What I'd Change About This Living Room/Kitchen if I Could

What I'd Change About This Living Room/Kitchen if I Could

Abby Stone
Nov 4, 2011

Spending so much time in this lovely space, it was hard not to put on my decorator hat. It's a great room that needs only a few adjustments to make it even better! Here are the lessons that make it great (always my first step when tackling a space) and the tweaks that would make it sing. Try them in your space.

The great points about this room and the lessons you can learn from it:
Play to your room's strengths: In this case, the great light is the focal point. A simple color palette that tips towards white -- desk, countertop, side piece and walls -- keeps the focus on the light and, as a result, even though it's very small, the room feels airy and bright.
Go for one pop of color against an otherwise neutral room: here it's the three chairs, in different styles but all in an orange that underline the room's bright and sunny feeling, that keeps it from being dull.
Multiple use furniture: The desk can be pulled out for a dining room table to seat six. The step stool can reach items stored high away, or course, but it can also act as a side table or as seating when pulled up to the table or the kitchen's island. The Hansen stool is comfortable seating that can also do double duty as a side table.
Check your room's traffic patterns: here, the furniture pushed to the wall means the center space is clear and the room feels more open.

Now for the tweaks!
Rearrange and cull the books: The books do battle with the light and detract from the otherwise light feeling of the room. Given that they're such a strong focal point, consider controlling their visual impact by rearranging them. I like to put authors together and then sort by subject and color. Not only do I, as a reader whose bookshelves are useful not just decorative, find sorting just by color impractical, I also feel that in this space too much color would compete with the light. This way, they'll be little moments of color (like refracted light from raindrops) that will force your eye to dance around the room. That "eye dance" gives the brain the illusion of space. Cull books by asking yourself if it's one you think you'll go back to. That usually means keeping cookbooks, art books, how-to books, favorite books and classics you know you'll return to. It also means donating -- to community centers, friends, libraries -- most paperbacks, school texts, books you'll never read, books you already read (share hard copies with friends and colleagues!), books you didn't enjoy and books whose information is no longer relevant.
Add personality: The person who lives here is an artist who loves to travel. She's also a guitarist and a filmmaker. None of that is apparent in this room. As I mentioned the other day, bring life into your room by bringing your life into the room. In this case, I'd pepper the bookshelves with postcards, photographs and some of the smaller pieces of her art in frames, hang her guitar on the wall between the bookshelf and the window, where it's also easily accessible (and will probably be played more if it doesn't have to be taken out of its cover), put a big piece of her work over the couch and maybe a small piece on the kitchen window's ledge and against the kitchen's counter near the wall.
Swap out standard fixtures for something nicer. The ceiling light is not terrible but it's dull. I'd swap it out for something a little more streamlined like Ikea's Alang. The bare bulb in the kitchen could also use a little oomph. Since the two ceiling fixtures are so close to each other, let's have them work together instead of competing for attention. Instead of shading the kitchen's bulb, I'd spring for the Plumen lightbulb, which not only gives great light but is sculptural. I'd also consider changing out the black swing arm lamp for one in white.
Balance out the color in the room: In this case, there's a lot of orange on one side of the room. I'd bring in a cozy throw (perfect for chilly nights) with a touch of orange in it and maybe a fun, graphic pillow for the couch.
Streamline the tech. That wall above the desk would be perfect for a flat screen and be more comfortable for people to watch when they're sitting on the couch. Plus this way it'd also be easier to watch ifrom the kitchen for someone preparing food or from the desk, for someone working. It would allow you to get rid of the white side piece that now holds the old skool tv. The components stored there could find a place in the bookshelves which would now have space from the culled books.
Lose some furniture: Culling the books and streamlining the tech would allow you to consider removing either the white side piece or the third bookcase. I've discovered that often, after I've decluttered, I don't need some of my furniture; they were just there to store stuff! If the third bookcase is removed, the white piece can move over there to store glasses more accessibly, (right now they're stored underneath the island, next to the couch). The top could hold pretty objects, favorite dishes and a piece of artwork can be leaned against it, bringing in a little more of the home owner's work. Or, the white piece can be removed and the third bookshelf can be used to show off pretty dishes and objects.

Images: Abigail Stone

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