Our Living Room: Before And After

I am fueled, for the most part, by instant gratification and so the idea of getting our house in shape slowly has been one that I've had to adjust to. When we moved in almost two years ago—almost two years ago!—there was so much I wanted to change and fix and decorate that it felt like I'd never get it to a place where it felt like home.

But it turns out that changing and fixing and decorating are three of my most favorite things ever, so the fact that it's been a constant work in progress—and will continue to be a constant work in progress—hasn't really bothered me as much as I thought it might. (Although as I write this, our toilet is sitting in our garage while Sean smashes up the bathroom in preparation for our next major reno, so maybe read that line back to me two weeks from now when my bath is still full of rubble.)

I really do think that the best rooms evolve slowly over time—you wait for that rug to go on sale, you stumble across that perfect estate sale find, you make your own side tables bit by bit over several months. There's something quietly thrilling about the process of threading it all together, and even though it feels like you'll never be done, there's a moment when you finally stop, put down your glass of wine on the table that is conveniently located exactly where you want to put down your glass of wine, and realize that everything in the room makes you happy. 

I'm done. My living room makes me very, very happy. 

But it wasn't always that way, of course. To demonstrate, I shall take you back to a dark time in my life that I like to call....The Before. 


When we first moved in, the biggest challenge we faced with our living room was that crazy wooden block over in the far corner. We couldn't get rid of it (it's a cut-out to accommodate the headroom needed by the staircase below) and while we tossed around a few ideas for using it as a side table—or even throwing a few pillows on it and calling it a reading nook—the placement of it just seemed really random and awkward. 

So after much rumination and many furniture arrangements sketched on the back of old Target receipts, we decided that if we couldn't beat that random block of wood in the corner of the room, we'd join it. Specifically, we'd join it together with a whole bunch of other pieces of wood and turn it into a built-in bookcase. 

Actually, we didn't do this at all. We worked with an amazing carpenter—whose services I bid on through his daughter's school auction because his wife worked at my old company; try saying that three times fast—and he, in turn, hooked us up with this mysterious dude in Santa Cruz who built the bookcases, delivered them to our house, and installed them for us without us ever having met him. (If you're in the Bay Area and want the details on either of these guys, let me know and I'll hook it up. They were both absolutely fantastic.)  

After that we basically just threw a bunch of our furniture into the room and called it good. For at least seven or eight months. 

A little while after that, we finally hung some artwork—all photos Sean took during our six months in Asia—and bought a rug I'd been visiting on Overstock for an entire financial quarter. We also bought a new couch, but there was something wrong with it after a few weeks, so they came to pick it up and fix it and left us a loaner in its place. 

This was the only period of my life during which I started to loathe the color turquoise.

But now the loaner couch is behind me, thank goodness—as are all the thoughts I tried to repress about who else might have sat on it and what they might have done while doing so—and I am pleased to report that my living room exists firmly in After territory.

It looks a little bit like this: 


Sadie says she likes it, even though her expression may be telling you otherwise. 

I got that geography book at an estate sale for $1, and it's probably the second thing I'd rescue from my burning house in the middle of a fire. The third would be the buttery-soft ottomans I lusted over for many years and now frequently stroke when I think no-one's looking. 

I found the coral lamps one day on a whim in Marshalls and texted a picture of them to Sean, who was waiting in the parking lot. We were on our way to the airport and I almost missed my flight waiting in line to buy them, but it was worth it once I got home and googled how much they were supposed to cost compared to what I'd paid for them. I'm not a particularly sporty person, but I get my fair share of adrenaline kicks hunting down home furnishing bargains in suburban discount stores. 

I painted the wall behind the TV a dark moody gray one day last January when Sean was off snowboarding. It was a total whim and I wasn't sure what he was going to think when he came home. For three quarters of the time I was doing it, I was pretty sure I was making a mistake, but it all came together at the last minute and now I love it. 

You look into the living room from the kitchen/dining room—hello, chalkboard with the weekly menu on it!—and it always makes me quietly pleased to see my books arranged by color like that. I know a lot of people have a lot of things to say about organizing your books by color, but I haven't yet tired of the way it looks, and I tend to remember my books by their covers anyway, which makes it easier to locate the one I'm looking for.  


I also like seeing all the little bits and pieces I've collected on my travels. That shell above came from a beach in the Bahamas, and I'm still not entirely clear on whether I was actually allowed to take it out of the country. The little bowls came from a market in Cape Town, and my friend Melissa found that vintage jigsaw puzzle at an estate sale and sent it across the country to me in a pizza box. 

And that's it: one living room that's supremely comfortable, matches my style exactly, and is a generally pleasing place to spend an embarrassing amount of time watching trashy reality television. There are a few more pictures here, if you're interested, and I'm happy to answer any questions. Unless they're about that loud crash that just came from the half-demoed bathroom, that is, because on that I plead sweet and blissful ignorance. Call me if the tub falls through the ceiling, but not before. 

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