I've tried to show each step of the renovation as it happened--I'm not sure why, it just seemed like the logical thing to do. Well, that's a bit easier said than done, since we were in the process of some of the steps for a REALLY (homeowners slacking) long time. Some of them took over a year--not because they were particularly hard or expensive, but because we were doing it ourselves and don't have a lot of free time. Anyhoo, we decided to have a contractor fix trim and drywall issues in the three spare bedrooms, which deserves its own post, but in the meantime, I got impatient and starting messing about with the living and dining rooms myself. They were blissfully free of true decor tragedy and had refinished floors so all they both really needed was paint. I'm showing the following before photos not to demonstrate that the prior owners were slobs (they were in the process of packing to move--we've all been there, so they get a pass for the mess), this is merely to give you an idea of how things looked before I tackled the walls, etc.
As you can see, in the living room we have what is really neat crown molding with a lot of intricate detail. I like it. Actually, I really like it, but what I don't like is the fact that the installer (two owners ago), used knotty wood. I would prefer to paint it white, but have you ever tried to paint knotty wood? If someone has devised a way to do this and NOT have the knots show through the white paint, I'm all ears. Until then, we'll be living with the more rustic than I would like look. What needed to leave were the window treatments (they were raw pieces of fabric held together with scotch tape--really) and the sponge and plastic bag paint treatment. Now, I know that there are people in the world who think these sort of paint treatments are the cat's meow. I'm not one of them. We'll just leave it at that. This fireplace is also a constant source of contention between LAM and myself. I love it. He hates it. I'll admit that in this picture it looks pretty bad, but it's solid stone (and the stone goes right through the house into the chimney, front of the house bottom half of the exterior. I love it. The grate is a wrought iron piece that LAM thinks looks "medieval", but I think it's just plain nifty. You be the judge. Anyway, the top of the mantle isn't great, but could be with some trim. Easy-peasy. Ok, so here's a shot of the other side:
About that furniture placement...um, ok, well, let me preface this by saying that this room is BIG. Like, much bigger than it needs to be and this poses something of a decorating challenge that requires some (although not much) thinking outside the box. Also, by nature of being a formal living room--who actually uses those anymore, we kept thinking that the space would be better served for something else. My vote was for a big air hockey table, while LAM voted for a big beautiful black glossy grand piano. I'll admit that my idea was just silly (although I do love to play) and LAM's idea, while very cool is a little impractical since neither of us play the piano--it would be a giant, very expensive decoration. We lived with the room as it was it for a while with some furniture from our old house and it came to be known as "Zoe's room" since her favorite pastime is sitting on the couch watching out the two big windows on either side of the fireplace. LAM answered the big question of what to really use this room for by buying me a glass drafting table for Christmas last year. We didn't really have anywhere logical to set it up, so the living room became my studio--sort of. I have to say, it was the perfect solution. I love the light that comes in the windows and while it's maybe not the most "normal" use of the space, I have come to really enjoy being in the room working on projects. Also, it's a great place to escape when LAM is watching old NCIS re-runs for the bazillionth time.
Here's how it came together with some fresh paint, window treatments, etc.:
As you can see, Zoe still thinks of this as "her" room and refused to budge for the photo. S'ok.
This coffee table/storage bench is the best and was an absolute triumph. I found this on Overstock.com, which if you haven't figured out yet, is the best home decor secret out there. This exact same piece (not one that looks like it) was recently shown in Restoration Hardware's "Small Spaces" catalog--for more than double the price. The baskets and lanterns are all from Target's Smith and Hawken line. I'm still in mourning over the loss of the real Smith and Hawken, so I console myself with the Target stuff. The baskets are great and super affordable.
This chair is a perfect example of how tastes change over time. We bought this about ten years ago to furnish our house together when I was still into the whole Waverly/Laura Ashley look. I still like the gingham back, but the floral is, um, not my taste. Since no one ever sits in it, it's pristine and I can't justify getting rid of it. Sometimes I like it and other times it drives me crazy. Weird.
I really like this piece and it's a great place to stash photo albums and cd's. The bunny on top of the book stack was another Philadlephia Flower Show find. Morihata is the home of the Yoshi towel, which are my very favorite kitchen dish towels. I know, a really odd thing to pick up at a flower show, but they had a booth. They are like the ones that Serena and Lily carries, but these are made in Japan. They are the bees knees for drying wine glasses--super soft and water wicking--plus, they look cool. What does this have to do with wooden jointed rabbits, you ask? Not a thing--they just happened to have this little guy in their booth and I fell in love with him. I kind of have a thing for rabbits. If you are paying attention and looking around my house, you will find them sprinkled around. One rule: they cannot be even remotely cutesy. This guy sits on a stack of books like he owns the place. I think he's awesome.
This brings me to the dining room, which suffered from the same affliction as the living room--bad paint, knotty trim, bad window treatments and a really, well...wrong chandelier. Again, the mess was moving related and so...
Oh, wait, I forgot about the border. Hang onto your hat, 'cause here comes the other side...
I know, the picture is awful (like that's the worst thing going on here). LAM took it with a crummy camera.
And this is the end result:
Eventually, this room will be re-worked but for now it functions well. I usually change the styling in the built-in and on the window (notice the flying bunny weather vane) with the seasons. Right now it's sort of in limbo and the emphasis is on other rooms. The chandelier was an inexpensive hey, this will work replacement, which will be replaced again, just as soon as I decide what to do. Right now, I'm leaning towards a lantern type dining light. I like this one from Cape Cod Lantern Co.:
I'm not sure about the finish. I like the brass, but not sure it works so well in the space with all the warm colored wood. I'd also like to do a slip-covered chair on each end just to break up all of the BROWN going on in the room ala Restoration Hardware:
I think one on each end at the heads of the table is just the thing and then we have two chairs left over for extra seating. Unfortunately, LAM hates the idea, so I'll have to change my tactics--maybe play subliminal messages while he's asleep. Also considering the following Overstock rug as a replacement for the heavy red one:
I have this in my little dressing area and absolutely LOVE it. It can be found here at FABULOUS prices in every size, but one caveat--it really looks nothing like this in person. The background is really beige as opposed to gold or yellow tones. Whenever buying rugs on Overstock, always read the reviews because their photos are NOT color accurate!