When we first toured our home, we were sold by the living room. This room has great natural light with windows on each side, a central fireplace, original plasterwork, and vaulted, beamed ceilings. It felt like a space perfect for filling with friends or for spending an afternoon reading alone, and oddly, we both immediately pictured how festive it would look decorated for Christmas with the tall ceilings that could accommodate an oversized tree. We were moving from a one-room downtown loft with ceilings that were nearly 20 feet, which was a design feature we were going to miss most. Seeing this space felt like keeping a piece of that apartment we were in some ways sad to leave.
When we moved in, we gave it a fresh coat of white paint to set off the woodwork and moved the majority of our apartment furniture into this single room. The room felt light and airy, but the contents of the room never accentuated its full potential. BUT living room design can get very expensive. After buying the home and jumping into renovations, we didn’t have the budget to devote to the living room. We lived with it and had many happy memories in the space, but when were able, we dove headfirst into creating a design plan that better highlighted the room we fell in love with.
We began with rethinking the floorplan. Sometimes, when you see a room day in and day out, it’s hard to see past the current contents. So, we emptied it out and started moving things around to get ideas flowing. We had a few goals. We wanted to accommodate large numbers of family and friends and to have flexible seating arrangements. We wanted it to be comfortable. We wanted it to evoke elements of a home library and to showcase our books, and we wanted it to be cheerful and calm.
Rooms can take a lot of furniture, and one thing that became immediately clear was that we weren’t maximizing the space available. On top of that, the space we were using was largely skewed to one side. While this room isn’t small, it’s not large enough to not have at least some of the furniture directly against the walls, and with a sofa against one wall, it really threw the balance to that side. We wanted a more evenly distributed layout and to add more interest to the center of the room. The first way we sought to achieve this was through a new (much larger) rug. We had a sisal rug made to cover the majority of the floorspace and centered it in the room. It felt ridiculously large when it came in, but as we’ve layered in the furniture, we haven’t regretted for a second going with the large size. It’s the anchor of the whole room.
The second way we brought balance to the other side of the room was by adding more furniture. We added an upholstered stool, a bookcase, an armchair and ottoman, a side table, a larger coffee table, and a rattan chair along with lighting and other accents. This not only created balance, but it made the room feel much more layered and created a more functional space that could seat four additional people and store more books, which is never a bad thing. We were lucky to have my dad to build the coffee table and bookcase, and having control over the scale of the pieces made such a difference in the layout.
Once we worked through the layout, the focus moved to details of the design scheme. We deliberated over countless textiles that we’d saved and admired over the years, but the consistent winner was the Raoul Secret Garden fabric, which really became the center of the scheme. It has a floral design, which helped achieve the goal of bringing the garden in, and it particularly illustrates so much of the southern garden elements like magnolia that are staples in our Tennessee landscape. We shuffled art around and layered in a mix of greens, blues, pinks, and yellows, while working to maintain a sense of calm.
For a time, we debated painting the room a soft green or blue, but when push came to shove, we really do love the white and how bright it makes the space and how it works with the woodwork. However, the white we originally chose (distant gray), had a lot of gray undertones that never really felt right. If there was a time to update the white, it felt like this was it. We chose Benjamin Moore’s capitol white and bit the bullet, renting scaffolding and repainting it over a weekend. Was it fun? No. Did if feel ridiculous to repaint a room this size a different version of the same color? Yes. Did it make difference? More than you might expect. Ultimately, we’re glad we did it and don’t plan to repaint anytime soon.
Another major update was the addition of curtains. With the windows being so prevalent in the room, we wanted the curtains to blend into the background and to add softness without blocking any of the natural light. We chose a lightweight wool in a soft yellow from Rose Uniacke, who has such a great selection of neutral wools. I sewed these curtains much to Adam’s skepticism and with many calls to my grandmother, who has sewn many things our family over the years including the pillows in this room. Let’s just say I have a newfound appreciation for her work and her skill. Though the room was yet to be finished, our goal was to have these hung by Christmas, which we met without a moment to spare.
Now that things are moving closer to normal, whatever that may be, we are excited so share this space with friends and family. We love observing spaces as they evolve through the seasons. This room came together in winter, where it achieved the cozy library feel we were after, and as we move into spring and summer, we can’t wait to bring in fresh flowers and enjoy it with the blooms and vibrant green outside the windows.