as you may have read last week, my best friend joia and her husband T recently bought a house! it’s in my hometown (well, sort of–the town next to it!), about a 4 minute drive from my parents, and i’m super excited about it. it’s a 1940s cape style home that was recently renovated, but more in a “let’s flip this baby” style than a “let’s really think about design” style.
as a result, joia and T have more than a few changes they’d like to make (but over time!). i’ll be helping joia choose some of the paint colors and furniture pieces, and while the design boards below may never totally come to fruition, they’re a good starting point for helping the two of them think about the space.
i have thoughts for pretty much all the rooms (you can see part 1 and part 2 of the before tour if you’re tardy to the party), but i’m starting with one of the spaces in which they’ll spend the majority of their time: the living room.
as you can see, it’s a rather big space. the wall to wall carpet was put in recently, but we’ll probably cover it up with at least one area rug. joia and T already purchased a large grey sectional, so we’ll be working with that (pillow party time!). beyond those bigger elements, my overall thinking is this: it’s a large room with good light but rather low ceilings–so we want to keep it bright and airy, paint-wise, and bring the eyes up, curtain-wise. beyond that, i’m going for a collected, cozy, homey traditional vibe. think: antique pieces with soul, but nothing too old or stuffy.
in terms of the placement of things, i’m hoping to anchor the various parts of the room with little vignettes. for example, the front right wall (right by the entrance to the kitchen/eating area) is BEGGING for a bar cart. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PUT A BAR CART IN FRONT OF ME! it says.
next to it is the perfect wall for a big art piece. speaking of art, i’m thinking mostly vintage pieces–either ones that joia and T already have, or pieces we can find at antique stores and flea markets. again: i want the room to have soul.
anyway, back to the rest of the space. so you don’t have to scroll back up, here it is again–this time with notes!
as i said above, with the lower ceilings, i think we need a bright, airy color. enter chantilly lace by benjamin moore. it’s a cooler white (blue undertones), but i think with the natural light in this room, we can totally do it. i’m worried that a warmer white will go dingy with the carpet, so blue-ish white it is!
i’m also advocating that they hang those ceilings ALL THE WAY UP, as a way to draw the eyes up, and get a large area rug to cover up some of that carpet. in a perfect world, we’d tear it up and get beautiful hardwoods (there are likely some underneath!) but that’s not in the cards right now, so we’ll make do with what we’ve got! the back corner will be the heart of the room, with the ginormous sectional that joia and T recently purchased (we’ll zhush it up with fun pillows and throws).
the biggest change (which is actually already in progress!) is tearing out that fireplace/tile surround. because, get this: it’s FAKE. like, that shiz does not work. honestly, i don’t understand people sometimes. why on earth would you tile the thing and make it a focal point when it’s not even real?? especially in new england, where MANY HOUSES have real, working fireplaces (it gets colllllldy cold in western massachusetts)?
then, to the left of the fireplace, they’ve got some additional space–space that needs to be filled, either by a bookshelf, or by (my choice) a pretty vintage wood dresser like the one in the design plan below. bringing in wood elements will give the room a sense of gravitas, and best of all, can be found secondhand (without spending a fortune). the house is old and therefore, not exactly chock full of closets, so a dresser will also provide a nice home for extra table linens, china, silverware, etc. (the home doesn’t have a formal dining room).
okay, NOW FOR THE FUN PART: THE DESIGN PLAN! this is obviously just the bigger pieces, and just an idea of things–not necessarily the actual pieces.
i’m hoping that we can find a vintage rug–there’s a great dealer a few towns away that sometimes gets huge rugs for a (relative) steal (he’s where i snagged my colorful hallway runner!). we’ll need a really big one (likely a 9 by 12) to fill the space, but i’m confident we can do it. to balance out the giant sectional (which is from a big box store), i want to hunt for an overstuffed leather armchair. you know, those big snuggly ones that make you feel like you’re sitting in a british library sipping a cup of tea and smoking a giant cigar. i once found one of those on the side of the street here in new york, and stood in front of it until i could procure a man with a van on craigslist to pick it up and bring it to my apartment (worth it!).
to bring in some sparkle (because obviously), i’m eyeing a brass bar cart and brass library-style lamp (to go by the couch). the one above is a pricey one from crate & barrel, but target makes a ton of inexpensive options that i’ve seen in person and that are QUITE CUTE. the library-style lamps are pretty much everywhere these days, so it’ll be easy to find an inexpensive one.
for their coffee table, i love the idea of finding a vintage trunk–or buying the one above from CB2, which is relatively reasonable and bridges the gap between being old and too antique-y and looking big box brand spanking new. they could certainly do a wood coffee table in here, but i searched for quite some time and couldn’t find any that i really loved. ialso love the idea of a giant leather ottoman, but that may be too eclectic for their taste.
in terms of art, we’d go vintage here as well, where possible. i love the idea of finding old oil portraits (that’s def someone’s uncle up there!) for cheap, or using old botanical prints (or something similar, like the ones above) as art. we could always mix in more modern prints, but i think older pieces help give a room a layered feel.
so, now that i’ve convinced you that i’m designing a home for old people, let me say this: between their TV area (which will have built-ins for their consoles, etc.) their couch, and potential side tables (plus finishing touches like pillows, throws, tchotchkes, etc.), there will be plenty of modern elements to balance out the space. i promise!
stay tuned over the next few months for more of the garner cape house–i’ve got big plans for their master bedroom (whitewashed walls! a yoga/meditation space!) and second bedroom (BUILT-INS!).
ps: if you’ve got specific questions about the home, the design process, or anything related to the two, ask away! i’d love to structure these posts around the parts of the process you care most about.
more on the garner cape house:
my best friend bought a house (part 1)!
my best friend bought a house (part 2)!