L.A. bungalow makeover
Here’s how it all went down. My friends, Jim and Blythe, moved into a pretty dope rental. But their furniture worked together about as well as the president of the Star Trek fan club and the president of the Star Wars fan club would work together. While there is so much in common, they are almost too similar to ever really love each other. (Obviously I’m talking about the furniture and not the happy couple.) I, of course, love giving my opinions but after trying to make their pieces work I just kinda demanded that they let me design their space and get some new pieces that would actually look good together. These are the perks of being my friend. If only I could be my own friend and do this for myself sometimes.
But I couldn’t do it alone, so I enlisted my friends at West Elm to help me makeover their space to look beautiful, and most importantly, like them.
So here’s where we were before:
They suffered from what most of America suffers from:
1. Having furniture that doesn’t go together. The furniture is almost TOO close to each other in style and color, therefore looking accidental. Also these pieces fall in the “contemporary” range for me, which means to me that they don’t really hearken to a particular style or period and aren’t particularly modern either. They were too big and bulky.
2. Having furniture that is left over “starter furniture,” which 10 years later is not exactly awesome.
3. Not knowing where to start. Rug first? Sofa first? Total style paralysis.
4. Living in a rental where you can’t do any major changes or paint the walls, which leaves you with a lot of bland neutrals boring up a pretty space.
So after I took them shopping to West Elm and the flea market, Orlando and I styled the hell out of their space. Now it looks like this:
Oh hey, happy room that obviously belongs to a young, fun, stylish couple. My friend Blythe is a total California hippie and she wanted it all bohemian and casual. Jim is a modern dude who leans towards strong clean lines and unique conversation pieces. Mixing the two wasn’t hard for me, but it was hard for them. Like most couples, they thought their styles couldn’t work together and every time they tried to come up with a plan someone felt like they were losing. Everyone can win, folks, everyone. Unless you have just terrible taste and your partner has great taste, in which case just let them win. :)
So here’s what I did:
I started with a color palette that they both love. I know all of you are like, of course you used blue, but honestly they both were really attracted to blues and grays and it’s what they wanted. It’s the easiest, most gender neutral color palette you can get. So yes, it’s a go to for me and them. The rug is great because it’s a flat wove kilim that fell into the “boho” category but in colors that are more masculine and dark, grounding the whole space. We HAD to bring color into this space because we couldn’t change the walls, BUT they didn’t want to get a big colorful sofa because that was too much of a commitment.
And nothing says color like a teal chair. Jim found this guy on Craigslist in the OC, and after I gave him my blessing he drove down and grabbed it. It was in vinyl but all ripped up. This teal pulled out the blues in the rug and turned out to be a total stunner. It’s a “boy” chair, but in saturated color. Both Jim and Blythe totally approved. Read all about the before and after of that chair HERE.
Resources: Vintage teal chair from Craigslist, wicker stool is vintage, West Elm teal vase.
Choosing the sofa was very tricky. There was only one place for the TV so sometimes that just dictates the orientation of the room. Normally you would go for the sofa facing the fireplace/mantle, but the TV couldn’t fit above the high mantel, and the fireplace doesn’t play Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad (nor does it play actual fire because it’s non-functioning). So we put the TV on the most obvious wall, opposite the fireplace, and oriented to sofa toward that. We thought about two sofas facing each other but then, yes, you would have to lay down in order to watch TV, so ultimately a sectional (the West Elm Dunham sectional) provided the seating that they needed with the function that they needed. Is it a bummer that you walk into the back of the sofa? Eh, kinda. But that’s why we threw a pretty blanket on the back of the sofa, to break up the horizontal bank of that neutral color and so you don’t see the seam in the sectional.
The sectional is perfect because the arms nor the back pillows don’t take up a ton of space. You get a lot of seating area and it’s still really wide and deep. The chaise allows for one person to be lying down and the other to be on the other side, wildly more functional than a sofa that same size without a chaise.
So, about the TV wall, here’s what it looked like before:
The TV is big and nice, but yes it had A LOT of focus on it when it was solo on the wall. I worried a lot about just filling the wall of random pieces of art because if it’s not right, it’s very wrong. A bad gallery wall is worse than a non-gallery wall so we started collecting slowly. Jim found this local artist, Francesca Quintano, online and commissioned this underwater painting from her that started the collection and worked with our color palette perfectly.
I used all of their own pieces except the Mexican wrestler drawing, which I bought and framed for them. But you’ll notice that we chose pieces that are different shapes (vertical, horizontal, and square), different sizes (big and small) and different frames and colors, but we just kept the colors dispersed equally, in a balanced way. The TV now has WAYYY less importance because you are distracted by all the pretty pieces around it.
Where in God’s name did you get that credenza, you ask? Thank God for grandparents. Blythe inherited all of those pretty mid-century pieces (dining set, too) from her grandparents and they are in PRISTINE condition and just so beautiful.
That wall of windows is awesome, but it needed some life and something to really engage it WITHOUT covering up the view with a big old piece of furniture. I had been hoarding this hanging wicker chair for a while. I bought it from the flea market for $100. Now let me be clear about something: I bought this for $100 because the stand is worth almost that in itself. But I don’t necessarily recommend buying these vintage unless they are hardly used because after 30 years of wear and tear they aren’t as structurally sound as you want them to be. So this works, but if they find that they use it a ton and adults (like us) are swinging around drunk in it, then I’d probably recommend them splurging on a new swing, and keeping the vintage base.
The swing is perfect for adding texture and softness in that corner in a way that doesn’t impede the beautiful view, but still breaks up the windows. The swing also kinda mimics the shape of the window in a pretty way. And naturally I threw a sheepskin on it to soften all the lines, etc.
And yes, we like plants. You’ll notice not one fig tree in site, folks. I’m trying, I swear. The windows, full of light, were begging for plants and it was a big request from Blythe. So we chose almost all succulents and native California plants that wanted a lot of sun and would be really easy to care for. We mixed the planters up between the West Elm pots and other vintage terra cotta (as well as that gold that is from the flower market downtown).
Overall, it’s just a super happy bright space that was once totally neutral and is now completely full of color. It was boring and style-less and now it has a strong point of view that represents both of their styles.
My question is, would you, dear readers, want to live here? Because once again, I’m jealous of my own clients, and in this case it’s my friends. I may have to destroy them, obviously without damaging their oh-so lovely living room.
This post was in partnership with West Elm but all designs, words, decisions, motivations, production, and styling were completely dictated by me. Thank you very much West Elm for sponsoring this series and thank you, readers, for supporting my supporters. Check out the other two room makeovers in the West Elm Series: Orlando’s living room/bedroom and my living room. All photos by THE INCREDIBLE Zeke Ruelas.