You know how all babies look kinda wonky for a while after they’re first born? (Except for all of my friend’s babies, who have come out looking amazing and beautiful and definitely not like weird little wrinkly/puffy aliens.) Well – that newborn phase is kind of where I am in my living room process. It doesn’t look like much right now – you may even think it looks kind of bad! – but I can finally see all the bones and pieces sliding into place, you know?
It’s always weird to share in-progress spaces on the internet, but I’m really excited for y’all to see the full transformation from “a bunch of furniture in a room” (what you’ll see today) to “intentionally designed space” (that you’ll see next month – I’ve made more progress since these photos and we’ll be shooting at the top of 2023!). But today, I want to walk you through the weird middle ground phase – it’s taken 3 years of sourcing (vintage takes time!) and I’ve made a pretty egregious and embarrassing mistake (read on for my enormous paint fail – renters, please learn from my error), but this is the last “before” that I’ll show before the dramatic “after.” Ready to see what I’ve been working on? We’ll start in the back corner, closest to the dining room…
The Vintage Score Of A Lifetime
…WHICH IS THE NEW HOME OF AN UNBELIEVABLE FACEBOOK MARKETPLACE SCORE. I’ve written a lot about how to find good vintage on the internet, but my number one piece of advice for all secondhand sourcing is usually “keep it vague – folks who know what they have tend to price it accordingly.” So, uh, imagine my utter shock and surprise when I fired up Marketplace, typed “Marge Carson Elephant Bar Cart” – one of my white whale pieces – into the search bar, and found an EXACT MATCH, in near-perfect condition, including the original stool, at an achievable price point, and JUST A FEW MILES AWAY.
I do not know what kind of karmic deed I did to be rewarded with a dream piece that usually costs between 2 and 3 months of rent, but I AM SO GRATEFUL. It did still take a few nervous months to save up for it – I was always worried someone else would swoop in and steal it, as I tragically do not have a dedicated account with several hundred dollars earmarked for impromptu furniture purchases – but man, I lucked out. Welcome to the Concrete Jungle, new friend 🙂 (And shoutout to Jess, who said the name to me – you’ll soon see that it’s very appropriate.)
The Chairs (In A Surprising Fabric I Love)
First – I have since flipped this layout (and the elephant end table – a $2 Long Beach Flea find! – may find a new home, lest I become known as “the insane animal furniture everywhere” lady), but I wanted to take a second to sing the praises of these Mitchell Gold +Bob Williams chairs. I was looking for something that felt a little 70s – I’m shooting for a disco-meets-deco vibe in here – with a more petite profile, and these fit the bill perfectly. The entire piece was customizable, so I opted to get the base in wood (it’s the ‘Natural’ option) and chose a Sunbrella performance basket weave for the upholstery (in ‘Almond’ – I love it).
I know Sunbrella is normally viewed as an outdoor fabric, but it’s also the only upholstery option I’ve found that can hold its own against my cat’s claws. (I actually wanted to use it in here so badly that I asked the Sunbrella team for help in sourcing indoor chairs – they were the ones who pointed me in the direction of MG + BW and I’m very thankful they did!)
An early testimonial: these chairs were delivered a few months ago, which was simultaneously amazing (great shipping times!) and terrifying (what if my cat destroyed them before the shoot?). I’ve been so pleased, though – my cat’s taken a particular liking to the front portion and to the top of each chair (read: she is constantly scratching on these, despite my best efforts to redirect her) and they’ve held up beautifully. I know that nothing is totally indestructible, but these have given me the ability to enjoy an upholstered chair without the constant worry of imminent and immediate ruin. Highly recommend Sunbrella’s indoor fabrics to any other pet owners out there:)
The Work-In-Progress Fireplace
There’s a lot to be done here – I’m planning on grabbing a vintage trunk to replace the leather statue (yes, that is the third animal item in this post, for anyone counting) and obviously, the mantel needs some styling. I do love the original elements here, though – I want to give some breathing room so the sconces and fireplace can really shine on their own. I’ll also swap out the art on the Frame TV for the shoot, but well…no promises that I won’t change it back to this Bosch after the photography is done:) (For anyone else who is interested in weird 16th-century art – BoschBot, my favorite Twitter account, posts random bits of the painting every few minutes. Definitely NSFW, but so fun to see the details up close!)
The New Rug and Old Coffee Table
THIS RUG. It’s the Harwich Natural Woven Jute Rug from Annie Selke and OH MY GOSH, I LOVE IT. I originally was planning to use a smaller leopard-print hide in here (it’s actually still leaning up against the fireplace – I’ll find a spot for it somewhere!), but realized I needed something to ground my floating furniture a bit more. I love the harlequin print as an alternative to a ubiquitous checkerboard and the woven texture makes it feel a little less precious, you know?
The 1970s tubular lucite coffee table was a 2019 steal from AES of LA. I’ve historically been a serial coffee table switcher, so holding on to the same piece for 3 years has been HUGE for me. I know you can only see a glimpse but trust me – it’s beautiful and I love it 🙂
My Dream Sofa That I…Kind of Resent?
If I can offer you one lesson, it’s this: your sofa can be curved, it can be leather, or it can be armless. DO NOT GO FOR ALL 3. I love my funky 80s sofa when I have company – it’s perfect for comfortable conversations and for enjoying drinks with friends but…well, I kind of resent it the rest of the time. You can’t really take a long nap here (which may be good for me, to be fair – your girl can snooze) and pillows slide right off, so it isn’t great for relaxing in general.
Long-term, I actually think I want to scrap my current dining room plan in favor of using the sofa as a banquette with a round dining table (naturally, now that I’m almost done with the living room, I’ve realized that it’s the perfect scale for that the dining room – I checked!). Short-term, it’s livable (and at least I love looking at it, too). I guess that now I’ve learned that having a nap-worthy sofa is more important to me than my friends being like, “oh, this is a beautiful conversation area.” C’EST LA VIE.
Flanked By A Sweet Rose Bowl Find (For Now)
Y’all, the Rose Bowl deities SMILED ON ME last month. I found this pair of Salterini-style tables for a SONG (like, we’re talking like 1/10th of the price here, y’all). Dealers stopped me to ask if I knew what I’d found. Someone tried to buy them off me in an aisle! I know they’re a little patinated, but I love their character and their history. I don’t know if they’ll stay next to the sofa in the final iteration of the reveal – they may relocate to the front door as a little drop zone! – but there’s something really thrilling about walking into a room that’s filled with found pieces. I think searching for vintage fulfills some sort of deep-seated hunter/gatherer urges in the weird part of my monkey brain, or something (anyone else?).
My Problem Corner
Or like, a half-problem corner, I guess? My mom actually got me this canoe shelf from TINI (an old LA vintage store, RIP) about 7 years ago after I sent her near-weekly updates of me visiting it in-store (like a lunatic – again, being driven by my monkey brain, maybe?). I pulled it over here to test the size and scale as I wanted to put a similarly-sized closed storage piece here – maybe something a bit campaign-y? – where I can also hide (or at least obscure) all my wifi/router mess. Alternatively, I was noodling on a round foyer table here in the corner – I think either would make me really happy, it just depends on what’s on FB Marketplace when I’m ready to plop down ~$200. Stay tuned!!!
The Window Wall
I’m VERY excited about this. My new curtains (just cheap semi-sheer ones from IKEA) will be hung appropriately – you can see their new endpoints, which I marked with tape – and the windows will be flanked by those horse mirrors that I nabbed at the Rose Bowl last year with Jess. The waterfall bench will be replaced by this white oak media cabinet from Room & Board (set to be delivered in just a few days!!!) which will house my record collection and turntable, in addition to providing a nice place for my cat to stare at all the action on the street below:)
A Ringing Bamboo Shade Endorsement
While I have you – I spent about $180 on these four cordless bamboo shades ($41 for the 29″ wide ones, $48″ for the 35″ wide version) and I am SO, SO, SO HAPPY WITH THEM. I spent a really long time trying to figure out which cheap woven shade was the best and I couldn’t be more thrilled with my choice. If you are also in the market for window coverings that look great and won’t break the bank, I cannot recommend these more highly. (I got them in ‘Squirrel,’ which is a really cozy and warm natural wood tone.) I’m so excited for you to see them with the updated curtain rod and drapery – I’m so thrilled to have found an affordable and renter-friendly window treatment solution! (It only took, uh, almost 4 years? NBD.)
My All-Time Greatest Rose Bowl Score
The back wall, opposite the fireplace, is filled with 4 VERY un-styled bookshelves which you don’t have to stare at yet:) But I am still freaking out about this Rose Bowl find – I fell in love with the whimsical shape, thought it’d be a nice fit for this empty space (I was inspired by Erik’s similar living room closet/chair combo here!), and figured I could clean up the original leather upholstery a bit. (It isn’t in the best shape, but it’s more of a “looking” chair than a “sitting” chair, you know?)
The dealer originally asked for $300, but I negotiated it down to $215. After I’d purchased it, he told me that it was an “original, probably worth about $2,000.” Honestly, I kind of laughed it off – I’m more interested in the shape than the resale value – but I clocked the original stickers on the bottom of the chair while I was carrying it out to my car. I’d like to introduce y’all to the George Mulhauser Scroll Chair, produced by Plycraft in the 1950s, which now seems to fetch a biiiiit more than $2,000. I am genuinely the luckiest person in the world (when it comes to vintage finds, at least).
An Egregious Paint Failure (No!!!)
THIS IS WHERE MY LUCK RUNS OUT, THOUGH. After waffling between two Sherwin-Williams paint colors – Romance, a warm-toned pink that had been my gut instinct, and Alyssum, a cool pink that perfectly matched my dining room wallpaper…well, I made the wrong choice.
Pro Tip: If you’re a renter painting your walls, make sure that the color works with the trim, too. I finished one wall before stepping back and getting the ‘ick’ almost immediately – the cool tones here clashed WAY too hard with the warm white trim, and it got even worse at nighttime. I’d checked the paint on every wall at every time of day and thought it’d be the perfect choice to pull both spaces together – I just forgot to consider the immovable elements, which feels like the cardinal sin of customizing a rental.
I still love my instinct to go pink, but I’ll be swapping shades ASAP. I don’t know why I was so obsessed with perfectly matching my wallpaper color when I should have instead been optimizing for a tonal match. I do wish I’d gone with my gut the first time around, but at least I tried (and at least I didn’t get too far into the paint process before pulling the plug).
This is where I’ll leave you – a ~50% completed room that took years to compile (and that currently has a face only a mother could love, despite the time spent – this is regular design for regular people :)). It isn’t much now, but I can’t wait for you to see the transformation – I’ve always wanted to see some half-finished projects on the internet so I could analyze what changed in the final makeover reveal (in hopes of applying that to my own home), and, well…I guess I’m now the person publishing some half-finished projects, hoping that maybe it’ll encourage someone else. IT’LL GET THERE, I PROMISE. (And in the interim, if you have any ideas or suggestions…I’m all ears.) See you down in the comments, yeah? xx