Deep thoughts on sofa layouts

When we moved into our house, we transferred the furniture from our apartment living room to the living room in our house, added a Milo Baughman parsons chair for extra seating and called it a day, knowing we’d come back to it later to refurbish.

We’re not quite ready to pull the trigger and need to make some bigger picture decisions around whether and how we’re going to open up our living room further, but for now we both agree it’s about time for a new sofa (or two!).

My biggest challenge is that I absolutely hate that from the front hallway, all you see of the living room is the back of the sectional. It’s so cut off, not inviting and just isn’t pretty. So, I’ve come up with two potential solutions.

To illustrate the situation (no, I’d never share this angle on Instagram, because I mean…)


And for the potential solutions:

Solution One: Go bold with the sofa

We keep the existing sofa placement and swap the sectional for a sofa with a stellar back, maybe even a patterned fabric. This layout is ideal for TV watching, but it still feels like it cutting up the space visually.

Some inspiration:

This toile sofa from Pencil and Paper Co. is just so fab.

Or look at the back on this sofa on the left (swoon), Jenny Keenan

Beyond the Southern etiquette, it's in the family room that the true personality of this fun-loving family shines. Joe needed a place for his music, and collection of rock 'n' roll...

Solution Two: Two facing sofas

We add two sofas facing each other, a narrow coffee table and a chair or two facing toward the TV. I’d go with a light solid color on the sofas and bring in color with the rug and pillows. I love the look of two sofas face to face, but I’m worried it’s going to feel like a lot of furniture in one not huge space. I did the math and the coffee table would need to be pretty narrow. Also two sofas equals $$. We’re definitely not opposed to spending it, if it’s going to make the room work, just an important consideration. I also don’t know if this is going to make the view from the dining room (and in the future, the kitchen, more closed off)

Some inspiration:

Ali Cayne’s Townhouse

Living room with two yellow sofas | photo brittany ambridge for domino

Though I’d probably go with a neutral – likely white.

Or mismatched, as in Jenny Kennan’s house

No TVs were allowed in the formal living room, where a more conventional floorplan set the tone for conversation and reading. While the furniture was kept timeless, punchy accents were brought in...

And I love these matching sofas in Paloma Contrera’s living room.


And because it’s worth mentioning, we’re opting out of a sectional because this is our only living room / lounge space and while a sectional feels like it adds a bit of space when it’s the two of us, it really doesn’t add much extra seating when you have company over (nobody REALLY likes to sit on that chaise… keeping it real).

Do you have a preference?

The Guest Room Reveal

Many, many months ago (nine to be precise) when we first moved into our house, I had the naive ambition to finish our guest room first. I was so excited to finally have a space for friends and families to stay that I didn’t think through the practicalities: there’s a ton of stuff to do when you first move in, and a guest room is not exactly a priority when you don’t have any upcoming visitors…

So alas, we demolished the built-in bookshelf that was killing the layout and then the room sat for months. Now, the room is finally complete.

You can read up on the process here.

And because no reveal is complete without before photos, here goes:


And now, for the after photos. By far, the highest impact improvement was the panel moulding on the walls and the epic grey paint (Worsted by Farrow and Ball).



We were stumped when we went to find a pair of nightstands that were narrow enough for this small space but also airy enough not to weigh down this wall. I love the contrast of the lightness of these vintage plant stands against the solid masculine bedframe.


The sconces were a great Craigslist find for a fraction of their retail price. And thank you to my husband for figuring out how to wire up all the electrical (ceiling light included!).


The federal mirror used to hang in our bedroom (and before that over a bench in our apartment) and it helps to create a light focal point on this wall.


Because it’s infinitely easier to match paint to fabric than the reverse, the initial starting point for this room were these luxe crushed velvet curtains, and about 7 paint samples later we found a near perfect match in Worsted by Farrow and Ball.

We had originally planned on building a radiator box for this 1970’s radiator, but once we got a coat of paint on it, you barely even notice it.


I searched for months for a dresser for this room and all my inspiration photos were of burl dressers or the Witco tiki ocean dresser. I finally found this one on Facebook marketplaces and it was easily worth the drive to Jersey to retrieve it. Then, two weeks later I stumbled upon another burl wood dresser, also for a steal, at a church tag sale. So now I’m the proud owner of two vintage burl dressers (no complaints over here).


I was worried that this Serge Mouille reproduction light fixture was going to drop too low into the room, but my husband had a friend at work shorten the vertical poles, so it’s a perfect fit. I love that we now can get light into the corners of the room.


While I know we removed built-ins from this room because it was a layout killer, I didn’t feel so guilty because we have this little nook on the other side of the room. Painted grey and with upgraded door hardware that actually allows the door to close fully AND that cute little mirrored knob from Anthropologie and this corner shines.


I love using round mirrors over dressers to contrast the shapes, even more when there’s a rectangle of panel moulding surrounding the mirror. I didn’t want a wood mirror or to replicate the huge brass mirror downstairs, so this Anthropologie mirror lends the right amount of worldly eclectisism to the space.



Paint: Farrow & Ball Worsted

Ceiling Light: Stilnovo Hostebro

Ceiling Medallion: Ekena Millwork

Headboard: West Elm (we diy-ed the bedframe after finding the headboard at the West Elm outlet)

Sheets: Target

Coverlet: John Robshaw

Nightstands: Vintage

Sconces: House of Troy

Curtains: West Elm

Curtain Rod: West Elm

Art: Vintage

Dresser: Vintage Henredon Scene Two in Olive Wood

Mirror: Anthropologie

Cabinet knob: Anthropologie

Rug: eBay


An update on the sunroom

Well, this is turning into a very drawn out makeover, but when the weather turned warm, we shifted our focus to our outdoor spaces. Since I last checked in on this room, we’ve made a lot of progress with building out the window bench, installing electrical and replacing the flushmount lights.

Starting with the bench, Cory built out a base and covered the front with drywall, which we then cut out holes for radiator screens. We painted the radiator screens Decorator’s White to match the rest of the room and used basecap trim to create picture boxes that match our hallways and guest room. Cory brought electrical up from the garage below and installed outlets on top of the window bench to power library sconces. Once we have the cushion in place, you’ll barely know they’re there.


Inside the bench will be plenty of off-season storage, though since this covers a functioning radiator, it will only be storage space for the spring through fall months. We made the bench nice and deep, so it’s a super cozy place to hang out. Next up is sewing the bench cushion and LOTS of pillows. I ran into a small snag with the fabric, where I wanted a soft grey linen from Loom Decor, but it’s 6 weeks back ordered. So, I’m working to source an alternative. We debated a pattern vs. a solid and at the end of the day, a solid felt nicer in the context of the bold flooring and will be a great base for lots of patterned pillows.

And because there isn’t a whole lot of pretty in this post, I pulled together a little inspiration board for this side of the room. The hanging chair is still a heavily debated topic, please take my side on this one!


On this board, I worked hard to focus on texture, with a mix of linen, velvet, needlepoint, sheepskin, rattan and brass. Combined with a mix of neutrals, pattern and a bold splash of color, I’m pretty thrilled with the direction this room is headed in.

Inspiration for the guest bath

We have planned since day one to gut both of the bathrooms upstairs and we have finally reached the kick-off for the first one: our guest bath. This bathroom boasts a slightly awkward layout, lackluster 80’s tile and a very institutional radiator, lovely.

We are planning on demolition in July, so this project is sneaking up on us fast. While we’ve been busy working on a design plan, creating a budget and sourcing, I wanted to share some of the design inspiration for the space.

Since this isn’t the master bathroom, we’re trying to be contentious about using materials that will be consistent with the master, but being cost conscious at the same time about where we’re splurging and where we’re saving.

Another thing of note, I know not everyone agrees with me on this, but I’m pretty adamant about using materials that would have been available and common when our house was constructed in 1940 – so that’s ceramic, marble and wood, for the most part. Cement tiles are beautiful, but don’t make sense given that we live in the Northeast in a house that’s 80 years old. I don’t want to fight the bones of the house either, so this should feel traditional with a modern, coastal twist.

We’re going to be tiling all the walls from floor to ceiling in subway tile, because while it’s totally ubiquitous, it’s also 100% authentic to the era in which our house was built. And it’s cheap. Not only are we putting it on the walls, we’re also planning on tiling around a drop-in tub, to really take it to the next level.

bathroom-black-and-white-tiles-industrial-20151207165622-q75,dx1920y-u1r1g0,c--.jpgKali Cavanagh in Domaine

And a version with a subtler grout (the direction we’re heading in).

JHID_Neely0127_F2.jpgJessica Helgerson in Architectural Digest

I can’t shake the idea of hanging a Venetian Mirror over the subway tile. I know it’s impractical to not have a medicine cabinet, but I’m hoping we can figure out some sort of storage solution.

main.original.640x0c.jpgChristine Dovey


Perhaps to compensate for the medicine cabinet, we might add some glass shelving above the faucet.


One Kings Lane



Another frequent debate is over the flooring. We originally wanted to do a marble tile, then were lured by the ceramic herringbone that was 1/6th the price, but at the end of the day, I think we’re likely to land up in the carrera marble family in a small hex or basketweave tile pattern.

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Lexi Westergard

Since we’re doing a fully built in tub, I want the vanity to be free-standing (but with lots of storage space) to break up all that subway tile. Though, let’s be real, it will probably not be green, and ours has to be pretty narrow.


And lastly, I can’t shake the idea of a honed black marble countertop. I haven’t had much luck in sourcing it, so I don’t yet know if it’s within the budget, but seriously, is there anything more chic that honed black marble? No, the answer is no.

Enjoy company

Wish us luck! I’ll dive into the moodboard and a more concrete plan in upcoming posts.

Building an outdoor dining table

One of the appeals when buying our house was the ample outdoor space. But when it came time to furnishing both spaces, our little folding teak two seater table and chairs that fit great on our small patio weren’t going to cut it.

Given that we have a lot of space on our stone patio, we wanted a big table for entertaining and to visually fill up the space. I did a lot of searching and quickly came to the conclusion that:

  1. Outdoor furniture is very expensive
  2. Most outdoor furniture at the mid- and low-end looks super generic and boring

And since we were furnishing the patio on a ‘new-homeowners-with-a-lot-of-projects-to-tackle’ budget, I didn’t want to pay a lot for something that I wasn’t obsessed with. Our starting point was a set of modern, clean-lined washed wood chairs that we found at Homegoods. They weren’t super cheap once you added up the six, so we quickly narrowed the scope of our budget for the table.

After a lot of searching, I remembered that the ultimate diy-ers Yellow Brick Home had built a beautiful table from scratch last summer. So, I presented the plan to my husband who said it was doable and before I knew it, he had already picked up all the wood from Home Depot and had gotten started on making the cuts. We spent a few weekday evenings assembling the base, an afternoon putting the rest of it together and then knocked out painting the table on a Saturday. And because it surprised us, I will warn you that the lug nuts required a ton of manual effort to get in place (thanks Cory!).

All in all, this 10 foot table cost us about $200, including paint and offers us more than enough space to seat eight and even ten, in a pinch.

We followed this plan from Design Confidential to pretty much a T, with the exception of raising the height of the base by about an inch to ensure enough clearance for the arms of our chairs. The table is a replica of a Restoration Hardware table and is simple enough in design to go with a lot of different vibes.


(Don’t worry we shimmed up those two middle planks so they were even before painting)

For paint, we debated at length what color to paint the table, knowing that we already had wood chairs that would be very hard to compliment. We also used pressure treated lumber, which isn’t great for staining, so paint was a must. Though, I do think this table would look awesome in a natural wood finish.

White won out for a few reasons: there’s a white sort of wash on the chairs so white seemed the most complimentary and it would stay the coolest in the hot sun. Grey and black were close contenders but they would have become much hotter to the touch. We also know that we’re going to have to repaint the table every few seasons, so we can always mix it up in the future. And let’s be real, while I wanted to do gray, I knew it would take me ages to decide on the right shade and summer is practically already here, so we were in a hurry to enjoy it.

For paint, we used Superpaint (an exterior grade primer + paint) from Sherwin Williams in Extra White. We’ve had a small amount of bleedthrough on the spots we filled in with wood filler, but otherwise it went on great.


We still have a lot that planned for this space, including adding vines to the fence behind to table to break up the expanse of white, and lots of twinkle lights. Regardless, we’ve been taking advantage of this table for every meal at home, or at least we were until it started raining for a week straight.

We can’t wait for all our summer bbqs and to host friends and family around the biggest piece of furniture we’ve ever built.


Update: We’re on our third season with this table and we haven’t had to give it a fresh coat of paint and it still looks fabulous. This table is one of the best projects we’ve tackled to date, and has hosted a lot of dinner parties, bbq’s and brunches.

How to make your walls look two feet taller

In our house the walls are standard height, so I’m constantly looking for ways to visually elongate them in hopes that when friends come to visit they remark on our high ceilings. It’s only happened once, but I’m employing every trick I’ve got to make it a recurring comment.

In our guest bedroom, (lots of details here, here and here), I found the magic combination:

  1. Paint your baseboards and crown molding the same color as your walls. You’re visually extending the wall by several inches on both the top and bottom, space which is ordinarily white, instantly tricking your eye into thinking the walls are 8-12 inches taller than normal walls.
  2. Add picture frame molding in conjunction with a chair rail. Make sure that the boxes above the chair rail are much taller than those below the chair rail. Here, you’re drawing the eye up, way higher than you’d ordinarily look and creating dimension and contrast well above your eye level.
  3. Paint your doorframes and window trim the same color to keep from breaking up the height.

There are other tricks out there, including painting your ceiling the same color as your walls that absolutely work (I used that trick in my bathroom refresh), but so far, nothing has been quite as dramatic as the above combination.

And in case you don’t believe me, here’s a before and after:




AFTER (Still in progress, ignore the totally messy closet, headboard still in plastic, and yes, we ripped out that built-in)


In person, we can’t stop looking up when standing in the room because it feels like we boosted the ceiling by several feet. I’m obsessed with the effect and can’t wait to replicate the same approach in the other upstairs rooms. Also, the trim work is not that hard to do and makes your space feel so custom and dimensional – it’s a total win-win.

And because our room is just one of many that’s used this magic combo, some of my favourites from the web:

 photo ce8c93ba9357513d11fac1587fcopy.jpg

Kelly Wearstler

pale blue fabrics atlanta homes mag

Suzanne Kasler in Atlanta Homes



Patio Inspiration

One of the selling points when we purchased our house was the deck space: there are two sizable patios. One patio is grey stone and very large, situated off our pantry and kitchen. The other patio is wood and elevated, located off the sunroom, and gets the best, most even light.

For the stone patio, we’ve added a barbecue and intend to add a dining table and seating area. On the back patio, I’d like to add some chaise lounges for soaking up that summer sun.

I’ve been busy sourcing furniture, and frankly, have been shocked at the expense of seasonal furniture. So far, Craigslist has unearthed few options, but I’m not giving up too easily. I want both spaces to be tied together by black, white, grey and wood – much like our interiors spaces. I’d love to incorporate some vintage pieces to bring in some character and chic textiles, along with twinkle lights and lots of candles.

Here’s some of the inspiration photos I keep coming back to ogle:

An outdoor project by Pencil and Paper Co. – Love, love, love that wood + white with a pop of blue. That wood table with white metal chairs is such a great combination.


Another project I’ve loved for a long time is Kristin from Hunted Interior’s back deck. The black and white striped outdoor drapery, verner panton chairs and wood table are fantastic.



It’s going to take me some time to source all the furniture, but I can’t wait to have a deck space we can enjoy all spring, summer and early fall.



The Guest Bedroom: Design Plan

The guest bedroom is the room we’ve started twice and have yet to finish (for various legitimate reasons). But, over the past two weeks we’ve made some big progress:

  • roughed out holes in the walls and ceiling for two sconces and an overhead light
  • we (but really, cory) figured out the electrical for the three new light fixtures
  • picked up a serge mouille reproduction ceiling light off craigslist
  • ordered curtains (these from west elm)
  • decided on paint colors
  • we painted the ceiling
  • planned out the picture frame moulding
  • replaced the existing closet door with a narrower door to create more wall space for the bed

All of the above things made it look like we were creating a lot of mess in the room and not so much positive progress. BUT, today we cleared out the room for the painting and we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

On to the design plan. The vibe is crisp, chic and eclectic retreat. I want this room to feel like a getaway, with a mix of vintage and modern pieces, crisp linens and an enveloping feel. The textiles and layers should feel collected and surprisingly cohesive.

I’ve ordered a good deal of these pieces but there are some that will take longer for me to source and may change by the time they make it into the room (e.g. that tiki ocean dresser is a bit of a pipe dream that I will probably spend months hunting down and still maybe not find it for less than $3k). Regardless, I’m SO excited about the direction of this room and can’t wait to see it become real. Our deadline for this room is June 1st, so we’ve got to keep cranking on it.



What we still have left to do:

  • Sand and refinish the 2″x 8″ strip of wood floor that was under the old built-ins
  • Patch a few holes in the drywall
  • Paint the walls
  • Paint and install crown moulding, baseboard trim and picture frame moulding
  • Install the light fixtures
  • Build the bed (we have a headboard and need to build the rest of the frame)
  • Source very narrow nightstands (waiting until we have the bed in to make a final call)
  • Hang the curtains
  • Build a radiator box
  • Source a dresser, armchair, a rug and accessories

And that’s it. It’s a lot, but it’s manageable and everything we have left to do will make the room look incrementally better, unlike our past more destructive projects.


Updating the Kitchen

When we first walked this house, I was a bit disappointed that the kitchen had been remodeled and aesthetically wasn’t quite us. But, since we’ve moved in and made some cosmetic updates to the kitchen, I’m feeling a lot more content with the space.

We started off by swapping out the pendant lights for a fresher design mixed with ceiling medallions that bring character to the space (I wrote about that over here).

Next up was painting the walls the same Benjamin Moore Paper White as we went with in the living room. We’re planning on taking down the wall between the kitchen and dining room this spring, so I didn’t want to have to repaint when the spaces are joined.

We swapped in new, bright white electrical outlets, switches and dimmers throughout the space. And replaced the old school recessed can lights with more modern and less intrusive LED retrofit recessed lighting throughout. And then we hung a vintage mirror I found on Craigslist before we even moved into the house, which we spray painted glossy white, in place of the mirror that was originally hanging on the wall. The mirror really helps to open up the space visually, so bringing in one that was more reflective of our style was critical.

All in all, the updates make me grateful for a modern kitchen with relatively new appliances. At our recent housewarming party, I was curious to see where guests would cluster, and surprising to no one, the kitchen was the hub. It definitely got tight along the peninsula, so I’m certain that taking down the wall is going to open up the space tremendously, both in terms of light and flow through the space when we’re entertaining.

Beyond what we’ve done, I’m considering swapping in new handles and door hardware, but not entirely certain it’s necessary. I’m also noodling on whether to paint all the mullions in our house the same black as our interior doors, because few things scream high-style to me than black windows.

The next project I want to tackle in here is whitewashing or German smearing the not so pretty stone tiles. The tilework is relatively well-done and if it was the only thing I wasn’t feeling in the kitchen, I’d rip them up and replace them with something lighter, like a herringbone subway tile, but since there are a lot of future changes in here and a lot of other projects going on, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort.


Currently contemplating: black windows

Our house is pretty traditional aesthetically, but I would consider my style to veer more towards the edgy, glamorous side than to classic traditional, so I’ve been trying to toe the line and keep my bolder inclinations in check. Every day, I contemplate painting my window mullions black, because there honestly isn’t anything more chic than black windows (in my humble opinion).

I’ve gotten the go ahead from Cory to paint them black if I want, but I’m still a bit hesitant about how it’s going to look. So I’ve pulled my favourite rooms that feature black mullions:

Kitchen With White Cabinets, Black Paned Windows and Hardwood Floors

Source: Carter Kay, HGTV

Source: Honestly WTF

Source: The Design Co.

And I did a little photoshop magic to see how it would look in the dining room, and I’m totally digging the contrast. Next up would be adding some roman shades – maybe bamboo or maybe linen? And those brass chairs are dying for new upholstery.