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Au Naturale...

How We Refinished our Wood Beams

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It typically takes years to decorate a home, but I’m different and my job is to show you my house, so it’s like I’m going to the prom, every day, and I have to make sure that my date and I look “king and queen worthy” for my dad’s home video. Every. Single. Shoot. This post is all about the beams – those controversially painted beams.  I obviously don’t want to show you pictures of just the ceiling, so instead we pulled together the living room to give you a full mini, ‘just moved in’ tour.

But first – we are so lucky to have a house with decorative beams. I LOVE THEM so much. After working with Wood, Naturally on our office bookshelf as well as our outdoor deck it seemed such a good fit for another collaboration as they have been such a great source of inspiration and ideas on how to use softwood throughout your home. Which is indeed what we wanted to highlight in this room, those beautiful Douglas fir beams. Here is what those ladies looked like when we bought the house:

emily-henderson_waverly_living-room_new_before Emily Henderson_Waverly_Living Room_Before_Closeup

If you can’t tell, they essentially had a greeny-brown faux finish on them – which you can see a bit better in the second close-up photo. It could have been original, who knows. But many houses from the 60’s have ‘original laminate’ and ‘original emerald green shag carpet in the bathroom, ‘ so not all things ‘original’ are a good thing. We loved the idea of the beams, but wanted to change them to suit us better and to bring out the beauty of the original natural wood.

But, this decision didn’t come without toiling for 439 hours. We narrowed it down to a few choices and asked you guys your opinions (thank you). Backup – we were originally told by our first contractor that they were too old to be refinished. They are Douglas fir which is a very lovely wood. Designers (myself included) often appreciate the visual quality of the Douglas fir texture and grain and so I wanted to see what we could do to bring out that original look.

But, since they are around 100 years old, our contractor was afraid that they couldn’t be stripped. So he told us we had to paint. With that in mind, these were our options (for the beams and windows):

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Brian and I didn’t mind some of these options but we really, really wanted to keep the look of the Douglas fir. We ended up going with a different contractor (due to scheduling) and when we asked him about refinishing the beams he said, ‘Sure, lets try.’ (If anybody in LA needs a contractor I recommend Belin from Mega Builders).

First up – they had to strip that faux finish off.

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The wood was already WILDLY prettier but the years of stain had really permeated its core and it was extremely hard to get to the original wood to make it vulnerable enough to stain. So they suggested bleaching it to remove the remaining oils and paints from the wood:

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They essentially painted on this bleach that soaked into the wood and stripped it of its remaining color, giving us a more original softwood to stain. But there were these streaks of orange that wouldn’t go away:

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So they had to bleach it again because if we put on the stain with this remaining old stain it would cover really unevenly. To say it was a process is a massive understatement. This is why people bill hourly instead of by the job because to just quote for ‘refinishing the beams’ is unfair. It could be a quick strip and stain or it could be ‘strip, sand, bleach, sand, dry, bleach, dry, sand, stain, dry, sand, stain, dry, sand, etc’.

They were finally ready to stain and I approved the color (the middle beam). It was a medium brown that was warm but not orange.

Emily Henderson_Living Room_Wood Naturally_Refinishing Beams_Process_Beams Stained 1

But then they started staining the beams and I walked in when it looked like this. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely darker than I anticipated and not what I had approved.

Emily Henderson_Living Room_Wood Naturally_Refinishing Beams_Process_Beams Stained

The contractor insisted that it was the exact same finish that I approved, but that it was just wet and fresh so it would dry lighter. I was very nervous but believed them.

Sure enough, after days of drying (and it did take days) these lovely Douglas fir ladies are so incredibly perfect. Had they been light, they would have not had the drama that I wanted, but too dark would have been too harsh. I love this medium warm wood tone that looks original while highlighting the beauty of the natural wood. It also brings your eye up without being too solid or intense on the ceiling.

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There is a lot to talk about – and we’ll get to it all, believe me (quick references: sconces, chair, sofa is vintage, rug is vintage) but for now, we are living in this gorgeous room and so happy.

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We played a lot with the arrangement of furniture, though, with many options that were very tempting.

Remember that the wall of windows is actually two doors to the backyard, and with two kids, my dream is for the flow of the house to be as open as possible. Blurring the line between indoor and outdoor is a trend I’m really loving. I can’t wait to have both doors open, allowing the fresh air and sunlight to stream in!

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I like it this way. I do. In the photo the chair looks pretty big, and it is (it’s AWESOME and one of my new “forever” pieces for our home). The chair is making everything else out of scale but the new sofa we are getting (a beautiful English Roll Arm) is big and it will be perfect scale-wise.

This arrangement, however, is very tempting.

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It looks great in a photo and we had it this way for a few days and I liked it, but the first arrangement does make the room feel more open and airy.

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Nope. The back of those two chairs are bumming me out.

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Ahh. Editorially it’s so nice to not see the back of a piece of furniture, right? This one, below, certainly won’t work.

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As of right now, this is how we are living:

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It may change, who am I kidding, this living room will be rearranged for years but we really like how it feels in there right now. Meanwhile, here is what is happening on the other side of the room.

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When in doubt, paint your front door red (we used Rectory Red from Farrow and Ball and it makes me smile so much, along with that little shoe organizer bench from Pottery Barn that is working perfectly to house our shoes). We put our Article credenza on the wall for now, but our hope is that my family’s 100-year old piano will go there. (Quick Sources: credenza, lamp (similar), cat painting, stools, sconces, living room wall color – Strong White by Farrow and Ball, blue wall color in background – Stiffkey Blue, shoe organizer).

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Back to those beautiful beams. I can’t tell you how happy I am that they are refinished and not painted. At one point we were even going to clad them with new(ish) wood, because no color of paint felt right.

Softwoods like Douglas fir and pine are just as lovely as all the hardwoods we know and love, and I was so happy that I was able to salvage these beauties. Fun fact: incorporating natural elements into your home, such as natural wood grain, sunshine and plants, can actually improve overall health and reduce stress. That’s the premise behind biophilic design, something I’m learning more about, and have been told is an upcoming trend. But, trend or not, if I can use design to be functional, stylish and good for my health – I’m all for it!

For transparency sake, and since you guys seem to love that so much, these beams needed a little extra TLC, and refinishing them cost a lot more than we originally anticipated, but having these beams be real wood, with that real grain showing through brings so much warmth into the house and highlights the architecture and charm of this 1920’s home. If you’re loving the natural look as much as I am, be sure to check out Wood, Naturally for tons of inspiration on how to add warmth and elegance with softwoods.

Stay tuned for 1 million update posts, VERY, very soon. Meanwhile do you approve of a.) our decision to refinish and b.) the layout of the room? Let us know below. 

***After photos by Tessa Neustadt This post is sponsored by Wood Naturally, but all ideas, content, words are my own. Thanks for supporting the sponsors who support the blog. 

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  1. I love the refinished beams with the whitish walls! So well done and keeping with the integrity of the house plus your style. I do prefer the sofa facing the fireplace, but it’s really hard to tell which is better. Maybe a live video of placement once your new English roll arm comes in??

    Also, I cannot wait for a piano styling post!! It’s the biggest area I am stumped about. Help!

    Beautiful remodel!

    1. YES! Piano styling!!

      1. HA. yes. i’m on it 🙂

  2. I love the sofa in the window nook. Makes everything feel super open. Is this going to be a tv room or is the little spot off the kitchen going to be your tv spot. or as my husband would desire..both? ugh. I think having a hydraulic lift in that corner credenza where the chair is now is a good idea. I love the painting above the fireplace. I hope it stays. Sconces are a favorite, classic clean. Enjoy your new home! its awesome.

  3. The natural wood is so lovely! I was pro-black for the beams and/ or doors, but this is so much airier.

    The furniture layout seems to have a good flow. Feel like it’s calling out for a sofa table behind the couch, and maybe a bigger coffee table.

    Did you nix having a tv in here?

    1. I’m wondering about TV placement, too! Or did you decide to pass?

      1. AS of right now we are watching TV in the den (the blue room/play room) but we are getting quotes for the TV in the credenza. Our first quote was $11k which I practically spit (this included a $2k tv, a $2k haudraulic, $450 delivery and a lot of other things. So Brian and his friend are going to try to rig it – wish us luck 🙂

        1. Could you just get a TV with legs and put it on top of the credenza? I really like the look of a TV placed on top of a low credenza or table. Then Emily-styled so that the TV is part of the room styling.

          The thing about bolting TVs, hydraulic TVs, TV niches, etc. is that the technology changes so quickly. My new LG OLED tv is less than 1/2″ thick, and right now it is strategically placed in front of the giant wall hole left by the previous home owner when she created her large, expensive built in. (Oh hey, why not get in touch with LG and see if they will sponsor y’all!)

        2. My uncle (who is a mad scientist!) built a credenza with hydraulic lifts for his tv. It was the greatest thing ever! Good luck!

  4. Yes I approve of your refinishing! it looks amazing!!!

    I actually love the arrangement with the couch back! but the arrangement you have for now is good too!

  5. I DO love the refinished beams. Great choice given the high ceilings. A stained finish is usually my first choice for beams, but not everyone has the height to handle it.

  6. Loving your new home! And the beams look great. My front door is F&B Rectory Red too, as is the garden path gate. It always brings a smile to my face when I get home (although when first painted and still wet the colour was pink which made us a tad anxious initially).

    Here’s a photo https:/https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/f6/17/b6/f617b6a88465054a0d5345e33cc86ae8.jpg

  7. I think the beams and the room look great! This room reminds me of Ian Brennan’s living room, which is my favorite room that you styled. Question- where do you watch TV/videos?

  8. It is so wonderful for the house that you did the hard work of bringing those beams back to life. I live in an old house and so many times when we are making decisions I ask myself ‘What does the house deserve?’ Old, beautiful houses deserve the very best, even if it isn’t the cheapest or easiest option. I love seeing your house projects so much!

  9. I remember being so bummed when you said you couldn’t keep these beams natural, so I really love that your contractor was able to make it work! The wood looks spectacular, and I think the stain color is perfect.

    Also, I know it’s not the point of this post, but man do I love those floors.

  10. The beams are amazing and truly the best choice for the space. I’m so glad you did this instead of painting them! I also like the layout you are using and the one that makes your beloved new chair look huge. Either of those are great.

    Also, your floors are amazing. They make me smile with happiness and green with envy every time I see them.

  11. The refinishing is perfect, so glad you tried it! Love your layout but what did you decide re T.V?

  12. So glad you decided to refinish and not paint!! They are perfect. and my favorite layout is with the sofa facing the doors to the outside. That flow seems nice and open and you get to see more of the room when you’re sitting there. I’m sill curious about the TV decision – looks like you decided not to put a tv in here? Can’t wait for more updates!

  13. Dying to hear all about the English roll arm sofa. I went back and forth between two online providers but couldn’t wrap my head around how their sofas would be 24 inches in seating depth and assert they would be so much more comfortable than the horrible 24 inch depth we were currently and uncomfortably perched on. So, a full day at the furniture store later and I have a custom sofa on its way (in 9 weeks) and spent more than hoped for. Really want to bench mark that against what you did and what shows up at your house and ours!!!!

  14. I love the natural wood beams (so much warmer and prettier than painted), and I think you found the perfect shade of stain. We have a lot of fir in our older homes in Oregon and it is very, very hard to keep it from going orange. Tangentially: Would you be willing/able to share room dimensions as you reveal your house? Home design is such an intricate puzzle, and it would be so helpful to see the footprint of the rooms you’re designing.

  15. Ooooh so PRETTY! Love the refinished beams (although I did also love how the black seemed to frame the architectural details so nicely) and that rug is a beaut.

    I have to admit though that whichever layout of furniture you go with, I’m not 100% on those little chairs flanking the side table. They just seem so… insubstantial. And a bit like folding chairs, you know? Looking forward to see how the room evolves as you adapt to living in the house through the seasons.

    1. I second that! Personally, I would think something covered in a textured, patterned fabric would look so nice. The wood legs/arms on those side chairs seems like too much wood with the couch and the chair (I know you’re switching out the couch.) and not enough comfy/warmth.

      1. I love those chairs so if you decide to nix them, LMK. 😉

        1. lovely post…but goodness please, do tell us what stain was used to achieve your successful douglas fir revitalization! THANKS

      2. I agree with you in some ways, and honestly they aren’t really in the final plan of the house anyway, but once we have a big chunky fabric roll arm I think that it might be nice to have more leggy furniture. Additionally these chairs are STRANGELY comfortable. Not TV watching comfy, but really really comfortable for being what it is. They are a medium scale, not huge but a good nice size. HOWEVER, i do agree with you as well. The chair from Big Daddy’ is staying, as is the english roll arm, but that third element is up for grabs. While we are at it, I think that the live edge table that is being staged at our other house is going to be a better scale for this room, however that table is like 400 pounds and we end up moving our coffee table on the weekends and nights to build forts and play games, so now i’m thinking a upholstered ottoman that is easy to move … SO MANY DECISIONS!!!!

        1. Yes, somethimg bigger and warmer for the middle of the room to go with your charming vintage home.

    2. I love the beams. And I love each of those furniture pieces in isolation, but together it’s too much wood-frame furniture for me, for that room. I’d relocate the sofa and the littler chairs.

  16. What is the link to the blue painting on top of the Article credenza? The link for the cat painting just goes to the Jealous Curator’s blog. Thank you!

    1. It’s vintage 🙂 I got it in Portland at a vintage store and loved it so much that I shipped it down 🙂

  17. I am soooo happy to hear that you were able to strip and stain the beams! I remember that post with the painting-the-beams options and that you mentioned they weren’t able to be refinished. I couldn’t understand why and so badly wished you could refinish them! None of the other options seemed right. Now, they’re fabulous!! Yay, you!!

  18. a. Absolutely yes! Worth it.
    b. Your layout is great and looks the most comfortable. But like others, I am wondering how you solved the TV dilemma since that was a big part of the concern when you first posted about it! 😉

    1. As of now we are watching in the playroom/den which is nice for just us, but not nice enough for when people come over – those epic bachelor nights, political debates (sigh) or sports. So we are still trying to figure out how to put that tv in that credenza …

  19. What about two couches facing each other, parallel to the windows, for maximized seating?

    1. I think that for our family, with two small kids, we need space more than seating area. These kids really just want to run around and destroy things all day, so we figure at least for the next few years giving them space to run is more important than ample adult seating. But yes, i think that would typically be a great idea 😉

  20. Love the refinished beams! Can you share any details on your English roll arm? I’m in the market for one to match a vintage Persian rug very similar to yours and am wondering which sofa/fabric you’ve chosen.

    1. We are getting it from Cisco home (called the Penelope) in an indigo blue linen. The photo of it on their site does absolutely not do it justice. Its so pretty in person, large scale and insanely comfortable. But I’m doing a post about all the sofas that I considered, so stay tuned for other options (I like interior define’s ‘maxwell’ and ‘rose’ sofas, too and am in fact borrowing one for a shoot here next week since our sofa isn’t ready so you’ll see how that one looks, too).

  21. I love this so much, it is beautiful! And I finally realized that my living room is laid out like this too, and I am SO EXCITED to go home tonight and move furniture around and see if I can make my room half as pretty as yours. It would probably help if I had any natural light, at all. Ah well 😀 Thank you for the inspiration!!!

  22. I know this is the most annoying comment ever, but I miss those darker doors. The white reads like vinyl/fake divided light in photos, and I feel like I’m floating out into the yard, not contained in a cozy (but still bright) room. They just seem kinda… generic. 🙁

    1. Well, I disagree with you completely but totally appreciate all opinions 🙂 and yes, the idea of floating in the yard is one that we actually like and we feel like it invites the kids to run and play not stay inside all day. Remember that we live in CA where indoor/outdoor living rules supreme. Also once we get window treatments in here it will help warm it up. At night it feels cold, for sure, so that would help but I don’t think that has anything to do with the white window frames, more just the amount of exposure. Just wait!

    2. I hate to admit that I agree. I LOVE the beams, but the room feels like it’s lost it’s 1920s character. The airiness is nice for another house but feels wrong here. But for the record, I’m loving most everything else, so will stop being a Debbie downer.

      1. I agree. Emily, your furnishings are lovely, but I’m just not getting the vibe of ‘mid-century’ in an older Spanish home. It feels confusing. Like deep down you are really the queen of mid-century modern, trying to force that style into a Spanish tudor. Of course, if anyone can ‘meld’ it, it will certainly be you:)

  23. What do you know about the woven/macrame credenza? Story please!
    You are delightful with a Capital D!!

    1. Ah, thank you 🙂 It’s vintage, probably from the 60’s and I got it from the flea market. We are going to try to hide our tv in it!

  24. The beams look great and were well worth the restoration! Some of the living furniture layouts are too “leggy” for my taste. I’d use a cylinder or drum side table between the two chairs and possibly switch out the pedestal coffee table (as much as I love it) with something that has a more solid base drum-like base such as this http://www.westelm.com/products/marble-topped-pedestal-coffee-table-h1478/?cm_src=AutoRel

    1. HA. It’s all changing because I agree. WE just don’t have our new furniture yet. Stay tuned!

  25. Hi! I don’t see a source for the coffee table and don’t remember it from your old house? We’re looking for a large white coffee table, would you mind sharing (unless of course it is vintage). (Or does anyone else remember from a previous post – I’ve looked but can’t find it?)

    Thanks!

    1. It’s a vintage saarinen, but there are reproductions out there. Just google ‘white tulip coffee table’. DWR sells them 🙂

  26. Emily,
    Everything is looking GREAT! So excited for you and your family!
    I am wondering if you would comment on Article? Have you purchased from them before? Have you been happy with their merchandise, etc? Thanks for any insight!

    1. I recently purchased Article’s SVEN sectional in Intuition grey velvet. It was well-tailored, arrived on time, but also had a VERY strong odor which rendered our windows permanently open for almost a month. What I do not care for is their customer service. They claim their merchandise is 40% off, when in actuality this is a random comparison to what they think their stuff would be sold for in a physical store. They also say they have a no-questions-asked 30-day money back guarantee. Well, this is not the case. I tried to exchange the sofa, I asked for a partial credit, I tried everything under the sun, and they were impenentrable (my cat had left a surprise — and when I called, their rep told me to go on Youtube and find a way to clean it). I followed their advice, after which I was told I would not be allowed to exchange it nor would I be given any break whatsoever. In fact they were quite rude about it. So there you have it, I don’t want to go all sour grapes on you, but honestly if someone had warned me about their false advertising, I doubt I would have spent almost $2,500 on a piece of furniture for which I had saved for so many years. Good luck — if you know you won’t be returning, maybe would like them, not sure.

      1. I love what you did so far! That house is amazing, I can’t wait to see how it evolves 🙂 One question, are those beams sealed? Or is it just the stain? Also don’t put your TV in that uglyass credenza, it’s not worth it and it is too big for that corner anyway… You can incorporate TV somewhere else and make it look awesome!

        1. lol, sorry I have no Idea why my comment went to replies

      2. Beautiful! I moved in to my place a few weeks before you moved into yours and it’s still a sad, furniture-less disaster, so I was super relieved to hear you say it takes years to decorate. I’d love to know where you found the throw that’s on the sofa, and the credenza that’s in the living room. Such pretty pieces!

        1. mine went to replies unintentionally too! sorry!

      3. Hi Soliterra,

        I read your note here with concern – that certainly doesn’t sound like the kind of experience that we work so hard to deliver. From time to time we do make mistakes, so I spent some time yesterday and this morning following up with our team to find out what happened here.

        I understand that we replaced the bolster cushions (that I understand bore the brunt of your cat’s surprise and subsequent cleaning efforts) at no cost to you.

        I also attempted to get to the bottom of why you were initially told to go on Youtube instead of being sent our velvet care recommendations – but I did not have much luck figuring this out. This is something we will be sure to address through training.

        While I believe we did address your issue, it does seem as though our team could have handled this more gracefully. It is obviously disappointing to get negative feedback, but feedback like this gives us a great opportunity to learn and improve.

        The retail prices quoted on our website are thoroughly researched and benchmarked against comparable items in traditional retail stores. You can read more about that process here: https://www.article.com/value

        I am also following up with an email to you directly with my contact details. If there is anything else we can help with I would be more than happy to do so.

        Tony Chin
        Customer Service Manager
        Article

  27. Gorgeous! Those beams are just the right tone, and all the extra labor involved well worth it because you perfected the most striking original feature of a very feature-filled space.

    And if that amazing chair is big, then your cat must be HUGE 🙂

  28. where are your leather chairs??

    1. Staged at our old house while it sells. 🙂 Debating where they are going to go. One is pretty damaged (two rips and a strap broken) so one might make it in here, but probably not both.

  29. Those refinished beams are perfect! When you were first suggesting the different options I kept thinkingingredients a warm wood beam would look so wonderful. Can’t wait to see them with your new sofa!

  30. Love the natural beams – they are spot on! I am so surprised they lightened like they did! I am going to remember that when refinishing pieces- to give them a little time. I think the new sofa will be great! I love all modern pieces, but lots of frames going on and need something heavier to ground the room. The credenza by the bookshelves seems a little wide and crowds the bookshelves a little bit? Of course, I am not a designer – but a nurse, so you can just throw all the above out the window. It is a beautiful space and can’t wait to see how it evolves!

    1. Ha. you are right on all accounts. Too many frames/legs happening and the reason the credenza is over there is because we are desperately trying to put a TV in here so our dream is to put the tv in that piece and in order to do that you have to have a really big piece. So we may sacrifice a bit of ‘isn’t that piece too big for other there’ in order to be able to watch tv in a pretty room with friends (right now we are watching it in the play room and its fine for the two of us, but not awesome if we want to have people over for a marathon or season finale or something).

  31. You tricked us! I totally would have picked stain over paint any day! Thank the designer gods that you were able to strip them and stain them however you wanted.

  32. Love the beams!!
    The credenza close to the fireplace is to die for!
    And that rug…
    Even though it’s a “just moved in” look, I’m loving it – the color, texture, light…

  33. It’s lovely! I like a couple of the furniture arrangements, but I think the one you’re “living with” now is probably the best (maybe with an ottoman added to the big chair, for reading?).

    Love the refinished beams, of course, love the floors, love the paint. I also really like the credenza there; are you sure you want to put a huge piano there? (It’s going to block off flow?)

    Also, actually seeing the furniture in place, it seems pretty clear that it would not have been a good idea to try to bisect the room with back-to-back couches, etc. Would have felt too cramped.

    1. Thanks! The piano is an upright and pretty slim – it sticks out maybe 6″ more than the credenza, plus there is a TON of space over there, so I think we are good on flow. I love that credenza there, though, but Brian and I both really want a my family heirloom piano.

      1. The piano will be beautiful and so special once the kids will start to learn to play <3

  34. I’m SO glad you were able to refinish the beams! When I was voting a while back for painting them black or white, neither option felt quite right. Of course, there is never a need to stress over what you will choose. You always make everything beautiful ?

  35. I have an English Tudor style home and I think the struggle I’m having with my living room is the same thing I sense with your room. Respectfully, here it goes… as much as I love the mix of different styles, I don’t think English Tudor meshes well with mid century modern. I love mid century modern and have incorporated into my home too but it has never felt right. I have been obsessing over your new home and waiting to see a fresh perspective on design but I feel like you’re trying to fit your old home into your new one. My sincerest apologies if I’ve offended you.

    1. I bet the new sofa will help tons. I think she’s just working with what she has right now from the old house, but eventually we’ll see lots more country/antique pieces mixed in. I agree though that the sleek wood and streamlined shapes of mcm furniture don’t totally complement Tudor/country styles. A few pieces here and there though will keep it feeling fresh and interesting.

    2. Agreed. I didn’t notice that they are getting a new sofa until after I posted my comment. I’m sure this will help. I think you can add a midcentury feel to a Tudor by using streamlined classic-looking furniture like the Monroe or Hamilton sofa from West Elm and mostly using colors that are more visually heavy, less leggy furniture, but still current in design. Leather works well with this look also. The white and wood beams keep it modern, but a nod to the Tudor structure. Love the architecture and paint of this room!

    3. you can visit our website for all kind of results 2017

  36. Hi Emily, I like the layouts that don’t show the back of furniture. Maybe if it was a full upholstered piece looking at the back would be ok.

    I am also wondering about how you use the room after dark? with only sconces on the fireplace side and 2 small table lamps – is it very dark? Did you or will you put electrical outlets in the floor to help with cords?

    Thanks…love the finished beams!

  37. Is the credenza in the corner with rattan doors vintage? Can you tell me the maker?

  38. Hi Em! Looks so SO lovely. Nothing sweeter than those natural wood beams.

    Question though – for your kitties, where do you put their litter boxes and scratchers, etc?

  39. The beams look fantastic – good choice not to just paint over.
    Also- I just want to say I’ve been following your blog for a while (I follow a ton of designers blogs as a new designer myself). Anyway- I love yours because it’s not only incredibly informative but because you’re so down-to-earth. It’s so refreshing that you share about your life in a way that’s not pretentious or overly-showy and disconnected from ‘real’ people.

  40. Love the beams and can’t wait to see your new sofa! Maybe this is only temporary as you’ve just moved in, but the very large artwork under the sconces on either side of the fireplace is making me do the grimace-emoji face. It feels like a tall guy trying to wedge himself in a tiny airplane seat at a weird angle so his head fits under the overhead bin.

    1. Ha. yes. everything is temporary 🙂

  41. Your house is just dreamy. I think to avoid the back of chairs/couch issue as you walk in the room, a couple of small benches or ottomans would look great in that spot. They’d round out the composition but leave an open line of sight.

  42. the beams are wonderful- looking back, the painted beams look quite forced and this look is so obviously the right one. the room has the potential for “grand” but that doesn’t jive with lifestyle necessarily. Must ask/comment: the two leather clad puffy arm chairs that were in your previous place that I covet…why not in this room? I miss them! the two in this room, although nice enough are kind of “meh” by comparison. would love to see them in here! (for selfish reasons: I love looking at them!)

    1. They are being staged at our old house right now to sell. I think at least one of them is moving here!

  43. I cannot express how pleased I am that you refinished those beams. They are really stunning. Nice work.

    I know the living room is still in progress. If it were me (and I’m well aware that it’s NOT… there’s a reason you’re making the big bucks) I’d give the fireplace wall a little more room to breathe. The small curved console table works but it seems like that bigger credenza is kind of crowding your shelves. I’d replace it with your huge comfy chair and maybe a small side table and/or a plant. On the other console, I’d keep it really simple and also move your large blue abstract painting. The scale feels a little off; it just baaaarely fits under your sconce and the big rectangle feels like it’s competing with the big rectanglular shape of the shelves. Then add a long console behind your couch (can’t WAIT to see your new couch…!!) and that would give you another long surface to style and get some movement/interest in other areas of the room. A pair of big pretty lamps, stack of books, plant… haha… obviously you know what I mean. Duh. Maybe replace your mcm chairs with… ?? OR! didn’t you mention something about a bench at one point? Can’t you just see a big low bench across from the sofa with a pretty throw folded over it…. and super kid-friendly. Ok, I’m done. I can’t wait to see ALL the different ways you style this lovely space. 🙂 Carry on!

    1. Hm, just read all your comments about the tv situation. Yes, that is a dilemma. Like I said, this is why they pay you the big bucks! 🙂 Good luck!

      Also, isn’t the Doug Fir Oregon’s state tree? <3

      1. It is? I knew there was a reason I loved it 🙂

  44. Refinished beams look fantastic. I’m all for salvaging if possible! I like both the first layout option and the layout that you have now! Looking great!

    1. As soon as I saw your original post with the decision to refinish, I was sold. It was absolutely the best decision you could’ve made (IMHO) and they are absolutely gorgeous gorgeous!! Thanks for sharing the process.

  45. Love the beams! I know you said you’re keeping the shelves next to the fireplace, but I thought it would be great if they could be changed to a natural wood tone too. It would create more of a connection with the beams. I’m sure it’s not going to be cheap, but it’s going to highlight one more architectural feature of the house, and make it a little more coherent. But I’m sure you have other plans in mind too!

  46. Love the wood! And maybe you could consider taking that painting off the chimney? To my eye it fights with the cool shapes, and the chimney needs to breathe, with those busy bookshelves next to it

  47. I’m so glad the beams turned out like you wanted them. What I remember from the beams-and-windows comments was how overwhelmingly people wanted to be able to vote for refinished beams. Sounds like you found the right people to work with you to make it happen!

  48. Well that’s a first, everyone agrees; the stained beams are lovely! It’s a treat to get to see all the different options for the room. I would nix the chairs and replace with a pair napoleon upholstered chairs. An ottoman would be a great choice as a coffee table. It is quite remarkable how much you have accomplished in six short months.

    1. Perhaps it is the angle of the shot but the painting, which I love, looks as though it is hung too high.

      1. Ha. It’s not. AT times we think its too low, actually 🙂

  49. I la la love it! All of it!
    Quick designer-mom question RE: plants.

    Do you keep these gorgeous plants out all the time even with your kiddos running around? Especially that gorgeous vase with gorgeous greens near the fireplace. Don’t both of your kids reach in, grab some dirt and then run wild? Or knock them over? My 3 girls (all under 5) would most likely do this and it’s the reason I don’t have any plants in my living room but I feel that plants are missing from making my spaces look especially pretty. But do I get fake ones? I don’t know that I can do that, unless of course you tell me I can. Thanks in advance for the advice!

    1. I had a similar problem; not kids, but cats & dogs, including an perpetual puppy (I raise guide dogs). I was finally able to incorporate plants by using only cacti with serious attitude. No one messes with them more than once.

      1. Ha. those were weeds snagged from the backyard for the shoot. the kids grab them, eat them, throw them up (wait thats the cats), but no, branches don’t last as long as I wish they did 🙂

  50. Okay, when are you selling that couch?! I’m also trolling your insta thrift sale account since I’m local looking for some new furniture!! 🙂

    1. We are selling it this weekend. check that insta!!!

  51. This reminds me of when I was a kid and we bought a house with painted Douglas fir wainscoting and wood trim ( tons of houses from the 20’s like that in SF). For one full week my parents and all four kids scraped off all the paint on all the wood in the house. That was back when kids were allowed to be free labor for parents:). It’s one of our favorite memories.
    For your TV, can’t you put it on the wall and maybe have an artistic friend come up with some way to disguise it? You’re not going to want that credenza forever, and since you watch in the other room too it wouldn’t be used all the time.

    1. I kind of agree. There might be issues mounting a big tv to the walls because I think they’re plaster, but if it could be managed, I don’t think it would detract from the room visually. If anything, it would make space for those cool built-in shelves to shine. I don’t think you even need an “artistic friend”, or to “disguise” it. Back in the corner there, it won’t be a focal point. Something I admire about Emily is that she acknowledges that TV is a big part of the average American’s daily life and she regularly includes them in living spaces and they look GOOD! Also it would be wildly more economical than retrofitting a vintage credenza.

  52. i’m so happy to see the mid-century elements still in there as this could very easily go too traditional and then i’d be heartbroken and forced to find another MCM designer. i’m clearly mourning the loss of you last house and will continue to browse the archives for it and orcondo 🙂

    1. I’m mourning it, too 🙂 don’t worry, there will always be elements of it. xx

  53. so glad you were able to refinish- they look great.

    layout is great-nice and open/airy and facing the focal point!

    i have to agree with the comment on the mid century vibe being a tad strong for a Tudor and not a fan of the matching chairs for that room.

    can’t wait to see how the room evolves!

    1. You guys. you have to read the post! we just moved in with our old furniture! Stay tuned. our new furniture is on order but it will be a little while before it feels right. don’t worry 🙂

      1. Hahaha… this made me LOL.

  54. Hi Emily,

    Your home is lovely! We recently purchased a home with exposed beams which are painted white. We’d love to get a similar look to your beams by stripping the paint and resurfacing them, but the contractor said it was not possible (our home was build in 1979). If you don’t mind, would you disclose the cost of the resurfacing?

    As a side note, we recently went to the Fig House for a dinner function and LOVED the decor!

    Thank you!

    1. Our contractor couldn’t put an exact number on it, but honestly it ain’t cheap. like $5 – $15k depending on how thick the paint is, etc. It’s a lot but its just so pretty once its done.

  55. Yes! I’m so happy you were able to refinish!!! I confess that none of the paint options seemed right to me either. It’s also kind of funny/awkward how invested in this I feel. I love the direction your new home is taking though. Can’t wait to see more!

  56. LOVE the beams. So glad you got to keep a wood finish – it feels really authentic to the house. LOL at “original emerald green shag carpet.”

  57. Looks amazing! And I am REALLY enjoying going to the prom every day 🙂

  58. You totally made the right choice! So jealous of your new living room and can’t wait to see the piano in its nook! Musical instruments give a room so much soul. Love the Bearcat pic also. #interiordesignforcats should be a blog. 🙂

  59. I defs approve of the refinishing! You’re doing such a good job with this house, keeping the character but updating it.

  60. I am SO GLAD you refinished the beams, did the windows/doors white and the walls white. That’s what I thought would look best too, but when I did the survey wasn’t an option. It looks fantastic, and so light and airy! What a dream.

  61. Emily your home isn’t gorgeous! Love how the wood beams came out, I have a similar situation and wish i could afford to do that, one day it will be my special splurge project!

    What are you doing for lighting? I have the same white ceiling but with darker original wood beams and I’m thinking of recessed on the white part as I don’t like track lighting, but neither seems totally right for a rustic more traditional style home I have. We even have the same stucco fireplace with the brick in an arch! Would love to hear what your plans are for the lighting!

    Your renovation could not be happening at a better time!

    1. We are just doing the sconces in there. And we LOVE it. No need for overhead and don’t do track or canned unless you already have 🙂 I love our sconces. its like lamp light everwhere.

  62. The beams look fabulous. When you were soliciting suggestions, my choice was to refinish them, or, if that wasn’t possible, to rub them with an off grey stain. Didn’t like the idea of black beams at all. So, congratulations for sticking to it. You’re really having fun, aren’t you? I look every day to see your progress.

  63. I love the beams, they are elegant, warm, and lovely. And your front door is making me really miss our red front door. I have a bad habit of painting ours every couple of years…

  64. I was so hoping you would refinish and stain those beautiful beams! Well done. Could you give information on the picture above the fireplace?

  65. SO happy the beams weren’t painted. expensive and labor-intensive, but worth it in the long run, I think. Totally the “right” choice, if that even exists. (Basically, it just means “totally the choice that fits within my tastes and preferences…” but whatevs.)

  66. The beams look SO LOVELY! They are ideal, and they are going to keep looking great and keep making you happy for as long as you are in the house. They are a gift to the house!
    Stripping, bleaching, staining, repeatiing,,,It is not budget friendly in the short run. But it is no-compromise perfect, and how many times in life do you get that?

  67. 1. Love the beams. Beautiful. Worth whatever you paid.
    2. Put a projector on a rolling cart (since I’m pretty sure you object to ceiling mounting) and show movies to your friends on the white wall above the credenza. Or put a roll down screen above the windows. Keep the TV in the den.

  68. I really like your big cozy chairs. They look similar to the leather chairs you had in the other house?
    I, too, think you should just do what works for the family; the sofa should be facing the big doors with company’s chairs facing the sofa. Maybe surround the large windows with plants to draw your attention back to that feature.
    You could also place the sofa facing the fireplace for a nice change. With this setting I would fix one of the large chairs at an angle facing the yard and the couch (where you’d sit for conversation but also kid watching).

  69. I love the beams and am so happy to see you kept the originals and their beauty can shine through! I am curious about privacy in your living room with what appears to be no curtains. What or who is across the street from you? Maybe I’m a vampire, but that room looks so bright that it could be uncomfortable? I get for pictures you want bright light but it looks like you would need sunnies to sit in there. Not hating on it because I love your style but I never could get into the super bright rooms. I like some natural but filtered light. Different strokes for different folks, right?

  70. I love the way the beams turned out! They add so much warmth and character and really draw the eye up but don’t overpower the room. I’m so glad you took the time to style the room for the photos. Even though some of the furniture will change, it shows different layout options. I don’t think you will know which furniture layout works best until you get the new sofa. The new rug looks beautiful, too, and I hope you are able to add the piano. I would also love a post on arranging rooms with pianos. We have a baby grand and it can be a little tricky to work with, but I love it and it’s staying!
    Thanks for the post.

  71. Love the room
    Itself, but not a fan of the furniture in it. The space is large, so should have deeper colors and more visually heavy pieces. The lighter pieces get lost in such a large space. Navy, black, warm brown leather, etc would look good in this space. Obviously not all three together, but darker colors for the furniture with slightly chunkier designs.

  72. Dear Emily, your living room is beautiful. I live in San Jose and our living room is the twin of yours.
    I have been looking for a portrait for my fireplace. Is yours an antique or is there a source I could explore to find it or something similar?
    Thank you, Michele
    Ps I have been a fan of yours since HGTV Design Star and I loved your show.

  73. I love the results! Those beams are perfect! I love how you decorate this place!

  74. Love the natural wood beams. I know the expense makes one lean toward painting, but you will never regret this choice. I will love this room even more when your English rolled-arm sofa lives there. Looking forward to the updates.

  75. Yay!! The refinished beams look beautiful! I’m so happy you were able to have these restored. I voted for the white and black doors, but am so glad to wentvwith your gut. Turned out so much warmer and more Emily! Also, that sofa is a ten! Love love it! Great job.

  76. What a great post! I’ve been looking for ideas and tips on how to refinish them, but I could never find a useful post like this before. Thank you so much! You solved a lot of doubts I had!

  77. Ok, you might have something else in mind, but you mentioned a big ottoman in lieu of a coffee table and I just saw this: https://www.article.com/product/1936/tablet-charme-blonde-square-ottoman. SOOOO good, and I think your LR is big enough to handle it. I dunno. It just screamed Emily to me. 🙂

  78. I like the sofa as you have it now, with two smaller (more formal) chairs as you enter the room, large chair in the corner where the credenza is now…And a love a credenza, but I agree with others that the room doesn’t seem like it wants a large piece there. Sounds like maybe you are opting for TV in the other room now?? Love seeing everything come together!

  79. So glad you decided to refinish and not paint!! They are perfect. and my favorite layout is with the sofa facing the doors to the outside. That flow seems nice and open and you get to see more of the room when you’re sitting there. I’m sill curious about the TV decision – looks like you decided not to put a tv in here? Can’t wait for more updates!

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  84. I love what you did so far! That house is amazing, I can’t wait to see how it evolves 🙂 One question, are those beams sealed? Or is it just the stain? Also don’t put your TV in that uglyass credenza, it’s not worth it and it is too big for that corner anyway… You can incorporate TV somewhere else and make it look awesome!

  85. I have to make sure that my date and I look “king and queen worthy” for my dad’s home video. Every. Single. Shoot. This post is all about the beams – those controversially painted beams. I obviously don’t want to show you pictures of just the ceiling, so instead we pulled together the living room to give you a full mini, ‘just moved in’ tour.

  86. Love the warm wood of the beams, so cozy. Dying to know… What is the name of the stain you used?

  87. Emily — beautiful room! Can you give any tips on where to source a rug similar to this one — I know you mentioned it’s vintage. Any intel on what style it is, or where I may go look for a similar one? Thanks and LOVE this room.