If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve heard me talking about the room refreshes we’ve been working on—especially about my living room. Although both the living room and den were nicely decorated, I haven’t been totally satisfied with either since we’ve moved here 2+ years ago. Nothing terrible, just works in progress until two things came up that made us do major redecorating. The living room rug went for tolerable to terrible and Steven wasn’t happy with the placement of his desk in the den. The rug started to get bad around 9 months ago, yet the main impetus to do the redecorating was the desk issue in the den. We’d initially placed the desk in a corner near some built in bookshelves. It seemed to make sense since the large desk fit well there and Steven could keep his computer stack (yes, he’s got a few computers!) in one of the built-ins that had doors on it. We also decided on the desk in the corner layout because the couch we wanted to use in the den was a sectional whose “L” lounge piece only looked good on the opposite side of the room. So given our room limitations, we started brainstorming about what to do.
We wanted to shift Steven’s desk so that he could work next to a long bank of big windows to maximize natural light and to look out on to the view we have of the Cascade mountains.
I felt instinctively that productivity and creativity are higher when working near natural light, yet after a few minutes of research, I found out that it also reduces headaches and fatigue plus can help your vision; these were some seriously great reasons to change the layouts and furnishing in the den.
I was particularly interested in the idea of the 20-20-20 rule I read about: every 20 minutes you look away from your screen for 20 seconds and focus on something 20 feet away. This can help with your vision quite a bit now that we’re all using our phones, computers, and other devices for many hours a day. Given the many hours Steven spent on his computer, we knew it was important to make a change even with some daunting challenges…
As it turns out, our issues in both the den and living room are the top challenges sited most often by interior designers and home decorators alike:
- Space limitations: Spaces that are too small, too large, have odd shapes or a less than lovely built in item to contend with. How people move within the room is important as well as creating conversation areas and over (or under) crowding spaces.
Our issues: Both rooms large rectangles that needed multiple conversation/task areas within each room in order to feel cozy, and both had less than attractive wood-burning stoves dividing the longest wall.
- Proper editing and placement of decor items: Decorative items should add to the space, not just fill voids or please your mother by displaying the bric-a-brac she gave you 5 years ago. Things should be cohesive yet not matchy, matchy straight out of the Pottery Barn catalog. Shoot for a tight edit of things that mean something to you and reflect your style.
Our issues: Both the den and living room had quite a lot of decorative items that we enjoyed but by shifting furniture, we needed to work through a revised, cohesive concept for each space.
- Mixing styles properly: Again, unless you want to look straight out of a Pottery Barn catalog or worse, a museum, mixing is crucial to do; yet it’s not easy to mix well and have things work well together.
Our issues: Mixing styles is something I’m quite comfortable with but not as much for Steven. I had to propose the living room changes and promise I’d change it all back if he didn’t like the end result (thank goodness he did like things in the end!).
- Budget constraints: Most of us have some budget limitations, and even for those of you that don’t, no one wants to be wasteful.
Our issues: Given our priorities are Isabelle’s college prep phase, investing in No Qualms Mom, and since I’ve almost entirely stopped doing consulting work, our budget does need to be considered carefully. Also, almost all of our furnishing and decor are quite high quality and in good shape so it makes no sense what so ever to toss them and start from scratch.
The Starting Point
There are many ways to begin decorating a room yet I recommend choosing a focal point as an anchor. In the case of our recent living room revamp, I focused on a rug for the redecoration project. Whereas initially, when we moved, I focused on the vivid teal couch and chairs then built out from there. Check out 5 No Fail Starting Points to Decorate Your Room to help with your own project. But for the rest of this Home Tour post, I’m going to now shift my focus to just on the living room. We’ll tour the den shortly—it’s not quite finished.
Color Palate Backstory
When we moved from Seattle to Vashon we switched our living room vibe up a lot. In Seattle, we had a small living room and a palate of white, muted chartreuse with accents of orange, yellow, and lavender and a very neutral beige and white geometric patterned rug. A condo-sized white velvet couch anchored the space and a pair of muted chartreuse upholstered chairs added personality and color.
In Seattle, we used my favorite painting of a lavender field in Provence as the starting point. But in Vashon, the condo-sized white couch looked tiny and totally off proportion, so we pulled a teal blue couch (previously in our Seattle den) in to the living room.
The teal couch was definitely a statement piece and anchored the redecorating project. We went from light and bright in Seattle to bold and colorful in Vashon. I found an inexpensive ($375) 9′ x 12′ rug on Wayfair that pulled the chartreuse chairs and the teal couch together and once that happened, we had a great direction. We owned almost all of the other items that we put in the Vashon living room, but in most cases they weren’t in our living room but instead were re-purposed from other areas of our Seattle house.
This look worked for us for around 2 years until the rug started to look shabby. The binding in particular became fuzzy and worn looking as well as un-sewn on the corners. I looked for quite a few months into a replacement 8′ x 10′ or 9′ x 12′ rug that was a better quality level than what we had. I got a few samples sent but nothing seemed right and unfortunately, it just wasn’t the right budgetary moment investing in a fine quality rug.
I also had some beautiful, yet limiting pieces to contend with. We love the big windows in Vashon, yet they do make it challenging to display art and place a few over-sized furniture pieces. The over-sized original Cappiello early 20th century advertising poster (below) basically didn’t fit any where else in the house.
The same was true of the 8’6″ armoire (above) that held our TV, sound bar and computer/DVR, and the antique French cheval mirror paired with the charging station we’d created with antique boxes (both below). So these statement pieces stayed.
A few months before, I’d pulled out a rug from storage to use during a party and remembered how much I loved it. It was a fine quality Persian rug, coral, cream and sage in color that I found while living in Germany. So somewhere along the frustration road of not finding a teal replacement rug, it dawned on me that I could shift the color palate in the living room around so that this rug could be used (instead of wasted in storage). The major downside to the Persian rug was that literally none of the major seating pieces worked with it.
We’d given away the white couch so unless we wanted to buy something new, our den’s grey velvet West Elm sectional was our only option. Thankfully, it worked well with the rug so I had my anchors!
And cue the old David Bowie song: Ch-ch-ch-changes…
After shifting the worn teal rug and couch out, and the Persian muted coral rug and grey sectional in, there were a few things that needed relocation:
- the Alexa Hampton ottoman that we’d used as a coffee table felt out of place both in style and color (it’s a gold Kelly Wearstler pattern). In Seattle, I’d had a cream slip cover made for it which helped, but somehow the style was off with the sectional. I tried a few things but landed on the antique French black waxed canvas covered trunk instead. It was originally under the Cappiello poster along with my Ghost chair and some favorite accessories (see “old” pic below).
- the bookcase (below) in a corner next to the front picture windows also got relocated. I was a bit sad to lose my collection of design books, but the room simply felt too crowded with the grandfather case clock in the corner behind the sectional. So, the bookcase went to the den and the clock shifted to the bookcase spot.
Some accessories stayed and some went. The pieces that we didn’t want to change:
- the entry table and cow hide rug (below), along with the gold campaign side table, pair of vintage leopard upholstered stools and walnut sofa table and side tables.
- the antique Louis Vuitton suitcase we used as an end table stayed even though I didn’t 100% love the brown next to the grey at first glance. Yet now that things are all placed I’ve grown to love it and feel like it balances fine much like the wood toned furniture. It’s particularly sentimental as we bought it when we eloped to Paris after a series of misadventures so it’s a hard earned treasure.
- some favorite accent items like the antique black paper mâché accessories like the perpetual calendar, architectural staircase model and Paris souvenir box (see both photos below).
Along with the relocated furniture I’ve mentioned and the existing living room items I’ve mentioned, we added a few new touches and ended up with a cohesive room. It’s still a work in progress but I’m happy with the result!
I especially love the chaise section of the sectional being right by our huge picture window! I love having my morning coffee here and looking out at our front yard and the Cascade mountains.
The antique French case clock shown below was pretty before when tucked in the corner by the teal couch, but I feel like it really shines now that it’s the only thing in the opposite corner (where the bookcase used to be) next to the 9′ tree.
I also added a pair of Ficus Triangularis trees that I’d picked up for a steal of $18 each when a local nursery closed this fall—instead of the usual $100+ each price tag. I haven’t found planter pots that I like yet so I used some burlap sacks that I had to create covers over the black nursery pots.
Some day we will replace the less than pretty wood-burning stove and have an attractive fireplace and hearth, but for now the black stove stays. Fortunately, I love black decor accents and had a lot of them before moving here so they help balance out the stove in my opinion.
The black-shaded lamp was in the den, and other accessories were scattered around the living room before. Although hard to see in the photo below, the Vuitton suitcase has a black stripe below the camel stripe that’s part of it’s original owner’s monogram package so this also helps tie the brown suitcase in as well.
Shifting the iron bowl of Bocce Balls to the sofa table, black-handled magnifying glass and souvenir black box to the side table continue the touches of black. While the vintage French urn style lamp added warmth with its matte brass, as do the Crate & Barrel candle holders that I’d had in the dining room.
The art and wall hangings remained exactly the same except for the teal dominate oil painting that was in the corner next to the antique cheval mirror and charging station boxes. It was interesting to see how the art seemed to change with the shift in color palates. The framed English map next to the black stove suddenly appeared much more grey for instance.
So far the only purchase I’ve made is the grey faux fur blanket for the couch. I’m on the hunt for an accent pillow or two as well but I’ve yet to find anything that was special enough. And at some point, I will probably reupholster the antique French chair and a matching chair (currently done in cream and in storage) but this is a major expense so it’ll work for now as is paired with the Ghost chair that we’d had.
In true ‘Use What You’ve Got’ form, the total expense for my redecoration was $ 125.40:
- $36 for two Ficus Triangularis trees
- $89.40 for the Nordstrom at Home throw blanket
Since the Cappiello poster remained but the trunk and Ghost Chair that was paired with it got relocated, I shifted the Alexa Hampton ottoman over so that we could have it easily accessible for extra seating when we entertain. It’s also handy for us to put shoes on before heading outside and the gold Kelly Wearstler fabric works nicely with the gold in the poster. The mid century light is a great example of mixing eras and styles and I love how it mimics the bird’s feathers, don’t you?
Although not finished, I’m pleased overall with the room. This weekend we are beginning a big switch…painting the wood door surrounds, baseboard and window casings white. We struggled with this because the windows themselves are high quality wood but the overall effect feels very 70’s and dated to us. I found a compromise for this and I’m excited to unveil it soon. Stay tuned!
Then near term I’m on the hunt for 1–2 accent pillows for the couch, mid term I’m wanting to find interesting fabric and recover the pair of antique Louis chairs, and long term, replace the wood-burning stove with a vintage fireplace surround and an efficient fireplace insert.
- Floral arrangement by Herban Bloom, Vashon
- NBC News reference article on natural light boosting productivity