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Tips for creating a dream space in your home

New York designer and author Victoria Hagan offers ideas for furnishings, kitchens, wallpaper and more.

New York designer and author Victoria Hagan joined staff writer Jura Koncius on the Washington Post's Home Front online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.

Question: I read a recent list of directions in design these days that mentioned that people wanted their bedrooms to be cozy sanctuaries. What are ways to achieve this without getting too fussy?

Answer: Lighting is very important. I typically like lamps that have shades to soften the light. And never overlook your bedding. Make sure it's something you're happy with. And lots of soft pillows and throws!

Q: What are your must-haves in any interior design?

A: A comfortable sofa, a comfortable chair, and a great reading light.

Q: I keep reading white kitchens are on their way out. Any ideas for a modern and fresh update?

A: I don't tend to go with trends, but we've done some soft gray-blue kitchens, as well as soft sage. I tend to use lighter finishes in smaller spaces. If you like a white kitchen but want to add some interest, you could try changing the color of the island or the base cabinets and get the best of both worlds.

Q: Do you like using wallpaper these days? What rooms are you likely to use it in?

A: I use wallpaper in powder room and bedrooms most frequently. Sometimes we use a couple of different papers in one room to accent one wall from the other.

Q: My daughter and son-in-law just bought their first house, which is, shall we say, full of potential. All the walls and floors need to be cleaned, repaired, refinished and/or painted, and the possibilities are overwhelming. How can they come up with a plan for what to do to a blank slate? They're still in the student-loan-payoff stage, so they don't yet own any signature piece around which to build a design.

A: I've done a lot of Ikea shopping. I think you can find great quality at a good price point, and it's important to buy things that you love. It sounds crazy, but I still own all of the pieces from my first apartment — I just move them around! That being said, a good sofa is always a good starting point.

Q: I'm 67, and shopping to replace furniture I bought more than 30 years ago. While I can afford far better quality now, realistically I might be looking to downsize or move into an "active adult" community in the next 10 years. How do you balance buying for quality and longevity when one's personal longevity (at least in that house) is questionable?

A: I think having a comfortable sofa is important. I think there's a happy medium —  I wouldn't buy the most expensive, or the least expensive — somewhere in the middle, you will get good quality. Just pick a fabric that's not too fragile you would have to worry about and you should be good for the long haul.