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  • Lena Kroupnik

Lena Kroupnik on interior design | Home Front. Webchat conducted by Jura Koncius, a Washington Post

Updated: Feb 28, 2021

Lena Kroupnik has worked as an interior designer in the D.C. area for over 15 years. She answered questions on getting your house ready for spring.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She’s happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

Jura Koncius

Good morning and happy spring. Now that the weather is finally warming up, it’s time to look around and make some fresh changes in your home. Designer Lena Kroupnik is here with lots of ideas to help. So send her your paint questions and window treatment dilemmas – she will offer her expert advice. Let’s go.

Lena Kroupnik

Hi everyone and thank you for joining us this morning! Please send your burning decorating questions.I look forward to chatting with you today.

Q: sources for decorative bulletin board Looking for a nice bulletin board for a home office that is visible from living/family rooms. Have checked Ballard and Pottery Barn, nothing quite right (my house is modern/transitional). Any ideas?

A: Lena Kroupnik Great question. I think it is really important to select a piece that will truly express your personal style and provide functionality. Having said that, an off the shelf solution may not be ideal. You can work with a local framing shop to customize a frame and insert. For the insert, you can choose a cork or fabric of your choice, or even a magnetic paint, which will allow you to easily put items up. Prior to selecting your board, it is imperative to select the proper size, a board that will be visible from all useful vantage points in your home. To simply do this, you can utilize blue painter?s tape to designate the proposed size of your board, be sure to sure to see the size from all angles. Quick link to magnetic tape:

Q: pillows

What is a good place to pick up some fresh pillows for my living room? Don’t want to have to custom make something but want a good quality fabric.

A: Lena Kroupnik So many great options! Bloomingdales, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Home Goods, World Market, or Pier One.One thing I like to do for my clients on a budget, is to spruce up existing pillows with added details such as trim, buttons, and tassels. You can take this on as a DIY project. Have fun with it!

Q: window treatments

Hello – We recently remodeled our entire home including all new windows and trim. We still need to get window treatments – probably pleated or honeycomb shades (but we are still wide open to suggestions) so that they only cover the window inside of the trim. We really love the window trim package we have and do not want to cover it with valances. So my question is about window treatment vendors. All we have is some catalogues that come in the mail (Next Day Blinds, Smith + Noble, etc.), are there local or national vendors that you would recommend? Many thanks.

A: Lena Kroupnik

I love custom window treatments- one of my favorite types of projects! They really make your home unique and express your personal style.I would recommend trying, they do great work. They send someone to measure your space and later a professional installer for the finished look.

Q: Paint Color

Lena, I have a traditional ranch w/ a large family room. Dark beams/ woodwork/ large old brick fireplace. I am wanting to paint the walls for a fresh look. Leaning toward something in the grey family. Do you have a favorite grey for a large area? Lighting is an issue in the room so I cannot go as dark as I would like. Ceiling suggestions. Thanks for your time.. Hollan

A: Lena Kroupnik

Hi Hollan- Thanks for your note!I would recommend a nice neutral gray such as “Gray Mist” OC-30 by Benjamin Moore for the walls. For ceilings, my often go-to ceiling color is “Atrium White” INT RM by Benjamin Moore.

Q: Pillows

Crate and Barrel has great pillows, often on sale for good prices. Check the online outlet, too, or the outlet in Alexandria.

A: Jura Koncius

Yes. Great idea. That outlet really has terrific bargains.

Q: a score!

I picked up an original Thonet cafe chair for $5 at a “nearly new” sale. It needs refinishing and has an embossed seat. Any suggestions on where to take it?

A: Lena Kroupnik

Lucky you! Upcycling adds a unique look to any room, especially when you are able to get such a great find! For upholstery, I would recommend Gary Simpson Furniture in Rockville (

Q: Open Shelving in kitchen

I’m considering putting some open shelving in my kitchen instead of a single upper cabinet between a window and a door. What’s your opinion on open kitchen shelving? If I do it, should I run the backsplash to the ceiling behind the shelves?

A: Lena Kroupnik

Yes, that is a great idea. Open shelving opens up any space. You an install floating shelves or installed on brackets. Be sure to select a beautiful bracket, an uplift to any kitchen.I would also recommend a back splash tile all the way up to the ceiling.

Q: Quick pops of color and light?

I am actually a client of Lena’s and can attest that she is a fabulous designer and a lovely person!!! My question is: what are some quick and relatively inexpensive ways to bring some light and springtime airiness into main living spaces?

A: Lena Kroupnik

Thank you anonymous! Pull up your shades, open the windows, and breathe in the fresh spring air :)I would recommend to check your light bulbs- if you haven’t yet invested in LED bulbs, do so. Bring fresh flowers or greens into your space. If you are one of my clients, you know my affinity for bright, living plants throughout the home!

Q: My 1970s faux Eames chair seat is cracking

Hi Jura, I come to you with all my house questions and now I’m submitting super-early in the hopes that you can find a furniture expert to help me. My father bought a faux Eames chair in 1977 or 1978 (when I was a young teen) and kept it in pristine condition until he passed away in 2010. I’m not sure if it is a Plycraft — the armrests are designed slightly differently than photos I’ve seen online. Perhaps it was one of many replicas sold in northern New Jersey. Even in 2010, it had almost zero obvious wear-and-tear, except for some slight dinging on the metal legs. My parents took it from NJ down to west-coast Florida in 1999 and my parents’ house always felt a little humid to me. Since late 2012 I’ve had it back in northern NJ. Starting maybe 6 months after I brought it back to NJ, some of the creases in the seat have started to show wear. It’s like there’s a dozen small cracks and the brown-black material of the seat (I’m positive it’s not leather) is wearing away to show the tan under-coat. I’m devastated. It was in perfect condition for more than 30 years and then in the 2 years it’s been my house it has started to show cracks. Could this be from the change in the atmosphere in the houses — from humid west-coast Florida to the dry winter air of northern NJ? We have no children, it’s only me and my husband, so no-one is abusing it. I almost don’t want to sit in it any more. It’s only on the seat, and the corner of one arm-rest. the back and the head-rest are still in perfect condition. Can you help with any suggestions/ answers? Thanks so much!

A: Jura Koncius

Wow – this is quite the saga. Do you have a humidifier in your house in the winter months? Sounds like you need one. I would take your chair to a mid-century modern shop nearby and ask them for advice on who is a good repair and restoration specialist in your area. Check out Edge Mid-Century Designs. They might have ideas for you.

Q: Bathroom Paint

Hi Jura & Lena! I’m trying to freshen up my master bath in my condo to go with tan tile and black granite countertops. The current bathroom wall color is a light green (SW “Ancient Marble”), but I was thinking of changing it to something in the gray family. The rest of the condo has neutral beige walls, and the master bedroom has lavender bedding and light silver curtains. Can you suggest a bathroom paint color that will still work with the tan tile, and should it be eggshell? Many thanks!!

A: Lena Kroupnik

I typically recommend eggshell, mildew resistant paint for bathrooms for easy cleaning. For your walls I would recommend SW7516 by Sherwin-Williams. For bathrooms, I prefer to paint the ceiling the same color as the walls, it makes painting so much easier as well.Pro Tip: ALWAYS try several swatches in any room you are looking to paint and select the color during different times in the day, under different lighting conditions.

Q: Less Orange?

We are planning on painting our kitchen – we have maple cabinets, black counters, beige tiles, and the maple reads a little too “orange” for us. Any ideas for a paint color that will tone it down? TIA

A: Lena Kroupnik

This reminds me of my kitchen- maple cabinets with black granite counter tops. Grays really seem to be a go to color these days, you can never go wrong! Anything with a touch of green will also tone the orange down. I love Silken Pine 2144-50 by Benjamin Moore. Always try the swatch first! Good luck!

Q: Update kitchen to achieve modern, up-to-date look with white appliances

We’re planning a kitchen upgrade that includes keeping our fairly new white appliances and painting or refacing our cabinets. We have a galley kitchen that is flooded with afternoon and evening sun. What cabinet/countertop/flooring/wall color scheme will help us achieve a modern up-to-date look? The kitchen leads to our open living/dining room that has Benjamin Moore Monroe Bisque walls, white trim and dark brown fireplace. Please, no gray! Barbara Silver Spring

A: Lena Kroupnik

One great way to achieve a modern look is to go with a monochromatic colors scheme- focus on one color in different tones and intensities.To me modern is typically: blue, green, and gray, so I would stick to the cooler tones if that is your goal.For your cabinets I can recommend Canvas Tan SW7531 by Sherwin Williams. I would go with Lighter tile- glass or something else reflective, perhaps with inserts of metal. For countertops you can consider a contemporary Silestone.Good luck!

Q: Sofas

Where do you go for comfortable sofas?

A: Lena Kroupnik

Comfort is everything!The best furniture upholstery pieces can be found at the Washington DC Design Center. Make an appointment before you go

Q: Powder room wall color

Good morning! Redoing our small powder room, which is off the kitchen and family room. Tile is white w gray veins (marble like look), light gray grout, typical white stool and pedestal sink. At a loss for what to do on the walls, it’s a very small room. Do I go with a nice light gray or should I look in another direction. THANKS – I”m so not good at this

A: Lena Kroupnik

WALLPAPER, make it the jewel of your house. There are SO MANY amazing options. Think about a spectacular mirror and light fixture. Bold is great for small spaces- it will always leave a lasting impression

Q: Rugs

Where is the best place to buy sisal in Washington?

A: Lena Kroupnik

The Washington Design Center is always my #1 choice. Another good option is Image Creations in Rockville.

Q: Stair finishes

I am currently remodeling and had to rebuild a staircase. Previously it didn’t have any railing or picketts, but now it will. I am having a hard time choosing what to go with. Flooring will be hardwood in a darker stain. Any suggestions?

A: Lena Kroupnik

The picketts can be white while the railing could be shiny black (just like in my house.) The riser and the tread should match the stain of your hardwood, we want there to be flow throughout the home.

Q: Updating paint color

We have a classic center home colonial and are getting tired of the dominant paint color, Duron’s Sesame Yellow. It is in our north facing (dark) living room, the entry hall, the stairway up to the sunny third floor office. We are thinking of going in an entirely new direction – Farrow and Ball’s Borrowed Light. Is this a good color for a dark living room, and do you think it should be carried up through the house as before?

A: Lena Kroupnik

Sometimes a fresh coat of paint is all your home needs! I try to re-paint my home every 5 years. It would be nice to have a combination of “Shaded White” and “Strong White” by Farrow & Ball. I would recommend separating the room colors- more definition while still complementing each other.Good luck!

Q: Love seats

I have 2 love seats creamy butter beige in my family room. I am purchasing a third one in color pear green. I have pillows that echo the two colors plus royal purple. Do you think 3 love seats are one too many??

A: Lena Kroupnik

2 is lovely, 3 is a crowd… I would recommend a sofa instead!

Q: Faucet finish

Is chrome finish for a kitchen faucet difficult to clean? What’s your preferred finish?

A: Lena Kroupnik

I love chrome finishes above all- they are easy to clean, classic, timeless, and always looks elegant. Save yourself some time and keep it classy with chrome!

Q: Searching for a daybed sold years ago by Bloomingdales

Hello there.. Please help if you can. Years ago, around 1982-84, Bloomingdales in Stamford, Connecticut, ( as did, I assume, all Bloomingdales stores) sold a wonderfully ornate, stainless daybed that had gold flourishes. The bed design was very delicate with the mattress almost designed to “sit inside” the bed frame. The bed was narrower than a regular single bed. and looked as if it should have been made in Europe. It was beautiful. At the time, it cost around $1,300. I have tried to call Blloomingdales and have sent emails…but they never respond. Would you be so kind as to try to help with this. If you need more information from me, please just let me know during Thursday’s chat….and I will get in touch. Many thanks. I hope you can help.

A: Lena Kroupnik

Call me directly, it will be much easier! 240-505-6783

Q: Advice on how to pick a designer

My husband and I desperately need the help of a designer (we think = as long as designers can do more than just decorators) to figure out how to decorate and realign our existing space in an often-renovated (though not by us) 1930s cape cod. One of the things we know we need is some advice on how to add storage to our kitchen and whether it’s possible to move around some cabinets and the (built in) fridge. We even brought in an architect on the issue – but 70K and a 4 month renovation is NOT in the cards right now. How do we go about finding someone who can help us figure out what our options are?

A: Lena Kroupnik

Before hiring anyone, you always look at several options- it is no different with designers. Please interview 2-3 designers over the phone or in person- be prepared, state your preferences and style, be clear about your budget and your time frame. A good designer should be able to help manage your budget and timeline to achieve the look and feel you are going for!

Q: Lena, what is one thing you would change about your own home?

Assuming the theory that all interior design is never truly “done” and always a work in progress, what is one thing you would change or add to your present home?

A: Lena Kroupnik

A theory is a theory, but it doesn’t always apply in practice ;)I actually do not change my home too often. However, if I find a piece I love, I will incorporate it into my space. My home is always slowly evolving.

Q: Alternative Curtain Rod

I have a door that is mostly glass at which I like to rotate the curtain or screening on a regular basis. I have fabric that I would like to use for that purpose, but I don’t want to sew it up. I’d rather just neatly suspend it (and other fabrics in rotation that strike my fancy), and then have it un-sewn to be used in some other manner. I have tried those clips-on-rings, but they only seem to hold the the lightest of materials. Is there some product out there to accomplish this goal that I might not be finding? Any suggestions?

A: Lena Kroupnik

I’m not entirely clear on the question, but I think velcro should work for your purposes.

Q: dark furniture, light hardwood

We have gorgeous Brazilian walnut upstairs but plain vanilla golden oak downstairs. We also have started to prefer darker woods for furniture. Next year we will be deciding between replacing the downstairs flooring or just re-staining. If we go with re-staining, should we try to match the upstairs, darker floors, or stick with the shade it currently is? The hitch, of course, are the stairs and railings.

A: Lena Kroupnik

I would go with the darker stain to match the upstairs. I would match your stairs and railings with the darker finish.

Q: Decorating Naturally

Hi, Do you have any suggestions on decorating with nature in mind? Do you advise in re-purposing items?

A: Lena Kroupnik

Reduce, reuse, and recycle!In spring bring in branches into your home, put into vases and let them bloom! They give height and adds freshness.I am a big proponent of re-purposing. Got a tree down? Use a base for a table or a stool… many DIY options can be found online.

Jura Koncius Thank you Lena. Lots of great ideas to try this weekend as we wait for spring to fully arrive. Have a great weekend everyone!

Lena Kroupnik

Thank you for all of the great questions you posted! For more decorating and design ideas, check out our website:

Smile and enjoy the spring sunshine!

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