Living Room Renovation
Welcome to the Living Room. It's the room we spend the most time in. It's also the room we renovated first and its the one I am the most proud of so far.
We are working with a very cool space here .. The ceilings are 11 ft tall. The windows, double hung, extend from the floor almost to the ceiling. The transoms are intact and the trim around the door and the windows is so bold and well crafted - I've never seen anything like it. The windows have a curtain rod but they also have interior shutters. I only had to lay eyes on this room for a moment to know that there was one wallpaper that had been waiting 152 yrs to adorn it! That paper was Coconut Grove Night Shade By Sophie Conrad for Arthouse. I discovered this gorgeous paper years ago while I was still mired in house envy and an amateur interior decorating instinct that had nowhere to go. I'd waited since then for a chance to use it - and this was it.
Here is a panoramic view of the room in its before state:
The original wallpaper was coming away from the wall and a little bit moldy in one area. It's really fun to tear out wallpaper and see the layers of literal history beneath. I love peeling back the 80s to find the 40s - it gives life to my imagination about who lived in the house before us, the choices they made and all the different iterations of decoration the house saw throughout the years
Here is a bit of the mold that was found under the paper
Once we removed the moldy bits we figured we would continue to remove all of the wallpaper in the room. We had all the requisite tools: scrapers, steamers, wall paper stripper and gel based remover - And still it became quickly apparent we were in over our heads. I loved the idea of doing everything "the right way" with this house - and of course that would entail removing all wall paper and not painting over it. But when hours turn to days - and days threaten to turn to months..you change your mind. There is a very good reason that people paint over wallpaper. Removing wallpaper is pretty time consuming for questionable benefit. So after removing it to about the point you see below, I used a putty knife and some plaster so smooth the ridge between what had been peeled and what remained. The silver material under the wallpaper was and still is a mystery to us. It's a metalic flaky material that seems somewhere between paint and foil. It must have been laid down a Long time ago because it is the first layer under all the wallpaper. I have a feeling it might have something to do with insulating or water proofing but I really do not know. Let me know if you do.
This image you see below is the most effective way that I found to score and remove wallpaper. It's better to use a regular razor blade than a scoring tool that is made for the job.
See below - this is what it look like when you use an unnecessarily expensive scoring tool to remove the paper. The teeth on the tool are just too small!
We added a layer of primer over the old wallpaper and started testing colors. It's very difficult to come up with a paint color that compliments black and gold. I didn't want too go to literal and use a variation of gold. I didn't want to go too basic and use white. I thought using a color would frame the accent wall to a better effect. The metallic part of the gold palm trees has a greenish cast in some types of light so I considered using French Gray by Farrow and Ball. French Gray is a really enticing color that seems sort of stony and has very subtle shifts depending on how the light is hitting it.
There were a dizzying amount of colors to choose from
That's French Gray on the wall by the paper sample
I ended up settling on Elephant's Breath. Oh beautiful Elephant's breath - you look cool and purplish grey in one moment and then warm, almost pink the next. Georgia O'keefe believed that grey is the best backdrop for paintings. She was very particular about the grey she chose, painstakingly mixing it so that it would have hidden elements of all the colors of the rainbow. I think Elephant's breath has that effect.
First strip going up! Goodbye 1980s floral motif.
Here we go with the "After". This is the room as it is now. I love those windows - they are really what sold me on the house.
Oh boom! - that's a little more like what an "After" photo should look like! Learning styling, editing, photography as I go ... thank you Jordan Rapthkof
That is my painting on the wall - it was inspired by "Three Woman at the Spring" by Picasso. I would love to have other people's paintings on my walls.. working on it.
Luigi made this fantastic plant stand. You won't believe the price . . 3 dollars. The base is made of the bottom of a concrete bird feeder. It was on sale when we found it at Home Depot, but even the full price of these concrete bird feeders is only around $15. When I saw it I said " that's a really heavy hunk of junk - I don't think I want it in my life" but he had a vision for it.. We hauled it home and he liquid nailed a plywood circle on the top of it to create the stand. It's very sturdy, which is hard to find in a plant stand and absolutely necessary when you have a three year old running around. I think it also looks a lot more expensive than it is. It would look even better if I had gotten around to painting the plywood top!
The TV blends in nicely when it's off
When I look at the pictures I see that the couches could probably ( could REALLY) use some updating with a slipcover. They are from my great grandmother and they are very high quality Henredon sofas. They were passed on to us as soon as we bought the house and at first I didn't know if I wanted them, since of course I would have liked to choose my own furniture. I thought I might do the Steve Jobs and just sit in an empty room with a lamp until the perfect furniture came down to me from on high. Pretty quickly into this endeavor I realized that was not the right approach. If you are trying to furnish and renovate a large house after living in a 480 sq ft apartment, Take Everything that is given to you. Every object and Every favor .. you're going to need it.
Here's one last before and after look at the living room.
Bonus - find the baby!