Ask A Handy Guy
Q: I read in a magazine that floral couches are outdated. I have one that's still in good shape. Is there an easy fix for it?
First of all, don't listen to magazines (except maybe this one). Be courageous with your design. Don't listen to your friends or your neighbors or your mom. Your style comes from not listening to other people. So you do you and love your stuff.
Second, florals are hot right now, and they never go out of style if they're done right. It just has to fit the room. You may need to style the room a bit around the sofa to make it feel at home.
That said, if you really want a change, you can get a big inexpensive slipcover. (Just make sure to tailor it if you need to. I'd rather see a well-tailored floral sofa than sloppy slipcover.) You can add some neutral canvas pillows and have another matching neutral piece in the room to anchor it. Don't contemplate custom reupholstering: Unless it's an amazing piece and you have a great big budget, it's not realistic.
If you are just dancing around the fact that you want a new sofa (been there—it's a big commitment and expense!), see my suggestions:
- The sofa doesn't need to be splashy. It's the little black dress of the room. Keep it muted and 'accessorize' with pillows, a throw, and a vintage accent chair with some kick.
- Don't send an old sofa to the dump just because it's no longer your taste. Donate it! One man's flowery couch is another man's treasure.
- If you want your sofa to last, get one in a durable fabric; or buy one that comes with a slipcover that can stay on until your kids get older or your dog learns to stay off!
Q: My kitchen needs a refresh and I'm thinking about painting the cabinets... myself. Am I crazy?
No pressure, but this is the most important decision you'll make—besides your choice of partner in life, but that's not my line of work. Painting cabinets will be either one of the greatest things you've ever done or your worst nightmare. Which way it goes depends on 1) what kind of person you are—detail-oriented? patient and diligent?—and 2) how polished you want it to look. If you take your time and do it right, you can do a beautiful, perfect paint job on those cabinets. The detail-oriented among us will devote time and be methodical, remove hardware, sand everything properly, and prime and paint. If you're not that person, you have two options: You can use chalk paint for a rougher, more rustic vibe—because chalk paint looks cool with nicks and flaws and you can lean into that imperfection. (Remember: Modern is hard; rustic is forgiving.) Or you can hire someone. Don't try to change who you are; you're not going to evolve over the course of this project. And the only thing worse than poorly painted cabinets is half-painted cabinets!
As for color, there are many beautiful greens and blues that are so hot right now. But they'll have a short shelf life (pun intended!). If you're investing time and money and want longevity from the results, go with a classic beige or greige or white—the most forgiving color there is. You can add color with everything else: backsplash, appliances, rug. Remember that if you do go for it, it will be worth it. All that time you spend isn't lost; you're improving your space, which is a wonderful endeavor.
Q: Our room's ground floor is all open—open living room, open kitchen, open conservatory to the backyard. What can we do to "separate" the rooms without closing everything in?
Simple: Float some furniture, meaning place it in the middle of a room instead of lining it around the room. It's all about creating vignettes. You can float a sofa in the middle of the room and do two sofas back-to-back with a long, narrow table in between. Or you can put a sofa in the middle of the living room with a desk behind it to create a flexible workspace. (Rachael has this setup in her garage/office.) The same goes anywhere else in your home. If your kitchen flows right into your living room, use a tall open shelving unit to create a "wall" of sorts. Rachael would float an étagère-style bookcase—hers are finished on all sides and she uses them to divide a space. And this is where I always suggest bringing other people into the picture. What you're not seeing your best friend probably is, and they'll tell you. You may think your house looks great, but ask your best friend and they'll tell you exactly what's wrong. (You'll also find out who your true friends are!)
This article originally appeared in our Fall 2021 issue. Get the magazine here.