John Gidding, HGTV's "'Curb Appeal" host, was the guest last week on The Washington Post's Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt:
Q. I recently inherited my dad's house. It is a fieldstone-and-brown-brick house with a courtyard. Last year my dad had a dark brown tin roof put on the house. While I feel it does not match the more modern architecture of the house, I do not want to replace it. We do plan to replace windows and gutters and repaint the trim. The trim and gutters are also dark brown. We would like to paint the trim and gutters a different color to brighten up the exterior. What colors would you recommend? We also plan to paint the front door a bright accent color.
A. So you have a lot of brick and brown and you need to breathe some life into the facade, it sounds like. I think your answers lie in the term "ton sur ton," which is a French decorating and fashion term meaning shade on top of shade. You can't use white -- too much contrast -- but you can use biscuit and latte colors in layers of "shade on shade." Any chance of adding shutters? If so, I'd consider natural wood tone shutters in a medium hue, and then skew lighter with gutters and lightest with trim.
Q. Our 12-year-old Colonial home has its original dark black door. We loved it when we built the house, but it has started to look old and boring. Our siding is taupe and the brick is a faded red color. Any ideas for making that door more welcoming?
A. Front doors are made to have personality, so I'm glad to hear you're going to make a change. Black doors (shiny, glossy and deep black) can be very sexy. I find that most homes with color schemes that call for black doors tend to need any other color to be a dark version of that color. You've got some options. If you want to be classic, I'd say get a very dark red -- being careful not to skew brown or orange. Oxblood, 50 percent darker than usual. If you think the red will clash with the brick, go for a very dark navy blue. It will look black at first blush but will show its true colors as you walk toward or past it. It's also a safe arena to experiment. Get a few colors and put them all on the door and see what they look like in various lights.
Q. I inherited my mother's house, a 1955 white Colonial, and want to spruce up the outside. I will be painting the front door a rich blue. Is it necessary or advisable to remove the door and have it stripped to the bare wood before the painting? Will also be updating its hardware.
A. I've painted a hundred million thousand billion doors without removing them and stripping to bare wood. If we had to do that every time, people would stop painting their doors, and that would be a real shame. I recommend masking and painting with the door still swinging on the hinges. Make sure you're careful about it, or hire a professional, but it'll still be cheaper than the full strip. But please don't let me dissuade you from doing a great job with your door. If you'd enjoy the process, your end result will certainly be flawless.
Q. We've got the original door to our 1920s house, and I want to keep it, but I think we'll have to paint it. We have a dark front porch. Is there a way to put paint on the exterior but maintain the natural wood on the interior? Stain the edge black? Let the drips fall where they may?
A. This is a problem I've faced before and there is no clear solution, although I haven't tried staining the edges black. Sounds like a difficult stain job. Just paint the front after masking very carefully and leave the edges natural. If the edges are grimy or weathered, sand them down and finish with poly. I think that would be the best look.
Q. My home has HardiePlank shingles in a pale gray tone with white trim. Any ideas for planters for the slate front porch?
A. For shingle-style homes, I typically find planters that have the traditional design details like expressive brackets or tongue-and-groove facing, and white trim calls for white planters. If the planters have an inset detail, you could paint that a shade of gray two shades lighter than your home to tie them in. Wood would be the material to go with, although Extira (resin-soaked medium-density fiberboard) is also very durable and cost effective if you have them made.
Q. I would love advice on improving the curb appeal of a ranch house with a door that is off-center with four side-approach entry steps leading up to it. I would like to avoid emphasizing the midcentury roots but still want to respect the architecture.
A. Do emphasize the midcentury roots -- why wouldn't you? But since you're not a fan, I would recommend at least embracing the off-center, asymmetric approach with a path to the front door that's also nonlinear. In the landscape, plant an ornamental tree or bush where the path curves or meanders, so what you're doing is creating a reason within the landscape for the path to fit around. This way, when the path arrives at those entry steps at an off angle, the reason is clear both within the landscape and also with the off-center door.
Q. Our home is at the age where we need to replace our flooring. We have an 80-pound dog with tough toenails and I am concerned about wood flooring, though that is what I would prefer in the living room, hall and bedrooms. The remaining areas will be tile. Am I too concerned about using engineered wood flooring?
A. You sound like a perfect candidate for hand-scraped or distressed wood floors. Engineered wood floors come in many distressed finishes, and the idea isn't to scratch them up willy-nilly, but to allow the occasional scratch to be camouflaged. I'd say you're not too concerned, but the wood floor you pick should help your cause, not hurt it. Don't go with glossy espresso brown, for example.
Q. I have a red microfiber sectional sofa in my living room, which has stucco walls. I'm trying to determine what color I could use on the walls, doors and trim to tone down the red and make it more relaxing. My carpet is beige, I have a wood secretary from Ethan Allen, which I still love, a round base wood table with two chairs and a women's wood desk, a chest of drawers and a server with a glass front.
A. Red sofas are difficult to paint around, but cream tones tend to tie in well with off-white trim. When you pick your trim and wall color, try to find versions of them in cushions and a throw to accessorize your sofa and further dilute the red presence.
Q. Our large vacation home was destroyed by fire. I'm trying to make a small cottage fresh and fun so we can still visit while we wrestle with all the matters. Living room and dining room are painted Benjamin Moore's Philadelphia Cream. How can I get coastal colors in the furnishings and have a small welcoming home for lots of people? And what color should I paint some vintage Queen Anne cherry tables?
A. Are you sure about painting vintage Queen Anne tables? I'm so sorry to hear about the fire, but hoping the fix-up goes smoothly for you. As for coastal colors, I think most people skew way too saturated. Try to find a family of six to eight colors that are truly, truly pale. Use all of them pretty much equally around your cottage. I'd say four beiges (with one that skews almost yellow), two blues (very gray) and two greens (even grayer) and start painting your furniture and finding cushions and accents in those colors. Keep the walls white. As for welcoming lots of people, I find the best way is to ring your main gathering space with smaller seating options tucked away and underneath other bits of furniture, which allows people to find their own corners and congregate instead of having to all crowd the kitchen or sofa.
Q. I'm looking for a new dining room table. I don't have a ton of money to spend but I want something not just basic. Any good suggestions on where to look besides Craigslist?
A. I was having a similar issue lately. I wanted a large-and-in-charge dining room table and the best I could find was either too expensive or not my style. I hope this answer doesn't annoy you, but the solution for me was butcher block from IKEA. I bought two sections and used one to create "waterfall" legs on either side of the other one, and the result is a massive and very generous table. That said, I also saw a pretty good one on www.cb2.com for around $450.