Living Room: Before & After

Friday is a tough act to follow, but I am going to try to give you some insight and pearls into the process with our living room.

So, here is our living room in Chicago:Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 8.07.08 PM

Which I show you because I re-used 90% of this room in our current living room, and yet, to me, it looks totally different. I drew up the tufted sofa and had it made to fit the Chicago living room, and found the wing-backs on ebay and recovered them. The lamb was adopted while we were in this house off of 1st Dibs. The consoles were some cheepies from overstock or something, that we repainted. The lamps are furbish. The ottoman was Ballard upholstered in tiger velvet.

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Then this is how it looked in Austin. From Chicago to Austin we switched the coffee table/ottomans between the living room/playroom. We added in two lamps, moving the side table lamps in Chicago onto the consoles in Austin. We also added a new rug and ottoman in Austin, and moved the monkey painting that was in the kitchen in Chicago to the living room. And, the pink. Colonial Rose by Fine Paints of Europe. Otherwise the sofa, side tables, lambs, consoles, and chairs are the same in both rooms.Screen Shot 2013-02-11 at 8.16.04 PM

And now. I think it is kind of helpful seeing them all in a row like that. Same look, three ways, ya know? Trying to illustrate my point that if you invest in one really superb piece like our couch, you can use it anywhere/everywhere as your tastes change.

So here is the before.hr2924042-17

It is an awkward room because it is kind of long and narrow. 13×24. And there you see a pathway at one end connecting our staircase/powder room/kitchen to our den/library. The wall space where the fiddle fig was above is 5’4″ to the corner. Just enough space to be awkward when empty and not enough for pretty much anything. At the other side is our entrance hall, obviously another major pathway. So the layout is trixie.

The previous owners had dealt with the situation by floating all of the furniture in the middle of the room, and I don’t know if that was for staging or if that was how they really lived in the room. It just seemed like a really formal room that would never be used. Everywhere we have lived, Pete and I try to live in each room. Which means giving each room its time to shine. We did this the best in Chicago where our living room had a fireplace but no TV, and our playroom had a TV and no fireplace. We entertained a lot in our living room, or read by the fire. And watched TV and hung out at night in the playroom.

If you want to live in all areas of your house, try to save some activities for each space. If you have multiple living spaces, make one room the game room, or the TV room, or the music room. To me a house feels homier when there is life in each room, and you can’t really fake that. Don’t leave your room lonely, if you know you won’t use your formal living room then make it your office. Nothing makes a house feel spooky like abandoned rooms.

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So this is basically the same angle after. As you can see we dealt with the awkward space by filling it up with good stuff.

No stuff or wee stuff or not enough stuff makes you look outward at your surroundings, and here that means the weird dimensions and walkways. So we filled the most awkward of corners with a piano. Space planning can be hard. And putting the piano there was a big gamble. The piano was Pete’s great-aunts who he shares a middle-name with. And it meant SO much to Pete. When his parents told us they were passing it down to us it was really important that we find a place of honor for it.

It fits in that space with not even an inch to spare. I measured it out and put painters tape on the floor to make sure it would work. It is tight, but it gives that corner a purpose and visual interest. It is a total myth that small furniture fits small rooms. Bigger pieces anchor it and give the illusion of a bigger space. It’s like when Old Navy sells some of its size 12 pants as a 6 and you feel super skinny. Big ass furniture in tiny pants rooms makes everyone feel/look better. Sometimes. I’m not sure that analogy works, but a few bigger pieces can make a small room feel bigger. hr2924042-16

Lots of tiny furniture in the middle of a skinny room. Pure, but it feels to me like you would have to have really good posture to hang out in here.


Remember the fantastic Mr. Fox Fabric?fd261_v97

Yesss. Curtains in that colorway are coming. I chose it because I love it. And because in every room where I have some bizarre color combinations, there is always one piece- even if it is tiny- that pulls together all of the colors. I did have a hard time deciding between those two color ways. As it is the room kind of has a great monochromatic thing going with the browns/oranges, and the tan color way would have continued that. But in the end I felt like it needed a little bit of contrast that the purple provided. And believe it or not- Pete voted for the purple as well.Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 7.49.52 AM It can be a fabric or a piece of art or a rug. All of the colors come from somewhere. Here you can see the green from the couch, the gray that is in the chairs, the brown in the rug? Then the orange on the walls? AND it brings in some reds/pinks/purples that aren’t in the room that will add a lot, I think. It will give me a place to go from when I add pillows to the couch and reupholster the piano bench.

So here was the thought process that brought this room out of the two previous iterations.photokh 1

It started with..well it started with the furniture. I still love our couch so much. I thought about recovering the chairs and couch in Austin, and bought the fabric and everything, but laziness prevailed and I am so glad I kept it.

I have been obsessed with the Stark Antelope for a long long time, and I can’t remember if something clicked and I was like ‘STARK! You would be GREAT friends with my living room items. Wanna date?’ ORRR if I just thought it was hot and forced it on my living room furniture, but either way, match well made, right?

So then there was the issue of wall color. And that is when I called upon mah ol’ friend I introduced you to in the last post, Mr. Roy G. Biv. Does it make you sad that I am such a simpleton? That RoyGBiv is my secret trick to making weird color combos? So R. Red, No. I like red and pink and that is Valentine’s day, but red and green is Christmas and that is ridiculous. Red is out.

Orange. Or-ahnge. Hmm had never really considered orange. But something about the idea struck my fancy this time on my tour o’Roy. Tagged it. Went through the rest of the colors and none of them turned me on. And so I looked at my House Beautiful color guide and someone suggested Orangery.


Sounds FANCY!

IMG_1409 copyI like how it is almost beige, but not. It is orange as a neutral. Color doesn’t have to be so in your face, there are pinks and lilacs and muddy greens and pale yellows that all read very close to beige without being beige. You don’t have to go full on to get some color in your life.

So here we are going to play Good Cop/Bad Cop. Things that work/Things that make me angry.

Bad news first.

I hate the fireplace. It isn’t even a fireplace. It is a mockery of coziness and love. It is not real and there is no way to make it real. So I shoved a bunch of candles in it and it makes me a lot happier, for now. Good & Bad.

All that stuff on the fireplace? So good. So not mine. Well, like half of it is mine. Half of it is my moms. And half of it is stuff pulled from other places in our home to make some visual impact here. Which is three-halves and how you make abundance. Good cop? Pretty. Bad cop? Temporary.

Good cop? I found something at the very most last minute to hang above the fireplace. DO NOT FILL A SPACE WITH “ART” JUST TO FILL IT. If you don’t have a piece you love, find a mirror. You can always repurpose a mirror, but some last minute reproduction landscape print that you hate, but has the right dimensions? Just…go with a mirror. So I found a mirror. Good. Scale of the mirror, bad. The frame needs to be at least double the thickness that it is.

That’s what she said.

Ok, wanna know what one of my favorite random moments in this room is? Our blue and white stools. I don’t know why, but I rarely use blue. I love blue. But it doesn’t seem to be a major player in my repertoire. I was looking around and thought, this room is so random. It needs a chaperone. Someone kind and Grandmotherly. And I thought of blue and white. And it totally babysits that junk and makes it look so much right-er. To me.

So this was…less focused than the last? But hopefully gave you something you can use?

I think one of my big takeaways is in terms of color scheme: Sometimes I make a bunch of random colors hang out without precedent. But in that case I am always in search of something that has all of those colors in it to bring everything together. Like in the living room. Right now there is not one place all of the colors exist at once, but when the curtains come they will. Even if it is just a tiny little swatch on a pillow, if the colors exist together somewhere else I feel like that legitimizes it. Kind of like citing articles in a paper.

Other times I find a fabric or rug or piece of art and pull the color out in unexpected ways. Seeing colors together even in totally different scales and compositions gives me confidence to know that I can make them work.

Finally, I think this room more than any other shows how flexible great pieces can be. Furniture does not have to be neutral to be flexible. I am so sick of people telling everyone to do a neutral couch and mix it up by changing out the pillows. That seems like a great way to constantly spend money. I am not saying that doesn’t work- but I would like to offer another perspective for your consideration.

Our couch is not neutral at all. The style with the tufting is like bam, and it is bright green (bam) and velvet (bam). And yet it has worked equally well in a white room with yellow accents, a pink room, and now in this orange/neutral room. We don’t even usually have pillows on it and it looks great. You do not have to buy a beige couch because it is a neutral and will transition with you. Because if you do that, every time you transition, you are still going to have to buy or create your “moment” in the room. If you make the couch your moment, you have something you can bring with you anywhere that will have visual impact and interest. You could plop our couch in the middle of a dorm room and it would be fabulous.

Finally, a note on art.IMG_1528 copy

This is not one of my strong suits. Our gallery wall here needs work.

I had initially started with the idea of the living room housing portraits only. Our own National Portrait gallery. We had the painting of the gentleman that hung in our bathroom in Chicago, and the gentleman kitty. Pete’s mom gave us that drawing you see up there of her when she was in Paris in the 60’s, and my mom gave us a beautiful sketch/photograph of her from the 70s. Then I found that guy in the striped shirt and loved him. Love him or hate him, you have to admit he belongs with us.

But then it became harder and harder to find the right pieces. And I broke my rule and bought the picture at the top left from and I like but it was an impulse buy because the wall looked lop-sided. I think works best as a way to bring something great that you adore but could never afford into your house. Or something unusual that isn’t immediately identifiable as a reproduction (i.e. not a Picasso like I did).

So then I gave up on the portraits and brought in one of Gray’s pieces. The colors look so good in here. I don’t think all the frames need to match, but these need some work to at least coordinate and not be so distracting. I am planning to gold leaf the frame with Pete’s moms portrait, and paint Gray’s frame black with a gold detail. DIY projects, y’all!

So I think that pretty much exhausts the case of the living room. Sorry I didn’t include any gifs. But was this as helpful? It is time consuming so I want to make sure y’all continue to get something out of it and I am not just talking to hear the sound of my own voice.

As always, questions in the comments I am trying to keep up with and answer as well!


  1. Janelle March 6, 2013 at 2:01 am

    Jody-I think the wingchair fabric is Lee Jofa Icelandic Poppies velvet grey….beautiful!

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