The Full Living Room Tour

Our living room has been made over, all ‘Hollywood Style’. Well, less like Renee Zellwegger, more like Kim Kardashian –  total improvement in every way, but still recognizable. We didn’t reconfigure the house, no major walls were knocked out, but everything got a ‘face lift’. Lets take a little trip down memory lane before we jump into the ‘after’ shots of our living room, shall we?

When we bought the house (one year ago) it looked like this:

emily henderson house

Lots changed immediately before we moved in: the carpet was ripped up, the false low ceiling was demo’d out,  the rounded stairs were demo’d and the tint on the windows was removed.

emily henderson house

Just lifting up the ceiling made it look and feel soo much better. The walls were skim coated (they had an insane texture) and painted white, the ceiling was painted white, the iron-work was painted white, the new stairs were built, the fireplace bench was painted white. My 8 moth belly was painted white. We painted a lot of things white, apparently. And its wonderful.

December 2nd of last year (2014) we moved in and it was magical. As you can see (below) I was 38 weeks pregnant and it really just represented such a new fresh life for us. I didn’t care that the kitchen, bathrooms and exterior were in their 1960’s state – that living room with that light and the fresh new walls and floors made everything feel so fresh and full of possibility.

emily henderson house

Even looking these photos makes me tear up. So much has happened in a year, and I’m not just talking about the living room. I remember crawling into bed that night with such an intense excitement – the fact that we were 34 and finally buying our first house, that we were about to have our first baby, that I had purged and sold everything I didn’t want or need so I was stylistically starting fresh. I don’t want to go back because it means that I wouldn’t have that baby, but I’m so nostalgic for when we first moved in. So much possibility, so many projects and it was before I really knew how much it was going to cost or the fact that we had mold, virtually all the sliding doors need to be replaced, that we need to replace the central air, fix the fireplace, and all the other boring/stressful stuff of home ownership. We are making dents in all of them, but the not knowing about them beforehand was just wonderful.

We slowly made progress – I bought a temporary indoor/outdoor rug, we arranged all the furniture, (well, I arranged and re-arranged and re-arranged every day), and while I couldn’t commit to hanging art, I loved just having it all lean for a while. I kinda love that shot on the lower left (above) and we should reshoot  that angle now – it’s just so nice to see the whole room. Meanwhile yes, I miss my sofa. An avid reader purchased it and I needed the dough because I was spending an insane amount before we shot it, and I had already bought a new sofa, so turning down the offer of $3k was too hard. I know she reads this, so dear sofa purchaser, you are so lucky. And yes, I kinda regret selling it now.

Four months ago we shot the house for Domino Magazine (as surely you must know by now). One of my best friends, Scott, teased me for months about how it was if  ‘The Domino Shoot‘ was a major milestone in my life – like birth, high school graduation, college graduation, marriage, birth of first child, The Domino shoot, retirement, death, etc….  I talked about it SOOOO much. It was this looming deadline and it forced me to do some things I wouldn’t have otherwise (in a good way) and to do somethings fast that might have needed more thinking, too.

So here’s how the living room looked, four months ago, featured in the September issue of Domino:


Here’s the deal – a house only gets one feature in a print magazine. And especially for me, who has been documenting/hyping it up on the blog for months I knew that I couldn’t just sit back and have it be mediocre or even just pretty. So we worked hard, we spent money, we splurged, we BOUGHT A 14′ TREE, and we were still painting walls and hanging art the night before.

For this spread we were ‘airing on the side of elegance’ so it was a little more pulled back than I usually am. And that’s cool. In this photo you don’t really understand the impact of that Nek Buddha tree (one of the splurges) and you don’t see the view, but you get the idea – a mid-century Scandinavian inspired space that feels happy and yet quiet – or at least that’s how I see it.

When we shot this Charlie wasn’t crawling yet, so it didn’t need to be quite so family friendly, but as he has become more mobile I realized that I needed to shift some furniture. The coffee table was fine (and don’t worry, I’ve kept it) but Charlie kept almost crashing into the corner which was ruining my morning quiet coffee/play time. So we stored that and instead I stole this large pouf from Joy’s house.

So here is where we are now, as of 3 weeks ago:

Emily Henderson Living Room Blue Pink Mid Century Modern Tree

And I think it looks sooooo much more like us and more inviting. Of course now I look at this photo and I’m like WHY THE HECK DID WE NOT JUST PULL BACK THE SOFA 7 INCHES!!!!  It looks crowded in the room. But at least you can see the leather strapping on the back of the sofa which is ridiculous. Yes, those are leather arms, too. Check out this post for the full sofa post.

How do we actually use the room? Well certainly not with a tray with flowers on that pouf. I didn’t go out of my way to actually style these photos – instead I cleaned the house and arranged things as if my friends we coming over and then asked Tessa to photograph it like that. The toy trunk is in the corner, Charlie’s piano is out. It’s definitely more pulled together than it is on a daily basis but no, we don’t really have things on surfaces.

Emily Henderson LIving Room Playing Charlie

This is where we hang out and play every morning. Charlie has a toy trunk near the window that has enough toys to keep him occupied for our play sessions. Sure, it’s not normally this clean (and normally there are a few plastic standing toys/walkers), but photographing the mess seemed a little too try-hard in a way.

I love the Wegner style saddle chairs in the Domino shots, and I’ve kept them, but I missed the comfort of these safari chairs. I thought that they would be too matchy with the strapping on the sofa, but they aren’t. And they are just so unbelievable comfortable and so kid-friendly. The second they came back the room became wildly more comfortable.

Emily Henderson Living Room Charlie Emily

I love the shot below so much because it gives you a sense of how the house works so much.


That is the entrance on the left and the stairs on the second level go up to the bedrooms. Also please  note our extremely child friendly stairs going down into the living room. The stairs used to be rounded and carpeted and they took up WAYYY too much real estate in the room. So we replaced them with modern stairs and it was fine before Charlie started crawling and now, clearly, it’s a problem. Just yesterday Brian called again about getting a quote to add a banister (which visually I don’t want to do, obviously). Meanwhile we are adding a baby gate at the bottom. Man baby proofing is a massive bummer.

Sofa: Vintage from Amsterdam Modern| Blue Blanket: Vintage | Floral Pillow: Vintage | Pink Pillow: Ikea | Blue Velvet Bench: Target | Teal Tray: Target| Side Table: Vintage | Tree: Nek Buddah from Tropics Inc. | Entry Chandelier: Park Studio Collective LA

Emily Henderson Mid Century Modern Leather Blue String Art

We moved the collection of pottery on the hearth for obvious reasons – old ‘wrecking ball Charlie Henderson’ would break them all, but also I wanted to add more pillows – again, I just wanted more warmth and more layers. Shocking, I know. That credenza above needs to be replaced because it is bowing REALLY bad (read this post about that).

Rug: Loloi Byron | Blue Velvet Bench: Target | White Pouf: Lulu and Georgia | Teal Tray: Target | Safari Chair: Vintage | String Art: Nike Schroeder | Dining Room Chairs: MidCentury LA | Dining Room Chandelier: Park Studio Collective LA

See, you can see it bowing here pretty bad.

Emily Henderson Mid Century Modern Nike Schroeder String Art Bench

Lets talk bench cushions. Scott had this old piece of vintage indigo that he had been hoarding and I had a much large piece of vintage indigo that I got in Laos years ago that I had been hoarding, so while they didn’t match, I didn’t care because they are both beautiful. I took them to my upholsterer, gave him the dimensions and he sewed us up these little cushions. Definitely something you could do yourself, but we were out of time. I think they were $120 total to sew.

Emily Henderson Mid Century Modern Bench Windows

For this shot we moved the toy trunk because it, well, ruined the shot. Not because its ugly but because you couldn’t tell what it was, and it confused your eye and I hate it when my eye gets all confused. Most morning I’m sitting up there or leaning against the bench, playing with little guy. Adding more pillows actually made a HUGE difference in the space. It doesn’t feel busier, it just feels more inviting.

The blimp painting has a lot of sentimental feelings for me. So much so that I wrote a whole post about how/where/how much I purchased it for and the whole framing process. Check it out HERE. 

Emily Henderson Mid Century Modern Leather Bench Seat Pillows

Art: Vintage, framed by Curve Line Space | Cream Pillow: Target | Cream and Gold Metallic Chevron Pillow: Target |Pink Pillow: Vintage | Grey Pillow: West Elm| Floral Pillow: Vintage | Pink Pillow: Ikea | Blue Triangle Blanket: Happy Habitat | Brass Floor Lamp: Vintage

Emily Henderson Mid Century Modern Blue Relaxed Bench

Cream Pillow: Target | Floral Pillow: Vintage | Geometric Blue Pillow: Steven Allen for West Elm (no longer available) 

Emily Henderson Mid Century Modern Leather Blue

Art: Vintage, framed by Curve Line Space | Cream Pillow: Target | Cream and Gold Metallic Chevron Pillow: Target |Pink Pillow: Vintage | Grey Pillow: West Elm| Floral Pillow: Vintage | Pink Pillow: Ikea | Blue Triangle Blanket: Happy Habitat | Rug: Loloi Byron 

Emily Henderson Mid Century Modern Blue White


Emily Henderson Living Room Poof Couch Tree

Here’s what we do when we set up a shot – we find the angle we like then we make sure that every thing looks good – this takes sometimes an hour to tweak. Every time you tweak you take a new picture (because its hooked up to a laptop and you can see it better on the bigger screen). So we took some of the photos/progress and turned it into a gif for you:

Emily Living Room GIF

You might notice yes, some people i it, a bunch of stuff in the dining room, a black box (I think it’s the doorbell box) up on the wall on the second floor, and then yes, we brightened it in post. The magic of shooting and styling a space, right?

This one, below, was more about tweaking everything:

Emily Henderson GIF Living Room Sofa

We started with the blue pillows on the sofa and the empty tray on the coffee table and gradually tweaked and tweaked until the pink floral pillow was on the sofa and the pink flowers on the pouf.

This one shows you how we started, how we style it when guests are over, fully styled out and then how we have it every day (in other words with nothing on any surfaces):

Emily Henderson GIF Living Room

So that’s our living room all madeover. As of right now I want to change a few things (the white bowing piece needs to be replaced) and I’m still grappling with the fireplace surround (which is another post coming up), but I pretty much love being in it. Its feels good in there and while I’m sure I’ll change it, the morning play/coffee time with Charlie and the sunset occasional happy hour is pretty wonderful.

For related posts check out the story behind the string art piece, the blimp art piece, the sofa (and its white stain-resistant fabric), and the design of the bookcase. 

We put together a ‘get the look’ board, but a lot of the pieces are vintage so we did our best to find replicas:

get the look living room


1. Brass Chandelier: Park Studio Collective LA | 2. Blue Triangle Blanket: Happy Habitat| 3. Wood Hand Chair | 4. Blue Velvet Bench: Target  |  5. Woven Textile Art: Jane Denton | 6. Glass Agate Tray: Target | 7: Safari Chair: Anthropologie | 8. Wire Table: Target | 9.  Pink Pillow: Ikea | 10: Blue and Purple Wool Blanket | 11. Blue and Green Floral Pillow: Etsy | 12. Hand Sculpture | 13.  White Pouf: Lulu and Georgia | 14. Byron Rug: Loloi | 15. Gold Foil Pillow: Target  | 16. Copper Barware: Target

Photos (except the Domino magazine shoot which was by Brittany Ambridge) by Tessa Neustadt. Thank you Tessa!

Just joining and curious about the other rooms? Check out the family room, kitchen, nursery (final not posted yet), the built-in bookcase, our guest room, our master bedroom (new update coming soon), the deck, and the unfinished bathrooms. 

Family Room Update

The family room – the room that we hang out, probably SIXTY PERCENT OF THE TIME, is strangely the last to get finished (well, that and the landscaping and bathrooms). It’s a ‘cobblers kids with no shoes’ situation. But there is an update for you and it has gotten a lot better. So let’s go all ‘time travel’ on the situation and recap to where we were 1 year ago, before we moved in.

Family Room 07

Beautiful. Mauve. Dark. Stupid.

We wanted to make some obvious changes: paint the walls, ceiling, replace the floor and add WONDERFUL INVITING-NESS EVERYWHERE. I loved that it shared the space with the kitchen but that it wasn’t our formal living room so that we could make this super kid friendly and comfortable.

Family room Before

Family room Before

Family room Before

I have dreams of Charlie playing on the ground with beautiful scandinavian-style toys, wearing all organic dye-free, blood-free, diamond-free clothes, while I make a vegan roast, wearing a hand-stitched apron, nude underneath. This is how it should go down on an average Wednesday in our family room. And it does.

But after 3 months it still looked like this – mismatched chairs, stupid everything. Bad, Bad, Bad. But I had just had a baby, and was busy weeping out of happiness or sadness, so I get a pass.

Family room Progress

Family room Progress

So now, as of November 2014, we are better but not done. I’m working on it but the progress is S.L.O.W.

emily family room blue grey 1

We have an awesome, very comfortable sofa (in the best configuration possible). The ottoman is rad and insanely kid friendly but it doesn’t work with the sofa, stylistically. The rug is awesome (a CL find 5 years ago for $75) but it’s too flat for the chunky sofa – although it does hide dirt, etc, really well. There is no art on the walls, but a family photo wall is planned. Its going to be a wonderful room, it’s just not there yet.

The gold chest of drawers is from a vintage store, and its rad. The standing lamp is from Chairish and its weird and wonderful. Oh and that weird white laptop table is GENIUS because when I was breastfeeding I could put my water on it without reaching forward towards the coffee table. Its kinda ugly but totally great (it slips under your sofa and acts as a very convenient side table).

Things are fine but not awesome.

Blue Rug: Vintage | White Floor Lamp: Vintage from Chairish | White “C” Table: Container Store | Blue Blanket: Target | Grey Couch: | Tan and Cream Pillows: Vintage | Blue Striped Pillow: The Citizenry | Leather Ottoman: Vintage from Amsterdam Modern | Brass Side Table: Vintage | Table Lamp: Schoolhouse Electric | Shades: DecorView

Its great that we have a room that is open to the kitchen, indeed, but its a little awkwardly shaped.

emily family room blue grey 2

Pendant Lights: Vintage from Shopclass LA | Blue Rug: Vintage | White Floor Lamp: Vintage from Chairish |White “C” Table: Container Store  | Blue Blanket:Target  | Grey Couch:  | Tan and Cream Pillows: Vintage | Blue Striped Pillow: The Citizenry | Leather Ottoman: Vintage from Amsterdam Modern | Shades and Drapes: DecorView

Meanwhile on the other side of the room we have this:

emily family room blue grey_kitchen copy

The TV and the pack ‘n play. Charlie actually likes being in that pack ‘n play. Its not like he’s dying to go in it, but once he’s there its big enough that he plays for like 15 minutes at a time. Thats not bad, friends. I can pretend to cook or check my instagram, while he’s in there sticking a spatula in his mouth.

The TV feels kinda small that far enough away from the sofa. We have a projector that we could use there and just get rid of the TV but you can’t watch projectors during the day, which is kinda fine because how often do we actually watch tv during the day, right? But Brian is a massive college football fan so at least for these few months there is some daytime watching to be had. So our options are a. get a larger TV, b. use the projector screen and c. mount the tv to the wall opposite the sofa (on the far right) that you can see in this picture:

emily family room blue grey 1

Then it would be a really cozy TV area, but I wouldn’t be able to watch TV while I cook and I am actually cooking at least 3 nights a week now, plus making Charlie’s food, etc. But I could always just watch on my laptop or get a little counter tv. I feel like i’ve been talking about my tv situation for like 3 paragraphs. Geez. But its important and it just doesn’t feel right yet.

Blue Rug: Vintage | High Chair Seat: Stokke | Pack and Play: 4moms | Barstools: Vintage | TV Console: Vintage |Pendant Lights: Vintage from Shopclass LA  | Abstract Painting: Vintage | Wood Bowl: Target | Black and White Tray: Target

So, when we shot for Domino we quickly set up this room even though it wasn’t on the shot list, and I think none of us were that psyched about it (which is why it didn’t run in the magazine). The thing about these kinds of sofas is that you shouldn’t try to make them look ‘hip’. They are crazy comfortable, inviting and pretty but not cool. So in this photo I think we tried to make it look cool and instead its a little over-styled. I like everything in this shot and I like how the photographer took it, but I don’t like how we styled it to the camera. There is just a little too much stuff and the styling makes the sofa look suburban when it really just needs to look simple, comfy and cozy.

Emily Henderson Family Room Gallery Wall

I think it actually works best when pretty neutral pillows are thrown on in and it looks super casual and flop-on-able.

So that’s the family room update. My questions to you guys are: A. should I do a wallpaper in here? (I mean, I know what you are going to say, ‘YES!!!”), or just do a massive family photo wall? OR do both, if I choose a more subtle patterned wallpaper? I could do one similar to the one in the bedroom – just a simple metallic texture (posting soon, I promise).  Maybe that’s what I’ll do. But I also don’t want it to get super busy because this area is a bit cramped and there are often a ton of toys and computers laying everywhere.


Thoughts on what to do on the walls and what kind of ottoman/coffee table (remember it has to be kid-friendly) I should do are very welcome … Weigh in, folks.

Thanks to Tessa Neudstadt for the ‘pre-after’ photos and Brittney Ambridge from Domino for the photo that never ran.

Brass and Marble Backsplash

emily henderson brass and gold backsplash_circle

Ok, friends. Welcome to the backsplash post. A lot of y’all have been asking, it just took a while to collate all the info.

For those of you just joining (welcome), here is what our kitchen looked like when we moved in. Workable, but not awesome.

Emily Kitchen Before copy

I knew I wanted to upgrade the cabinet finish, put in a backsplash, new appliances, new counter, etc, but not demo it out because the configuration was pretty good. Most of the decisions were fairly easy to make – Caesarstone countertops, pretty white appliances (post coming) but the backsplash? I sprouted four new gray hairs trying to come up with a backsplash that was both simple but interesting; not using crazy expensive materials, but not boring. Also it needs to always be good for resale, but at the same time ‘pinnable’ for now. Its hard. At first I tried this insane mountain scape idea that I still think could work with the right materials, but it also could have looked like amateur garbage.

I love carrara marble (I’m not alone right now in that, clearly) but I’m too irresponsible to have it as my countertop. It looks good aged in a more traditonal style house but ours is midcentury. Besides, I knew that if we had one get together with red wine it would be over. So I wanted to figure out how to bring it into the kitchen and obviously the backsplash is a good opportunity to do that. You can buy it in bricks, squares or in larger tiles that are wildly less expensive that slabs. So I opted for the 12×24 tiles which are roughly $5.50 a square foot and cost us $451 to do the whole lot – we bought 20% overage since we were cutting them (and when you cut you get some casualties) and that price included tax and shipping (shipping is strangely expensive at $80).

brass and marble backsplash details


But the brass? Yeah, thats not a normal backsplash component. It’s typically used at a ‘floor junction’ in between carpeting and tile – like at the threshold between the kitchen and living room, or bathroom and hallway. Its solid brass and slides underneath the tile – but you get 1/8″ brass strip in between the tile, looking like brass grout. The tile guy thought we were nuts (not for putting it in a backsplash but for opting for brass at all). That side with the holes goes UNDER the tile and the larger brass side (the profile) is butted up against the next tile, so what you see is the top side that is 1/8th inch.

The brass edge trim was by Schluter Schiene from Westside Tile and Stone at a cost of $32.00 per 8′ length.  I believe we ordered 12 8′ lengths and had 3 left over. We didn’t really know how many we needed since we were doing a weird pattern (oh and we ordered like 2 days before install and it came from the East Coast so yes, we ordered extra just in case). One of our concerns was the potential of the brass tarnishing but the manufacturer thought it would be ok and said we could polish it as long as we avoided getting the polish on the marble which could potentially damage the surface and take the shine away. So far so good.

We thought about ordering a slab of carrara so that we didn’t have any joint seams and also to try to save on money and material waste but the slab would have been too thick for this application. Our installer ordered the tiles from Discount Tile Center on Venice.

carrara tile

The one on the left is the way the trim is supposed to be installed, but its only 1/8th an inch, which is pretty narrow. The one on the right is flipped, which looked WAY better (1/2″) but we would have had to cut each piece vertically and the install would have been a nightmare. So we installed it properly, but I do regret it not being bigger.

Meanwhile I didn’t want to just use the tiles as is, I wanted to do stripes with them with varying widths. First we tried more of a brick pattern:

Kitchen Tile

I like it but we thought it would have looked too busy. Now I don’t think so and I think it could look awesome because the brass trim is so subtle. It would have been more expensive to install (because way more cuts) but looking back it might have been a better option. We also had the stripes vary in size from 2, 4, 6, 8″ which would mean that every single one of them would have to be cut down from the 12″. Again, more cuts = more expensive install.  Kitchen Tile

So we opted for the above pattern, which were just simple stripes, at 4″, 8″, 12″ widths. It was a challenge conveying what we wanted so we drew it on the wall itself:


Click through to see the reveal.


The magic of photo editing

Lately we’ve shot a lot of projects twice – once for a magazine or book, and another for the blog. First, my house, shot now three times – once for Domino, once for the book (those photos can’t be shown yet) and then since we needed more photos that could be shown we shot it once again recently just for the blog. Stuff always changes – the styling, the furniture (if you are me) and the photo editing. So, I thought it would be fun to show you one vignette, shot two different ways.

Take this vignette, for instance. The shot on the left is from Domino and the shot on the right was more of a ‘real’ house tour shot by Tessa Neustadt. I specifically asked Tessa not to Photoshop things because I wanted to show how it actually is. I cleaned it before she came, but otherwise its true to life.


Here is the difference:

1. The styling on top of the white piece – I actually love the styling of the credenza on the left more – that lamp was at the studio the day we shot the living room again, so I put that collection of pottery on top of the white piece, but I think that the lamp is WAY stronger and the top looks a bit messy and cluttered. How I usually style it is with the lamp, books and plant (its dead now) on the left, the two hand sculptures in the middle and the bar tray. Now that I’m staring at these photos i’m definitely going back to that.

2. The shot on the left was photoshopped so that the white piece of furniture  a. didn’t bow, and b. didn’t have the shelf. Interesting, right? It’s definitely cleaner.

3. I think for Domino we brought the rug closer to both the bench and the white piece of furniture. It does look better, but in reality it would have had to be a MASSIVE rug to be that close and still underneath the . We do this all the time – shift rugs to make sure they cover what they need to cover in each shot. Cheats, I know.

4. With Domino we shot Nike Schroeder’s art piece moving in the wind and with Tessa we shot it just laying down. I like both, actually.

5. The pillows changed, but I think I prefer the arrangement on the right.

6. Domino photoshopped out the AC underneath the white piece. Obviously better. May we never ever have ACs or heat grates or chords or wrinkles. I know its fake but it just looks so much better.

7. The colors on the left look more saturated, right? Again, I like both. One is brighter and more fun and the other is calmer and more true.

Meanwhile for both shots we removed the foreground furniture so you could get more of a clean shot on that vignette. In the context of the room it looks like this.

Emily Henderson Mid Century Modern Leather Blue String Art

I love how Domino made that piece not bow – it drives me NUTS. But I love how this shots shows so much of the space. I just want to crawl under there, on all fours, and hold it up with my back. Here’s the deal: I bought it from Ikea, but I don’t remember what the legs were – probably something chrome and shorter. I had these brass legs that I had been hoarding for a while so I got the brilliant idea of attaching them to it. It looked SOOO good until we thought it should be our media unit and that we should rest our TV on top of it. Within 10 minutes it bowed. We instantly mounted the tv, but it didn’t matter – the damage was done. So now I need to find a new piece – I’m just slowing shopping trying to find the new right piece (wood? white? brass? a painted color?).

Meanwhile, I’m totally on the fence as far as which picture I prefer. The one on the left is more aspirational (as that is what a magazines job – to inspire us) whereas its always refreshing to see imperfections. I guess it depends on what mood i’m in – am I trolling the internet for inspiration? If so then I don’t want to see AC grates. But if I want a peek inside someones house then yes, show me everything and don’t try to fool me. I had a jokey argument with a photographer the other day that wanted to get rid of the diaper pail in the shot and I was like ‘BUT WHERE WOULD I PUT MY POOPY DIAPERS??? in a pretty basket? Nay’. So we did it with and without – the one without the pail looked so much better.

In short its the magazine industry’s job to inspire us with beautiful spaces shot perfectly. and its sites like Apartment Therapy job to show us real homes of real people.  I love both in different ways and need both in my life.

Do you have a preference? Not in the photos above (please don’t), but in the ‘inspirational’ versus the ‘real’?

Photo on the left by Brittany Ambridge, care of Domino. Photo on the right (and bottom photo) by Tessa Neustadt

Rug: Loloi Byron | Blue Velvet Bench: Target | White Pouf: Lulu and Georgia | Teal Tray: Target | Safari Chair: Vintage | String Art: Nike Schroeder | Dining Room Chairs: MidCentury LA | Dining Room Chandelier: Park Studio Collective LA

Stain-resistant white upholstery fabric

Here was my challenge: I wanted a kid-friendly WHITE sofa. IMPOSSIBLE!!!!. I know. But that’s really what I wanted to make the living room feel as bright and big as possible. I just had to prove to myself, Brian and the rest of America that I could find a white fabric that could withstand some grubby little mitts all over them.

First, the sofa: I found this vintage sofa at Amsterdam Modern in LA and immediately fell in love with it. Hard. It retailed for $2500, which wasn’t cheap but it was exactly what I wanted and is around the price of most good quality home retail stores. Plus it was WAYYY more unique, obviously.

leather sofa in warehouse

The fabric it had on it was actually kinda awesome and I kept the slip covers just in case I wanted them later, but as you can imagine it just wasn’t going to work in this house, so it needed to change.

What happened to my old sofa you ask? Ugh. I had that vintage blue sofa for 5 years (below). Not that long in normal people time but it had been in like 4 magazines and all over the interwebs and I was just ready for a change so when I was offered $3k for it, I took the deal. It was probably worth more as we think its Adrian Persall, but the timing was right and I couldn’t say no to that check because I felt like I was just purging money, buying everything for the house. Plus it was going to be shot for Domino and I just wanted to have something that looked different.

Are there days when I regret not having it? Absolutely. I loved everything about it. It was extremely deep and comfortable and actually had a ton of sentimental value to me because it was one of my first big purchases ($700, I believe) after DesignStar. I kinda wish that I had just hoarded it but honestly that $3k was needed to help pay for the new sofa and the string art, etc. And at some point you have to let go of things.


photo by Zeke Ruelas

There she is. I just got so sad again. It also just photographed sooooo well. The only thing that gives me peace of mind is that I know that the new family LOVES it very much. I’m just glad it has a good home.

On to the new sofa!

leather sofa mid century_before


What I love about this new vintage sofa is practically everything, but especially the leather arms and the strapping on the back. Its low, simple and modern and pretty much goes with any style, but it definitely has a point of view. I bought it from Amsterdam Modern (and no, there are no others that I know of).

At this point in the living room design I knew that the rug was going to be that beautiful blue rug from Loloi so my options for the sofa fabric were as follows: white/cream, navy, gray or a pattern. I didn’t want a warm color because I wanted to contrast with the caramel leather. I was obviously very tempted by the idea of navy, but I was really trying to stick to my original mantra of ‘bright, airy, light’ so I decided against it. Don’t be shocked if someday I go back to having a navy sofa – I do kinda miss that big block of color in there. There really wasn’t any pattern that I could commit to because then it limits the patterns on the pillows, etc, and well, I just didn’t want a pattern. I thought about a simple pin-stripe, but didn’t find one fast enough so I gave up. Gray is always a good option but white is really what I wanted, I just needed to figure out how to make it kid friendly.

The three best options for stain resistant white fabric are leather (too expensive and could be kinda cheesy), ultrasuede (a good option but I kinda hate the butt marks) and outdoor fabric, in this case Sunbrella, which was a big contender for sure. There are some performance velvets out there that work, too, but we didn’t test them because I didn’t want a velvet on this sofa. And they are hard to find in yardage, although I think that West Elm sells some. So it was down to high quality linen (which I knew wouldn’t really work but I wanted to see how it withstood the stains), ultrasuede and outdoor fabric.

To make sure that I wasn’t making a massive mistake we decided to do a stain test with the three fabrics and many stain culprits.

Sunbrella Fabric Stain Test

We used some of the most commonly spilled items and those that are consistently difficult to remove from fabric: chocolate, baby food, red wine, mustard, tomato pasta sauce, permanent marker. Then we went to town on the fabric.

Sunbrella Fabric Stain Test_Pouring Wine


Sunbrella Fabric Stain Test_with food

There you have it – three fabrics with the same 6 stains on them. Can you even wait to see what happened? I was so excited.

Click through to see the winner.  (more…)