, the easiest fix is to paint your walls a different color. Perhaps, a fresh white.
    Maria, it is very generous of you to take the time to answer questions. I really enjoy your input.

  • David says:

    I think I would go this colour way with the oriental rug

  • BillP says:

    Regarding the third question, the rug is too small.
    Whatever the solution, it needs to be a bigger rug, with a decent pad, or the result will look cheap.

  • Julie says:

    I also think Persian rugs are classics that can be styled in a modern way. I think this rug is wrong for the shape of the room and the paint color and white trim are not working with it. Hopefully the rug can be used in another room – I wouldn’t redecorate around it when the placement is awkward.
    I have original, bossy elements in my 100 year old house’s living room – dark wood trim and green fireplace tile – and I hesitate to even ask what paint color to go with because I love these features and want to work around them. I’m even thinking of trying the Persian rug my mother is offering me 😉 The finished effect I’m going for would be more organic & heirloom, not studied perfection.

  • Marilyn Gilak says:

    Hi! Have you heard about most of the stainless steel appliances of just about every brand from high to low end rusting? It’s been not from what people are cleaning them with, but because of lower to no nickel being used in them anymore. So..I know the younger crowd loves stainless steel, and I considered it for resale purposes, but not now. Appliances are too expensive for this to keep happening! I just thought this would be an important issue to address on your blog. Thanks for all your great advice!

  • Stephanie says:

    While I love a good oriental rug, I agree with Maria that the rug in question is just “blah”–what my first boss at my first design job called “dried blood and dirty mud”. Someone posted a pic from StyleMePretty blog, which featured an oriental but in VERY DIFFERENT, much more vibrant colors and a better scale of a pattern. Those rugs like the one in this person’s house look cheap, even when they are expensive. And who wants to live/work with THAT?

  • Stephanie says:

    If I could chime in one more time: I, too find Maria’s directness very inspiring. Bad news, given kindly but directly, is much more well, kind, than than stringing a client along, letting her think certain things will make her design vision work if they are allowed to stay. We are the custodian of her vision. We do her no service by not being honest, but this is HARD–these are things people have chosen and thus are very personal. With that in mind, I thank you, Maria. BYW, IMO: table and chairs in that dining room have a finish from which no room will recover…., especially with the navy walls, and no rug on the earth will change that. Why not channel Dorothy Draper and put a fresh, white coat of paint on them, since I know replacing them will be costly? The room is one decision (table color) away from being fresh and current while still classic (assuming the rug goes, of course!).

Leave a Reply