Room Redesign: Emily's Slabtown Spiff-up
Sep 23, 2009
What started as an experiment has turned into one of my favorite parts of my new business. The idea began coming together in my mind in July, and I put out a call to my friends to see if anyone was willing to be my guinea pig to try out what I now call "Work with me, here." The idea is pretty simple: you spend 2-3 hours working with me to rearrange, revamp, and repurpose a furnished room. We buy nothing. You end up loving your room and your stuff all over again. My friend Emily eagerly volunteered, saying she needed help adding some sophistication to her large L-shaped living/dining room. It sounded both challenging and fun. But would it really work? I had no idea, but on a sunny morning I showed up at Emily's to find out.
Emily and Lou have a really cool place. They rent a historic house in the Traverse City neighborhood known as Slabtown. The white clapboard house with cast-iron gingerbread in the windows sits on a pleasant corner surrounded by their lush organic gardens. I arrived to a pot of strong black tea, bandonio music coming from Lou's practice studio upstairs, and this scene:
The large living room had plenty going for it: great windows and views, hardwood floors, a painted brick fireplace, and beautiful light.
Right away I could tell that rearranging furniture would help, but would there be enough raw material here or elsewhere in the house to really make the place sing?
We dove in. My strategy was to divide the large space into zones. As it was, the space did not foster comfortable conversation and looked pretty empty even though there was a lot of furniture. We moved the big red sofa to the center of the room, close to the fireplace. The rug and coffee table cozied up, too. Now traffic from the front door would flow outside the seating arrangement. Much smoother.
Fifteen minutes into the process, we had moved the sofa and coffee table and the room was already taking shape.
The TV was in a good spot but needed a more substantial base. Emily said there was a longer coffee table in the basement, and it turned out to be the perfect size (before and after below). The new table is a little lower, too, which allows more of the window to be visible.
Yes, this perfect table was hidden in the basement!
We covered up the mess of cords beneath with a drape we found in a box in the garage. It belonged to Emily's roommate who wasn't home at the time. Better to apologize than ask permission, right?
Speaking of drapes, the makeshift curtains in the living room weren't doing those gorgeous windows any favors. When Emily told me that there were shutters for all the windows, there was no question that reinstalling them would give the room a huge boost: more light, more architecture, privacy from the street. Screwdriver, please.
I rejoined two matching lounge chairs (below) and turned them into a reading nook by the back window, which has a gorgeous view and an almost-outdoors feel.
A storage chest from Emily's bedroom topped with a throw pillow became a footrest.
A side table that Emily made in Girl Scout camp (for real!) finished off the comfy arrangement. Its spare lines blend beautifully with the modern chairs.
Next we addressed the dining area (below). The table was a bit small for the space, and the chandelier was wired into an off-center spot.
Emily mentioned that there was a larger table in the garage that she'd like to put to use. Out it came, but its matching chairs stayed put in storage. The existing bentwood caned chairs would tie better with the living room and look less matchy. We threw down a rug that had been rolled in a corner and placed the table closer to the window, almost directly under the chandelier. Still plenty of room to move around it, plus a window view for dining. But now what about the big gap between the dining and living spaces?
We repurposed the former dining table as a laptop desk (before & after, below). Its drop-leaf, gate-leg design allowed it to snuggle against the wall. This placement not only gave the open space a purpose but also showed off the interesting X-shaped design underneath and hid a bit of damage on one side. Above it, we hung several black-and-white photos and drawings that were already framed, just waiting to find their place in the home. Witness the power of grouping artwork. The larger pieces anchor the arrangement, and the smaller pieces break up the shape so it isn't too symmetrical. This arrangement is easy to grow, and there's plenty of space for more.
To finish: a bit of decluttering, a larger entry rug, a swapped floor lamp, and a color consult to make the most of the upcoming painting project (hotly anticipated as evidenced by the blue painter's tape in the dining room). A pale color will make the most of the gorgeous light that bounces about the space. We chose a very soft grey-blue (Topsail by Sherwin-Williams) and an accent wall behind the piano of either Moody Blue, a deep blue-green, or Foxy, a sort of pomegranate shade. Emily wanted to get samples and live with them before deciding.
A few more "after" shots:
No more light-snuffing drapes.
The new traffic pattern moves around the conversation area.
Comfy for watching the TV or the fireplace.
This red woven chair moved from the dining room and paired up with an ethnic lamp from the bedroom.
The bookcase looks more settled in the corner.
Ella supervised the whole time. Now she's headin' to the kitchen for a snack!
Just goes to show you— sometimes you don't need new stuff, you just need a new outlook. I was privileged to work with great raw material here and some open-minded clients. Thanks, Emily and Lou! —Diane
Do you have a furnished living room, family room, dining room, entryway, or bedroom that doesn't feel right? Can't put your finger on it, huh? Just email me and I'll make the most of what you have, with your help. "Work with me, here" is a fun 2-4 hours of collaborative work in your space. When I'm finished you'll have a room that works, a new love for your old furniture and accessories, and a color recommendation for the walls if you desire.
Email me for a "Work with me, here" session in your Traverse City–area home. It's a use-what-you've-got, make-it-work makeover! $100 first hour, $50 per additional hour. 2-3 hours typical. Just think, you could have a whole new love for your space and your style in an afternoon.
TAGS: traverse city michigan interior design decorating use what you have makeover before after room pictures photos work with me here budget decor solutions space planning home staging decluttering
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