Category Archives: Spaces

Ashley’s Living Room

So you’re moving into a new apartment with a living area that’s a little snug, and need to figure out the right furniture layout?  Let’s see if we can help some.

Here’s Ashley’s new apartment (furnishings not staying, they are courtesy of the current tenant).  What, you don’t like the couch snuggling to that built in?   😉

living area closest to entry (left side of space)

That’s the side of the living area that is closest to the main entry.  This next photo is looking across the room, and the kitchen is to the right before the dining area.  Great, big, windows by the way.

view from entry towards right side of room (dining area)

We don’t have all the measurements or much sense for style preferences, but here goes.

The first thing to do is envision how you would use this space.  How many people do you want to fit comfortably, and what activities do you want the space to function for?  Ashley wants a space that will allow them to entertain, but most importantly that will be functional, cool, and comfy.

They own a 47″ TV, which needs to be considered when determining the furniture plan.  A TV this size typically requires a minimum of 6 feet viewing distance, but preferably 9 feet.  With a total room width of 9 feet (fireplace wall to opposite wall), if you are looking for *optimal* viewing that means the TV would flip to face the length of the room since you need to factor in seating, fireplace, etc.

This plan places the TV to the left upon entry to provide optimal viewing distance from a couch.

With this plan you can see the TV from the couch and dining area, if that is desired.  In any plan it is really important to consider the main circulation path, which for this room is from the left entry to the kitchen entry (right, before dining area).  It is also important to create a conversational arrangement where chairs and sofas face into each other.

If you need additional seating you could place a small profile bench along that circulation path with some throw cushions, or even a few movable ottomans which won’t be too intrusive.  The bench could also have storage underneath.

tufted cushion from Urban Outfitters

Here is another plan with the TV left.

This plan also places the TV left, with 2 chairs flanking the fireplace and a couch opposite.

This plan does not provide optimal viewing of the TV for most of the proposed seating.  This is OK if the TV is not to be the focus of the space, but rather you want a comfortable conversational arrangement and to maintain an open feel between the dining and living areas.   That is a good consideration if you entertain more people and some will overflow into the dining nook.

Here’s a third plan that keeps the TV facing the length of the space, but now it’s on the right side.

This plan offers a clear divide between the dining and living areas, keeping the TV facing the length of the space.

This places the TV in a room divider between the living and dining areas.  If you want a clear separation between the spaces, this could be a good option but you’ll have to walk around that chair.  Here’s a visual of the TV divider concept…

Create division between the spaces with an interesting TV stand.

The final option is to flip the TV to the right upon entry, placing it opposite of the fireplace.  This would allow you to enjoy both the fireplace and the TV, but consider that the seating arrangement will require you to turn your head to watch TV unless you are lying on the couch.

This plan places the TV opposite the fireplace.

You could do 2 couches facing each other, or 1 couch and 2 chairs, or 1 couch and 1 large chair.  It all depends on what would be most functional for your use of the space.  The biggest thing you need to consider with this plan is how you will handle your TV components.  Since this is a main circulation path you really should maintain a 3 foot path.  If you put the TV on that right wall then you need to consider how far the TV will jet into this walkway even if mounted on the wall, what you will do with all of your components (do you need a stand, too), and how annoyed you will be when everyone walks directly in front of the TV to go in and out of the room.

At this point we would want to hear from you as to what plan best accommodates your preferences and how you see using the space.  Each offers its pros and cons, so which do you think would be most functional?

You may be asking why we don’t propose to put the TV over the fireplace so everything is on one wall.  It’s not a stellar idea, especially in a space this narrow and with that size TV.  We guarantee an instant and painful neck strain if you do it.  When you are seated you should be comfortably looking straight ahead, not up.

Now let’s talk furniture.  Given the size of this space, we have proposed loveseats for couches.   Somewhere around 5′ is most ideal, a little bigger would be OK depending on the final configuration.  The style you pick is also important – a tailored look and smaller profile will really help in making the space feel larger.

Company C Parker armless 68 inches

Anthropologie Astrid sette, 60 inches wide

Anthropologie Astrid sette, 60 inches wide

John Derian Dromedary sofette, 56 inches wide

Chairs will depend on which plan you go with.  Side by side chairs should be smaller profile, but if you pick a plan with single chairs you can go larger and more comfy.  You could even consider a smaller rocking chair.

West Elm Ryder Rocking Chair

Using ottomans is going to be key in this space as they can be multipurpose – additional seating, coffee table, leg rest (necessity with small sofas).

matching small scale ottoman-tables

You could do something like this pouf from West Elm.

West Elm Andalusia Dhurrie Pouf

Or an upholstered one with legs.

West Elm Turned-Leg Dhurrie Ottoman

You could even throw some floor pillows in there in front of the fireplace to soften up that tiled hearth.

And place a mirror above the fireplace to create a larger sense of space as well as add a place where light can bounce and reflect (also note shelves here which we will get to).

Use a rug to define the living area space, but don’t allow the edge of the rug to intrude into the circulation path.  Either have it cover the entire path, or stop just short of it.

And lastly, for that recessed area over by the dining area we love the idea of built in shelves for additional storage.  There are a few fun options.  You could paint or wallpaper the back wall, and/or paint the shelves.  Place them in a  random pattern like this.

random shelving

Or mount them straight across.  You can go to home depot and have them cut boards to the exact size, and then mount them with brackets (go find some salvage ones and paint them, or Ikea has lots of cheap options).   You could also use hardware that will allow them to appear as they are floating.

shelves with painted brackets

Or how about wallpapering the shelves?  Consider even making that little nook a desk area, if you need one.

wallpaper shelves

OK Ashley, so hopefully we gave you some ideas and we can’t wait to see what you come up with!!

Does anyone have a favorite plan?

Happy weekend!



Filed under Decorate It, Furnish It, Spaces, Store it

Gross to Glam

It just happened.  I went to Staples for ink and suddenly I was at Home Goods falling madly in love with an enormous bubble mirror.  What?  How did I get there!  That mirror was a sign…you know, the sign that says you need to do something right now with that {gross} awful {gross} bathroom in the studio even though you don’t have the time or money to deal.  Buy me, I will make you happy!

Come on, how gross…?

gross. gross. gross. gross!

OMG.  I can’t even bear to look at that picture.  Poor Megan.  We used that bathroom for months.  Booooo.

So back to the mirror.  I guessed it might be the perfect size to fill the back wall, and to tone down the brick effect.  Don’t get me wrong, I love textures and I love brick but not this smeary blood red painted {gross} kind, as Juli put it.  Besides, its a barn, we don’t need brick.

$89 (I had a $40 gift card, hence the real reason I ended up at HG and not Staples) and 10 minutes later I was putting this enormous bubble mirror in my car, not so gracefully.

Now what?  Well when I get something in my head there is no turning back.  Next stop Home Depot just down the street to buy paint, if I didn’t go quick I might change my mind.  And if this was not a rental situation and I had any decent budget, I would have thought more about doing cool things like running vertical planks of barn wood up the back wall.  But not the case, so cheap and instant was my mission.

Speed design/shop:

*Black satin finish paint to further hide the brick so I can get the smeary blood out of my head forever.
*White enamel paint for vanity to create contrast against the black along with the toilet.
*White satin finish paint on the other walls since it is a small dark space, but accent it with some fun stencil in black to bring the colors together.
*Black deck/floor paint to hide the gross vinyl tile on the floor.
*Deep base gripper primer for the floor.
*Rustoleum brushed nickel spray paint for gross pipes.
*Roller brushes and paint trays.

$87.  Go!

We gave that rusted pipe 2 coats of rustoleum.  All our other paints were low VOC, but this one was seriously potent.  I’ve found that with most spray paints.  Face mask-it and go far away while it cures.

Then we painted the black brick wall 2 coats.  Ahhhh…. so much better.  Next we painted the other walls and ceiling white.   They were already white so only 1 coat.

Now what?  Stencil design.  Play off the mirror, do something that has movement, simplicity, and a medium scale.  The overlapping circles seemed to meet that criteria so we put a few up to test out scale.  We tortured ourselves because we didn’t develop a stencil for the painting, just a basic one to get the general circle shapes lined up in a diagonal.  Don’t advise painting circles freehand.  Not that fun.  Leaves room for lots of imperfections, but hey, its a barn.  We painted the circles using a black acrylic that we already had in the studio.

Next we painted the vanity cabinet – 3 coats did the trick.   Much better.

At this point I actually considered leaving the vinyl tile as is.  I kind of liked the checkered pattern and it was a coordinating black-white.  But maintaining vinyl tile stinks if you aren’t going to buff it frequently.  And if you are installing a low budget vinyl Im going out on a limb to say you probably don’t want to deal with that kind of maintenance.  It stains and shows wear pretty easily for a material that is supposed to be like superman.  But the worst thing you can do with vinyl, aside from buying it in the first place {sorry}, is dispose of it.  The stuff never dies.  It will sit in a landfill forever.  And if it is not incinerated properly it will release dangerous pollutants known as dioxins into our air.  So I decided to cover it like I did that brick and forget about it forever with black paint.

black painted floor, window frames & heater

We also painted the window frames black, but left the old windows in tact.  I love them just as they are.

Finishing touches include a vintage locker bin I found last year at SoWa for necessities, and an Ikea plug-in wall sconce $29.

Ikea wall sconce for a softer quieter light option.

Still thinking about a less barn-like way to treat the sconce wire, and hope to change out that ceiling light fan which sounds like a plane taking off.  But with the new sconce we don’t even need to turn that one on anymore.

So there you have it.  $205.  What do ya think?  Come for a visit!

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Storage Warz

Nope, Im not talking about the show, even though I admit it is totally addicting!! Today my friend Jen needs some ideas for toy storage and what to do with a printer when you don’t have a dedicated office.  So I’m going to try and help her out.

Those of you with kids understand what a challenge it is to keep your homes from constantly being overtaken by toys.  Family loves to spoil our little guy with billions of them, especially the ones with a billion more little pieces that can be used as weapons and thrown at our new TV.  He also totally needs a new stuffed animal every time they come to visit, right?  (we still love you and think its cute…)

Having storage options that allow you to easily re-organize the mess at the end of the day will help preserve a little sanity.  It’s good to have options that kids can easily maneuver themselves, so they can learn to put things away all by themselves {someday, Jack}.  When we design a space we take into consideration the style and available space, as well as what types of toys need a home. This will all determine what is the right solution for your space.  Variety is key.

Here’s a good combo of open shelves for display,  closed storage cabinet for messes, and a soft storage basket @ floor for easy access & clean up.  Soft fabric baskets are ideal because the kids can drag them around the space and not hurt themselves, or your precious floors.  Ikea has some great basic budget options, but you can also find lots of cute options on Etsy.

Evie Lala @ Etsy

I found these cotton baskets @ Pottery Barn a while ago.  We have a changing table with open shelves underneath, and since I knew Jack would do his best to pull down the diaper bin everyday I wanted something soft and light.

How awesome are these upholstered cubes?  A padded wall AND storage.  Mess with them by hiding new things in the cubes everyday.   That’s fun.

With Via boxes you can have fun picking colors and designing your own structure.   Let the kids stack/organize them like a set of blocks.  Creativity, structure, balance.  Jen already ordered these and I can’t wait to see what she picked out, great choice.

Kalon Studios has a similar option that are a little larger but less of a storage option.  A set of 3 nesting tables / stools with squares, circles, and lines. You can store the kids and they will have fun crawling through them.

Take an old box and paint it.  How cute are Jack’s handmade owls?

Check out ModBox on Etsy, adorable.

Take an old crate and put it on wheels, kids will love driving it around like a car.

or make/paint your own.

If you have open shelves, take a cardboard box and wrap it in fabric or fun paper.  Cheap but also not the most sturdy so probably want to keep it out of the kids reach.

One of my favorites.  Storage and a bench with soft cushion.

OK, now onto what to do with that not so attractive large box of a printer. They take up a lot of space, so not ideal to sit on the desk if you are limited.  But you also need it to be easily accessible.  Most printers these days are wireless, which means you don’t necessarily have to have it sitting right next to the desk.

For office stuff I gravitate towards storage solutions that don’t look like office furniture.  This is especially nice when you don’t have a designated office and want it to just blend in.  Hideaway!  One of the best solutions I’ve seen is modifying an Ikea dresser so that the drawer face hinges down so you can pull out the entire printer when needed.  Make some holes in the back to run your wires.

You could basically do this with any bureau or cabinet, just takes some handy work.

Young House Love writes about how they used the Effektiv cabinet from Ikea for their printer.

Transform a flea market find.

For a less complicated option you could also make your own “cover” using a wood crate that would also double as a place where you can rest things when not in use.  Picture something like this, flipped over.  Then maybe painted, or embellished with wallpaper.

Well, hopefully Jen that gives you some ideas. Let us know how you make out! And if anyone else has ideas for Jen, shout out!

By the way, Jen writes an awesome blog called Parenture that blends her love for travel with her love for parenting…as she calls it, the “inevitable adventures of parenting.” Check it out!


Filed under Ramblings, Spaces, Store it

Sensory Spaces

I recently wrote an article on kid sensory spaces so thought I would share.  I spent a semester in grad school studying the Reggio Emilia and Montessori Method approaches to childhood learning; both are based on the idea that children learn from their senses, and that their physical environment plays a critical role.  From the moment a baby is born they have an innate ability to explore and interpret reality through their senses – not only is this the way they learn about the world, but it is also how their brains develop in the early years.  Sensory learning is a constant process of sending information from the physical body to the brain, and our home environments can help support this learning.

As adults we have each developed our own preferences to the various sensory stimulants including sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.  Responses to these stimulants can be emotional, psychological, cultural, and learned – but they are definitively individual.   What colors, lighting, textures, or smells do you have an immediate connection or reaction to?   You already know I love the smell of play-doh!  Did you know I have a total aversion to the texture of styrofoam? Like, it completely creeps me out.

styrofoam cups

For our youngest children, they have not yet made these associations so their responses are pure.  It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to watch how our children respond to new things, and can help us identify what their individual interests might be.  I’m going to share some tips on how you can create a multisensory space in your home.  The most important thing we can do is provide sensory opportunities so that kids can naturally learn through their own means of discovery and exploration.

**********************MY TIPS********************

Allow the ability to construct real and imaginary places through a space that offers physical flexibility;  keep them stimulated by facilitating constant change.    Incorporate modular furniture that is easy to move or stack.

Pony Modular Furniture

Evoke a sense of wonder by including items that might sparkle, reflect, create sounds, spin, or be in motion.

Etsy pinwheel mobile

Hide items in different nooks for them to discover new each day.  Limit the amount of toys that are displayed and swap them out regularly so you can avoid overstimulation but also provide that sense of change.

hide things in different nooks everyday

Hang a temporary set of string lights or paper lanterns, or introduce a mirror to provide a fresh transformation.

Cotton & Cable design your own string lights

string lights

Kids of all ages also love a variation of levels which can be incorporated through loft spaces, risers, ramps, and seating.  When they are at a higher or equal level with adults it gives them a sense of empowerment which helps them build confidence and self esteem.

sleeping loft

craft loft


Create a spatial wonderland to match the greatest of swing sets.  Who says swings are only for the outdoors?  Spice it up!

With the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, our homes should provide kids with a sense of belonging and security.  You can create a cozy environment that allows sensory connections by incorporating elements that are soft and personable.   Warm colors, soft furnishings, interesting textures, and elements of nature help a child feel emotionally and physically comfortable.

cozy nook

An overall neutral color palette will provide a calming backdrop and allow your child to personalize it with colors through toys, artwork, photos, and accessories that can change over time.   A child’s identity begins at home, so give them a sense of self and your family and allow them to participate.

allow your kids to participate

DIY garland

The easiest and quickest thing you can do is find everyday items that can be manipulated or experienced through touch or smell.  Warm woods, cool glass, rough stone, textured fabric, clays, sand, rice, cotton balls, shredded papers, foam peanuts, feathers, shells, flowers, leaves, marshmallows, buttons, and dried pastas are all great.  Pair these materials with items such as measuring cups or spoons, mini shovels, lids, cookie cutters, sponges, straws, toilet paper tubes… done!

sensory tub with rice

sensory tub with cotton balls

Finally, consider incorporating natural light, fresh air, and views to the outside into these spaces.   Nature provides our children with connections that help them to understand things like seasons, as well as the light and dark cycles of a day.   These cycles regulate a lot of our human behaviors; exposure to daylight is especially important for the production of serotonin to give us those feelings of general well being.

incorporate daylight and views to the outdoors

So there you have it.  Did you create a sensory wonderland for your kids?  Send us pics so we can share your great ideas.

Have fun!

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Tangerine Tango

 “Orange is the happiest color.” — Frank Sinatra

Pantone’s 2012 color of the year is Tangerine Tango,  a ‘spirited reddish orange’.

Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, says this about the color:  “It has some sophistication, but at the same time it has energy. It’s a color that symbolizes a need to recharge our batteries. With orange there’s always that undertone of friendliness and warmth.”   Love it!

Pantone’s color of the year influences interiors, fashion, print, and web design trends.  Bring it into your home through accessories to revive your decor this year.  Color affects us all differently, so consider the preferences you have. Orange is said to stimulate energy, appetite and socialization.  In China and Japan, orange is used to symbolize happiness and love.  American Indians associate the color orange with kinship.

Here are a few fun ways to bring tangerine into your home.  We love it with blue!

our mood board

and some spaces we love…

at the door

up the stairs

on the furniture

on the ceiling

on the wall

for the kids

in the bedroom

You feeling the energy?

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Music + Work = ☺

Remember this  room?

Emily & Tom's Music/Office Room

Well it got itself a nice little makeover thanks to some serious efforts by Emily & Tom.  Check it!!

I LOVE the red here.  The rest of their home incorporates pops of red in dishware, kitchen gadgets, and art so they painted this old shelf and followed that up with some great accessories to create some fantastic vignettes all over the room.

Emily’s photos… and a banjo.  and a clarinet.  and a guitar.  and a bass.

Art, photos, music.

Books, memories, accessories.

Even the layout is jiving.  The furnishings stayed, but completely re-arranging them freed up some prime real estate to give a total transformation.

Doesn’t it feel so much bigger?  Loving the keyboard backed up to the desk, no more staring at the wall.  And instruments mixed in with wall displays.  The music and the work mingle.  The musician and the writer interact.  Makes things a whole lot more fun, right?

And then there is the magical magnetic painted wall.  Emily printed her iPhone instagrams from the past year – a perfect installation for an ever-changing display.  One word of caution.  This stuff is pretty potent.  I had the same experience when I painted my studio table in a whiteboard paint, even though it was Greenguard certified the odor was intense.  Make sure you go with low VOC, have some serious ventilation going on, and wear a face mask!

This room is all about interactions now… the walls, the furnishings, the instruments, the people… lots of warm energy.  To top it off, the majority of what’s in there is re-purposed or items they already owned.  Super budget friendly but pretty major facelift.  Job well done.  Agree?

See now, it’s not that hard.   Send us your pictures.  Pronto!  Stop procrastinating!

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Emily + Tom: Office + Music Room

Hi everyone, fun news today. We have our first brave soul! Emily M has sent along some pics of a room that doubles as an office and music room looking for a dose of inspiration.

Who: First things first, we need to understand who will be using this space. Emily is an award-winnng photojournalist in VT. She seeks and documents moments through images and words. Cool! Tom, her husband, fills the space with great music…we are talking 2 keyboards, 2 basses, a banjo, and an amp. Really cool!

The Space: Let’s check it out. Furnishings are what you see, plus a black floating shelf.

The Goods: carpeting is great for acoustics/sound absorption, a large low window allows for natural daylight/views, and they can stow some unsightly clutter in that big closet.

Wish List: Emily wants a clean and functional space that will also be interactive for her photos. Perhaps a magnetic wall that allows her to easily organize and move them around. They have already selected Behr Clair de Lune 300E-3 for the wall color to warm things up. This color will create a nice contrast with the blacks.

So how can Emily and Tom get the hip, inspiring, clean, functional space that they should have to compliment their coolness? Here’s some thoughts.

Your life streams moments through words, images & music. Use your space to broadcast and inspire your talents. Your hands write, type, photograph, and play music. Great content for wall art. Concept words I might use: flexibility, manipulation, free form, spontaneous.

Walls: Can’t you just picture the two of them scrambling for pencils, paper, cameras, computers to jot down amazingly creative things that continually pop into their heads all day long? Create your own art installation that can continually change and evolve. Write on the walls?

Post its? *Google* post-it art…fun!

Also I love Emily’s idea of a magnetic wall.

Paint a magnetic primer, mount a magnetic board, or there are also these ideas…

clips mounted w/ small nails

mini clothes line

find them @Olive Manna.

hangers for larger photos


Furnishings: Ok so now when I look at your existing furnishings set up, it feels way too constrained for your coolness. Each piece is separated from the next, in a linear display around the perimeter of the room. In a small space it makes sense to have large furnishings against the wall, but the floor space at every wall is taken up, preventing any interaction with the walls. Use your vertical space to free up some of the floor real estate and mingle it with your art installation. Lose the low bookcase (if you can) and relocate it’s belongings (as much as you can) to the wall, especially items that are interesting for display. Hang guitars over a keyboard? Incorporate these items in an artistic way to create one large collage of your life. Here’s more inspiration.

hang guitars over keyboard

install floating shelf above desk; mingle shelf display with wall display

make your books shelves?

Lastly, pick a color you love. Make it a pop like that cute monkey picture is doing. Incorporate it into a few accessories – a side chair, a throw pillow for your desk chair, curtains for your window. That way you can add some energy while not drowning yourself in a color you will tire of.
Good luck and let us know how it goes!!!!!!!!!!

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