Evolution of a living room

Because of my commitment to stay within our (very small) decorating budget, progress on decorating our apartment consistently moves at a snail’s pace.

But even a snail will get there eventually … and almost 3-1/2 years after moving into our apartment, my living room is finally starting to look like I actually want it to.

Sadly, I don’t have a picture of what it looked like when we moved in. Please believe me that it was bad. The living room came furnished with a green-and-red plaid, uncomfortable couch; an antiquey wooden rocking chair; two small side tables in poor condition; a tiny old TV; and three lamps of all different sizes. Oh, and a scrap of lace where a curtain should have been on the one window.

As soon as possible I got rid of these furnishings and replaced them with other ones – not necessarily things I liked, but things that were free. A World Market couch that looked OK at first; a small loveseat with great bones but in need of reupholstery; neutral curtains because I couldn’t commit to a color.

We aren’t allowed to paint, so with blank white walls, gray/beige carpet, and neutral furnishings, it was SO boring.

Then the living room got ignored for a while as I worked on getting our bedroom in decent shape. In the meantime the poor quality of the World Market couch became evident. At seven feet long and L-shaped, it didn’t fit the tiny room, and left no room for much of anything else. And it was UGLY.

I did some serious thinking about the room. In our small apartment, we spend almost all of our time (except sleeping) in this room. But the room did not work for us. It was not comfortable, it was not functional, and it was not fun to spend time there.

So, because I am a list-maker, I made a list of what I wanted the room to do and be.

  • It had to have seating for a few people to sit and have a conversation.
  • It had to include  room for my books. Our one bookshelf was relegated to the spare bedroom (a.k.a. junk room) but I wanted them in the main living area because I LOVE BOOKS and they make me happy.
  • It had to have places to set a drink or book down (end tables).
  • It had to have an ottoman instead of a coffee table. Ben and I like to put our feet up.
  • It had to have storage. Because this room does everything.
  • It had to be cozy.
  • It had to be colorful even though the biggest pieces in the room (couches) were neutral.
  • I also wanted to have a big map hanging in the room – because I happen to love maps – and a collection of vintage family photos.
  • And it had to have a TV. I grew up without a TV, so I would be OK without having one, but Ben loves watching sports and it’s his house, too. Plus we like to watch a TV show (hello, Parks and Recreation!!!) or movie from time to time, and where else were we going to watch that if not from the couch?

So I came up with this plan of action:

  • Replace the huge, ugly couch with a smaller loveseat.
  • Buy a flatscreen TV and mount it on the wall.
  • Using this now freed-up space, bring in a nice-quality bookshelf to house books…
  •  And some end tables for additional storage and places to set things down.
  • Replace the center table (too small and awkward!) with a storage ottoman.
  • Find a beautiful map and get it framed and hung over the couch.
  • Add colorful pillows, throws, rug, etc.

Slowly, over the spring and summer, things got done. In the spring, in-laws gave us a beautiful all-wood IKEA bookshelf as an anniversary gift, for which I will be eternally grateful. I searched endlessly for a new loveseat on Craiglist, not wanting to spend $600+ on a new one, and after a few disappointments I finally located one in August, in great shape, about 6’ long, and only $180. Also in August, we bought a 39” flatscreen LCD TV on sale for under $300.

Oh, about that Craigslist loveseat. Since we don’t have a truck, this is how we got it home (it was a rainy day):

Here’s the room with the Craiglist loveseat, the old loveseat (still badly in need of reupholstery, but I’m keeping it because I love it), and the flatscreen TV before we mounted it on the wall.

You’ll notice I brought in a gray ottoman from my bedroom to see how it worked in the room – and I ended up loving how the smaller (about 20” diameter) round ottoman broke up all the boxy rectangular shapes in the room and was easy to get around. Huzzah for no more stubbed toes!

Then my very kind father-in-law helped Ben mount the TV on the wall, an arduous task…

…and I moved my books and bookshelf into the room, while a multitude of angels sang “glory in the highest.” OK, not really, but adding the books made a HUGE difference in the room – they added so much color and coziness. I instantly felt so much happier being in there.

Of course, we had a messy wire situation, which was easily fixed after a quick trip to Home Depot.

Ben did a fantastic job getting those wires covered up, and then he also hung my framed map on the opposite wall (which you last heard about in this post).

And that left us with the living room as it is now. Not finished yet, but much closer.

Here’s that to-do list again…

  • Replace the huge, ugly couch with a smaller loveseat. DONE!
  • Buy a flatscreen TV and mount it on the wall. DONE! 
  • Using this now freed-up space, bring in a nice-quality bookshelf to house books… DONE!
  •  And some end tables for additional storage and places to set things down. in progress
  • Replace the center table (too small and awkward!) with a storage ottoman. in progress
  • Find a beautiful map and get it framed and hung over the couch. DONE!
  • Add colorful pillows, throws, rug, etc. to do

The biggest pieces are now in place – the loveseats, TV and bookshelf. What’s left is the smaller pieces. I’m working on getting a brown leather ottoman so I can put the gray one back in my bedroom where it belongs. I’m also searching for the perfect end tables – I’m so eager for the day when I can chop up those useless too-small, too-short side tables for firewood. :-) Oh, you think I’m kidding, huh?…

The ottoman and end tables are top priority for now since they’re an important part of the room being fully functional, but once those are done the last thing will be adding colorful textiles like pillows and possibly a rug. I’m not too worried about those for now, but they will add the finishing touch.

It’s been really exciting in the past couple of months to see the room FINALLY come together after years where I really hated it, honestly. It’s still a teeny, tiny room with various unattractive aspects (tile ceiling, sad carpet, not much sunlight) that I can’t do much about, but I’m happy with the changes I have been able to make. Already the room works so much better for us, and we feel a lot better about spending time there.

I’ll post more about this room as progress continues to be made on it!

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10 comments

  1. azaunt

    I love the transformation! Great idea to make a list of the room’s purpose – – checking off the progress as you go along. It inspires me to finish up some home projects that need completion. Thanks!

  2. Karen

    I would LOVE to make you some pillows or pillow covers. If you want to send some paint swatches and maybe some e-mail some samples of material you like I would see what I can find. We have a WONDERFUL warehouse close to us that sells all kinds of home decorating material. I would not be hurt if you would rather buy your own, I am just offering if you want me to do it. Send my a private message via face book. Love you guys!

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