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Before & After: One Week Makeover The Living Room

Out of everything we pulled off at Maddie’s townhouse, I am most proud of the living space transformation. Many of you might be familiar with Maddie’s living space floor plan, with living, dining, and kitchen occupying the second floor of her townhouse- a lot of my Chicago clients have the same situation going on. And while an open floor plan makes for convenient living, it can also be daunting to decorate. Especially with the soaring high ceilings a lot of newer builds have.

Maddie's Living Before 2
I have said before, I actually like designing under constraints. It helps me focus and fuels my creativity, and this project had some major ones in that we only had a week, and a reasonable but strict budget.

While I like designing under constraints, something always has to give, and I am going to tell you a design truth: You either need time or money. It is almost impossible create a beautiful, lasting design without either. (Think some of the janky design shows on TV)

If you have the money, you can go out and pay for the convenience of ready-made items at high end design stores. If you have the time, you can search for deals over the long term, and refinish budget vintage items with great high-end results. But in our case, there was just no way we were going to be able to complete the long term makeover in a week in all four spaces, and stay under budget. So we had to borrow a few things.

And I am curious to hear what you think about that- I will pose some questions for discussion at the end of the post after you see how we used our “on-approval” items.

The first thing we did was take inventory of Maddie’s space. In the living room we wanted to keep the couch, but the chairs we had already planned on replacing, and the coffee table and rug were nice hand-me-downs but not really Maddie’s style. There were great architectural details with the arched bookshelves and moldings, but everything was getting lost in a sea of beige. Because of the timeline, we had to choose things that were immediately available so we went around to our favorite Houston stores like Area, Boxwood/B2, and MeCox finding our missing pieces: rug, chairs, and a coffee table.

We had the couch to start from on a furniture plan, and we needed paint. Since the place was so open and lofty, Maddie wanted to make it a bit warmer and cozier. Alligator Alley by Benjamin Moore is one of my all-time favorite go-to colors, it is sophisticated but because it is a slightly off color also brings a bit of an interesting edge. It has an almost layered quality in light, and at night is calm and enveloping.  So we decided to paint everything out in alligator alley, including the bookshelves and fireplace to pull it all together, but leaving the moldings and kitchen cabinetry for contrast. The walls are an eggshell, while the bookshelves and mantel are a high gloss and the contrasting finishes really showcases the colors versatility.

In every space I like to bring at least one major moment. A custom statement that elevates everything else. The bookcases were a huge focal point, and are also just huge, and being a young married couple Maddie and Matt didn’t have the lifetime of treasure to properly fill them. We decided backing them in a fun wallpaper would fill in some of the visual space, and be that special impact for the room. At first we planned to use the tortoiseshell wallpaper I did in our bar- I knew I had one leftover roll and we could order another- but it was discontinued. While we continued brainstorming, we picked out a light pink Madeline Weinrib rug that we thought would be a good balance for the masculine green and neutral colors elsewhere in the space.

Then- when we were searching our storage unit for the leftover tortoiseshell wallpaper, I discovered two rolls of this Cole & Sons library wallpaper I had bought off eBay on major discount a few years ago and it was perfect. Although it meant that the light pink rug we had selected probably wouldn’t work. Luckily I remembered another Madeline Weinrib rug that I had admired awhile back that would be the perfect replacement, and we easily switched them out.

Living Room Before:

Maddie's Living Before 1

And After:

Maddie’s existing couch and side tables, with new rug, art, lamps and borrowed Eames lounge, pillows, lucite coffee table, and brown velvet chairs. New art and bookshelf accessories we brought in got to stay as well.

We adjusted the floor plan a bit, moving back the sofa so that we could fit both chairs by the window.

The TV that used to be over the fireplace was too high up to be properly enjoyed, and now has come to live on the bookshelves where the Native American bust sits in this picture, which Maddie reports is much more comfortable.

How beautiful is that Cole & Sons wallpaper with the alligator alley? I love the magenta with the olivey green. Such a lucky find.


And here is how you can get the look on your own.

Living area
The art above the fireplace is an original oil painting by Diana Hendrix, but you can get a similar feel with this pony piece. Wallpaper, couch, side tables, lamps, rug, coffee table– and an option for less, the actual velvet chairs we used– and a budget option, walls- similar art, and an Eames chair- that one was particularly hard to give back.

So, now knowing that the chairs and coffee table were temporary for the shoot- what do you think?

Almost every magazine I know of takes advantage of stores’ willingness to lend items on approval for editorial spreads- there is a whole industry of stylists that are hired by magazines to spruce things up for shoots- sometimes that means adding a few flowers, others that means rearranging furniture and replacing lighting fixtures. Having been on both sides of the situation now, I wonder how y’all feel about that as readers.

Does it take away from the value of the project to you if you know some of what you are looking at was brought in just for the shoot? Or are you more of the mind that they should do whatever it takes to produce the eye-candy, who cares if it is an illusion?

And, as always, if you have any questions about the design I am happy to help

Before & After: One Week Makeover The Den

So as I mentioned before, we conceived and executed the majority of this makeover in just over a week. We had been working on making some changes to Maddie’s townhouse slowly over time- mostly in their bedroom- but when Crystal asked me to contribute something to this issue we pulled it all out to get it done. That included finishing up their master bedroom, overhauling their main dining/living area, and a small den.

This was the unused bonus den room before:

Maddie's Den Before

I am so pleased with this makeover, because the changes are really pretty doable and not super expensive, but it is so transformative and the room just looks luxey now. Maddie already had the Gray Malin print in her bedroom, and the hide, and the blue sofa was leftover from a client project where we went in a different direction…You may remember the plan I showed you here…and this is the after!

Screen shot 2013-09-25 at 8.51.49 AM

We reupholstered her existing chair in my favorite Mulberry velvet duck fabric, and brought in some accent pieces, but most of the wow in this room comes from the paint! So simple.

AND, just for y’all, we decided to break it down and show you how to achieve something similar on your own!

Den for less

Walls: Benjamin Moore Gentleman’s Gray, Sofa, Gray Malin Art, Side Tables, Lamps, Hide Rug, Coffee Table, Chair, John Wayne Art, Bar Cart (available at Biscuit), pillow =$6,547

If you haven’t seen the issue yet, check out our spread and six other talented designers celebrating three years of Rue!

What did you think of this makeover? Do you like seeing the breakdown of how it all came together? Any questions? How may I help you today?

Behind The Scenes: Shooting with Southern Living

We have been fortunate enough to have had our work shot for a few publications, and it is interesting how different the experience is each time. With our original Rue shoot and Matchbook, we shot with the wildly talented Emily Johnston. For our Chicago shoot, we had Alaina to help with styling, but in Houston it was just me and Emily all day.


Our master bedroom as shot by Emily for Matchbook

Emily is gifted, shooting with her is quick but thorough. She can walk into a room and immediately see the shot, and while she takes her time composing things just right, once she has it she has it. That is also the beauty of working with online publications, most of the time you have control over the images. You aren’t having to send them back to an editor for approval.

With print publications, things run a little differently. You have a whole team. Which makes things feel special and exciting. There is the photographer, one or two photographer’s assistants, a stylist, and often an editor from the magazine. But…you also have to deal with the bureaucracy of an editorial team. Shots get sent back to headquarters for approval, and things just take a whole lot longer.

This was the scene for our HGTV Magazine shoot last year.

photo 2-4

photo 1-8

Southern Living was a bit more streamlined. They sent the photographer, Hector Sanchez, his assistant, and the stylist and her assistant. Since Hector is on staff at Southern Living, they didn’t need to send an editor as a liaison.

photo 1-7

One of the spaces I was most excited to show y’all would be the updates we made to our master bedroom- and if you have checked it out in the latest issue, you will see that the shots came out beautifully. This is the shot I took of the action with my iPhone. Our old bed was really high and felt a bit too big in our bedroom. So I had this insane hot pink velvet tufted headboard made, based on this bed in one of my all-time favorite rooms. I am obsessed with it, I love how the arms snuggle you in, and how low it is to the ground. Adding the canopy really finishes things off, and sleeping here is like dreaming in a romantical tent.

photo 2-3

And posted to Instagram. We used light blue accent euros and sheets, Jenny coral shams, and Paul Light Blue boudoir and duvet.

photo 3

The crew setting up the shot…

photo 5

I think we’ve got it…

southern living bedroom copy

And print!

The pictures in the issue are stunning. I absolutely loved working with the whole Southern Living team, and am beyond honored to have been featured. It was the best motivation to finish up projects around the house, and I have a few more updates to show you coming up.