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It’s possible my eyes are bigger than my checkbook on this one, but… it’s time to wrangle with the living room again!

When we first got married, I had been renting furnished rooms in family homes and as far as furniture went, I didn’t own more than a couple bookcases and a chair.  The Chief had been renting out his spare bedrooms to bachelor-type roommates and the house reflected that. We didn’t have much of our own stuff to work with when we began life together, but over the past 2 1/2 years the living room has coalesced into an inviting place to hang out.

For six weeks I’ve been using this room in conjunction with the needs of a baby and am slowly learning how I’d like to re-organize things to accommodate her. I’ve been changing her on the floor and while this works quite well, I don’t really want a baby changing station in the middle of the main room for the next two years!

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Besides the diapering dilemma, this room has always struggled with Many Little Furnishings Cluttering It Up.  My plan is to move out all the little pieces on the wall shown below and get a nice big long dresser there instead.  Did you know that fewer large pieces of furniture will make a room feel more spacious than several smaller scale pieces of furniture – especially in a small room?

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I envision that one end of the long dresser will be my changing station with the necessaries stowed away in drawers and baskets when not in use, and the other end will be a landing zone for my purse and keys.  I’m currently searching Craigslist for the right piece at the right price and I will most likely be painting it green or blue-green (not 100% sure of the color yet).  Here are a couple pieces that we looked at so far to give you an idea.

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So hopefully instead of looking all cluttery and busy like this:

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That side of the room should end up looking like this:

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Doesn’t that look so much better?  Too many tiny cluttery things over there, what did I tell you?

You might notice the grandfather clock is missing in the “after” photo.  That’s because I see this as an opportunity to work on some of the finishing touches I’ve been meaning to get to for a while.

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After I take care of that list, maybe if I’m really lucky I’ll finally paint the inside of our front door and then find a great deal on a less drab rug (indoor-outdoor, perhaps?) to put under the armchairs.  I’m feeling a bit like Cinderella looking at the list her stepsisters put together before she can go to the ball, but a girl can dream!

Now here’s my personal challenge: I want to do all these things with a budget of $200 (not counting that unlikely rug).  This means I’ll be making my own chalk paint to paint the big dresser, getting a lamp from the thrift store, using clearance sales and scrounging for materials from what we already have in the craft room and the garage!  I’m really looking forward to it.

Have you re-thought any rooms lately?

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The living room is so wonderfully livable.

All the changes I had in mind after my redesign suggestions have been (more or less) carried out, and it feels great.  The room literally feels good to me – you sensory people will know what I mean when I say the energy flows and pools well, the eye is comfortably drawn around the space, and it WORKS.  I mean the room has actually become a place where I, the husband, and the cats all voluntarily hang out. 

These were the original goals, as listed in this post:

  • Get some color in there!  Take the rust red in the drum seats and spread it around, and add another accent color to finish it.  [I ended up adding cobalt and turquoise.] 
  • Move the desk to the right corner of the room so that the landing strip is less crowded and so that small corner can be put to good use.
  • To make the double windows a focus, bring a loveseat into an L with the existing sofa, slipcovering to match.  No need for a coffee table as space is tight: the drum seats can double for that if needed by adding a tray to one. [I used the loveseat and the armchair as they fit the available space better.]
  • The bookcase on the back wall is one of the first things you see, so de-clutter it, and switch out the mirror for a bigger one. [I added a second bookcase to make this focal point more substantial and weighty.]
  • add two more sources of light for greater ambience and an inviting, layered look [still need one more!]. 

The Goods:

On the left are drum seats made by me, ditto the toss pillows.  I spray painted the lamp base cobalt blue and stenciled chevrons onto the rug.  I have made my peace with the black leather couches and am glad that at least they don’t collect cat hair.

The front door is off in this shot – I was painting it, hence the hardware at the base of the curtain.  Our “landing strip” table is a bit small but ok for now.

Here is the slightly unfinished back corner where my laptop lives.  (I do not know why our cream colored walls turn out so acidic in photos.  Maybe when I get a Real Camera – am currently using the Chief’s iPhone – I can do something about that.)

What do you think?  I’m very happy with the progress.  Naturally there are always tweaks as a newly restyled room gets lived in and I already know that the entryway landing strip will get tweaked.  I kind of want to get a big old thrifted buffet table and paint it blue. 

I also will be improving the lobster corner. (bigger rug?  hanging lamp or wall sconce?)

Here is a closeup of the quirky lobster lithograph we got from my parents, who had it from their typesetting business days.  That’s from before computers, kids.

So there you have it – the new living room! 

On my perhaps-someday-wishlist, I would love to upgrade the window treatments to be more substantial, and replace the 5×7 chevron-painted rug with a traditional pattern with more color.  I’m very happy with what we have for now, though.   I’m proud that I was able to make the most of flimsy cotton curtains with some clip rings and glued on ribbon trim, and turned an officey brown poly rug into an interesting chevron one.

I’m glad to get a color scheme established too – red and cobalt blue with turquoise.  It is a great starting point for a cohesive look that jettisons the neutral blahs.  However, I don’t want to get too narrow in my color scheme.  Mixing in bits of other colors is going to be necessary to keep it from looking too matchy and contrived.

Let’s do a last glance, shall we?

BEFORE: awkard and empty, furniture all the wrong proportions and shoved to the walls

AFTER: Cozy and collected.  Hurrah!

The house is looking put together again!  After the total plumbing re-do of a few weeks ago, and the subsequent drywall patches, sanding, and painting, it took a while for our place to become photographable once more.  Let’s get going.

After receiving some professional advice, I was re-inspired to try again with making our living room pleasant and inviting.  As you may recall, the traffic pattern was stumping me and the lack of color was getting me down.  The living room is SO much better now!   It’s time for my favorite kind of post – a Before And After.

The crux of my inspiration was the bookshelf along the back wall.   This is one of the first things you see upon walking through our front door.  Basically I realized I needed something bigger and more substantial, which I accomplished by buying a second shelf of the same design (Ikea, via Craigslist) and doubling them up.  I switched out a large rectangular mirror in place of the small round one, and edited the shelves so they looked more attractive while remaining functional.   I also came up with a creative way to wrangle lots of electrical cords and our internet router.

BEFORE:

early living room

Another early version that didn’t work

DURING:

After painting the back red, I cut a hole in the cardboard backing of the shelf so that the electrical outlet and cable/internet connections could be accessed.  All the wires were then hidden in a banker’s box which I decoupaged with pages from a book no one cared about.

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Shelves completed but empty

 Looking good so far!

AFTER:

The books are a mix of mine and my husband’s.  I am going to grow that ivy into a round topiary, and I made the little aqua bowl in the middle when I did pottery regularly.   The neat champagne bucket is vintage and was a wedding gift. 

Here’s a shot from farther back.  You might notice a few other changes to the living room here :) which I will be explaining in a second post.   As for the bookshelf wall, it’s practically done.   We just need to hang and frame the large mirror, and I have to figure out how to get the little brass lamp’s shade to sit higher, which will probably involve a coat hanger in some way!

COSTS:

– second bookshelf: Craigslist, $15

– paint for back: already owned

– styling items, books, lamp, etc: already owned

– plant:  blue pot, Ross $6; ivy, already owned

– mirror: free, inherited.  Mirror hangers, $4. 

– moulding for mirror frame, TBD but hopefully around $10

TOTAL COST: About $35