Portland Project: The Living Room Reveal
Hold on to your birds, folks, because it’s REVEAL TIME for the Portland project. The house is finally styled and shot, and today we have the pleasure of revealing to you one of my favorite rooms in the house: the living room. (P.S. If you want a sneak peek of the entire house head to House Beautiful) Settle in, because this post is a doozy and dives into how in five weeks, we worked with our favorite brands and shopped to furnish, style and shoot this 5k-square-foot home in another state. Looking at this house, being in this home, we feel such personal satisfaction, career fulfillment and a heck-load of pride. Pulling this off from LA wasn’t easy, but my team, led by myself and Brady, worked so hard (like indescribably hard) to really make this our dream house.
When you walk into the house, the living room is immediately to your left, and, in our humble opinion, it’s pretty darn lovely. Like Portland, Oregon itself, it greets you in a calm but very inviting and cool way. The light is beautiful, it flows so well from the entry and into the dining room and the original sunken floorplan is so charming. Let’s revisit what this room looked like when my brother and sister-in-law purchased this house.
Of all the rooms in the house, this one had the most charm because of the built-ins. I wasn’t really involved with the project until after demo, but my first instinct was why get rid of those when they are one of the few things in the house we like? But it was the right choice and opening it up to what was the master bedroom (so weird) and is now the dining room makes the house flow so well.
As a reminder, here is the layout of this floor:
The major things that needed to happen here were to get rid of the built-ins, replace the cheap windows, update the fireplace and flooring. This room was not really a challenge, honestly, all we had to do was change the finishes, add some better sconce lighting and decorate this lady.
Brady jumped on the design of it and when I say “jumped,” I mean shoved into it a pit of anxiety and excitement as we were about five weeks out from the open house and hadn’t even looked at ONE PIECE OF FURNITURE. We were so slammed finalizing finishes (tile, flooring, staircase design, paint colors) and frankly, I knew that furniture and decor are easier for us (especially with no client) so I kept putting it off.
Also, please remember that last year, Brady was both in charge of the daily publishing of the blog as well all of the design shoots and sponsored content, so the second that Arlyn came on board as the Editorial Director, Brady became free to help execute the decor stage of this project (which is what he wanted to be doing—and did such a good job). THANK GOD FOR BOTH OF THEM. So with just over a month until our deadline, he started pulling together furniture, lighting, and accessories…you know…the decoration of an ENTIRE HOUSE.
The process of designing this house is unique, for sure. Since there was no real client, we had a lot of creative freedom, but there was also no real budget and all the labor, materials, decor and, of course, time of my team would be supported by my company and was basically whatever I was willing to put into it. Since this was a portfolio and press project, I was willing to put into it whatever it would take to look STUNNING (within reason), which meant a combination of major retailers, high-end brands and vintage/thrift. In case you are wondering how much furnishing a higher end 5k-square-foot house would cost, I’d say—off the top of my head—around $200k without design or install time included (that’s just in furniture and decor). Now, while my company is doing well, thanks to my amazing team, no, we didn’t have $200k to purchase, stage and risk in this house. So we leveraged our content producing and publishing skills to work with brands to alleviate some of the upfront dollars needed.
First, we started reaching out to Portland brands to support the local economy (Rejuvenation, Schoolhouse, Mantel, Decorview, The Good Mod, Aurora Mills, City Home) and opened up the idea of borrowing pieces in exchange for press/tagging/linking/and—the most coveted of all—photo usage. At this point, we have established ourselves as a site that designs, styles and shoots high-quality content so most brands, if not all, were very excited for not only the linking and product placement in the blog and on social media but knowing that they will get to use the photography for their purposes (all but advertisement). Our choices were limited to current inventory and lead times so as we were working with Portland stores and artisans, we also reached out to our favorite retailers—Target, Annie Selke, Room & Board, Article, Interior Define, Lulu & Georgia, Six Penny, Structube, Chairish and Thos. Moser (amongst others). Now, figuring out what was available, what could get to Portland in time, what was going to be available when the posts were published let alone what was perfect stylistically and in-scale was intense. You can’t just use a sofa that is in stock if it physically doesn’t fit the space or work with everything else that was planned.
Brady tried to be methodical and intentional about it. It’s not like we wanted three different sets of eight dining chairs, but at a certain point, we also needed backups of most things because when trying to furnish a home as large as this one in a week (four weeks of prep, one week actually on site), you need options and a lot of them.
The back and forth and negotiations were unbelievably time consuming but ultimately worth it to be able to borrow enough amazing pieces to showcase this project in the way it deserved. Brady did such a great job of juggling all the inventory and ensuring that we had enough to play with, knowing that we would fill in once we got to Portland and all the while reminding ourselves that we had to be flexible with the design and styling. It does not matter how seasoned you are, if you want to create an interesting looking home, full of style and personality, you have to be in the space, experiencing it, playing with the pieces. Creating a digital product board is nice, but it will never be perfect. It’s like a dating app profile—if everything looks perfect on paper, that likely means they aren’t that interesting or maybe they are psychopaths, which I suppose technically is interesting but not what you or we are really after in life.
So Brady started playing from LA and this was his first go at the living room design.
He kept working at it, adjusting and changing the mood boards and design as the inventory changed. This happened four to five times based on what we were able to lock in quickly and from brands that we could get it there in time. Keep in mind this is only a few antique or vintage items which we knew we wanted to include. His goal was to TRY to get the major pieces locked down (rugs, sofas, dining table/chairs, master bed) but when it came to side tables, lighting and even lounge chairs, we had a ton of options to ensure each room looked curated and custom, mixed and collected and perfectly imperfect. We wanted this living room to feel young, but classic and with a Portland vibe (which means unpretentious and welcoming).
Once Brady was up there, he realized that the fabric of the initial sofa and the blue in the rug would clash with the roman shades and it didn’t look quite right in the space. So he played again on site with the design based on what we could get quickly and locally:
It’s important to know where you are headed, sure, but also know that some pieces will work better with others that you might not have predicted. As the inventory started arriving, the house FILLED with beautiful furniture for us to play with and things adjusted once again. We knew EXACTLY where some things were going to go, others we just knew that they were awesome and that we’d find a place for them.
We also knew that the artwork and the local vintage and maker boutiques were going to be a game changer and boy were they ever. A room full of all-new pieces without unique art and accessories can easily feel soulless, but once we accessorized with the local artists and antiques, this room SUNG.
But not without some VERY late nights. As you can see here, the process from mood board to styled photo is messy, labor-intensive, and yes, EXTREMELY FUN.
We were also doing every single other room at the same time, so it’s not like we could just set the living room and walk away. If another piece wasn’t working in a different room, we would have to steal from this room and replace the item. We clocked over 20k steps every single day on Emily B’s FitBit, rearranging the entire house over and over in a matter of days, and that doesn’t even take into account lifting furniture. It was musical chairs in all sense of the word and we were dancing along, deliriously. Also, we’re now all incredibly ripped and buff.
We did it, and it’s time to finally show you what she looks like. You may have peeked at the real estate photos, but what you’ll see here is our fully styled out images. We’ll walk you through almost all major pieces, with a Get the Look of EVERYTHING at the end.
So…you ready?? Let’s get it!
I could stare at these photos all day long. I just love it so very, very much. Let’s start with the hard fixtures—the windows, lighting and fireplace.
Previously, the windows consisted of a bay window and two doors that went to nowhere. Literally a drop-off. The bay window had those fake grids in between the glass which is an invention to make windows easier to wash and a style to make the look of “grids” more affordable. It’s my personal opinion that if grids on the outside of the windows aren’t in your budget, just skip them altogether when replacing windows. We are doing a whole post on the windows in this house from Milgard, so more to come, but for this room, we opted to keep the bay and just replace the windows (we loved its charm), while swapping the doors with two stationary windows.
But there was a hiccup. The windows you see above, the ones that start at the floor, were originally doors like I said and the initial design of the house was to keep them as doors but add a little Juliet balcony. But then we thought do we need juliet balconies? Is this where we should be putting the budget? So we nixed them, but the framing of the “door” didn’t change. Being in LA, this is not something that I caught until the windows were installed and my first thought (without the Romans) was gah, we need to reframe those higher. But every other person in the world thought it looked cool; they LOVED that there was no baseboard even under the window, and now I want to do this in every house. I LOVE it and it ended up being such a happy accident. I think it adds some tension and weirdness which is what can take a room from basic and “new-build” to interesting and custom.
We reached out to Decorview to partner on window treatments in the entire house, which I am SO GRATEFUL FOR. Not only is their product so great, but the customer service is wonderful because they come with expertise and suggestions for each window based on needs and styles. We addressed whether we needed light control or privacy, or neither or both for each room. For this space, we chose to just do Romans over the windows and nothing in the bay (we could have but didn’t really NEED it as it’s on a private driveway and we figured if the new owners wanted to, they could work with Decorview to add treatments there). We love the look of the bay without any treatments, but if we were to do it, we would have done three Romans.
Let’s chat lighting. For this house, we wanted the lighting to feel “Modern Classic.”
What does that mean? It means that the lines are more traditional, with less decorative detail than in the past and in an updated finish.
These sconces (and most of the lighting throughout the house) reference a traditional style home, but in a way that feels more “now.” I love a sconce. Did you know that many architects secretly don’t like sconces? They don’t want to see a lighting source, but I do, especially in an older house. I love the option of not using overhead and not necessarily needing a ton of ambient lamplight, to instead use shaded wall sconces. A double wall sconce feels purposeful, and high end in a traditional way, but that modern swoop and the black finish really take it to the next level.
We chose four of these and placed them at eye level, almost like art, centered between window and wall. A single sconce could have gone closer, but the double needs room to breathe. Most people were nervous about this, but not me because I have very similar sconces in my house and I LOVE the location. The placement gives it importance and says “I’m not just a source of comfortable light, I am an integral part of the architecture, and I give off a sense that the people who live here care.”
Yes. A well-placed sconce does just that.
Now for furniture and decor. Brady was involved, but I personally pretended it was for me, if I didn’t have kids (if I could splurge without fear). We did a lot of sourcing locally to find some of these special pieces to mix in with what Brady had already locked in and had up there for us.
We worked with Dash & Albert on almost all the rugs in the house, this one is no exception. I used to have this (we sold it in the sale of the Glendale house) and I LOVE IT. Their wool rugs are honestly so soft, durable, stain resistant (because they are wool, not because they are magic) and so worth it.
The leather sofa is from Schoolhouse and is one of my favorites especially if you need a petite size. I told them that I am desperate for them to make one that is one foot longer and they said they have had that request before. The scale of the back and arms are GREAT, and the seat is deep and comfy and it really does look like it belongs in an old den or library. It really should have been about a foot longer for this room’s set up, but it’s hard to tell in the photos.
Now for what you really want to talk about—those stunning chairs. I’ll go ahead and refer to them as the world’s most beautiful chairs. These are handmade in Oregon, sold in Portland at The Good Mod and I don’t think I need to sell you on these, visually, they do that themselves. Designed by Justin Nelson and made by hand by Fernweh Woodworking, they are unbelievably beautiful and true works of art. The walnut and black leather perfectly balanced out that sofa. They add this sculptural element in the room that makes it impossibly cool.
They are also pretty comfortable (I reserve the word “very” for big upholstered chairs), ergonomic and wear really well. The leather just gets more and more beautiful.
Laying out this room was tricky because we didn’t want huge chunky chairs in front of the stairs to the dining room, both visually and physically. So having these chairs that are light and don’t stop your eye was our solution. We didn’t have these on our original plan, but instead found in person out shopping via The Good Mod (which is a FANTASTIC store that I can’t recommend more). We also borrowed that amazing hand carved side table by Aleph Geddis from them. Brady and I had SO much fun shopping together locally and adapting the design to really make it something that was unique and special for this house.
To be able to feature local artists and stores makes me VERY happy and if you have the budget for the most beautiful chairs (amongst other things), please look up and follow Justin Nelson, Fernweh Woodworking (chair designer/makers) and Aleph Geddis (wood stool designer/carver).
Now onto the coffee table. This is one of probably 20 pieces that we borrowed from one of my favorite makers in America since I was like 25, Thos. Moser. If you haven’t heard that name before, it’s probably because they aren’t flashy or blasting their logo all over the place. They’ve been making honest, quality (not to mention STUNNING) wood furniture for over 45 years. This coffee table is certainly simple but the detailing and craftsmanship is there and saying it’s timeless is an understatement. Heirloom style furniture is still around, folks, and if it’s in your budget, it’s worth the splurge. They have been generous enough to also extend a discount to all of our readers:EMILY18 which you can use to purchase anything on their site. Now that I’ve experienced so much of their furniture in person, I’ll be investing in some pieces (maybe after the kids stop drawing on furniture).
The side table is also from Thos. Moser and again, has very simple but impactful detailing on the tops and the legs. Check out their site and if/when you are ready for an heirloom piece of furniture made in the US by highly skilled artisans, then I can’t recommend them enough.
That chair, above, is coming home with me. It’s vintage, from The Good Mod and unless the new owners offer me more for it, I’m buying it. It’s that perfect sculpture that you put against a white wall with a tiny tall tree cutting in a beautiful black vessel.
On the other side of the room, we have a vintage secretary (also from The Good Mod, but sadly not available online to link to) that snuck perfectly in that little nook.
The collage above it is one of my favorites from MaryAnn Puls.
We styled it out with a lot of simple books, and boy do I love that tall wood sculpture. I’ll be taking that with me, as well. That is by the same maker as the geometric wood side table, Aleph Geddis, and also from The Good Mod.
Speaking of original and unique art, this house is dripping with it and almost all from Portland. See the Get the Look below for all the sources and if you are interested in buying some of them (assuming that the new owner doesn’t need all of them) you’ll have to fight us for them.
Original art that we love isn’t something that we find often, so when we do yes, we hoard.
The following grid is one that I don’t think I can let go of. It is by Addie Juell, a photographer in New York.
Addie and I assisted together in our 20s. She was an aspiring photographer and I a stylist. Cut to 15 years later and she is EXTREMELY in-demand because of how talented she is. So when I saw her paintings on her Instagram (after I saw them in a store in LA, Avion Clothier), I reached out to see if we could borrow some for this house. We framed them by floating them in Framebridge frames, in light wood as she suggested.
The grid of nine are all quiet and different, and as a collection, they are so powerful. I can’t let these go. They are too beautiful and how Framebridge floated them was so perfect. I feel like a quiet grid like this could go almost anywhere. It reminds me of my blimp—yes, it takes up a lot of real estate and yet it can kinda go anywhere.
The below artist, Jennifer Urquhart, lent so many pieces for the house that were simple, but so unique and brought in a younger, more Portland, Oregon, vibe. The farmscape here is so sweet and quiet. This one was a HUGE hit with my brother and he plans on buying this one well as another of hers.
That green velvet antique chair is from Rejuvenation’s antique section and if I needed it, I would absolutely buy this for myself. It’s so beautiful, classic and extremely comfortable. It’s making me want to reupholster my chaise lounge (which is falling apart) in this green velvet. This chair is still available, by the way (we are returning it today).
There is very, very little I would change about this room. Honestly, perhaps only one thing and that’s that I want to stretch the sofa to be one foot longer. That’s it. We don’t say that very often and I suppose it’s a credit to my design and styling team (Brady, Emily B, Priscilla, Julie, Velinda) and some of these amazing companies, brands, makers and artists whose work took this room to the next level.
Obviously, an epic Get the Look is in order and don’t worry, we are already working on the budget version of this room which is looking pretty darn great, too (market master Jess is on the hunt).
1. Paintings by Addie Juell | 2. Candlestick Holders | 3. Tray | 4. Landau Lamp | 5. Hartford Side Table | 6. White Horizon by Jennifer Urquhart | 7. Sofa | 8. Roman Shade | 9. Windows | 10. Hartford Coffee Table | 11. Floor Lamp | 12. Rug | 13. Handwoven Mayan Throw Pillow | 14. Bridge White Natural Fabric | 15. Cream Layered Fringe Pillow | 16. Lelani Table Lamp | 17. Tiny Stacking House by Jennifer Urquhart | 18. Century by Bruce Bernard | 19. Relief Print by MaryAnn Puls | 20. Painting on Board by MaryAnn Puls | 21. Fernweh Lounge Sling Chair | 22. Side Table by Aleph Geddis via The Good Mod | 23. Half Circle Metal Trays (set of 3) | 24. Totem Candles | 25. Credenza | 26. Berkshire Double Sconce | 27. Vintage Green Chair | 28. Parks End Table | 29. Navy Striped Colorblock Pillow | 30. 405 Line Blanket | 31. Altadena Metal Shade Table Lamp | 32. Wool Tweed Emphasize Throw | 33. Assemblage by MaryAnn Puls | 34. Mid-Century Minimalist Industrial Side Chair | 35. Metal Task Lamp | 36. Tall Sculpture by Aleph Geddis via The Good Mod | 37. Mixed Media Collage by MaryAnn Puls | 38. Banded Porcelain Planter | 39. Black Roof by Jennifer Urquhart | 40. Colored Ply Tiny House by Jennifer Urquhart | 41. Evan Chair | 42. Crown Moulding by Metrie | 43. Wood Flooring by Hallmark Floors | 44. Pure White by Sherwin-Williams | 45. Baseboard by Metrie | 46. Door and Window Casing by Metrie | 47. Honed Calcutta Pearl by Bedrosian Stone
***Photography by Sara Tramp for EHD
Design and styling by Emily Henderson and Brady Tolbert (and team). JP Macy of Sierra Custom Homes (who I seriously can’t say enough good things about) was the General Contractor, and Annie Usher and the architect.