Emily Henderson

Silver Lake Hills Home

New Living Room Design Plan

Loreys_Living_Room_Before_01_copy

Design projects are happening over here (thanks to my very hardworking and talented design team run by Ginny). One of them is more of a refresh on the living room of a client that we LOVE, The Silver Lake Hills Family. It’s a weird situation because the room is pretty much designed. The family have been reluctant to have us involved because, well, they already paid for a designer to do it, 4 years ago and it is totally pulled together and functional. But as you’ll see, they didn’t really feel that it was ‘them’ and now that we’ve done the rest of the house this room feels jarringly different.

Loreys_Living_Room_Before_02_copy

Loreys_Living_Room_Before_03_Copy

The problems were mainly that it felt heavy, dark, lacking in personality, and just not their vibe. I generally don’t like to be negative but there was just something generic about it that felt like a designer had designed it, sitting from their desk with a bunch of catalogues; no sense of person or family here. The room was rarely used because it was just so serious and not very family friendly. It looked like it had enough seating, but nobody really wanted to sit in there. All the furniture was comfortable, but not even the kids wanted to lay around and read in there. They said there was just something really off putting about the whole thing.

Loreys_Living_Room_Before_04_copy

But there were a lot of good things happening, too. So much so that when I first did the rest of the house I kept telling them ‘don’t spend money here’. In fact there isn’t anything I don’t like in here. Every single piece is good in the right environment. But all of it together feels somehow impersonal. And dark. The sofa, side tables, frames, coffee table, chairs, armoire, other chairs … EVERYTHING is dark and feels so heavy. The main thing that is right is the sisal rug, but certainly not one that brings in personality.

Loreys_Living_Room_Before_05_copy

Our goal is to make it a space that people will want to spend time in, while changing as little as possible since they have already invested time/money into this room. The ask was ‘make it better, make it more us, but we don’t want to pay for a whole redesign’. Understandably so.

We proposed two options:

Lorey_Option_01

The first option involved reupholstering the sofa in a brighter (but still family friendly color), keeping the rest of the dark furniture as is (with new pillows). The wall color would go lighter (maybe not that shade, but something lighter and with more of a happy tone than the purple-gray that is in there). The room doesn’t get a ton of light so we wanted to go for a tone instead of bright white (read about the mistake of painting darker rooms white here).

Lorey_Option_02

The second option would keep the brown velvet sofa and then refinish the side tables to be a lighter, prettier wood, and the rug would be more antique/aged to bring in some soul.

The photo of the brown sofa above is not good – it looks like the bad kinda brown not the rich luxe beautiful chocolate brown that it is (we photoshopped the color but you can’t really capture the pretty texture). Part of me wants to keep the brown because brown is coming back this year (you heard me) so it would be a really fun challenge to make that sofa work. Plus that sofa is beautiful and new enough that I’d love to not put $1500 – $1800 of fabric/labor into it. But remember that if the sofa stays dark then the side tables would need to change to be refinished which is at least $300 each = $600 total – not exactly free, but less.

living_Room_inspiration

A vintage Persian rug would really bring in some depth, warmth, color and most importantly soul that we need. But we have been shopping and MAN it’s hard. More on that later, but finding an antique Persian Persian Persian that is 9×12 and light in tone (aka,  not burgundy) for under $5k is virtually impossible, so we may have to buy a new rug (like in option 1).

For both options we plan on moving that mirror up (maybe painting the frame), reframing some of the photos in wood, white, and gold frames then rearranging them, moving the two side chairs into the room so they feel part of the conversation and adding more personal accessories. For both we’ll also update the fireplace – separate blog post with options on it’s way.

Generally the process goes as follows: We present them options like these that are just more look/feel and ideas. We haven’t shopped yet, gotten quotes nor spent any real time doing research because we bill hourly and we don’t want to spend hours going down the rabbit hole of getting quotes from refinishers when she might immediately say ‘Lets throw them away!’ So this is more to gauge in what direction they are leaning initially.

When we showed them they really liked both options, and did want us to do some research on the price difference so that is the stage that we are in now. We all REALLY want an antique rug (and have now tried 4 of them) which is going to dictate a lot in the room, no matter which sofa we go with. But at the same time we can’t look forever because our time is costing them money. So we are going to give them a few non-antique options to make sure we are moving forward. This is why a lot of designers don’t even bother shopping vintage/antique and instead shop from catalogues or websites. Everything is right there, in front of you. But then you run the very high risk of getting a more generic room.

It’s one of those things that, right when we finish the project, I’ll probably be in a thrift store in the valley and that perfect light blue, cream, green and coral, antique, perfectly worn Persian rug will be just sitting there, in all its huge 9×12 glory for like $500.

I think what we’ll end up doing is a bit of a combo between the two boards, and you might be surprised to find out that I actually think I prefer #2 (I’ve gone back and forth).

So which do you prefer? Option #1 or Option #2?

Good news to all of you who have been following along with this house over the last few years – we are finally renovating their kitchen, too. Stylistically its going to be a bit old-world hollywood and totally classic. We are VERY excited. Stay tuned.

See the rest of the Silver Lake Hills home here: Tween Girl Bedroom  | 5 Tips to Design a Timeless Boys Bedroom | Dining Room  | Office Turned Guest Room  | Bright and Airy Family Room  | Master Bedroom 

*Design Boards by Ginny MacDonald for EHD. 

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  1. I like the way you posted the comments near the problem, ie ‘too high’. It’s a nice way to show your thought process. Should’ve posted ‘needs love’ by the plants. haha

  2. The sofa color in Option 1 but everything else in Option 2. Agree that the original design is nice but very dark and kind of generic. The photo arrangement confuses me.

    I do love that mirror but perhaps not for that wall. Perhaps if it was rectangular though?

  3. I would like a mix between options 1 and 2. Reupholstering the sofa seems like such a huge expense, but I love blue and think it would go well with the rest of their house.

    I am always struck by how careful you are not to say anything too negative about designs by other designers, even when you have been hired to fix their mistakes. I guess you don’t want anyone bad mouthing you, so it is probably good practice. But the zebra print rug looks so, so ridiculous in that room! There are very few places that can pull off animal print rugs, and this just isn’t one of them.

    On another note, do you know where they got the bed in their master? You just say they already owned it in the bedroom post. And I tried looking through the comments for an answer, but that post has an insane number of spam comments.

    1. I love seeing diplomatic critiques too, especially where Em is pointing out all the places where the prior designer did all these things *right* yet the space still doesn’t feel personal or entirely cohesive. So interesting and humbles me when I think I’m savvy enough to know how to pull this stuff off on my own.

  4. Question about these types of antique rugs- How do you clean them? do you get them professionally cleaned before bringing them in (like if you found it in the Valley thrift store? Thanks!

    1. Yep. They generally cost $250 to clean which isn’t nothing but unfortunately its just what it cost. I’ve had a carpet dude come to the house before and do all of mine for MUCH cheaper but it less of a thorough job (its like steam cleaning).

  5. Option 2. Love the vintage rug. Could you use a smaller vintage rug and layer on top of the sisal rug? I know rug layering is a thing, but I don’t really know the rules behind it.

    Love this house!!

      1. HA. THat is what we tried! I’ll post about it and show you the photos. I just didn’t look good enough to still pay for the rug …

  6. no matter what you do, it will be magically perfect! i feel like option one goes more with the rest of the house.
    i’m so excited to see how this progresses!

  7. I tend toward the cheaper option. It looks like just the following would make a big difference: paint, lights, better rug, poufs, colorful accents and art. And move the chairs.

    If I had their sunny family room I’d never use the living room, either. Do people use living rooms? lol

  8. Feels absurd making source recommendations to a professional, but I just had the world’s best service experience buying a 1940’s Persian rug (9×11 and less than 5k) from a place on La Brea and am feeling very evangelical about it. Huge selection, gorgeous rugs and worth a visit just to meet Nelson, the store’s very kind and hospitable Persian owner.

      1. THANK YOU. I know we combed the stores on La Brea but I actually don’t remember going in there. I’ll tell no one :)

  9. TALK MORE ABOUT BROWN COMING BACK EMILY! :) For real, that is interesting to me. We bought a brown leather sofa from the Restoration Hardware outlet (on craaaaazy triple discount and it was still hella expensive) but it feels absolutely correct and perfect in color. But I don’t think you mean brown leather, you mean brown in general. Excited to see YOUR version of that color’s renaissance.

    I like board 2 more, even though I too am surprised! Do you think cream walls will be okay in a space that doesn’t get tons of light? How do you figure out how light you can go without it looking like a too-dark light room?

    1. Brown leather is ALWAYS in :) Its chocolate brown color that was big in the early 2000’s then gone and now its BACK……

  10. I definitely think option 2 would make the space feel brighter and lighter even with the brown sofa (which I like). The combination of too dark wall colour and all dark furniture really is bringing this room down.

  11. TALK MORE ABOUT BROWN COMING BACK EMILY! :) For real, that is interesting to me. We bought a brown leather sofa from the Restoration Hardware outlet (on craaaaazy triple discount and it was still hella expensive) but it feels absolutely correct and perfect in color. But I don’t think you mean brown leather, you mean brown in general. Excited to see YOUR version of that color’s renaissance.

    I like board 2 more, even though I too am surprised! Do you think cream walls will be okay in a space that doesn’t get tons of light? How do you figure out how light you can go without it looking like a too-dark light room?

    Eesh, I’m getting yelled at by your site for duplicate comments even though my original one didn’t seem to go through. Apologies if this is now piling on even more, haha. I’ll quit now. :)

  12. Hi! Jenny at Little Green Notebook uses this great search: http://www.ebay.com/sch/Extra-Large-9×12-and-larger-/37982/i.html?_sop=15 I am also leaning towards the second design while switching out the brown couch (except I do believe velvet has a way of elevating just about any color plus, I trust in the design insights and predictions of Emily Henderson…). Good luck with the rug finding!
    Sincerely, emily jane PS. Congrats on -well, everything : )

        1. Ah, thank you! It doesn’t quite feel fresh enough. Its so hard because typical persian rugs are so heavy. But going the RH or new route is so expensive and then we are just buying new again. But I haven’t properly combed ebay yet. Will do. And THANK YOU FOR THE COMMENTS. It actually means the world to me :)

          1. in that case…. : ) Because you’ve so beautifully, entertainingly & generously taught me everything I know about interior design I’m going to share my favorite eBay seller of vintage rugs with you: http://www.ebay.com/sch/m.html?item=331628187895&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_ssn=gallery99&_sop=1 The free shipping is hard -nay, impossible- to beat as is (are?) the variety of styles, colors & sizes -plus, there are 9 day ‘buy it now’ options alongside 7 day auctions starting at .99 cents (!). I have found their listings to be complete, comprehensive and honest with loads of pictures so you can really see the adds-soul-to-the-room rug you’re considering investing in. And no, I don’t know the folks at gallery99 but they have 100% feedback with 9679 ratings -selling vintage rugs! Have a lovely day. Sincerely, emily jane
            PS. I’m hoping you’ll see this even though it’s buried in yesterday’s comments..?

  13. I’m going with option number because I am on my second dark leather sofa (this one was a hand me down) and have decided to lead a scorched earth campaign to rid the Earth of their presence. They embody dark, generic depression as seating while functioning as enormous, unsightly scratching posts for my cat. I am currently contorting my finances in order to purchase an insane Italian mid-century modern sofa to be upholstered in a light blue or pale aqua velvet. To tuft or not to tuft is the question.

  14. Option 2 is my choice. The original lounge looks like a combination of African/Colonial style but sadly without much personality. Can’t wait to see how you transform this lounge. I can understand why they’d want to redesign the lounge after you’ve sprinkled your fairy dust design magic throughout the rest of their home! I absolutely love the master bedroom design, it’s my idea of a perfect bedroom!

  15. Emily is too gracious to say this, but the room is kit good. In comparison to Emily’s work it’s really bad.
    I can’t wait to see how she fixes it all up!

  16. Definately go with option 2! No need to reupholster the gorgeous brown sofa and besides they already have a blue sofa in guestroom (I checked earlier posts!). Good luck with finding the vintage carpet!!

  17. I prefer option #2 — and I think the brown sofa can work fine, as long as you lighten up everything else. The big hulking armoire, while beautiful on its own, needs to go.

  18. Ahh – I love the lighter wood side tables you show in Option 2 – Ginny or Emily is there any chance you could let me know the source? I have been looking for a good side table forever.

    1. I think it was just sourced online as something similar to just show them what we were thinking … I’ll ask Ginny, though. xx

    1. that’s what I think, too. if we could find a lighter vintage rug then get a lighter fabric sofa than even that blue. Done.

  19. What ever happened to the rug that was originally in their dining room before the redesign? Its hard to really see in the black and white photos, but maybe it could work here? (Obviously I just spent an hour reading every post about their house because GORGEOUS)

    1. HA. well thank you for reading. I think that it was really damaged but honestly I don’t really remember. Its probably not big enough, though. We really need a 9×12. I know this because we tried 2 8×10’s with the hope that they would be big enough but they just weren’t. Especially not after I wrote that scathing post about NEVER buying a rug that is too small :)

  20. Option 2 is more like them vs. Option 1 is more like you.
    If reupholstering a sofa, then white or off white.
    Organic wall from the inspiration would look much better

  21. I think I prefer the first color palate but I like the rug in the second one. This post actually really helps me out! I have been buying things for my living room over a period of time and all of a sudden I noticed that it looks really formal and dark. I realized everything is in a dark finish. Thanks for the ideas to make it lighter and more personal!

  22. Oh, how I love posts like this! I prefer the mood board for Option 2.

    I can’t believe how different this room looks from the rest of the house. The other rooms are so happy and inviting; this one looks like a waiting room in comparison. Eek!

    1. well, it doesn’t help that these are taken with my iphone and the rest are rather gorgeous photos by pros. But yes :)

  23. I love option 1! The colors are soothing yet fun and those brown poufs would be so durable for little and big feet.
    The whole feel of the room would change to something much more inviting. Great redesign!

  24. Option 1 all the way! Fantastic color palette. Only it would kill me to spend that much on reupholstering a perfectly good couch. Would they consider selling it on Craigslist to recoup some money for a new couch? Maybe it would be cheaper in the long run.

    Like other commenters, I loved seeing your thought process written on the photos. Fascinating!

  25. Both rooms are lovely. I prefer the first mostly because I would want the sofa blue. I am not at all a brown person.

  26. Overall I love option 2 but I just can’t support that brown sofa. I believe you that the color and texture are richer in person but I still don’t see loving it. But who knows, maybe it is coming into style and I will regret my words in a year!

  27. I like option 2. I think the sofa in the actual room photo looks so gorgeous even with how dark the over all room is. Looking forward to how you and your team work the magic here and in the kitchen.

  28. Option 2 – love the lighter tables and the organic/stump sidetable. The cream base in option 2 vibe feels more contiguous with the rest of the house.
    I’m looking forward to seeing lighting options in the final design…it seems like a dark room no matter how white the walls are…I’d go floor lamp crazy if it was my living room!

  29. I love this post and can’t wait to see more follow up posts! I’ve been interested to see the ins and outs of how you would tackle a more scaled back design, rather than a full blown redesign. I’m definitely interested in having this done to my living room at some point.

  30. I like Option 1 but with the Persian rug, if you can find one that’s affordable (I always see large rugs on CL in my area, so maybe a used one?). If there’s any room at all in the budget, I’d spend it on some comfy armchairs. I think part of the reason no one sits in those chairs is they don’t look very comfortable.

    Question: Have you considered painting the side tables a lighter colour? If so, do you mind sharing why you decided not to? I ask because I have some similar ones I’m using as nightstands and plan to paint them.

      1. We did consider that and we definitely could. We decided against it because those tables in a bright color could go really poppy, which would read young and potentially look a bit dated. Now if they were in a matte heather gray or something subtle (cream, instead of white) then that would be good. But we don’t want Hollywood Regency circa 2004 which sometimes white lacquered chinoiserie style tables can go.

    1. Ha. look at those inspiration photos with brown velvet sofas!!! They can be rich and luxe and forward. I promise. I haven’t done it yet, but I have faith.

  31. I prefer option 1. That gloomy room needs color. However, one of the reasons the family never uses the room might be that there’s nothing to do in there! What do they want to use it for?

  32. option #2. I’m not totally wild about the sofa color (if it were more of a cognac leather, that’d be my jam) but I do think saving some dough on the re-upholstery is worth making it work. And I’m sure you’d lighten that room up so much that it would really change the feel of that deep brown.

    Excited to see what happens!

  33. Oh man, I’ve been looking for a 9×12 (or bigger) antique persian rug in blues/greys for over two years now, and couldn’t find anything at all. Now I’ll have to fight Ginny over it? I’m lost!!! I love option #2, but that sofa is a tad too bulky for the space. Have you thought of doing away with the back pillows and use loose pillows in various heights and shapes? I also have to say, I was certain that you were going to refinish the chairs in white (or coral, or light blue). Sorry for all the questions – it’s just that your work inspires me too much!

  34. I’m very excited to learn about the process you take when approaching an OK room. Thank you for this series.

    On a side note, when you have a plural possessive the apostrophe goes after the s, so it should be the the Lorreys’ house, not the Lorrey’s. If it was only one person then it would be Lorrey’s room, but it sounds like more than one person lives in the home. And now I’ve been annoying for the day.

  35. I am such a HUGE fan of yours Emily!!!!
    My vote- I would LOVE to see you help the Lorey’s by working with what they already have – with minimal purchases/max budget of ~$1,000.00 or less (not counting your fee!) I would image it must really sting to them to consider starting all over again, not to mention spending a bunch more money!
    So!! Refresh their space in a huge way- “on the cheap”….I really believe you can SO just tweak this space and add that awesome Emily touch…. “You’ve Got This” Emily!
    PS Why can’t the walls go lighter and try making the current rugs work? Anxious for your reply!! Lisa

  36. Option 2 is EXACTLY the feel I’m trying to create in my family room. I just ordered a leather sectional from West Elm and can’t wait for it to get here.

    Have you ever tried shopping auctions? I don’t know what the market is like for them in SoCal, but here in AZ there are a few pretty good ones. I just bought a 9×12 vintage Persian rug, worn in all the right ways, with no burgundy, just a touch of green, and navy (much like the rug in the vintage rug inspiration picture but more navy) for . . . wait for it . . .

    $350. Yeah. It was a steal. Steal I tell you, and it is perfect. Sorry. ;) Kinda.

  37. I have loved chocolate brown since the 70s! (yeah, I’m old-ish) And when combined with velvet and the right accessories, mmm mmm! And no offense Emily, but you do a lot of blue sofas, and I guess I’m in the minority in not loving most of them (blue velvet being an exception.) So I would love to see what you would do with plan 2. It could be gorgeous!

  38. Like parts of both really…yes on that perfect antique rug. Yes on white lamps with white shades…blue shades will cast a funny light, dark which you are getting away from…keep the beautiful new brown sofa… like the faceted metal drum side table…maybe blue pours instead of white which will get dingy fast with kids wallowing on them because they aware irresistible. I picked one but not really. Even the dark end tables will look good with your lighter walls, jazzed rug, white lamps/ shades. A lot of nice things to work with without replacing aware lot $$$ eager to see your results. Fun to see these pretty rooms

  39. Oh my word, that brown room is awful…I’m so sorry, it’s very Art Van to me. Option #2 with #1s sofa please. Lets get away from brown :(

  40. I like #1 except am not a fan of salmon (you say coral, it reads too salmon to me). I prefer the vintage rug and white poufs from #2 (so I’d swap those into the mix of #1). For some reason the side tables (shape/color) and lamps of #2 read too 70s asian to me. But let’s be clear…I LOVE your work…adore your cute family and you can come redo my house any time. You were not too harsh about other designers’ work. THANKS for your blog, instagram, etc. (and thanks for Orlando…he’s hilarious!). :P

  41. I do like the sofa as is, but yeah…the room as it is now looks like a hotel suite, *yawn*. The plants are too scraggly. And there is NOTHING on the mantel, how strange is that!? Even Ma and Pa Ingalls had that tiny little doll on their mantel!

  42. I am with you on room 2 – it looks warmer, and then maybe easier for them to mix in some wooden/leather/natural pieces later.
    And love the ‘organic gallery wall’ image – that will also look better with the cream walls + brown couch. Yes – exciting to see it transform!

  43. I really like aspects of both options, but it just seems like they have so much blue already in their house? And I LOVE the blue couch but the first option is an intense amount of blue to go into their already blue house. At least, it seems like a lot of blue from the pictures. I surprisingly think I like the second option a bit more as well, and I really really like the inspiration photos for that look. Something about the white and dark brown being softened with warm colors is so yummy!

    1. PS I know nothing about interior design so I am not even going to pretend, but those were my thoughts! Although I do love the blue theme. Pretty much whatever you do will be gorgeous I’m sure.

  44. #2. That brown couch is divine. Granted, I haven’t seen the rest of the house. The cream white walls will brighten the room. Blue wall paint (proposed in # 1) will appear way darker than it really is in that room because it’s got small windows. Curious to see what happens! Best of luck!

  45. Hi, It’s Tuan Anh from Viet Nam.

    We are a visualization and design team that want to cooperate with Mrs. Emily Henderson. How can I get in touch? Please email me if you are interested. My address is: tuananh.vu@icu.com.vn. I’ll send you our portfolios.

    Kind regards,

    Anh

  46. Hi, It’s Tuan Anh from Viet Nam.

    We are a visualization and design team that want to cooperate with Mrs. Emily Henderson. How can I get in touch? Please email me if you are interested. My address is: tuananh.vu@icu.com.vn

    I’ll send you our portfolios.

    Kind regards,

    Anh

  47. Oh I LOVE option 2. I would love to see more info on how to make a persian rug…not so stuffy. I feel l put those rugs into the bucket of – my grandmother. And yet what you have here, seems to work for me.

  48. I’m definitely a #2 gal and with fall heading this way, it’s hard to let go of keeping the cozy chocolate upholstery on the sofa. I really appreciate these posts learning more about your method! Also, I’m a bit of a houseplant nutter – a “Limelight Dracaena” would be awesome in here. It’s easy care and low light and would be awesome in a brass or copper pot.

  49. The before photos remind me of my only experience working with a designer. We were stumped on a pet-friendly sofa option, so we consulted a designer, who ended up presenting ideas for the whole room. Problem was he apparently dismissed pretty much the entire creative brief and went in his own direction. He is probably the most well-known designer in our area, so we trusted his advice on a sofa purchase. Then it haunted me for 6 years. Thankfully I did not go through with anything else. After that time I delved into home decor blogs and learned how important it is for a client to stand up for herself, and to find a designer who gets your vibe.

  50. I have a 9 x 12 Isfahan collecting dust in my garage, because yeah, it’s burgundy. I would love to get easy instructions on how to tea stain, bleach or over-dye it. Anything I’ve seen on line was tricky to do at home even with a much smaller rug.

  51. option 2 for me. the softer and rounder edges seem more restful for the eyes as they land and settle into this beautiful room. could the ceiling support a big beautiful ebullient airy lighting piece? or, sweet little intentionally-aimed spotlights? and, dare i ask if french doors could be carved out of that window wall? in the end, any emily result is delightful; you always have wonderful design solutions for all ! – fan ever since Design Star ;)

  52. Can’t wait to see how you “remove” the raised floral motif from the fireplace surround. My daughter has the same design on hers that she does not like but she won’t let me touch it – perhaps if I show her how it can be done . . .

  53. The original room is very pretty, but it feels very furniture show-roomy to me. Like it’s more for display but not really functional to live in. I love Option 1! Can’t wait to see what they choose!

  54. I’ve had great luck finding vintage and antique Persian rugs at estate sales and auctions for good prices. Sometimes it gets out of hand and bidding drives the price up, but if you keep a cool head and pass when it goes above what you’ve determined is fair, there is always another one to come up at a later date.

    There are some great LA based auction houses and New Orleans and Atlanta have some particularly good ones for Persian rugs and all things classy and fancy. :-) I almost always have to have the rug professionally cleaned after purchase, so factor that in to your price. But you can’t beat a well done vintage wool piece.

  55. Hi Emily!I looooooooooooooove option 1! You had me at Navy couch. But I would really love to see you do Option 2, because I would love to see the magic you do, without changing the main pieces. Cant wait for the makeover!

  56. Hello,

    Can you tell me who the matching black wicker(I think) chairs are by. I have been looking for similar chairs for a while now. Either like this or with a barrel back. Thank you