Sunday, October 23, 2011

How to fake like you're a designer...

When we purchased this home it was disheartening to realize that we weren't inheriting every piece of home decor or furniture from the previous owner. The home had shown very nicely, the lady being an interior designer and all.  It was one of those homes where you had to reeeallly close your eyes and try very hard to imagine a room without all the "stuff" to decide if you really still liked the home and not just the stuff in the home. In the end, we decided we still liked the home, even without all her stuff, and forged ahead, knowing in time we could eventually make this place ours. We were coming from a home about 1/4 the size, so while we were happy to spread out, it was a lot of house to take in.

Fortunately the walls weren't painted any awful funky colors, so I didn't have the urge to start making changes right away. I heard that it's best to wait at least a year before you really make any changes to the home. Once you've been in it a year, you can feel the flow, or feel what needs to change about the flow. You've had time to see what styles of decor are out there and what suits you.  I made some hasty decisions about our home in Chicago that I later regretted, so being patient was a necessity. I did not want to mess this place up if I could help it.

In just one year's time, I had plenty of face time with the walls of our home and likely more than the average person. Just one week after moving in, I started puking my guts out and continued to do that for several weeks/months. I was expecting baby number three! Then just two months after having Baby, I had bunion surgery, again forcing me to reacquaint myself with the walls of this home for a very, very long time.

Once I was back on my feet in the most literal sense possible, I was also ready to make some SERIOUS changes to my home, especially the paint. I felt like I was living in a chocolate cave! Now, I do love my chocolate-- on a plate or in a mug, but not all around me in every room of the house. Enter my fab designer friend, Jessica.

I've known Jessica since the awkward middle school years. Even during those years, Jessica  had this amazing flare for style. She always came up with the most creative and thoughtful gifts for her friends. Every time I went over to her house she had either repainted her bedroom, rearranged her furniture, or acquired some fantastically unique piece of art to display. So, it is no surprise that 15 years later she is a real, bona fide interior designer.

The first room I wanted to tackle was what the rest of the world would call a "formal living room" but what I wanted to be able to call a "casual library."  Once we moved in, all the room had was a couch from the former owner. Nothing else. You better believe lots of roughhousing and wrestling took place in this room. It was indeed perfect for that. But I was more than ready to retire it as the roughhousing room.  I didn't, however,  want this room to turn in to the room that never got used. I wanted it to be the place where I read to my children, gathered as a family, and also serve as my own personal escape  (which by the way, the best time to sneak into a book is when I have piles upon piles of laundry to fold).

I snapped some photos and took measurements and sent them to Jess with the budget I had in mind for the room. She also provided me with an in-depth questionaire to fill out so she could get a complete understanding for the purpose of the room and my style. This is the style board she came up with:

She also provided me with a detailed description of the vision she had for the room as well as some helpful  styling and organization tips and some fun ideas (like painting that triangular wall under the stair well with chalkboard paint so the kids could draw on it!).

Okay, so now I'll hurry and get to the befores and afters. That's my favorite part...

This a shot of  the room before we bought the house:

This is the room the night we moved in: (it was the week before Christmas. we HAD to put up the tree! As you can see the kids are very excited about it.)

This is the room a year later -- I made two big purchases at this point-- chairs and a book shelf.... The book shelf I fell in love with 5+ years prior and is my personal trophy for self-discipline, patience and practicality. It took a lot of all three and I will say it was worth the wait!  The chairs are super comfy to snuggle up in (that was an absolute requirement) and I love the whimsical bee print fabric.

The final product-- paint and everything. (is it not INCREDIBLE what a change of color on the walls can do to a room?! That is why I love painting. It's so gratifying. You can visually see as you paint the walls the improvement happen right before your eyes.)

I decided against getting drapes. The shutters serve the purpose of letting in and shutting out light, so I used the money I would have spent on the drapes towards getting a couch that I LOVED.

Buying a couch is quite a commitment. Good ones can be expensive. I was really excited about the one Jess put on my style board. It gave me a good starting point. I really wanted a lighter colored couch but thought maybe I was crazy. I do have children. And I don't want to love my couch more than my kids, you know?  I do believe, barring some extenuating circumstances, that you can teach your kids how to respect your stuff without ruining their lives or going crazy. Although I didn't tell Jess I wanted a white-ish couch, she put one on my style board and that gave me the confidence in my sanity that I needed.  I eventually made my way to Bassett furniture and got a decent price (not a steal by any means...they are no Ikea) for a couch and storage ottoman. I was really pleased with the service there and will definitely be back.

When Husband brought home the furniture from Bassett I called a family meeting with the kids. I made a really big deal out of it, explaining that when I was picking out the couch, the people in the store kept telling me I couldn't because I had kids. I continued with the story: "'I told those store clerks that I had special kids. Kids that are REEEEALLY good listeners who know how to treat things with respect. Most people couldn't have white furniture, but since I've got such great kids, I knew it wouldn't be a big deal and they would be just fine."  Son and Daughter ate this up and I got the reaction I was looking for. We sat down and discussed some basic house rules for the room (don't rest muddy feet on the couch or wipe peanut-buttery hands on the chairs, etc)  and at the end Daughter suggested rather enthusiastically, "we should make a sign for these rules  and hang them up in here!" 

There is no sign, much to Daughter's dismay, but they do a great job without it.   I won't tell them I did get the special fabric warranty. White couches I feel it would be served well to have a warranty on. I have never bought an extended warranty on anything else in my life. I figure white couches could be an exception. 

This is a shot with "the burlap sack pillows" as my husband refers to them.  I purchased these before the big design in Gardener Village just loving the colors and textures of them and they still tie into the room nicely. Jess gave me some fun ideas for more modern pillows.

These are the pillows Husband prefers. He calls them "the Greek pillows." (p.s. I love the card catalogue for an end table/ extra storage. It makes the room an official library, don't you think?! I love the flashback to elementary school I get every time I look at it. I can still hear Mrs. Davis the Librarian giving a lecture on the Dewey Decimal System).

This is what I call my "Nauvoo corner."  We used to live in the 'burbs of Chicago and took a mini-vacation down to Historic Nauvoo, about 4 hours away.  We had a wonderful time there and hope to take our family back again. I purchased a plate there from Zion's Mercantile that I thought had a sweet depiction of the temple, and captured it in a lovely historic sort of way. We got to bring home a brick from the famous brickyard, and this painting of "Sarah's Window" really spoke to me. I love having a place to put our momentos from this trip.

On the other side of the room is what I call my "French Corner."  Sadly, I have never been to France, nor do I speak French but it is on my bucket list. Going to France, that is. Speaking French, probably not. But I will happily sit and listen if anyone wishes to speak to me in French. It is the most beautiful language!  The keys are circa 18th century from France (according to the fella I bought them from on e-bay, but what do I know?) They have already been used a number of times by my kids as props during magical make believe adventures. So long as they put them back when they are done, I'm okay with it. The painting "A Difficult Lesson" is by  William Adolphe Bouguereau, a French artist. Originially I had some cute pictures of my daughter reading one of her favorite books on the wall, but she twisted my arm to let her have them in her bedroom. I was out getting a gift for a friend and happened upon this painting which was perfect. It's almost like an old fashioned version of the pictures I had before. The little girls' eyes are so brown and you can almost feel her frustration with this "lesson" she is trying to learn.

So here you have my French corner!

Here's a fabulous organizing must-have!  These frames OPEN so you can keep a stash of artwork in one place and switch the displayed one out when the chilluns bring home a new masterpiece. Found at Target.

The table between the chairs with a sweet picture of my older two. Lamp found at Target.

This picture is very illustrative of one of the most wonderful side-affects to committing to finish a room:  other rooms in your home will get freshened up, too! Doing this room created a domino-effect for my home. I found that spending a bit of time online searching for certain things or getting ideas for this room, coincidentally gave me ideas for other rooms of the house and inspired me to continue lightening things up all around the house.

As it stands, since I began the re-do on this room, the entryway, kitchen, playroom, family room, Daughter's room, and hallways of the main level all got painted in addition to this room (some hired, others I did myself). I re-styled the entertainment center shelves, freshened up the kids' bathroom with a new shower curtain and some new rugs, and have found some wonderful artwork along the way to hang in my home. The most priceless artwork though, has been the photographs of my children. Without this room, I wouldn't have those pictures of them. Seriously. After all, one can't have a gallery wall and fancy big frames (thank you, IKEA!) without darling pictures of children to go in them, right?

It was so much fun working with Jess on this room. She was always willing to offer her feedback on my random questions (ie "what color would you paint this?" or "where would you hang these keys?") and provided links on all of her recommended items so I knew exactly how and where to purchase them. I'd text her a picture of a find at a garage sale on Saturday morning or of my painting progress in the middle of the night and she was always there to cheer me on. I think everyone needs a personal design cheerleader in their corner. You'd think we lived next door but sadly, she's 3,000 miles away. (I love modern technology!)  I really appreciated her patience with me. She gave me her style-board way back in March so it took me a good 6 months to complete the room 100%.  She recognized that my family was my first priority and I'd move along when I had time. She never got on my case for working at a tortoise's pace.

I'm really looking forward to consulting with her on other rooms of my house. For now, this room is hands down my favorite spot in the house. I love how it reflects my personality and functions so well at the same time. I am happy to report that this re-design didn't transform the place into a stuffy formal living room! It is a very used, casual family library. But no more wrestling!

So...if you want to fake like you're a designer, just ask Jessica to help you. She's the bomb.

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