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Struggles of A Stylist: Emily Helps Stylist Lea Johnson With Her Open Concept Living And Dining Room Design Agony

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Hey friends, Lea here! I’m so excited to be here and thank you all for welcoming me while I open up and share my home, thoughts and voice. I cannot thank Emily enough for this opportunity!

I’ll begin with a little intro to help get us acquainted again (kind of like speed dating). You may remember my home tour that was published here on the blog a little over a year ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long already!) but I want to fill you in a little more about my home and lifestyle. Like many families today, my husband and I still share our home with our millennial children (one is in their fourth year of college and the other who went straight into the workforce) as well as two cats and a dog. During this pandemic, it’s been a bit of a challenge with two of us working from home now and a third who has online classes. This year has forced me to look at our home in a whole new way and on another level, to say the least. Well… here I am again, facing my design dilemma: our living room. Let me preface this with the fact that our living room has seen many iterations – all of which I have loved (at the time) but after living with my choices they never felt quite right.

When Emily was going through a similar situation with her living room in their L.A home I could completely relate. In fact, her admitting her own challenges helped me face mine. So this time, Emily and I thought it would be fun to tackle my living room together (social distancing of course – I mean she’s in CA and I’m in MN, so we’re fine). 

First, let’s take a walk down memory lane so you can witness the evolution and struggle of styling our living room:

Arm Chairs | Mirror | Credenza

Here is where we started from. That beautiful mid-century style sofa by West Elm (sadly no longer available) was my dream sofa at the time. It also quickly became one of our cat’s dream sofas as well and he shredded that thing like a cheese grater. Note to self: stay clear of a boucle sofa if you have a cat with quick hands. I also loved this rug because it was made of recycled material and if you know me, you know how much I advocate for sustainability but, sadly, it never recovered after an unfortunate cat puke incident. 

After living with this space for about two years I was ready for a change and wanted something more sophisticated, besides we needed a new sofa and rug so that was a good enough excuse for me to re-design this space. This is the version you have seen on Emily’s blog before and when I reference back at comments, I think it was favored by the majority.

Sofa | Table Lamp | Bookshelves | Fig Tree | Rug | Coffee Table (similar)

I have to admit looking back, I still have so many favorite parts of this design, namely the rug. I love an antique rug and this one is gorgeous. Where did it go? I still have it, it’s stored away for another day because I’m afraid one of our cats will pee on it. However, a bonus is it was very forgiving to cat puke.

Hot Tip

Let cat puke dry, pick up what you can and then sort of comb/brush out the rest and vacuum. That and a little mixture of Woolite always did the trick for us.

Then, it’s like the sky opened up and the stars parted by chance because I just so happened to take a trip to Emily’s Mountain House last year and fell head over heels. So naturally, when I came back home, I did what anyone would have done. It was time for another living room makeover!

Sofa | Table Lamp | Bookshelves | Fig Tree | Rug | Coffee Table (similar)

The Holidays rolled around and I wanted to incorporate a Scandinavian feel in our home similar to that of the mountain house. I craved more simplicity and I had to have the same rug as Em (it is that gorgeous). The only problem is it is not the most pet friendly. See that love nugget on the sofa? Yeah, white dog fur and dark blue rugs are not BFFs. This quickly turned into a very high maintenance situation where vacuuming became an everyday necessity. Also, our front door opens immediately to this space and well, first impressions are important, right? I want to appear somewhat civilized if someone comes for a visit. I may be having dog fur anxiety as I write this right now.

Alright, now that you’ve seen the current state (as well as the before and the “before before”)  here is my very basic floorplan so you can envision the layout we are working with. It’s about as professional as a stick figure drawing of Hangman but you get the gist.

THE CHALLENGES

Not Enough Natural Light

My first question for Emily was, how do I create more light? Even with a west-facing window it still feels dark in here when you are looking from the kitchen and dining room into the living room.

From Emily: “This is such a struggle. I have some bad news for you – it’s truly hard to ‘add natural light’ to a darker room. The overhang on your front patio is blocking it from coming into your window too much, and so what can you really do? There are some tricks of course, that we wrote about here (mirrors, reflective surfaces, etc.) but I think the best thing you could do ‘add life’, not light. You want to pull your eye over towards a darker color to ground the room. I know that your new sofa is white and with white furniture on a white wall, your eye has no real draw over there – there isn’t enough contrast to make that room ‘pop’. What if you did curtains that contrasted against the wall? I’m not saying you have to have a crazy pattern or even saturated or dark color, but just something that pulls you over there, visually (a medium tone could work, or a subtle pattern). Same with the pillows. Get a darker or patterned throw and put it over the sofa and see how much it changes the room and if it pulls your eye over there more. Maybe a good new mantra is ‘when you can’t add light, add life’.”

She gave it to me real folks. But, she gave me some really good suggestions like adding reflective surfaces and thus ‘adding more life’ to the space. Now onto my next issue…

Our pets rule the roost (and thus the space must be pet-friendly)

Now that Emily has two dogs I think she may be feeling my pain a bit. My very short hair dog sheds like a you know what, especially when she blows a coat and since we live in 4 seasons, it’s a constant hassle.

The main issues here are the rug and the sofa. While the size of the rug for this space works per Emily, we’re going to table this one a bit and research some rugs that may be a better solution and taking into account that this is a high traffic room.

From Emily: “I think you need a more inviting living room sofa. That one seems like it’s on the smaller and more formal side, making it less conversational and less of a hangout space. I’m a huge advocate of trying to figure out how to make every room as usable as possible and giving every room a solid purpose. A larger more inviting sofa with a chaise I think can give that room more of a purpose- it says, ‘come on over and relax and hang’”.

As far as making the space even more pet friendly, she suggested I read this post, which has tons of awesome pet-friendly recs from you guys :).

The open concept doesn’t feel cohesive

Here’s what I struggle with in my home. I love textiles as much as the next person but I also don’t aspire to have a million and one throw pillows, so I lean more minimal in this category. After some self-reflection, I realized it’s because I don’t know how to pillow talk. What I mean is, I don’t feel confident in selecting pillows, rugs and window coverings that all flow together and look collected vs. independent selections without consideration of their counterparts. Guess what? Emily knows how to do this well and together we’ll work through the sourcing and selection process while I also learn the How To’s.

From Emily: “Since you’ve been reading the blog for a long time you’ve heard me write about color palette cohesion so many times 🙂 But yes, having a cohesive color palette will unite the rooms. It seems to me that you have this down already! But listen, pass-through spaces are HARD to design, and yours looks VERY good, so don’t be hard on yourself. You have such awesome stuff so I would first make it as functional, purposeful, and practical as possible – give yourself the challenge of how to make this whole floor the most usable space ever with your major pieces. THEN layer it with your awesome stuff. Yes, this is coming from me, another stylist who used to value style over practicality but I don’t anymore and I think maybe what you are struggling with is how to use the space more than how to decorate the space.”

I’m sure I’m not alone here when it comes to “problem areas” when designing a home. If you have one or two that would have been under your microscope, I’m here to let you know we all have them. Now, if you have any tips, ideas, or tricks for me and my living room, please chime in in the comments and I’ll be sure to check back soon with some progress and updates!

Opener Image Credit: Photo by Jennifer Kamrath/Sage Imagery | From: Tour a Stylist’s Mid-Century-Meets-Traditional “Farmhouse” Full of Thrifted Treasures

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Diane

Gotta start by saying that your room is absolutely charming. You may see the flaws but at least in these photos, I can find a whole lot to like. Sounds like you are already working on some solutions to practical problems, like finding a rug that will hide both white dog hair and races of cat puke – that sounds really smart. But I wholeheartedly agree with Emily’s observation that the most important goal is to make the space as functional as possible. As a fellow members of Team Moms With Millennial Adult Kids At Home, I too have had to rethink every common area of our home to best meet the needs of our four-adult work-from-home family; once I figured out how we wanted to use each space, the design issues mostly fell into place. Good luck!

Diane

Traces* of cat puke. Let’s hope there are no cat puke races. 😉

ASG

Also on Team Mom with Millennials at Home – (Moved into new “empty nester” condo before the pandemic. 2 bedrooms and a den. Son at home asked me the other day, “I thought you said this condo had a den when you bought it” – my reply “Yeah, you’re sleeping in it lol) – Would love to see a “wider” view and a post on decorating a cohesive open concept room

Karen

Love the last picture. The light fixture at the entry is adorable and I like the transom above the front door.

We have two cats and white rugs in the living room and bedroom. I have learned that after picking up most of the puke, using blue Dawn soap with water and scrubbing with a washcloth gets out ALL PUKE STAINS.

I learned this blue Dawn trick when I had a white horse who would roll in her own poop and decided to try it in the home… it is MAGIC. Just in case anyone else loves a light rug but has pet problems!!! (Note: they are not fine vintage rugs; I have one wool one and one synthetic one, both high-pile, that this trick has worked on.)

Catherine

Dawn is also the most effective laundry stain remover I’ve ever found!

Re: cat puke on a light rug: I found that I can’t let cat puke sit on our light rugs or it leaves a stain. So, it’s pick it up as soon as possible, pour some clear seltzer water/soda water/club soda on it and dab out whatever’s left in the carpet.

MJ

Dawn works well on textiles that are stained with anything “food” based, since it’s formulated to remove food from pots and pans. It’s also great at getting out blood stains. Cat barf usually contains a lot of cat food and stomach acid, but protein and acid are common human food ingredients.

Margaret

Really like the room already. I agree with Emily that we can’t add light–our rooms in the Midwest are never going to glow like the ones in LA–well, maybe at noon on a bright sunny day when the ground’s covered in snow. For a few minutes.
And I hear you on the rug. I have a barfing cat and an endless succession of service dog puppies to housebreak, so I have committed the blasphemy of No Rug At All (except a 2’x3′ bedside that will fit in the washer). It’s considerable lower end idea than either of your beautiful rugs, but have you considered making a “rug” out of FLOR carpet tiles? Some of the patterns are not bad; you could get one busy enough to hide the hair, and enough extras to replace any that get pee’d on. I’ve thought about doing it myself.
Good luck, and please come back for an update.

Jessica

The Flor tile rug idea is genius! So far my new cat hasn’t puked, but I know it’ll happen eventually 😛

MJ

I have considered Flor tiles as an option. My current area rugs are wool, and I find they really hold up well to pet stains. I’m a big fan of Kids N Pets stain remover, it works well on pet vomit and urine, but can sometimes leave a residue behind that will attract dirt. I recently got a Bissel pet spot machine and I cannot recommend it enough. I spilled an entire glass of red wine on my carpet two weeks after the machine arrived and you cannot tell where the spill was on a pale blue and cream rug.

HH

Came to suggest Flor tiles, too, and apparently great minds think alike. 🙂 We have them as a “rug” in our den and they’ve held up well to a corgi and cats. They’re not perfect looking, but we’ve had them for almost seven years and mostly you can’t see any puke stains. Our cat does like to catch her claws in them and the style we have is not impervious to that.

Christina

My living room is very similar (pass through, front door, low natural light). We just added some wall sconces and it’s helped a ton! Also- I would swap those curtains and do a white linen curtain (IKEA has great ones). I find that white linen almost glows even with little sunlight and makes the room feel brighter. The current ones seem a bit out of place compared to all of the other decor.

LouAnn

I really like Round 1 and Round 2 of your room best. I feel like Round 3 — while very pretty — has a cool color palette that, when combined with the low light, makes the room look kinda cold. By contrast, Round 2 — with that BEAUTIFUL rug — just looks more inviting. Maybe you need to shift back in a direction that brings more warmth to the room?

Dawn

I think you have amazing things to work with! Maybe try moving the sofa, opposite from where it is and free up the window. The chairs could go opposite. Or you could try a low open bookshelf along the entry way to give the space a bit more definition in terms of your entry space/where you walk through and where your sitting space is. We have some similar spaces, they are tough!

Theda

Oh my gosh, you have beautiful pieces to work with and I love your design aesthetic. Someone here suggested white linen curtains and I agree. I think they will soften and “casual up” the space. And yes, a rug that has pattern will also help hide pet hair and cat puke episodes—been there, done that! Have you seen the new rugs from @Chrislovesjulia? Vintage look without the vintage 🙂
I hesitate with the sofa/chaise look because in a smaller space you have fewer options for extra seating. But you have great taste and I’m looking forward to seeing what you choose. Good luck!

Miki

Thank you for torpedoing my latest musings about getting another cat. Resolve back in place!

Leila

I think your rug from the middle iteration would hide white dog fur surprisingly well – it has muted colours and a pattern. Could you try that one again if you still have it? I agree with Emily on the sofa not fitting well, too, and I also think the coffee table looks both a bit small and very chunky for the space.

What do you need to use the room for? I notice you don’t have a TV in there unless it’s on a wall we can’t see. Is there another TV room, and is this more for entertaining? Why is there a ladder with towels against one wall? Could you get prettier bookshelves that are more of a feature in themselves? Those look rather spread out and all the items on them are very similar – could you have a sideboard instead with only the nicest things from the shelves on display?

LouAnn

Towels? They are obviously throw blankets. It’s not unusual to display your throw blankets for easy access.

Rusty

Maybe… it needs some wood????
Wooden bookshelves??

Jessica

Your place is absolutely a favorite of mine, and total inspiration for my own home! <3

Soooo… it doesn’t feel cohesive enough and you want it to be brighter? I say try switching back to the last rug, to better match the dining room color palette (assuming it hasn’t changed! you didn’t include a new pic) and increasing the vintage vibe, and buy a blacklight and some cat pee remover. Get an additional litter box for the house if you want to be really safe. Then remove the curtains entirely. Make sure every corner has a lamp that shines light in every direction (eg not the brass mushroom lamp). Live with that for a few days and see what you think 🙂 After you’ve lived with it a bit, if you need a little more privacy, add in that privacy with the least possible amount of bulk and opacity

Good luck! Can’t wait to see how it turns out!!

Christina

I think it’s great! Since you’re looking for ideas though, what if the bookcases were ceiling height or extended further in the wall. I think that could draw your eye up making it seem bigger. Also, I agree about the rug with other readers. I love that teal but I can imagine the dog hair is wild. Will you always have cats? If so, I feel like you shouldn’t wait to save that gorg rug you have in storage! Xox

Yes! I got you girlfriend! I hear you loud and clear, bookcase hack coming soon! While we love our cats and don’t wish for them to leave us anytime soon, I think going forward as the kids move out and we’d like to travel more, we’ll be re-thinking any/all future pet adoptions.

Ulrika

Lea, your living room is already so stylish! You have inspired me to make tweaks to my own home. I think that bringing together some of the elements from each of your iterations may bring you closer to what you are after. A couple of ideas that may help: 1. To maximize the natural light in the room, have you considered replacing the frame by the plant opposite the door with a mirror? I think a round or oval mirror (to mimic the curves from your coffee table and rocking chairs) would look fantastic. In version 1 you had a round mirror with a black frame – would that one fit? It would bounce the light from the window and door back into the room. 2. The three rugs you have used are beautiful, and I tend to gravitate towards cool blues, but I think that the vintage rug in version 2 is the winner. It checks all the boxes, warm, cozy, patterned, and forgiving with pets. Combining with the modern lines and black, white and wood tones of the furniture you have in version 3 ensures that the room stays fun and not too traditional. Bring back that rust… Read more »

I am in love with all of your ideas and suggestions! Ok, let’s talk rust…my floors are medium -dark brown and I think there is an orange tone in them so I feel conflicted with rust in our home due to the floors. I love rust, it’s one of my favorites but I worry it will bring the room too warm/orange-y. Bookcase hack coming soon! Stay tuned!

MJ

How about marigold/deep mustard yellow instead of rust? Would get a bit of sunshine in by way of a color. And looks great with the black accents you already have.

Jenms

This is a beautiful space! One thing that catches my eye is the “bookcase” wall. The bookcases look very small and lonely with all the space around them. Why not make it a FULL ON BOOKCASE wall with floor-to-ceiling built-ins? That will certainly catch the eye!

Rusty

Yes!!! Full on bookcase for the win! And make it wood!

Bookcase hack in the works! Stay tuned!

Agreed! This bookcase as it is bothers me a lot. Bookcase hack 2.0 coming soon!

Rusty

I love the colourful rug that you took out of the room! It made the room.! If it’s too precious for pets, I suggest getting one that is a faux antique and more durable. You have billy bookcases too?! And a piece of cardboard under one corner?! Hahaha… snap! Me too.  This bit kinda got me coz, you’re a stylist: “I don’t feel confident in selecting pillows, rugs and window coverings that all flow together and look collected vs. independent selections without consideration of their counterparts.” How do you style other people’s spaces then?? I think Emily’s idea of a sofa with chaise is so good. Maybe one with a separate chaise that can either look like it’s part of the sofa or not? It’d connect the space and make it cozy. I agree with other comments, that the room look cold and needs a warm rug, throw and cushions. A coloured sofa would be better too, even oatmeal/textured, rather than white. Do you gave white because your dog’s white and… the shedding?? Have you ever considered painting your bookshelves?? That’d provide something for the eye to land on at that end of the room. Also, you could shift the… Read more »

I’m paranoid when it comes to that antique rug with my cats (one pukes and scratches everything and one notoriously pees on rugs). So….I think you’re right, a rug like even one in our dining room would work best for this high-traffic and pet friendly space. Love your ideas! Thank you!

Pinny

Hi. You’ve got nice pieces in your room that show good taste, And you’re not opposed to reworking a room periodically, so I have a few suggestions. To add light have you considered moving the sofa to the wall where the book case is now? That would avoid blocking the natural light, and the sofa would be in a more “welcoming/come on in” position to the entry.

Alternatively, change the bookcase to something that spans the wall more. Taller, wider built ins would be great. Using more of the wall may make the room seem larger and it would ground the room. Currently, your furnishings are all stylish, but things seem “tentative,” like they don’t relate to one another. The coffee table is cool but seems to float in the room and be disproportionate (not long enough?) To the couch.

Can’t wait to see what you do.

Lisa

I like the idea of trying the sofa against the bookcase wall! Especially if you end up bying a bigger sofa with a chaise this might give the room more, well, room to breathe instead of it maybe squishing everything? Plus the wall could anchor the sofa. I also like the suggestion further up of adding more warmth – have you thought about a coloured sofa? My mind has been dreaming up something in mustard velvet hmmm warm, but muted and classy… or something copper-ish if you wanted to go darker…? Just some ideas 🙂

Agreed! Everything is so squished! Def going with a more family friendly, lounge-y, laid back sofa. I wanted to do a deep color like copper or even a raspberry or dark cherry color but with white dog fur I’m afraid I’d be in the same conundrum as the dark blue rug. But maybe pillows in the copper velvet range would work! Great ideas!

Love love love your ideas! Thank you! Bookcase hack coming soon!

Niki

Hi blog readers! This is not related to the blog post itself, but the blog in general. Does anyone else get overwhelmed by the amount of adds on the page? I know it adds revenue for the blog, but it’s A LOT! It’s putting me off reading the blog. I was wondering if anyone else is feeling that? There’s video pop ups, there’s a banner at the bottom, there’s adds in between paragraphs. I feel it’s too busy and distracting. Anyone else?

Roberta Davis

For $10 per month, you can join the insider site and have no ads.

Peggy

Flor carpet tiles. That’s all I have to say.

I am hearing this a lot. Great idea!

Char

I noticed another person mentioned them, and must chime in. My daughter has a puking cat, and bought Flor tiles so she could replace blocks as needed. It hasn’t been necessary as they clean like a dream. Since she wants to keep the extra blocks handy she is using them inside the sliding door and in the kitchen. I am replacing my carpet with faux hardwood and Flor rug tiles as soon as I can!

I think I’ve spent the whole morning researching Flor rug tiles now! Ha! I am in love with this solution!

EP

To be honest the bookshelves look a bit… cheap… to me, and not as special as they could be (although styled very nicely!). I would get a comfier sofa, as Emily suggested, and then put it where the shelves are now. This will give you a focal point as you walk in. Then I’d put an equally comfy chair and ottoman kind of in front of the window, angled toward the dining room. I’d get some plants to sit in front of the window to add some color and life, taking advantage of what sun light you do get! I also love the vintage rug and they’re super practical with animals. Might have to keep other accessories more minimal if you use that one.

EP

Also, this may seem radical, but have you thought about painting the walls? Yes, I know this would be a task since it’s an open concept space, but when you don’t have as much natural light, bright white walls look cold and shadowy instead of light and bright. You could stay neutral but go for something with a little more oomph and it could really add a lot to the space, I think.

I’m so glad you said this about the bookshelves because I agree! I’m working on a little Ikea hack in the next weeks to jazz those babies up! I can’t wait to share!

First, I love your dining room! I had to go back and review because I didn’t understand the flow through this space just based on this post alone. I agree with Emily–the couch doesn’t feel like it belongs in the space. It seems like you prefer mixing vintage, modern and traditional. You’ve checked all those boxes with everything else in the room. The couch doesn’t need to serve as a modern piece here. I’d also explore getting a slightly longer curtain rod. Right now, the curtains look suffocated, shoved at the ends. If they had a little more space without blocking any of the window, maybe they could live their best life. The Turkish towels outside of a bathroom seem a little odd. But maybe when there is no tree there, it’s not as cramped feeling? Maybe what’s missing, for me, is an electric fireplace insert? It doesn’t seem like there’s a focal point, if that makes sense? But yeah, the couch would make the biggest difference. But who am I? I went to the design school of the renowned Emily Henderson’s Blog, with a minor in Pinterest pin hoarding.

Longer curtain rod…I love this. I am researching now. Currently it is 6″ past the window on each side but maybe 9″ or even 18″? Oh, ha! I saw the Turkish towels comment somewhere else too and I had to think what? Those are throw blankets but I totally see Turkish towels now and can’t un-see them. LOL!

Haha! Maybe don’t listen to me about the curtain rod, though. I bought a house last year (my first!) and decided, in the living room, to do floor to ceiling drapes–they cover the whole wall both when open and when closed. I went safe and went with almost the same color as the wall though. They really just add texture.

I’m so sorry about the Turkish towels comment! I swear that’s what I thought they were, but I can definitely see blankets now haha! (Also, duh, that makes so much more sense.)

Lisa

Oh gosh I just went back and read that entire blog post about your home tour again and fell in love with your place and style all over again – your house is so beautiful!!! I love how you mix styles and decades – your place just oozes charm and style 🙂 So I got no tips just admiration haha but I’m VERY EXCITED about this series, loved reading your conversations and look forward to seeing more of your process!!

Lisa, you are so kind! My dining room is one of my favorite spaces in our home and I need to figure out how to pull that over into the living room now and maintain pet friendly because I don’t want to be anxious over materials. Nothing too precious in our home is how we roll. If something breaks, c’est la vie!

Donna

My home has a very similar open floor plan except it seems that your staircase is where I have a long hall that opens to the kitchen. On your bookcase wall is our fireplace. I’ve pulled two small sofas up to that focal point across from each other. It does block off the entrance to the dining room a bit, but it does make for a cozy seating area. I have an ottoman closing off the square perpendicular to the entrance. If I were to do it again, I would probably replace the sofa that backs to the dining room with two comfy chairs that you could walk between. But rather than having the chairs angled as you do, I will line them up parallel to the other sofa. It’s not perfect, but it gives us the feel that we are in a cozy room when we are seated there. I chose function for us over perfect layout. Just an idea to think out of (or in!) the box.

Love this idea of using furniture to create the space of the room. I wish we had a fireplace here but, not happening anytime soon…budgets.

This is what I was trying to describe below;). It has lessened the space but really increased its usability. Also, I love your aesthetic and really look forward to your reveals.

Kelly

I love so many elements of this room! Emily is right that your porch overhang is always going to affect the light in this space. I can’t tell what color the ceiling out there is painted (blush? tan?) but that color is going to tint the living room and it is really visible when you are sitting down inside. I would suggest making it part of the room plan and going with a color that works with the interior as well as looking interesting. Maybe a sky/robin’s egg blue to give your eye the impression that you can see through it.

Whoa! That is genius! I just looked at this reading your comment and you are SO right! That IS bringing a orange-y tone in! Ok, so we are in MN and it’s snowing so I don’t think that will get done anytime soon but as soon as it thaws in 2021 that is first up on my list!

krkrkrkr

This is a great suggestion. I would also consider a bright, high gloss white for the porch ceiling to reflect additional ambient light into your living room.

anon

One word for pet hair: Roomba! My robot vacuum works great even though it’s an older model. It can be scheduled to run on its own or I can start it up manually. You can contain it to certain spaces or rooms. It used to be docked under the bed so it would be out of site.

I have one on my wish list!

Gladys Tay

Love your home Lea!! It’s just get better each time!! Thank you for being so inspiring ❤️.

So happy to see you here!

Gah! I’m so excited and BEYOND grateful to everyone here! So…I’m hearing that vintage rug needs to make a come back! Ha! I may have to put a catheter in the cat (get it…yeah, it was bad). Can’t wait to read all the suggestions and see where this room evolves! 4th times a charm!

Kelly

One way to trick your eye on the light would be to add some uplighting that reflects off the ceiling. We have warm LED cove lighting around the ceiling in our north facing family room. While it doesn’t provide light you can read from, it feels surprisingly like late day sunlight. You could use the tops of your bookcases to mount the lights to which would have the added bonus of filling up the wall when they were lit.

I love uplighting! Oh my gosh, it’s one of my favorites, it’s a whole mood!

MJ

My parents remodeled their basement a few years ago. It has no windows at all. Basically it was a dungeon with one sad lamp and one terrible 60 watt ceiling fixture. I convinced them to put in LED strip lighting with crown molding that hides the strip. The difference is incredible. Now everyone loves hangout there and it’s a warm inviting space. It would be really easy to add that to the top of the bookcases if you built them out a little with molding, or under some of the shelves.

emily jane

Okay, going to chime in (without having read the suggestions from other readers so I cannot guarantee originality ; ) BUT, only because you asked (it always throws me when people give ‘advice’ to guests here when not directly asked for it..?). Here goes: Moooore lighting sources sprinkled throughout the space! Sconces on either side of the bookcases..? Or picture lights atop each..? Or perhaps relocate the floor lamp next to the sofa to join one of the chairs and add a swing arm sconce (like the one in your daughter’s room via The Mountain House : ) that would illuminate the entire sofa..? My non lighting related thoughts: My gut says the bookshelf wall also needs MORE. wider bookcases? taller? large scale art on either side? low light plants on top? Something (as that wall does not feel fully engaged and could be what is throwing off the overall balance of the design..?). I agree with Emily about considering a less formal sofa -it could soften the mood of the space as well as elevate it’s ‘inviting-ness’ status (I looove what you’re doing/where you’re going in your basement-to-lounge transformation). Lastly, I have a crush on both your powder room… Read more »

I am looooooving reading this so much! All great ideas! An Ikea hack on the bookshelves is in the works (I think you’ll be pleased), although I wanted a fireplace with built ins, it’s not in the budget so we’re going to work with what we have. Lighting, yes! I need more lighting! I may need to write a whole post around lighting in this space since there isn’t a ceiling receptacle. Thank you for enjoying your coffee with us! I can’t wait to get going on some of these ideas!

emily jane

: )!!! I hope you’ll do a reveal of the Ikea hack here (though now I have your blog in an easily accessible spot ; ).

KJ

Lea, LOVE what you have going. I’m a MN native too – are you willing to share some of your favorite thrifting spots? Love, a fellow thrifter 🙂

Thank you! Yes of course! I shop a variety of Savers locations throughout the cities, Goodwill too and don’t discount Goodwill online (it’s sort of like EBay but amazing art pieces to be found), also, Junk Bonanza when we’re not in a pandemic (lol), and of course there’s loads of antique shops around in the city, FB Marketplace and CL are good sources.

Naomi

Why don’t people have their sofa facing the window? I know it causes a problem with cutting off the other spaces with the back of the sofa, but for me, the view out the window is 110% more interesting and welcoming than the view into the dining room… Thoughts? Solutions?

Love this idea but I don’t have enough walk space around it if I did this layout unless I went with more of a small scale sofa.

Our living area directly abuts the dining area too, and has a big window on the side away from the dining area. I have two sofas, one with its back to the dining area looking out the window and one to the right of that with its back to the pass-through space that leads from front door to hallway to back of the house. So the sofas make a broken “L,” with the break at the corner of the “L” creating an “entryway” into the living area, if that makes sense. Our living area becomes quite small, but we find it cozy. Granted, on the fourth “wall” (wall 1 is sofa, wall 2 is sofa, wall 3 is window) we have a fireplace, with a TV to the side of it, so the focus is quite clear.

Oh, and the sofa that backs up to the dining area is technically a loveseat. But me and my husband and two adult children can all have a comfy seat, and there’s an armchair whose role seems to be holding all the laundry I don’t get around to folding LOL.

Patti

I have the same sofa issue. Bought a 101” long custom stunner but it’s not deep enough to lounge on for movie nights. I went more for style than function 🥴. I just didn’t want to cut my room off with a sectional but maybe the sofa/chaise combo might work? I had looked at the Crate & Barrel Lounge Sofa but had to crawl out of it (I’m over 60). My room is quite modern so don’t want a traditional 3 seater but just a “curl up and read by the fire” type. And I have no pets to worry about! Any ideas, anyone?

Have you ever checked out Interior Define? The customization options make it pretty easy to get just what you want.

Adrienne

Don’t store your rug because of cat pee! We did that with rugs we bought in Morocco and they were eaten by moth larvae. I’d rather live with the rugs and clean out the pee than have them eaten by moths. We had the rugs professionally cleaned before we stored them in our basement, but they were still destroyed. Three of them. 😿 Pull that beautiful rug out of storage and use it.

suzanne

Nothing to add but….cutest dog ever.

Nicola O.

I’m no expert but I don’t like the blue rug in there at all. It’s too dark and doesn’t “speak” to anything else that I can see. I feel like it should be lighter, have a bit more pattern, and a t least a tiny trace of black in it. My two cents.

MJ

Everything in my house is always changing and evolving because hey, I am too! Change means having an open mind to learn and see new opportunities. Right now I am rearranging a lot because being home all the time made me want to address the many things I was putting off or just living with before. Your posts on Instagram have inspired me so much as I do that. I have a lot of stuff and sometimes it gets a little sloppy. Your home seems so intentional and I have really tried to look at things with that in mind as I go along. Your point of view on design and the world has been so valuable to me, thank you! As for your living space dilemmas, I agree with a lot of the comments. More lights (how about a big Noguchi type floor lamp at one end of the bookcase?), a mirror, the couch and rug both seem very graphic and hard lined in a way that is very formal. I feel your pain on the pet hair and stains. Best of luck!!!

Jessa

Lea, your home is lovely but I am very confused by this ‘I don’t feel confident in selecting pillows, rugs and window coverings that all flow together’… yet you are a stylist? Isn’t selecting pillows, rugs etc. a main part of the job?? I think you need to give yourself more credit. I remember your last home tour and it was really special, I would say you definitely know how to select things!

Molly

Version 2 and 3 are both SO great. Version 2 looks warmer/cozier and version 3 looks so stylish and magazine ready. You have great taste and I am sure whatever you do next will be fab. I am generally not a fan of rust/earth tones so the fact that I like version 2 with the brown chair and brownish/rust rug really tells me how good that design is. As to your concern in the comments abt rust making your orange toned floors look more orange… I remember a design show on hgtv years back (can’t remember the name but the woman had red hair, I think she was Canadian. She used a color wheel and made the homeowners pick 3 colors to center the design around). Anyway, she always said if there’s a feature you don’t love, going with similar colors will make it stand out LESS. So if one’s floors are orangey, going with orange/rust/yellow tones will blend with the floor whereas if you go with a contrasting color like blue, the floors will stand out MORE. So according to that theory, bring in the rust! You love it and it will maybe make your floor color feel better… Read more »

This is one of my favorite posts lately, and so helpful for me. I feel like you asked the right questions because they are the same questions I had for my open concept living room as well. Anyway I just wanted to pop on and let you know I’m so inspired by this post.

Stephanie | SPV Living

Susan

I like your designs. My thoughts: the Ikea bookcases take up a lot of real estate without any real function – they display a lot of little things, but nothing that draws my eye into the room. I liked that wall better with the credenza, and would have liked that better with a major piece of art over it rather than the round mirror. But I would like that wall more with a second sofa, or the only sofa, but bigger and more welcoming. It could be a sectional that turns the corner to the window wall, or two sofas, one on each wall. Or one long sofa on the bookcase wall – I’m a big fan of four-seater sofas. The rug that you put away needs to come home. Beautiful things, including antiques, belong in your home, not in storage. Yes, they can be damaged, but as you’ve shown, new things can be damaged, too. A little wear and tear is part of life – for all things great and small. Living with pets is messy, but so worth it. Accept that it is messy and work with it. Brushing pets daily helps a lot with shedding. The great… Read more »

Susan

One more thing: if you go with one long sofa on the bookcase wall, you could put a small-ish table and two chairs in front of the window. Think of a game table – a place to play a game, do a puzzle, play cards, have a cup of coffee, work on a computer.

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