Did you see any of the amazing recent #oneroomchallenge reveals? I don't know how any of those design bloggers manage to pull off such wonderful room transformations in only six weeks. My own living room update has only been in process for a full year!
But it's finally done, just in time to welcome guests for the holidays.
When I bought my suburban ranch in a charming little town near Boulder in 2011, I put a lot of my vintage furniture in storage and bought new. Back then, I was aiming for a warm, mountain aesthetic with dark leather chairs and big-scale furniture. But since starting my Urban Cottage Style business almost two years ago I have been yearning for the vintage pieces in storage. And I needed more color! My goal was glorious color, livable antiques and characterful vintage finds, curves and sexy lines. All in a warm envelope that helped walls to recede, collected and layered furniture and decor to star, and allowed for a forgiving, eclectic mix that didn't tightly limit the color palette.
This room is the result. It's a collected, layered, eclectic, and cozy mix that I'm looking forward to filling up with family, friends, laughter, and good food when guests arrive this holiday.
Here's my reno story in a nutshell.
MOST LUXURIOUS - This not-shy blue velvet selected for the vintage, rolled-arm sofa is so beautiful. It's a Pindler cotton velvet from their Bellagio line and it rewards with glorious color, all the depth and richness you expect from velvet, and wonderfully cozy comfort. It beautifully combines luxe and wearability. I've owned this sofa for a very long time, and pulled it out of storage for this living room update. I had purchased it from an antique market back in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and reupholstered it in a beautiful spruce green cotton velvet that had -- after 15 years -- hit its shelf life. Part of me wanted to keep it green, and I was wracked with self-doubt in the weeks leading to its reupholstery until the day Boulder Gonzalez Upholstery delivered it back to me. Doubt gone! Props to Boulder Gonzalez Upholstery for their excellent work. They seemed to really appreciate this piece, and told me that it caught the eye of many customers who saw it while in-process in their workshop.
I love how the sofa color (called "harbor) picks up the rich, marine blue in the old Persian rug. (Here's my little rescue pup, Louie, checking out the colors of the rug.)
BIGGEST SPLURGE - My initial search for a modern rug left me feeling like something just wasn't right. I wanted an all-wool, large rug (9x12 range), and just couldn't bring myself to pay the price for what I was finding. I wanted to love the rug not just NOW, but five years from now. Heck, 10 years! The contemporary rugs weren't working for me. And I was wary of the vintage rugs found online because some were final sale and not returnable. I knew I needed the experience of visiting a vintage rug store, bringing home several selections, and trying them out in home.
My experience at Azari Rug Gallery in downtown Denver was classic. The old storefront on "antiques row" in Denver is filled with piles and piles and piles of antique, vintage, and new rugs. Shafts of sunlight stream through the old 6-over-6 window panes. I picked out probably 20 different rugs, both new and vintage, and the guys hauled them out to a central viewing space where we -- one by one -- considered the design, colors, and material and winnowed down the possibilities. None drew me in like the vintage rugs. Mr. Azari picked up on my leanings for the rough texture of the vintage wool, the complexity of the patterns and color interplay, and the tawny, old-world nature. So he brought out even more vintage and antique selections for my consideration. I knew I was going beyond my budget. And frankly, that was okay. I brought two rugs home for trial, a 1940s vintage rug in "happier" colors of blue and pinkish corals and the antique Persian now on my floor. Its tawny, tribal nature just hit the right spot for me. I knew I could work with its mix of blues and its hits of alabaster, fawn, and burnished coral.
But it was a budget-buster. So my living room update went on hold for a full year. And I have no regrets about that.
MOST TREASURED - The most treasured pieces in this room are the framed oils, pastels, watercolors, and photos that hang above the blue sofa and wrap the television. The large vintage California landscape was inherited, the still-life pastel was painted by my great-grandmother, and some are works of local Boulder artists that we've begun collecting in recent years. I've also framed original watercolor thrift-shop finds and photographs I snapped while traveling in France and Italy
SEXIEST - The sexiest furniture in this room is the pair of curvy midcentury chairs purchased almost two years ago from Chairish. They came wearing a not-great, dark blue gabardine fabric. For a few months they sat in my living room with the vintage rolled-arm sofa wearing its worn green velvet so we could be certain that all played nicely in terms of scale. (That room looked pretty funky for awhile.) These midcentury chairs sit low, which happens to work here because the back height of the vintage sofa is lower than our previous sofa by about three inches. During reupholstering, the original cushions were replaced with taller, more comfy ones. I love their barrel curve, the handsome top-stitching that's revealed on the inner back, the wood trim (walnut or teak?), and their graceful legs.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE - My home's wide-open plan creates a living room with only three walls. The fireplace wall and the wall opposite it (where the blue sofa sits) have always felt balanced. My biggest challenge has been finding balance on the third wall -- the TV wall. The wall that EVERYONE looks straight at when entering this space.
We all know the challenge of the "TV wall." I could not remove the television, downsize it, or hide it in the oak cabinet. However, some changes during this living room update help me feel like (perhaps) the challenge of that third wall has finally been put to rest. First, I swapped out a long, dark Pottery Barn media cabinet (it's now doing duty in the basement family room) for this old oak cupboard. It's less wide than the old media cabinet, but still provides plenty of storage space for books, pottery, and electronics. Its vintage character and quality just feel better to me, and because it's narrower it frees up wall space alongside for a pair of matching stools I already owned and a petite collection of existing art on either side. It feels balanced, simple, lighter, and is still quite functional.
Someday, I may find the cabinet of my dreams along with some low-slung, drop-dead-sexy Italian leather stools for this space, but I'm happy with this for now. And I know the oak cabinet is versatile enough to work for office storage someday, or maybe it becomes part of a cool kitchen remodel in a next home.
SMALLEST CHANGE/BIGGEST IMPACT - This seems silly to even say, but the simplest change that cost zero pennies was to swap a large dark chest to the left of the sofa with an open, airy gateleg table from another room. And the chest now does duty in the entryway, continuing to hold hats, gloves, scarves, and tons of ski gear essential for Colorado living.
NEWFOUND LOVE - With the downsizing of the cabinet holding the TV, I lost a pair of table lamps. So out of storage came this brass floor lamp, wearing its crewel-adorned, black silk shade. I bought a more modern black linen shade, but it didn't seem right and I've since fallen in love all over again with this shade. Age and use have increased the slubby nature of this black silk. And I'll tell you -- finding an all-silk shade of this quality (including silk lining) is pretty tough nowadays.
BIGGEST SURPRISE - Wall color is the biggest surprise. Several years ago, we did a major reno that replaced every single window and door in the house, face-lifted the fireplace and built a custom mantel (you can read about that here), and added a bit of architectural interest in this bland suburban ranch by installing taller, more interesting door, window, and baseboard trim. At that time, the living room and our open-plan kitchen and eating area were painted Benjamin Moore Stone Hearth. With this recent living room update, I was determined to lighten up the whole scheme with a warm white. And I tried. I scoured the internet for the "best warm whites," collected samples, tried out test boards in the room, even painted one full wall.
But I came back to Stone Hearth. It picks up the tawny nature of the Persian rug, complements the fireplace stone, and creates a warm envelope where the walls seem to recede and the elements in the room become the focal point.
BEST SUPPORTING ROLES - I shopped my own stuff for the living room's artwork and decorative objects, because it's really quite ridiculous that I have so much! The biggest change is that I've heavily edited and focused on hand-thrown pots and vases, patinated metals, and woven baskets. This selection helps the space feel cozy, warm, a bit more tribal, and creates a strong sense of the artist's hand, which makes me very happy.
We'll end the living room reveal with a view of both pups, Sky and Louie, showing how much they enjoy the antique rug and the Colorado sunshine!