Hi everyone! Lea here with my living room reveal that started as my problem child but with the help of Emily turned into a functional and cozy room my whole family can enjoy. But let me back up and remind you where we started. Back in November, I wrote about my open concept living and dining room design agony and was fortunate enough to have Emily to bounce ideas off of and help me envision what I wanted from this space. As a stylist, I tend to get sucked into every detail which I obsess over, and with this room let me tell you, I OBSESSED. It wasn’t until Emily kept driving the MOST important question home, “how does it make you feel?” that I realized what was lacking. I wanted this space to be functional, comfortable, and (of course) beautiful, but there were some design hurdles I had to get over first.
To give you an idea of the layout here is my impressive stick figure drawing of the floor plan:
Along with making this room as pet and family-friendly as possible, the open concept presented challenges. Plus this is the first room you see when entering the house. I wanted it to be inviting, functional, and a place where my family and pets would feel comfortable spending time in. This is where we left off when we last chatted:
Sigh…that rug was one of my favorites but a deep blue rug with white dog fur that sheds like a “you know what” was just completely disastrous.
So I did what anyone would do and asked Em for advice. We went back and forth on the rug (she has the same rug in the Mountain House – which is where I first laid my eyes on it and immediately had to have it) but she agreed (now having two pups of her own she gets my struggle) that a dark-toned rug doesn’t work well with light-toned furry pets and isn’t worth the headache.
While I obsessed over other details, Emily suggested to begin by replacing the rug because it is easier to start with a rug as a jumping-off point and pull colors from it than it is to find a rug that has the colors you want to work with. So like any un-seasoned stylist, I didn’t listen to her. Instead, I focused on the curtains. Ha! Ok, let me provide a little context here: I wholeheartedly value and hang onto every ounce of advice Emily gives when it comes to styling (hello, she didn’t win Design Star for nothing!) but the toile curtains here drove me to the point I couldn’t move past them. I was struck with design paralysis and they were blocking any and all progress. Yes, they are beautiful and I will be using them in a future project but they didn’t feel right in this room. They made the room feel darker which is the opposite of what I wanted.
I knew I wanted a solid color that wouldn’t be too busy but would add a dash of color. Emily’s tip: “try something with a chunkier weave“.
See how they instantly brightened up the room? They are a total mood lifter. This time I worked alongside one of the designers at Calico Corners because let’s be honest, when ordering custom curtains, it helps to lean on the pros that know what they’re doing. Also, I don’t always trust my math and I wanted to be SURE these curtains would work.
The Calico Corners designer came out to my house to measure my windows and I am so glad she did. Here’s why:
- She measured my windows properly and measured past my windows about 18” – that sounds like a lot but her advice was when your curtains are fully open and pulled back, you don’t want them to cover your windows. This allows as much natural light in as possible.
- She measured the length so that they hit the floor more at a tailored trouser length than floor-length because I knew a puddle wouldn’t work because of my cats.
For the hardware I chose to go with Calico Corners French rod and they sent their installer out to install them, and again, I’m so happy they did because I learned another great tip:
- Lightly spray silicon spray on your curtain rod and always lift up on your wand and then push/pull your curtains vs. dragging them across your rod. The silicon spray is a game-changer and now my curtains glide across that rod so effortlessly.
Obviously, I can go on and on about the curtains but let’s move on…
Next on the living room makeover list was a sofa. Again, not because I didn’t love the one we had but because we needed something cozier. Emily’s tip: “look for something cozy and comfortable and you’ll find that you and your family use the space more.”
I knew I wanted something larger than what we previously had because the window on this wall is really large. I also knew that I wanted something we could all lounge on (we’re sofa loungers over here) but I also didn’t want it to feel so big that it took over the room. When I found this low profile modular sectional by Article I knew it would be a perfect match. This sofa is so versatile and with so many combinations you can basically customize your own. I added the armless chair and ottoman to our configuration. I really love the modern aesthetic of this sofa and the French-welt-style. I also love that the low profile doesn’t block our window, again maximizing the natural light in this space. I feel that going with this modern, low-profile sofa kept the room feeling casual and laid-back (thus more inviting).
I started feeling in a really good space, so much so that I was ready to paint the front door to give it more personality.
I went with Pitch Black by Farrow & Ball and the hardware is by Emtek in French Antique finish. Painting the door created a contrast that made the neutral color palette pop. There’s no doubt the power of paint is real!
During the design process, I kept texting Emily photos of the progress and she was persistent in asking “but how does it feel?” And you know what? It started feeling really good and I appreciated her keeping me on track. Having someone keep you grounded and focused is a huge benefit. It saved me from making unnecessary purchases and it kept my design eye from wandering all over the place. She also lead me away from going down the path of buying sculptural pieces that are interesting but wouldn’t necessarily feel cozy and comfortable. I kept asking myself WWED (What Would Emily Do). That’s not to say I totally dismissed myself and didn’t ask What Would Lea Do. It just meant that when I was feeling impulsive and had a shopping cart full of things at 2 A.M, ready to hit the “buy now” button, I paused and asked myself these questions. Basically, I’m learning restraint here folks! In a world of instant gratification, I am finally learning (in my 40s) how to be a responsible adult.
The next step was to turn my attention to this wall that previously had bookcases that no longer served their purpose in this room. Here’s why:
- With the new pieces in the living room the bookcases felt off and they weren’t balancing well with the visual weight of the new sofa.
- They began to somehow make my design eye feel chaotic and I wanted to calm this room down.
- I wanted movement on this wall.
This wasn’t an easy decision. I loved those bookcases but somehow they didn’t feel right and so I asked Emily for her opinion. I want to preface this with Emily never puts down my design ideas or tells me they look off or bad (although sometimes, I wish she did lol). Instead, she coached me into seeing something differently by asking me what I thought about adding “contrast” to this space to “warm it up from the white walls with a white sofa.” Instead of telling me, “Hey girl, that bookcase really looks busy and is throwing your entire room off, you should do this” – she says things like, “This is looking so good! How does it feel? I find I use a room a lot more when it’s super inviting”.
Also, I think I recall her giving me advice about adding contrast and warm wood tones. This helped me see through the bookcase wall dilemma and replace them with this warm wood cabinet by Article.
Admittedly here’s one of my panic moments – I thought this chair blended too much into the cabinet.
I immediately texted Emily (by now she’s used to my frequent freak-out moments) and she assured me to wait before purchasing a new chair and see how the room feels once there’s a rug in place. As you can see by this image, the rug made all of the difference and provided the much-needed contrast. I’ll talk more about it in a minute.
It probably won’t surprise you that I drew a lot of inspiration from Emily when creating this wall. Originally, I wasn’t sure if my family wanted a TV in here but surprisingly they voted to opt-out (we do have a TV room in the basement). This gave me a chance to add more of my personality into the space. I created this small gallery wall with my favorite vintage art that I’d been hoarding and also a new favorite vintage piece from England (sourced by a favorite local shop, J. Altier) that gives some architectural interest and texture to this wall. To top it off, I added this wall sconce by Hudson Valley Lighting.
Working in true Lea fashion, I was finally ready to source the rug. Rug sourcing is not my strong suit because the amount of options out there overwhelms me and rugs in this house need to check all of these boxes:
- Wool or wool-blend (AKA easy to clean and resistant to stains)
- Cozy, shaggy, or high-pile for sitting or laying comfortably on the floor
- Hides dog fur
- Gives some pattern to the room without overwhelming the room
- Not so precious (remember my antique Sultanabad rug?) that I become crazed about the cats even looking at it.
Sourcing and sourcing took me weeks until I finally found this rug by Dash & Albert and I went with a 9×12 for this sized space. What really drew me to this rug was the geometric pattern and that it was neutral but added pattern and color to this space without taking away from the curtains.
Then I noticed this rug has been used in many EHD projects (The Portland Living Room and Jess’ Living Room) and that’s when it just hit me that we’re true soul sisters (hello, Virgo’s unite!) and even my subconscious self without thinking selects yet another EHD favorite rug.
Hopefully, this post wasn’t too long-winded and if you are someone who struggles with an open floor plan who also wants to create a family-friendly-beautiful space I hope this leaves you feeling inspired. Remember, don’t feel bad or discouraged if you are hitting a design wall. We all struggle with a “problem” space or room and if there’s one takeaway from this, keep asking yourself the famous Emily question “how does it make you feel?”. After all, we all want a home that makes us feel good and happy.
And because “before and afters” are the best, here you go!
Until next time! xo, Lea.