When we heard Hilary’s cry for help with her spacious living room (complete with a to-die-for fireplace mantle flanked by built-in bookcases) we couldn’t wait to get our grubby mitts on her space. Here’s her letter:
HELP. My 1954 ranch home has a doozie of a living room. My main concern is the mantle/bookcase area. I’ve never been able to figure out what to do with it. I have even considered taking it out, although I do like the display area and it does serve a function. I would also love to figure out what to do with our giant newly purchased TV. For now the furniture and area rug (new) need to stay and the pictures in the living room area are fairly new and I like them. As you can see I love red, brown, and green and I hate pastels. I’d love to lighten up the space somehow and I’d like it to feel warm, cozy and inviting as well as whimsical and eclectic (I’d love for the room to have more personality). I also need window treatments (and have yet to find a solution that doesn’t cost a small fortune). I love art, painted ceramics, great whimsical pieces… and yes I will replace any and all of my silk flowers and plants (a no-no I know). Thanks so much! I can’t wait to see what you come up with. – Hilary
And here’s the handy dandy mood board we whipped up (with a bit of whimsy and a whole lotta warmth):
Here’s the mood board breakdown.
1. Here’s our color palette for the space. The deep red color represents the red leather sofa and chairs that are already in the room while the chocolate brown color is a new accent that we’ll be adding in the form of paint (with restraint, don’t worry). We actually think that Hilary should paint her brick fireplace a chocolate brown color (try Glidden’s Corral Fence in semi-gloss) for a rich finish that’s warmer (and that works better with the current creamy tan on the walls). We’ve seen this done before (by Tom Felicia no less) and it looks fabulous! And since it’s such a small surface area, Hilary doesn’t have to worry about it feeling heavy or overwhelming the space, it will just draw the focus to the fireplace and balance out all the red furniture in the room. The pear green tone is an accent that we’ll inject in the form of pillows and vases (Hilary mentioned that she loves brown, green, and red) while the lighter green color will provide a little flair when applied to the back of the bookcases. That’s right, we think Hilary should paint only the backs (not the sides or the shelves) of the built-in bookcases a pale green color (try Glidden’s Fennel- it has just enough gray to keep it sophisticated and NOT pastel) while the rest of the mantle and the sides and shelves of the bookcases remain bright white for some subtle contrast.
2. We think the area above the mantle needs interest across the board (and not just over the fireplace), so we suggest adding these classic candle sconces on either side of the new focal point above the mantle (you’ll have to be patient to see what that will be). At $14.97 (for two!) you can’t beat the price, and they’ll add more interest above that fabulous mantle to create a true focal wall in the room.
3. Another steal for the space are these framed and mirrored tea light sconces that will protrude less from the wall and add some diversity above the mantle. Now two sets of sconces might sound strange at this point, but stay with us and I promise it’ll all make sense. And as for where exactly to mount these, stay tuned…
4. Hooray! You stayed tuned, and now you shall be rewarded with our overall vision for above the mantle. We think a mismatched and eclectic collection of mirrors (mixed with those mirrored sconces above) will create the perfect warm and inviting atmosphere that the wall with the mantle needs to feel special. The framed and mirrored tea light sconces can be hung asymmetrically among other mismatched framed mirrors for an interesting and eye catching display (just work out the composition on the wall by cutting out paper templates in the exact shape and sizes of all the pieces and tape them on the wall in a bunch of configurations until you love what you see). This version of collected mirrors in different finishes is from Pottery Barn (and costs a pretty penny) but we’d definitely suggest that Hilary hit up Marshalls, TJ Maxx and some local garage sales and thrift stores to collect mirrors in different shapes and finishes (which she can then paint black, bronze, and gold to keep the color palette restrained and polished looking).
5. We searched high and low for some low priced curtains for Hilary and came up with these subtly textured curtain panels in fresh white from Ikea. At $25 per panel ($50 for two) they’re a fab deal- especially since they’re 100% linen- ooh la la! The inviting and casual tab top detail will look great in the space, and the subtle pattern on the panels looks a bit like a graphic zinnia (which is a super high end look that provides movement and just the right amount of detail). Oh and they come with an iron on strip so Hilary can skip the sewing machine and have custom floor length curtains in a snap.
6. This sofa clearly represents Hilary’s current couch (which is accompanied by two matching chairs). And boy do we have a new layout on the agenda. First of all, we think Hilary should mount the new flatscreen above the fireplace. This will truly create a focal wall that she can orient all the furniture towards (a la Candace Olsen) instead of the two warring black boxes that exist in the before pictures above. And by painting the fireplace a rich chocolate brown, a flatscreen above the mantle won’t look top heavy, and will instead feel perfectly balanced among all the black, bronze and gold mirrored frames hanging on either side of it. The next step is centering the rug on the fireplace. We noticed it’s pushed to one side of the room, and it’ll really look best once it’s floating in the middle of the space. Then we’d place the couch directly across from the fireplace (centered on the fireplace as well). Instead of pushing it all the way against the back wall, we’d rest it about two feet away from it so that our new seating area feels like it’s floating in the middle of the centered rug. Then we’d add the two side tables to either side of the sofa and place the coffee table 18 inches in front of the couch (centered on the fireplace as well). This will ground the seating area, and adding a red chair on either side of the fireplace about two feet in front of each of the bookcases (facing the coffee table) will keep the seating arrangement in the middle of the room instead from crowding our new mantle focal wall. The key to this arrangement is that there’s the same amount of space between the back of the sofa and the wall as there is between the backs of the chairs and the bookcases (ideally two feet or so). Oh and the chairs can be angled in towards the corners of the coffee table for a comfortable conversation area. Of course the ottoman will get lost in the shuffle, but the sense of balance and order (and a dash of formality that the layout will bring to those big casual leather pieces) will really make the space shine. So worth it.
7. We have the eclectic thing down with the mismatched frames above the mantle, but it’s time for a few whimsical pieces to satisfy Hilary’s request for a room that’s chock full of personality. These cute pale green vases (in our accent color no less) will look sweet on every surface from the side tables to the bookcases. And at three for under five dollars, Hilary can grab at least a dozen (and stagger one on each of the bookcase shelves while the remaining few get to live on the side tables).
8. And there’s more whimsy where those vases came from in the form of these gorgeous patterned pillows from Ikea (one in our punchy accent color and another in a pattern that ties in both the red and the green). Two of these in each corner of the couch (and one of the patterned ones in each chair) will really up the charm and the fresh-factor in Hilary’s space, and the cheeky bunny pillow tossed on the sofa will complete the whole whimsical effect.
9. Lastly, this pretty hurricane will look right at home in the center of the coffee table. A simple silhouette that will add warmth and work with our black and bronze frames and sconces above the fireplace.
So there you have it. A few playful accents that add humor and personality to a warm and cozy living room with a gorgeous built-in that serves as the star of the space.
Update: We sadly can no longer find the time to take on client commissioned mood boards (we now whip up general inspiration boards instead) but if we ever reinstate them we’ll make a big announcement!