The Inside Man: David's Blogger Brownstone

The Inside Man: David's Blogger Brownstone

Maxwell Ryan
Jun 17, 2010
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Name: David Dunlop
Location: Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Style: Classic Brooklyn Brownstone

With the help of Valspar Paint, I'm working with five guys across the country to re-do a room in their home. My first meeting was with David — a really nice, laid-back guy who lives in a Brooklyn brownstone.

The first thing I noticed about David's living room is that it gets great light and has amazing bones. The space has honey-colored pine floors, gorgeous wood trim, and a working fireplace! David (who, by the way, doesn't own a TV — really rare) explained that he likes how open the room feels, but he wants to have a setup that's more conducive to conversation when he has friends over. He also wants a wall color that will keep the room feeling light and airy.

I came to our meeting prepared with a fan deck. I've been formulating a classic/contemporary plan for David's living room, imagining the color of a grey flannel suit with a hint of lavender. Something that's classic but feels sort of edgy at the same time (see above).

I'd already gone through and picked out some potential colors for the room, so David and I checked out the choices. We immediately ruled out the beiges — too earthy for this room. The blues and purples are lovely, but they're a little too much color for this guy's room. The greys seemed like a good fit, and we settled on two choices that David will try out as samples:

Winter Calm 4001-1B (a classic gray with lavender undertones)
London Coach 4002-1B (a classic gray that's just a touch warmer)

While I'm not sure yet exactly which shade will be best, we're going to try these two (as well as the shades one step lighter) with paint on at least two walls (in sun and out of sun). When we see those, we'll know for sure which one is right. For the trim, we'll use a crisp white — maybe Dove White 7002-7 or Snowy Dusk 7002-3.

David's room has good bones, but it has three major problems: it's unfinished, it's not arranged properly, and it lacks color. After chatting for some time about what he wanted in the room — to be able to comfortably seat at least three friends — I began to gently tell him where I saw problems and what solutions we could easily achieve that would make a big impact.

The unfinished problem is most easily visible. David could use more seating, more lighting, and more storage for his books, bike, and plants. The arrangement problem is a little harder to see. His room is almost square and wants to be centered so that it feels balanced. The tall windows dictate one center line, and so does the fireplace along one of the walls.

As for color, well, everything is renter's bright white, so adding a color and softening the trim is my goal.

At the end of my visit, I did a little re-arranging of the room in order to both straighten up a bit and also give David a sense of how his new room might feel. I quickly sketched out the floorplan above and told him that I wanted to center the sofa on a rug and add at least two more seating positions to make it a social, comfortable space. (Every living room should have at least three seating positions). Then I told him that we were going to need more lighting (at least three points of light), which would include replacing the shade on his only beaten up floor lamp. Finally, I recommended installing shelving for his books on either side of the fireplace and re-evaluating the artwork on his walls (too high and a bit dentist waiting room).

That said, this job is going to be easy; first we test paint colors and then we get the painter in while we order a few new pieces of furniture.

• Area rug 8x10
• Armchair (not too big)
• Three lamps (2x floor, 1 floor/reading)
• Elfa Shelving in all white
• Curtains & Rods 2x
• Small table for plants in window
• Large mirror for behind sofa
• New artwork 2x

As we wrapped up our meeting, I left David with some things to consider over the next couple weeks:

  • Which of the greys feels best after having been painted on his walls
  • How centering his furniture feels (he was unsure about leaving both corners open)
  • How lowering his artwork feels (he's afraid my suggestion to hang it on center at 57" might be too low)

In addition, I'm soon going to be sending him my recommendations for all of the items on the shopping list, so he'll get to sign off on those. Then I'll be checking in with David's progress as he marks these tasks off the list and begins the redesign...keep an eye out.

We've teamed up with Valspar Paint to create The Inside Man, a special feature dedicated to daily (Monday – Friday) posts from Apartment Therapy and GQ about men’s color conundrums and style questions. From sofas with cup holders to brilliant bachelor pads, we’re focusing on the décor dilemmas men often bring to us.

• See my introduction to David here.
• Read more about guy style at
• Check out GQ's guide to guy style at

Photos: Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan
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