House Tour: The Living Room (In Progress)

This is the room that has been giving me fits since we first moved in, because it’s so long and skinny.  Windows have been taken out and put back in, often in funny places, and because of that or because it was built in 1933 there’s no real place to put a TV.  (I am not a tv over the fireplace kind of lady.)  And we have to fit a desk in here and if you don’t arrange things just so, all the furniture looks like it’s marching down both long sides of the room along the walls.  I never quite had it figured out so I just sort of ignored it for a long time.

Then one day a little while after the floors were done and we were contemplating how to put the furniture back in, it just came to me.  I turned to Mr. E and I said “So, this room – it has to be bookshelf, fireplace, bookshelf, with two chairs in front of the bookshelves.” And that’s what we did.


The floors are dark, and I love them, but that means the rest of our things need to be lightened up a bit, especially because for awhile there if I had the choice to buy something in dark brown, I bought it in dark brown.  I painted the IKEA bookshelf white, but that style of shelf is discontinued, so I bought a white one from Target.  Parts of it are mdf and it took forever to put together, but for $95, I am really happy with it.  And I didn’t have to paint it white.


The two bookshelves are not quite the same height, but I think the banjo and the guitar on the top sort of tie them together and cheat your eye a bit so they don’t look so off.  I sort of like that they aren’t exactly the same, quite frankly.

The fireplace is still one of my favorite things.  I worked so hard on this fireplace and I have always loved how it turned out.  I can still remember that summer I spent chipping travertine off this thing.  Fun times.

(For the record, what I did: removed the brass and glass fireplace insert, chipped off the marble, ceramic tile, and travertine that was covering the brick, patched and repaired the brick, primed and painted the brick, pried the old mantel off the wall, hunted down a giant slab of alder, sanded, stained and polyed the alder and put it on top of the fireplace.)


I used to have all manner of crap sitting on top of this mantel.  When I look back on pictures of that now I can see that the proportions were totally off and it wasn’t the right thing at all but I had it planned out in my head before we moved in and so it took me a looooong time to let that go.  However when we went to Michigan this summer we visited my bro and sis in law (hi Kathy!) and their fireplace/mantel was so great looking. I think she had one black and white photograph and a candleholder on it and that was it.  So I blatantly ripped that off and this is my attempt at minimalism.  I love it.  I really do. I can still switch up the vases and the candle holder, obvs, but for now I am very pleased with this.

We have a lot ish left to do in this room.  Obviously we need a new flat screen tv. I think that will help make things look less crammed into this room.  I am going to mount the TV on the wall right above where it’s sitting right now, and then we’ll have a little table sitting below it for the cable box and such.  The white puffy chair needs a new cover, but I have yet to drag myself to IKEA to buy one.  (Does anyone know why the white Ektorp covers are $24.99 and all the other colors are in the $200-$300 range? I can’t figure it out!)

The brown mission chair came from my parents.  We’ve always called it the electric chair. I’m in the process of sanding off the old finish and restaining it, and then I think I’ll recover it.  Those red IKAT pillow covers are temporary.  Which probably means they’ll be thrown on this chair for the next 2 years. This chair is not my first choice, but it’s free and it’s a nice chair, and since I hardly ever sit in it anyway, now is not when I am going to spend $400 on a new chair for that corner.


We also need a rug for the floor, and I think that’s what I’ll  buy next for this room.  After the TV.  I am waiting for the perfect rug to come up on Overstock.  Something in a crazy red patterned persian/indo style.

I had big plans to buy a new couch, but the more I thought about a gray couch and my dirty children, the more I pictured it taking on that weird scrubbed but still grimy look in no time flat.  This couch is very nubbly and very brown and I have to vacuum lint off of it which drives me nuts, but it shows no dirt, and doesn’t look grimy, so this couch is living with us for the foreseeable future.


Let me tell you a funny story about the coffee table.  A millions years ago when we lived in Ann Arbor, I had a joint garage sale with a friend of mine, and shortly after I arrived at her driveway with my pile of crap to sell, she hauled this coffee table out of her garage.  I was instantly smitten and asked  her if I could buy it, and she said it was her ex boyfriends and she didn’t want it and I could just have it.  So I asked Mr. E to put it in the car, which he said he would do. But which he did not do.  Time went on and people came and went and the coffee table did not get put in the trunk of our car.  Eventually someone showed up, took one look at this coffee table, and offered Sarah $50 bucks for it.  When she said no, that it was already spoken for, he started going up.  And up.  I think he got to something like $300 dollars when I turned to Mr. E, gritted my teeth, and said in a very pissed off voice: “PUT MY COFFEE TABLE IN THE CAR.”

And that is how Mr. E and I almost got divorced over a coffee table.  For the record it’s stamped “Thonet” on the bottom and it was EXCEEDINGLY nice of Sarah to just give it to me because it’s probably worth a fair amount of cash, but I love it and I’ll never get rid of it. And it works so well in this room, as compared to a square or rectangular coffee table.

Which reminds me, I think this and the couch might be the last piece of MCM style furniture we have left in this house.  When we first moved in, we bought A LOT of teak.  It was cheap and it had clean lines and whenever I saw it for sale in a store or on Craigslist I always really liked it.  But I kept bringing it home and it never looked right in this house.  This house wasn’t built in the 50’s, and it started to look like some kind of weird Mad Men theme house and so now I make a deliberate effort not to buy that stuff anymore.  I just never liked it when I got it home.  I am actually a fan of boring traditional furniture – when I get it in my house.  So now my mantra is “boring hotel”.  If I stick to “boring hotel” I avoid “weird retro theme” and “cutesy wootsy vintage.”. I think.  Mostly. I still love the way that stuff looks, but just…not in my house.

Someday I will get rid of the glider and replace it with an uncomfortable but pretty chair from Home Goods and then boring hotel will be complete.  For now I am just going to recover it in some boring gray fabric.,That skinny table (over the white chest) is the table that will go under the tv.  Right now it’s totally blocking off the room but until I move the tv I have nowhere else to put it.


I think I would also like to add a little bit more art somewhere, but I want to see how things look after I replace the tv and add a rug.  This room has the potential to be crazy busy really fast.  Maybe if I put a non pattern on the electric chair, I could do some bright prints somewhere.


6 Responses

  1. I love decorating posts. Except that they make me sick of my own house. Gah, I am going to have to redecorate now.

  2. I actually like the “electric chair”! Much better than matchy-matchy furniture. 🙂

  3. I love the combination of styles that you’ve created. SO cozy. And that fireplace is absolutely perfect. I’m glad you spent so long unearthing it! 🙂

  4. I think it is looking lovely, and I love the punch of color the PB ikat pillow covers provide.

  5. *I* remember the summer you spent chipping travertine off your fireplace!

  6. Have you thought about dying your chair cover? I only ask because I recently purchased 2 white ektorp couch covers for the same reason ($$$!), but now seriously regret white. I don’t know why I thought I could keep them clean. Anyway, I’ve seen Sherry at YHL do it ( and I’m thinking that might be the way to go, at least for me. Just an idea before dropping $200+ on a new cover.

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