The Same Space with Some Different Pieces...

My Living Room Update

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We’ve made some changes over here in the living room and it’s time to talk about them – and I’m very curious what you think. If you are one of those readers who like to see how people like us (bloggers, designers, moms, crazy people) change their homes far more regularly than normal people, hopefully you’ll enjoy this post. Brady and Sara styled and shot it (I was out of town and I’m working on involving myself less :)) and I told them to style it more for everyday, not a magazine so you could see more how we live.

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When we first bought this 100-year-old English Tudor I was super excited to take my style in a different direction – more old world antiques and less midcentury furniture, more neutral tones and less bright colors. And yet my living room felt just too busy and chaotic for me. I loved everything, but needed it to feel more calm.

But I had to pull it together so fast for the reveal so I made it work. Since then (May of last year) I’ve made some changes and removed some ‘busy’ culprits:

1.) The Rug. I struggled HARD to find a rug that checked my boxes: beautiful, kid-friendly, would ‘pop’ off the floor and be photogenic (aka no sisal), large (at least 10×14) and not offensively expensive (under $5k). This rug was $2500 on Ebay, it is beautiful and hid ANY stain possible (the new owner might have inherited some smoothie). But I knew it wasn’t going to be our forever rug because I wanted something calmer (don’t worry, I sold it to a reader and it’s gone to a very happy, new home). So when came out with a large size of the rug you are about to see, I JUMPED on it (literally and figuratively). I had used it in the boathouse makeover and LOVED how soft and beautiful it was in person (rugs are kinda hard to buy online, thus the rug-swatch industry). But I can vouch for this one.

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SO much more calm, and it really simplified everything. This lady is so soft (and we have it on a 1/2″ memory foam rug pad, so it’s like a trampoline and perfect for wrestling). It’s a medium tone which I wanted – I didn’t want dark, but with two kids I can’t do anything lighter than this. And it’s a nice tone of blue – not too bright, mixing indigo and cream threads. I LOVE IT. It’s a subtle pattern that wears well and hides many stains. The cats, however, are pulling at it with their claws so if you have cats be careful because it is looped, not pulled so they can get their claws in there and they do. I end up ‘mowing’ the rug before every shoot (clipping the strings with scissors). But when it comes to the kids and dirt, it’s been GREAT so far (we’ve had it since October and it’s HIGHLY trafficked with shoed kids and our friend’s dogs).

2.) The Artwork. I liked it, but wanted it to feel more modern.

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As much as I loved the creepy portrait above the fireplace, I generally wanted the room to feel more modern and young. I fell in LOVE with that piece by from the Parisian hotel makeover and bought it. It has high impact and brought an instant jolt to the room and modernized that fireplace a ton.

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The art you see in this angle (above) stayed the same, but we moved the one on the piano to above the credenza to create a mini gallery wall.

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I also moved some of the art around on the credenza which I’m WAY happier with (below) and I’m sad to say that I prefer the credenza without the record player, which is a massive bummer because that was EXPENSIVE. Ugh. I might end up bringing it back but it competed too much with the lamp before, and I like that it’s simpler over there now.

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The two large pieces above the credenza are from and the small piece of the girls is by .

3.) The Bookshelf. Here it was before:

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I’ve always struggled with those shelves, fearing that they look cluttered and bitsy and busy.

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But when I turned all the books around, to show their neutral spines, for Halloween I loved it. So I styled it without the really colorful books, leaving some blue, black, and all the neutrals.

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The shelves still have all of my favorite things, family photos, objects, weird wood things, but it’s WAY less busy. YAY. I think I’ll reduce it even more and maybe store some of those bright turquoise books. (P.S. as you can see, the rug we had was slightly smaller than the new one, thus our rug pad is slightly too small for this rug – creating that line you see. Now there is an easy visual fix – just shove the rug further in the room so that that line is at the back, thus less in view, but if any of you have ever moved a rug before with a rug pad with full furniture on top you’ll know that is the worst hour of your life, so I’m avoiding it at all costs. Moving rugs that are already placed is the least favorite part of my job, with hanging curtain rods coming in close at #2).

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3.) The Plants. While I love plants obviously, they were annoying to care for and added too much visual weight in the room, thus adding to the chaos.

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The fig tree found a new home (my styling assistant Emily) and the plant by the fireplace moved to our exterior front door.

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Almost all the accessories stayed – the lighting and pillows barely changed, but I moved some trays and vessels around, as you do.

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Generally, things are simplified, quieter and yes, more calm. If I were to shoot it again for a magazine we’d likely change a few things (add some more flowers, maybe some books on the credenza above) but I’m pretty happy with it for the day to day living that we do in there.

The piano area didn’t change too much. It used to look like this:

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And now looks like this:

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I actually like how it was styled a bit more before, but one of my schoolhouse lamps (the blue shade) shattered so It couldn’t live here anymore, I like that piece of art above the credenza more now. But just having some family frames, a modern lamp that contrasted the wood of the piano and some books was enough. I’m not sure if that abstract piece of art (the blue) will stay there or not, I just don’t have a place for it right now.

Below is how this sideboard was styled:

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And now it’s more like this:

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I traded the vintage Cherner that was in our bedroom with the 100-year-old Windsor that was here because it was FAR too fragile (although I still don’t let anyone sit on that gorgeous sculptural piece above).

Overall I’m happy with it (for now). It feels low-maintenance, kid-friendly and extremely comfortable. And now, thanks to these changes it’s WILDLY less chaotic. The kids have almost free reign (not the Cherner and they generally know that the accessories on the shelves aren’t toys).

So which do you prefer?

The old living room or the new version? Let us know below.

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  1. Definitely now!! I love the lightness the rug brings in the living room. I might prefer, slightly, the old arrangement around the piano. Switching the portrait on the fireplace is such a good idea. I think having portraits like that, if they don’t represent a family member or someone you appreciate/care about, feel fake.
    I admire your style and risque taking 🙂

  2. Calmer and brighter now. Good moves!

  3. Old version all the way! That rug was fabulous, I loved the creepy portrait, and the fig tree added a lovely pop of green. However, my style is way more traditional (I have hardly any furniture that’s not antique… Said very few 30 year olds). The before didn’t look chaotic to me. The after is lovely, too, just a bit less harmonious with the house in my opinion. I think I’d like it better with more colorful art.

    1. Totally agree! The rug and portrait painting MADE that room! I am obsessed with antique oil portraits and have a gallery wall in my kitchen. But I live in a 108 year old house and am restoring it with timeworn and original items – so that’s more my style. I don’t buy anything that’s not antique (also only 32 years old) except for new sofas and appliances. I feel like we’d be friends 🙂

      1. 108 year old house?! Awesome! We’d definitely be friends 😊

        1. Yep! 🙂 You can check it on insta @timewornoriginal if you’re bored.

    2. I agree, old version wins for me. Love the rug and personality of the room. I do like the styling better for the sideboard in the new version. Both lovely though, and I can appreciate that the calmness might be the overriding factor in your busy life.

    3. Old version for me too. Mostly because that vintage rug is spectacular. Like 5 stars. But, I think the new rug suits the chairs and the coffee table better, so I do understand the change, I just mourn the loss of that beauty. I think the vintage rug just didn’t jive with the coffee table (which I think you could end up moving to the Oregon house because really — it’s striking and very modern — and it really doesn’t jive with the vibe of an English country house…)

      Every piece you have is beautiful, I just personally feel the room is feeling too mid century at the expensive of its English Tudor charm.

    4. Agree, love the red tones in the older version and the oil painting is awesome! I struggle with the same issue in my condo – I want calm, open spaces, but then my eyes and heart always go toward red and traditional lines. Thank you for sharing both version!

  4. It looks more generic now, in my opinion it had more personality before. I do love antiques mixed with contemporary that’s my favorite style. I’m confused about your book comment, are you placing books in your own home/Living space (compared to a shoot) based on the colors not on what you are actually reading or are enjoying? That seems a bit fake to me…

    1. Just jumping in to say that I personally own a lot of books and have three bookcases in my home in various locations. I have my blue, green and white books in my cooler colored living room, my reds browns and creams on another. All of my favorites are on a short antique bookcase in my bedroom. And anything ugly goes on the bottom shelves because they’re hidden by other furniture. My current reads are on my nightstand or floating around the house with me wherever I am when I read. All that to say — sorting books by color isn’t as far fetched as it might’ve seemed. Just throwing it out there!

      1. Same here! I have built in book shelves in all the bedrooms and in the living room – so I have some arranged in a rainbow in a bedroom I have painted black, and all neutral in my living room – the other 2 rooms it matters a little less visually. But I tend to re-arrange a lot too. 🙂

      2. I too have many books and always thought my living room looked busy because of the books. I’ve moved the bookcases to other spots and even to other rooms to see what would work better. I even got rid of the bookcases and put all my books in a long credenza that one sits behind my sectional that is floating in they room. Hated that because I couldn’t see what book I wanted to read or reread next. Now I’ve got etageres, not covering an entire wall, only 2. I put my favorite books and some books I haven’t read yet in the bookcases, organized by color, theme and size. The etageres are open and clean and I couldn’t be happier. After all of that, I completely understand styling for a shoot and having your space work for real life. I love how everything looks with all the changes, however the rug is the one thing I would swap out. For someone who doesn’t like swapping out rugs or moving them, the previous rug gave the room a ton of interest. Maybe a rug that has more pattern but not as colorful would work for both you and for photography.

      3. I thought the books by color thing was insane until I realized that I’m more likely to remember the color of a book than to be completely accurate with its title, so in my experience it is actually a functional way of arranging books for a book lover.

    2. Former librarian here. I fully ditched displaying books that didn’t fit my color palette, and either stored or recovered the few that didn’t. There’s nothing fake about it – visuals are important, some colors are jarring, and there are great books that are just plain ugly.

      (I’m with you on the antiques mixed with contemporary pieces, though!)

      1. I’m VERY interested in the details of getting books recovered. How did you do it? Is it DIY or did you send them off to someone? (please say it’s not DIY, cause I will never do it) Was it expensive? Tell me all the things, please!

    3. My books are arranged by color/size as well and I never have trouble finding them and think it’s easier to put them away that way.