design pivot & the entire family room

by | Jun 17, 2021 | Decorating, Family Room, My House, Room Makeovers | 33 comments

Let’s talk about those moments when design plans don’t work.  You buy something, order something, you put it in place, and then you realize it’s not going to work the way you envisioned.  You can ignore that gut warning and plow ahead or you can pivot.  I’m about to pivot.

The fabric I ordered from Etsy arrived and it is beautiful.  I’m not disappointed in the pattern, color, or quality.  It’s just a little different than I imagined in my head.  The blue is more intense and the fabric is much thinner.  It’s even thinner than a typical quilting-weight cotton.  Could it still work for curtains?  Definitely, especially with a liner, but the color and weight made me rethink using it in this particular room.  These give off a more light and breezy summer vibe and the basement is going in more of a library/gentleman’s club sort of direction.

The good news is that I use blue throughout my house and it’ll be great for pillows, light slipcovers, and other projects.   I’m going to wash it and put it in my stash until inspiration strikes.  For now, I needed a new plan for the curtains.

As a reminder, I have a neutral rug with blues in it, a gray corduroy sectional, reddish wood built-in cabinets, and I’ve chosen Farrow & Ball’s Oval Room Blue for the walls.  I still think indigo can be a good accent, but it might just be on a few pillows.

Going with a brown check on the curtains seemed like the next obvious direction to me, so I started looking back into brown checked fabrics.  When I work on a room, I tend to order one thing at a time, so if I need to pivot, I’m not too deep in!  In this case, I’m glad I ordered the paint and the indigo fabric and waited before I made any other decisions.

As I was looking around for brown checked fabrics, I decided to also look into premade curtains.  I haven’t used premade curtains in my house in a very long time…I can’t even remember the last time!  But, I happened to find a lined pair that was $40/panel on sale HERE.  (They have some other great colors, too!)  When I balanced that against the cost of making my own panels (fabric, liner, thread, header tape), it was going to be cheaper to buy them premade.  I can also return them if I don’t love them.  I ordered two extra panels to use for pillows or for perhaps slipcovering the square poufs.  I’ll play that one by ear once I can feel the fabric.  Again, I can return what I won’t use and I can always start over if I don’t like these, either.

My next obstacle was finding a curtain rod that was long enough to span the window over the sofa.  I ordered a long curtain rod from Ballard Designs for a window of the same size in my living room, but they no longer carry one in that size!  So, I spent a lot of time looking around online.  It turns out, if your window is over 10′, your options are pretty limited.  I ended up finding a website that sold 12′ wooden rods that were reasonable.  (THIS is where I bought them.)  I was able to order everything I needed (brackets, poles, finials, rings, and rods) for about $250 for both windows.  I went with the mahogany finish to coordinate with the built-ins, but the nice thing about wood is that I can always paint them if I change my mind.  I think the wood will look nice, though.

While we’re on the topic of the basement, let me take a minute to do a better job at showing you the scope of the project.  I literally went downstairs and snapped photos without tidying up and I’m not cropping things out just to show the flattering parts.  You’re getting the whole basement family room/playroom space.

Last summer, when many things in our state were still closed (including gyms), we decided to be “fun parents” and installed a climbing wall in the basement for the boys.  They both do climbing as a hobby and their sport.  They’re on the local climb team and do competitions and everything.  (It’s a new world to me!)  Distance learning was a bummer, ordering produce online was a challenge, we really missed seeing people and being in the church building and all of the things you probably experienced as well during the shutdown.  But, the thing that took the greatest toll was the boys not being able to climb.  Not only is it great exercise for them, but they are a part of a community there and, even if they couldn’t articulate it, we noticed how much they missed it.

So, we installed the climbing wall.  Now that the gym is open again, they don’t ever use it.  We realized our hearts were in the right place with it, but it maybe wasn’t the best idea for the long-term and we’ve decided to take it down and make better use of that space.

As you can see, this little area is used for exercise gear and we have a folding table set up for puzzles, games, and projects.  The problem with asking this little space behind the sofa to do so many things is that it doesn’t do any of them very well.

The vertical blinds are coming down and the climbing wall is coming down.  The exercise stuff will be moved into the playroom, which I’ll show in a minute.  This space will then be a place for puzzles, games, building engines (that’s what’s happening on the right side of the photo below), and other things of that nature.

I haven’t painted in this room, yet, except for the back wall.  I used some of the extra paint from the playroom and painted over an eggplant color.  I didn’t mind the greenish-beige, so that’s stayed.  It’s actually a really pretty color.  I wish I could tell you what it was, but it was on the walls when we got here.  It’ll all be painted with Oval Room Blue, though.

Aaaaand, this is the typical state of the family room.  Squashed pillows, trash, drinking glasses, dog bones, games.  It’s in the basement, I so can just close the door and not look at it and I know it’s important to have spaces in the home that are a bit more relaxed.  This is one of those spaces, so I don’t run around fluffing pillows and folding blankets unless we’re giving it a good cleaning or have people coming over.

We also have an awkwardly placed recliner from when I had my shoulder surgery.  We really don’t have a good spot for it, so it sort of floats in the room, positioned in a spot that’s good for movie nights.  I am not a fan of recliners in general (there are some beautiful ones out there), but I had to sleep in this one for almost two months, so I came to really appreciate it!

On the other side of the family room are the steps, a wet bar, a full bathroom, a linen closet, and the utility room.  All of this will be painted as well, including the wet bar cabinets and the banister.  Oh man, I have sooooo much painting to do down here!  I’m definitely going to have to break it into small chunks over a couple of weeks.

And, I’ll be painting up the stairs as well.  Now, I would love to rip out that carpet.  It is too hard to keep clean (mostly because of pet hair), but I’m afraid we might be dealing with particle board steps like we had on the main staircase.  There is a chance these are wood treads with a rounded edge, but I’m not hopeful enough to rip up the carpet.  Just yet.  

The other piece of this puzzle is the playroom.  The boys and I have been slowly working through it to get rid of toys they no longer play with and consolidate the remaining toys into the closet, so we can use this as an exercise room.

The shelves will be going elsewhere, the chairs will be moved and slipcovered, and the drumkit is going back to the person who let us borrow it.  Everything else will be rearranged to suit using the treadmill, doing exercise programs on the TV, etc.  There will be enough open space that this can double as a playroom, too, but the boys will have to clean up when they are done.  I anticipate more playing will happen on the family room floor, anyway, since that’s what happens a lot now.

The mirror is from our bathroom makeover and we’ll hang it down here vertically.   We also need to finally replace that light.  It was obviously meant to hang over a game table (pool, ping-pong, air hockey), so it is so low and is always getting in the way.  It’s time to take it down.


This room is never going to be photogenic or pretty, but it is a very nice space to have and we want to make good use of it!  Here is the progress we’ve made so far at getting the toys moved into the closet…

The funny thing is that I tried to move that shelf by myself by dragging it across the floor.  It slowly fell to pieces as I pulled it across the Berber carpet until it was just a heap of parts right in front of the door.  I was laughing so hard at the ridiculousness of it.  I ended up having to put the entire thing back together anyway, so I should’ve just taken it apart in the first place.  Oh, the things we do when we’re trying to save time!

So, there you have it!  The full picture of the basement and the reasons why I’ve been putting it off for so long!  It’s going to be a lot of work, but it’ll all be worth it.

I’ve noticed in this home, which is larger than our last one by about 1,500 sq feet, that it’s easier to waste space when you have more of it.  It’s easier to neglect rooms you don’t use very often and it’s easier to let things pile up in those rooms.  It’s easier to say yes to things like climbing walls and borrowed drum kits.  And it’s easier to feel overwhelmed at the idea of making that space truly feel like your home.  It’s easier to not have a house full of favorites.  There’s something to be said for having plenty of space and rooms with versatility, but there’s also something to said for only having the space you use and maintain in a meaningful way.  This house is perfect for us now, but we already know we want a smaller home whenever we move again.  Until then, we’re going to make this “bonus area” inviting and functional.


  1. Diane L. Christy

    I once ordered two different fabrics – 20 yards of each – for a sofa reupholstery project that never materialized. I ended up using both fabrics for master BR curtains and duvet cover and the same thing in a guest room. It’s been at least 8 year since those mistakes became lemonade and I couldn’t be more pleased. Like you, I have blue/white as a core palette and these fabrics would have been right at home in any number of places. BTW, IKEA has wonderful curtain panels, nice and long. I like mine to puddle and couldn’t find ones that did until I shopped the scratch and dent area at the Atlanta IKEA.

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, I had Ikea curtains ages ago. I didn’t think to look there, but I’ll keep that in mind if the Target ones don’t work out.

  2. Donna Thibodeau

    I also bought my living room curtains at Target after gasping at the price in other places. They are extremely nice and not cheap looking at all. I hope you like your choice.

  3. Terry

    Love how you are willing to show us your” not magazine perfect” part of your home. Also think the brown check will be even better. This is a crazy huge project that truly inspires, Thank you, can’t wait to see it unfold.

  4. Helene

    Sounds like a great project. Not sure I would paint the wet bar. Such beautiful cabinetry throughout.

    • Kelly


      I see your vision.
      What about Restoration Hardware linen or Velvet curtains? I have made all my curtains as well. Made some cream ones in our living room that I pleated myself. They still look beautiful! I am too frugal for RH normally but they often have deals on their velvet and you can order swatches. I have a girlfriend that raves about her RH curtains and she is a seamstress and bargain hunter.

      Just an idea. I see velvet when I think Gentleman’s club. They would help with heating and cooling as well.

      • Marian Parsons

        Oh yes, those would be a nice option. I’ll see how these look and go from there. Since I’m the only one who will care (in the house), I don’t want to get too ritzy with this space.

    • Marian Parsons

      I am going to let the built-ins be the only wood cabinetry in the room and I think it will make everything look and feel a little more cohesive.

  5. Jayme

    Have you onsidered painting the bookcase and mantle? Especially if
    you’re going to paint the walls dark blue. Just asking for a friend . . .

    • Marian Parsons

      Ha! Do you know me at all?? 😂 Yes, I want to paint the cabinets, but my husband, who isn’t opinionated about anything, will not let me. I will be painting pretty much everything else including the mantle, fireplace surround, and wet bar.

    • Anne

      We built a whole climbing room to deal with gym shutdown! It’s a full on cave with gym mats and everything. And then I tore my shoulder. But the kids (they’re younger than yours) are getting some moves!

      Love the pics of real life, thank you for normalizing decor on the internet. Xoxo

      • Marian Parsons

        Well, you are definitely a fun parent! Good for you for doing that. We kept ours pretty simple, but they had a lot of fun with it. It’s just not as fun now as the climbing gym! 🙂

      • Sue Wyman

        Marian, I have been thinking about moving my sofa from my living room to an adjoining room and slipcovering it. I would like to replace it with two one and a half chairs and keep my wing chairs (4) . The one and a half chairs allow two people sit in them. I need to seat at least eight people in my living room without bringing other chairs in. I just don’t care for sofa-loveseat combo. Actually, I am not a fan of a sofa. Can you give me any suggestions.

  6. Arlene

    What a fun project! Love the new curtain choice!

    • Phoebe

      Bed, Bath and Beyond has some really nice curtains, bonus, buy their membership and get free shipping and 20% off of anything for a year. I got some lovely lined blackout curtains that I love. Also snagged a teak shower stool.

  7. Kelly Westman


    I was looking at your writing again this evening and noticed the carpet in your “work out’ room/play room. Do you like the white or cream with fleck plush carpet? I need to change my darker outdated carpet in our living room. The carpet was a greenish blue that was crazy at first, but now my husband wants the same color again. It was incredible for raising our children. Never had to worry about stains… I have a cream with green and brown fleck that I think would be forgiving. I am paralyzed by the thought it will show a bunch of dirt, but I don’t want grey or beige??

    Thanks so much for always inspiring us.

    • Marian Parsons

      I don’t know if I’d pick this carpet for a living room. It definitely has a more casual, utilitarian vibe since it’s a Berber carpet. I think a carpet in this same color palette, but with a nicer pile would work depending on your wall color, furniture, etc. Carpets are hard! I’m with you there.

  8. Connie

    This will be really great when you have worked your magic. We have to change our spaces as children grow.

    I can see a drop leaf table behind sofa. Looking forward to watching and learning as you transform this space .

  9. SueA

    I used an electrical conduit curtain rod with Martha Stewart double brackets for a long rod and it works great because no middle bracket is needed. Cheap, too. I can sweep the curtains completely open to let in all the light. A similar tx would work along that entire wall including the same curtains for the sliding glass door. Sweep the curtains against the wall for full light and pull them shut for privacy. I love the brown check btw.
    I always think of plaid as a masculine alternative. You could find a denser one that brings the blue and browns together with a hint of the reddish hue of the wood and voila, a coordinated space.

  10. Sherri

    Marian, I know what ever you do to your rooms, they will be beautiful when you are done! I do have to say I giggled at the shelving unit falling apart as you dragged it across the Berber rug. I recently did the exact same thing! Someday we will learn our lesson right! Good luck with the remodel and I can’t wait to see the end results!

  11. celestial

    I laughed at your comment about the boys “playing upstairs now”. Years ago a colleague was showing me his home (similar in style to yours) and how he and his pregnant wife had carefully planned out the playroom in the bottom level. They had a playpen and toys all set up. He happily explained that “the baby can play down here and we will have the upstairs!” I just looked at him and asked if the baby was going to be down there alone. He answered that they would have a webcam covering baby. I started laughing hysterically and told him that it was a nice idea but that it would never work because the toys the baby wanted, always, were his parents and they would rarely have alone time until the baby was about 15 years old. He looked quite dumbfounded. Years later, he sheepishly told me that indeed, the baby had never spent time in downstairs playroom and they were waiting for age 15.

  12. B Folk

    Marian, I love the indigo print for what I am planning for my living/dining room re-do, but you are right- the more masculine check will look better. I’d actually wanted an indigo buffalo check for my dining room curtains, but hubby said he thinks it would look too much like a farm… which surprised me, because he usually wants furnishings that are a bit “homey”. Go figure. Anyway, eagerly awaiting more installments of the saga of your work on these spaces!
    Who is the manufacturer of those small swivel recliners in the current playroom? Those might work in my space (as we need two chairs, the recliner that you recuperated in from surgery would be way too big for our smaller living room). I have been looking for something on the smaller side, not too feminine, but not too “Monday football viewing”-ish either. Thanks for the info!

  13. Candi

    Thank you for showing us a “real life” not staged version of your home. It is nice to see everything is not always perfect and that people actually use these rooms. I appreciate the new vision for your space and I know it will be beautiful.

  14. Holly Binns

    Love seeing this come together and the new curtain choice looks perfect. I recently bought curtains from Target for our family room and was very pleased with the quality and price. I was thinking about your “floating recliner” and wonder if it’s possible to turn your rug the other way so that it is wide enough to have the front of the sectional and recliner both on it? It’s hard to tell from the pics so perhaps this won’t work but thought there is no harm in suggesting it. Good luck with all the painting. I feel tired just thinking about all of it! 😂

  15. monique odman

    This is a very large area, so much going on down there! We all know that it will eventually look great like the rest of the above rooms. Do you want to keep the fire place? I would rip it out to use the wall, to me it looks awkward in that angle; and you could use that wall space for something more interesting, display your paintings for example.
    We have had great luck with IKEA curtains and sheers.

    • Miss Mustard Seed

      I do not like the angled fireplace, either, and I’m not opposed to ripping one out! We ripped out a fireplace in our last house because it really limited the furniture arrangement in the main family room where we spent most of our time. In this case, though, we use that fireplace all the time, almost daily during the winter. So, it’ll stay. I think that’s a good idea, though, and something worth mentioning!

  16. Kris

    Marian, I love your honesty with the pictures you used. Thank you for showing us the real space, not a cleaned-up version of it! It’s funny–when I saw your mood boards for the basement, I wondered if the curtain fabric would be a little more feminine than how you had envisioned the space to be–I bet you will love the checked curtains even more and of course you will find a good use for the other fabric.

    • Miss Mustard Seed

      Yes, I always sway a little feminine! I think the checks will work better, but we’ll see. I’ll return them if they are not quite right and look at something like a heavy velvet.

  17. TAG

    Vermont Country Store carries what was once Country Curtains. They do cost more than Target, but the quality of Country Curtains was always very good.

  18. Julie Tomlinson

    Marian, could you tell me the name of the recliner you were able to sleep in for 2 months? I’ve been in need of one. Love the Buffalo checks. They will look very nice with the blue. Thanks, julie

    • Marian Parsons

      I’ll have to see if I can find a tag. Jeff bought it from a local store when I was struggling to get comfortable after my shoulder surgery. He went to 4-5 differents stores and would send me pictures until we found one I could live it! Oh man, it was such a wild goose chase. I also needed one with a remote control since most manual handles were on the right side and I couldn’t use my right arm! The key to sleeping comfortably in it for me, though, was to put a twin memory foam mattress pad on top of it. It looked crazy, but it made it feel more like a bed and sort of hugged me in place so I didn’t roll over on my arm.

  19. Lisa Catherine

    I ordered your check lined curtain panels.
    I love everything about them.
    They look and feel very high end product ! The check matches to each panel.

    I have been looking for the last few years. My original wool lined Linen & Things panels lasted many years but just didn’t hold up anymore.

    Affordable good looking curtains without grommets
    Is not as easy as you think in long lengths.

    I appreciate your hard work to find and write about them.
    Thank you so very much.

  20. Loyce

    A big thanks to you! I was close to reordering the Indian fabric.{Out of stock previously) Then I saw your post about the blue being more vivid than you imagined. I knew that was my cue to look elsewhere.

    The Target panels in Chambray Blue are perfect for my needs and I would never have looked there. Thanks so much for that resource.
    With drapery weights added to each lower corner they will be perfect. They are a beautiful solution to a six window dilemma for a very large bedroom. I could never have sewn them myself for the Target onsale price. The quality is an outstanding surprise.

    I saved big on the wooden curtain “poles” too. I had salvaged several looong 2″ wooden rods (poles?} and finials from my MIL’s home. With a coat of white spray paint, I am set.

    You saved me beau-coodles of money with your solutions.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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