Podcast, Ep. 219: designer Janie Molster

Designer Janie Molster is a guest on the How to Decorate Podcast

Designer Janie Molster

We are so thrilled to welcome back our guest today, Janie Molster, who you may have heard on episode 117. She is an interior designer from Richmond, Virginia known for decorating spaces with exuberant color and a masterful mix of antique and contemporary pieces. Since we last spoke to her in 2019, she has written a book called House Dressing: Interiors for Colorful Living. Today we chat about her signature color usage, antiques, the importance of balance, and designing your house for TODAY and not waiting for someday!

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • Trials & Triumphs with gallery walls and wires, soft washing a 90 year old house, getting rid of bats, new windows and doors, finding the perfect nursery rug, and doggies ruining the perfect nursery rug.
  • Janie’s philosophy is to make homes glamorous yet durable.
  • Balance is the key!
  • What are Janie’s rules when it comes to window treatments?
  • How does Janie do pink so well?
  • How to still have fun and be bold with neutral colors.
  • What are Janie’s tips to shop for antiques?
  • What antique piece is Janie currently in love with?
  • Janie’s design philosophy on ceilings and floors.

Decorating Dilemma

Dear Ladies,

I love your podcast and learn something new in every episode. Your guests are fascinating, and I really love the way you help listeners resolve their design dilemmas. I have one that I think is quite common–how to put together an interesting neutral room.

We recently moved into a home that, while traditional on the outside, has a very open floor plan. My husband and I are retired, and we enjoy the abundant light and spaciousness of the interiors. However, we are beginning to realize that there are design challenges with so many sight lines from room to room. I have been searching for months for just the right fabrics for my traditional family room sofa and pair of club chairs, which we plan to have reupholstered. My go-to formula has always been to do the sofa in a “flat” neutral and use contrasting, more textured colors for the pair of chairs.

Now I would like to break out and do something different–I really don’t want another pair of contrasting blue chairs! The rug in the room is a heavily textured custom wool. The adjacent dining room has walls in Farrow and Ball Pigeon and a geometric sisal rug. We plan to add two large chinoiserie framed prints to the dining room walls for additional color. We will use oushak rugs in the foyer and runners in the kitchen for more color and texture.

There will be two other chairs in the family room. The gray wing chair in the corner near the fireplace will eventually be replaced with a bergere-style chair and ottoman in a large print that will add a fun pop of color and design to this neutral room. This chair and ottoman will be visible as you walk in the front door, so we prefer to find the foyer rug first and then select this fabric. There is also a small occasional chair with a rounded cane back. Once rugs and bergere fabrics are selected, we will finish with more color and texture on the sofa pillows. I’m not too worried about finding these elements, but before I do anything, I want to resolve what to do with the sofa and club chairs. 

My initial thought was to skirt the sofa and use a linen-look cream performance fabric on it, perhaps with a contrast band on the skirt. But every textured neutral I find for the chairs still doesn’t seem to give enough contrast. It either looks too much like the sofa, the rug, or is a geometric pattern which I consider too busy, especially with what I have in the adjoining dining room. Should I stay with my plan of having both a cream sofa AND a pair of cream textured chairs or do you have other suggestions? I am beginning to wonder if the problem is the neutral rug! Without color on the floor, is this primarily neutral game plan just too boring?  Because of the texture of the rug, layering a smaller patterned rug over it would not be my preference.

Lately I have been wondering about the performance velvets–I could do the sofa in a taupe or warm gray velvet and use a cream welt. That would give me neutral with a bit more contrast and might open more options for the chairs.

I have also thought about doing the performance linen on the chairs instead and having the upholsterer piece a wide stripe down the center of the back and seat cushions in another colorway of the same performance linen. But then, I’m back to finding something with enough texture difference for the sofa.  We have young grandchildren, so I believe it is important to use performance fabrics.  But I feel like the performance fabrics I see are not highly textured or interesting. They just look too “”bland”” together because they are all similar in texture unless I use one of the few tone-on-tone geometric or herringbone patterns. I would consider using a durable non-performance fabric on the chairs if I can have them treated.

Neutral rooms seem like they should be easy, but they are NOT!

A few other notes: We plan to replace the slipcovered dining room chairs with modern chippendale style chairs in a glazed cream finish, so those beige slipcovers are going away–another reason that I prefer to avoid a geometric pattern in the family room.

It would be so much fun for me to hear how you would apply your creative skills to this dilemma!


Hi Kristie,

I love where you’re going with the performance fabrics! To your point about patterns, I’m with you and think you should stick with a solid color. They have come a long way. If it were me, I would definitely consider going slightly darker on your sofa and in a warm taupe or gray to ground your room. Overall for your space go for warmth. On that back wall, I would do some sheer curtains (you can hear my rant earlier in the episode about curtains!). Then I would consider a console table for the back of that sofa. I can tell you’re drawn to a quieter mix of materials, so for patterns I would focus on pillows and lampshades. You could add something like an upholstered bench for when you have guests over and you could potentially add some pattern there. I would not get hung up on adding pattern to the pair of chairs; I would go with performance linen white. Art, like you said, is a great way to add color! Lastly, with the spaciousness of your room I think you can size up on your coffee table. Your furniture is rather spread out so I would consider pulling it in to make it more convivial. Don’t create a “time out” space for your guests!

In your dining room, the chandelier is great. But it could also really use some beautiful and bold curtains! I would also consider painting the walls all the same color. If you’re nervous about patterned curtains, you could use the same color as the paint for warmth. And the colors from the rooms should speak to each other. Then I would put something fabulous that lives in the center of your dining table. It doesn’t have to literally be “alive” as it could be a collection of vases, sculpture, etc.

You have such a great space with wonderful lighting. We love it and can’t wait to see what you do!

Mentioned in This Episode:

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Happy Decorating!

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Abbey Nolte

Abbey is a homegrown Georgia peach who loves a fresh take on Southern design. When she’s not working behind the scenes of the How to Decorate blog and podcast, you can find her cheering on the Appalachian State Mountaineers and spending time with her wheaten terrier, Charlie.


  1. Reply


    October 5, 2021

    I must admit, I wasn’t aware of Janie’s work prior to the podcast, but after listening to her great advice and seeing her work, I’m now a huge fan!

    • Reply

      Abbey Nolte

      October 19, 2021

      We are huge fans of Janie too and are so glad you enjoyed the episode!