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Reveal: Arlyn’s Bright & Happy Rental Living Room Makeover


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It’s here! The day has finally arrived that I get to show you my home, which by the way is like reading your teenage diary in a crowded room of other writers, standing in your swimsuit. It’s scary. It’s awkward. Please love me.

That’s me. Arlyn Hernandez, Editorial Director here at EHD, smiling through the discomfort of having my photo taken (bless you, Sara—our wonderful Photography Director). Hopefully, you were here yesterday and were able to make it through my extended design sermon about the process of pulling together my living and dining rooms. Today, I’m sharing the reveal of the former, and tomorrow, the reveal of the latter. Though I’m writing this a few weeks before you read it, I promise you I didn’t sleep yesterday waiting for today. Before I get into it, all I want to convey is that I very much love these rooms, and getting to flex design muscles (cultivated from over a decade of pecking away at a keyboard writing on the subject) was SO.MUCH.FUN…and also, very hard and eye-opening. I bow down to Emily (Henderson and Bowser), Julie, Velinda, Grace, Erik…all the stylists and designers on our team that do this on the regular.

As a reminder, here’s where we started:

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Good bones, furniture that once worked in another home, a rug hell-bent on depositing all the world’s lint on my collection of black pants. It still made me happy even if it looked like a consignment shop. But I knew it could be better. I knew it could be properly designed to feel more in line with the building’s 1920s narrative, plus half my furniture was now in new homes (sold prior to moving across the country from Florida to California).

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Here she is. Man does this make me happy. Okay, where to start?? Well…I guess let’s begin where I began…the sofa. I mentioned this in the intro yesterday, but I wanted this sofa for three years (and a blue velvet sofa in general for twice that). When I started at Apartment Therapy as Design Editor in 2016, I had recently purchased my Crate & Barrel Lounge II (in the before photo above), and then Maxwell Ryan, AT’s CEO and founder, released this sofa that he designed for Interior Define. WHAT?!? It was basically a dream, except I had a brand new couch at home that my then-fiance Charles (now husband) and I picked out together. I moved on, assuming this would likely never happen. BUT THEN I got the chance to do a Makeover Takeover, and it was the first thing I picked out.

I didn’t move here with the intention of selling off my previous sofa, but honestly, it felt so wrong in this space. It wasn’t that cool combo of modern + antique in my 100-year-old apartment. It just felt out of place. Convincing Charles to let me get my dream sofa was an uphill battle, however. He LOVED that C&B sofa (still mourns it to this day, actually), but after many a desperate soliloquy on the subject, he caved and said he trusted me to do what I thought we needed to in here aesthetically. You see, he’s in architecture, so it’s not like he doesn’t understand design, but I couldn’t download my brain into his so he could see “the vision.” Anyway, like I said, he resolved to trust me, and after seeing the finished product, he sees the light. He proudly says to anyone who steps foot in our home “this is all her” and I’ve found out through the grapevine that he’s been peddling photos of this room and the dining room to anyone who will listen/look (so cute).

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So YES, sofa. I opted for the single bench cushion (I believe it’s an upgrade in the 98″ right chaise model). It fits perfectly between the windows and sconces here. Almost like it was made for the space (::cough cough::). There were a ton more options to customize this couch that I didn’t see online, so if there’s an Interior Define store near you, I highly recommend going in. They’re SUPER helpful and walk you through everything.

The black sculptural side table was something I bought off Wayfair to put between the armchairs, but it turned out to be gigantic. A happy accident, because I didn’t have a side table next to my sofa yet, and this worked great there. It’s very heavy and stable (it’s concrete) and added a bit of modernity to some of the more traditional things in here.

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Speaking of “traditional things,” oh man did I go back and forth with a rug in here. I originally dreamed of finding a huge 9×12 vintage stunner at the Rose Bowl for like…$50. That didn’t happen. After mocking up what was probably 70 options in Photoshop, I spotted this rug from Lulu and Georgia, and I love it so much. This is not remotely what I ever thought I’d get for this room, but it was a happy surprise. The pattern is a low-pile shag in a light gray, beige and blush (online it looks like there’s purple in it, but there isn’t…it’s gray). Any other color might have competed with the bright blue sofa, so this was just the perfect amount of punch.

The coffee table (a huge upgrade from the rolling cooler that was here previously) was a Black Friday score from Anthropologie. You can’t really see it here, but it has a marquetry pattern on the surfaces of the tiers, and when the light hits it, it kind of glimmers. The table was tricky because I wanted to check the following boxes: round to break up the straight lines of the sofa and other furniture, two tiers for storage, light in color to not domineer the design, and be not-too-big-not-too-small. Its 37.5″ diameter turned out to be perfect.

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Oh these chairs. I had seen the original design (by Pierre Jeanneret in the 1950s) pop up over the years in luxury design projects, but then by nearly blinking, they were EVERYWHERE. I saw these at the Rose Bowl back in December (being sold new by Makers & Smiths), and I just frankly didn’t care. I loved them. There’s a funny thing that happens with trends. When something first starts becoming popular (but before it infiltrates), it’s exciting to hop on board, but then you do, and all of a sudden, you have the same thing that millions of others also have. But also…who honestly cares if you love it, right? Anyhow, I passed on the chairs that day, not wanting to spend an additional few hundred dollars just weeks before Christmas, BUT THEN I saw they were being sold at a further discount on Instagram and I scooped them up right away (after getting the A-OK from the mister…we both live here…he gets a say, too). Anyway, I love them so very much, and they were just the angular, sculptural thing I needed to edge everything up. The little wood table is from Target and very, very good.

Very quickly, that fiddle leaf fig, I got it at Costco…for $30. Not sure if they still have them, but such a score. All the rest of my plants I got either at The Sill here locally, or at Mickey Hargitay Plants in West Hollywood (such good stuff at amazing prices).

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You might have spotted this through the armchairs in other photos but this is my big DIY moment in here. I think every room should have something in it that feels handmade. Something that feels personal, that was birthed in your head to leave that “stamp” that could only be yours. This is mine. It’s just 3/4″ birch plywood from Home Depot cut to size, stacked and glued. The original inspiration came from here, but my sweet Charles used his mad drafting skills (I believe he made it in Revit) to mock up a customized version for under the picture window. After several weekends of sheer how am I building this bench without any tools panic, Sara offered up her brother Shade to build it for me. Thank you, Shade! I love it. The rugged plywood is a nice juxtaposition to the “fancier” things in here like the velvet and brass. The cushion I sewed myself with a terra-cotta velvet I found at Mood (don’t look at it too closely).

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Okay, time to talk art and decor.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I really wanted something above the sofa that felt like “us.” While a big piece of art would have been pretty (and another opportunity to bring in color and pattern), it felt a little devoid of personality. I wasn’t staging this room for a shoot…I was designing it to live in every day. On top of working in architecture, Charles also dabbles in photography, so we had a bunch of photos of us and our family and friends that were just sitting on our phones or his computer, likely never to see the light of day. That is until we thought to do this big 40″x40″ grid collage. I worked with Frame It Easy to build a custom-sized frame (they make it, well…easy to get frames in whatever size you need right online), then just got these 4″x4″ photos printed through Artifact Uprising that I attached in a planned grid with mounting foam squares. It’s the first thing I see when I walk through the door, and it makes my soul so happy. Seeing all the people I left on the east coast—my mom and dad, my nephews, Charles’ parents—our courthouse wedding snapshot…this right here is my heart personified in a piece of art.

The curtain decision, like everything else, was an internal battle. I so badly wanted something impactful. After I settled on a white paint color (White Dove by Benjamin Moore), I had to redeem my hypocrisy with something of color. Low and behold…I ended up buying these white curtains from IKEA instead, and well look, I ended up loving them. They look SO much more expensive than they really are ($40 for a set of 2), and because there would have been so many panels in here, anything with a striking pattern (like the English floral or toile I wanted) would have been Overwhelming with a capital “O”. To edge it up a little, I used my favorite curtain rods and rings in matte black that were left over from my old apartment (I had to buy the extra-long one for that front window, though, but it was still only like $60).

Oh and the pillows…where I FINALLY brought in the color and pattern aside from the sofa. The blockprint floral pillow and embroidered tassel pillow were both sourced through McGee & Co., the copper crushed velvet one I got on sale at West Elm, the textural blue lumbar was borrowed from Jess at the last minute and the mustard yellow lumbar is from Lulu and Georgia (though sadly no longer available).


Here was my solution for the whole TV-off-center situation. An articulating, pivoting wall mount. Drilling holes in my rental walls made me insanely nervous, but nothing some spackle and sandpaper can’t fix. This has really changed our TV binging viewing experience for the better. It pulls out FAR—much farther than in the GIF above—and can turn to reduce glare from the windows in here and the dining room. Boom, problem solved (plus, there’s a part of me that loves that the TV is not the focal point here).

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Ah, that Article sideboard. I’ve loved it ever since I saw it in Emily’s house, long before I worked here. It’s not technically a media console, but I don’t have a cable box or anything (just some Firestick cables) so it’s totally fine. In the name of honesty, there is typically a big white box that holds a power strip and excess cables from the TV and the soundbar that’s not in this photo in the name of “pretty” off to the left, but a jumble of cables just wasn’t cutting it for this shoot. One day, when I figure out my cable management, maybe I’ll show you what I did to make things better. (Also, look away from the dining room, that’s for tomorrow…)

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The fireplace is non-functioning so that firewood is just for show, but man do I love its character. The little wreath on the top tile makes me chuckle. And while I think if I owned this place, I’d give this a little refresh, I don’t know…I kind of love it as-is. The sconces were generously supplied by Hudson Valley Lighting (also, generously installed by Jess) and they are so sturdy and well-made. The double light (x6) keeps this room BRIGHT at night (a dimmer helps). I contemplated doing something rad and modern, but landed on something more appropriate for this building’s era and I’m really pleased with how they look all together.

I got this mirror through Schoolhouse and it’s so nice in person. It has this wide lip around the edge that makes it feel extra special, and it was insanely easy to hang (it came with a French cleat that had a built-in bubble level…easy peasy). Oh, oh, and that little stool…Jess came to help me MULTIPLE times before this shoot (I seriously do not deserve her as a coworker or friend), and when she saw this she swore it was a flea find. NOPE. It’s from Target. It straight up looks like something from a cool antique market and it’s one of my favorite pieces in here.

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In my “before” photos, I had a vintage mid-century chest here that I found at a vintage market in Boca Raton, Florida. I love that piece so so much, but I painted it blue many moons ago, and next to the blue sofa, it was too much. Plus, it sat a little high and I could barely open the window, so now it’s in my bedroom and holds an overflow of books and candles. I picked up this console from Target to fill its void and it works perfectly here.

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That weird phone on the bottom right-hand corner? It’s an antique from Puerto Rico (where my family is from). I did not, however, get it from my Puerto Rican family; instead it came via my sister’s Bostonian-French-American mother-in-law who’s a thrifting wizard. She thought I should have it, though my sister will tell you another story (sorry, Frances, but it’s mine and you’ll have to come to LA to get it “back”). The rest of the pieces I’ve had forever (including that giant stack of Luxe Interiors + Design magazines—I used to be the Executive Editor there, so it’s a reminder of my career journey). Oh wait, that cool round rock sculpture thing is new (from West Elm), and the terra-cotta vase is actually a very chic oil diffuser from the brand Vitruvi. It comes in a few different colors and is the only diffuser I’ve found to blend into decor seamlessly and in a very good looking way.

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By the way, Target has a nice line of candles from Project62 that are insanely good. You see a sliver of one here, but they’re all in ceramic vessels and the scents are so strong, you can smell them even without lighting them. I’m sold.

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And finally, this year’s birthday present to myself, because yes, I am that type of person: two custom commissioned embroidered art pieces from Samantha Gluck. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because she’s a designer that did projects with Emily in the past. We ran two house tours from her last year, and in her own home, she showcased a crazy cool embroidered wallhanging she made herself. I sent her an email to see if she’d be willing to make something for me because I was obsessed, and she kindly agreed. I gave her my color palette (neutrals, blues, greens, terra-cotta), she sketched this up and we went through the design process together to land on these two. She’s amazing, and so are these pieces.

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And that’s it! I leave you with another sneak peek into my dining room to get you excited enough to come back tomorrow to hear from me, Arlyn, YET AGAIN. Thank you Emily for handing over the reins of the blog to me for three days in a row to share my home with the readers. Thank you readers for sticking around and getting down to the bottom of this behemoth post. I hope you love my home as much as my husband and I do. It’s our refuge from the crazy streets of LA (that has quickly become “home” this last year). If you have any questions at all, let me know. I’m happy to answer whatever about whatever. Come back tomorrow to see my dining room…I promise it’s good (well, to me, at least).

Emily Henderson Arlyn Moto Living Room Gtl 2

1. Blockprint Pillow via McGee & Co. | 2. Copper Velvet Pillow | 3. Embroidered Tassel Pillow via McGee & Co. | 4. Sconce via Hudson Valley Lighting | 5. Custom Metal Frame via Frame It Easy | 6. 4″x4″ Prints | 7. Curtain Ring | 8. Curtain Rods | 9. Curtains | 10. Table Lamp | 11. Black Side Table | 12. Velvet Sectional via Interior Define | 13. Coffee Table | 14. Basket (as tree planter) | 15. Rug via Lulu and Georgia | 16. Caned Side Chair | 17. Wood Side Table | 18. Yellow Bud Vase | 19. White Vase | 20. Girl Print | 21. Candle Holders | 22. Mirror via Schoolhouse | 23. Black Frame via Framebridge | 24. Slow Down Tea Towel | 25. Stacked White Planter and Tree | 26. Bleached Wood Tray via McGee & Co. | 27. Black Vase | 28. Carved Wood Accent Table | 29. Brass Hand | 30. Blue Glass Vase | 31. Andirons | 32. Walnut Sideboard via Article | 33. Bench Cushion Velvet | 34. Black Planter (similar) | 35. Lidded Candle | 36. 3-Wick Candle | 37. Canvas Floater Frame | 38. Custom Embroidered Art by Samantha Gluck | 39. Stone Oil Diffuser via Vitruvi | 40. Brass Snuffer | 41. Rock Match Striker | 42. Metal and Rock Sculpture | 43. Console | 44. TV Wall Mount | 45. White Dove by Benjamin Moore | 46. Sheepskin Throw | 47. White Knob Planter

***Photography by Sara Ligorria-Tramp for EHD

FOLLOW ALONG THIS MOTO SERIES: Arlyn’s Living & Dining Room Intro | Arlyn’s Moody Dining Room Reveal

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4 years ago

This is so special – the sofa and the styling are particularly beautiful. What a lovely space to spend time xxx

4 years ago

Love it! It feels like such a nice place to live… and that light! You´ve made a great work solving all of your design troubles, including the TV thing. I see a lot of beautiful living rooms around but not all of them seem as cozy and relaxed as yours. I hope you enjoy it very much…

4 years ago

Beautifully done!

4 years ago

Everything is gorgeous and so are you! You should feel such pride and celebrate your successes!

Kristina Chacko
4 years ago

This is stunning. That bold blue couch is perfect (yay for jewel tones!) and the whole room comes together beautifully. Can’t wait for tomorrow’s reveal.

4 years ago

This really looks fabulous. I love what you wrote about opting into a trend if you love it. That’s really just the opposite of not opting in if you don’t like it, right? So why wouldn’t you buy those gorgeous cane chairs if they’re calling to you? I think they really work well in a long narrow room because they let a bit of light through and don’t have as heavy of an imprint on the room as two upholstered chairs would.

Your small-table/stool game is strong, sister. Makes me want to head over to Target. 😉 FYI, I also found a wonderful small wood stool at HomeGoods (you never know whether you’ll find something great there or find nothing).

Love love love that color in the dining room!

Loveley of
4 years ago

this is absolutely gorgeous! i love seeing how this room came together and can’t wait for tomorrow!

Swagatika Rath
4 years ago

wow great..

4 years ago

Arlyn, this is spectacular! MOTOs are my favorite thing on this blog for sure. Question about the DIY bench – is the cushion attached to the bench at all? I’m looking at making something really similar and I’m worried when I sit down the cushion will slide around. I’m not sure if I should connect it to the bench somehow, add a non-slip rug pad (?!) or what? Thanks!

4 years ago

Lovely! I too have a blue velvet sofa and it makes me so happy!

4 years ago

I looove this. Thanks so much for the IKEA curtain tip— I’m heading there today and will definitely be picking some up for my living room! It’s so hard to find moderately priced curtains that aren’t gross looking. I’ve also been eyeing that Vitruvi diffuser… Going to pull the trigger on it now! Enjoy your beautiful home!!

4 years ago

I’m scared of that tape! Hard to do? They look fab!

4 years ago

Did you use four panels for the wider windows? Thank you!

Karen T.
4 years ago

It’s gorgeous. I’d binge watch Netflix anytime on that sofa! Can’t wait to see the rest of the house!

4 years ago
Reply to  Karen T.

@Arlyn – thanks for your reply! So helpful 🙂

4 years ago

I love how it turned out! I’m glad you went with something personal over your sofa. I feel like the design world can be a bit snobby about actually displaying your personal photos on the wall, but my opinion is that you’re not staging a house; you’re creating a space that makes YOU happy. Most of us feel happy when we see photos that are meaningful to us.

As for the curtains – I’m not above switching out my curtains in summer and winter, kind of like my throw pillows. I have white Ikea ones like yours right now for the summer, but I like to do charcoal velvet Ikea ones in the winter. They’re surprisingly easy to switch out and it changes the vibe completely!

Looking forward to the dining room reveal!

Robin Anderson
4 years ago

Can you add the link for #16?

4 years ago

Great room — great post! Thanks.

4 years ago

Great job! I really enjoyed reading about your process, and the outcome is beautiful! Looking forward to tomorrow’s dining room post. ?

4 years ago

I love it! It has a great balance of function and beauty and is very respectful of the space and era while still feeling current (but not overly trendy). Beautiful!! Can you decorate my house next?! ?

4 years ago

I’m sure it so hard to share a personal space on such a huge platform-but it’s absolutely gorgeous. That couch is the showstopper! And everything looks so seamless. Bright and airy-it’s perfect. You mentioned you were trying to hide cords and figure out the console situation. We kind of specialize in that business-making book boxes with hollowed our backs that hide cords and cable boxes and all sorts of wires if you need.

Amy Jones
4 years ago

Love it! Looks beautiful!

4 years ago

Oh my god, this has to be one of my favorite rooms I’ve ever seen on here. So beautiful, what an awesome job!

Marti Palermo
4 years ago

This is beautiful! Love this MOTO.

4 years ago

Arlyn, so refreshing both the style outcome and your “come on in to my thought process” writing.

Love seeing a return to materials and items many of us can afford and that are not “freebie” paid advertisements for luxury brands that most can not afford.

This is exactly the type of piece that we started following this blog for long ago

More please!

4 years ago

This was really fun to read, I love how the room turned out!!!!

Cris S.
4 years ago

Love it! And I appreciate how you took us through your thought process.

I know I’m not supposed to look, but I think the dining room helps make the living room!

4 years ago

Aww, so cute!

patricia blaettler
4 years ago

Excellent work. And the styling is perfection.

Monique Wright Interior Design
4 years ago

I love it! And I love how the curtains touch the ground PERFECTLY. ?? Also that’s like $500 worth of coffee table books! Impressive.

4 years ago

Really gorgeous, Arlyn! I enjoy your writing style, humor, and story telling. I’m happy you’ve created your bit of paradise in LA!

Kelli Hodges
4 years ago

Love this room! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

Lyna Hernandez
4 years ago

Your makeover is absolutely gorgeous! You are so talented! Well done!

4 years ago

Arlyn! I love this so much…every bit of it. I remember reading all your “sofa squad” posts from AT. I love the Maxwell. Do you feel like the back and bench cushions are holding their shape?

Olivia M.
4 years ago

You totally nailed it! I love how chic it is, yet it still feels homey and comfortable.

4 years ago

I love this space! PLEASE share a diy post of that bench!

4 years ago

oh yes i would love that! Thank you!

4 years ago

Very inspirational! It’s interesting, because I know the goal was to demodernize, but everything here looks pretty modern still! But it works! You added a lot more warmth.

I’m feeling inspired by the custom embroidery (maybe I can get into embroidery?) and the DIY bench. I’ve been looking for a bench and this one looks doable.

4 years ago

I love this and I love all of Arlyn’s words about the thoughts behind the process too! It feels very stylish and approachable both, with those kicks of personality. I’m pinning a bunch of these ideas for our living room too and am eagerly looking forward to the dining room reveal post.

4 years ago

This was my favorite design blog post I have ever seen and I will use it for inspiration for years to come. I have the same style/architecture house and I love everything you did with it, blending the original style with current pieces. So thoughtful, beautiful and comfortable. I LOVE IT! (And this is the first time I have ever commented on any blog.) Thank you for sharing!

4 years ago

Okayyyyy this is my dream living space! DYING over that area rug, the tans/browns, THE blue couch!!!…. all the blue really. Such a beautiful room. Thanks for sharing!

Christine Schwalm Design
4 years ago

Really lovely! Kudos to you. And as someone who also owns the Lounge sofa from Crate (petite size), it can be done in a high pile microfiber that kind of mimics velvet (not nearly as pretty as your fabric, but super easy care)

4 years ago

What a happy room! Living here would send me out every day with a smile on my face.

I particularly love your use of color here. Many of the rooms I see that emphasize color use too much of it for my taste but this strikes the perfect blend. Adding all the plants is the icing on the cake.

Please share a link to that gorgeous throw. I have been looking for something similar for months.

Thank you.

4 years ago
Reply to  Judy

I think this is the link to the Cotton Woven Throw w/ Tassels in Navy by BD Edition

4 years ago

Loving the room! I have a very similar living room layout and my TV placement is the corner. This verified to me I made a good choice with that!

4 years ago


i too have a extending, pivoting arm for my off-center tv – I’ve never been happier about a decorating decision and it was rare, easily agreed upon joint decision for my husband and I – he doesn’t like TVs over the mantel because it’s too high for comfortable viewing, and i bc of the aesthetics!

most of the time it’s pulled out – but when we are entertaining it gets pushed back and that space becomes our bar area – love it!

4 years ago

Wowww! Love so many things. That DIY bench though!!

Roberta Davis
4 years ago

Looks great! I love everything including the look of those chairs (but I don’t think I’d want to sit in them for more than 10 minutes!). Love the sconces, especially! And I think the curtains look nice- so often when I see store-bought curtains in a makeover article or show, they look cheap, but these look great. And of course the styling is fabulous- nothing less than I would expect from you guys at EHD. Good job! I’m sure it is a wonderful space to live in and I’m not surprised that your husband would want to be showing it off!

4 years ago

Beautifully done! I have a similarly sized and shaped living room, with the front door opening right into it like you. Curious about your thoughts on a ‘landing strip’ with this kind of entry. Where do your purse, shoes, amazon boxes and jackets come to rest? I’d love love LOVE inspiration on how to make that kind of real-life functionality more beautiful.

4 years ago
Reply to  greta

We don’t have an entry at all (our door opens to our dining nook) and we’ve just gotten good at going straight to the bedroom and putting everything away straight away!

4 years ago

G O R G E O U S ! ! !

4 years ago

Great post! I immediately went and bought the fireplace stool. It is exactly what I was looking for in my dressing area and the price is right!

4 years ago

Such an INCREDIBLE job! You’ve got mad design skills.

4 years ago

Stunning Arlyn! And I have an Interior Define single bench sectional too! LOVE them…

4 years ago

Arlyn, this space is lovely — so, so lovely. It is sophisticated and serene and playful all at the same time. I really appreciate the way the design honors the architecture of this house but still has many elements of modern living (large tv, lounge-able furniture, big box combined with antique…) I love the window curtains and am blown away that they are off-the shelf Ikea purchases.
I’m looking forward to reading about the dining room!

4 years ago

You should check out the Gold Hive’s article on cable management – she has a lot of good ideas for keeping cords at bay:

Ashley - The Gold Hive
4 years ago
Reply to  Jenny

Thanks for recommending my tutorials, Jenny!