Podcast, Ep. 137: design firm Toledo Geller


Virginia and Jessica, who own the boutique design firm Toledo Geller, join the show this week. This design duo who were just named House Beautiful’s “New Wave Designers” talk about the interesting way they met, how their styles complement one another, and a home should be designed to fit your lifestyle.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode

  • The intention behind the way they design spaces
  • Yes, it is possible to meet your next business partner on Craigslist. Virginia and Jessica are perfect examples.
  • How their different styles compliment each other
  • Each of their signature design go-to’s when working on a project
  • Why both women believe we can work around anything, and examples of how they found solutions in challenging times.
  • Projects where they worked holistically and made sure the decor was perfectly trimmed and tailored to the space.
  • Ways that we can work with the architecture and blueprint of the home to decorate it in a way that really brings out how it was meant to be presented.
  • Why we shouldn’t be scared of everyday wear and tear because they are memories and part of experiencing life.
  • More about Jessica’s New Jersey Home and the inspiration behind all the beautiful patterns and textures.
  • How we make a room feel happy and joyous using colors and a play on patterns.
  • Why Virginia and Jessica ask their clients what they wear when they entertain, and what the answer tells them about their clients.

Decorating Dilemma:

Hi Y’all!

I’ve been binge-listening to your podcast since I discovered it last summer and I love it. (I have listened to many of your podcasts twice!) 

My story: I just recently (May 2019) retired from teaching and my husband decided the very next month that he wanted us to build a new home close to our daughter and her precious family who live 5 hours away from us now.  

My problem:  I am at a loss about how to choose finishes for the new build and how to design the fireplace area especially under a tight time frame. I feel kind of intimidated asking for help because I know so little about decorating and I don’t know that I can even explain what I’m hoping to do. I don’t know the style I like other than I like “unfussy” design…I don’t like things in my house for the sake of a certain style….I like using meaningful  and useful items in my space.  I don’t like contrived Farmhouse decorative items…..like “Fresh Eggs” signs 😉   

We are downsizing our home. Our new home will be a farmhouse style and will have a little over 2600 square feet. The great room area (living room, dining room, kitchen) is 31’x17′.

I think I want gray walls (SW Agreeble Gray), white cabinets, navy island, and white moulding. I want the fireplace shiplap section to be gray also but I don’t know what should be around the gas fireplace inset. (Actually, I don’t know that I want shiplap but I do know that I want a different texture in that area). What should the fireplace surround inset be? Tile? Brick? Something else? 

I don’t want too much furniture in our new home but I want to be able to have our children (3 children plus their spouses) and 4 young grandchildren over and be comfortable and have adequate seating.

What combination of living room seating do you recommend? My husband insists on a recliner (sigh) but I get to have my choice of the other items. 

I want the fireplace wall to be as balanced looking as possible when there is a 65″ TV (heavy sigh) on one side.  I’ve attached my rough drawing to give you an idea of what I have come up with.  I think I want an oversize round clock because of all the rectangle and square shapes in the shelves but I am open to any other ideas. The cabinet maker will do a custom build but I am nervous about my ideas actually being functional and pleasing to the eye. . As you can see, I want stools that will be stored to the left and right of the  fireplace.  (I want the stools in order to provide extra seating for when we entertain but will be out of the way at other times.)  I can have the stools custom made but I don’t know how they should look. 

How many outlets should I have in this fireplace wall? 

I also want a bench (near the front door on the opposite wall from the fireplace) with coat hooks above it that will also be custom made.  I think that the bench and stools should have upholstered seats for comfort.  (I want to be able to use the bench at our dining room table for additional seating when we add the leaves.)  What style bench/stools do you recommend? 

What type of window coverings would be good for a space like this?  Should I coordinate the window coverings from both the LR and kitchen?

How closely should the finishes of the faucets, pot filler, cabinet hardware match? I know that y’all say they don’t have to match exactly but since I’m purchasing these items at one time I have the opportunity to get it right.  Should I aim for the “curated over time” look? 

 I want the island to be navy and the cabinets to be white.  I like the brass/gold color but will that be a very dated look in a couple of years?

My husband insists on a ceiling fan in the living room but I don’t know what features/style would be right for a cathedral ceiling. We will have dimmable LED recessed lighting in the entire area. 

Should the kitchen island and dining table light fixtures match? How many bar stools can be at the 8′ island?

The builder says I have about 4 weeks until I have to start deciding about finishes. Any ideas will be appreciated. I look forward to hearing from y’all!

One thing you did say is that you don’t like fuss. That is good, because it is consistent with the minimal farmhouse style. A normal sized sofa perpendicular to the fireplace and a wing back chair would add a nice scale and proportion to the recliner. Having some cubes for kids to sit on would also be another great seating option. Not everything has to match, and we find people do worry about having things match to a degree that often goes too far. Categorizing things is a good and easy to follow rule. Virginia and Jessica like to focus on what the architecture calls for, and not following every little trend. Good luck, and send us photos!

Mentioned In This Episode:

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Happy Decorating!

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.