IT’S MOUNTAIN HOUSE REVEAL WEEK!!!!!!!! In case you’ve missed the countdown to it on social media (we are treating it like “shark week,” for obvious reasons(??)), we are revealing the entire house (almost), area by area, day by day this week. The house is featured in House Beautiful and on newsstands tomorrow! Please go buy it where there is an exclusive story I wrote for it as well as photos of the master bed and bath, which we can’t reveal for a couple of weeks here (magazines get what’s called “exclusivity” to give readers something unique to see in print instead of seeing everything online). But back to the reveals…
Today, we are featuring the living room and entry. She is a BIG post, but full of beautiful images and lots of words by me.
But let’s back up a bit. This week marks the two year anniversary that we closed on this house, which gives you some perspective on how long it takes to plan (5 months), design, renovate (1 year), decorate, style, shoot (4 months) and publish (2 months) a house. And I have so much help. We went 2-3 times over budget (I still can’t bring myself to calculate) and it took twice as long as we predicted, but “renovation amnesia” is a real thing, and can be forgotten because our family (and friends) are IN LOVE with this home. It has this very special positive, calming energy and feels so easy to live here.
Here are the facts if you’re just joining us: it’s a 3,200 square foot house, an hour and a half outside of LA in Lake Arrowhead. It was built in the 1960s with additions and some renovations done in the ’90s and 2000s. We documented the entire process here, and yes even let you choose many of the design elements or room plans via this I Design, You Decide contest. I have learned more this year about design than all years combined. We changed E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. in this house, to really create a dream house full of comfort, light and calmness for my family. And I have to make sure that you understand that I didn’t or couldn’t have done this by myself. I had an incredible design team who helped me make every decision; thank you Julie Rose, Velinda Hellen and Grace De Asis (and our contractor Jeff Malcolm).
Let’s take a peek at what it looked like before to remind you where we came from and why.
The living room was always great. The light was amazing and it felt really open and calm. The house has a GREAT layout so we didn’t end up doing too much structural.
We opened up this room to the kitchen, but otherwise, it was just changing all the finishes, though when you are talking fireplace, ceiling, smooth coating walls, flooring, railings, stairs, doors and windows, the finishes were a lot. We even took off all the window and door moldings and of course replaced all the lighting.
As a reminder, the style that we were going for was warm minimalism, modern mountain, in a rustic yet refined Scandinavian chalet vibe…but family-friendly obviously. We wanted LESS stuff, less contrast, and a LOT of comfort and calm.
Here she is, the living room where we spend so many happy hours as a family.
Let me walk you through the process and more importantly the intentions that we had while designing the house. This house is so cohesive, happy and yet full of comfort without sacrificing too much style. Here is why:
We minimized the number of finishes throughout.
This feels really cohesive, calm and is really easy for your eye to understand. There isn’t a lot of high contrast or patterns or colors, with mostly that beautiful beech wood (all from Ross Alan Reclaimed Lumber in LA), white/light gray and hits of black. I can’t stress this enough: our #1 goal was for it to feel calm here, therefore we chose less contrasting finishes and colors which means less busy-ness. A good example of this is choosing stools (this are from Article) that actually blended into the wood island, which is something that I wouldn’t do in every house but is perfect here. Also, the window frames (we sourced from Marvin) match the wood on the floors/ceiling, again hoping that your eye rests instead of bounces. The sofa and rug are the same tones which keep it really seamless and so calm (although there are some days I wish I had done the sofa in a green or blue). But by bringing in hits of black everywhere it grounds it and adds some excitement.
We maximized the light, focusing on the nature outside.
Natural light is your #1 design element. We made the windows the focus (all white oak contemporary from Marvin) and chose finishes that bounce the light around, and yet are quiet enough that the green trees outside become part of the design. We also added skylights from Velux wherever possible. The light in this room is amazing all day every day, even when it’s cloudy.
We splurged on doors and windows.
Years ago, I asked an architect what he would spend his money on in a house renovation, and he said “doors and windows” and now I understand why. In our LA home, we made sure that those elements were original or mimicked the original and it makes a difference, it does…so we did the same with this one. You can’t tell that much in this room because there is only one door, but all the doors are the beautiful reclaimed wood, made by Ross Alan. They are solid and feel so high quality.
As mentioned, we worked with Marvin on all the windows, choosing their white oak contemporary frames and boy are they stunning. The huge A-frame windows were in bad shape and redoing them wasn’t an easy feat (stay tuned for a full post about the how and why we chose our new windows) but the new ones are nothing short of stunning. We chose to have the new door to the garage (which wasn’t there before) as a simple white flat panel, so it “went away” but now I regret not having that be in the wood as well (see below).
We focused on the architecture.
Again, the wood, windows, and open space and light are really the feature of this house, so why clutter it up with a ton of stuff to distract from it?
We went SIMPLE.
We chose the most minimal version of everything. For example, the fireplace—by schmearing over it with plaster (German schmear—see this post for the hows/whys), you still get the stone look, but way less busy and with less contrast. And the stair railing—it’s still black iron, but we designed it to be so simple and sleek with no decorative detailing except the wood on top which matches our wood on the floor. Every single choice went through the lens of “could this be simpler?” We didn’t even use moldings around doors and just a tiny quarter round on the floor to even it out. This mostly works in a midcentury or contemporary house.
We mixed high, low, vintage, new, big-box or one-of-a-kind throughout the house.
This ensured that our house looked personal, collected, unique and had a lot of soul. I LOVE that vintage side table with the three legs and while it’s kinda oversized and we thought there was no way it would work in the space, it really does. There is a ton of Target’s new fall collection mixed throughout the house (not available just yet, I got some early releases for the shoot, but everything will be on sale August 25) like textiles, bedding, lighting and accessories, and a few splurgy vintage pieces (mostly chairs because I love a statement chair) that I got either at local stores (Pop Up Home, Midcentury LA) or online via Chairish and 1stdibs. The leather strapping rocking chair was my 40th birthday present.
We prioritized comfort and livability.
Every piece of furniture is kid-friendly, with any lighter upholstered pieces (like the sofa) being in Crypton fabric, and the light rug is a performance rug (meant to be easy to clean) from Ben Soleimani. Nothing is precious and there are not a lot of accessories (even pillows!) for them to move around which I then have to put back. Sometimes, I look at that coffee table (ours from LA we got from Lulu and Georgia years ago) and think why didn’t I put some books on the bottom shelf?? I do think it would have looked better, but we don’t NEED books there and likely the kids would just take them off and throw them around the house. The wood log holder (again from Target’s new fall collection coming soon) with porcelain logs is decorative as the fireplace is gas so I suppose I contradicted myself there (but it’s sooo good).
We stayed neutral.
All the major pieces are neutral because I wanted calmness and flexibility. I really loved how we had a neutral sofa and rug in here prior to the renovation so we stuck with that, but there are days when I wish I had done the sofa in a darker green or blue. I literally go back and forth on it daily, some days LOVING that everything is tonal and calm. The good thing is that with this color palette I can easily add more color and pattern and change it with the seasons (which I will).
The sofa is pretty darn incredible and even looks great from the back—it’s a vintage piece that I found on Chairish, bought through Gallery L7 in LA and had reupholstered in family-friendly Crypton (in their Calico Maxwell fabric in Pewter). The curve in the corner really makes it special.
Sitting in that corner, above, is so dreamy and cozy. We felt that it was a sofa that didn’t want a lot of pillows, because the back is so ergonomic, tapering back. I could have styled it with more pillows and maybe it would have looked better, but I was trying to keep it as livable and true to the minimal aesthetic as possible. But of course, NOW I want more pillows. 🙂
We chose simple, or really special lighting throughout—some more splurgy and some affordable, like the sconces in the living room, which were $130. The round light going up the stairs, from Allied Maker, was chosen because it didn’t compete with the other thin and linear sconces, and was a nice solid, round shape behind the stair railings. The detailing in person makes it feel really special and handmade.
Speaking of, we carried elements that were “thin, black and linear” throughout the house. Note the black railing (installed by 3D Stairs & Wood Works), the black standing lamp, the island pendant, the coffee table legs, etc.
Almost all the textiles in this house are from Target’s new fall line (again, not available until August 25), because I personally think that pillows and blankets are a GREAT place to save. For you eagle eyes, you will notice that the room is styled differently in a lot of the shots, that’s because House Beautiful asked for options, as well some shots looked better with certain things styled a certain way. The black tubular chair you see in the living room ended up in the loft and a vintage Cherner chair sits there now instead.
The entry is so simple, just a bench (that we sourced from Ethnicraft) and some art that my kids made with pressed flowers from the forest behind our house labeled “spring 2019.”
I love love love the pressed flowers as art so much and the kids point them out to everyone who walks into the house. It was so easy—we just pressed them inside books, then after a month pulled them out, and we framed them in a cool minimal way that didn’t feel so crafty and we think looks really elevated. We put them on pretty thick watercolor paper (that has a lot of texture) by using super glue and framed them in readymade IKEA frames.
The wall that that is up against is new. We closed up an open area under the stairs, creating a hall closet, which looked like this before:
We wanted to create a closet to actually use the space, which also simplified the architecture in a good way. The stairs were very thoughtfully designed by my team (thanks Velinda for all your problem solving there and hard work!) and frankly, they are stunning. The railing goes directly into the wood, not a plate which is a detail that we love but is more expensive to accomplish. We used hollow iron rods (I believe because they are less expensive) with thicker solid rods every few feet for code.
The last rod was supposed to be a thicker support rod and yes needs to be switched out because if a child swings on it, it wobbles and will surely break at some point. But let me divert your attention to that light switch. We went with Forbes and Lomax wherever it was really obviously visible, and while they are a splurge, boy are they a treat and everyone loves them.
BEFORE AND AFTERS:
We love a side by side to see where we came from and where we are at now:
HOW WE FEEL ABOUT LIVING IN IT AFTER 2 MONTHS:
It’s been a couple of months living here off and on (and me staring at the room) since we finished the project…how am I feeling about it? We thought for each room we’d go through the livability of it because while you make these decisions that you think you won’t regret, guess what, there are always some things you would tweak or even find that you end up using a room entirely differently than you intended. So here goes for the living room:
Generally, this room gets a TON of use and we love it. Right now, I’m missing some color, namely blue in here, so I’ve added a blue throw instead of the green one and a few other pillows, which is an easy fix. I might move the art (a lithograph by Cy Twombly) next to the stairs where it feels a bit empty and put more blue above the fireplace. Who knows?
The sofa, which I love aesthetically is a challenge as it’s modular and it slides EVERYWHERE and the back cushions fall off easily. The kids treat it like big building blocks for a fort, which was adorable at first but means I’m literally rebuilding the room every day that they do that. It didn’t slide around before when it had the original upholstery (a thick terrycloth), so I’m currently playing with the idea of putting felt or some sort of anti-slip material on the bottom of the top cushions to keep them in place, and maybe even wrapping rug pads over the feet or attaching the bottom cushions to each other with velcro. It’s driving me NUTS.
I do kinda want to switch the rug in here with the rug in the guest room or the family room (coming up later this week). When the room is perfectly styled, I like that the rug and sofa are tonal and kinda run into each other, but other times I’m wondering if I could have made a more colorful choice. So many ways to skin a cat. We didn’t find that sectional until 10 days before the shoot so we had to make the decision on fabric in like 1-2 days to get it upholstered in time. The idea of going darker was so scary to me because we were so used to the lighter sofa in here, but I’m tempted to get darker slipcovers made (a dark blue or green) and see how that feels. Would that ground the living room more or make it feel busier? Probably both.
Also the rug is high pile and while it is a performance rug, i had no idea how much foot traffic would be on the space from the kitchen to the front door so it just gets trampled. The guest room rug is a low pile, but neutral and the guest room gets less foot traffic. This one is really cozy, though… .
Lastly, if you are sitting in that sweet spot of the sofa, you can’t reach your coffee/drink so we need a table either on the left of the sofa or behind it. We have something for now but still shopping…
But generally, this room is SO comfortable, warm, inviting and easy to keep styled as we live with way fewer accessories, and yet it doesn’t feel bare. The architecture, light, windows, fireplace and wood are the real features and the furniture is all so comfortable and kid-friendly. No real regrets, just some tweaks – THANK GOODNESS.
Thanks for making it through the whole post. It’s a lot of info and I could have even said more, so please, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll answer them. And don’t forget to go out and get the issue of the magazine tomorrow!! Again, there is a whole story in there that I wrote, different than what you read here. Come back tomorrow for the downstairs guest bed and bath.
Again, I wanted to give a great big thank you to my incredible design team who made this house a possibility: Julie Rose, Velinda Hellen and Grace De Asis. Photos are by our own Sara Ligorria-Tramp, styled by me with help from Emily Bowser, Erik Staalberg and Veronica Crawford. Our contractor was Jeff Malcolm and our architect (that we used at the beginning of the project) was John Lyles.
Here are all the resources.
Living Room Resources
Beechwood Mantel by Ross Alan Reclaimed Lumber | Beechwood Ceiling by Ross Alan Reclaimed Lumber | White Oak Contemporary Windows by Marvin | Beechwood Flooring by Ross Alan Reclaimed Lumber | White Cliff Matte Countertop via Cambria | Pure White by Sherwin-Williams
Vintage Sofa from Gallery L7 via Chairish | W. Andersag Teak & Leather Rocking Chair via 1stdibs | Esther Chair via Target | Thomas Bina Olivia Coffee Table by Lulu & Georgia | Esse Canyon Tan Counter Stool by Article | Vintage Mango Wood Tripod Side Table Wood from Habitat Gallery via Chairish
Art & Decor:
Performance Elda Rug via Ben Soleimani | Lana Ivory Sheepskin by Article | Art Over Peninsula by Arielle Zamora | Farmhouse Pitcher by Sheldon Ceramics | Black Vase by Ben Medansky | Farmhouse Jewelry Box by Sheldon Ceramics | Leather Wrapped Rock by Made Solid | Chain 2: Tara 4 by MQuan | Opening Tray by Skagerak | ZigZag Vase by Bobbie Specker via Mantel | Apothecary Matches by Lawson Fenning | Ridge Coasters by LGS Studio via Lawson Fenning | Peterson Real Fyre Birch Log Set via Woodland Direct | Once viii by Jane Denton | Quilted Velvet Lumbar Pillow via Target | Firewood Holder via Target (coming soon) | Green Throw via Target (coming soon) | White Knit Pouf via Target (coming soon) | Quilted Throw via Target (coming soon) | Pillow via Target (coming soon)
Staircase & Entry Resources
Art & Decor:
Check out the rest of The Mountain House reveals here: The Kitchen | The Kitchen Organization | The Kitchen Appliances | The Powder Bath | The Kids’ Room | The Downstairs Guest Suite | The Loft | The Hall Bath | The Upstairs Guest Bath | The Dining Room | The Family Room