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Design

My Journey To FINALLY Choose A Wall Color For Our Living Room (And How I Feel Now That It’s Painted)

As you know this room is my problem child – so much potential and I can really love the great qualities about it, but I’ve been stumped with how to handle it. It’s coming along now (as you can see at the end) but it took a lot of indecision to get to the point where I felt 65% sure that I wanted to paint the drywall – a percentage I wish were higher, but I just went ahead and did it. But before that, I had Misty photoshop some options for the walls to see if that could help my decision process and it did. I didn’t like any of the ideas that I had, so there’s that! Here we go:

Swivel Chairs (from opening photo) | Rug | Sectional | Leather Sofa | Sconces | Chandelier | Black Side Table

This is where the room was when we sent it to Misty (now realizing she should have done it off the first photo when the walls were bare – sorry Misty!). You can see the room coming along, but the walls felt unfinished and the wood jams and sashes bothered me but I had NO CLEAR SOLUTION.

The three biggest challenges:

  1. The Paneling and Trimwork. The paneling was painted a very cool white in semi-gloss and repainting it requires a 3-day paint job where the room has to be emptied and sprayed because the paneling can’t be rolled (well it can, but it will look better if its sprayed evenly). I kinda backed myself into this corner on accident, with way less flexibility. This is doable but expensive and extremely disruptive. And then change it to what? Even if I could snap my fingers I didn’t know what the right color would be.
  2. The Drywall is so broken up. As you can see there are so many doorways, windows, etc., so painting the drywall something darker would make the room so choppy and busy. So we needed lighter… Fine, but choosing the right light tone I find to be much harder than dark because it’s harder to get a sense of the tone from a sample. And boy did I try out a billion samples.
  3. The paint color shouldn’t compete with and should enhance the kitchen tile.

So we tried some options:

Neutral Wallpaper

I love the Sandberg Rafael white wallpaper so much – just a few tones of white (one that matches our cooler white). But when Misty photoshopped it in here (granted renderings are hard) it was certainly not a hell yes. But then I thought that maybe it’s the wood of the windows that pops too much for me and throws everything off balance (this is still a current running theory).

Neutral Wallpaper With White Painted Windows

Now painting these white oak windows is NOT IDEAL and would take me being 95% sure it’s the right decision. But seeing it photoshopped the same as the trim color is something I do really like. Brian and other people don’t agree so I’m not doing it anytime soon, but to me, it makes the room way less busy so that you can focus on the real moments – the ceiling, the fireplace, and the big wood doors (that we wouldn’t paint). But y’all, once painted you can NOT go back. In this one Misty also made the mantel wood – which I like but don’t love (not sure why).

Light Blue Wallpaper And Trim

Linen Wallpaper

This was meant to be a fabric wallpaper/texture and have the trim match it completely. We tried to make this work really hard – using the Ashley Stark fabric wallcoverings. Again, just a texture (it looks like a pattern up there). Ultimately we worried that the tones of the fabric which you can see here (stone and pebble) might have been a little gray for this room.

Neutral Walls

This was a neutral I thought I liked (to add warmth) but uh, no.

Bold(er) Pink

We have a lot of blue and green (and more green coming) so I thought maybe a pink on the walls would be nice to see. Nope!

Pale Pink

Still nope! Perfect for Easter!

Pale Pink And Trim

But here it is with the windows painted out the same pink (which I still prefer than the wood when you look at the overall room).

What We Painted – Where We Are This Week

Paint Color

So when we were gone for Spring Break we had the drywall painted Mantra SW 9631 by SherwinWilliams. It was a last-minute decision but I felt 85% good about the sample and since the drywall was just a few hundred dollars, took one day, and didn’t require spraying (so we didn’t have to unload the room) I said, “let’s just do it”. I came back and was so pleasantly surprised. It’s a happy extremely pale light tone of blue, with some green in it. We were worried about going too gray as to look sad in Portland but it’s such a pretty color. Am I 100% sure that it works? Nope! But I’m moving forward with the other elements that are happening. We have bought this sofa, and am planning on cafe curtains on the deep sills, big curtains on the big doors (maybe), and still considering upgrading the mantel to something warmer (or even still painting the brick). So I would say I’m 70% happy with this color and have no idea how it could be better. I still kinda want to paint the wood of the windows, but last week I played with a piece of sheer white fabric as a cafe curtain and think that might help a lot. I’m going to try everything I can before we paint those windows, FYI. I think my biggest challenge is that the room looks more formal than I want it to be because of all my choices. The paneling in semi-gloss is kinda formal. The lights are very traditional and could be considered formal. And all the trimwork – molding and paneling give off this higher-end vibe, which is not a bad thing but it also reads more formal. But I’m embracing it and really feel hopeful that through furniture and decor, I can make it feel happy, beautiful, and more casual. But all in all, we love this pale color and I can’t wait to show you other angles of it (just need to shoot the dining nook before I can show you :))

More to come soon, but what do you think?

Resources:

Wood flooring: Oregon White Oak by Zena Flooring
Windows and Doors: White oak, Aspen Casement by Sierra Pacific Windows
Stairwell Color: Smoky Blue by Sherwin-Williams
Wall Color: Extra White by Sherwin-Williams

*Photos by Kaitlin Green

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Elle
10 months ago

It’s the rug – huge, grey, boring, dragging down all the other colours. If you swapped that for a warm or saturated tone I think it’d make all the difference. I love the floral chaise and I’m sorry to see it’s gone in the final photo – it’s quirky and pretty and cool. All the wallpapers read as old-fashioned (and formal) to me, so I’m glad they’ve been nixed – they look like hotel wallpaper. I love that bluey-green you’ve gone for and I think it needs a few more deeper tones to work with it. Don’t be so worried about the light that you make everything very washed out – it’s a really light room to this Scottish viewer, though I guess you’re used to Californian light!

Colleen
10 months ago
Reply to  Elle

The floral chaise is still there! Back left.

KD
10 months ago
Reply to  Elle

Ohhhh, good thought on the rug. Could something warmer be the answer? Curious to see how things play out. Thanks for sharing your pain points…we can ALL relate!

KD
10 months ago
Reply to  KD

I also think the wood windows are really pretty…let that gorgeous custom wood shine!

Lisa
10 months ago
Reply to  KD

YES!!! the wood brings in so much warmth! Obviously it is your house and you can do what you want but I do think if warmth and cozyness is what you seek, covering up those wood frames would be a mistake!

Emma
10 months ago
Reply to  Elle

Totally agree with you! The chaise is the best piece of furniture.

anotheremily
10 months ago
Reply to  Elle

co-sign! don’t try to design the PNW (lack of) light AWAY; figure out how to make it an advantage. what looks clean and pristine in California light can read drab in the PNW.

(if you’re wondering how to decorate for a dark, rainy climate, always listen to the Scottish person!)

Jennyb
10 months ago
Reply to  Elle

I agree with the rug comment! I see one with some mustardy gold in it! I say throw down a jute rug to test and see how that makes the room feel. Grounding the floor with warmth, and then adding some life with a tree or so. Love the new color on the walls!

Heather
10 months ago
Reply to  Jennyb

A jute rug would warm up the space so much. We have the Heather Chenille jute rug from Pottery Barn with a thick rug pad underneath and love it! It’s comfortable under foot, hides dirt, and spills and messes are easy to spot clean (we have four kids and two dogs). Highly recommend!

Suze
10 months ago
Reply to  Jennyb

Could not agree more with this about the rug! Yes to warm mustardy gold tones!

Robyn
10 months ago
Reply to  Suze

Ok yes!!! I’ve been agonizing about this room with you, Emily, and some gold/mustard tones would be such a nice complement to the kitchen, give a happy vibe, and allow this room to be its own thing. Have you tried taking a photo of this room and putting it in one of those paint color analyzers so you can just see the colors? A lot of the colors are cold, and I think that’s why it’s not singing like you want it too. What about the jute rug idea, some gold, mustard, and then 1-2 darker/more saturated blue moments?

Kate
10 months ago
Reply to  Elle

I don’t know why, but I’ve never liked the chaise, but I’ll support it since I know that Emily & the kids really like it!

Jen Marie Bee
10 months ago
Reply to  Elle

I agree! A huge vintage Persian rug would look stupendous in that space (love the wall color, tho).

Sona
10 months ago
Reply to  Jen Marie Bee

I always love a vintage Persian rug. So much character and wears like iron! Persian rugs work in all types of decor in MHO. ❤️ Love how the room is coming together. Does not read formal to me.

Mkk
10 months ago
Reply to  Elle

i am going to be the outlier here and state the wood windows create the visual chaos feeling in the room. Maybe curtains will minimize it. The fireplace needs something to center the eye- wood mantel. Have any of you clicked the link for the rug. It is $$$$$$! So, no easy decision to get another. However, it does not seem to ground the room. I also think the light in the ceiling had it’s moment and to me feels dated, and at odds w/ the room/farmhouse, because it was so trendy mid-century.
if I remember other posts, there is a different couch coming, so a wait and see.

Kj
10 months ago
Reply to  Mkk

Try flipping the current rug over. It’s handknotted and much darker on the other side. Just to see if a darker rug changes things.

74A6A37F-992B-43A0-AE29-08785369D333.jpeg
Colleen
10 months ago

Great choice! I can’t wait to see what wallpaper you decided on for the little entryway.

Lisa
10 months ago

Thank you for inviting us to the process! One thing that strikes me when I look at all these images. Is that there’s no place for my eyes to land. No clear focal point. Everything feels washed out and spread out.

Perhaps adding some different heights like a big fiddle fig would help? And curtains also seems like a great choice.

I would love to have seen a white oak ceiling but understand that that’s not really doable. Not sure painting the fireplace would help either. But if it’s had been in pure brick or stone that would have been nice. Perhaps I’m missing some “real” material?

Also, agree on the rug. Would be nice to see some more worm colours and textures. Whatever you do. I’m sure it will be great!

DonnaJ
10 months ago
Reply to  Lisa

Agree about the lack of focal point and the rug adding to the sameness of it all. To my mind all the colors are so close to one another that that they read blah, not relaxing. It’s not monochrome enough to be monochrome and not colorful enough be anything else. If I think of soothing minimalism I think of earth tones. The aall color is noce now, but having it all be light blues can wash things out and look unconsidered. At this point bringing in contrast and texture and tension with warm vintage tones and varied plant heights is a great call, and yes a warm reddish vintage persian rug would help a lot. And I can’t help but agree and wish that the fireplace were left as red brick, or washpainted not painted opaque white. I know you want this space to be serene and I know you can warm it up without going full flea market. Personally I like the window jambs left as wood.

DonnaJ
10 months ago
Reply to  DonnaJ

WALL color not all color

Shawn
10 months ago
Reply to  Lisa

Agree about the focal point. In these photos the two sofas and chaise are all about the same size but of different styles. The California modern style of rug and gray sofa is beautiful but doesn’t shine in the PNW light. The richness of the red sofa and chaise hold in the light but sounds like are more formal than Emily would like. Both styles are politely holding the same weight so it’s hard to settle in. The question in my mind is what style do you want to be dominant — modern, traditional, transitional, brutalist? Or put another way, do you want the line / form to stand out or do you want to lean into maximalist detail? Lean into your choice on 70% of the pieces and use the other 30% for contrast. The new sofa should provide some clues. Thanks for sharing the exploration. All of our homes have their unique challenges and this forum helps us all.

Debbie
10 months ago

I think you need to change the color of the fireplace. It’s the first thing I notice when I look at the room, more than the walls.

Jen A
10 months ago
Reply to  Debbie

Agree. I would love to see the fireplace and mantel have more of a moment here.

10 months ago
Reply to  Debbie

Yes! The fireplace def needs a color of some kind. I actually really liked it with the wood mantle because it balances the wood of the doors opposite it.

Addie
10 months ago
Reply to  Christina

What Debbie, Jen, and Christina said… bringing more emphasis on the fireplace, including wood would tie the space together.

🥰 Rusty
10 months ago
Reply to  Debbie

I agree.
The mantle looked sooo much better in wood!
How about an aged, worn piece of lumbar with some character in it like your sailor painting does??
It’s a bit too ‘perfect’ still and needs more wwird/personality/old stuff.
FTLOG…….pleeeeease do NOT paint those windows!!!!

The light fixture is screaming MCM ranch, not farmhouse..
The room needs more grounding and a vintage, gently patterned rug would improve the space so much.

I kinda liked the pale pink and I’m not a pink-loving person!!
But the pale bluey-green is do much better than white.

It’s getting better step-by-step.🙂

Monica
10 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Never seen FTLOG before, love it!

Sarah Lovinger, MD
10 months ago

I would paint the room a happy, fun color, maybe a blue or a green. I hate white walls! I have a violet living room, a pink home office, a green kitchen and a deep teal master bedroom. Color adds so much life to a house, and this living room needs that.

🥰 Rusty
10 months ago

My house had everytoom painted a completely different colour and it looked (and felt) likethey couldn’t decide or didn’t have an overview.
For me, so many colours feels chaotic.
But we all get to do our own thing.😏

DonnaJ
10 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Sarah your home sounds lovely and I want to see it. It really all depends on the house and the light. I had white walls for years in my lofty 1000 SF NYC railroadish rental and it felt undefined until I painted the LR light pink , BR deep brown, kitchen yellow. Bathroom Brazilian cloth to ‘match’ 1930’s maroon and yellow tiles. The enfilade was killer it really added punch to the space. 11 foot ceilings helped! Now I’m in a countryside 7 ft ceiling split level and its creamy white, muddy green, light ochre yellow. For sure the entire home palette needs to work as one. I think Americans are too conservative with color Brits are sometimes too wild, there’s a happy medium.

Leigh H
10 months ago

I like the new paint color choice, definitely an improvement. I agree on the rug comment and need for some more texture and depth. Even a large interesting basket somewhere would help I think. The end table that looks like a cat structure is throwing me off as well. I’m not sure this space is the best home for it, it seems to break up the flow quite a bit – not that it isn’t a cool piece and should def go somewhere. Tough space no doubt….. the bones are gorgeous! I wouldn’t change the fireplace,

anotheremily
10 months ago
Reply to  Leigh H

I had exactly the same reaction to the side table! I was like “I thought they had dogs, not cats….”

Shannon L.
10 months ago
Reply to  anotheremily

It DEFINITELY reads cat tower…maybe if it was styled out more??

Allison
10 months ago

The new colour is nice! I think right now the room in its new version doesn’t have focal points where the eye can rest, in that many of the paintings and furnishings are on a smaller scale when the aspects of the room itself: doors, fireplace, windows, are actually incredibly large. I have that Roland piano, and it’s actually big! Piano size even! So this space making it look minute says something. There needs to be larger focal point vignettes that harmonize with scale of the space. Thanks for taking us on this evolving journey with the main living room!

Shannon
10 months ago
Reply to  Allison

Well said, the little gallery wall isn’t working for me here, feels too busy and crammed-in in current location.

10 months ago

Oh, gosh, Emily. I actually love the first photo (with the white walls) and the last photo (with the new colour you went with) so much! All the photoshopped ones in between are a nah for me (but still fun seeing the possibilities!). Perhaps because I lean so sparse, minimalist, uncluttered, spacious, and serene in my tastes, I think it already looks amazing and love leaving the wood as is (windows unpainted).

NLW
10 months ago

Dear Emily,
I can’t thank you enough for sharing these posts in which you dive deep into the pain points in your own home. We are wrapping up an extensive home remodel, and while some rooms came together seamlessly, other rooms take several iterations to get it right. These posts make me feel like I’m commiserating with someone who understands the frustration and regrets (and wasted money!) of false starts. Thank you! I appreciate your vulnerability, honesty, and genuineness. You are the best!

Jen A
10 months ago
Reply to  NLW

Agree! I learn so much from seeing this process. Anyone can post the totally completed “after” but seeing how it all evolves, how you have to live in a space for awhile to make decisions, sooo helpful. Also this room in particular interfacing with so many others would be a huge challenge. Any decisions have to work with the entrance, stairs, sunroom, kitchen, outdoors, etc.

J
10 months ago

I Love the new paint color. I love the wood trim. Yes to curtains to add softness and break up the wood, and while I typically love eclectic mixes of furniture and accessories, I think this room might be asking for a few larger substantial matchy matchy pieces rather than a lot of smaller, collected, mixed pieces. (I.e. one large piece of art vs. a gallery wall; a pair of larger end tables vs 4 different small tables; matching upholstery on the big furniture and add the variation with pillows; matching picture frames, etc.). More bulk, fewer furniture legs. That’s my instinct from one angle, I know multiple angles could be different!

It’s a beautiful room and a beautiful home. You figure it out!

J
10 months ago
Reply to  J

**YOU’LL** figure it out is what I meant!! Yikes, my typo takes on a whole different meaning.

tara
10 months ago
Reply to  J

haha. i think that there needs to be a specific word for a typo that changes the meaning to the OPPOSITE of the original intended meaning!

Amanda
10 months ago
Reply to  J

I keep thinking about my grandmother’s huge living room from a similar-era house. She had two matching deep love seats flanking the fireplace with barrel swivel chairs for the fourth side. So cozy–so 80s! There was a baby grand piano in the corner, a large wall mirror on one wall, and a tall secretary on another. Grounding!

ellen
10 months ago
Reply to  J

I totally agree with you. Emily said they’ll have two matching/facing each other sofa’s coming and that would definitely help grounding this room. I also think there are too many too small items. I’m sure in the end it will look great!

Addie
10 months ago
Reply to  J

Yes to this color, curtains and more symmetry in the furnishings but keep the interest in the art, textures, and finishes, and keep the color going throughout the space.

Lori S H
10 months ago

I personally loved the first pic at the top of the article. It seems less busy. I feel like there are too many objects and furniture pieces that are different that make the room feel crowded. The warmth of the window frames is really pretty, so I definitely wouldn’t paint them. I love your idea about a different mantle. A reclaimed mantle would be so pretty in the farmhouse. When I look at the overall style of room, I definitely don’t see formal. It’s more eclectic. I really like the pale blue but wonder if it may come across as too cool or cold during winter or a rainy day? I’m glad you didn’t choose pink in that space.

Lori S H
10 months ago
Reply to  Lori S H

oops mantel, not mantle

Alexandre
10 months ago

My two cents! Yes, paint the windows and put two handsome couches (one more of the leather one?) facing each other, and then replace the rug with something neutral but warm and make the fireplace a focal point – your eye really wants to go there, but then gets there and there’s nothing. It’s going to be beautiful. This process posts are my favorite! Thank you!

Dena
10 months ago

I like the new color, but I also like the pink! In agreement about a better, not so modern rug choice, curtains and not so many little pieces of furniture since the space is big. I like the wood around the windows and would even prefer having the white trim around the windows be wood (paneling staying white.) I wish I had a living room this big so to me it’s a good problem to have! The fireplace is gorgeous and feels like a go to focal point along with the chaise lounge. Can’t wait to see more!

Amy
10 months ago

I like the new wall color – it looks very good as a color echo of the kitchen tile. With the wood windows, white ceiling and fireplace, it looks very Scandi farmhouse ( and pretty). I think the darker furniture that doesn’t relate to each other is what is visually incongruous. The new sofa is very nice and will go well with the room but the dark reddish leather couch and the dark floral chaise would look good together in a different space. I would not cover the windows or doors because you have always sung the praises of natural light and the need for it in Portland, so don’t cover it up! You have lots of privacy on your property so no concern for neighbors seeing what’s going on inside at night through “naked” windows. Same with painting the windows, you paid a TON of $$ to have them custom made in white oak, so embrace that decision and make it work. Since the room is so big, perhaps it needs to be broken up into 2 seating areas to make more sense, with two rugs to define the areas. A zone with the new sofa, a coffee table… Read more »

DonnaJ
10 months ago
Reply to  Amy

These are great comments!

Lavinia
10 months ago
Reply to  Amy

I came to the comment section for all the designers who I knew would be offering their great ideas and what a delight this is.

susan
10 months ago

This room would Stump me too. I echo what someone else said, there’s no real focal point in the room and there are a lot of different things going on. The fp could be the focal point but it’s not for some reason. We are struggling to pull our living room together too so I can really relate to your struggles here. It will be interesting to see where you finally land

Danielle
10 months ago

Keep the windows as is! They are so beautiful.

Jen A
10 months ago
Reply to  Danielle

Agree on the warm wood of the windows. Beautiful and really adds to the space.

Ally
10 months ago

I like the new, pale touch of color on your walls. I agree with the comments above that a warmer rug would absolutely help.
A more massive mantel piece, with some kind of age or detail, would create more of a focal point. Most of all, please — PLEASE — don’t paint over your beautiful oak window and door trim!! To me that is a major asset that adds some luxury and helps this room communicate (visually) with your beautiful kitchen.
Also I’d skip any kind of curtains if possible, esp. in the NW. If window coverings are a must, how about something that mostly disappears when it’s opened?

Ally
10 months ago
Reply to  Ally

PS besides its relatively cold, drab color, that area rug seems to hide so much of the beautiful oak flooring, which will add warmth if given a chance. Along with a different rug, this room could use some fur — like sheepskin throws or pillows — either real or faux. The dogs count, sure, but can’t always be on hand 🙂

Lane
10 months ago
Reply to  Ally

Window coverings, specifically drapes, can be light, just another texture to break up smooth walls, paneling, floor and glass. E.g. linen sheers can hang just on the sides barely covering the windows. She’d still need enough to cover the entire window, otherwise the weight/proportions wouldn’t match. I think it I’d go for drapes in some sheer fabric with color or for other light fabric.

Pinny
10 months ago

Hi, Emily! The room itself is a great size and has great light but somehow it lacks texture and feels cluttered. Add some texture with curtains, reduce the number of objects in the room and increase the scale of the objects. Please consider adding curtains. Curtains of the same height will lesson the distraction of the varying window/door heights. Your sconces will interfere with curtains, so just take the sconces down while you are playing around trying to figure this out (or remove them from the photoshop renderings when you photoshop curtains). Moving electric sconces is a small expenses compared to other fixes you are making. And for purposes of meeting a “shooting deadline” you can just fake that the lamps are hardwired it for the photos. The paint color is nice, but I don’t think the biggest challenge is paint.

🥰 Rusty
10 months ago
Reply to  Pinny

There’s way too much MCM for a farmhouse.
The focal, grounding pieces should be classic/older looking like thd chaise.
Then a dab of MCM could be added for some quirkiness.
Just too modern and chaotic for a farmhouse…like, WHERE’D THE SHAKER INSPIRATION GO???
I can’t see ANY.👀👀👀

Penny
10 months ago

Personally, I liked the warmth that the pink brought to the room! But the color you chose is nice too. I agree with others – I feel like there are too many different pieces of mismatched furniture…and they’re all a little bit too interesting (looking at you side tables). I also wish the sofas matched. Rug could be warmer. And, though I wish the fireplace was unpainted brick, I think a wood mantel would help. The wood windows are very nice. I wish the trim was wood as well – OR!! just paint the window jambs white to match the trim. I think it’s the jambs that are throwing the eye off! Keep the sashes wood – I really think that would help.

Mariele
10 months ago
Reply to  Penny

Agreed, I felt the bold pink was the best option by a long shot… no comparison. Curtains and symmetrical, matching furniture will help a lot. This room needs more warmth, not less!

alexa
10 months ago

I like the versions with wood on the mantle – It helps balance the wood on the wall of windows and draw your eye back to the fireplace.

Lynly
10 months ago
Reply to  alexa

Agree. Wood on the mantle will bring balance and interest to that fireplace. Also a rug with some warm colors in it, like hints of terracotta or subtle pink would warm up the room and also work with blue/greens in the space. I would say to fight the urge for anymore cool gray blues. The space needs warmth to balance the cool white and very cool colored stairs. Warmth, symmetry, substantial (but less) furniture, substantial (but less) artwork, more formal arrangement to calm the space.

Addie
10 months ago
Reply to  Lynly

I second all Lynly’s suggestions.

🥰 Rusty
10 months ago
Reply to  Lynly

Yesss!

Jordan
10 months ago

This is a tough room, for sure. It’s just so big! I think the thing I am drawn to in the first pic is simply that furniture is more open so we can see the room better instead of the couch blocking the view. Basically I think it’s a better photo layout, not necessarily a better room. So looking past that, I’m just going to throw out my random thoughts… I think the paint color works, but I am craving some color and warmth to balance the light tones. The art is very muted. Have you thought about a statement art piece above the piano? I know the sconce sort of prohibits you from doing a big piece there, but that could be a wow moment from this view. Even just a more colorful blanket on the back of the couch would add some interest, IMO. You could try bringing in some warmer colors that way. I also think the fireplace might anchor the room better in a darker color. It feels worth trying in photoshop at least. Your art on the mantel would pop off a darker backdrop. We can talk about the styling choices all day but I… Read more »

anotheremily
10 months ago
Reply to  Jordan

when you’re struggling with a room that is larger than the standard American living room, I say look to the Brits or the French and what they do in their larger rooms. the answer isn’t larger furniture; it’s groupings of furniture that create moments and narrative in the room. they give the room life and grounding and a human scale that makes sense. it makes you want to be in a room when there’s a place to be in it that makes sense; like a cat getting into whatever cardboard box is lying around, or sitting in a square of tape on the floor! 😀

Zoe P
10 months ago
Reply to  anotheremily

100%! I was thinking the same thing! Emily is struggling with this because it’s so big, and she’s trying to make the fireplace the focal point when it shouldn’t be. I was thinking that the room should be broken up into segments like the Brits do and the fireplace can just add to the overall charm of the room–it doesn’t need to be the focal point at all.

MKP
10 months ago
Reply to  Jordan

I agree with a large piece of art either over the piano or the mantle. How about the blimp??? It’s fantastic and huge and would bring in the weird/ playful so as to tone down the formal feel.

Boy, these commenters are smart! It’s wonderful that you are willing to be so open about your process, and one of the best parts about this is reading the feedback in the comments. Such great insights being shared. I fully agree that fewer but more substantial pieces to anchor the room would really help a lot. I couldn’t have put my finger on that exactly, but once it was pointed out I’m in full agreement.

So thanks Emily for sharing openly, and thanks blog followers for sharing your fantastic input!

Becky
10 months ago

I love your style and I’m sure you will figure this out! But I feel like this room looks like it’s trying too hard. I feel like you may need some pieces that are less obtrusive. Each piece, like the end tables and things on the mantle, etc looks unique and that is leading to a lack of cohesiveness in the room. You need some items that just feel classic and worn and don’t say “look at me, I’m different than everyone else.” All of your vintage finds seem to lean vintage-modern, and I think you need more timeless vintage items instead. I do however LOVE the leather couch!!!

🥰 Rusty
10 months ago
Reply to  Becky

Such great commrnts!
“look at me, I’m different than everyone else.” THAT’S it!!!

Eve
10 months ago

Im so in disagreement with the other commenters, that rug is beautiful!! It looks to be a calm blue-green which contrasts nicely with the wood and the textures in it are so rich. To me all this room needs is a vertical point of interest near the windows, be it curtains, a tree or some sort of sculptural wall art. I do actually prefer the window frame in white but it could be just because the bare frame stands out, adding curtains might solve that. Auburns and blue-greens are so beautiful together and I love the way this room is progressing.

Shannon
10 months ago
Reply to  Eve

Agree, the rug is beautiful and unique. I feel like a lot of the comments are suggesting very expected solutions that they’ve seen before-ie warm Persian rug-when what Emily is trying to do as a designer is break new ground. She is creating something specific to her and that is a high bar. It’s not about merely competent design, it’s about a fresh perspective, which is well worth the extra work and trial and error.

Lynly
10 months ago

You need to ground the room in much different and more substantial furniture. There are too many small and disjointed things in the room. Actually a more formal arrangement would help. Flank your fireplace with two matching sofas. Get a large coffee table between them with no legs, and bring back those swivel chairs. The chaise doesn’t work in this room and neither do all the tiny disparate tables, poufs and stools. There is nothing formal about it, so I don’t understand that worry. Symmetry, a more formal arrangement and more substantial furniture will quiet the room and give it a sense of being planned. It’s a hodgepodge now with no real sense of a direction. If you’re stuck, no shame in getting help with it.

Becky
10 months ago
Reply to  Lynly

I totally agree with you! It needs symmetry!

Deborah
10 months ago
Reply to  Lynly

Yes, l agree with both Lynly and Becky, the room needs more symmetry in the furnishings because the room itself is so asymmetrical. The two very different sofas (design, color and fabric/leather) have been bothering me every time I see photos of this room and they don’t anchor the room they way they need to. As others have commented above, a warmer rug with color, plus two matching sofas (navy blue velvet!) facing one another, swivel chairs at the base of the U, and framing the fireplace seems like the best layout for this wonderful room – classic large room arrangement. Then seating moments elsewhere, like how you have the chaise by the window at the conservatory/dining room entrance. Adding some warmer colors (a pair of golden leather sofas could be nice) would help with balancing the gorgeous wood windows. I think the room needs some richness of color and substantial furnishings, it’s just a tad too ethereal and delicate right now for a farmhouse or large room. I can’t wait to see how it looks when you are done! 🙂 BTW, the photos seem so blown out that I did not see any difference in the mock ups except… Read more »

Becky
10 months ago

Two of the Arhaus Abbot chairs would look stunning in here!

Sarah
10 months ago

The wood of the window draws the eye to the right. And then there’s no wood casing on the doorway next to it to balance it out. And no wood on the mantle or the beams to create flow. It would bug me and color on the wall wouldn’t solve. I’d get over it pretty quick though w a book and the chaise lounge : )

Christina
10 months ago

You have such pretty bones, DO NOT paint the beautiful wood trim. Your furniture choices are the problem IMHO. Too many different styles and colors and textures in one room. I would do two couches that are the same that face each other and are symmetrically perpendicular to the fireplace. Then two of the same accent chairs that face the fireplace that have their backs to the beautiful wood trimmed glass doors. You also need a long end table behind the couch that is opposite the piano and some styling that will break up the symmetry of the room. The rug is too big for this space. I would break up the room into quieter moments that still speak each other.

Elizabeth Sims
10 months ago

Emily, you are doing such a service by sharing your process here, with such vulnerability. Thank you! You’ve created a beautiful home and sometimes it just takes a bit longer than we expect to understand it’s character and needs. I love the way you’ve written about giving yourself the grace and time to live in it and let the process unfold. We are too used to the hyperproductivity and instant reveals we see on social media and television. I know you’ll figure it out! As a designer, I’ll weigh in to agree with most commenters that it is the eclectic mix of mid-century-inspired and boho furnishings that are failing to ground things. In most other rooms, you have included fantastic vintage finds that celebrate the farmhouse ethos, and finishes that do the same. Don’t be afraid of the room being too formal if you lean in to its traditional feel. Traditional can be cozy! A few larger items with a sense of history and warmth will ground the space, as will some larger artwork and perhaps a mantel to give the fireplace a focal point. What a fun project—take your time and enjoy!

Lynly
10 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Sims

Definitely larger artwork. No gallery walls of small things in this space. Go big!

🥰 Rusty
10 months ago
Reply to  Elizabeth Sims

Yep, too much MCM, including the light fixture.
Changing the light to something better suited to an old property would gelp.

Donna
10 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

I like modern lighting contrasted with old architecture, but in this case, even though the OG house was old, the renovation has erased most of it.

🥰 Rusty
10 months ago
Reply to  Donna

Correct. That’s whythe light is so wrong.
There’s no OLD left.

10 months ago

Emily, I love you. And you can do no wrong. But I’m furious you didn’t go with the pale pink. <3

Jamo
10 months ago

I think that if you left the windows wood, but painted out the surrounding wood (jambs?) around the window the same color as the trim that it would be a happy medium between the paint vs no paint debate. And it would calm down the contrast and let the windows sashes themselves be the focus. Beautiful room and I like the new color you painted it – it helps warm it up!

Elizabeth
10 months ago

To my mind it lacks playfulness. That equals comfort to me. Take a tip from English country houses- how about a boucherite rug of several colors?

Rachel
10 months ago

I love the colour. I love the rug despite the haters. The room really benefits from the pattern it brings. I don’t think the architecture reads as formal. I think if you want it to feel more cottage? Well then do what you do best. Style it 🙂

Courtney
10 months ago

I love the new color! Adds a little interest without being overpowering in such a big space. I agree with others that the furniture is a sticking point–that leather sofa is beautiful but doesn’t seem like it belongs in here. And that side table next to the new couch seems out of place and like it would be a potential for injury (my kids would bang themselves on it so much! so many corners!). Swapping those and adding some plants and more artwork will go a long way.

Anne
10 months ago

I think one large statement piece of art above the fireplace would add a lot. Multiple gallery walls and vignettes can start to feel like clutter to me. A more substantive light fixture could also add balance and warmth to the room. Painting the walls was a good move.

Min
10 months ago

How much light does the chandelier provide? I want to put one in ours but my husband thinks that it’ll be more of a spotlight instead of a nice overall light.

Colleen
10 months ago
Reply to  Min

Min, I have a similar light from Lulu and Georgia, except there are five lights and they are asymmetrical. We have the bulbs pointed upward at the ceiling and it casts great overall light, and is on a dimmer.

My mistake may have been one of scale: the light is quite big for our little family room so it is dramatic, but we love it!

E E Deere
10 months ago

The color you chose looks great! I would say that the white curtains are an excellent choice, and your instinct about white curtains bringing some more balance with the unpainted wood sounds spot on.
It seems like some rooms truly need time before they come together. It doesn’t look too formal to me.

anotheremily
10 months ago

I think it looks much better! I also think you shouldn’t worry about the room looking busy. it’s a big room, so unless you’re going for minimalism, business isn’t an issue. I would love to see more zones and moments in this room; it doesn’t want to be all about the fireplace, with sofas spaced far apart around it as if it’s a smaller room. I think what some deeper tones and tighter groupings would achieve is a better sense of scale. that seems to be what might be off, the scale of the layout. like you’re designing for a smaller scale, thinking of it as a room that can accommodate just one seating area, when really it’s a large scale room that needs to have 3-4 zones. shrink the main seating closer to the fireplace and I think that will improve things a lot. the pass-through from entry and sunroom to kitchen shouldn’t be through or in front of the sofas, but rather behind them. ok one more thing: because the room is so big, it needs a sense of narrative, of progression. when you come in from the entry, you need to get a sense of where to… Read more »

anotheremily
10 months ago
Reply to  anotheremily

ok one more thing!! I love what Rita Kong says in one of her house&garden videos: the layout is the most important part of making a room feel comfortable. even if you have ugly things (and you don’t), a good layout will make a room comfortable to be in. she’s so good at making rooms that ARE busy not FEEL busy but rather cohesive and just RIGHT.

Ally
10 months ago
Reply to  anotheremily

Thanks — really like that Youtube channel! Am a fan of House & Garden (in print) but never thought to look there.

Deborah
10 months ago
Reply to  anotheremily

Oh, I just looked into your recommendation anotheremily, thank you! 🙂
Here is the video in case others would enjoy it too – https://youtu.be/bnSvpfyLy7c

anotheremily
10 months ago
Reply to  Deborah

thanks for linking it! I should have done that….that’s bad internet form, isn’t it

Renae Meanley
10 months ago

You HAVE to do a different rug, it’s way too modern and boring! What if you do an antique Persian Rug, richly colored drapes, and paint the fireplace something dark and saturated with a bigger piece of art. Also, the couches need to match. I think that right now it looks like whatever leftover furnishings you have (wonderful though they are!) made their way here and have stayed. Also, I think that if you lean into the wood windows with statement drapes the wood will read more intentional and less jarring to the eye.
Thank you so much for sharing the process!

Roberta Davis
10 months ago

I think you got it right! It looks better than the original color.

Heidi
10 months ago

What is it with you and painting wood? 😉 And I say this with the utmost love in my heart. Please, please, please don’t paint the window trim! It’s gorgeous. Work with it! Love the house. Love the windows. Keep up the good work. <3

Suzanne
10 months ago

I love these posts as most designers just make us all think, Poof! Got it right on the first try. And that is not real life!
My $0.02, for what it’s worth and if it were my house…I’d swap out the window/door trim for oak to match the jams. Then, I’d put a matching wood mantel on the fireplace. I think it might warm everything up a bit? I love the idea of two matching sofas facing each other. Right now, the sofa is the only light big furniture piece and I think that may be throwing things off balance, too? If you add another light gray sofa, that will help balance the room. This room feels very disjointed to me? There are too many “smalls”. I love a good end table, but I think you’ve got too many going on? You could put a sofa table behind the sofa closest to the piano and then you’d have room for a couple lamps. If you have a nice sized coffee table, you could eliminate some of the end tables. Whatever you decide, I can’t wait to see it! Good luck and happy designing.

Blair
10 months ago

Lots of great comments here! Thank you Emily for sharing this process, I love these posts. I also love the new wall color and your wood windows. Here’s my two cents: replace the current rug with a red/rust/burgundy colored rug, get two flanking traditional sofas and bring in two chairs, lose some of the small tables, nix all the small wall art, and add a wood mantel. Based on how you transformed the television room, I know you can make some tweaks and it will look great!

Mj
10 months ago

This room is begging for some plants! I’m inclined to say a warmer rug also, to bring it some depth and variation since it’s looking a bit like blocks of color.

SARAH
10 months ago

I BEG you please do not paint the wood windows! Don’t lose that warmth! And what a pain in the ass to remove that paint if you even wanted them stripped.

Lane
10 months ago

I like the new color. It’s the perfect choice and the room looks very fresh. I agree with others when it comes to painting the fireplace. If it was bolder or brighter color than the stairs it would be a great focal point. I like how the stairs are a feature, but you perhaps want to wow with something else in the living room. You may also want drapes and a couple of plants. Those will define or enclose the living room slightly, adding some separation and definition from other areas. So get something you love without worrying about what works. Your furniture are neutral anyway, so really everything will work. A lot of things are very pretty and well made, but not everything will wow you, and I think that you probably need that for the specific type of energy you are missing in the room. You do have a big room so you can explore some funky furniture pieces like double sided sofa or bench so that you can sit facing the window. You can add a console table behind the sofa. You could build a library bookcase somewhere. Yes, all those things potentially will make the floorspace… Read more »

Erin
10 months ago
Reply to  Lane

I love the idea of doing something dramatic and interesting like a double sided sofa. I definitely think this room is in need of some shelving or bookcases where Emily can do her styling that she loves. I also like the idea of two dark navy sofas facing each other by the fireplace, and I’d love to see a funky vintage console table behind the couch closest to the kitchen, which can be nicely styled with books, vintage lamp, plants, etc. Agree on the rug, this needs a Persian rug or something with rich burgundies, pinks, rusts, mustard. Loved the pink walls though I think they would read a little juvenile against the blue tile kitchen.

10 months ago

Love all you do and love reading the journey through paint colors. Been there, done that…a lot. We have some similar colors in our family room (grey sofa and white oak flooring) and also decided to paint the walls a bluish color. SW Magnetic Grey “cut” ( not sure what that means, but it lightened the Magnetic Grey to a grey blue), which we love. Used a similar color of your leather sofa for the back of some kitchen shelves in our open family room area. BM Coyote Trail. Kitchen bottom cabinets a bit darker grey than sofa- BM Copley Grey. Somehow it all worked out! Geez. Our garage has MANY sample/quart cans of paint resulting from my eternal search for colors for interior wall colors. ( think my husband is just glad it is all one color now and not with samples of paint colors all over the walls:-). Also look forward to your posts!! Thank you!!!!!

Lane
10 months ago

Looking straight at your fireplace (just saw it in another post), it’s so obvious that the staircase on the left can be balanced with the blue credenza you bought on the right. That darker blue color of the staircase needs a reflection on the right side of the fireplace. Alternatively build a bookshelf (or buy bookshelf and paint it blue) on the right and paint it blue. If you do that’s then you can probably forgo painting the fireplace, but you may consider hanging a much bigger and bolder piece of art above the fireplace, but maybe that art shouldn’t have any blue in it because it might feel a little cluttered.
So anyway, that bookcase could perhaps provide much needed balance, something to look at, plus storage for your treasures.

Addie
10 months ago
Reply to  Lane

Agree, the whole room needs more balance and some darker blues (in contrast to the new pretty but very light wall color) to bring focus and color throughout the room. Possibly a darker rug would help groud the space too. Great ideas Lane!

emily jane
10 months ago

NIce! I like it (even if, as you’ve mentioned, I don’t know why : ) quite a lot actually.
I’m with you Em and feel the wood of the window distracts from the bigger feature of that lovely wall of doors BUT! auditioning cafe curtains are a great idea! I’m liking the sofa arrangement too and though I am sure you’ve tried furniture in a l l the places, my eye wonders if the chaise lounge tucks into the corner in front of the problem window (Handsy would need a new spot obviously)..? Except the former dancer in me (once a dancer, always a dancer..?) also wants to keep that corner clear so I could dance on those beautiful hard wood floors!
I am loving this tour through your challenges as it reminds me /us that design is an art, not a science (and sometimes, a space wants/needs to have it’s ‘voice’ be a part of the collaboration ; ).
Lastly, I am soooooo looking forward to your dining nook reveal!

Alison
10 months ago

agree with other comments on the fireplace / mantel needing to be the focal point. I do personally wish you had played with that before doing the blue paint, it is a pretty color! But will now limit what you can do to the fireplace. Def get the drapery up before you do anything else – also PLEASE leave the windows as they are! they are gorgeous and add SO much warmth!

Janet
10 months ago

What do you DO in this room? Reading? Where are the lamps and cozy chairs? Conversing? Pull the seating closer for a feeling of intimacy. Pass through? Why so much furniture? Also, the furnishings lack cohesiveness, nothing seems to be speaking to anything else. While the room contains suggestions, I feel the real problem is the lack of a sense of purpose.

Emma
10 months ago
Reply to  Janet

I was wondering the same thing. Since there already is a family room what function does it serve?