Man, it’s been a long time since I’ve done a Decorating Dilemma post! I know my readers enjoy them, but they take quite a bit of time to put together and I just haven’t had an abundance of that lately.
But, I received an e-mail from a reader asking for some help with her great room and kitchen and I was inspired! While the spaces are adjoined, I decided to break them into two posts, so this one doesn’t scroll on forever.
Let’s get to it!
This is Marie-Helene’s great room… (Marie-Helene actually has all sorts of accent marks over her name, but I am ignorant when it comes to typing with accent marks, so just imagine that they are there and her name looks delightfully French.)
Right away, I think there are way more positives than negatives. I’m sure you would agree. She has some beautiful pieces, nothing at all is offensive or worthy of a nose-scrunch. I think this room just needs to be finessed and that is sometimes the hardest thing to do when you live in the space and your brain just refuses to look at it from a fresh perspective. Even people who are really gifted at decorating benefit from an outsider’s perspective on their space.
Here is what Marie-Helene likes about the space currently…
- White walls
- Corner hutch painted ‘Farmhouse White’
- Sideboard turned TV stand (I am planning to install light sconces on each side of the TV)
- Secretary desk
- Vintage rocking horse and metal grate (inspired by you!)
…and what she doesn’t like…
- Lack of character (I was thinking about doing a board and batten wall treatment)
- Brown window trim and wooden valance box (I am planning to paint it white or burn it!)
- Black couch (I can’t afford a new one so I was thinking about buying a white slipcover?)
- Black lamps
- I am not sure about the black antique trunk, the green chairs and the tall mirror above the sofa. The wall planters next to our mirror are there temporarily for the holidays.
The first thing we can address is the furniture arrangement. This is one of the best places to start, because it’s totally free!! I think a part of what feels off about the space is scale and symmetry. The picture above was taken from the kitchen, so this is how the room is viewed from afar and when you first walk into the space.
This room wants to be symmetrical. Do you feel that, too? Right now, that symmetry is set up beautifully by the TV and buffet, but then it gets off kilter by the visually heavy sofa, the dark wood cornice over the window, and the high corner cupboard.
Scale is also another thing I noticed. The chairs and trunk-style coffee table look small compared to the sofa and the rug looks too small for the room.
This doesn’t mean Marie-Helene needs to run out and buy new chairs, a new sofa, new rug, etc. I think most of these issues can be address with what she already has and by a little trickery.
So, let’s start with the large pieces of furniture. I like the buffet and TV where it is, but I know it would drive my husband crazy to sit on that sofa and try to watch TV. That may not be the case for Marie-Helene and/or her husband, but Jeff has conditioned me! I would try two things…
#1 – Leave the TV where it is and move the sofa across from it. Yes it would mean the sofa is in the middle of the room, acting like a barricade, but it can accomplish a few things. It can orient the sofa, so it’s more comfortable for TV watching, it makes the arrangement symmetrical, the rug would be a perfect size for that scenario, and it opens up a lot of possibilities for two distinct areas in the long, narrow room. Perhaps a slim sofa table behind it with the rocking horse on top?
#2 – I don’t see any TV cables, so I’m assuming that wall is wired for it, but if the TV can be moved, what about moving it to the wall occupied by the sofa currently? Then the sofa can go in front of the window. (I would suggest blackout lining for the curtains in this set-up, so they can be drawn, eliminating the glare off the TV.)
Then, move the tall primitive cupboard (on the left of the picture above) to the current TV wall and make a real feature out of it. Open the doors, fill it with farmhouse goodies, flank it with the green chairs, etc. This pulls the focus away from the TV right when you walk into the room.
Is there a place in the kitchen/dining area for the corner cabinet? Or perhaps it can go to the back, left corner of the room? Maybe the secretary can go in front of the window? I know that might be odd, but a pretty piece of furniture framed out by a big window can look pretty cool!
Now, this is me rearranging this room in my head from a few hundred miles away, so it might not work at all, but it’s worth taking a few hours to shuffle things around and see how the room feels. I’ve learned that I can fall in love with pieces all over again just by moving them around.
One other thing that will help with balancing the room is to paint the valance a cream or white, so it blends in. I don’t think it needs to be burned! I would also hang the curtain inside the cornice, if possible, so the rod isn’t showing under it. Pull the curtains all the way to the end of the cornice, too, so they cover the window trim. I think that cornice is pretty cool and would look fantastic with just a little tweaking.
So, lets talk about style.
Here’s what Marie-Helene says about the look she wants…
“I live in a small village where people live in 1800’s farmhouses, grow their own food, heat their houses with wood and their homes are perfectly simple and utilitarian. This is the feeling I would like our great room to have. I love the contrast of white and dark wood with lots of greenery and a hint of black.”
Marie-Helene shared this picture from The Willow Farmhouse, which does perfect capture the look she wants in her space.
I really think that Marie-Helene’s style is already in that neighborhood (white walls, white curtains, ironstone collection, antiques, jute rug, etc.) and it’s just a matter of refining the look and perhaps replacing pieces or adding new ones as time and money allow.
Another blog that offers a lot of inspiration in that same style is Farmhouse 5540…
So, how can Marie-Helene get from where her space is to where she wants it? Let’s start with the things she wants to replace when she has the opportunity…
Black lamps –
What about replacing them with some accordion sconces like these? They are $60/each from World Market.
Depending on the room arrangement you arrive at, a pair of them could flank the sofa.
Black leather sofa –
While the sofa is a little visually weighty in the space, it’s not terrible. It could be much, much worse! I do think it’s worth saving for one you love, though. Perhaps even have a yard sale or sell some things on craigslist (including the black sofa) to make up that money.
I like the idea of finding a sofa with a simple shape, like this one from Joss & Main. If Marie-Helene has some sewing skills, she could hunt craigslist for a used sofa that can be slipcovered.
I also envision wing chairs working really well in that room, maybe instead of the green chairs. They are super comfy and fit well with the inspiration style.
If the existing furniture arrangement in the room is the best, I would consider getting matching sofas and sitting them opposite of each other. I wouldn’t go with sofas that are this small, but something like this idea…
Coffee table –
I do think the trunk is just too small for the space. I would look for a farm-style table and cut down the legs or an old wooden trunk, similar to the one I just found for my family room, but her space would need something wider…
(Although I would leave it raw wood or paint it white for Marie-Helene’s space.)
Well, I hope this gets the creative wheels turning for Marie-Helene! I wish I could just pop by and help with the furniture scooting and experimenting, but we’ll just have to hope for some updates.
I’ll share her kitchen and my thoughts about it soon!