Before, During & After: An Evolving Living Room

As satisfying as complete room overhauls may be, the sad fact is that for many of us with limited budgets or limited time a clean break with the past is not always possible. We often have to live with things we don't like as we go about plotting, negotiating with our significant other, and saving up for our next decor change. Such was the case with my living room.

When we moved halfway across the country to our current home we left most of our furniture behind. Most of it had been hand-me-downs that we appreciated while my husband was in grad school but that we didn't love or care to relocate.

While we had grand plans of a completely decking out our new home in a matter of days, reality hit us when we soon discovered the host of home problems that needed to be addressed (and paid for!) upon our arrival — a failing plumbing system, poor insulation, security issues, etc.

There was also the issue of picking out things that we both liked. In general my husband loves neutral, uncluttered, traditional masculine spaces, and I like my rooms to be more airy and whimsical. However, we both agreed that we wanted it feel rustic and relaxed. We wanted to make sure that we both loved every major piece we bought…so the room remained nearly empty for months! "Filler" pieces had to be borrowed from other rooms, not purchased unless we really loved them for the room long term.

Slowly, ever. so. slowly., our vision emerged, and though we still tweak corners of the room every week from time to time, the basics of the room are finally in place!

Changes:

Aside from new furniture, lighting, and accessories, changes included…

Painting the walls. We painted before we moved in, and if I had waited I might have chosen a different color since the color we chose requires that the other room accents carry all the weight, making for a very slow decorating process. When we moved in the walls were an icy white, which made the room feel stark and chilly since we have very limited natural light due to the mature trees surrounding our house. We chose a warmer shade, Benjamin Moore's Linen White, which changes throughout the day from ivory, to light yellow, to an almost peachy color, but never feels cold.

Painting the stair risers and fireplace white. The orange-y brick was covered in soot, weighed down the room, and hogged a lot of attention. The same held true for the stair risers which clashed with the floorboards as well as with the wood furniture we had. They were the first things you noticed when walking into the room, and competing with their visual weight was tough. Painting them instantly lifted the weightiness of the room, and gave us a black canvas to work with.

Switching from lace valances, to woven shades, to curtain panels. We knew the lace valances from the previous owner would have to go, but it took us awhile to decide on the right type of window treatment. In the end we went with panels, which are really just painters drop cloth pinch pleated using curtain clip rings. I spray painted silver curtain rods from another room black. The curtains give the room more height, and probably made the biggest difference in making the room feel "finished."

To all of you in the "slowly evolving room" boat, hang in there! It's worth it to end up with things you really love.

Images: Leah Moss

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