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How to Find More Money for Home Decor

By 04/02/2013March 24th, 2022113 Comments

Canopy bed

I follow this great blog called Social Triggers. Recently, Derek was interviewing an author named Dan Heath who wrote a book called Decisions: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work.

It’s a very interesting podcast that I think EVERYONE could learn from. Check it out here. Unless you’re someone that never makes a bad decision, haha.

Anyway, he says, good decisions tend to be different for different people. If you and I make decisions and they are wrong, it’s because we fell into a finite number of traps.

This book addresses the notion that there are predictable traps we all fall into when making decisions.

1. Narrow framing. Tendency to unduly limit our choices when we make decisions.

2. Confirmation bias. The tendency to seek out information that flatters our existing beliefs, in other words, we go looking for information that supports what we want to do/believe all along.

3. Short term emotions. Our decisions are conflicted because of short term stresses and emotions.

4. Over-confidence. We think we know more than we do about how the future is going to unfold.


Dan says when people start making decisions they restrict their decisions too quickly.

They actually did a study on decisions that teenagers make and saw that they don’t look at multiple options or more than one option. Instead they look at it from a ‘whether or not’ perspective. Should I go to the party tonight or not? It’s just one thing being considered and it’s yes or no.

But when they researched organizations, they found that managers made decisions the same way. It was fascinating to them that these huge multi-national organizations made decisions the same way a teenager would.

An example of this is a guy was in a stereo store, trying to decide whether he should buy this stereo for $700 or the more expensive one for $1000. He was comparing each feature and going back and forth until a salesperson walked up to him and said “Which would you rather have, the $1000 stereo or the $700 one + $300 worth of music.

Well, he immediately chose the stereo and the music.

So the question to ask instead is: “What’s the next best thing I could do with this time and money?”


Imagine that all your current options vanish. They are gone. What else would you do?

When I consult with my clients, there are many decisions they have already made before I arrive or before we get on the phone in a long-distance consultation.

They have made some of these decisions because they simply don’t know that there are options, alternatives to what they are about to do.

Hallway colour

Here are a few examples:

“I have brown carpet in my stairs and hallways but the bedrooms have the original white carpet. We want to sell the house in 4 years and it’s already 13 years old. I want to replace the white carpet with laminate flooring, which colour should I choose?”

My answer was to leave the white carpet or replace it with new carpeting if you really can’t live with it right now. 4-5 years from now when you go to sell, your house will basically be almost 20 years old so potentially someone will take out all the carpet at that point and replace it with the same carpeting or the same hardwood flooring. So replacing the white carpet with laminate that isn’t going to match any other flooring in your house is not an upgrade.

Leave the white carpet in there, clean it, and spend your money on new inexpensive slipcovered furniture instead. Decorate your main living areas to create a look and a feel because that is what a new buyer will notice the most. Not whether the flooring in the bedrooms (which does not match the hallways) is new or not.

“Which granite should I install in my 20 year old bathroom?”

“Neither, instead if you are not renovating your bathroom at all, then a laminate countertop is all you need to freshen the look. Stone in an old bathroom will simply look like “Yesterday and Today” all in one space.

Should I install 8 pot lights in my dark living room?

Pot lights will still not give you the same kind of atmosphere as 4-6 new lamps will provide in the same room.

And the list goes on. There are so many ways to slice your renovation pie and get even a better look that you ever imagined.

Blue bedroom

My recent landscaping project is another example. We had this huge triple rhododendron shrub growing in a clump in the middle of my backyard. I was going to have it ripped out along with everything else until one landscaper suggested we move it to cover the bald spot on the cedar bushes in the corner of my backyard that was created by an old shed that was removed.

I did not consider that for a second. I just thought there were two options, (back to how teenagers make decisions again), “Remove them, or leave them”. And leaving them sitting in the middle of my garden looking old and mature with all new small and tiny bushes and plants installed around them was not an option. However, sitting in front of cedar shrubs in the corner of my garden, is perfect because now we don’t need to wait for anything to grow there.

So, before you decide that there are only two ways to do something, consider some more options, ask more questions and you may find that you have more money to create a look and a feel which is what we all want in our homes anyway!


Related posts:

The Enchanting World of Atmosphere

How to Create Instant Atmosphere in Your New House

Two Questions to Ask Before you Renovate/Decorate

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk in, become a client. On-line or In-person.

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert. April in Toronto and Vancouver in May.


6 pins


  • Agnes P says:

    Great tips Maria (as always)! I totaly agree with your advices on white carpet and granite counters.. there is nothing worse than mixing upgrade with old, which will scream: I need to be replaced!

  • Love your examples! Last year we sold our home. We’d done small cosmetic upgrades but the biggest was ripping out 70’s shag carpeting, exposing the hardwood. I always kept small updating with curtains, accessories, lighting so it looked fresh and new but not an unbalanced “new with old” look. Prospective buyers that looked at the kitchen sputtered when they saw we didn’t have granite countertops but perfect condition laminate. I knew putting in granite would only make the kitchen look worse…not better! Eventually the buyer we got said “Oh I love the vintage looking countertops!” Granite is not always an upgrade one wants to choose. 😉

  • Sydney says:

    Hi Maria:
    I recently discovered your blog and have to say I absolutely love it. I have read many of your archived articles as well as all of your post for selling design. I am not an interior designer, rather I run a custom drapery workroom, so I’m constantly working with colors and patterns and it’s great to learn more about colors.
    I do have a design dilemma in my own home I could use a little help with. I’m refinishing the cupboards in my kitchen with Rust Oleum’s Kona stain, and have purchased used butcher block which I will be installing as my countertops. I would like to install some sort of backsplash, but can’t decide what and I know you are a big fan of subway tile, but to be honest I really hate it. Any suggestions. Should I skip the tile, go with paint, do something else.
    Any suggestions would be great.
    Thank you,

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Sydney, Since your kitchen will not have white or cream in it, your backsplash tile should coordinate with the wall colour you choose. It does’t have to be subway tile, 4″ x 4″ on a diagonal is another option. Maria

  • Rene says:

    My parents are (finally) updating their house. They tore walls out many years ago but never replaced the flooring, which ended up making patchwork vinyl and hardwood. I know the right thing to do is put in all new flooring, but my mom really loves her hardwoods and wants to refinish them. She’s also dead set in keeping the paneling in the part of the room that has the ancient vinyl that MUST be replaced and bumps up against the hardwood since the walls were removed and the space opened up. Is there any other option that keeps the hardwood but replaces the vinyl with tile, bamboo, etc? The space is an open kitchen/living concept. Thanks, I have learned so much from you!

    • KJ says:

      If she will refinish the hardwoods anyway, can you add new matching unfinished hardwood and have it all finished at the same time? We had carpet in a front hallway but hardwoods in the entry on into the kitchen. We ripped out the carpet, added the same white oak hardwoods and had the whole floor handscraped and refininshed. You can’t tell what was the old and new floor.

      • Maria Killam says:

        Yes if you can find the same hardwood, continue that to replace the vinyl. Otherwise another vinyl or tile is really your only option. Maria

  • Coleen says:

    What a great invitation! I have brass in my house–Early 90’s style. (House built in 1994, oak, if that helps visualize) Brass door knobs, brass shower door, brass chandelier. All brass. Bleh. And some of that brass is shiny and some is that strange darker color. We have some seriously ugly sconces that even my husband wants replaced, and chandelier that I would be thrilled to depart with, a bathroom fixture that needs to be replaced, and a broken ceiling fan which is the main crux of the problem. I need a new fan (which is located next between the ugly sconces) and want to replace other things fairly soon. Gray carpet, oak trim, white walls with dreams to redo walls. Getting new furniture.
    So, what metal colors do I buy for ceiling fan, lights, and all else? I feel that black is a bit harsh and am not sure about the whole oil rubbed bronze. My husband wants the new ceiling fan before summer and I am paralyzed by indecision on metal colors. If I buy one thing in a color I am stuck. (Ceiling fan is 20 feet up so professional install = $$$)
    Metal color advice would be so helpful!

    • paula Ryan says:

      Coleen, I don’t know what Maria would say, but recently updated 2 early 90’s homes with the same brass, orangey oak trim everywhere. We are in the midwest and people are pretty conservative here, the brown stage is still here as well. Both homes we changed out hardware and lights to oil rubbed bronze. We took down the dated wall paper, one person wanted some bright paint colors, the other neutral colors. They both looked amazing when done, both customers were really happy. I can send you some before/after pictures if you want.

    • Maria Killam says:

      I have an oil rubbed bronze light fixture in my entry because it coordinates with the adjoining living room with black accents (couldn’t find a black light fixture last year, the lighting world takes time to move trends), I have brushed nickel egg shaped doorknobs throughout the house and chrome knobs and pulls in the kitchen because it’s white and I liked the bling.

      I would coordinate your metals with how you are decorating each space, it doesn’t all have to be the same. An overall guideline would be that if your house is full of earth tones, go with more oil-rubbed bronze and if you are moving to the grey trend in your decorating, use more brushed nickel, etc.

      Light fixtures are hard, most of them are ugly and it takes a lot of searching to find the ones custom to your house. Hire someone to help you if you can. Here is my lighting Pinterest board that might help:

  • Great post Maria. When my clients ask me their “either or” decorating questions, I just love seeing their reaction of “Ah ha! That’s it!” when my alternative solution is the answer that they’ve been looking for. Best reward of the job.

  • Frances says:

    Thanks for the post! Now I resolve to find a designer to take a look at our self-designed house plan before it is set in stone (waiting on estimates now). In the night I remembered I have some Christmas gift $ to spend so my husband will surely agree. I’ll send him this link–any other convincing link suggestions I could send him?

  • Lisa says:

    Great post! I think I fell victim to this way of decision making when we renovated our kitchen last year. I loved espresso colored cabinets which we had installed, along with a light beige/gray tiled floor with pewter gray grout, creamy giallo ornamental granite, and a white subway tile back splash. Now all I read is about white kitchens and I’m having some buyers remorse! We painted our walls that trendy green that you see all the time with blues/turquoise. Now I’m not happy with it. I’m thinking about pulling a light warm gray color out of the granite for the walls and making a yellow patterned roman shade for the window above the sink for a pop of color. My question is, would this help my kitchen feel warmer and more inviting? I can’t stop thinking I made a mistake and I keep telling myself we can always paint them white later if espresso is totally outdated in a few years! I would love your opinion!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Lisa,
      I don’t personally have a sample of your granite in front of me but it looks like there’s more green beige tones in it than green grey (on-line) but I would test HC-83 Grant Beige or HC-81 Manchester Tan or Edgecomb Gray/Revere Pewter. I agree that will give you an update.
      Hope this helps, Maria

  • elle says:

    Thinking out of the box creatively! Thanks for this opportunity to ask a question. I have a 1930’s farmhouse. It is in the ‘process’ of being repainted. The red fir floors are being refinished and stained a light to medium walnut. The woodwork is becoming Simply white. yahoo! The dining and sitting room (north and east) are golden honey with a glazed textured finish. The south facing kitchen will be something like Hawthorn with white cabinets. My question – The entrance hall has the stairs along the outer wall with two small south facing windows and turns at the top into another hall (6×10) with four rooms opening from it. Can I do a blue green in the entrance, a neutral/transitional green on the stairs and a yellow green in the up hall? Yellow and aqua are my two favourite colours. I’m thinking to make an island in the kitchen which is at the end of the hall aqua which would compliment the blue green entrance. If this is feasable can you recommend the green colours because that would help my headache go away! LOL

    • Maria Killam says:

      That sounds like fun. Well without knowing what existing greens are in your space that ideally the colours should relate to, look at Bali, Apple Blossom and golden hills, all in the BM Classic deck. Maria

      • elle says:

        You are the best! one more question. I do have the two fan decks but the names aren’t in the list. I did look at them on the BM site. I like! If I ask for chips at the store will they know?

  • monica says:

    Great post. Decorating is like dieting, a few changes make a big difference. You might not be a size 2 in a month, but you are better off than where you started.

  • Angela N says:

    Great post!! I also think it helps a bit to be removed from the situation. Sometimes if you are too close it makes it hard to see what needs changing.

    I am about to paint my downstairs bath which is also the guest bath. It has a off white shaker vanity, clam shell corian counter top, white toilet, and solid beige tiles in the shower. It also has creamy beige tile in there that will be replaced with hardwoods in the next year or 2 so for now I am ignoring them. It does have a window so it gets some natural light. I wanted to do a saturated color to go with the accent colors of the main living space- either navy or teal. I am second guessing going for the dark color. Is a saturated color wrong for the space?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Angela,
      I don’t think a saturated colour would be wrong. It doesn’t sound like there’s anything in there that would clash with navy or teal. I would go for it! Maria

  • Liz says:

    I have a 32 year old house. The guest bath has cultured marble countertops on the double sink vanity which need replacing due to condition. The rest of the bathroom has white fixtures and white tiles. My home style is traditional and the kitchen has been renovated with granite counters. I can get granite for the same price as replacement cultured marble. I am thinking in this case it would be better to use the granite even though I am not doing a full remodel?

  • I love this post! Thinking outside of the box of might take a little more time but the end result can be so much better than ever expected. I’m happy to hear that you found a new spot for your rhododendron. I had a similar one in my front yard that we moved to the back a few years ago and we are really able to enjoy it now. Can’t wait to see how your yard turns out!!

  • tara dillard says:

    Fear framed most of my choices in the past.

    After a career coaching weekend I came away with a method to look at ALL my choices, not only the fear choices.

    You know what happened next. I have yet to make a fear choice since that weekend.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  • mrsben says:

    Re decision making, ‘to thine own self be true’ and I have found a ‘pros and cons list’ to be helpful as well. ☺

    Re a question: My home is a split level that has two very wide staircases; one going to the upper level and the other to a large sunken Entertainment/Family Room. The kitchen is centrally located in the home adjacent to said areas plus provides access to the backyard. My dilemma is choosing appropriate/practical flooring for the kitchen area that will visually give a continuous flow with the engineered hardwood flooring that I plan to install in the other areas. As the current ceramic kitchen flooring now co-ordinates in colour with the carpeting I have now; I am having difficulty in visualizing a contrast will be as appealing. Realizing that many are installing hardwood in their kitchens my sense of practicality re our weather, our lifestyle etc. is telling me it may not be the wisest choice though it would make my decision much easier. As far as the staircases go, I definitely know I will be intalling a runner on them and be including an area carpet in the Entertainment/Family Room. Also, browns and beiges will be gone (am so totally tired of them) and I will be leaning more towards a gray palette throughout the home. Any thoughts and/or your input would be sincerely appreciated. Thank you!
    P.S: Perhaps I should also mention, the kitchen is a southern exposure with plenty of natural light that our attached Solarium provides with its many windows plus skylights and it has the same flooring as there is really no break between the two areas.

    • Maria Killam says:

      HI Brenda,
      Hmmm. . I don’t think I have anything earth shattering to say 🙂 If it would not be practical for you to introduce hardwoods in your kitchen and you are happy with the way the tile looks with your carpet then I’m not sure what to add? It sounds like you’re on the right track.

    • Colleen says:

      Hi MRSBEN,

      Just thought I would chime in regarding the hardwood floors. We consulted with Maria before giving our 1912 two storey a huge facelift. It had a mixture of carpet and hardwood, with 30 year old hardwood already in the kitchen. We ended up doing hardwood everywhere (refinishing the existing) and new carpet in the basement and we are so happy with the decision. Yes the first few dings and scratches were painful (I have 3 children under the age of 5) but I love the way there is no breaks between rooms and I really love the flow.
      Regarding climate we live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and we have a VERY dry climate with some pretty cold days in the Winter and lots of snow.

      • mrsben says:

        Hi Colleen: Thank you as well for your input and particularly for your honesty. “The first few dings are painful” is something I wanted to hear and if you survived it, perhaps I can as well. ☺

  • Lorrin says:

    Excellent post and so true!
    My question/dilemma is: What to do with a dated 20 year old kitchen with honey oak (low builder grade) wood cabinets and white laminate counter tops. We’ve recently upgraded the flooring on the main level from carpet to warm darker wood. We are unsure if we will be here for the next 5-10 years, so I’m hesitant to do a full reno in the kitchen. Painting the cabinets white and changing the counter tops is an option I hear you suggest often. Would that be best in this case? Thanks!!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Yes if the foot print works and the cabinets are in good condition I would definitely paint it and replace the countertops.

  • Thanks for sharing this insight, Maria! I can see how I’ve made decisions this way in the past, and I know I’ve got clients experiencing the same thing. A good reminder to be a bit more mindful.

  • Stephanie says:

    I have a dilemma and would really appreciate your advice. Three years ago we replaced all the carpet in our house with hardwood. For our main floor we selected Asian walnut and for the upstairs we chose Brazilian cherry. (In retrospect we should have done all cherry but wanted more “drama” downstairs. Also the sample we decided from did not have the strong orange undertones of the installed walnut floors. But we need to work with what we have.) My dilemma concerns the honey oak staircase. How should I refinish it so it works better with both floors, but especially the walnut? I want to diminish the grainy-ness of the oak as well as select a color that works with mid-tones in the walnut but isn’t too dark with the cherry. I’ve been considering General Finishes Gel Stain in Java. Your thoughts on that? Any other suggestions on how to make things look more harmonious? Thanks for your help!

    • KJ says:

      Our hardwoods were “80’s orange” when we moved in. We had them refinished in a Duraseal Coffee Brown. It’s a dark brown but with an undertone that would probably work well with your other floors. Make sure you get the stain sampled onsite before choosing.

    • Maria Killam says:

      I don’t think oak coordinates with either. It’s too countrified. I would paint it the trim colour.

      • Stephanie says:

        Our trim is white (Behr Swiss Coffee). The balusters and risers are already painted. Are you suggesting the newels, handrail and treads be painted white too? Wouldn’t that look too contemporary and too light? My home is pretty traditional.

        • Maria Killam says:

          Hi Stephanie, this may be a question that I can’t answer in this format without seeing images. Banisters are always a dilemma when the flooring is updated. I agree that painting it all out might not be perfect but keeping it the way it is, also isn’t perfect. Maria

  • KJ says:

    Our hardwoods were “80’s orange” when we moved in. We had them refinished in a Duraseal Coffee Brown. It’s a dark brown but with an undertone that would probably work well with your other floors. Make sure you get the stain sampled onsite before choosing.

  • Kim says:

    Thank you Maria, for another great post.
    My bathroom will have to wait for a total remodel while the money is going to other projects in the house. All the fixtures are white, wall tile is bone/almond?, floor is dark sage slate tile. I’m going to spend a little money to update it with a new white shower curtain, and white blinds on the window. I do like an almost all white bathroom, with a small amount of color. My question is about the vanity. It’s a medium builder’s grade wood and I want to paint it, it will eventually be replaced. Should I paint it white, or maybe the dark sage of the floor? Something else you think would work?The hardware is oiled rubbed bronze. Thank you for your help!

    • Maria Killam says:

      I would paint it white because it will feel more current than sage green although that is certainly your second option. THe colour should relate to something. You’re on the right track. Maria

  • Laura says:

    I’m considering buying a house that is perfect in many ways (location, schools, neighborhood, price, square footage) but I’m having trouble getting past the cedar paneling covering almost every inch of the one large main room (encompassing LR, DR, and kitchen). It has a 30-foot chalet ceiling with windows covering one wall of the house, looking into the woods. But the paneling screams 70s and cabin, and I like something more modern and I love pops of color. I love your blog and am desperate for advice! Thank you!!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Laura,
      If you paint it, you will have a cottage/cabin look yes. Keeping it I’m sure is not an option. All you can do is drywall over it. No magic here I’m afraid. Maria

  • Eliza says:

    My mother lives in a 200 year old house. As with many old houses, the floors are a combination of woods. Some rooms have (orange) pumkin pine floors, others black walnut (stripes of grey and yellow), and a few switch abruptly from one the the other where a 100 year old renovation changed the origional floorplan. We love the history of the big old floorboards, but is there some way to downplay the patchwork effect without changing the floors?

    • Maria Killam says:

      There’s no solution to downplay it that I know. It’s one of the biggest mistakes people make I’m afraid.

      Appreciate it for what it is, is all you can do. Maria

  • Jason says:

    Hi Maria,

    My question is grout colour. We are putting in black and white hex (1 inch) with a black border on the floor of our powder room and shower, and white subway on the shower walls. The shower will not be used often but it is our main bath. Love the white grout in magazines, but I am worried about keeping it clean with two young kids and a dog. What do you think, should we go for pale grey? Thanks!

  • Barbara Travis says:

    Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to help with readers design dilemmas. I want to replace the centre light over my kitchen island. It is Uba Tuba granite installed in l997 (I know it’s not your favourite but there isn’t a great deal of it.) Should I look for two hanging pendants or go with a fixture that has a bar fixed to the ceiling (the ceiling electrical outlet is off centre over the island so it means an electrician will have to move it slightly. The island is 38″ long & 61″ long.

    Thank you Maria.

  • Bibianna Maddox says:

    I just found your website and blog! I am just a homeowner trying to repaint a 1995 home we just purchased to fit with our furnishings. I have been trying to decide on paint colors for each room and how to make it all flow correctly. I bought your ebook and read it within an hour. Your system makes sense. So thank you for sharing all your knowledge and advice!
    Now, let’s see if I can identify the undertones correctly!

  • Carol Landt says:

    Hi Maria,

    Thanks in advance for offering to answer a question! We recently purchased a new townhouse in a city as a second home. It’s about 2300 sq ft; the lower level has been my decorating focus thus far with kitchen, (breakfast nook vs. a small computer den?), large open dining-living, master bedroom, and a bath and a half.

    My design dilemma has to do with the space on the second level. There are two bedrooms/bath on one end and a media room on the other end. BUT between those two zones there’s an open (to lower level dining/living) loft area with a wrought iron staircase leading up. Obviously what first comes to mind is that it could be a library/office but if we use the small breakfast nook by the kitchen as a small cozy nook/office combo it would be unnecessary.

    Thus I’m hoping for some FUN ideas for that loft and will consider anything! Craft area has been suggested but I’m not so inspired by that. Help! I think the media room can do double duty and function as a game room when the college kids visit. The media room has a door to eliminate extra noise. There are high windows on the opposite side of the living/den below but the loft is on the shared wall side of the townhouse, so no windows.

    By the way, on the lower level my inspiration has been more contemporary/simple/sparse than ever before (loving all that) and in colors that read PEACEFUL to me = lots of blues, turquoise, greens with a neutral/soft yellow wall color. I’ve added some punches of yellow and red here and there.

    Thank you very much, Maria and readers, for your thoughts! –Carol (Texas – it may help to know that)

    p.s. LOVE that floral carpet in your hallway picture!

    • Maria Killam says:

      I like the library idea with seating. The more upholstered seating you have in your house that fills up areas like that, the more luxurious it will feel. Maria

  • Connie says:

    This is a very helpful post! We are buying a new home with honey oak cabinets, doors, woodwork everywhere in an open concept. We have a budget for decorating and are going in circles with decision making. The kitchens needs new counters, floors, paint, hardware, lights and appliances. This is likely our last home (retirement) We painted all the oak to white in current home and don’t want to do that again. It will probably be too expensive to do everything if we get cabinets re-stained or replaced. And definitely won’t be able to change all the other oak. We don’t want odd new and old odd situation —- can you help us ask other questions and not do the “either or thing” ???? All the walls need paint. Main bathroom needs updating also. I was leaning toward getting an overall plan in place, doing what we can afford now, and then doing more as we live there and funds are available. If so, how do we proceed?

  • mairi says:

    Thanks for this opportunity Maria! I am learning so much from others’ dilemmas too.
    My question involves exterior door colours and shutters. I welcome colour suggestions! My siding is BM 2137-40 Desert Twilight (a gray/green) with crisp white trims. House is Anne of Green Gables style and vintage.
    The ‘everyday door’ is set on an angle near the side of the house and the front door is under a covered veranda. A third door on the second level veranda accesses a small roof deck there). My thought is to have the front door one colour and the remaining two the other colour. Then which colour for shutters?
    The garage doors (against weathered barnwood) are painted the same colour as the house to make them blend in/disappear. Recommendations? Thanks!

    • Maria Killam says:

      HI Mairi,
      I would look to your roof colour to coordinate the shutters or do a darker version of Desert Twilight. It’s all I can suggest without seeing the house. It’s possible that you could paint the shutters the same colour as the door for some colour but that does not apply to every house. Maria

      • mairi says:

        Right you are! How could I overlook the largest dimension- the roof? (which is brown)…This would be sensible for shutter colour and for the front door maybe a related copper tone would unify everything. So that leaves the two side doors..maybe a darker version of the house colour would be better on them than introducing a new colour… I can relegate the planters and porch chairs for that..
        Thanks Maria…

  • Tania Romaniuk says:

    Hi! I have a kitchen from 1987 with white tile floor with grey marbling and cherry stained oak cabinets. My either/or question is do I need to replace the floor since I want white cabinets? There is a dining room adjoining with light hardwood and a family room with light laminate.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Tania,
      In a perfect world I would take out all the flooring so that it can be the same, you can paint your kitchen a white as long as it relates to the white tile, there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • Sharon says:

    Just a huge thanks Maria for such a great post, but especially being willing to answer these decision dilemmas!

  • Mindy says:

    Hi Maria,
    Love your blog and love this post! I have a dilemma around ceiling fans. We’re getting ready to redo our master bedroom and we currently have a ceiling fan in the ceiling. While we love the breeze the ceiling fan gives us on hot nights, we don’t necessarily love the look of most ceiling fan options out there. I did find one alternative, but it’s at a huge cost ($300+). See the pin I created showing the option here:

    I’m feeling like we either need to go with the expensive option above or not have a ceiling fan. Do you have any other suggestions? ( FYI… Our ceilings are 8 foot ceilings)


    • Maria Killam says:

      I think a ceiling fan should coordinate with the style of your house so I can’t suggest a random one for you, but you’re right, they are mostly ugly. I’m not crazy about the one you are considering though, I would still do a regular ceiling fan instead of one that looks like a fan. Maria

  • monica says:

    Hey Maria,
    Monica again, with a question this time instead of a comment. My dilemma is what to do with the space above my kitchen cabinets. Decorative object on top of them seem passe however, my ceilings are 12ft tall and my cabinets don’t go all the way to the ceiling. My walls are Manchester Tan as are my cabinets. The back splash is travertine tiles that have the same undertones along with granite that is mostly cream (same undertones) with a little black and mocha veining. My home is very neutral- Manchester Tan throughout and the kitchen is open to living/dining area. Should I paint that area a different color or framed artwork? I haven’t pulled the trigger on any accents colors, so I am open to add some(not crazy, soft?) color to pull it all together. Very appreciative of you giving your talent.

  • Judy says:

    I am stuck. Have gold walls in living room and eggplant in dinning room and the house is from the ’70’s and so very dark and I’d like to paint it a light white. However, a year from now I am up for a loan modification again(lender won’t do more than two years) and have no idea what the lender will do. I find the dark walls depressing. Do I tackle a wall at a time hoping that they will do another loan Mod or least to make me feel better??

    • Maria Killam says:

      Absolutely. Or count your lamps. You should have at least 4 – 10 lamps or sources of ambient light in your living/dining room to bring the place to life if it’s dark. My clients RARELY have enough lamps but I would choose lamps in a dark space before I’d re-paint if I had to choose, that’s how important ambient light is.

    • mrsben says:

      @Judy: Regarding Maria’s suggestion for adding additional lighting to the space for ambience, I totally agree with her. In event you do not have access to outlets to accommodate the placement you require you may be interested in the DIY project indicated below.

      Web search: View Along The Way LAMP HACK “How to Make A Lamp Cordless”. The post you wish is dated August 20th/2012 wherein it is explained how to do it using LED Flexible Ribbon Lighting. Also ‘below the comment section’ under ‘Trackbacks’ there is a link as to how to do the same if your lamp uses a conventional type lampshade. The instructions might sound intimidating and difficult but it is quite easy to do as I’ve tried it and it works! -Brenda-
      Footnote: Instructions as to how to light up a bookcase is also included.

  • Kat says:

    Hi Maria!

    Love the blog and ebook!

    My home is a traditional mid seventies ranch in the Midwest, USA. We have a galley kitchen with a separate dining room on one side and a eat in area with huge bay windows on the other. To get more counter space in the kitchen, my husband is suggesting we add an island in the eat in area. We use the dining room for meals. It would prohibit future buyers from being able to put in a table and would block some of the view from the windows. Should we do this or just leave it be? Thank you for your insight!

    • Maria Killam says:

      If it would look like you added an island to the eating area then I would not do it unless this is your forever house. My aunt did that very thing in her kitchen and I think it looks very bad. Maria

  • Lia says:

    Hello Maria!

    I am trying to choose one paint color for my open concept areas – kitchen, great room, foyer. There are cherry cabinets and wood floors, santa cecelia granite, and it is mostly south facing. I have used bm powell buff, bm quiet moments, and sw mega greige in other parts of the house. I’ve read your ebook and blog. I am leaning toward powell buff or stone hearth. What would you choose? Or do you have other suggestions? thank you!!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Lia, I’m guessing that Powell Buff will look the best with your cherry cabinets. Stonehearth might start looking pink beside them because of the pink in that colour. Maybe try Standish White as well if you want something different than the Powell Buff since it’s existing in your house. Maria

  • mandy says:

    hI marIa! PlannIng some exterIor paIntIng for the sprIng. our house Is a lIght blue grey colour.. wIth all whIte trIm and accents. Im consIderIng a new colour for just the foundatIon and cement staIrcase whIch are currently whIte and chIpped away and old lookIng. would you do a darker blue grey? Im consIderIng the same colour for the garage whIch Is currently all whIte . so the lIght grey on the cement blocks.. darker grey blue trIm and am thInkIng eIther navy or red for the door and garage door. does thIs sound okay? havent got any chIps yet….

  • wren says:

    Hi Maria,
    Big decision- what to do with maple kitchen cabinets apprx 5 yrs old/maple floors. Too much maple. Picture worth 1000 words.
    Could you follow link & I would so appreciate your expert opinion! Thanks you!

    • wren says:

      If this was your home, what would you do to tone down & coordinate the whole space? Please include any suggestions for wall color/backspash/ cabinet color? A suggestion so far was classic gray on cabinets/ london fog on wall/ grayish backspash. I’m torn on what to do with cabinets-is there an alternate method besides paint to tone down?

  • Kate says:

    Love the way you teach!

    I just bought a condo and will be replacing the floor. Because I have a dog I’m trying to decide between laminate (with pad so it doesn’t click, click, click) and vinyl planks that look like wood. Do you have an opinion?

    • Maria Killam says:

      I was in a clients home just the other day who had vinyl planks and they looked great. I think as long as you find a colour that is right, either one would work. Maria

  • Susan says:

    Looking for a kitchen paint color to tie together a variety of surfaces. I have natural maple Shaker cabinets,a bay window in natural cherry, and a laminate floor in “Baltic Birch” that looks good (trust me!) with both of them and with the adjacent DR’s oak hardwood with a natural cherry stain. The counters are a Silver Sea Green granite with coppery flecks, so it appears much less gray than the typical SSG. The granite was chosen to complement some unique Mexican accent tiles, all in the same color family of cobalt blue, moss green, and terracotta. The rest of the backsplash is a sort of mottled ivory with flecks of terracotta, and the grout is terracotta. The walls have been a buttery yellow for 10 years, and I’m looking for a new color. A couple of terracotta-ish swatches actually looked pretty with most everything except the cherry window seat which is smack in the middle of the two wall areas that aren’t covered by cabinets. I’m trying to find a paint color (probably a green) that will work with everything else. I’ve been paralyzed by about 100 Behr and BM swatches – 5 made it to large samples, but all seem too yellowish or grayish. Our home is mostly in blues, greens, aquas, with lots of natural wood for doors, windows, and furniture.
    Any suggestions?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Susan,
      Without seeing images of all these colours it would really be impossible for me to give you accurate colour advice. Maybe a consult would be needed for this dilemma?

  • Cindy Huntress says:

    Hi Maria,
    Love the tips on making decisions. Been caught in those kinds of bad decisions enough times to find a new way. So, seeking other ideas.
    My current design issue is in my Master Bedroom. It has green based beige carpet, med to dark furniture, an upholstered chair that will be redone, a vaulted ceiling, and lots of southern light. The duvet cover is Pottery Barn’s ‘Charlie’ which has wedgewood grey, moss green, marine blue and sort of a marscapone base. I don’t want beige walls. I’ve considered a 50/50 tinted wedgewood grey. Three problems; one, all the artwork for that room is clean with little to no greying in the colors; two, ceilings white or wall color?; three, every time I picture the whole room blue it makes me hesitate. The room is 15’5″ x 16’6″ and currently a navajo white which is the wrong color but, I like how bright and open it feels. I’m concerned it will feel dark and closed in. Any thoughts?

    • Maria Killam says:

      I love blue master bedrooms. Also it looks like quite a grayed blue, like BM Wickham gray? Test some out and see which one is right.

  • Elise says:

    So here is my question. The universal honey oak trim which my husband has said, in our house, his one rule is thou shalt not touch.
    My family room is one of those rooms that has a ceiling like one big wacky triangle…look at my couch and it looks as if it is the base of a triangle, with lots of little ‘fun’ ceiling angles thrown in. It also has 12-13 different walls in the room (yes, truly. don’t ask. They used jogs in the walls to create sections in the room.)
    I would like a shade in the realm of yellows that goes with LOTS honey oak and some gray I want to add. Could you suggest ideas for yellowish colors that go well with honey oak and my wacky room? Or can I do yellow at all with my ceiling? I read your post of ceilings and probably think you have to paint the whole room the same color….Maybe yellowish would be too much?
    Or, do I stick with the white I have, which I don’t really want to do because it is a cold awful shade of white, which I knew before I read your blog. Maybe a cream or something.
    So, I guess yellowish suggestions/ideas or an alternative would be great.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Maybe BM Standish White or Philadelphia Cream?
      It does sound like it should all be the same. Maria

      • Elise says:

        Thank you! When you paint an angled ceiling with all the same color, so you keep it full strength or do only a %?
        Would all of this look weird with my gray (purple undertone) carpet? I ask because it almost had a beigey look to the colors.
        I am starting to think people overuse neutrals and they should be part of decor, not the main attraction.
        I love, love, love your blog. And cringe when I see pink beige.

  • Kim says:

    Hi Maria, I have a question about my bedroom and hallway closets and trim. All the trim in the house is white. Do you think it’s better to paint closet doors the same color as the room or white like the trim? I’m thinking if the closet doors are white it will chop up the room some (my rooms aren’t very large and my room colors are medium shades), but if I paint them the same color as the room, should they still be trimmed in white or should that trim be also the same color as the walls and closet doors to make them blend in with the walls even more? I’ve been confused about this, please help! Thanks again for taking the time to answer our questions, you are the best!

    • Maria Killam says:

      I only suggest painting out the closets the same colour as the walls when there is no casings. But if you feel like it would make the room feel bigger there’s nothing wrong with that. I would still keep the trim white though unless you paint out all the trim in the bedroom.

  • Maureen says:

    Hi Maria
    I have read every post you’ve written, and am slowly using your advice to get rid of or change everything that is wrong! I have decided to change the 4 year old kitchen countertops because of the dreadful pink undertones (counter) and yellowish/orange maple custom cabinets combination that I chose before I met your blog 🙁 It’s taken a lot of sweet talking to get Hubby to agree, but finally have found a laminate that works. $ is an issue, so no quartz.
    I am doing subway tile for the backsplash but the only thing white in the whole open concept living dining kitchen is the Ikea farmhouse sink. No white in the new laminate I’ve chosen either. In this case would it be alright to go with a more honey coloured subway tile, or should I stick to off white? All the walls are Powell Buff, the accent pieces like window seats, ceramics, kitchen aid mixer, etc are
    blue. Chantilly Lace trim throughout. Hope I’m not to late for your wisdom on this!

    • Maria Killam says:

      I think it would look odd to have only one white fixed element in your kitchen. I would choose a laminate with white in it and repeat that in the subway tile backsplash. Maria

  • SandyCGC says:

    With regard to making decisions about what to do in my new 1986-built home, I guess I’m kind of lucky in that I’m so cash-poor now that I can’t afford to do anything but consider and plan for the future. My main focus, since this is my forever home, is to make sure that the bones are good – heating/cooling, electric, etc. and that may be expensive or very for anything that’s original and now 27 years old. Otherwise, read and collect ideas and info and imagine and look forward to the future. However, I do have a question about flooring – again won’t be doing anything for a while and lots can change but – I live in Sun City West, Arizona – that’s desert country, dry, hot dry, extremely hot dry and dusty. Tile has always been the flooring of choice here as one of your Florida readers indicated once for her area. Although Arizona is slow to come around to trends so carpet has been used to soften and make a home “more luxurious”. Hardwood floors didn’t make sense in this climate and you could hardly find anything 10 years ago when we moved here. Now there are better products more suited to the climate but one still doesn’t find a lot of homes with hardwood floors throughout and where you find some rooms done with wood flooring, they don’t always fit the style of the house and are not too appealing. I love the idea of wood throughout but I have concerns about doing it, and an awkward open floor plan dictates (to me at least) that one flooring throughout would be the way to go (except with wood, I’d have to use tile in the bathrooms). This is my forever home so I’m not concerned about what will help sell in a few years but do want a “timeless” look that I will love forever. I’ve recently noticed the “wood-look” tile and have seen some awful interpretations and some quite beautiful ones. What do you think, Maria? Can this be an effective option where wood or laminate aren’t such good options? My original thinking was always to go all tile (except maybe bedrooms” but I’m finding that because so much tile is “bossy” as you say, Maria, I don’t like that look where I see it. Even if the tile is well chosen, there is a certain cold hardness to it. The hardness of tile throughout would be an issue (and not sure my cat children would be too happy with it). But could a very well done tile job come close to achieving the look of wood floors, and could it be an option for those of us who live where wood might not be the best choice? I’m assuming that if one did go the “wood” tile way, the same parameters would apply to choosing timeless color as with woods floors themselves? Suspect you’re overwhelmed with design dilemmas and understand if you don’t get to this. If not, I’ll do an “Ask Maria” later since it’s not an immediate issue. This was a great post, as always, and I enjoy gathering ideas and learning from your readers as well as you, Maria. Thanks.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Sandy,
      I have not seen enough of that new floor to be able to say that I absolutely love it or so that I could make a recommendation as to which one. It’s a good question, when I find one I’ll post about it. Maria

  • SandyCGC says:

    Thanks, Maria. I figured it was a new thing though I was surprised at how many floor companies were offering it and how many images I found for it. As stated above, I’m not in any rush so that allow a lot of time for testing by others and evaluating down the road.

  • Cathy says:

    Hi Maria! I have Carmel (a bit orange) Oak everywhere in my house. Kitchen cabinets, doors, windows, trim, staircase, fireplace, etc. I am considering having my kitchen cabinets painted white, new counters, and replacing my white vinyl floors and carpet with wood floors throughout. I would paint all the trim white but leave the actual doors and windows stained oak as many are french doors with glass, etc. I could also paint the staircase spindles/risers white and perhaps the fireplace. The question is what color wood floors? A medium brown like you normally suggest or a color that matches existing oak stain that will stay on the doors and windows with white trim. Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Karen says:

    Hi Maria, love you website.
    Any thoughts on how to deal with a large quantity of books that doesn’t result in an ugly wall of books?

    • Maria Killam says:

      I personally think books create a warm and library feel. Custom bookcases would definitely be a way to deal with it. Maria

  • Marian says:

    I love your blog!
    So how would you approach dealing with a living room that follows the roof line up to the center of the house (so the room is half a house, so to speak)
    Because of doors the only place for my couch against the wall with the short part of the roof on one side and the tall part of roof on the other end of the couch. How do you decorate with that?

    • Maria Killam says:

      Carefully placed artwork? It’s hard for me to say without seeing images on this one! It’s frustrating when builders do not think of furniture placement. Maria

  • stephanie says:

    Hi. I love your blog. I really love what you have done with your new house, what a transformation.
    I have silly bathroom. The tile is purple (red undertone) and teal. yes, someone thought purple and teal tile was the way to go. Sigh.
    I can’t rip out the tile at this time and since it is a child’s bathroom I am hoping to approach it as “fun” in how I deal/decorate it.
    But paint color has me stumped. Any paint suggestions on how to deal with this one?
    Oh, and of course the universal honey oak cabinets.

  • Bhavana says:

    Ohhhh…Im sooo late into this.When will you be next offering such awesomeness? Pleeeeeeeeese put me first in line. Im so confused about my rentals colors, my antique sofa(it IS 10y old…but has classic lines “”), my hutch and the placement of it all because of two active little boys and hot weather (so no lamps?).

  • Melissa says:

    Such a great point! Like you I often think of the yes and no answers! It’s thinking outside the box answers that are not so obvious.

  • Alena says:

    From my point of view, this was really educational and helpful. I am planning to buy my first house and in the middle of getting interior design degree. All of these tips will help me make careful decisions when I decide to do renovations.

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