Eddie Ross, author and East Coast editor of Better Homes and Gardens, answered questions from readers on the Washington Post’s online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.
Q: My new cleaning lady badly scratched my new stainless steel sink. Is there any way to get the rather deep scratches out?
A: Stainless steel in a kitchen is going to scratch, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Using a fine steel wool, try a good stainless steel polish like Semichrome, Maas or Peek. If those don’t work, call in a pro who’ll use a buffing tool. Then, going forward, you could put in a mesh protector to cut down on scratches.
Q: I need storage for china in my dining room but want something modern, not grandma’s china cabinet. I have 80-inch width and an 11-foot ceiling. Should I use a buffet with open shelves above? It’s a rather large room — our table seats 12.
A: I hear you about wanting modern solutions to storage. Here in the city, I keep my go-to china, tableware and serving pieces in tall, white lacquered cabinets from Ikea. They look like sleek built-ins with plenty of concealed storage. I love open shelves — the dusting not so much. Antiques are great, too — sideboards, buffets, even dressers and highboys. Just because a piece was made for one use doesn’t mean you can’t reinvent it. Modernize them with paint, new hardware or even just styling them so they feel more like you.
Q: What is your favorite color to paint the walls in your home?
A: I tend to stick to whites (Benjamin Moore’s Decorators White is my go-to), then layer on furniture, pillows and colorful accessories to add personal style without the commitment.
Q: What is a modern mix, anyway?
A: I think of a modern mix as captivating collections of new and old, simple and elaborate, rough and refined. I like pattern on pattern and layers of color. Today, people aren’t living with everything either old or new. If you educate your eyes, you can find great things anywhere.
Q: I would like to have my bathroom remodeled with the new, sleek designs in tile for the shower (from floor to ceiling), but I was thinking of keeping the current flooring and matching it as best I can. Would that be a mistake?
A: If you can find a good match, I don’t see why not. You’re the one who’ll live with it, so ultimately, it’s up to you!
Q: Have you bought things you now regret?
A: Yes! Back in the day, I bought what I thought had been a sterling silver serving spoon that ended up being silver plate. My advice: Pay attention to markings and try to buy from reputable dealers who aren’t trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
Q: There’s been a lot of press about people not wanting their parents’/grandparents’ old things. Do you think that’s been overblown or misstated? Is it changing? What is the appeal of old things?
A: Yes, it’s changing. More and more people are looking at the quality of old things and making them their own by mixing in new pieces. It’s the combination that keeps things interesting and personal.
Q: What’s your best flea market find ever?
A: Ever? The sterling silver service for eight that I found at a thrift shop for $25. I use it all the time.
Q: Do you find certain parts of the country are better than others for thrifting? Also, do you like shops like Goodwill and Salvation Army or independent church and hospital thrift shops?
A: All of the above. Look high, look low, look everywhere. People are always donating great things, so visit your favorite places often, and you’re sure to score great things.
Q: I don’t always use my good stuff at the holidays, because I don’t want the hassle of hand-washing it all. Any suggestions?
A: I hear you. Things I do: Wet soiled napkins after meals and put them in the freezer until you’re ready to deal. Put dishes and glassware in the dishwasher on a gentle cycle. Back in the day, they were like car washes, but now, they practically massage your dishware on a gentle cycle. Good stuff is meant to be used. Create memorable experiences. The cleanup is always worth it.
Q: Do you shop online?
A: Absolutely! I love hunting the Web for handmade, vintage and new treasures that I can mix into what I already have. From online retailers, like Ballard and One Kings Lane, to corner thrift shops, there are so many great places that fit everyone’s budget. Of course, you’re going to have to dig deeper to score a deal.