evolution of my house | part 1 | the living room

by | Jun 18, 2015 | Living Room, My House | 40 comments

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First of all, thank you so much for all of the sweet comments in response to the home tour I posted earlier this week.  It was fun for me to share the entire house (except one bathroom and Jeff’s office) all in the same post.  Looking over it, I realized how much work we’ve done in the (almost) nine years we’ve lived here.  I know we’ve done a lot, but it hit me afresh.

For those who haven’t been reading my blog since the early days, I thought I would share the evolution of each space.  I hope it will be fun to see my “phases”, but also encouraging to see that my rooms didn’t come together overnight.  It took me a lot of trial and error to pinpoint my style.  I also had to make do with what I had until I could “trade up” for something I liked better.  In many cases, I knew a room wasn’t done, but it was the best I could do with that I had.

Here is what the room looks like now…

It looks very different from the day we moved in.

There was carpet covering the original wood floors when we first bought the house, but we removed them first thing.  That isn’t an exaggeration.  We closed on the house and that afternoon, I drove to pick my mom up from the airport and Jeff ripped up the carpet.  It was all up when I first set foot in the house under our ownership.

This is how I set things up when we first got settled.  I painted the walls in Bluestone by Sherwin Williams.  We had it in the family room of our townhouse and I was still so in love with that color!  The furniture was a mix of family pieces (the desk, curio, ottoman, painting and rocker) and yard sale finds (the $5.00 mantle, $3.00 chair.)  The lamps and cane bench were side-of-the-road and dumpster finds.  Seriously.  One thing that’s funny is that I have no recollection of that rug!  I can’t tell you where it came from or what happened to it.

I started to pull the room together within the first couple of years we lived there.  I found the blue and white botanical fabric for $5.00/yard and made valances out of it.  Jeff picked up the piano for free after it didn’t sell at a church yard sale.  Both chairs were also free leftovers from yard sales.  The French caned rocker was $5.00 at Lucketts and the French settee was $50 at a yard sale.  The rug was a remnant that we found in the basement of our home.

I also painted the trim white in the entire house.  It was a huge project…primer and two coats of paint on every window frame and baseboard, but I was so happy to get rid of that shiny orange pine trim.  And I refinished the floors, which was another big project, but it needed to be done.

My aunt brought me a sofa (that I slipcovered), I found a pair of bergere chairs for $50, made curtain panels out of indoor/outdoor Waverly fabric (tucker resist chambray) and I painted the room in Aria Ivory (by candlelight, because there was a power outage!)  The room at this stage drove me crazy!  I loved some of the elements, but it felt so busy to me.  I kept shuffling furniture and redoing the accessories, trying to get it “right.”

For my book, I built an ottoman from scratch and added some touches of green to the space.  I also painted the trumeau mirror I bought at a yard sale for $35.  The space was starting to get a little brighter…

I moved things around again, swapped out rugs, and traded-up some of the furniture pieces.

Then, about a year and a half ago, I realized that the room was feeling much darker and heavier than I wanted.  While I loved the piano, it was the largest piece in the room with no practical function.  Me sitting down and plunking out my best recollections of Jesu Joy of a Man’s Desiring does not make it functional.  I had already passed the curio along to a cousin and gave the empire sofa back to my aunt and was moving in a new direction.  It was time to let the piano go.  It was also time to rethink the curtains and address the floor that was shedding the finish I had applied only a few years earlier.

Here’s the “piano wall” when I shot for my book…

…and now, with the primitive hutch I found on Craig’s List.

I sold this beautiful antique cabinet, that I still totally love, but it was way to big and dark for the space…

…and have replaced it with a small, marble-topped dresser from the 1800’s.  It’s much better suited for the space.

This is how the small “foyer wall” looked a few years ago…


Once I gave away the piano, I felt a lot more freedom in the space and this is the arrangement I came up with.  I have since moved the wing chairs to the family room and replaced the bench with a factory cart, but it’s otherwise the same furniture.  I loved the direction I was heading and decided to take a big step to make it even cleaner visually…I took down the curtains and the chandeliers.

At first, I hated the room with bare windows.  Hated might be too strong…I just didn’t like it.  It felt cold and stark.  But, I waited and lived with it for a while and now I love it.  I can’t say I’ll never put up curtains again, but I really am enjoying the simplicity of the exposed window frames and the light that pours in.

Jeff and I refinished the floors, so they went from dark-stained, poly-finished to raw oak.  I painted the walls in a cooler off-white, Pearly White by Sherwin Williams.  An antique screen door, turned upside-down, was used as a backdrop for the painted rocking horse and to balance the height of the hutch.  I purchased a woven jute rug from Joss & Main, mostly because it’s neutral and about the least expensive 8 x 10 rug I could find.  The texture is beautiful, but I’ll be honest, it is not the most comfortable underfoot.

And now, today…

I swapped out all of the chairs and finished a few details, like removing the old blind brackets and giving the window frames a fresh coat of paint.  I also added some live greenery and made some new pillows for the space.

And, there you go!  The evolution of the living room.  To check out part two in this series, the evolution of my dining room, click HERE

If you missed the other room tours, here they are…

Part 2 | Dining Room

Part 3 | Home Office

Part 4 | Kitchen

Part 5 | Family Room

Part 6 | Master Bedroom

Part 7 | Bathrooms

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    1. Paige.Rose

      Your home will always be my top favorite! I love the countryside feel with the touch of rustic farmhouse. The colors are incredible & so soothing! Gorgeous home, Marian!


    2. Anna International

      I love this post!! Maybe one of my favourites you’ve ever done! Probably because it is so honest about how even beautiful homes like yours are always a work in progress, and it just isn’t possible to get everything perfect the moment you move in (we just bought our first house in December, and are slowly renovating, but much slower than I expected), and not only that, what might seem perfect to you then might not be the same in a couple of years. It has reminded me we don’t need to get everything done right now, and taking our time finding the perfect furniture and adding touches is the way to go. Plus it spreads out the fun! Thank you very much for sharing.
      I’ll be doing my very first room reveal next week – the guest room, which right at this moment is not yet painted, but I’ve got a friend coming in three days so I’d best get on with it!

    3. Donna

      I think rooms evolve as we evolve. I live in a very old house, and have always tried to stay period, but it never felt comfortable or me. So through the 13 years I have lived there it’s lightened up, like breathing fresh air. Switched out antique chairs for other antique chairs, reupholstered, repainted. It’s finally something I can say is me, and still feel like I am honoring the antiques that live there, just updated. I love how your room looks now. If you wanted some fabric at the windows, that gorgeous pillow fabric in a valance of some sort would be nice, but nothing darker. Looks great the way it is now, but you aren’t finished evolving, so….. 😉

      • Debi Claycomb

        Same here. We renovated an 1894 Queen Anne and I didn’t want it to feel like you had stepped onto a period movie set, so over the years I’m finding my own style and simplifying the furnishings and decor. It feels like the house has shaken off an old, heavy coat and taken a deep breath.

    4. Magika

      Dear Marian,

      this might be the most exciting post I’ve ever read on your blog, and that’s saying a lot! 🙂 I love how your style boiled down throughout the years and it gives me a huge amount of encouragement to see how you arrived where you are today! And you know what’s great about these phases? I can definitely see YOU in each and every variation from the ‘painted mirror stage’ on! 🙂 This proves me that there are more than one ways to create a space that is true to one’s style and is still functional.
      Still, I like that you didn’t just stick with a good enough option, but kept searching for ways to make your space even more beautiful.

      My favourite posts are those where you share some insights about how you have built your now huge and successful business from basically nothing and how you have created your now very stylish, beautiful home! I am in the early stages of both starting a business and creating a home and even though I live on the opposite end of the world, you being modest and honest about your journey is a huge help! Thank you! 🙂

    5. Amy

      Thanks, Marian! Interesting to see the gradual change over the years. I love the bright, airy feel in the room now.

    6. beck campbell

      Isn’t it funny how our tastes evolve. When I moved into this house 16 years ago, I was in love with “traditional” type furnishings and decor. I had to sell almost all my antique furniture due to a “downsize” but that was okay. Now, I find myself drawn to “mid century” style furniture…but I love the mix of “traditional” and “mid century”…too much of either is too much! I am not really into the “french country” style, but I do like to throw pieces in here and there. I have come to the conclusion that I am definitely “eclectic” by choice! And for me, it works. The most important things is that you LOVE everything in your home…if you don’t change it or get rid of it. Life is too short to live with something that makes you growl every time you walk into a room…lol!, You may think you can’t get rid of a piece or paint it…but you can!

    7. Kristen

      Best, most helpful post ever. I love being inviting into your mind. Listening to you think through your space helps me do the same.

    8. Wendy from OldLakeGeorge.com

      Thank you for confirming that decorating evolves. It drives my husband crazy that I keep moving and changing.
      I will let him know that you say it is okay. 🙂

    9. Teresa

      I love this post! It truly is encouraging to see how your style has evolved. I’ve followed your blog for a long time but it’s easy to forget how the rooms used to look. My style has been evolving the past several years but I don’t feel like I’ve reached my goal yet. It can be frustrating at times. Thanks for reminding me it takes time!

    10. anya

      It is really inspiring to see the growth and evolution of your style through these photos. I think one thing I really take from this is how you don’t always need to hang onto every single piece of furniture you have. Some things just fit and some things don’t. Your piano was beautiful, and I’m sure that having it in your home was a treat, but once you passed it on to someone else, I think the style/possibilities/feel of your living room was really elevated. I also love how you develop things over time instead of going out and purchasing a bunch of stuff to fill spaces. This idea makes so much sense to me, I like to think that things will speak to you when they are ready and come together over time. Thank you for being such a constant source of inspiration for me!

    11. Kathy

      All sooooo pretty but my favorite remains…the industrial cart coffee table! LOVE!!

    12. Nan, Odessa, DE

      Work on a home is never done! Thanks for sharing.
      Like you I have a front door that opens directly into the keeping room of my home.
      Have you ever thought of ways to create an entrance/foyer feel upon entering these rooms?
      I am counting on some suggestions from YOU. You are the best!

      • marian

        I have tried making a separate space using furniture and it really just chops things up or makes you feel boxed in when you enter the room, so I’ve just left it alone. I think arranging the furniture in the living room, so it excludes the foyer area, it makes it feel a little separate.

    13. Sandy Madsen

      Your room is beautiful! So light and bright, however I really miss the pretty blue trumeau mirror. Did you get rid of it?

    14. Krista

      Great post! I love seeing how your decorating style evolved and became lighter, brighter and with a ‘less is more’ theme, country-style but sophisticated at the same time. Your home is just beautiful! Sometimes it’s hard for me to get rid of things that we’ve had for a long time or that someone gave us, but I’m finding that following your advice of “keeping only what you love or find useful” is helping me to declutter.

    15. Linda E.

      LOVE this post !!!!!!!!!!!! It gives a girl hope, shows less is more !!!!!!!!!!!! The step by step pictures is much better than a before and after, it totally shows how a few changes at a time can add up to a big change, but baby steps are ok, and it doesn’t have to come from a store !!! Blue and white is such a clean, classic, timeless and beautiful look….and with the touches of green, just stunning !!!!!!!!!!!! THANKS so much !

    16. Debbie Delosreyes

      Love your posts! This one makes me feel better! In the early 90s I was a mauve and williamsburg blue girl; late 90s, a maroon and green chick with dark furniture. Couldn’t get enough maroon and green lol. Then my style returned to my childhood where my Mom had a cream dinette set and my bedroom furniture was cream. I can’t get enough of cottage style furniture BUT i have noticed lately I am moving a little towards dark wood accents and some acrylics lol. Glad we all have evolving taste. WHICH BRINGS ME TO A QUESTION: How do you decide what to spend $$ on and pieces to invest in if there is the possibility your beloved hunting scene chair 10 years later you hate? I have a hard time letting go if I put a lot of loot into a piece hence the giant dresser hiding out in the closet that goes with nothing. Love your decorating, your rooms look wonderful.

      • marian

        That’s a great question! I think I’ll write a post about it. 🙂

    17. Gina

      I love this post!! It made me think of the progression of my own home. It takes awhile to figure out what you like and what works. I’m thankful I am in that place with my home now!! Thanks for the inspiration…always!! 🙂

    18. Dorothy

      Beautiful! Fun seeing your transitions, you are a bundle of energy. Thanks for sharing your journey.

    19. JeanFB

      What a fabulous post! Love, love, love….. Seeing the creative decorating process is how we learn to do it ourselves, and I feel I’m learning from the master as I read this post. Such a gorgeous room.

    20. A Speckled Trout

      This was fun to look at 🙂 I am going through an evolution of my own when it comes to decor. I cannot pare down enough and after years of the cottage/farmhouse look I am wanting to add some sleeker, modern (gasp!!!) touches. I don’t know what is happening to me.

    21. Leah Prevost

      I was smiling the entire time I was reading this post. I think we all have gone through different phases with decor and certain colors It is really neat to see you share the pictures of you evolution! I’m absolutely in LOVE with your living room as it is now. And I am going to try and get rid of some of my “treasures” that I try so hard to fit into my space. You are so right to just let some of them go. Miss Mustard Seed, you my love are an inspiration ❤ Thank you for being you

    22. ruth

      I’ve been following your blog for 4 years and while I have at each juncture admired each new reveal, this most recent seems palpably light hearted and free. Room for guests, uninhibited by too many favorite things, welcoming, cheerful and certainly selectively and functionally beautiful. I’ve been working on a journey myself towards minimalism (not the extreme- I do like my pretties) and see the heart and beauty of it represented in this room. A home is to serve, not be served and there is freedom of mind and peace of heart when we let that sink in. I think you have hit a wonderful balance and I hope others are inspired to do the same.

    23. Alicia from Ontario, California

      Dear Marion,

      Thank you for showing the “before” and “after” up-to-dates of your home. WOW! I can see why you purchased your home…it had good “bones.” By the time you evolved to the light walls and white window frames you were on a roll. Then you took the next big leap and began removing furniture.

      Having just moved, I learned to downsize when I staged the home I sold. I haven’t added anything to my new and beautiful home (847 sq. ft.). I’m taking a cue from your blog and moving at a slow pace (for me make that a snail’s place). It’s taken me 6 months just to assemble a vignette for the coffee table in the living room. I, too, have a door that opens right into the living room and you can see into the back yard from the front door.

      I agree with you that jute or other natural fibers are not as comfortable on bare feet as a wool carpet, but I love that it’s a good neutral and all I have to do is drag it out to the patio and hose it down and let the Southern California sun dry it. And with a cat and a dog…get the picture.

      Your blog gives me permission to use just what’s on hand. You folks back East get real bargains at garage sales and even at Luckett’s! In Southern California, so far I haven’t come across any real bargains for replacement pieces. Your finds are my motivation. I love to refurbish/recycle furniture. Even at 67 I’m hoping something may come of this…maybe another blog? A business? I’ve been inspired by your blog as well as many of your followers. My style is a mix of French and Beach Cottage! And, Marion, I too love blue!!!!

    24. Ellie Sandler

      Hi Marian –

      I couldn’t agree more with so many of the comments above – especially Magika. I love seeing and knowing that I’m not alone in evolving into what I want for my home and continually discovering what I love that speaks the most to me – at each season in my life and also in my home as it reflects me. I’ve written a few emails to you before and I love what you shared there and this post so much! I too am starting my own little business and as of yet still live in a rented (over 100 year old) house with a supremely limited budget to create with! YET, I feel so encouraged by your post and others comments that it’s ok… really more than ok… it’s life, to be in the process. I have shifted through the years and always had to work with ‘what I had’ and now is still no different, except that hey, it’s better than it was a year ago, two years ago… and on! We’re growing and changing as women and discovering more and more of who we are and and how that is expressed in our homes and so it makes total sense that we should see this evolution reflected in our homes! Love the realness of all that comes out of this truth! Thank you for sharing!

    25. Valerie

      I love, love, this post! So interesting to see how the room evolved! You really show that it takes time to “grow” a space to what you want. It also pushed me a little closer to letting go of a couple of pieces that don’t fit my room’s style any longer, but I’m hanging on to cause I originally wanted them so much!

    26. Wendy @ Zoey's

      I love your room! Fresh, Light, Functional and Interesting (full of character and no crappy ‘matchy matchy’ furniture from the new big box stores) KUDOS …..LOL…now can you come over to my house and re-do my rooms????

    27. Tricia R

      This was a fantastic post . I really enjoyed seeing those old pictures, it really represents how a room evolves. It makes the thought of decorating must less overwhelming.

    28. Gabrielle Mader

      I love to see this!! We have been in our house for 4 years and I get impatient with how much more I need to do….you have done a lot and it really is a wonderful evolution of your style…You can see elements of “you” from early on…the blue paint, the vintage furniture…great post, can’t wait to see more rooms. I have a table..that is my husband’s piece, the ONLY thing he “owns” its a backgammon/coffee table. I want to put a pad over it and turn it into a slipcovered ottoman so when he wants to take the cover off and play a game of backgammon with a friend he can but during the off time when can use it to put up our feet and use a tray to hold a drink. I love your oval ottoman and I’d like to go with a look like that and possibly use painted drop cloth…but I’m afraid I’ll be biting off more than I can chew.

    29. Marie

      I love to see how each persons style evolves. Though not always what I would choose. Its important to let your home reflect who you and your family are, not someone else’s idea of perfect. Your have made a lovely home which feels warm and inviting and works for your family. In 2 years I’m sure the pictures you have shared today will have changed again! They will undoubtedly still be beautiful and reflect a new perfect style! Bravo! Marie

    30. Sue

      It’s so fun to see the evolution of the room. I do agree the piano was so heavy in there. I do like the room the way you have it now but I really miss the drapes. It just doesn’t look finished without them. I understand what you mean about the floors but I still think they would look better finished. I went through that whole process when I had a table and an unfinished top…. I wanted to live with it a while but eventually I ended up finishing the top and it turned out great. I just love your rug however and I love the white woodwork. The old dark woodwork looks dated in any room. Can you believe all of the work you have done on this house? Amazing when you think about it.You have such a talent for decorating.

    31. Debbie Dion Hayes

      I love this post. It it so like our evolution at our home. Still working it today. I think I am seeing the end of the tunnel — for now.

    32. MaryLisa Noyes

      I ended up shopping my house yesterday and changing a few things around in my bedroom and I love it. Rooms evolve like people should. I can’t understand my friends who NEVER change their furniture or accessories around.

    33. April

      Less really is more. I need to edit my living room. This room (along with the rest of your home) looks fantastic!

    34. Lauren Baxter

      Wow what an evolution!! It’s amazing how over the years what trends & functionality a space evolves as, I simply love your living room now it suits your style & personality (from what I get online) so well.

      Lauren Baxter | LB Designs

    35. Danielle

      The look is wonderful! Much more bright and spacious. Would you mind sharing the ceiling color you chose? I’m finding the “off the shelf” whites I’ve been looking at tend to lean to a grey tone-which isn’t what I want. I know it’s hard to tell from a photo, but your white looks bright and clean, not “dirty”. Thanks!

    36. Lisa @ Farmhouse on Boone

      I absolutely love this! It is neat to see that your house wasn’t always perfect, although always pretty. 😉 It gives all the regular people, like me, hope!

    37. Lynn Rue

      Is your hutch painted in your French Enamel?


    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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