interior design help

In ALL, INTERIOR DESIGN, STYLE by Stephanie Klein52 Comments

Apartment Therapy came to me asking if they could feature my workspace on their site. The thing of it is, I don’t have a workspace. I work everywhere. All I need is a laptop and sometimes some liquor. I will get back to them though because I like their site. I’ll most likely present them with photos of my outdoor living space, where I sometimes find myself writing. On a sectional. It’s very nautical in theme, though. Perhaps best to feature in spring or summer. Somehow a "cruise wear" of a workspace doesn’t really work anywhere aside from a J.Crew catalogue.

As for the great indoors, I need a new living room. Actually, my living room is more of a family room. It’s where we collapse to watch TV, where Elmo takes up all the space with his big flapping trap, ad where the bean sprouts fight over Legos on the floor. It’s the heart of our home, except it looks like a pockmarked ass. That said, we’re updating it, purchasing whatever’s needed to make our heart beat once again. Sofas, chairs, ottomans.

Here are design styles that I happen to favor, though I don’t think we’ll be painting. The wall colors stay, as is:
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Hopefully these will be the "before" photos of our living room:

The key is, any sofa needs to pass Phil’s collapse test. That is, he needs to be able to fall into a sofa and remain there comfortably through a LOST marathon. While it needs to be functional, it also needs some major prettying up. I tend to gravitate toward upholstered pieces, blending a rich assortment of patterns. I also gravitate toward lady-like living: slipper chairs, chesterfield linen sofas. But one must be practical here. I need safeguarding. Child-friendly. The focal point of the room is definitely the TV, and I realize I might want to consider a more comely alternative for the storage of the sprouts’ toys than A CAGE. I know a U-shaped conversational space is preferable, but I don’t know which pieces to buy. Help and input would be good now. So you know what we’re dealing with here, I figure photos might help.

Here are two photos of what the previous owner did with the space:
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My apartment in NYC, so you have a sense of my style (and yes, I miss Linus):

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  1. But painting is so cheap compared to getting all new furniture and can make SUCH a difference. Also, the thing I noticed most about the room is the rug (not necessarily in the best way) – – – While I'm all for buying new furniture, a new rug might also be a great way to freshen up the room.

  2. I suggest putting your sofas–couches, whatever closer together. I have found that if you pull furniture away from the walls more it makes the room look more cozy. Other than that, I love the colors you are looking at, they go very well with the dark floors.

  3. I take it that you want to continue to use the space as more of a family room than a formal living room? Restoration Hardware has some good-looking furniture that still appears durable. Some people hate microfiber but it's a great choice for kids and pets. Another idea would be to get some "less flop-worthy" couches (and more in the style that you like) and get a refined looking recliner for Phil (some of them really aren't bad. Check out Restoration Hardware and Room and Board). I would also try to make the t.v. less a focal point of the room. I like the wall color you currently have. I'm curious to read other people's suggestions!

  4. Hopefully a giant giraffe won't be part of your new decor. Whatever sofa you buy, be sure to pay extra for the stain guarantee. I paid something like $150 for the "protection plan" when I bought a new sofa when my kids were babes. It was unlimited and I took full advantage of it, calling them out to clean a dozen or so times in the 3-year warranty period. Every time I called it in they would ask the nature of the stain…pee, baby barf, formula.

  5. I know I am always a cranky old person – but – just thank God you didn't lose everything in this money mess. Your living room looks fine. Be glad you have leather furniture and wood floors and two darling children. You still have lots of peauking and tearing things up to live through with kids….so your day of having a perfect household is probably a ways off. Just be thankful, Stephanie, and look forward to the coming year. Bless you and yours.

  6. One more thing: that space underneath your television, between the built-in bookcases, most definitely needs a cabinet or sideboard of some sort.

  7. God, I dunno. I think your living room looks great as-is, considering the beans. You should see our couch- so many stains it's hard to discern the original color. Plus a lovely patina of cat hair. We also have a formal living room with a leather couch etc., which my bean manages to stay out of most of the time. Do you have a formal room for entertaining? If so, you may want to leave the family room alone, at least until the beans can control their messes.

    FROM SK: No formal living room. We have a sunken dining room and a separate movie theater room. Besides, when people come over, they usually come with their kids, so we'd never use a formal living room.

  8. Start with an interior designer. It will save you costly mistakes and he/she will come up with ideas you never thought of. Stick to a budget, make sure you all communicate well, and you'll be happy with the end product.

  9. Love the pics of the designs you favor, especially the one from Domino. I agree with Jennabenna. Right now, everything looks too far away, and the high ceilings (at least that what they look like) contribute to the cavernous feel. Good luck.

  10. Such a lovely space! A few things– the color is great, move your sofas closer together– they should anchor the rug rather than having the flying carpet effect between them. Definitely put a large cabinet or shelf in the space under the tv. The tv needs something anchoring that spot so its not just floating on the wall. Place that leather bench between the sofas (I cannot tell if it will really fit or not) as a coffee table or get a coffee table to balance your sofas. Perhaps that brown zebra chair between the sofas facing the tv to create more conversation?

  11. Ok, trying this again. I just got back from Haverty's and The Room Store (eck) myself looking for a new sofa. There are great sales out there. Here are my suggestions:

    1. Get a black or chocolate leather sofa that passes Phil's test.
    2. Get upholstered pillows with the Tiffany blue you seem to love. Can't find em – make them.
    3. Lose the valences that are matchy/matchy with those in the dining room and put up beautiful drapes in your blue. Blue and brown is lovely together.
    4. Get a new rug that has more color and matches all.
    5. Reposition sofas not paralell or a U but an L keeping the one against the windows and the other facing the TV – better fr tv watching anyhow and will make the room more inviting. You may choose to have a coordinating throw hang over the sofa back as it'll be seen from the dining room or to have a sofa table there featuring family photos, sans giraffe.
    6. Get TV into a wood cabinet to hide it while not in use. On HGTV they had an artist affix a painting to the outside to make it truly a focal point. Under the TV add a sofa table to feature decor items.
    7. Move the ottoman from under the TV to in front of the tv-facing sofa and use it as a coffee table. Put a tray on the ottoman when you need a place for a drink or two or four.
    8. Consider a nicer ceiling fan – Lowe's has tons for cheap.
    9. Consider adding some of your new color into your shelves but thin them out so it's like you have many displays like in stores.

    Love it with the changes. Any questions? I'm a wanna-be decorator and even had a logo and biz cards made! Someday…it just comes naturally to me. People who know me know I have way too many cookbooks, decorating books and magazines and books on flower design, besides marketing books!
    I'd be happy to help! I'm freelance marketing in Austin now that my mom's radiation treatment ended – yeah! So I'm always around! It'd be fun 2 help u if you'd like. Happy new year!

  12. it all looks fine, however if you want to make improvements, the tv appears too high. it is supposed to be at eye level when seated.then get a cabinet to go underneath and use it to store the toys. it's kind of floating on the wall as it is now. if you get an area rug, it should be much bigger– so the whole seating area fits on it. i would go for a cheapish sofa because no matter what it is going to get destroyed with two toddlers. get something that will get you through the next 5 years and then throw it out. but yes, the seating area needs to be closer together with a coffee table and end tables. regarding table lamps, always get them bigger than you think is right because they need to be beefy to give the room some umpf. forgive the tone if it sounds bossy, i do this for a living. :)

  13. Hi Stephanie – The color on the walls and the contrast wall(s?) are beautiful! They look great contrasted against the white crown molding. What about some new window treatments, area rug, and couches? I would add some (2) big oversized chairs/ottomans. The room looks really big to me, so the big furniture would look great. Do you like plaids and toiles? Those types of fabrics look good together, and can handle kids romping all over them. Your accessory pieces (tables and lamps are gorgeous!) What about hanging some of the kiddos' art work, mixing it in with all of the photos of your family. I would try Arhaus furniture ( I can't wait to see the results!


    PS – Love your hanging rack for pots and pans! Where did you find it?

  14. Man – I just wrote an awesome list of suggestions and the page spaced on me…. ugh!

  15. Oy. Where do I begin? Paint the whole room a color about three shades darker than the darker brown color on the walls… And it looks like one wall is sponge painted?! Please tell me this is just a photo glitch. The white shelving and cabinet doors need to be a dark chocolate brown. You need a big, furry, comfy rug and darker walls to make this space cozy and functional. You need something under the TV that's not a low ottoman… the way the TV is hung, it looks like a dentist's waiting area…. Shades are a disaster — get to Restoration Hardware asap for some drapes! And why are the couches so far apart from each other?

  16. Okay you asked:) So here goes: New rug with some color!!! Keep the couches or gp neutral. New lamps!!! Although it is tough to have white anything with toddlers you need to tie some white something in ….somewhere so that the built in cabinets do not seem so stark. And change the focal point from the TV to that wall where the windows are with some floor to ceiling drapes with great tie backs(maybe that's where you can indulge your love of fabrics and patterns), It will make the room warmer and draw the eye up. Your have great apace to work with!!!

  17. One more item – the mirror on the wall next to the right-hand book case doesn't reflect anything. I'd replace it with something more interesting. Mirrors are good to enlarge a space as you have on the wall outside the living room.

  18. I agree with moving the couches in, the sofas are lined up wiht the bookcases, I don't really like that. I can't figure how anyone can watch TV at that angle. Move the loveseat that's in front of the window forward. Possibly put a sofa table behind it, with photos or plants real or otherwise. The rug is ok, would like it better with the couches on it not on the edge.

  19. This is just a gift to us haters, right? I mean first you share further, pretty solid evidence that you and Phil are ill-suited for each other. You are unhappy…and now you show us your fugly mid-brow tastes. Oh and you have a "movie theater room". Too funny, and you do still have no clue.

    I think you should definately spend a boatload of money on new crap – I mean it's not like there is a recession or anything?
    Hear that sound? It is Phil banging his head on the wall in frustration.
    Again, thank you SO much for this yummy gift.

  20. It's a nice home. Large and such.. the mean comment (only one, I expected more) was not needed. Yes, commenter there is a recession. And it sucks (we're feeling it at least) but hey, she works, she earns her 'own' money if you want to see it that way. And Phil works too and his job is pretty high pressure but especially must be now as hedge funds are far from immune to this recession. Hell, no matter where we are on the social ladder we're going to get bent over by this thing some sooner, some a little later.

    So I get wanting to make a comfy 'haven' from all of the bullshit. If she wants a couch and new furniture to nest, to feel secure why the hell not. As for mid brow taste it is all relative. It's not mine but it looks like she put some thought into it so why criticize.

    SK, I'd just get a good interior designer. I'd say just pore over books and choose what you want but it seems work constraints prohibit that and you probably want to see results (read: cozy, something tangible) right away.

    Some good suggestions on here (thanks all, I might use some of these someday) too but Violet's piece is an excellent start. Then again, as she said she does this for a living.
    Just have fun with it. Don't let it stress you and if that means getting a designer, do it – recession be damned. And to that commenter, I don't blame you if you're feeling a little irascible from this damned recession because I think it is having that effect on a lot of people. Hang in there and don't let it affect your attitude too much if possible.

  21. I can already see that you've had more advice than you need, but please allow me to throw in my two cents worth, too. I can totally understand your need for a change, but to me the room looks great. Comfortable, child friendly. It's been too many years ago, but I remember when my living room was decorated in "early Fisher-Price". At one point we even had a corrugated playhouse in one corner! Now that my son is 25 and no longer lives anywhere near here, I'd pay to trip over over a toy Transformer. You're going to be living with toys for what will seem like an eternity, but trust me, it will go by sooner than you think. Then I'd go for the fancy decorating. If you're just dying to do something to the room, I have a piece of kid-friendly furniture built to go under the TV to hold toys…and make sure it has doors to hide the mess. Then you can get rid of the cage. You might want to just try some new accessories and pillows. But, if I had 2 toddlers, I'd much rather have the room I saw.

  22. If you think your living room needs updating, you would have a fit if you saw mine. I wish I had your sense of style (and budget)! There is no theme or plan to my living room at all!

  23. I know you don't need an interior designer. You are creative and know what you want. Just need to execute!

    My first impressions:

    Armoire for TV, definitely.

    Draperies, other window treatments than roman shades, something that elongates the room.

    Artwork on the walls or your wonderful photographs!

    Great Dhurrie Rug or something colorful, geometric. It'll be a great contrast against the dark floor.

    Great trick I have is to paint the back of the built-in shelves a different color than the room. Breaks things up.

    Even though she exudes cheesiness on the show, check out the book Discovering Home with Laurie Smith: Find Your Personal Style (chick from Trading Spaces). She has a great home with tons of fun design ideas.

    Lastly, go with what you like. There are no rules in design.


  24. Get thee a re-designer service. Fresh eyes that make your existing pieces work in a beautiful new way. You have very nice furnishings, they just aren't working as well as they should. I'll bet Austin has all kinds of designers hungry for this kind of challenge/fun.

  25. Love the idea of a fireplace under the tv.
    Love the pic you've chosen with the striped blue and beige or white rug. Your tables look similar. That living room has a comfy feeling.
    Lighting is important. Its soothing.
    Blue printed fabric you've choosen is very nice and I love the accent of wild zebra pillows.
    For this more formal look curtains would be better suited.
    I say Go with the pic you love and if you can't do it all at one time make a plan. Change the furniture in your living room around for now.
    Put two really large pic's of the sprouts on the wall next to the windows. The sun and the sprouts pics will always make you smile :-)

  26. Okay…I'm going to say it….

    Furniture is just stuff. It doesn't make your life better. It only looks better from the outside and empties your wallet. What's wrong with posting pictures of the real you? Comfy leather couches, toys on the rugs, laptop in hand, etc.

    I love looking at pictures of perfectly staged rooms, but I also know that on a daily basis that room NEVER looks like that. You have a great life, and great room, as is. So show it off.

  27. I have to ask why the couches are so far apart and on the edges of the room, it looks like a clinic waiting area. Furniture belongs more in the center so it is the heart of the room. I got a couch and two chairs from pottery barn that are slipcovered, they have survived two litle boys. You whip them off, wash them put them back on when slightly damp and wrinkles fall out. You get tired of color buy a new slipcover, much cheaper than new furniture.

  28. i love that light blue sofa you have pictured (i think it's leather).
    I think with the color of your floors and walls going for a color like that would really pop. I especially love that the buttons on the backrest/armrests (i forget what that's called). The one you have pictured doesn't look like you can just fall into it but it does look quite a lot like a leather couch my mom had from Bloomingdales that was extremely comfy…now if you can just find that in baby blue….i say you've got something.

    good luck with everything and i've noticed you keep posting that picture of the zebra chair on different posts…..something tells me you need to get that chair…if it doesn't go in your living room well then at least you can put it somewhere in the house where it will make you smile every time you see it.

  29. Whatever you do, don't buy a thing from Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel! Talk about insanely successful image campaigns. Sorry to take up space here, but I have to spread the word about this overpriced crap!

  30. The only advice I can give is to get an L-shaped couch. It may seem like a huge item, but actually creates more space (having 1 big L-couch opposed to 2 normal couches) and is great for crashing and hanging. And with little kids I would go for a fabric upholstery, not leather. There are special fabrics that are fluid-resistant etc, way easier to maintain.

  31. My first impression is that your TV is hung WAY too high–I agree with a previous commenter, it looks like it is hung in a dentists office.

    I'm sure you will get a load of advice, so mine can remain unsaid, aside from lower that TV, you guys will strain your necks!

  32. – change the sofas. they are too "glossy" for the darker and matte walls
    – a vase with flowers and a table to display them on
    – a different rug
    – new pillows
    – contrast: light dark in a very creamy way

    Love Jules, who works for IKEA

  33. All this advice is awesome! Thank you!!! The TV is hung at eye level if you're standing, not sitting, and I agree, we should move that family piece you see in some of the pictures under the TV. It's an antique sideboard that belonged to my grandparents. Usually, it's under those framed pictures where the xmas tree is now. Something will need to go there.

    The ONLY reason the sofas were spread so far apart was to give the kids some running space. It's the same reason there's no coffee table in place. But the room feels cold not cozy and it's time to move a coffee table back in place, and yes, to get the sofas closer together.

    As for window treatments, Phil wants to keep them as is, considering they tie this room to the eating area and the kitchen (they all have the same treatments).

    My main issue is that I want light blue and white pieces to contrast with all the brown, but how does light blue and white stand up against kids?

  34. Why no pick it all up, move it to NY and see how it looks in an entirely new setting? You're missing a lovely snowfall. Happy & healthy 2009 to you, Phil & babies.

  35. You can wrap your life up in a pretty package and show it off on your blog, or redecorate it, or stuff it with shiny new, expensive things, things, things, but it's not going to fill that empty space in your marriage or change your life. At all.

    I'm sure you know that, but if this is your pattern — acknowledging a serious unhappiness or problem and then distracting yourself with retail therapy or the superficial stuff — then you are headed nowhere positive in your journey.

    Drop the retail and just go for the therapy. You deserve to be truly, truly happy.

  36. Stephanie, I totally feel you with the blue/white contrast with the brown. Our master bedroom is almost the exact same color as your family room and I'm doing the same color scheme. I have the duvet & shams…now I'm trying to fit the other stuff in.

    For now, I would focus more on accent pieces to bring those colors in rather than expensive bigger pieces. You're gonna hate having a cream or light blue sofa with an active family. A rug, throw pillows, lamps, chair covers etc. can be replaced or cleaned up relatively cheap, whereas your anchor furniture needs to be able to outlast spills, dirt, hand prints, and runny noses.

  37. We used a wonderful upholstered ottoman as a coffee table (covered with an antique rug) our two boys couldn't knock their heads off and it survives people putting their feet up. A big basket works good to hold toys. We put a piece of furniture (looks like a sideboard) under our hanging tv, you do not notice it as much, plus the cabinet and drawers underneath hold our receiver, dvd player, cd player and all our movies and cd's. I think brown and blue and white are very classic together. As for standing up to kids it depends, we started a rule where our boys ate at our kitchen table (even at two), it helps with the whole house. Plus slipcovers really work great, you can wash even just one pillow cover if necessary. I have silk throw pillows on my couch (boys 4 and 7) and a silk covered table, they have survived amazingly well.

  38. I would keep the current couches you have since you need something that will stand up to kids. Add a few throw pillows in the colors you favor. Even if they get slobbered on, they can be easily replaced (check out Restoration Hardware's pillows; they have some nice ones). Then replace the current rug with a new rug, perhaps one with blue and white stripes or a blue rug with a chocolate border that would tie it to the couches. The clubby blue chair in the photo above would look great. It's substantial enough to fit with the couches. Perhaps paint a blue accent wall. Finally, I still think you should replace with the window treatments with something softer.

  39. My husband and I have such very different taste that we ended up hiring a decorator to help us find a compromise. It was the best decision we ever made. She ended up paying for herself with the designer's discounts we got on everything we bought. So, it might be something to consider. Also, if you're looking for new sofas, check out the company American Leather. We have a love seat from them in our tv room (the seats recline and it has cup holders, not as hideous as it sounds) and it is the most comfortable piece of furniture we own. I think it would definitely pass the collapse test.

  40. You must get that giraffe back from the previous owners! That is just fabulous and will really make that room look SO much better.

  41. HEY where is that pretty blue chesterfield sofa from? i love that kind of stuff and didn't know it was available in the USA…i mean unless it's from anthropologie (for a trillion dollahs).

    FROM SK: It's from Mitchell & Gold
    Also, Ballard Designs has similar sofas in easyclean fabrics

  42. I think that if you get a new rug (something like the Overleaf pattern from The Rug Company or a damask type graphic print with some beige) that will make a big difference and lighten up the room. You may even like a chocolate/tan zebra print. I have one and love it – it's surprisingly neutral but still edgy.

    Then, if you arrange your furniture more like the center photo in your design style pictures (no big open space in the middle) and add some tables behind the sofa to display books and stuff and maybe a big ottoman the room will feel cozier.

    If you get new couches, you could probably find a nice neutral L-shaped sectional that the kids won't destroy and then add a chair or two similar to the one you posted as inspiration to liven it up a bit.

    Good luck!

  43. "Wondering"- my kid is 2 and still sits in a high chair. Do you have kids? They must be developmentally advanced geniuses if they're sitting in chairs and not in danger of tumbling down stairs at a moment's notice at age 2. How nice that must be for you.

  44. mostly said: faux painting, tv too high, toy storage underneath tv, L sofa. i would also add that you might yank that fan down with the window treatments.

  45. I see you gravitate toward lighter colors, but those are going to be a lot more maintenance with little ones, obviously. We never realized how much we depended on our dark-colored leather sofa being childproof until we moved houses and bought a dark-colored microfiber sofa for the new TV room. That thing has looked a mess since the 3 month mark. Kids are messy. I'm sure I don't need to tell you this, but you know, you can get carried away with decorating fantasies.

  46. Even though I do believe you actually have done a fantastic job with this post I’d like for a followup piece of which goes into far more detail. Appreciate it once again!

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