Really bad at decorating.
August 17, 2013 in Design Dilemma
Just got this big old house and we're newlyweds. I've used hand me down furniture forever. A few of the pieces I love but I think it's looking old ladyish. Please help. I love the house and a few of the pieces are family heirlooms.
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Granite Grannies
I think your living room could benefit from some color on the walls. How about a warm beige? If you're worried that your room is not youthful enough, how about adding some fun, patterned pillows. You're lucky that you have a fireplace. You could make it the focal point of the room by adding a stone face. Here are some examples. Happy Decorating!

Row House Interiors Living Room
Rainforest Green Granite & Leathered Antique Brown Granite fireplace surround
August 17, 2013 at 10:16AM   
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This is a really nice room. I would paint the walls and contrast with a different shade on crown molding and baseboards. Create a conversation area by moving the chairs and/or sofa away from the walls. You could recover the chairs if the budget permits. Love the hardwood floors.
August 17, 2013 at 10:23AM   
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In addition, why not have the couch face toward the fireplace, put the two matching chairs where the couch now is...turned a little toward each other with a small round table between them and update the lamps. You have many patterns in the room, consider covering the strip pattern chair with a sold color. Nice size room. Have fun!
August 17, 2013 at 10:36AM   
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HI -- You say your newlyweds ? Then you are maybe young ? This furniture does not look like it is for anybody young . Kind of nursing home .... sorry. The rug is very nice ,great colors but I think too small . The blue that is in the rug , maybe paint the space around the fireplace that color and get a new fire screen or paint the screen black with heat paint. Sift out the furniture that you don't like . Right now all the furniture seems to be shoved all to one end . Maybe look for some chairs that are a current traditional and not so big . Find some bigger lamps and not so Victorian in style . Maybe some nice alabaster stone vase bases with white silk shades .Look for some bigger art that is a more modern subject / image and framing. Paint the mantel surround a cleaner looking white (BM - Cloud White ) A nice neutral color on the walls so the crown and your sofa shows well --even paint a blue/white on the ceiling . Crown and moldings cloud white also. Wall colors to look at "Revere Pewter " or "Florentine Plaster" by BM paints. Find a nice round mirror for over the mantel and move the picture in a grouping with the others that are over the sofa now over to the wall on the right and put the new painting above the sofa. If you do get some other furniture , your arrangement might have to change.
August 17, 2013 at 10:44AM   
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Very nice furniture, beautiful rug. Not very youthful though. But... if you decide what you want to keep and work around that, you can have a really funky, eclectic interior. If you like that style that is. Some ideas;

Modern lamps, jazzy coffee table and end table, vibrant pillows
Living Room

Zebra skin, bright colours on the walls, unexpected type of storage (suitcases):
Fair Winds Farm

Modern art:
My Houzz: Colorful eclectic style in a traditional New Orleans home

Elegant sofa and table, industrial chairs, natural fibre rug;
Dallas, TX: Jen & Reed Wilcox
August 17, 2013 at 10:56AM     
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If you replace the carpet with a more neutral, lighter color (no pattern), the room will instantly look more updated. Also, the recliners give it an older feel, try replacing or removing one or more of the recliners with something more modern. You don't have to get rid of all the antiques, but just blend a little.
August 17, 2013 at 11:05AM   
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That rug is very heavy looking and it pulls focus down. If you paint the walls as others have suggested and maybe paint ir a modern grey (is that grey in the rug?) perhaps that will balance out the heavy feeling of the rug?
And yes, definitely some artwork on the walls.
I also had some family heirlooms for many years. I finally got rid of almost everything and bought things that suit my taste. I suggest it when you can, both psychologically and financiallly. Good luck!
August 17, 2013 at 11:06AM   
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Donna Walker, Artist
HI Elizabeth-

I agree - paint the walls. What pieces have to stay? I think you could easily transform the room with some smaller touches, to begin with. Just my thoughts:
paint the walls
re-upholster the three chairs. One with a pattern and maybe two solid. Re-upholstering is a great money saver.
New lamps, these are definitely making the space look old-fashioned.
And depending on if the rug is a keeper or not, I would get a modern one instead. Maybe you could use this rug in another room?
If you had some color on the wall, the white sofa could look really stunning. What colors are you partial to? Cool- blues, greens, greys...or more warm? red, orange, yellow?
August 17, 2013 at 11:22AM   
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Some good suggestions above. Please pull your furniture out from the walls to form a grouping. And replace those old-lady lamps by the sofa with something fun and funky. This one caught my eye:
August 17, 2013 at 12:38PM     
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And here's one from Flambeau. They make some really funky lights:

Have some fun with this room. Get some outrageous throw pillows. Don't be afraid to play with it a bit.
August 17, 2013 at 12:46PM   
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Donna Walker, Artist
How about blue walls? A mid tone navy or other mid tone blue would look sensational with the white sofa. Re-upholster the chairs in maybe a yellow, solid color for two. Then a great pattern for the third. Add punches of color in pillows, and definitely a new rug, a gray modern pattern would work.
August 17, 2013 at 12:51PM   
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Awesome piano. Consider putting bookshelves beside the fire place floor to ceiling. Turn the rug around take out striped chair consider slipcovers until you decide what you want perhaps mirror over fp take out basket. Agree with others identify pieces you have to have then see what you have. Consider moving club chair from beside piano
August 17, 2013 at 1:10PM   
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Nancy Walton
Your art is what says "old lady." Some modern abstracts in bright colors would go a long way toward bringing the room into the 21st century.
August 17, 2013 at 1:14PM     
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New lamp, new art: looks younger already.
August 17, 2013 at 1:21PM     
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LB Interiors
Nice sized room! I would move the two gray chairs in the center of the right wall, where stripe chair is currently. End table between with a lamp. Place gray/yellow/red print pillows on the sofa to balance the room. Maybe move the striped chair on the left angled to the fireplace next to the sofa in the forefront of the pic. All furniture will allow viewing the fireplace.

Move all the end tables forward for ease to set a drink on. They are too close to the wall. They need to come to the front arms of sofa and chairs. Maybe two console tables on each side of the fireplace. Two round iron sculptures (maybe some that have multi colors) above centered. About 62" from the floor using center point of sculpture. Art above sofa needs to be lowered. The bottom of the lowest art, moved down about 14". Nice room!
DENY Designs Conor O'Donnell Tree Study 12 Throw Pillow
Boho Bedroom
Pair of Pillows in Yellow and White ~ by Carol Tate
Accessories Accessories - pillow
August 17, 2013 at 1:23PM   
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These are all great suggestions. I don't think I could go so dark blue on the walls. We are in our early 30's so I guess I do like an older look but I need this to improve. Ill move the furniture around and see how it goes.
August 17, 2013 at 7:24PM     
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You have done the first steps which are getting married and buying a house. You may be strapped for cash for a while, but there is no reason not to start developing your own style. A chair here, a rug there, buy towels that coordinate with the baths. When I was in college and living in a group house, one of my room mates went with me to dinner at my sister's house. She is older and was married to guy with a few bucks. My room mate picked up a box of multi colored matches that were on the coffee table and said "If these were at our house they would be the main thing." Your style can be like a savings account. In the beginning it may be small. but if you keep adding to it.........
August 17, 2013 at 7:42PM   
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Sustainable Dwellings
Newlyweds; you have some decent hand me downs... no need to go into huge debt$$$$$$$$, you have a lifetime for that. Use your imagination and some paint. Good Luck.
August 17, 2013 at 7:43PM     
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Norma Sassone
Only 30? Get funky and edgy! How about red and green? A solid red rug would be cool. Do you have a friend who is handy with sewing? maybe you could barter something you are good at (salsa lessons, income taxes, babysitting?)in exchange for some slip covers for those wing chairs which have great "bones" but gramma fabrics. Do the two matching ones with hudson bay blanket stripes and the other one in off white like the sofa. I agree that you need a more modern painting over the mantel, and maybe a black and white zebra throw on the sofa with some red and green patterned pillows.
August 17, 2013 at 7:58PM     
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Norma Sassone
ooops not the last pillow but this art
August 17, 2013 at 8:00PM     
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Speaking of Art.... I am a big fan of indirect lighting and highlighting works of art. A nice modern touch for this room would be some small diameter recessed wall washers that illuminate the open spaces of wall and the fireplace (On a separate dimmer).
August 17, 2013 at 8:12PM   
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So I like the middle chair but bright reds and crazy colors aren't me. I like classic simple clean cozy chic. So I'm far from getting this look.
August 17, 2013 at 8:18PM   
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I don't know what wall washers are.
August 17, 2013 at 8:19PM   
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I think your blue chairs should be moved opposite of the sofa. The striped chair should go by the fireplace or over with the red chair . I think the blue chairs really need a pop of color. New modern fabrics would be great but a couple of pillows could do.
August 17, 2013 at 8:30PM   
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Norma Sassone
Well, since crazy color is not your thing and you are more a chic type, how about matching wing chairs but the third one in white with nail heads? That is, 2 in a muted paisley and one white. But I'd still put down the red rug! lol
August 17, 2013 at 8:32PM   
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If you pare down to the sofa and the two solid chairs and the side tables, you have all the major pieces, and a fairly classic base - so you can just add your personality and style bit by bit. (The striped chair, the basket beside it, the art, rug and knickknacks - these things, and the lack of a color scheme, these are the things making the rest look dreary and dated.)

A good place to start would be a new rug - an inexpensive one, so you can be trendy/expressive/bold, because you won't be living with it forever. A big bold graphic pattern? A multicolor giant floral? Shop around, and think fun, not investment! Once you find the rug that makes you happy, its color and pattern can guide you to wall color - or post pics of your rug here, and we'll help!

Whatever rug you choose, move the furniture out from the walls a bit, so the furniture sits on the rug, not at its edges.

Over time, you can switch out your lampshades, add a few pillows and a throw, and collect some livelier art, etc. You can add a few light, portable pieces - ottomans or poufs, armless side chairs - as you go along, especially if your dining chairs are too far away or heavy to borrow for extra seating when you need it. Also, you can flip through ideabooks here and elsewhere and see if any of the DIY or weekend warrior projects appeal to you, or let the rest evolve at its own pace.
August 17, 2013 at 8:55PM   
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Great stuff to work with and with a new wow wall color, built ins on each side of the fireplace you will be off to a good start.

But the very first thing is to not let yourself be locked into "this is the living room and folks gave me this furniture and I need to set it up as such even though we may not use it". So, decide what you and hubby will do in this room. Make it more than a spot guests walk by to get to the kitchen and family room.

Just saying stop and ask if you'd like a quiet spot for the laptop, or to listen to music, and incorporate that. Some people have decided to not do "formal living" and have made that spot a billiard room. Just remember: your space and your life!

Ok, I will get off my soapbox now. Now, first thing: Have some fun playing around with the arrangement of your rug and furniture. Get as much out of the room, or at least off to the side as you can, just so you can get some fresh ideas. Now, play with the placement of the rug. Try it on an angle in the room. That will immediately relax the space and add in energy.

Then place the sofa with front two legs on it. Decide if you really need all those chairs. Maybe just keep the striped one. Add a very tall real palm for some more life. And post us some pics as you try things!
August 17, 2013 at 9:39PM   
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Marc Russell Interiors
The room is actually stunning! The layout on the other hand needs some work. With a house this age, I would embrace the period. If were not buying anything new, I would ditch the stripe chair. Center the cocktail on the fireplace, have the 2 blue chairs facing. You'll have to pull the white sofa away from the wall a little bit, bring it back into the room. I would turn the piano and have the curve face the room. If budget allows, you can find an ottoman to tuck in the curved area. Mine is 39 round, 18 high, and looks stunning. it will absorb sound, and provide extra seating. Good luck!
August 17, 2013 at 10:08PM     
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You've set this room up very nicely. I love the rug. It grounds everything, and how lucky to have such a lovely piano and great artwork. Beautiful room with the wood floors, high ceilings, FP and picture window.
I don't see the point of trading any of your belongings for items of less quality, but I see a couple of things you could tweak:
I think I'd paint the brass fireplace insert black or replace it. Usually just a couple of screws and they pop right out. The walls can go slightly darker too in taupe or grey, keep the moldings their current color but lighten the wall color for the ceiling. It's too close to the color of the sofa now.
A nice tray, something with some shine, would look great if group some
of the smaller items on the mantle together in it for the coffee table.
The two matching lamps look like they belong in a bedroom, I would
replace them with some crystal lamps and the trunk too looks like a
hope chest and more bedroom appropriate. The basket on the floor
looks too much like a laundry basket shape so I'd take it out too.
Bring all the furniture into the room with the legs on the rug and away from the walls and take out some of the smaller end tables that aren't
needed. Everything in the room is about the same height so perhaps a sofa table behind the sofa might help - you could place taller pieces on it, nice lamps to frame the art behind the sofa or bring a tall secretary in. Raise your other lamp by placing it on a taller table or putting a couple of books under it.
It would be nice to make better use of the window; is it possible to make two separate sitting areas by moving the piano up away from the window towards the center of the room and placing the striped chair by the window with the other smaller chair?
Please post updated photos if you make any little changes....
August 17, 2013 at 10:23PM     
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Monica Towns
Beautiful place. Great bones very lucky to have the best of decorating already in place - I speak of the wood floors and light coloured walls perfect! If you're on a tight budget I would recommend some funky modern pillows and changing the area rug to a modern shag type solid color. The traditional chairs would look a lot fresher with those funky fabric pillows. This is the cheapest and fastest fix. No need to paint yet. When you start changing up too many things at once and so soon after moving in, everything will snowball and you'll feel like it will never be done. Start with those few cheap freshen up ideas, live there for a bit and one day you'll know exactly what you want and what will suit the place best. Always do what YOU like because you have to live there. Happy decorating and congrats on the new place as newly weds
August 17, 2013 at 10:59PM   
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You can get a lovely chic contemporary look in which you can include some of your lovely antique/vintage pieces. You could perhaps draw on the brass fireplace surround to bring some gold into the decor in a "less is more" kind of way. You could use some of your vintage art pieces mixed with modern/contemporary pieces quite successfully. I found this photo which demonstrates how this can be done well.

You have a beautiful home and some lovely pieces, now you need to decide which direction you want to take this. Is it in your budget to shop for additional pieces and decor items?
August 18, 2013 at 6:18AM   
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Sorry, wrong link above :-/ This is it :-)

August 18, 2013 at 6:20AM     
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I know exactly where you are! Starting out with hand-me-downs and a limited budget! You have all this older furniture and a very traditional living room. I think you have some great pieces to work with and can repurpose a lot of it with a few, simple changes. Love the grand piano and the fireplace. Perhaps an upbeat room color with the fireplace wall being a shade darker to create a contrast wall. Find some inexpensive more classic contemporary lamps, put brighter slip covers over the chairs, and find corresponding pillows to brighten up the room. I like the idea of bookshelves when your budget improves. Best of luck to you and browse through the pictures to find pics that inspire you!
August 18, 2013 at 6:32AM   
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Sage walls, a sisal rug trimmed in wedge wood blue and some new art. Will feel like a completely new room at minimal expense.
August 18, 2013 at 6:42AM   
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