After doing this content creation thing for 14 years I consider myself a professional at documenting my design process in a very public way, yet like a seasoned athlete, the harder you play the more prone to injury you can be. Or so I’m telling myself. Here’s my armchair theory – due to the sheer volume of games you play, and how hard you go at it on the court, you are proportionately more vulnerable to getting hurt despite your experience and “expertise”. I feel like with this house, I (we) had a lot of incredible plays that we really nailed–big ‘running it back for a touchdown’ moments that I love so much. But I messed up on this living room and it feels like watching myself miss a basic free throw to lose the game, over and over and over on the big screen. And after weeks of being very angry at myself for it not turning out like I had thought it would, I’m moving through the regret and creating a solution with a heavy dose of perspective. What I have to remind myself all the time is that A. This isn’t a real problem and B. I’m not a perfect design expert, obviously. The real value I can add to the world is documenting my design process, and often making mistakes so you A. don’t feel alone when you do and B. can avoid the same mistake or learn through my problem-solving. This is why I chose to be a design blogger and NOT an interior designer with clients (where you can rarely admit nor document your mistakes). So here I am, ready to talk through the regrets. And I’ve convinced finally myself that this is not game 7 of the tied world series. This renovation, this room, isn’t my last game. I made a couple of dumb plays, I blew an easy shot and I lost us this game. So after weeks of punishing myself, I’m lacing up and headed out on the court to win game 2.
The Before – 2 years ago
To recap: as you can see the living room when we bought it was super spacious but very dark. One of our main goals (that we admittedly obsessed over, almost pathologically) was to brighten it in every single way.
The room had three west-facing windows, which were blocked with bushes, and the north window didn’t bring in too much light. So we redesigned the house to ensure that this main space was bursting with natural light.
Additionally, as you can see the ceilings were stained very dark (almost burgundy) and the walls were also painted dark. Both easy fixes.
Where We Are Now – One Month In (Not Officially Decorated)
This is how we are living in it right now, one month in. There are so many good things about it and I’m extremely grateful that we live here. The space itself is obviously so much brighter (we really checked that box), the wood floors are stunning, windows and doors are so pretty, and the quality of the paneling and all the millwork from ARCIFORM is perfection. The sconces are classic (and provide excellent dimmable lighting), the original fireplace got a real upgrade, and overall it’s such a lovely flow from entry to the kitchen (where the camera is). So wait, what is so wrong with it? Well, It feels cold and unfinished to me, based on design choices that I MADE near the end. I think because we were chasing the feeling that we had at the mountain house – the sense of calm provided by nature, natural light, and a very warm minimalist vibe, I just under-did it and it’s too stark. And I’m not talking about the furniture – we don’t have our sofa, piano or artwork yet which will obviously add a layer. I’m talking about the paint color and paneling.
I Miss The Warmth Of The Wood
I miss the natural wood of the window casings and wall paneling before we painted them white (as seen above). We did a custom run of both pieces – the 12″ beaded paneling and the window casing (and both are really pretty when you get up close – Thank you ARCIFORM!). They were fabricated in paint grade poplar and were very, very expensive to both fabricate and install (as custom always is). If I could go back in time I would splurge even more on doing them in white oak and leave it natural or just wash in paint (like Anne did in her bay house which I can’t wait to show you), but wouldn’t paint over it completely. I feel like it’s a huge missed opportunity to have spent so much money on the custom run and the install only to not have them be a statement (solutions are coming, it’s not dire). Imagine if the paneling below the windows and the window and door casings were all in the same white oak as the windows?? So warm and cozy. And had I not seen the room with the poplar wood installed (pre-painted) I would maybe not know it was a possibility, but it’s like I can’t unsee it. I miss the wood right now. I might be obsessing about it and the solution might be easy and even better than wood. We’ll see.
I Wish I Had Mixed Up The White Paint Colors
I don’t regret painting the ceiling white, but I wish that I had chosen a warmer tone of white for the walls of this room (it’s Sherwin–Williams Extra White). I really love it in some of the rooms (mudroom, hallway, kitchen) but in here, combined with the paneling also in the same color, it looks like we haven’t chosen our color yet. Had I properly obsessed about choosing whites differently in each room based on what else is happening in there we might have realized that this room needed a warmer white that still read as white or hell, what I’m realizing even now is that this room needs a neutral tone or even a color. Brian and I were pretty close to a real fight about this – but I was exhausted, felt exhausted, and just chose the same white for most of the rooms that we wanted ‘white’. To be clear he didn’t choose this white, we did together, but I wish I had obsessed about it more. I feel gutted, so dumb and I’m still mad at myself. It made me really doubt all of my decisions moving forward. And If you are like ‘it’s not a big deal! just paint over it!’, yes we can but unfortunately painting over semi-gloss wood paneling is a real thing. It really has to be sprayed, which means that everything has to be masked off for days, covered, sanded, primed, and painted again. We basically need to leave the house. All doable, but it’s a thing guys and WE JUST SPEND TENS OF THOUSANDS PAINTING THE HOUSE. I.e. redoing so soon makes me feel sick and embarrassed.
So What is The Solve? How Are You Going To Make it Better?
Ok, PROBLEM SOLVING MODE OFFICIALLY ENACTED. This room needs texture, depth, and color to make it feel warmer and more finished. I played it FAR too safe with the white-on-white thing and it’s time to fix it. Here are my ideas:
- Wallpaper the drywall, above the paneling, a light tone. I found a fabric wallcovering by Ashely Stark that is so gorgeous that I have been desperate to put it somewhere in the house. It’s an open weave linen that has tones of taupe and grays. Is it farmhouse-y? Nope. but neither is the living room right now so I’m less concerned about sticking to some OG vibes that are long gone, and instead just making it a really, really inviting room. You can see the fabric wallpaper here (and head to stories where I’ll show you the sample that just arrived).
- Paint the drywall a light color. This would be the easiest, most immediate solution of course – even I can paint drywall (again, not the paneling or door/window casings – YET). I think by doing this the white casings would look like they should – that they are framing the windows whereas right now it looks super unfinished (you can barely see the casings). If I’m being totally honest I didn’t want window casings at all – I like the deep jam, no casing look but lost that battle a year ago because that is a more contemporary look. But now that we have them we should highlight them, help them architecturally enhance the space, and add depth and detail. Having the drywall be a tone will at least highlight the white of the casings, which will frame the windows better.
- Paint all the window casings and paneling. Ok. So when we first walked into the house after being gone for a month, seeing it primed over all the pretty wood Brian and I both were like ‘Woah, Shoot. that is a lot of white’. The painters had finished almost all the other rooms but hadn’t painted the actual white yet in here, just the primer. So we quickly grabbed the Upward paint color that we had leftover from the doors upstairs and painted it on the paneling. We both felt like the room needed it and we really loved the color. Did we feel 100% confident? NO. We felt honestly like 40% confident, but we had no time. So dumb. We should have stalled the work, but we had pushed so incredibly and annoyingly hard to move in the following week that we didn’t want to be those people who were like, ‘Uh, guys? we changed our minds and want to play with paint colors for a couple of days’. We let our impatience and egos stop us from taking the time to make the right decision. So we said, ‘we like this color a lot – it’s a happy light blue, and we have the paint – let’s just do it all this color’. We didn’t want to go darker because we wanted it light, we didn’t want to go bluer because the kitchen tile is really the most stunning focal point that we didn’t want to compete with. Besides, the floors were covered so we couldn’t see the wood, and all the windows were covered so we couldn’t get a sense of the light or see the white oak. The tile in the sunroom and kitchen were covered so we couldn’t get a sense of color. It’s pin the tail on the paint color, blindfolded and our hands landed here:
We walked in, the next day and it was a hard “NO” for both of us. Brian mumbled something about being the easter egg house…what is a super sweet color upstairs was far too periwinkle down here. They had only done one coat and we stopped them immediately. No one wanted to be me less than me at that moment.
It was NOT going to work. So what did we do instead? As you can see we told them just to do the same white. How could it not look good? We love how the mountain house is white walls and wood windows and doors. But I was wrong and this room needed some contrast between the paneling, casing, and drywall and since the paneling and casing are integrated together (i.e. the interior window sill is the top of the paneling) we can’t only paint the window casings but not the paneling – they have to be painted together.
I mean, it looks pretty in this shot I know and after a few weeks of living in here, I do really like being in this room, despite me wanting to add more texture and depth to the walls.
But another option that we are seriously considering is painting the fireplace and/or cladding the mantel in wood (the floor brick still needs to be painted and we need to finalize the chimney to make sure we can use it).
It’s pretty as is! But it’s an option to help ground the room and add some drama and contrast. Brian is not in favor of this.
In this photo, it looks so pretty! I feel like I’m a little bit losing it and I want you all to know that I understand this isn’t a real problem. It all feels so dumb. So to lessen my frustration with myself I’ve started living in denial that I was the one that chose the white walls/white paneling situation. Instead, I am basically pretending that we just bought this beautiful newly renovated house and I’m just the new owner that gets the add my touch/layer to it, because the designer who renovated it chose a safe look. It’s an odd disassociation/denial exercise that has given me a bit of distance from the fact that this was JUST DONE, by me. Emily Bowser said this is such an enneagram ‘7’ way to respond to something – to reframe it in a way that is more fun and less painful, and I don’t disagree.
Just picture the walls above the paneling with a slight neutral tone – something that lets the casing and paneling pop more, frames the windows nicely, and lets the ceiling and fireplaces stand out, too.
Wallpaper The Entry? Yes!
Then in the entry, we want wallpaper and I honestly like 10 of the options, so I’m waiting to decide on the living room solution before I do the entry. The entry is so pretty as-is that I’m not worried about it looking beautiful. The living room is my problem child right now.
Now before you get worked up at my odd layout, we played with it a few ways but we feel pretty great about the loveseat + sofa + swivel chair combination (as of now). Of course, we wouldn’t typically have the sectional chaise cut off the love seat, but this is the sofa that we’ve had forever (from Article, it’s awesome) and have been waiting to design or choose the new sofa until we knew our layout which would dictate the scale, length, style, and color. It’s a domino effect (and I still have to design that dining nook, too). When staring at this shot I want to just paint the paneling and casing a neutral tone and leave the walls white, but that is a harder/riskier first step. I think some photoshopping is in order 🙂
I do love so many things in this room, though and I know the potential for greatness is there! And again if I hadn’t just finished a huge renovation and just made these choices I would be like ‘calm down and just paint it!’. And obviously, I’m so privileged to even call this my room that I don’t want to come off in any way complain-y.
What you can’t see is our kitchen which I am SO HAPPY with. THANK GOODNESS. And with the shared space with the living room, it means that I really have to consider the blue in the tile with whatever paint or fabric wallcovering we choose.
Now that I’ve for the most part forgiven myself for hastily making this room too safe I am excited to dive into the next layer to add more warmth. I’ve got this 🙂
Living room sources:
Rug: Amber Lewis For Loloi
Sofa: Burrard by Article
Leather sofa: Rejuvenation
Swivel chairs: Rejuvenation
Tulip wood side table: Target
Double tiered wood side table: City Home
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
I’m sorry, don’t take this the wrong way, but why is Brian so involved in every single little decision? This is *your* job. Of course it’s his house too but surely you know more about picking colors than him, as evidenced by his comment that all whites are the same. I don’t know, it seems that the renovating process was not so fun and your husband didn’t really help by not letting you take the wheel. Or you tried to getting him involved more than was sane.
As for the actual problem: forget about painting the panelling and casings for now and just focus on the drywall. I vote to install the wallpaper you showed. It’s warm, it has texture, it will break up the whites and let the casings shine. It checks all the boxes. Please, just go with *your* designer gut. Your husband can trust your taste, no?
This was 100% my thoughts. Emily is the one who has written books, gets paid to design for clients, has a successful blog, why is she leaning on Brian for paint color decisions? Strange. Also my vote is for the textured wallpaper. Also, I think adding a wood mantel to the fireplace would help break up all the white – maybe a gorgeous piece of recycled wood or something like that.
I wanted to express some support for incorporating the opinion of your spouse who also lives and works in this house. Yes, trust your gut, and also, it’s ok/good/wonderful to be a team. Also, your design is the subject of this blog, and frankly, your marital design dynamic is none of our business. I’m disappointed that so many readers voted up this comment. You’re doing great, Emily. Our own houses are always the hardest. And the family living in the house is what matters ❤️
I also think it’s very realistic to incorporate spouse feedback when neither is an interior designer. It’s helpful to hear how Emily navigates that and helpful to learn from that, in addition to ways that she’s helping us learn from her mistakes/regrets.
On a related note, I’m in the design profession and can constantly bounce ideas off my colleagues. It’s so engrained in the design process to collaborate and ask for feedback. Almost never a one-person role. And burn-out at the end of a long grueling design process is real. I fully support Emily’s process and leaning into asking for opinions and feedback, spouse or otherwise.
I am also disappointed with so many people voting up a comment that effectively suggests Brian should not have been involved in the design of his own home. He may not be a stylist (much like Emily is not an interior designer) but his input is relevant, how could it not be? To say otherwise diminishes him as a person and as a member of the family, it is his home as much as it is Emily’s.
The blue panelling decision that took place before the ‘white is white’ decision suggests that both Emily and Brian recognised that white, any white, even all-white-is-the-same-white, is probably not right for this room. For what it’s worth I think the fireplace, painted white, is both lost and has lost its charm. It’s not the wrong colour white, just the wrong colour. As for the rest of the room, I’d sit tight, live with the house a little, feel it and then you’ll understand what it needs.
I’m grateful for this comment because I was wondering the same thing. Is “All whites are the same,” really something someone married to a designer says?
YES, yes they do. My husband says this.
Emily isn’t technically a “designer”. She is human though, and allowed to make mistakes. This is why she has Arciform involved. Just have to throw that out there. So many comments keep mentioning she is. But even designers make mistakes, thank goodness. And even if she were, you should absolutely take your spouses, other half, etc. opinion into consideration. They should have some say in the process. He is living in the home as well. I’m pretty sure Brian probably knows that all whites aren’t the same. He was just probably making a generalized statement. I’m in the paint the drywall category. You can do this yourself, to save some money. You have so many windows and doors, and not much drywall, it wouldn’t take you long to do it. Get some real sample paint pots. Not the sticky sample kind. They are never quite right in my opinion. SW currently isn’t doing them, but they directed me to Lowe’s to get it done. Do some sample painting on the walls by your trim, windows, etc. Then of course live with it for a while before making a decision. Next, I would find a new natural wood mantel. I think… Read more »
Betsy, totally agree with you. Live with it for awhile before doing anything major. I vote for painting the drywall and possibly the fireplace. I’m definitely against wallpaper or fabric on the walls. That’s more expensive and harder to change in the future. A bit of a contrast with paint may be all that’s needed. Plus, the furniture, art and accessories will add warmth. And please, Emily, don’t be so hard on yourself. ❤️ It’s so hard to visualize everything during the construction phase.
I genuinely disagree.
Brian is Emily’s #1 team member first and foremost. He works for EHD too.
Also, this “project” is not simply a project. It’s a family home. Brian is part of that family – husband, dad, best friend, etc.
I’m flabbergasted tgat so many people voted this comment up.
This is not a ‘business decision’. It’s THEIR home.
If the business is paying for the house, 100% it is a business decision.
Business decisions need to be made rationally, companies need to be protected from emotional decisions.
I’ve never seen a company “protected” from emotional decisions. Where there are people, there are emotions. Setting that aside tho, it feels like you are saying because it’s a business decision, and Emily is the more prominent professional, Brian opinion shouldn’t matter. But if he isn’t “the business” then he is the customer and isn’t the job of the business to please the customer? I’m with the “baffled” crowd on this one.
This comment is bonkers. This is their actual home that they actually live in.
Saying “all whites are the same, just pick one” to someone who literally does this for a living is *incredibly* dismissive of their work. That was a shitty thing to say, it was pointed and taking a dig unnecessarily, and it clearly made Emily feel bad. Brian could stand to be a lot more gracious and a lot less condescending to, you know, his best friend/etc.
I’m a designer, and I involve my husband pretty deeply in home decor items. He doesn’t care about pillows or whatever, but he actually has a lot of thoughts about color and how he wants to use space. He defers to me and we agree that I will take the lead, but we share veto power. I will say that I’d probably never let him have opinions on whites, lol.
In a pinch or under stress (which it sounds like happened a few times with Emily and Brian), he’s not really useful at all, and I’ll just decide. But mostly it seems like Brian and Emily had decision fatigue, which has hit every client I’ve ever had right at the moment when you need them to make a call. I imagine that’s even harder when you’re the “designer” and the “client” and you’d like your spouse to help lend you some brain power.
I am a designer….and always run ideas by my husband. He trusts what my aesthetic and typically loves it all. But also want him to feel included. What am I looking for in a response? A HARD NO. That’s when I know to switch gears.
┃┃╱╲ In this
╱╱╭╮╲╲ if you say all
▔▏┗┛▕▔ whites are the same
you don’t get to pick
paint colors anymore
Omg HeatherQ I’m laughing so hard! I’m married to a designer, too, and he absolutely comes to me for my thoughts all the time, yes. But as the non-designer, there are things I know to always have him take the reins on, and the top of that list is color! Choosing color is a serious skill, seeing color is a skill, color theory is a whole thing, and anyone who hasn’t been trained in it or played with it so much that they have tons of experience should never insist on their opinion over the expert and/or be so dismissive….which, sorry Brian super fans, “white is white” was both dismissive and ignorant of Emily’s expertise, she is a QUEEN of color choice! I think this post following the red door post where he was trying to insist it be some bright red that wouldn’t look like the picture in his head (and we all let out a big sigh of relief when it was the color Emily knew would look great) is exacerbating these feelings. Consulting your non-designer spouse in this scenario is “what color door do you want?” Them: “I really want red and this is the image I… Read more »
I’m wondering, what kind of marriages you guys (Maria at all) have. You go in, tell your spouse “this is what I’m doing because I know better” and they take it like that? I would be out of the door the next moment. I hate the idea of “authority” in marriage. Yes, one is a designer – but if I gave designers free rein to do something they like for themselves, I’d get an experimental editorial that I’m not sure I want to live in. If you are a designer, and you’re such an authority as you’re claiming, you’d better have the arguments to convince me to go along with you. Not even my 5-year old goes with that logic. Emily is swayed by Brian because she is not even claiming that authority for herself (wise, in my view) and is open to debating and discussing. I’m not saying you can’t have one partner give the other carte blanche – but that’s something that you earn, or that is made clear ahead of time. Or, may be it’s in the allocation of tasks, if the other person is happy with it.
It’s his house too 🤷🏼♀️
Taking your husband’s opinions into consideration when designing your home is insane/strange. Also, here are my opinions on the design of your home, which you should definitely consider. Sincerely, Stranger on the Internet
Anne, I think we all officially want to go get a drink with you.
Anne, yes. So much yes. Thank you.
OMG, is this comment an attempt at satire?
Hi all (not just Maria :), Brian and I are a team and we make most decisions together for our home. If I really care about something he is like ‘go for it’, and vice versa. Of course. But the things is he’s often right even when I think I’m right because he isn’t as neck deep in it as I am, he’s not looking at trends the same way (thank goodness) and he cares mostly about how we live in this home, thank god. I beg him for his opinion and he gives it but of course i have all veto power because he knows I have more experience in this world and I have to stand by everything more publicly. But this is our home and I have found that its best for both people to be as involved as they want to be in a renovation, which is highly stressful and so you often need support. When i’m totally exhausted and on the fence about something, racked with indecision, I LOVE that he gives his strong opinion. It means that we share the glory and the blame which I think is healthiest for our marriage. We aren’t… Read more »
Emily – it has to be be hard to put yourself out there on a daily basis, and then have strangers inserting their opinions. I don’t know that I could handle it. I think you’re handling this with grace and kindness, and that’s admirable.
You probably don’t remember me, but I’ve met you a few times and had you sign copies of your books. You were nothing but kind and charming. You’re the reason I became a designer in the first place, and now it’s been almost 5 years. And I truly love it. So please believe that you sharing these processes and decisions does help and inspire people. Even on the days when the keyboard warriors are out in full force. I for one really appreciate you – and understand the push-pull with decisions between spouses. You are wonderful – and we’re all very excited to see the rest of your family home! 😊
Don’t let someone else’s judgemental mind filter yourself in the future. There is many of us here who didn’t even take note of any of that, nor think it was an issue. As a professional doing this I am sure you know this but we are all responsible for how we feel and please do not let somebody else’s bad day ruin yours.
I think some of these comments regarding Brian might be more of an overall frustration with how women are often dismissed by men even on subjects they are experts on. I wish it wasn’t framed in the way the comments framed it, but I do think there’s a valid point to it. Brian for sure has a right to have input in his home and Emily of course relies on him for support. So maybe people are projecting their own experiences into this situation which I totally get. How many of us have had to defend our expertise to someone with less experience? Probably a lot of us.
I think you are right, Liz. We all project a lot, it’s just not the case here. I get it. We all want to fight the patriarchy and yes he is a cis white man, but he’s not the one to fight, I promise. He’s the lead parent. gets the kids out of the house every morning. books every doctors/dentist appointments. does most after school kid stuff, all grocery shopping, cleans the house 50/50 with me, is an extremely involved parent, the list goes on and on and on, all while he’s in grad school. I also think i’m still sensitive to when multiple people tore him down during that Airbnb post (the last one he’s ever written) and said such ugly things about him and our marriage, as if we weren’t even there. it was so uncalled for and made me feel gross and sad, honestly. I’m also extra sensitive to people saying negative things about him in any way because i’m the one that opens our family up to this, that makes us vulnerable. I think we all (including me) need to be a bit more careful about our projections and judgements – I absolutely do it too… Read more »
Maybe I’m being to optimistic about people not just coming from a “we want to rip apart a successful blogger and her family.” I’m just hopeful that at least some peoples intentions were coming from a pro Emily (though misguided) view point. I don’t remember the Airbnb post, but I sure remember the comments after Max’s post attacking him for making a joke about speeding. That was nuts! Ugh. I mean off of my previous patriarchy point there are unfortunately a lot of women that take joy in putting successful women down.
Omg this breaks my heart, I am so here for Mr. Henderson. Appears like such a sweet charming person. Gah, so so sorry people are not behaving themselves. Sending love to you both, big fan of the beauty you create together <3
This has zero connection to the Cottagecore, Vintage, Farmhouse vibe that was envisioned.
Aside from asking the ‘what’ question, it is probably better to ask ‘why’?
E.g Why did this room end up this way and what is it about my process that led to it?
Without knowing how you got there, you’ll likely end up repeating the situation.
To me, this stark style is very 2010s and I love more people embracing cornicing, millwork, complexity, texture and colour.
This ain’t no farmhouse.
Perhaps some further mentorship, education, training might help expand your palette?
I absolutely love Jean Stoffer’s style – perhaps you could collaborate with other designers in the future?
The whole process has been very different from the Mountain House – as though it’s not being savoured and is just being quickly ploughed through.
This is so mean and unecessarily critical and if I were Emily it would have really hurt my feelings. It feels like you could have said at least one nice thing here instead of implying that she is not competent at her job.
I actually agree about your Jean Stoffer callout – there’s a great balance in her work, and it seems like her influences would work well incorporated into Emily’s house reno.
What an odd and condescending comment. Clearly you follow trends and judge things according to that limited viewpoint. So in 10 years you’ll probably be the person judging “cornicing, millwork, etc” as so 2020s. I really appreciate the timelessness and originality of Emily’s vision (which has more Shaker influence – if I remember correctly – than farmhouse). That’s great you love Jean Stoffer – follow her to your heart’s content. I personally am not a fan of hers — her designs are too traditional and safe for my taste. I personally prefer Emily’s style that is – to me – more interesting, more original, more creative, and definitely more inspiring for me. But I wouldn’t go onto a post of one of Jean’s designs and suggest she consult with Emily. Geez.
Probably because it is “their” house, not “her” house.
Oh my goodness! Don’t beat yourself up about this!!! White is a safe bet to start with whilst you live in the house and get a feel for it. Not everything needs to be perfect the instant you move in. Let the room grow organically and it will start to feel lived in and beautiful – a real home. I suspect the real issue isn’t the white or the light but the fact that you have very few walls to place things. Everything is a window or an entry (apart from the fireplace) making it difficult to make the room feel cozy and inviting rather than a pass through. My suggestion would be to make the fireplace wall the central point and paint it in different colour (not wood cladding as the brick is original and adds character). Please don’t paint the bricks in the fireplace – restore them! They are the only bit of the room that has warmth. I’d paint the window casings in a warm white as well as any other trim (it doesn’t need spraying, just use a paint brush or roller and do it yourself over a couple of weekends). And if you put up… Read more »
I also like the idea of restoring the brick. The bit that’s on the floor and unpainted has so much warmth! I’m also a fan of the textured wallpaper.
YES!! From the start, I feel like restoring the brick wasn’t even an option, and I couldn’t figure out why! It would be so gorgeous!
Agree with this! I love the bricks in front of the fireplace – REALLY warms up the space. And I would definitely add curtains or Roman blinds at a minimum. One thing that I’ve learned is different tones work better in different climates. Blue might be gorgeous in sunny LA but a bit dreary in rainy Oregon. I would bring in more warm earthy tones like greens and deep brown/auburn to add warmth to offset the white and cool tones.
Whatever you do with the walls I have to agree that something besides paint should happen to that fireplace! It would absolutely transform the room to have a warm, natural material covering that amazing (potential) fireplace (whether you restore or install completely new material seriously save up and make that the centerpiece)!
I vote for you to consider cladding the top half of the fireplace in white oak. I know the brick is original but it reads as more white in a sea of white, and I think the texture and warmth of wood there would be welcome! Would make it more of a focal point and add in some of the “farmhouse feel” you are wanting.
Next I would layer in curtains. Fabric will soften the feel as well.
And after trying both of the above, I would add the textured wallpaper if you think it still needs more. A woven grass cloth could be beautiful and I agree it would make the casings and paneling pop. But this should be the last step as it is also super expensive and you may not need it after you do the fireplace and add curtains!
And lastly, ignore the people interpreting and judging how your husband has participated in this process. Ridiculous! Love that you have worked together so collaboratively on this incredibly special home!
To add instant warmth, add plants and books. Plus I think a statement chandelier in wood (not black, not brass, not white). It’ll do wonders to make this space more inviting. But live in it for awhile. It’ll come to you. There’s no hurry. It’s looking pretty awesome. It’s going to be okay.
Books will do wonders! I also think adding curtains and painting the drywall will make a huge difference. I agree with some others that you could go really bold in here, but that’s not Emily’s vibe at the moment – so why not layer on the neutrals? Curtains with an organic-y pattern or texture, and paint the drywall cream – lots of different shades of cream and even mushroomy/donkey browns to soften the white?
Yes, lots of plants will add so much texture and warmth! The comforting green of living plants adds so much nice contrast to the wood window casings that you can see. Maybe a trailing/vining plant on the mantel would keep you from having to clad it?
Because of the negative comments I read here, I wanted to make sure I put in my positive word. When I saw the opening picture, it was lovely but it didn’t feel AS “Emily” as the rooms you publish and love. I think you’re absolutely on the right track of why this didn’t feel finished to you. Your transparency about your thought process here is SO helpful to me, as we’re in the middle of two house projects ourselves and I definitely tend to play it safe. I also have a room that I’m trying to brighten and could see myself making it too stark as a reaction. I really appreciate you and your work. You make a difference for good, Emily 🙂
I agree–the primary challenge that makes this room hard to warm up is not the paint color but the number of entries/windows compared to wall space. I live in a similar layout and it took a while to figure out why we never felt truly comfortable. When you entered our living room you felt compelled to leave it out of one of the doorways. The solution was to create feelings of enclosure in the space. So, while we all hear all the time that floating your furniture is ideal, in truth you need some cozy seating areas against the walls too — like in your little dining nook maybe put a banquet. Then, again in contrast to the common understanding of furniture layout, you need at least two seating areas instead of one large one, to bring the areas more to human scale. For example, by putting a little reading area with built in book cases on the wall that is perpendicular to the sunroom, you make a little “away” space in the larger room. And, pops of warm color within the interior of the space bring your eye in and away from the entries/windows. We moved into the awkward… Read more »
Maybe you are listening to Brian too much? It just seems from a lot of your posts that you are trying to serve too many masters instead of following your vision. And I get that Brian has to live there, too, but it is also your livelihood and you built this huge brand for yourself based on your taste, not his.
Sometimes it is just better to follow one clear vision even if it means compromising things you want. It’s just more cohesive.
It is a small price to pay for the lifestyle that your talents have afforded your family to not get to pick the door color or whatever. And there is nothing harder when you are on the fence about something than having someone undermine your confidence in your choices.
Brian doesn’t seem very open-minded or imaginative when it comes to design, so maybe he stays in his lane and you do your thing. I bet he would end up loving things he never would have picked. Even if he doesn’t, it seems like he could be a little more generous in supporting your work and creativity.
This ^ I’m not even a professional designer, but I’m into this stuff and (I’m told) pretty good at it, so my husband lets me take the wheel and more often than not likes the result. Obviously if he doesn’t like something after living with it (usually his complaints are related to the comfort/practicality of an item or layout) I change it. But I try it first, because he has no clue. He just can’t imagine something that doesn’t exist yet–he has to see it. On the other hand, I’m thankful to Emily for her candor, and everyone is different. But if I were the professional designer my husband wouldn’t even SEE the dang house until it was done.
Ya know… maybe the Mountain House tutned out so great due to Brian’s firm views on some things.
Remember that process???
Ha. yes. he was so right about so much for that house : )
“I get that Brian has to live there, too…”
Um, no. He does not HAVE to live there.
It’s THEIR home.
Rusty, I tried to like your comment, and it looks like I disliked it, so those minus votes you see may not be accurate. I totally agree–it’s Brian’s home too! In a client / designer dynamic, very few clients just hand over total control to the designer; they get to voice opinions too. Why would a spouse not get a say in what he will see and enjoy every day?
I would make a strong argument that this isn’t a ‘mistake’ in the design sense. It’s well-nigh impossible to know exactly what you’re going to want/need before you live in the house, that’s why so many people choose to live in their new home as-is for a while before they make any major changes. You had to make MANY MANY MANY decisions affecting every aspect of a house you’d never lived in. And compared to layout, natural light, lighting, you know, the big structural stuff, paint is no biggie. White was the safe choice. And at some point you’ll update it. I can appreciate the sheeting off and moving out etc etc and the extra money is absolutely not ideal – but if you view it as an inevitable part of the build process rather than a failure, maybe it would be less upsetting? Also I agree, I would photoshop some options where only the drywall is changed before you commit to changing the panelling.
THIS. Good advice.
Also — Looking at the in-process photos (where things were draped and taped off and it was kind of dark and hard to see well) really sent a chill through me — such a vivid reminder of trying to make expensive decisions under similar conditions seven years ago, at a house I hadn’t moved into yet. Had chosen what was supposed to be a warm white and when I took a sneak peek, it looked like primer. UGH.
This will be a truly wonderful room when you get it sorted out with some minor changes. And look, your doggie is already adding warmth and texture 😉
I totally agree, Cece! White is a safe choice and when you are drowning in a sea of decisions including permanent, structural, integral then a “safe choice” of something changeable like paint is like a life raft. Having a partner help make some of these decisions with you can often be helpful and ease some of the emotional burden even when you really do want to do it all, sometimes you just can’t and that’s ok!
YES! on the wallpaper in the entry. I vote to not paint another inch of any wood on the windows or otherwise, please. YES to paint the paneling a warm/taupey grey like Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter which probably means you need to paint the wall something warmer, Swiss Coffee at 75% strength is so good with the Revere Pewter, I did this combo in my home with wall/trim color in NW WA. Just leave the ceiling as-is. Honestly I think just the furniture, art and styling will make it all come together and we all know Em is gonna do great there!!
Yes, and whites here in Portland “read” differently due to the undertones that bounce in from the outdoors (with all the evergreens here we typically have greenish/gray casts come in and that has to be accounted for).
A “go to” white say in Los Angeles or Santa Fe isn’t going to look the same here. Whites can read gray or have greenish tones here that seemingly won’t appear in another setting, or a warm white here can sometimes look dirty if it’s not the right shade. Trying to pick the correct color without seeing just how the light comes in through all those windows and then bounces off those particular wood floors would be near impossible.
I read this as “greenish/gray cats” and was a little sad when I reread.
Oh boy isn’t this the truth? You cannot get a good read of a color when all the other surfaces affecting the temperature of the light are covered. And the white Emily chose has the highest LVR score, so it’s going to read very bright. I feel that she should bring in furnishings, choose a sofa color she loves for the color itself, hang art she loves, throw down a rug, and just live with the room for a few months before making a wall color decision. (I opt for simply painting the wallboards, btw).
There are 1000s of colors of paint and lots of them will work with the kitchen and the furnishings. Paint color is one of the last decisions Emily needs to make to love this room.
I agree 🙂 I always choose paint color last, so it was hard to do it basically first. 🙂
Hear, hear! I’m a design professional, and I absolutely would not classify this as a mistake or a failure. Would I be freaking out if I were the designer and I wanted my client to think I was a flawless genius? Yes, definitely. but I would be wrong! I would then try to be kind to myself and frame it as it genuinely is: a recipe where the ingredients aren’t quite singing, so now it’s time to add some salt. I vote for the salt to be the linen wallpaper, but Emily’s gut will be wiser than mine. Time to Pivotabitch (thank you, Shavonda)! And though I know many readers appreciate the acknowledgment of privilege, you don’t have to also apologize for caring about this. It’s your home, your job, AND your passion. No apologies for caring about those things. It’s wonderful to keep things in perspective, but you’re not frivolous for feeling pressure.
As also being a design professional, my friends asks me: What is a good gray or white paint color to pick for their house…? My (to some annoying) response is “Color is a reflection of light, and what looks good in one place might look very different in your home”. You have to try out different paints to see what the lighting does to the color chosen. One color can look like it’s three different colors on walls being exposed from various directions. It’s a science. You had a very compromised situation with everything covered up with plastic shields. How could you then know what it really would look like with the light flooding the room in a natural way? I always say when something goes wrong in my own projects “I’m glad it happened to myself” Now I can learn, and not do the same mistake again to my clients. I do vote for the wallpaper, and I do ask for my husband’s opinion.
I love the wallpaper you chose and think it will solve the problem in a really lovely way. If you had painted the walls a warmer white like SW Alabaster, which I have all over my house (with Pure White trim, and wood casement windows), it would be a touch warmer but not enough contrast to emphasize the room’s beautiful paneling. With the strong blues of the stairs and kitchen tile, I can’t wait to see how you layer in warmer colors and dimension in your style choices.
I also think the wallpaper will warm up the space while still capturing the Shaker-Scandinavian-Farmhouse thing you’ve got going on. It will tie the space from the floor up to the ceiling. Once that’s up, it will help you decide what to do with the fire place, if you need to do anything at all, and the foyer wallpaper. My husband is also a minimalist, and I have a constant tug and war of honoring that (because minimalism is calming, ultimately, and it’s not a bad thing for our household) and warming it up with my aesthetic and the nature of our 1842 house.
It does look cold and unfinished, but it is unfinished! I don’t think you should paint the panelling – the white panelling and white ceiling would look beautiful and crisp if the walls had some colour. I would paint or wallpaper the walls, definitely. The fireplace, by being painted all white, just looks to me
Like you don’t like the design of it so you tried to make it inexpensively disappear. I would radically rethink the fireplace. And also, I think the mountain house looms a little too large in your mind all the time. This house is so different and you should lean into that. I’m not sure how much of the furniture pictured is staying, but it ALL (including the rug) looks much too modern and design-y to me, and that is adding to the coldness I think. I think you need more softness, roundness, more of a family farmhouse vibe than a design retreat.
But also don’t be annoyed at yourself – it takes a long time for a truly layered home to look finished!
Uffda! .. seems very normal to have this marital dynamic during a renovation. No need for any of us to judge. Compassion, compassion and more compassion right? I bet you all are exhausted. And this is life. How fun it will be to watch this room evolve into something else over time. To find it’s way home. I think Sophie said it well. I notice that I prefer the tone and vibe of the LR before you renovated, (hard to believe) despite it being so dark with a need for updates, it was just warmer and interesting with the warm wood and antiques. Almost seems like the room really is calling for something else…so maybe slowing down and not doing a repeat of your last process, making decisions too quickly. You pared things down to the point of minimalism? I actually think the wallpaper looks like more of the same- so neutral that while it might add some warmth it still looks so modern. Yes too much white, too much modern furniture, not enough uniqueness or farmhouse, too stark. Not enough of your quirk which adds warmth and character. But it is coming, gonna happen and it will be a… Read more »
I agree with this. I was surprised to hear you mention the fireplace. I got the impression since it was all white you didn’t like it and wanted it to disappear. Maybe repaint the fireplace the warmer white you want, along with the drywall. I guess if you’re putting wallpaper in the entry, wouldn’t you want something quieter on the walls in the room next to it? That way you can play with decor the rest of your years in that living room. And please don’t be hard on yourself. This is Brian’s home too, also using his money to pay for it, so of course he needs to have an opinion. You use that same logic letting the kids design their rooms. Use it for the whole house with the house and Brian. But it looks GREAT so far!
Totally agree with this – maybe consider leaning less into the mountain house and more into what this one has been trying to say to you. The fireplace needs love – paint it black or a color and switch out that mantle for unpainted wood. I agree that the rug and furtniture are too modern for the house – how about a rug and some seating texture and/or patina? Hoping the piano and art will provide some soul but also – more texture and patina, please!
I think it looks amazing and you’re just burnt out from a long reno! From the pictures, I would add warmth with some subtly golden-hued window treatments and call it a day 🙂 (e.g. https://images.app.goo.gl/bjYcKZFQoMBHpJHZ6 – I have this fabric in my white dining room next to my Hague blue living room and it brings a lot of joy 🙂 )
I love that fabric you suggested!
I was also thinking that bringing in a pale gold color would add warmth and look good with the greasy blue. It could even be a golden leaning cream or off-white.
I just saw a typo. That’s supposed to be grey-blue.
I think the wallpaper will solve a lot of your problems. Even though it feels like a more permanent choice, I think I would photoshop that and try it before painting the paneling. Also, stained wood on the mantel for sure!!! And maybe it’s just how the photo appears, but I am wondering if the room would feel cozier if you nixed the swivel chairs and rearranged the sofas to flank both sides of the fireplace – would let more light in and feel closer to the fire in the winter. I appreciate you sharing these struggles as a designer. I am not a “professional designer” but we are just now finishing a renovation that started over a year ago and really should have been done by now. There are parts of it that I love and parts that I regret – for example, installing recessed lights. I hate them and turn them off all the time when they are on because I realized I like mood lighting. I have beaten myself up so much on the choices I made that I didn’t like in the end, but I am realizing more and more that it’s okay to change your… Read more »
Agreed about the sofa layout, and taking out the swivel chairs. Maybe throw some floor cushions on the floor.
It’s a pretty room, but I agree it’s too much white for this house. It’s a blank slate now though, so that’s great for you as a designer.
I would clad the beams in wood like you mentioned and strip the paint off the fireplace so you can see the bricks as the above poster mentioned. I would leave the bricks on the floor as is. And I would try a warmer colored rug and other furnishings. It seems like you have a lot of cool tones in this room, maybe that’s part of the problem? The original room was all warm tones so maybe you swung too far from that.
I agree with leaving the floor bricks as is!! Your problem, as you’ve articulated, is lack of contrast – which the floor bricks provide!
I love Kaitlin’s photography, but I wonder if these particular after images are a little blown out and not giving us a real sense of how the space looks.
I agree with the beams and fireplace needing warmth
When I truly take in all the elements in the photo I’m drawn to the beautiful window trim. It’s warm and textured and cozy without being dark. The ceiling beams in the same wood would be stunning. A beautiful rust/pink/golden rug would ground the space and play off the warmer ceiling. And the fireplace just disappears as it is. If not brick then anything with contrast will be perfect. You’re so close to perfect.
That wallpaper will change everything! Leave the rest as is, including the hearth bricks! Also: take your time – you’ve got this!
I think you need to call in the expert – Birdie!
I mean … you’re not wrong! LOL
hahahahah. right? Believe me, she thinks this room needs color. Tells me every day 😉
The house is awesome. Please don’t make any decisions that require you to hire labor (wallpaper, stripping paint off the brick) and give yourself a minute to really figure out the problem of the room before you try to solve it. What you describe as “cold” I would describe as “unfinished” or “tentative” because it IS unfinished. You just moved in and are using furnishings from another house. The rug you have is probably perfect, given the kitchen. Figure out the correct dimensions of your couch, and probably don’t put it on mid-century legs. It needs to feel substantial. Play around with some curtains that you can return if you don’t like them (just because you don’t like curtains at the mountain house doesn’t mean you won’t like them here). Get a big coffee table/ottoman. Your living room is large, and I think the right scale of furniture will help bring the cozy feeling you crave. Cozy and bright can co-exist. Play around in Photoshop with drywall paint colors and a wood mantel to balance the wood from the windows. Take the time to figure out why you feel the room falls short, and address those issues. Everyone makes mistakes… Read more »
“Take the time” — YES.
oh we are taking time, i promise. well, we have to shoot in spring so not that much time 🙂 and agreed -the sofas we are looking at are all to the ground – slipcovered or just really low. 🙂 the RJ sofa might end up living somewhere else, too. none of this furniture is for sure in here, so we have some flexibility and I purposefully didn’t think about decor yet (not because i wanted to put it off, but brain was full and I wanted to enjoy the decorating process). I’m so glad that we didn’t make every decision before we moved in, thats for sure.
Yeah, it looks too MCM to me. That could well be part of the problem.
I agree-I kept thinking mcm as I looked at it.
I think I like the idea of the fabric wallpaper the best. I agree with you, in a perfect world, leaving the paneling/casing as wood in the first place would have been the right choice, but alas. But I like that the wall covering adds a tone, as well as texture. I also think some curtains around the sliding doors would add some warmth and interest, but it looks like you don’t have room with the sconces (unless you cover up some of the doors). I love the idea of a wood mantel too. Good luck, I look forward to seeing this room evolve!
It looks so pretty! I think you’re just having a little bit of normal letdown, which is an unavoidable after investing so much time and energy. I suspect the room will grow on you and will gain more character as you live in it. Even though I was very much on team “don’t paint the paneling!!!” over the summer, now that it is white I see that it is very calming and restful. I think you’ve diagnosed the issue very accurately – you just need to layer in a bit more warmth now. I would love to see the fireplace mantel brought back to wood, and wood cladding on the ceiling beams. Also, where is the antique bench that was originally next to the fireplace? Maybe bringing that piece back would project a bit of warmth, and kind of tie in to the antique kitchen island, which is also a bit reddish.
Exactly, more antique pieces will help bring warmth and solve this problem. I like the white, it’s clean and airy – in such a large room, I think more color/texture would bring too much busy-ness and make it feel cluttered with all that furniture. But then again my apartment (including trim and casings) is painted entirely in bright white (BM Super White, which I love) so I I’m biased. To each their own 🙂
100% agree with a return to a warm wood on the fireplace mantel and the ceiling beams! It would highlight and bring balance to the wood around the doors and windows!
I absolutely agree with the suggestion for a wood mantle and for cladding the ceiling beams with wood. While I understand painting a lower ceiling white with hopes to make it feel airy and higher, I really think the top half of the room could use some warmth and grounding.
I was also wondering what happened to that original antique bench! It would look perfect back where it was next to the fireplace and add more warmth than the grey sideboard there currently. In seeing the pre-renovation photos it was the first thing to draw my eye and I immediately thought.. ooo I hope she kept that bench because it is perfect. Agree with the other commenters saying that a lot of what’s throwing it off is the more modern feel of nearly all of the current placeholder furniture. Layer some small modern moments in, absolutely, but for me, that’s where it’s coming across as cold, not necessarily in the paint color. I think with some smaller changes and leaning less into MCM and more into traditional/farmhouse with most of the furnishings and the room will warm up nicely. I mean even switching out that abstract painting (which is great and looked fab in the more modern mountain house) for a quirky old oil portrait (which we know you have! ha!) will make an instant difference in additional warmth and character. It will be stunning! Lean into your love of quirkiness! You can totally do it in a scandi PNW… Read more »
I love the whole scandi vibe as it is. It seems like you would be best to live through a few more seasons in the home before you commit to drastic changes. What about raiding your prop house for different accessories to add warmth and texture? I love the brick on the fireplace, but would consider adding a wood mantle. Finally, every regret I have ever had about decorating, usually boils down to me not trusting my initial instinct and allowing my spouse to weigh in…I have made many costly furniture decisions when I let him have input. Food for thought…
Blunt, true and hilarious. Thank you
I agree with all these suggestions. The times I have been most angry with myself for making a bad decision are when I was insecure and went with someone else’s (often my husband) preference.
Here’s what I’d do: 100% paint the fireplace. Maybe the same blue-gray on the stairs, maybe something different. Really make it pop. Maybe, I’d paint the walls a warmer white, but maybe that would be more discordant than leaving as is. I would not jam a bunch of wallpaper nor browns (more wood) into this room because it doesn’t get enough light, due to its situation (facing more north), to not veer into dungeon territory. You’ve done a great job so far and deserve a lot of high-fives!
Make the fireplace more of a feature! I would love to see it stripped back to brick. And paint the drywall something soft and warm like taupe. I think that wall covering is too soft and would be a lot of effort for not much impact. Agree with other commenters that the furniture is too modern. Mostly, though, focus on other things until you feel refreshed and energized enough to fine-tune this. It doesn’t all need to be “done” as soon as you move in.
I can also see a soft, mauve-y pink color looking great on the drywall and complimenting the blue rug, stairs, and cabinets.
I second (or 3rd, 4th?) your wallpaper choice! Perfection – just enough color and contrast! And I personally don’t think it’s too glamorous for a farm house. My grandparents lived in a Greek revival farmhouse in the Midwest and my grandmother was very glam! Beautiful rugs, art and wallpaper everywhere.
First of all, the room looks great! I understand that after such a long renovation, you may not always be able to see the beauty you’ve recreated, but you did such a good job! Just take a look at the before photos now and then 🙂 The natural light makes such a difference and the windows and wood floors are so beautiful. I understand that you miss the warmth of the wood, but hindsight is always wiser. I’m an architect and my job is to make decisions before a space even exists, so I “should” always know how things are going to turn out, but I don’t, even though I’m good at my job. I know those moments very well. Nobody is perfect and no planning can ever be perfect because a room is complex and so many different components play into it in real life. I think the wallpaper you suggest looks great and I would try that first, complemented by floor-to-ceiling curtains on the French doors to add texture. I wouldn’t clad the ceiling with wood though, as the room is very large but the ceilings aren’t that high. A wood ceiling would make the room look lower.… Read more »
Totally agree about the ceiling
I’m the only one so far, but I do not like that wallpaper. It’s grey for a start, which is cold and won’t fix the problem, and it’s fake fabric, which is naff. I vote for painting the drywall in nude pink or sandy beige. It goes with everything you have in there, it won’t look odd with the blue-grey of your kitchen tiles, and it’s warming and modern.
I don’t think you need to get hung up on painting the woodwork with a spray thing though, if you decided you had to do it – I’ve painted heaps of woodwork using a brush and it works perfectly well.
I’m also team fireplace natural brick and making more of it rather than painting it white. You can get this acid stuff you paint on it to take off the paint and any old mortar.
Finally, the LA house was nicer than the mountain house. Lean back into the energy that had rather than aiming for serenity, and bring back a little more of the weird.
I agree. I like the idea of wallpaper but not that one. If the goal is to warm up the room, that paper isn’t going to do it.
I looked at the Ashley Stark site. They have some great cloth-appearing wallpapers in much nicer, warmer tones. They’d complement the pale blue tile beautiful.
At my hasty, first glance I thought this was the LA living room – perhaps the Annie Selkie rug or furniture arrangement?
I just started a new leadership role, and one thing I’m realizing is how comforting it is when folks I admire make mistakes…because I’m making my own, and it makes me feel better to know it’s normal. I imagine any number of people are going to nitpick something about this post, but I want to say that it was highly relatable, how you feel is how you feel, and I’m excited to see the solution you implement! You’ve got this.
Maybe a dissenting opinion here, BUT, I would replace the paneling. There I said it. Instead of trying to make something work with paint or wallpaper, I would rip the band-aid off and have it redone in white oak, which is what you really want. Pros: this is the fix YOU are looking for. It is the most prominent room in your home. Ultimately I’m not sure any of the other ideas will satisfy. Cons: it’s a ton of money when you already just spent a ton of money. I TOTALLY GET THIS. We built a home a year ago. We are just now getting around to fixing some of the mistakes I lived with for a year, because it just seemed too wasteful/too much money to fix at the time. I wish I had just fixed the problems right away. Get it over with and get what you want! Give yourself some grace. And give yourself some white oak!! After the year you’ve had, you totally deserve this splurge!
I totally agree here. I think what you are craving is NATURAL raw elements, and what drew you to archiform in the first place. I know you are saving up for a renovation, but think you can do this in phases to ease the sting. Phase 1. painting the living room drywall a nice warm tone (cheaper than wallpaper) + wood clad mantle (come on brian, we need wood here). Phase 2: Reclad in white oak when you have the means.
Thank you for being vulnerable!
I agree even if it’s the more expensive route. The white is too cold, and I think the wallpaper too grey. I think no matter what you do, you will need to repaint to a warmer white- even if it’s just the drywall. I also like the idea of adding warmth through wood to the fireplace. It’s too stark now.
GAH. i know that it would look so pretty. but its so wasteful and i’m trying to be a better example of not just changing my mind and wasting materials (and yes time and money). i can make it work!
Thank you Emily for responding and being completely reasonable in saying it would be a terrible waste to redo the beautiful but painted paneling. You will totally make it work and it will be great.
I’m wondering if you’re considering painting the paneling and windows moulding a darker blue, something in the grey-blue range like the stairs but darker, maybe also the fireplace or the lower section with wood above. It would ground the room but not make it dark or too busy but bring out some of the architecture.
Totally understand that Emily! Thank you for sharing and you can definitely make it work.
Kind of agree that the regret over the window frames is likely to linger, but I think that cladding the mantel would also be a way to bring in this element & balance out the austere white without demo-ing expensive and just installed materials.
Because picking out paint color is so hard for me that I try to look for inspiration from artists, who should be color experts! Since I’m drawn to cozy rooms, I prefer softer whites. Even when they look a little dark on a paint chip or sample, they seem to look brighter on a big wall, especially where there’s lots of natural light. For me, it’s easier to choose a color from a company that doesn’t offer too many choices, like Claire or F & B. You have such a beautiful LR but I agree that a little contrast between the walls and woodwork will make a big difference. I also wonder if you used a satin finish paint. Maybe with all the light bouncing off the walls you need a flat finish? Although most of us want a spacious LR, they seem to present their own challenges! I wouldn’t change the paneling. You have great taste, go with your gut and don’t overthink it.
Denial – excellent strategy! Seriously, just install your wallpaper choice and add some softening drapery and you’re set. Hope you picked an eye-popping wallpaper for the entry. Something fun and bold maybe!
Perhaps a dark color on the fireplace (like the charcoal/black you were pondering for a different fireplace) could be cool? Or stripping to the original brick. When you said the hearth brick still needed to be painted I was surprised because I like the warmth the natural brick is bringing in there. I do think accessories, art, and some vintage/antique pieces would make a big difference here too, which is all part of your process so I know this will turn out amazingly well. Give yourself some grace and some time to play. And agree with the other posters about painting or papering the walls rather than the trim. The linen paper you found is really pretty but it is reading a bit “modern hotel” for me so I’m not sure whether that is the right one – that could just be the way it looks on my monitor though. Final thought – your quote of “pretty looks good with pretty” is why everything looks pretty right now. You are just wanting it to look gorgeous. That is fine – and you will get there. I can’t imagine how stressful it must be to have publishing deadlines driving some of… Read more »
This is a wonderful post…bc it’s what happens. Better to be safe than sorry, right (even if you are sorry!)!! When we moved into our current house I did the same thing….painted our living room all white, and then once we moved in knew I missed a potential “moment” in that room by choosing a safe color. Grrrrr, so dumb! It’s still white bc like you we’d have to move out for them to respray all the paneling and built ins and $$$$. BUT layering all the F U N stuff (the art! the TEXTILES! the little quirky stuff that makes it ours!), warms it up. You’ll get there no doubt!!! And my guess is you’ll come up with something better than you would have bc you’re living there now so you’ll naturally make decisions that work how you actually live and want to feel.
You don’t need a pep talk, bc you’re amazing and inspire so many! Thanks for all your honesty and sharing your process and talent with all of us!
PS My vote is leave that brick alone until the end, it deserves a chance to prove itself!
I really like this article ! It’s very interesting and refreshing to see the thought process and the regrets. I agree with your analysis, the white is too white and some of the great elements of this farmhouse (the fireplace, the wooden beans, the wood paneling that you installed are missing). It goes to show that it’s probably better to leave some decisions to the future to layer it all afterwards, but it’s not always easy when it’s your job and you want to showcase a “finished room” ! Obviously the room is beautiful anyway, and I am grateful that you shared your feelings about it !
I really love the wall paper you chose.
Yes, paint the dry wall.
Yes, clad the fire place mantle in wood for that warmth you’re looking for.
It’s a lovely room that, with a few cosmetic changes, will be stunning.
P.S. What’s with all the pile-on-Brian comments here? Sheesh.
i agree it looks unfinished, but one quick simple way to make it look more intentional would be to repeat the white around the room more. your table is white, there is white in the artwork above fireplace, white lampshade – but the other ‘whites’ are more pale neutrals and not white enough for your wall colour. add a few large white vessels, bowls, more artwork, include it in the pillows etc and your white walls will make more sense in this room. it’s like you have all the ‘stuff’ for a pale neutral room but you haven’t done the walls in the pale neutral yet. so painting the drywall a pale pale neutral would also work and be fairly simple. its going to be amazing, rome wasn’t built in a day etc etc
I know it must be so frustrating to have just had it done and it not be quite right but like you say this is so completely fixable. Have you ever looked at alicegraceinteriors on Instagram? When she moved in her living room was a white box and she gave it so much soul just by contrasting F&B lime white with (fake) beams in wimborne white. Or if you do go down the wallpaper route maybe look at F&B Feuille in parma gray? I think that could look so beautiful. I don’t work for F&B by the way – I’ve just been staring at their paint colours for my own house for so long that it feels like I know them off by heart!
amberinteriordesign also beautiful, soft, and warm interiors for inspiration. I am pretty sure I learned about this designer from links on EH site.
I just wanted to say – thank you for sharing this! I love love love the living room series from your LA house (seriously, I reread it all the time) and it’s such a treat to see the behind-the-scenes of a new space. It helps, of course, that I’ve thought all your living rooms were lovely at every stage, including this one. I hope the relative post (?) renovation calm will give you the space to play with this room and make a space that you love!
It’s looking beautiful! Thank you for sharing your process. i think plants, art, and maybe a ceiling fixture will add a lot! Also, I like the warmth that the unpainted brick hearth gives. I also love the dining nook in the corner!
Yes, it needs plants!! That will make a huge difference.
Why not make the fireplace a warm center and have it not white
I feel that wallpaper will fix %90 of your woes. And it’s called ‘Acre.’ How much more farmhouse can you get?
Oh man, this is hard! I just got done building a new home, and the decision fatigue is miiiiing-boggling!
You can trust yourself, Emily, and making a place home takes time. I have full confidence in you :)!! That said, I think you should leave the brick on the floor of the fireplace! It’s a nice change-up (at least in photos. maybe it’s too disjointed in-person? quirky?)! Also, I love the textured wallpaper option! Those are the two bits I’ll chime in on 😉 I look forward to every new iteration, agony AND victory!
I am a fan of doing the least invasive thing first, and that is to install wallpaper, but I dont love the Ashley Stark paper. What if you did the Sandberg paper from the entry in the gray (which isnt really gray, but kind of taupey greige) or white colorway? Both are subtle and warm, invoke nature, but have whimsy. Then pull a tone from the paper, paint the fireplace in that tone, and clad the mantle in wood. It will be gorgeous!
I just finished building a new house and I felt all your feelings, but in the end I am sure you will find your way and come to a solution everyone is happy with. All the advice I would give you is that I think there shoud be a difference between the cladding and the drywall . I think maybe something subtle like a light gray would look really nice. I would even consider painting the cladding between the beams on the ceiling. Just to add more depth to the space. I will enjoy watching this beautiful space evolve. You are very brave leaving this post open for comments. In the end I hope you do what ever feels right to you. You have done a great job so far!!!!!! Enjoy your new home!!!!
Yes I was thinking she could paint or wallpaper the cladding or even the whole ceiling a light mustard yellow and it would enhance the Craftstman vibes and warm things up immensely. . I feel like House and Garden UK has great ideas for this https://www.houseandgarden.co.uk/gallery/design-ideas-for-ceilings
what a stunning room: the light! the painted horizontal paneling! the floors! the wood windows and doors! i vote you paint the dry wall a warm color, lean into some beautiful, warm, non-scandi curtains, and add a warm, wood mantle. it just looks unfinished (which it is)–blue loves a warm-toned glow up. your eye will find it, maybe your eyes need a little rest from all the choices you’ve been making. best of luck. it will be beautiful!
Yes! And books and plants – along with curtains, will warm the room up 100%.
I think you’ll get there! It needs a glow up that you know how to do so well! What about a lime wash on the walls, warm up the fireplace and make it more of a focal point. Definitely add curtains, a warm chandelier, finish the nook and then decide if you also need wood clad beams. As far as furniture and art instead of having such a starting point in mind (farmhouse, boho, mcm) why not pull from your eclectic heart! You always do that so well!
All the comments about Brian. Just stop, not appropriate. The room doesn’t photograph well. For what I’m sure is a really beautiful space. In photos, the walls blend into the casing and paneling. Are you designing for your viewers or your own enjoyment? Painting the drywall would help with the contrast. Please no to that wallpaper. It Is grey and drab and safe. Start with a warm but light paint color and eventually find the perfect light colored and patterned wallpaper. Fireplace: that white is going to be smoke stained the first time you use it. You notice this in photographs. But are you designing for your viewers or your own enjoyment? In person, smoke staining doesn’t look that bad. But painting the fireplace or stripping back to brick would add more contrast. YES to the wood mantle. No to paining the hearth. It kinda blends into the floor now in a good way. The Rug: it’s a cold color kind of modern and covering up too much of the warm beautiful floor. I’m not sure from the post if it’s just a placeholder. Consider something smaller, warmer, more traditional. I think part of the overall feeling of discontent comes… Read more »
You have to give yourself time to actually live in the house. It’s a beautiful canvas you have created, now you just have to listen to the house itself – it will tell you what it needs/wants.
The stairs are incredible! I say use that to give you confidence to paint the paneling/window casings! If you don’t change it now, you’ll hate everything else you do (art/sofas etc ) going forward. I say use that same color from the stairs for the paneling/window casings. And I vote for a wood mantel too.
I was actually wondering if the stairs are boxing out finding the right solution here? I was wondering if the room would look more finished and prettier if the wood flooring had been carried up the stairs?
The room does seem stark but when would that extra super white not seem that way? Your “error” is a great lesson for all of us about over correcting but isn’t learning from the pros like you why we come here? I have every confidence you will fix the situation to your satisfaction and ours and we will learn along the way. How boring it would be for us if you didn’t need to make a course correction every now and then, like leaving LA for example. By the way, that wallpaper is gorgeous!! Please use it somewhere somehow.
I agree that an infusion of warmth and whimsy could really bring this room to life. Please don’t paint the fireplace hearth – I love the bricks! My vote would be for a warmer colour on the walls (something with a little more presence than the wallpaper sample you’re considering), some ceiling-to-floor drapes with colour or pattern, an actual colour on the fireplace, and some more whimsical/unique/antique furniture pieces. Right now it looks like a modern art gallery, but a room this large and bright can absorb a LOT of layers of colour and pattern, which is the most inviting thing in the world on all those grey fall days!
Agree with the fireplace hearth bricks!! They’re adding the exact contract and warmth that you’re trying to achieve in this room
I think adding some contrast to the walls/trim/fireplace – in any sort of way – will make the room feel warmer. I’d be inclined to put up a tone on tone neutral, patterned wallpaper (Rejuvenation carries some of the William Morris ones if you want to keep that relationship going) and paint the trim the darker color from whatever paper you choose (e.g., taupe, beige), but any of the things will help.
Another thing that stands out to me is that everything in here right now feels very “new.” Obviously the room was gut renovated, but the other rooms have more elements that add character – classic tile, vintage furniture, etc. I think you need to lean a bit more into the architecture of the house to create the same balance. Make the paneling and/or fireplace a feature, so that the modern furnishings contrast.
That’s where my mind went as well – low contrast Morris wallpaper – would fit the style of the house and add a lot of character. Don’t love the wallpaper linked in the post – reminds me of staying at a middle of nowhere Marriott…
Yes, a beautiful antique pattern would lend so much warmth and interest. More grey or blue is the last thing this room needs.
I’d be interested to see some of the subtle modern versions of William Morris wallpaper considered because there’s actually not a lot of wall space in the room and it would bring a sense of balance and highlight the architecture — possibly without painting it or in combination with a different color on the paneling and casings. The Morris & Co Pure line, has some beautiful less-busy-low-contrast designs like the Pure Willow Bough in several beautiful color ways: https://www.perigold.com/decor/pdp/morris-co-pure-willow-bough-3297-l-x-2047-w-wallpaper-roll-mrxc1061.html?piid=50889477 and Pure Acorn: https://www.perigold.com/decor/pdp/morris-co-pure-acorn-3297-l-x-2047-w-wallpaper-roll-mrxc1012.html?piid=50889286 and Pure Fruit: https://www.perigold.com/decor/pdp/morris-co-pure-fruit-3297-l-x-2701-w-wallpaper-roll-mrxc1015.html?piid=50889298
Love the Morris Pure Acorn or Pure Fruit. They would be beautiful in that room!
I’m desperate for the ceiling to be a different color. I think that’s your focal point. Not as dark as the original, but not stark white.
YES I think if you painted/stained the beams in the ceiling it would echo the warmth of the floor so well!!!
Call me crazy but I like the pared back simplicity of the all-white. To me, it adds a modern, fresh balance that contrasts well with the more traditional elements of the house. It feels bolder and less expected than leaning in too hard to a more woody/homey vibe. But that’s me, I love for the slightly edgy, unexpected contrast.
Also, want to add one more adjective! The contrast of the white background feels much more sophisticated to me than going all one-note with everything. And it’s just subtle enough to feel intentional, imho.
It’s such a beautiful room as-is. The natural light is enviable. You’ve done such a wonderful job renovating the house!
It sounds like your goal is to bring in some warmth and coziness. Trying to accomplish that with paint and wallpaper might create unintended design problems.
Since the beams intersect the header that runs all the way around the room, painting or wallpapering the drywall might have the effect of visually lowering the ceiling. In the pictures of the original room, you can see how the contrast between the wall and header appears to make the ceiling seem lower. With the now white beams and ceiling, you won’t have the heaviness of the original ceiling, but you will have a strong horizontal line creating an optical illusion of a lower ceiling.
I endorse all the suggestions to take some time and let the room evolve organically. As you bring in the new sofa, soft goods, plants, and baskets, the room will take on a life of its own. I can’t wait to see the evolution!
Look, you know WAY more than I do about design, so I’ll leave you to figure out a solution that works best for your family. But I just had to chime in and say that this sentence is why I come back to your blog time after time. The honesty and candor you put into your posts help us real folk out here stumbling through our own renovations: “The real value I can add to the world is documenting my design process, and often making mistakes so you A. don’t feel alone when you do and B. can avoid the same mistake or learn through my problem-solving.”
Thanks, Emily! It’s actually kind of reassuring to know you even feel like you make mistakes. My family just bought a home in Colorado about 18 months ago, and i wonder if it’ll ever all come together! I love that you also use local sources (we moved to CO from Portland) like Rejuvenation, Schoolhouse, etc..! Can I ask you how you like those Rejuvenation swivels and chairs more broadly?