Balancing Act

by Lauren Setum

Well, you’ve seen design ideas for the KitchenDining RoomMaster Bedroom and Guest Bedroom in my friend’s new home. Last, but not least, is the Living Room. The paint color for this space is…

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Sweet Rosy Brown by Benjamin Moore

As you can see in the space plan below, the Living Room is long and narrow, but by strategically placing furniture of the correct size, cozy conversation areas and reading nooks emerge. You’ll notice that the area rug is labeled as a 10′ x 14′. It’s important that the rug not be smaller. Smaller rug = smaller feeling space. The two lounge chairs across from the sofa are placed in front of the large window for a reason. If you want to see an interior designer cringe, place a large sofa in front of a window (CRINGE!). The chairs are more appropriate for this spot because they feel lighter in comparison to one big sofa. A sofa would make the window feel blocked off; we want to welcome the light in! Finally, end tables are drawn in at just the right size: not too small, not too big.

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Now, let’s talk about focal points in the room and how they should be addressed. You probably noticed on the plan that the fireplace is tucked into one end of the room. While it should remain a charming architectural detail, it’s important that, in the interest of visual balance, not everything be directed toward just this one end of the space. First, let’s focus on how to include the fireplace as a focal point.

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The photo above (walls are awaiting their new paint color!) gives you an idea of the fireplace’s existing brick. You can also see that there is an existing mantle. Instead of a single piece of art above the mantle, I’d suggest a look like (one row of) this…

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It’s a great way to showcase special photographs. The layered look of these photos suggests that they’ve been acquired over time and  that there’s a real history to the home and the people who live there (which is true!). I’d also recommend replacing the chandelier you see in the Living Room photo with this spotlight fixture from Home Depot. The placement of the existing chandelier is a little awkward; this spotlight, mounted on the ceiling, would allow the photographs to shine. (Tip: when purchasing a fixture that’s meant solely for highlighting other elements in a room, try to match the ceiling color as closely as possible; no need for a big dark blob on a white-ish ceiling!)

Then, to complete the fireplace area, add a small lounge chair as seen on the plan. Notice that whichever way you look at it, whether from the kitchen or from the other end of the Living Room, you see a lovely composition at the fireplace. Plus, what a great spot to curl up and read a book!

Now for the other end of the Living Room. The wall opposite the fireplace needs some attention so that the space won’t feel visually lopsided. My idea, as seen in the elevation drawing below, involves a credenza and a few key accessories. First off, the homeowners would want to keep an eye out for a mid-century credenza that’s about 5 feet wide; vintage shops, like findfurnish in Northeast Minneapolis, are great places to find such treasures. The floating bookshelves from The Container Store designate a place for reading materials and create a great asymmetrical look on this wall (necessary because the doorway to the dining room is to the left and restricts any kind of wall hanging that projects). A large scale piece of art and 30 inch high lamp complete the look. Oh, and don’t forget these gold trays from West Elm; they allow the credenza to be turned into a great little bar at a moment’s notice!

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And, of course, materials and finishes…

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1) Sofa Fabric: This color did not work well the way the previous homeowners used it, as an accent wall. Toss this fabric from Pollock on a sofa though, and you have one fabulous pop of color!

2 & 3) Sofa pillow fabrics: A little pattern (Schumacher) and a texture (Pollock) with just the right colors can work wonders.

4) Ceramic art above sofa: Kimberlee Joy Roth is a Minneapolis-based ceramic artist. The piece shown on the board above is lovely, though I’d recommend going with one of her blue finishes. Check out the fabulous installations you can do with her art here.

5) Side table: You’ll notice on the floor plan that I’ve placed a small end table between the two lounge chairs. I love this one from Ballard Designs for that spot.

6) Lounge chairs: I found this pair of chairs (there are actually two of them) at findfurnish in Minneapolis. The shape of the chairs is absolutely perfect for this home.

7) Fabric for Lounge Chairs: The lounge chairs are indeed wonderful, but they definitely need to be reupholstered. This fabric from Schumacher does a fantastic job of picking up on the blue color seen here in the Living Room and throughout the rest of the home.

8) Pillow fabric: Repeating the red color on the chairs with some pillows using this Schumacher fabric.

9) Art for over the credenza: I’d shown some art placed above the credenza in the elevation drawing. A couple things that I feel are important: a) The colors; love that this piece has red, blue and gold tones. b) The subject matter isn’t too serious. While I love that this space is moody and almost a little dramatic, I think it’s important that the tone not be overly serious. The homeowners are young, vibrant people, and their space should reflect that. This artwork is fun and unexpected, but it still works.

And the all important rug, shown at the bottom of the board. This beauty is from Dash & Albert.

Drab to Fab!

by Lauren Setum

Back in September, I wrote a post entitled Your Sofa is Ugly. Subsequently, I received some feedback from defensive sofa owners…you know who you are. While I fully intend to stand my ground (sorry folks, I’m calling it like I see it), this time around, I’m taking a slightly different approach. And it’s good news! If you have tired, old furniture, there may be hope!

This past weekend, I spent Sunday afternoon perusing Hunt and Gather, a vintage and antique store in Edina. If you’re looking for wall decor, jewelry, furniture, lighting, or quirky accessories, I highly recommend checking out this store. Bear in mind that their stock is continually changing since they offer one-of-a-kind items so go in with an open mind. I’ve purchased several lounge chairs from here that I intend to reupholster. Which brings me to the point of the post. Instead of buying completely new furniture, consider breathing life into old pieces that have semi-hidden potential and character. Take a look…IMG_2075

A sampling of all the unique items you’ll come across at Hunt and Gather in Minneapolis. The vintage metal Tonka trucks in the upper left-hand corner would make great accessories on built in shelves!

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Left: Antique door knockers. There were about six of these available…they’d make fabulous wall art when all grouped together.

Right: Vintage wood bins. Decorative and functional!

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This freestanding ‘locker/amoire’ of sorts caught my eye. I can see it in the laundry room, mud room or guest bedroom of a mid-century home. So fun and unique.

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This round end table could be the ‘pop of color’ in a room…just add this Ruby Red paint from Benjamin Moore (or any other color of your choosing).

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This pair of chairs was my favorite find of the afternoon. They have a great shape, and I can definitely picture them in a home office. Reupholster in this ikat fabric from Schumacher and ta-da!

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This side chair is so unique, and honestly, could probably suffice as is. But, if you are looking to spruce it up a bit, consider reupholstering in this fabric from Zak + Fox.

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These case pieces are also lovely (and more ‘antique looking’) as is. For a modern twist, consider a painted yellow finish using Bold Yellow from Benjamin Moore.

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This settee has great traditional lines, without being stuffy. Make it a statement piece using a bold upholstery fabric from Harlequin.

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This retro barstool would look fabulous in any one of these color ways from Pollack

A WORD TO THE WISE: If you have the urge to reupholster yourself…resist it. Contact a professional. The end result will be 100 times better, and it will last 100 times longer. No offense or anything. Happy hunting!

Your Sofa is Ugly

by Lauren Setum

Do you have a sofa that looks something like these?

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Don’t take this the wrong way, but, well, your sofa is ugly. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. The thing is, it’s overstuffed, poorly constructed and just not attractive. Now, not everyone peruses furniture regularly so let me show you what it is that I mean. These sofas are the equivalent of…

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…going to a job interview dressed in this.

The point is, your home says something about you, so say something good! Take a look at these two chairs. Their vibes are completely different!

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The beautiful chair on the right is from A. RudinIt functions the same as (make that ‘better than’) the one on the left and is clearly the product of a thoughtful design.

5 Things You Need to Consider When Purchasing Furniture

1) Quality Construction: Is the frame made of hardwood? Does the piece have an 8-way hand-tied spring system? Are the cushion fillers made of quality materials (hopefully more than just foam)? The short answer to all those questions should be ‘yes’…they are major contributors when it comes to your furniture’s longevity.

2) The lines of a piece: Assess your existing furniture before purchasing new pieces. If you have furniture with quote on quote ‘good bones’, consider consulting an upholstery workroom. They can rejuvenate your furniture by reupholstering and adding new cushions. In fact, I happen to have a project of this nature on my list of ‘to dos’. Shown below, my settee has a great classic shape and was a steal at $60. Wondering if your furniture would work for this? Feel free to ask me, I think I’ve proven I’ll be honest. Oh, and if you’re looking for new furniture, take some time to look through design magazines…familiarize yourself with the look of quality furniture.

3) Tailoring and fabric: If you’re looking at a piece with tan microsuede or brown leather…don’t buy it! Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, but still, think outside the box! Outdoor fabrics, for example, can actually be a great option for furniture that gets a lot of use, as they’re really durable and cleanable. Also, be sure and survey the tailoring. It should look precise and clean, no sloppiness!

4) Scale: For heaven’s sake, sketch out a little floor plan before you go shopping, and MEASURE, MEASURE, MEASURE!! Don’t play the guessing game with sizes. The size of your furniture should be in proportion to the overall size of the room. It should fill the room but not overwhelm it.

5) Money: Should you have a budget? Yes. Should you have a realistic budget? Also yes. The truth is, quality furniture is an investment. But seeing as it’s for the place where you live your life, it’s a worthwhile one. Good furniture is built to last. Think of it this way…you wouldn’t get lasik from the place that advertises the procedure for $99 in a random newspaper ad would you? Exactly. So no $300 sofas either!

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My settee. Reupholstery is in its future.

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Here are a few fabulous sofas from some great vendors (clockwise from top left). All are available in a wide array of fabrics.

Lee Industries    A Rudin    Thayer Coggin   Wesley Hall  

Last but not least, a book recommendation. I live in a smaller home, so I can’t say that all 101 things are always realistic, but for the most part, the book is spot on. Definitely had me laughing the whole way through…always a plus!

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101 Things I Hate About Your House by James Swan