The Living Room: Before (Previous Owner)
Nearly 2 years ago, we moved into a new-to-us historic home, built in 1926. What sold us was the potential of the kitchen, which we ended up gutting and redesigning from the ground up. Since we shared about that kitchen reno with you, we’ve been sharing a bit more about the other rooms in our home that we’ve finished, like our office.
Next up: the living room. It was one of the first rooms that was close to “done” in the house. Above are before and after shots, and below are a few design tips that we learned in the process:
- Match the furniture to the room size. As you can see in the “before” shot, the previous owner had a large sectional sofa that took up most of the room. We traded it out for a couch and two chairs, which lightened up the space immensely. The sitting area is rather small and awkward shaped, but we’ve made the best of the space with the smaller furniture. We’re still looking for a few very small side tables to set drinks on.
- Lighten up – literally. It depends on the look you’re going for, but lightening paint and furniture colors can do wonders for a room. Instead of the dark brown curtains and sofa and beige wall paint in the “before” photo, we went for a very light gray wall, white curtains, and a medium gray sofa. The effect was again, incredibly lightening and made us feel tangibly warmer toward our new space.
- Feng shui is real. If you can tell in the “before” shot, some shelving units were hung to the right of the fireplace, blocking the space between the fireplace and the edge of the room. Removing the shelves lightened up the space even more, allowing for free, uninhibited space and removal of clutter.
- Plants make it. Our room was incomplete until Alex’s mom gifted us with a rubber tree plant. We absolutely love its funky vibe and the way it brings life to the room.
- Texturize. That may not be a word, but bringing in various textures is key to making a room visually appealing and seemingly “cozy”. We love our fuzzy throw over the chair, and the lambskin on the ottoman (named Lambie, a gift from my sister).
- Mix old and new. Decorating rooms can cost an arm and a leg, and we’re very sensitive to price. We love shopping for antiques, so we’ve mixed in antique with new items for an eclectic vibe. Plus, antiques can be much cheaper! The yellow chair was $10 at an antique store, the wooden chest of drawers by the front door was free (an antique gift from Alex’s uncle), and the globe was $15.
- Consider trading coffee table for ottoman. We spent ages looking for the perfect coffee table, to no avail. Since we mainly used our previous coffee table as a combination foot rest / junk accumulator, we decided to go for an ottoman instead. It’s much cozier, perfect for our main purpose (foot rest), and we also have a little tray for drinks.
- Contrast shapes. Our sofa and ottoman are fairly boxy, so we worked to find contrasting shapes to offset them, like the round mirror, globe light, and diamond-shaped chair (a surprise gift from Alex’s mom, who found it by secretly lurking on our Pinterest board).
- Personalize. We added a few photographs on canvas to personalize the space; the large canvas is a photo Alex took while we were vacationing in Paris, and the smaller canvas has a photo from our wedding.
- Be patient. It takes a long time to acquire pieces that you feel are personally meaningful and right for a space. While it’s easy to want to just buy “something” to fit the space, we’re glad we took the extra time to make sure we truly liked the elements in our room.
In terms of renovations, the living room was one of the easiest rooms in the house; we simply painted the walls and fireplace and had the floors refinished. We hired a professional at the last minute for the floors, as we were nervous Alex would ruin them trying on his own, and we’re so glad we did!
We hope these design tips are helpful if you’re in the midst of a home reno; and if not, we know most everyone loves good before and after shots (we do, at least)!
About the Authors
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.