Monday, October 26, 2015

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Inside My New House: The Living Room

My living room.
As soon as I walked into my house, I knew it was the one: The grand staircase, the crystal chandelier in the foyer, and the columns surrounding the living room are the type of elegant details I knew I wouldn’t find in a newer build. Constructed in the early 1900s, the house is a late example of the Second Empire style, complete with the characteristic mansard roof. Perhaps in keeping with the architecture, the previous owner had decorated the interior with heavy antique furniture and thick, dark-colored drapes. I decided to forgo historical accuracy in favor of brighter, lighter decor, built around my trademark blend of new pieces and time-worn antiques.

The living room, as the previous owner had decorated it.

I knew I wanted mint-colored walls, but I didn’t want my living room to look childlike or cartoonish. After buying far too many paint samples, I settled on Breezeway, a Behr color that has all the coolness of mint, without any of the confectionary undertones. 

My first big purchase was the chairs. I’d seen spool chairs in magazines, and fell in love with the intricate shape of the legs. I’m notorious for buying uncomfortable furniture, and didn’t want to make that mistake again. So I splurged on the deep-seated Behnaz Chair from Thomasville. Able to choose a custom fabric and wood finish, I selected a sumptuous velvet—a welcome dose of warmth in a cool room—in almost the exact same color as my walls.

Next, I began the hunt for a rug. A classic Oriental rug would be the obvious choice for an older home, but I wanted something a little more modern. Thus the zebra print. It was meant to be: The rug was sold out everywhere online, but I found the same rug, brand new, on my local Craigslist.

Although the rug is advertised as having gray stripes, they’re actually closer to beige. At first, I was concerned—I tend to go matchy-matchy, making sure every pop of color is exactly the same shade. I decided to override this impulse, selecting the slate-gray curtains (made to look like dupioni silk) I’d originally had in mind. To keep this from looking like a mistake, I chose a blue-gray tufted velvet sofa—the color picks up the mint in the chairs and the gray in the curtains, while the velvet material mirrors the fabric of the chairs.

I bought a bolt of geometric Schumacher fabric on Ebay, and made the throw pillows for the chairs. The fringed gray pillows on the sofa came from Pier One, while the geometric-print pillows are Vera Wang (a Marshall’s find!). 

I already owned the final two big pieces: a 1940s cabinet as my TV stand (a Craigslist purchase from college), and an off-white tufted ottoman I’d purchased at Marshall’s for our previous home.   I added the glass and silver side table for a touch of modernity, then flanked the sofa with two tables in a dark-wood finish similar to the chairs. The white ceramic lamps—a thrift-store find—mimic the curves of the tables, while also bringing a sculptural element to the space. 

For the longest time, the wall above the couch remained blank—I was uninspired, and didn’t want to purchase one of those generic “paintings” from HomeGoods. I wanted something with significance that also made a statement. When I found a booth selling vintage postcards at an area antique store, I knew I’d found my answer—I dug through box after box of postcards, searching for twelve that featured places significant to our life (e.g. Lehigh University, where Frank got his M.B.A.; the park in Allentown where I took wedding photos; a bridge from my hometown). 

One problem: Postcards are tiny, and my wall is huge. I like the simplicity of small pictures with large matting, so I bought square silver frames from Ikea—another modern element—and matted the postcards two to a frame. The entire installation cost me under $100. 

A few meaningful accessories rounded out the room: a coffee-table tray embroidered with the courthouse and city hall just a couple blocks from our house; a silver tea set from Frank’s aunt; a white ceramic horse I bought at a market in Thailand; and a wooden box Frank purchased in Egypt. (I like knick-knacks to have a story, which is why I almost always purchase home decor items when I travel.) 

The final result was exactly what I wanted: a restful space where Asa can play, Frank and I can relax and enjoy a movie, or my friends can gather for a Bible study. That is, a space both beautiful and functional. 


  1. Beautiful! I love what you have done with the space! It is so classy and well-put together!

  2. Your living room looks beautiful! It looks professionally decorated!