In the early days of 2020, I delightfully took on the task of reinvigorating a messy living room in this 1904 Spanish Colonial home in New Haven, Connecticut.
Aside from the architecturally brilliant features—an understated stucco façade; bright, big, multi-paned window light; distinctive moldings; and sexy OG hardwood floors—one of the homeowners had spent their life’s work immersed in the arts. Needless to say, a home where one-of-a-kind, vibrant and eclectic collections of artwork abound.
With the final nester flying the coop, my busy clients decided it was time to do something about the messy living room where they spend much of their time, day-in and day-out.
This extra large parlor—30-ft. 6-in. by 15-ft. 11-in.—is flanked by rich features including a set of mirrored French pocket doors, an oft-used baby grand piano, to arched cased openings, and one magnificent, showstopping marble mantel. Oh did I mention? There’s art everywhere.
During our in-person design consultation, we discussed and labeled priorities:
- Re-envision the division of space
- Repurposing existing furniture
- New products to define space
- Lighting upgrades
- Organizing, storing and purging
I’d say we got ourselves some dang good results:
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RE-ENVISION THE DIVISION OF SPACE
The principal goal in this living room was designating spaces practically and with purpose. In theory, having the large greige sectional facing the room’s entryway might make one think it would appear larger.
However, rotating the sectional 90-degrees left toward the mantel and built-ins with the accompaniment of a properly proportioned area rug instantly defines a restful, living space and, in fact, makes the room feel much more spacious.
Big readers and musicians, the remaining areas of the living room were dedicated to the arts. One part library, one part concert hall, and one part art gallery.
REPURPOSING EXISTING FURNITURE
Going into this project, I knew my clients preferred to repurpose as much furniture as possible (I wholeheartedly support this). The greige sectional was a must keep as was the piano (so fab), specific artworks and pretty much any household furnishing I came across that could work.
Well, fortunately in this case, 90% of the furniture came from this room or the surrounding ones! After a handful of jaunts observing pieces throughout the home, this space was filled with every furnishing need—accent tables, ottomans, vintage rugs, artworks, plants and more!
My personal fave: I love how the dark blue ikat ottomans quietly define a transitional space and feel like a tranquil gallery bench. Just sit and get lost in a fantastically gargantuan painting or sway to the music for a while.
Plus, that mighty artwork (approximately 8-ft. wide) served to conceal a misplaced chrome wall sconce. Double score!
NEW PRODUCTS TO DEFINE SPACE
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just might not have thee piece to tie it all together. In this case, parting with the colossal Persian area rug for a properly proportioned natural fiber area rug accomplished two things: it created an organic, aesthetically pleasing division of space; and provided a calmer foundation to enjoy the assortment of striking artworks that abound.
Introducing a modern three-tier bookshelf took care of a surplus of good reads, which were formerly crowding a couple of tiny, flimsy bookcases and overtook the capacity of the built-in bookcase.
Lighting is muy importante in my book. The more light sources the better, sister. Sadly, my befores were taken after the installation of that fabulous curvilinear mid-century chandelier, which replaced a 12-in. round boob lamp. Nuff said.
Honoring the je ne sais quoi of the home and its inhabitants, the mammoth nelson saucer bubble pendant was the perfect statement piece to accent the baby grand piano area without detracting from the impact of the room’s central, curvilinear chandelier.
Fun fact: the nelson pendant was installed using one of my most popular DIYs: How to Turn Any Hardwired Light Fixture Into a Plug-in. 💯
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ORGANIZING, STORING AND PURGING
The biggest hurdle in this living room was sorting through the stuff. Left unchecked for a while, things can really build up! My client was in charge of reviewing personal items, while I sorted through miscellaneous artwork, sculptures, books and decor. This exercise determines what stays and what goes (in storage, the donation pile or the trash heap). Surviving items were styled and organized into their rightful place.
One before item also not pictured is a ping-pong table that sat untouched for years while obstructing the marvelous mantel. My suggestion: list it online for FREE. To my client’s delight, 42 people bit the hook and it was gone in less than a day.
For this project, I worked very closely and collaboratively with my client. Everybody’s needs are different. One client might be totally hands-on, totally hands-off, DIY-oriented or DIY-huh-what (😆), and all of the above are great. In this case, a collaborative approach worked best. I’ll always work around what you need and help you discover attainable solutions for your own sanctuary space.