Before and After of Glee creator’s Ian Brennan’s Comfy TV room.

Name drop much? Emily? Whatever do you mean?

Here’s the 2nd to last installment of my friend Ian Brennan’s house.  Yes, co-creator of Glee and yes, i want people to google ‘Glee’ and for this post to come up, i’m kinda shameless and transparent like that. But don’t worry, I’ve also given him permission to drop my name in gross ways as well, perhaps even on an episode of Glee, in his Emmy thank you speech, or even on The Ellen Show, if need be.  I mean, whatever is best for him and the show, that’s really all i think about.  In fact that’s really why i’m doing this, to get more people to watch Glee. It’s grass roots marketing, people, but i’m pretty sure that this blog is why 11 million people watch the show, Glee. You are welcome, Ryan Murphy. 

For those just tuning in, Ian is a good friend of mine and when he moved into his new bungalow a couple years ago i designed it for the pilot episode of Secrets from a Stylist. But i never took proper, well styled photos of it, which bummed me out every time i was over there.  So photographer Bethany Nauert and i went back and she shot it and I styled it all up a couple weeks ago.  Check out the Living/dining room, and a sneak into the master bedroom, plus here is the episode itself if you want some vintage SFAS.  

But some rooms REALLY changed since the show.  Like the Den, for instance:

When he first moved into the house he didn’t really have anything to put in this room. So we had to stage the before look.  I think we even bought him this furniture so that there was something actually in the room to show on camera and to give the viewers a proper ‘before’ and ‘after’.  There’s a secret from a stylist for you.  This is the only picture i can find, sadly, but it gives you an idea of what the space was like before. 

THEN, when i redid it on the show i turned it into this:

Its obviously widly better, although that photo looks so sad.  But here is some behind the scenes info – some real riveting stuff:

Ian and i really didn’t like this white furniture. It was his old furniture from his starter apartment in Los Angeles. It was faux leather and just way too ‘contemporary’ for him (and me). Plus not nearly comfortable enough for the tv room.  

They look nice in these photos, i admit. But ultimately we wanted something better.  

So before the show we went to HD Buttercup and bought a very comfortable sectional.  The plan was to use these in the first look and then to bring the sectional in for the second look. But the producers thought that these looked nice enough, and that it would look silly to the viewers to replace them and we would get criticism for being wasteful.  I think they were right.  So we left these for the final look and kept the sectional in storage til after the show.  Then we sold these on craigslist.  

I like this room. Its masculine and ‘dude’.  I like the gray grasscloth a lot, and as you can see we replaced the carpet to simple gray commercial grade carpet, added a hyde, vintage trunk for a coffee table and installed goose neck lamps on the wall as sconces.  

But then a couple bad things happened:

1. The grasscloth installer for the show (that we never used again) was NOT up to par and thats putting it real nicely.  The seams in grasscloth are always going to show more than in wallpaper and normally it doesn’t bother me, but it was really bad and uneven and messy.  Then he got a lot of the wallpaper paste on the front of the grasscloth so there were these huge stains all over the front of it. Awesome.  We shot around it and vowed to Ian that we would fix it afterwards with a better installer, one that knew how to YOU KNOW, install it properly. Luckily grasscloth is cheap compared to wallpaper so it wasn’t that big of a pain.  I buy my grasscloth at  It can be as cheap as $35 a roll (wallpaper starts at $60 – $150 a roll, to give you a comparison).  

2. We replaced the grasscloth just in time for Ian’s basement to flood. The entire basement was practically underwater and had to be gutted.  MASSIVE bummer. I felt SOOO terrible for him.  This was his first year into home ownership so needless to say it sucked. Everything had to be replaced and i tried to help as much as i could.  I’ve always felt slightly responsible for his house because he bought it really quickly just so he could be on the show which obviously was great for him, but also so good for me. So i do feel slighly emotionally tied to it.  

ANYWAYS, this room did feel a bit masculine and cold for him (and me) so when we had to opportunity/were forced to replace the grasscloth AGAIN i swatched new colors and we realized that a really warm dark ochre would make the room WAY more inviting. This space doesn’t get a lot of light and its sole purpose is for cuddling, so it needed to be more inviting. If the floors were wood it might have helped, but i always knew deep down that the charcoal walls and the heather gray carpet wasn’t the best idea.  But it was approved by me, him, the producers and HGTV so I stuck with it.  This is the main difference between designing for TV and designing for real life – you have to make decisions really fast and you have to stick to them even though you might change your mind. Too many people are involved, and the ball gets rolling too fast so its hard to change your mind in so many ways.  

But look at her now:

The room is now WAY more cozy and inviting. The beautiful ochre grasscloth made all the difference in the world. Plus there is a cute dog, and people love pinning cute pictures of dogs, right?


So here is one of the first lessons i learned as a designer (rather than just a stylist):

A room with too many cool tones will just feel COLD.  Gray walls, gray sofa and gray floor = masculine, but cold. 

Now we have warm ochre grasscloth walls, a warm wood coffee table/trunk, an ochre and cream patterned rug (from Ikea), BUT the sofa is still a warm gray and the carpet is still gray so it feels balanced. Sometimes  a room with too many warm neutrals can look dated and kinda 90’s, so it needs to have some cooler tones.  But i love that there isn’t a lot of high contrast in this room – its tonal and quiet which makes it feel bigger, calmer and more inviting.  

Again, thanks to Bethany Nauert for shooting the real AFTERS, she did an awesome job.  Again check out his living room and mini-office here. 

So which do you prefer – the gray grasscloth or the ochre grasscloth?  Be honest folks and let er rip. 

  1. Phoebe

    I prefer the grey grasscloth, actually, but I do like the new sectional. There are definitely some things I'd change about the grey room, though, like the cow rug, and things that I might add to make it feel warm, like hints of ochre. But ochre all over the walls for some reason gives it a slightly Pottery Barn feel to me, which isn't my jam.

  2. Alex

    The producers were 100% right. Particularly for the pilot. One of the things that drew me into your show was that you made a conscious effort to avoid being wasteful. Restyling the leather Ikea sofas went a long way. Yeah, they still looked a little stark and modern, but you made them look better than I ever imagined they could. And just when I was wondering about the pricey Chesterfield that got the axe, you chimed in with, "rent things from a prop place to test it out!" That line was so key to my continuing appreciate for the show. You fill a really important void in the design TV marketplace. Real people need ideas for how to make things that may not be perfect work for the time being. Kudos to you and your producers for what, in hindsight, was an extremely clutch decision about how your show would stand out from all the rest.

    Oh and now that I'm done with that diatribe– ohhhh man, I love that Sectional. Rest assured, I will pin the heck out of it.

  3. decorbuddy

    This re-do is now one of my favorite rooms you have ever done. So relaxed and cozy. I just want to curl up on that sectional and take a nap. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  4. It's good to see that tweaking can be done all in the same vein of your original design! Love these new choices even more than the original!

  5. Megan

    Pinned already! I really dig the gray grasscloth but agree it looked too cold, the re-do in Ochre is very warm and inviting. Those white couches look like they would take the skin off the back of your thighs. Absolutely love that sectional—can you share the manufacturer?

    Here is a question for real-life living vs. TV: how on earth do so many people manage to keep that Ikea rug clean? I absolutely love(d) that rug and have seen it all over the blogosphere (including a children's playroom) and my own home for a few months. Is that a high traffic area? In my living room/TV room that rug lasted 4 months before my husband and dog ruined it.

  6. smarty

    I like the ochre grasscloth best. Looks so nice with the dark tones and white trim.

  7. Megan

    Loved it, pinned it. The dog makes the room, obviously.

  8. EmilyHS

    I like the ochre walls AND the gray walls. However, my first thought upon seeing the gray walls was "Why did she do the walls and floors in the same color?" I think the ochre with the gray floors is a big improvement. I think the most dramatic difference is the sectional. Now it looks like a den!

  9. Sam

    I love how the room came out. Could you please share where the sectional is from? It would be perfect in my living room too.

  10. Marybeth

    I love the ochre grasscloth. I had no idea that grasscloth was reasonably priced!

  11. Anne W

    I love the ochre grasscloth as well! I would also love to know the manufacturer of the sectional.

  12. Muoi

    The ochre is so much better for this space. The trunk goes nicely with it, where as it kind of stood out in an akward way with the grey grasscloth and carpet. Love the sectional, too.

  13. Brad...

    Emily… absolutely fantastic! I love the ochre grass cloth with the gray floor and sectional. It looks so clean, crisp, and balanced. Very pleasing to the eye! But the part I like best is that you hung in there with your friend and he hung in there with you! I have often wondered when watching shows like yours… about how much interference you get from the producers. I have suspected all along that it might be a lot. Too bad because I am sure it could potentially stifle a good design or put you in a position that you really would not like to be in…

    You sure seem like an "o-k" kind of lady… and a totally boffo designer!

  14. I'm fairly positive that while looking at swatches I would initially pick the gray over the camel, but I love how the final room came out so much. A room that both a man and woman would love.

  15. Kim

    Loving that first look all the way.

  16. addie

    The second look with the ochre walls is doing it for me: cozy, inviting, neutral but with punch, balanced masculine and feminine. The first look is good but more appropriate for an office lounge than a home tv room, for me. I applaud you for doing ochre because it can go so 90's Tuscan or oops, mustard but it is a fab color if you get it right. I like that you kept most of the other stuff the same, the gooseneck lamps, trunk, white trim, art etc. And gotta have the sofa the dog looks best on, just sayin'.

  17. Totally prefer the ochre – brings out the beauty of that trunk and contrasts with the gooseneck sconces more. And that sectional looks so cozy!

  18. Clare

    the ochre for sure. we've just moved and the colours in our newish apartment are very modern white/black/grey and adding a bit of gold/natural fibers (like our big jute rug) has brought a much softer, calming feeling. i think this colour makes the grey more inviting too. p.s omg your post about trays, footed things, books, stools & benches changed my life. for reals. cx

  19. Tracy

    Hello! What was the color gray you used for the initial look from designyourwalls? I've ordered so many samples from them that look gray on screen and then are very green. Help!

  20. Normally, since I'm a gray-aholic, I'd be all over that gray! But, it that room it looked cheap. Def like the after look much better, it's not my favorite color, but worked so so well in that room! <3

  21. Lindsey

    i love the first look. the grey is fantastic! well im a grey person so i guess that's why i am attracted to that one. oh and i also love the antlers with the maps.

  22. Sara

    I love, love, love the ochre!! I think gray is so all over the place everywhere, and gray and white, that I think you usually balance with warm woods, but I adore the ochre grasscloth adding the warm balance and texture in this room. Gorgeous!

  23. beth

    I love this room. The colors are masculine and cozy at the same time. Beautiful.
    As a side note: your link to the master bedroom doesn't seem to be working. Would love to see it!

  24. ali

    Love the ochre, and the sectional! Where is that sectional from?? :) The second makeover of the room looks softer and more inviting … love it.

  25. louise

    'a room with too many warm neutrals can look dated and kinda 90's' sheesh *looking round my front room* yup confirmed what i had been suspecting for a while now, wall to wall warm neutrals, and i now hate it. I could change everything apart from the carpet…..where do i start??? help! please!? everything brown and beige with pale blues :( *sobs*
    Sad Louise from Manchester UK

  26. Tim

    The dog makes the room way more inviting. I wonder if the dog is part of the decoration of the house?

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