The Washington Post Chat: Matt Blashaw

Feb 26, 2017
Every week The Washington Post home editor, Jura Konicius conducts a live chat with notable decorators and designers. Our Capital Remodel + Garden Show headliner, Matt Blashaw, logged in on February 16th ahead of his appearance at our show at the Dulles Expo Center in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC.


Matt Blashaw

Matt Blashaw is the host the HGTV series Ellen's Design Challenge and Vacation House for Free, as well as DIY Network's Yard Crashers. He's helped hundreds of families transform their indoor and outdoor spaces. Here are some excerpts from The Washington Post chat.

Q: Bathroom Remodel
I love the sleek look (and the small price tag) of IKEA vanities, but I worry that the contractor we're hiring doesn't have experience assembling and installing IKEA furniture, or that the plumbing will be different. Does anyone have experience with this? Should we go with a less exciting but easier-to-install vanity from Lowes or Home Depot instead?

Matt: "Your contractor should speak fluent IKEA!  I think he should be able to figure it out and modify for plumbing.  If not, consider another contractor."

Q: Selling an early 1960s-era house
I am in the beginning stages with working with a realtor to prepare the three-bedroom, two-bath house my father and stepmother owned since 1972. It was built around 1960 and typical of that era. The front door opens to a small living room, which opens (through double doors) to a den and kitchen combo. About 15 years ago they added a large room with a fireplace off the den area they used as a dining room. The floors are carpeted except the add-on room, kitchen and bathrooms. These are black and white checkered linoleum The kitchen has its original cabinets, painted yellow, and the wall borders are wallpaper of yellow and green flowers. The realtor wants to remove all of the living and kitchen area walls to create a huge open area and replace the linoleum with tile. I would rather retain the original character and refresh the house with elements such as paint, wallpaper and new hardware. I believe there might be potential buyers out there who would appreciate a 1960-era house looking like a 1960-era house, especially with the Mad Men appeal. What would you suggest we do to make the house appealing, i.e., play up its original elements and architectural character?
Matt: "It sounds like the wall tear down would be a big project.  It may make it more appealing to more people, but you only need one person to buy a house.  I suggest just painting and doing cosmetic upgrades before driving into a big tear down."

Q: Decorating/household advice
This year I plan to investigate some big-ticket items, like updating our bathrooms and kitchen (our home is 20+ years old) as well as purchase some new family and living room furniture. Is there a company I can contact that can help me through the maze of bathroom fixtures, etc. (and provide 3-d concepts of what an updated bathroom and kitchen would look like)? As for furniture....I haven’t purchased any new furniture since we purchased our home, and it would help to have a designer come to my house and offer advice with fabrics and styles, as well as offer input on decorative items.

Matt: "Good home remodeling companies will use AutoCAD and other 3D programs to help you see the changes to you home before they are made.  Ask the companies if they have that technology before you get a bid.  Also, most contractors work with interior designers that can help with your vision with furniture as well.  I suggest researching the designer’s website to make sure their style is close to yours.  They can also put together 3D images and give you sample fabrics to make sure you love them before purchase."
[NOTE: Moss Building & Design, Booth 723 at the Capital Remodel & Garden Show uses this technology. Check them out!]

Q: Plastic Outdoor Shutters
My outdoor window plastic shutters have faded. They get a lot of sun daily. I'd like to replace them but feel it may be a waste of time. Is there a way to brighten them back up to looking like new or should I just replace them and simply anticipate five years of color before they start to fade once again? Thank you.... Barry

Matt: "Clean them up with a scrubbers and use an outdoor spray paint formulated for plastic outdoor."

Q: Repair of damaged hardwood flooring
Good morning, a contractor spilled a solvent like liquid on my hardwood flooring (of course in the middle of the room). The floor is 48 years old and original finish. The 5" diameter area appears bleached and the shine is removed. What do you, suggest to minimize the appearance of this damaged area since refinishing my floors is not possible at this time. Thank you for your suggestions.
Matt: "I would sand down the area blending into the "good" area.  If you have a 5 inch diameter, blend until 10 inch diameter tapering the sanding.  Then brush on stain, let dry and use a hardwood floor grade polyurethane to finish."

Q: Big Empty Yard
I bought a house recently and am finishing up on pretty large renovation. Now I realized that I have a huge empty backyard. Of course my budget is tight after this renovation, but do you have suggestions for inexpensive ways to improve what's essentially a weedy fenced-in square? I don't mind using some elbow grease (or renting the right equipment for a day)!

Matt: "Use bender board to create pathways and living areas then fill in with colorful gravel or decomposed granite.  Inexpensive hardscape solution."

Q: What to plant in narrow beds?
We live in the city and so our neighbors are pretty close (10' max between houses). The previous owners put in a very narrow 2' flower bed along the foundation of the house, but it is really terrible looking. We'd like to start from scratch but can't figure out what to plant...because the houses are close together and there are also mature trees, the space gets dispersed sunlight. Not total shade, but definitely more shade than sun. We are low-maintenance type people with small kids...I don't want to be out there weeding constantly. Would small bushes with perennial flowers make sense? Or is there not enough space and sun for that?

Matt: "The "no sun" is an issue.  Try lime green Hostas with Heuchera (Coral Bells) in a plum color."

Check out the rest of Matt's chat with The Washington Post here. If he didn't answer your questions, see Matt at the Capital Remodel + Garden Show at the Dulles Expo Center February 24th to 26th - he'll be sharing more tips, ideas and advice on our Main Stage all weekend long.

Capital Remodel and Garden
DULLES EXPO CENTER
FEBRUARY 24 - 26, 2017