Quarantine log, Day 5: If “social distancing” has proven anything to me, it’s that I am a true introvert. And now that all of California is officially supposed to stay indoors as much as possible, I have the perfect excuse to stay right here, on this velvet couch, surrounded by vintage oil paintings, binging the new season of Outlander.
Where is “here” you might ask? Oh, nowhere. Just my INCREDIBLY COZY, LIBRARY INSPIRED, DARK & MOODY TV ROOM. It’s only the room I’ve been dreaming of my entire life. Where I can lounge, dappled in the gentle afternoon sun, reading weathered copies of Jane Austen novels until I doze off. Now if only I could find a way to make velvet sofa lounging my full time job (Emily, we can discuss my proposal in detail later).
On a more heartfelt note, Mac and I are feeling VERY lucky that we have a safe place to live during this situation. The fact that it’s also incredibly beautiful is a true gift, and one that we don’t take lightly. Thank you to everyone who came and read yesterday’s post about our living and dining room, and for all the extraordinarily sweet things your wrote in the comments. Today we’ve got one more room reveal to share with you all, plus I’m going give you a few tips on how you to can achieve optimal small space coziness. In case you have some downtime in the next few weeks and want to create your own cozy corner. So let’s get started . . . .
Determine What The Space Is Going To Be Used For
Maybe you have a tiny room you’re already using as a guest bedroom, an office, dedicated cat bedroom, or even a nursery (do you put children into the smallest room of the house? I don’t have one yet, so who knows!). Do you want to make it cozier? Yes? Great, you’re done with this step, skip to the next tip.
But maybe, like me, you’ve just bought a house with a strange small room that you’re sure has a dark, secret past, and you don’t know what to do with it. First, make sure all resident spirits inhabiting the room are amicable, then think of creative ways to use that space. Mac and I realized early on that our home (built in 1921), didn’t really have a dedicated space for a TV in the living room, because apparently TVs didn’t exist in 1921. And while Mac was ready to sacrifice form for function and put a TV over our fireplace, I was ready to burn our TV if it meant ruining the beautiful layout of our living room.
Instead, I suggested we turn the small, awkwardly shaped room at the back of the house into a dedicated TV room. We also decided on some minor, but impactful floor plan alterations that would make the layout of the house work better for us. Originally the master bedroom entrance was through the kitchen, and the room this post is about was a private space with a door. We decided to make it a pass-through space, removing the door between it and the dining room, sealing off the master entrance from the kitchen, and instead putting the door to the master bedroom IN this room. Here’s a visual to help you understand, because words are confusing:
This does mean that we legally eliminated the “third” bedroom from the house, for real estate purposes at least. But the flow of the house works SO much better now. If I could go back in time, the one change I would make would be to put a pocket door between the dining room and the TV room, just so we’d have the option of a door. But things aren’t perfect, and you move on. ANYWAYS, all of that is extremely specific to my house, so let’s get back to those tips.
Don’t Be Afraid To Go Dark (And Monochromatic)
I think the first thing anyone would notice about this room is that we painted it dark. And I mean, daaaaark. One of the best posts I think we’ve ever written was a design mistake titled “Painting A Small, Dark Room White.” This post has STUCK with me for some reason, and I think it’s what really convinced me that this small room needed to be something other than white.
The second thing someone might notice is that while the walls are dark, so is almost everything else. The trim, the roman shades, the sofa, the built-in bookcase. Not only did we go dark, we went monochrome. I’d seen some version of this in a few historical homes, and felt entirely inspired. It felt both bold, edgy, and modern while also feeling timeless. You’re most likely to see it done in light colored rooms, but going that route in a dark room feels like more of a statement. Well, I was ready to make a statement.
Because I wanted to go for a monochrome lewk, and because paint colors come in so many different shades and tones but furniture and fabric options aren’t as abundant, I decided to source the sofa first and choose the paint second, using the color of the sofa as a guide. I started (and ended) my sofa search at Article, and went with my old standby – the Sven sofa, this time in Pacific Blue velvet. What. A. Dream.
I also ordered a swatch of the sofa fabric so I could easily hold it up against paint samples when searching for the right color. After much swatching, I found the absolute perfect color, which turned out to be Rookwood Shutter Green by Sherwin Williams. What I love about this color is that it has a touch of blue to it, so it really plays well with the sofa, but doesn’t feel like a blue (which I really wanted to avoid). It has so much depth to it, while still being a rich, dark green and doesn’t feel cold in the slightest. Quick technical note, we used Sherwin William’s Super Paint in here and the coverage was pretty fantastic. We went with eggshell on the walls and semi-gloss for all the trim (extra technical note, only because I just learned this as we were painting our house: A flat or eggshell paint is most traditionally used on walls and ceilings, but you should use a semi-gloss on things like trim, baseboards, and shelves so that you can more easily clean them).
What makes a dark, monochrome look work in a small room? The darkness of the paint feels intentional, like a comforting sleep mask rather than a pitch black pit. We’ve got three windows in the room that all get southern light, so when the shades are up parts of the room are bathed in stunning light, while others are thrown into even deeper shadows. It’s dramatic, but still totally cozy. And using the same dark paint on the ceiling as we did on the walls actually made the room feel BIGGER, because the ceiling almost just disappears.
If You Go Dark, Bring In Moments Of Light
I’m not talking about suddenly bringing in a white sherpa rug – unless you’re into big moments of contrast. For this room I really wanted a subtle, cozy vibe. Gentle transitions for the eyes as they move around the space, while still introducing enough pops of “lightness” to keep the dark monochrome aesthetic from going full goth (which, again, isn’t bad if that’s your wheelhouse).
I’d been hoarding this vintage rug from Neon Doves for about a year. Since we’d bought the house really, and didn’t know where it was going to go. I just knew it was “me” and I would find a place for it. It’s like this room was specifically created for this rug because it’s the perfect size, it’s got the perfect hits of blue-green to tie it in with the sofa and wall, and the style is just right for a historic library theme. It’s not a bright or ultra light colored rug, but the neutral tones are lighter than anything else in the room, so it doesn’t end up feeling like a hole in the floor.
Actual lights also bring moments of light to a room (what a concept). Besides the canned lighting we installed in the ceiling, I also choose three other key sources of lighting, and had them all share one common element – brass. Both the ceiling and table lamp are from Schoolhouse Electric, and between the opaque glass shade and their brass bodies, they’re the tiny pops of happy golden color that add some life into the room. The wall sconces are perfect for creating a warm glow in the room, and were essential for keeping the room from feeling like a never-ending hallway at night. When it starts getting dark we just flip those on (light switch cleverly hidden in the bookshelves), and suddenly the back of the house is a warm cozy den, rather than a gapping, black nothing.
Bring In The Warmth
I’ve gone on and on about painting your room dark, but what if that’s just not for you? I’m offended (get on this train with me), but fine. No matter what color you paint your small room, the rest of these tips are gonna help you make it ultra cozy. One of the biggest ways you can bring warmth and coziness in is through textiles. The velvet sofa, the rug, the leather pouf – all of these really evoke those “curl up with a good book” feelings. But the window treatments (from Decorview) are a heavy woven linen, which add another touch of rich textile. Their thickness and the heavy weave of the linen feel like a call back to rugs being hung over the stone walls in castles to help keep rooms warm. These also happen to be double-lined (blackout – aka perfect for daytime movie watching), so they feel extra warm.
Oh look, it’s our mid-post intermission – A video tour of the exact room you’re reading about (…would we call that an intermission?):
LET ME TELL YOU, being on camera is very hard and awkward. Emily always makes it look so easy, but as soon as I’m in front of the camera instead of behind it my mouth makes weird noises, I do odd things with my hands, and I never know whether to look at the camera or at Emily. Oh no, I’m having filming flashbacks. QUICK, let’s get back to the post.
Don’t Overcrowd A Small Space
When it comes to small spaces, they can get crowded fast. To keep them cozy you don’t want them too empty, but like, they’re also small so don’t try and shove a whole ton of stuff in there to try and inject coziness by way of claustrophobia.
Think about what you really need in the room to function, and then get rid of ONE thing (it’s just like fashion). What’s the weakest link in your furniture? Do you really need it? Get it out of there, and feel how much bigger the room suddenly gets. Since this is a TV room, which is basically a miniature living room, we started with all the normal dressing: Sofa, side table, coffee table, rug, lamp, etc. Then thought long and hard about the layout of the space and what had to go. The thing we got rid of was the coffee table. The space between the couch and the TV is already narrow, and adding a coffee table would essentially block our walking path.
So instead we have a side table tucked into the corner, a leather pouf for putting up feet, and since the shoot we’ve moved a tiny floating table into the room which we keep near the other corner of the couch (by the back door) that we can easily move around, and use to hold our dinner plates or snacks when needed. Though, we’ve been very good about eating dinner at the dinner table recently, and have been playing board games instead of watching TV. Am I bragging or not? It’s up for interpretation.
It’s All In The Styling
At the end of the day, a room isn’t fully dressed without accessories. These are the little things that can take the tone of a room from “box with furniture” to “cozy library.” The accessories you bring in can really help you communicate the overall desired effect you want the room to have. For example, if you want a room to feel minimal and modern you could use art with minimal colors and sleek frames. Or if you want a room to feel like you’ve spent a small fortune on lint rollers and you regularly clean up vomit from all the things you love, you could add a cat.
I did not want this room to feel minimal or modern (or vomit-y for that matter). I wanted it to feel old, worn-in, and full of soul. So I finally got to use (almost) the full extent of my vintage oil painting collection. All of these pieces are personal – one of them Mac and I bought together at a flea market, one I bought right out from under Emily’s nose, another I found at a vintage store in Berlin. Mac says I have a problem, but I always tell him to look inwards (at his own DVD collection) before throwing around serious accusations like that.
Instead of letting the TV dominate an entire wall, we added a little floating shelf below it as a way to bring in a few more personal accessories. Like more oil paintings (and a few photos).
But now I’d like to interrupt our current post for a sidebar about my favorite part of this room, and possibly the entire house. My custom built-in bookcase. It’s one of the very first ideas I had when we moved into the house, and so it’s wild to see it in reality. It started as a very rough sketch by me. I then relied on Velinda to translated it into an actual design that I could pass along to a contractor (hit me up in my DM on Instagram if you need a good contractor in the LA area, his name is Ron and he’s a really great guy).
A quick note from Velinda that more accurately describes how this went down – “Sara showed me her awkward corner, her rough sketch, and said ‘so you can just . . . design something to stretch from one wall to the other that makes the shape of the room feel more balanced and purposeful. Something with decent storage that will feel like it belongs with the rest of the house and hides this weird corner.’ Oh, okay Sara. Easy. I’ll just do that.”
It used to be an awkward, deep corner (formerly disguised as a closet). And now it’s a beautiful bookcase up top, and a functional storage cupboard down below (which still utilizes the depth of the aforementioned awkward corner). I whisper “I love you” to it every night as I walk by it on my way to bed.
Back to styling. Because I wanted this room to feel like a library, it’s only right that the bookcase be filled with a vintage mirror, cement bust, and more oil paintings. UGH FINE, we’re basic, we put books on the bookshelves. But we also put a vintage mirror (to bounce around a bit of light in the shelves), a cement bust, and more oil paintings (because it’s a LIFESTYLE). And a few little hits of life from greenery is always going to look good in any design. I particularly love the iron urn up top with the real limb-y plant that I found at my local nursery. It, in particular, makes me very happy.
My final and most important tip when it comes to styling is to keep it personal. If you want a room to feel lived in, cozy, and inviting then it needs to feel like a human actually spends time in it. Don’t be afraid to fill bookshelves with well-worn books, frame all sorts of family photos, and show off your tchotchkes. Get weird.
Ok, that’s it. Those are all the tips I have. I AM EMPTY OF INFORMATION. But I know you want to see some satisfying “before & afters”:
That was my last reveal for a bit. Next up, we’re working on the master bedroom and closet (I have plans, and yes, they include floor to ceiling wallpaper). And with all this time at home, maybe I can get Mac to design the office/guest room . . . .
Big shoutouts to Emily Henderson – the momentum behind these beautiful projects, Velinda Hellen – Our designer, ever-present advice giver, and dear friend (who also happens to be taking on e-design clients right now, for human-contact-free design work. If you tried to contact her through her website yesterday, there was a glitch! It’s fixed now, so please try again :)), my family – who literally rebuilt this house for us, all then vendors we’ve worked with – you helped us turn this house into a home, the EHD team – YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST, and lastly to all of YOU. Thank you for following along thus far, and hopefully continuing to follow along as we keep working on our home. Giving you all internet hugs xx
1. Window Treatment | 2. Rockwood Shutter Green by Sherwin Williams | 3. Ceiling Fixture | 4. Throw Blanket | 5. Plaid Pillow | 6. Silk Painted Pillow | 7. Brass Sconce | 8. Stone Book End | 9. Rock Vase | 10. Cement Bust Planter | 11. Polaroid Frames | 12. Under TV Shelf | 13. Back Door Hardware |14. Brass Table Lamp | 15. Leather Pouf |16. Sofa | 17. Rug (Vintage)
Catch up on all of Sara’s Makeover Takeover: Sara Buys A House Part I: Six Tips For First Time Home Buyers | The Designing Begins: A Floor Plan Design Agony | The Designing Continues: Time To Pick Furniture | The Final Design Plan | A Fireplace Design Agony | Sara’s Moody TV Room Plan | How Much It Really Costs To Work With A Designer: The Final Tally Of Sara’s Project | Sara’s Living Room & Dining Room Reveal
Design by Velinda Hellen for EHD
Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp