Podcast, Ep. 142: editor Sophie Donelson


Editor and design expert Sophie Donelson joins the podcast

This week, we’re joined with fabulous previous guest and design expert, speaker, consultant, and former editor of House Beautiful, Sophie Donelson. Sophie talks with us about her latest essay in the New York Times about why we don’t need our house to be perfect for Instagram, recommendations for picking out a paint color, and what life is like for Sophie in Montreal during this stay at home time.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode:

  • Trials and triumphs about good ole neighbor Jim and his possums, labeling and storage containers, cottage cheese, and sentimental yard maintenance.   
  • More about the English and French decorating in Montreal, and the amazing views Sophie sees in her community.
  • What are homes can do for us, and how we can have a loving and less combative conversation between ourselves and our homes.
  • What lead Sophie and her husband to Montreal, and the pros and cons of living in a big city.
  • The inspiration behind Sophie’s essay in The New York Times, “Self-Quarantine is No Time For An Instagram-ready Kitchen.”
  • We have more flexibility and bandwidth to make our home comfy for our own needs, and not so much for the sake of it being pleasing or impressive to others.
  • Sophie recommends experimenting with the design and flow of a room and reminds us we are not locked into one way of design in our homes.
  • Get your one little perfect corner and you can branch out from there. It’s never all going to be perfect.
  • The decision making behind her beautiful lavender walls.
  • Why having a designated playroom and sleep room has been a life and sanity saver.

Decorating Dilemma:

Going to paint my existing kitchen cabinets. They are good quality, perfect condition but want to go lighter. Have been getting estimates. Some suggest paint, some suggest spraying. So which is best and what paint finish is desired for kitchen?
Thank you,

Caroline’s painter used oil because it’s harder and more durable than latex. You can get a beautiful finish with brushing, it is just labor-intensive.  A semi-gloss will be easier to clean, and if you are getting it professionally done have them spray it and use oil. If you are capable, patient, and thorough enough to do it yourself – good for you!

Hello, ladies.

I have spent so much time listening to your podcast, I feel like we’re friends! I sure hope you can help me with a decorating dilemma that’s been on my mind for way too long.
Over a year ago, right before my eldest son left for college, we completed our unfinished space upstairs in order to give our children more room to spread out and finally have their own bedrooms. I’ve attached a few pictures of the very small bedroom (about 9×11) that we created for my oldest son.
The size of the room isn’t really an issue as he really only spends breaks at home and has a good-sized closet outside of the room. The room serves its purpose, but room feels unfinished in so many ways. The only thing there that must stay is the large periodic table (he’s a chemistry minor) and the desk and chair for a space to work.
Here are my questions:

  • I would like to keep the walls white. Should I paint the ceiling the same charcoal color as the door? Or leave it the natural wood tone which picks up the wall art?
  • Do you have a recommendation for a bedframe that would work well in the space? I can turn the bed so that a headboard is against the window, but I feel like the headboard would need to stay low.
  • The blank wall below the very high shelf is supposed to have a sliding ladder — something else that we haven’t gotten around to completing (we did the majority of the construction work ourselves).
  • I love the green lamp and would like to pull in that color elsewhere in the room. He has lots of plants in his dorm room and will bringing be bringing those home for the summer, so I also need a place to be able to put those. Most are in small containers.

I would love to be able to wrap this project up in May, so that when he returns it has a much cozier and homey feel! Also, this is where our occasional guests spend the night.

Thank you so much in advance for your advice!

Luckily this plan is easy to put into action! Sophie would recommend going to the hardware store to find some aluminum pails with some pebbles on the bottom. The rug is so important to make it feel  homey and to collect the space together to make it feel one vibe. We love the natural charm of the ceiling and we wouldn’t change it! Sophie’s favorite trick for a bedside table is to use a bracket because it can fit your phone and a glass of water. Plants could help up the comfort level, and vintage rugs that don’t necessarily match could look great and also elevate the room.

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.