Bravo’s Jennifer Welch on how to make your home a sanctuary

THE WASHINGTON POST – Interior Designer and star of Bravo’s Sweet Home Jennifer Welch joined staff writer Jura Koncius for The Washington Post’s Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.

Q: I’m lucky to be working full time while in quarantine, so I don’t have extra time for projects. However, all I seem to see in my old rowhouse are the problems. Many of them are projects that require skilled labour or contractors. Any advice for how to stop obsessing about what is wrong with my house?

A: I think what you’re experiencing is widespread during quarantine. We all have issues that need tending in our homes, and now we are staring at those problems all day. I have encouraged my quarantined clients to make a wish list of post-quarantine repairs and upgrades. Photograph the areas, and make notes about what you would like to do. Add a photo or two for inspiration to help you visualise future improvements.

Q: I live in a one-bedroom apartment. I can’t paint the walls or make any extreme changes. How can I make my apartment a sanctuary during this stay-at-home period? I love design and colour, so I have a lot of art around the house.

A: Don’t let your vanilla backdrop deter you from going bold with the items in your apartment. Focus on throw pillows, rugs and oversized art – specifically travel photography. My firm recently designed an apartment community in Oklahoma City that included common areas and a staged one-bedroom model unit. We chose textured rugs, organic textured pillows and oversize images of the Amalfi Coast.

Q: How does lighting affect the feel of a home? I usually keep my blinds closed, but they’re open since I’ve been at home.

A: It’s everything in a home. Natural light and ambient light have a huge impact on our moods and the vibe of your home. Definitely get natural light in your home during the day, and turn on lamps in the evening to add moody ambiance.

Q: How can I minimise disruptive technology in my space? Do you have suggestions for tech products that help create a relaxing atmosphere?

A: Samsung makes a television called ‘The Frame’ that we use a lot on projects. Not only does it function as a normal TV, but it also projects a piece of art when it’s off. In my home, we love to play music and project our travel photos on our Apple TV; you can set the photos up like a slide show. Especially during this lockdown, it’s nice to see images of yourself out in the world.

Q: What are some of the best indoor plants to create a sanctuary feel? Can artificial plants provide the same effect?

A: Orchids and succulents are great. You can find both easily and inexpensively at grocery stores such as Whole Foods. For years, I had been incredibly averse to fake plants, but that has changed lately. There are incredibly convincing fake orchids and succulents on the market. I have a tendency to kill plants, so these fake orchids are fantastic for the non-green-thumb types like myself.

Q: What are some family-friendly paint colours that are lively, but also soothing?

A: I typically stick with neutral paint colours, because those tend to age better. One caveat to this: We often intentionally paint a wood-panelled room, such as a study or dining room, a bold jewel-toned lacquer to make it lively. Another way to add this is to use wallpaper. It’s great in dining rooms, powder baths, home offices and the main wall in bedrooms.

Q: My small master bedroom is outdated with rattan furniture, light yellow walls and beige carpet. I can’t afford all new furniture, but I want to repaint the walls, get new drapes, improve the lighting and purchase a new comforter. I want to feel relaxed, with nothing heavy or ornate. Any suggestions?

A: Because you are still using the rattan furniture, surround it with neutrals and textures. Try Sherwin-Williams’ Incredible White for your walls in an eggshell finish. Paint your ceiling the same colour in flat. Go for some boho-chic-style bedding. Check out Anthropologie (anthropologie.com), Citizenry (the-citizenry.com) and Urban Outfitters (urbanoutfitters.com). Think a Tulum, Mexico, vibe.

Q: How do you balance decorating for significant holidays or events with not making it look tacky? How many decorative pillows should a bed have?

A: For holidays, you can slightly break the rule of “less is more” and go with “more is more”. Use one body-size pillow in a great textured fabric or three euro-sham-size pillows on the bed. We almost always opt for one large pillow, because it’s clean and makes the bed easy to make.

Q: How can I give my bedroom a facelift in these dreary days at home? I don’t want to buy a lot of new stuff or paint.

A: Changing your bedding can give your whole room a new feel. There are incredible deals online that you can take advantage of to give your bedroom a new vibe.

Q: I’m fortunate to be healthy and employed during a pandemic when many are not, but the walls of my home are closing in on me. Being home so much is making me look at areas of my home that I would like to improve. How do I start decluttering when I’m working full time?

A: Get a trash bag out and get rid of stuff. We cannot control what is going on around us, but we can control the serenity of our home. Clutter really messes with serenity. My husband likes to leave stuff out on counters, and it drives me insane. I grind my teeth while putting his stuff away, and I toss the unnecessary items that he or my children are too lazy to put away. I always feel much better after the purge.

Q: I have a large, open-ish, prewar apartment in New York that’s due for a paint job. Should I keep the open-flow rooms one colour, or should I paint rooms different colours? I’m looking for suggestions to keep it big and bright.

A: The space will age a lot better if you keep the rooms the same colour. Bring colour in through art, fabrics and rugs. For a warm, darker white, try Incredible White by Sherwin-Williams. For a lighter, yet slightly warm white, go with White Dove by Benjamin Moore. I have White Dove in my house and I love it.

Q: I have a modern sculpture and a tray with all of my salts and oils on my kitchen counter. What else could I put on the counter to style it?

A: I don’t like a lot of things on kitchen counters. We typically do a large bowl with orchids in the centre of the island or an over-scaled bowl full of fruit. Resist the urge to fill countertop space. Just because you have an open space doesn’t mean you need to add things to it. Less is more, in my opinion, on kitchen counters.

Q: What are your thoughts on charging stations? What products do you like that can charge two or three devices at once?

A: Have an electrician change a typical outlet to one that adds USB ports. They take the same amount of space, and they allow you to charge more. We install these near to the places where our clients charge their devices most: nightstands and kitchen islands.

Q: Can you recommend a nice throw blanket for a sofa? I would like something soft and really warm.

A: Try throws from Little Giraffe (littlegiraffe.com); the company is fantastic. Little Giraffe is known for baby blankets, but it also has larger ones for adults. We also use alpaca throws from Restoration Hardware.