You’ve seen it on the insta-stories and you knew it was coming. I was vocal about how I was never happy with my living room, but some of you needed more convincing that getting rid of the red Persian rug was the right thing to do. So today is the day that I show you the living room, styled out in a way that is closer to what I really want.
When we first shot this room in May of last year (almost a year ago) I really liked it, but as you know I was extremely conflicted about the amount of color and of how busy it felt.
This looks beautiful in the shot, don’t get me wrong, but on a day to day basis it was a jolt of color and pattern that my brain didn’t want. My brain needed less to process, visually. That rug was so kid-friendly and beautiful but I wanted more calm, more neutral tones, less boldness.
Like menopause, we all knew that the change would happen, yet some of you were upset regardless. I made it clear that I wanted more neutrals in my life and I wasn’t going to stop until I made that room more seamless (color-wise) in the house.
So I tested that theory during Halloween, which is when I bought the new rug.
It INSTANTLY changed the vibe of the room and then by turning the books around it felt even more calm, even though there were spider webs and plastic bugs everywhere. Black, white, navy, gray and leather/wood is my jam. It’s what I’m comfortable looking around and being engulfed in, on a day to day basis.
But I didn’t know how to actually make that vibe as interesting as the red rug. This color palette is less adventuresome, less editorial, less pinnable. But it’s what I want. And as I said before, finding a 10′ x 14′ or 12′ x 15′ rug in blues and grays that was kid friendly, soft, but not one million dollars was almost impossible. Retailers need to make more 10’x14′ rugs, full stop.
For Christmas, I tried to do the same calm color palette but some of you thought it was boring. I didn’t. Living in it felt very full and beautiful, but admittedly it wasn’t over the top and some expectations weren’t met and that’s ok. I wasn’t offended at all, I knew that being happy living in it was more important than the reader reaction. When I styled it for the party I added a ton of darker copper and rust tones and it helped add another layer, but we didn’t shoot it again. Besides, I canceled the party because I had an emotional breakdown – MERRY CHRISTMAS! (see more about that breakdown here)
So then I thought, maybe they think it’s boring because it’s styled for Christmas so we’ll shoot it again and see what they think about a more everyday type of styling. Let me be clear – this is my favorite thing to do – tweak a space, shoot it and open it up for discussion. I’m not trying to ‘prove’ anything, it’s literally my favorite thing to do that is also good for traffic. WIN WIN. I had bought that new piece of art and I really wanted it to go a tad more modern, so why wouldn’t I show you?
I was out of town (the perfect time to shoot so your family isn’t disrupted) so Brady and Sara shot the living room. I told them to style and shoot it more for everyday – not a magazine. Don’t overdo it with the styling or props, I said and they listened.
They did a great job and I loved it. But there was so much feedback about the art – that it was jarring, that it took all the attention. And there were a couple comments that stung – that the room wasn’t ‘inspirational’. One of you even dropped the G word (generic) and while I don’t agree it did make me think. Sometimes it’s hard to analyze a space that you live in every day, so I stared at the photos and I said to myself – if you could do anything to this room, what would you do? I decided to make some changes. Maybe you were right. Maybe I was being more of a ‘mom’, and less of a ‘stylist’.
I thought how we lived was great (and I don’t negate that) but I asked myself if it could be better.
I realized it needed even more ‘punching up’ – That’s editorial-speak for – more ‘contrast’, ‘edge’ and perhaps more ‘lifestyle moments’. So we went to a few of our favorite stores in LA (Lawson Fenning and Consort) and borrowed and bought some extra beautiful pieces to style it out.
Juggling being a ‘designer’, ‘mom’ and ‘content creator’ is challenging but extremely rewarding when I actually let all those roles win equally. I’m not saying I did it here (there is always room for improvement), but the drive to merge the three has made me a better designer. It makes me consider the function, comfort and opportunity of the room first (mom), the beautiful furniture and fixtures second (designer), and the ability to tell that story via a photograph third (content creator).
I honestly LOVE IT. We kept all the same furniture but added edge and interest through the accessories and art. I resurrected that amazing painting (from the garage) above the fireplace which all of a sudden tied the room together. Plus it made me feel happy.
I eliminated all the orange, red and pink books so that the shelves were only full of blues, whites, grays, and blacks. If you are a novelist please consider the bookshelf color trend of the season before you publish. I’m joking … but only kinda. Here’s a secret, I never liked the spine of my book because it was too shiny gold – and therefore impossible to photograph. Every now and again I get a friend’s coffee table book and I’m like, ‘oh, girlfriend designed this spine to be photographed in shelfies and she did it right’. It’s along the same lines as designing for ‘likes’. You want to do something with integrity and authenticity, but also something with commercial/social success. HA. GOOD LUCK TO ALL OF US.
That’s all to say that we stored the penguin books and any others that we loved, and then donated any that we would never read again to the rummage sale.
Back to the changes – I decided to add some edge through some lighting. I borrowed that lamp from Lawson Fenning with every intention of not buying it. But man, it looks AMAZING in my living room. It brought something really bold and yet simple to the space. It created an energy that I knew I would miss. I also love that vase from Sheldon Ceramics – fill it full of anemones and call the priest because I’m getting married.
The credenza is from Article and I love it, with the tray being from CB2 (but not longer available).
I’d like to interrupt this program for a lecture about trays.
Dear major retailers – we need more trays like this tray. It is wide without being too deep, thus fitting on multiple surfaces (keep them around 12-16″ to fit on the most). The wide-but-not-too-deep size is crucial to surface flexibility. Also, give the tray some sort of lip or exterior interest like what you see above. A straight up parsons tray does little for visual interest. This bevel makes it look expensive and custom. A beautiful handle takes it out of ‘basic – B’ world. I think this was $60 but it’s strangely valuable to me because of how great it looks in my house on multiple surfaces. Also, we have enough white, wood and gold trays out there and all three of those finishes have less flexibility because I often have white and wood surfaces. Having something with a pattern (marble or herringbone) or black makes it pop off the table (gold doesn’t look good on wood or vice versa, by the way). You want your finishes to contrast, so we need more trays in finishes that can pop off of wood, white or brass surfaces.
We kept the pillows mostly the same but added that darker merlot color (are we supposed to say ‘burgundy’ now? wine?). That pouf was bought just for the shoot and returned – only because our cats would use it for a scratching post. I kept thinking that we need something by the fireplace so we tried a few options, but once I saw this one in person I thought – it’s GREAT, but our cats will destroy it (it’s looped wool).
We moved the graphic painting to this side of the room and I LOVE it. It feels important but doesn’t totally loom over the room like it did when on the mantel.
If I were to redesign that sofa I would make the back a tiny bit lower and change the feet out to be castors (I thought we could switch them later, but they are actually built-in to the frame of the sofa). We still could but we’d have to cut off the legs and retrofit castors. I might do it someday but it’s not a high priority. Brian didn’t want castors because he thought it looked ‘try-hard’ but I regret not having beautiful vintage English style wood castors with brass wheels (you don’t place castors on all four, just the front two).
Man, I love that piece of art up on the fireplace. I tried a few mirrors and a couple other pieces of art but this really tied the room together and brought a jolt of happiness – plus I had it stored in my garage so it was free!
Also, of all my design decisions last year, I’d say the perfect decision was choosing those sconces. They are just so simple and classic.
That mid-century sewing table just keeps on giving. I’m not mad at anything in that shot. I still love that coffee table while wishing it were a foot longer. The kids play on it all the time and the white lacquer finish is super durable.
Over on the piano we put the schoolhouse lamp back but added a more sculptural one. People voted for no ‘double lamp’ on insta-story but it balances it out while not being identical. That lamp looks more like a sculpture (like a permanent flower arrangement because it has that pretty shape).
Don’t worry, we KNOW that we need a piano bench (Charlie started lessons last week!) but just haven’t found one yet, probably because we aren’t looking. ‘Piano bench’ isn’t #1 on our list of to-do’s right now so it might be a while. Our Paul McCobb chair is holding court there right now and it’s just so beautiful. Yes, I’m allowed to drop Paul’s name. He’s PAUL MC-EFFING MCCOB and all I wanted my entire adult life was to own something by a modern genius.
The vase on the gray cabinet is from Lawson Fenning and it’s $1200 so we just borrowed it for the shoot, but man – if I were a billionaire I would buy that beautiful hand-thrown vase – with a strangely dramatic top. It’s worth every single penny, if you have 120,000 extra pennies.
So that’s the update. I’m happy. I love it. Do I think I could love it more? Probably – if I could buy my dream furniture, but my dream sofa is $15k, my dream 12’x15′ rug is $140,000.00 and my dream chairs are $4500 each. I’m going to create a mood board with them all so you can see what I would do if money or kids were not an object, but for now I LOVE THIS ROOM. It’s really pleasing and calming to my eye. It’s family friendly (and our cats have stopped scratching because we bought them something else to scratch on) and it’s extremely inviting and warm. We hang the heck out of here with our kids and our friends.
Look how proud I am here. 🙂
That lady is PROUD.