Monday, October 22, 2012

Design Dilemma - Living Room

Ah, learning to settle into a new place.  It involves things like spending 40 minutes to find a pair of boots you could have sworn were in THAT box.  Or my talent for still turning around and crashing into walls that I am not used to being broad daylight nonetheless. 

It also brings forth new creative juices as you eye-up a new room and swim with ideas on how to arrange the furniture, colors, decorations, and so on.  The one that has me staring at it in deep thought the most has been our living room.  I suppose the fact that we don't have a lick of furniture in it (save a coffee table, bookcase, and two lawn chairs) leads me to trying to form a plan for this room more than any of our other rooms.  Not to mention if we want to have friends/family over, it'd be nice to have a place to hang out with them.  I'm glad and excited by our present lack of furniture, as it allows me the unhindered benefit of starting the room with a clean slate. 

If you remember [this post] from a few days ago, this is how our living room looked after making some unpacking progress:

p.s. - those boxes are gone now!
We've made strides clearing out all remaining clutter since these pix, but we still have a design dilemma of how we want to fill this empty space (we're ready for the hollow acoustics when we speak in this room to be gone).

Why is it a dilemma?  Well, let me be clear.  For the first time ever, we're faced with having to buy furniture (our 1st place/apartment was mostly furnished).  Seriously, as far as furniture goes, we've only bought our mattress in the five years we've been married- no headboard for it yet either, lol. Our coffee table was something Karl was given when he lived his bachelor life in his own apartment, and the bookcases were given to us for free, and we took them because, well, who turns down bookcases?  :-P 

So, we now have to do decide on what style furniture we'll be living with (yay, finally!).  Karl and I are lucky in that we share a lot of the same taste for design.  We both like earthy colors and natural materials, historical/world travel/antique decorative pieces, and a dash of steampunk/industrial when we can sneak it in.  We also tend to mix modern and traditional.

However, we do have different tastes when it comes to furniture.  For myself, I dislike bulky, ornate, or plush furniture like this or this.  I'm drawn towards clean lines that don't hinder your sight lines, and an airy/open and bright feel to rooms.  An example that makes me happy:

(image courtesy of Pottery Barn)  I'm oogling that airplane plank art and the bright yet cozy feeling this room gives off.  If the legs on the coffee table would not have that curve to them, then this room would be perfect.
Karl likes dark colors, dark stained wood pieces, and ornate victorian plush furniture.  An example that makes Karl happy:

We definitely are opposites when it comes to how ornate the furniture is.  But I believe I've found some good pieces that combines our two tastes and gets both of our approval (sheesh, feel like this is a room design tv show yet?).

Ready for the plan?

First, let's revisit our old living room:

Done shuddering?  Good.  Now here's our pre-move-in living room:

To envision our living room, I first needed to figure out what would fit into the room.  After several versions, I created this layout seen below that I feel will work beautifully for the living room (13ft across the fireplace wall, 16ft across the back wall opposite the windows): 

(Above: living room. Dining room is in the back - that design will come a bit later)

Now that we knew what pieces we needed to find to fit the room, I set to scavenging online to find furniture that combined our tastes and that we both approved of.  After a lot of hunting around and getting Karl to constantly come over to my desk as I worked on this for his approval, here's a mood board to show what we've come up with! (drum roll please!):

1.  Leather armchair (by the fireplace): I like leather furniture, but in moderation, thus compromising on a chair versus a leather couch.  The tufted chair was something that appealed to us both, and Karl was salivating over this piece, so I knew it was a green light to keep going.  ;)  We also added the leather footrest so one can stretch out and relax in front of the fire. 
  Sofa: The main seating area is a light cream color, similar to what we had before in our former apartment in an effort to have pieces that are a timeless color.  We liked the mix of the tufted back cushion with the modern clean lines.  Same story for the armchair.... 3.  Cream armchair - tufted, clean lines, a little ornate action in the legs, and nail head trim that matches the leather armchair. (we're on a roll!)  4.  Lamp: An antique pewter finish on the lamps for the end-tables to help tie the gray pieces into the room.  5.  Jute Rug: The stripes in this rug were what first caught my eye.  The lack of design/neutral color also guarantees that this rug would not go as quickly "out of fashion"; rugs, like furniture, are expensive, and we'd like to invest in a piece we can decorate around for years to come.  Lastly we liked the woven earthy feel it lends.  Winning!  6.  Art/Accessories: this is mostly what I came up with to get a general idea of colors for wall art and pillows that we both liked.  (love the ship pillow!).  We're sticking again to earthy colors in dark blues, greens, yellows, and classy gray.  The picture with the wall full of art was also inspirational for what we could do in the entrance-way.  7. Curtains: Neutral but textured curtains.  Not much else to explain... 8. Armless Chair (the green chair in the layout pic) : I really wanted another chair by the fireplace to fill the corner opposite of the leather armchair, and when I stumbled across this baby, I was sold.  When I showed it to Karl, I was happy when he said he really liked it as well.  Stripes can be both masculine and feminine, and we both liked the gray that helps fill the circle of gray hints in the room.  Oh, and stripes are pretty enduring through home decorating trends.  :)

What do y'all think?  (Edit: we revisited and revised the mood board for the living room here)

Also thinking of doing a project for a pallet coffee table (still have to run that idea by Karl, so we'll see how that plays out, heh) :

Image via NatesHobby on Etsy
...and something along these lines for a tv stand - we can go scouting for a great old dresser and give it either a rustic finish like the one below, or a fun color...or paint a white stencil design over it...hmmm:

Image via Pottery Barn - item here
Decent start, right?  It definitely helps us to picture the room and serves as a good guideline when we go out hunting for pieces.  Now we just need to go out there and find and/or make this stuff on a very limited budget, hehe.  This living room will definitely not happen all at once, but will likely evolve over time as we find and bring in pieces from discount retailers, craigslist, and antique and thrift stores.  I'm excited at this new "quest" to find our living room and slowly but surely make this place a home.

[Edit: click here for our "living room mood board 2.0" which throws in more color]

Next up: Dining Room design ideas!  [Edit: Click here to see the first dining room plan, and here for the 2nd version mood board]

[To see our 2014 home tour, click here]

p.s. - We will be buying the couch new, and possibly the armchairs depending on the price.  If you have suggestions for great discount furniture businesses, especially for sofas/armchairs (brick & mortar and online), please share!


  1. I had bookmarked your headboard tute & when I looked at it this am I decided to check out your other posts. I am very impressed with you logical way of deciding how you'll furnish your living room, it's given me some food for thought as I redo our small beach cottage LR. I will probably try to emulate your process as it seems such an intuitive one. So thanks for the headboard tute, it's the easiest one I've seen and for the design ideas, they are very helpful! Hope it's worked out well for you, I'll check back some time to see your progress.

    1. Aw, thanks! Glad you found it helpful. The headboard is super easy once you get into a rhythm. :) G'luck with your beach cottage decorating - sounds fun!
      p.s. - I did a little house tour post at the beginning of the year if you're curious: :)


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