A few months ago, I was invited to be a participant in the La-Z-Boy Design Dash this year. It’s a design competition that starts with a sofa and ends with a day and a half of racing to claim furniture & accessories in a showroom to put together an entire space in a few hours that will be photographed and voted on! Eeep!
Here’s a quick video preview of the event…
My first thought when I was invited was that I would be totally out of my element. I’ve always worked with antiques and second-hand pieces and I’m used to putting my stamp on everything. Would I be able to put together a room with all new stuff?!
I didn’t know the answer to that question, but I like that this opportunity pulled me out of my bubble and would be a challenge. Plus, I’ve had the chance to work with the people at La-Z-Boy before and they are top-notch. So, I said yes.
I went to my local La-Z-Boy showroom in York, PA a few weeks ago and picked out the Phoebe sofa in a beautiful blue velvet fabric. I liked the classic styling of the sofa and, since blue is my favorite color, it was a no brainer for me.
We had no idea what our rooms would look like, but each of us seemed to get a room that was perfect. I loved the large windows, transoms, architectural detail, and the flooring in the room that was assigned to me. We did get to select a Sherwin Williams paint color for the walls and I selected Pearly White, the color used in my Living and Dining rooms.
One of the best parts about the competition is I had the chance to hang out with some of my blog buddies. And I go way back with some of them! The fact that most of us knew each other made the event light-hearted and fun.
We arrived at the La-Z-Boy showroom in High Point and, within a few minutes of arriving, we were given the rules of the “dash” and lined up at the starting line.
So, the rules… We were each given 50 stickers, 2 helpers, 1 cart, and 60 minutes in the 2 story showroom. We claimed pieces with our stickers and those pieces would be taken to the studio the next day to use in our room.
I remember waiting behind the starting line, looking around the showroom for some artwork I saw at the store in York. I would plow people over to get to that art. If I could find that art, everything would fall into place.
Ready, set, go…
As you can see from the picture, I was running out the gate! Within seconds, I spotted a green and blue woven pillow that drew me in. I started moving towards it and noticed Cassity from Remodelaholic walking towards it as well. We both were caught up in the moment and dove towards our goal, which turned out to be entirely different things. I was laying on the bed, an upset tray of accessories in my wake, laughing at myself. All over a pillow.
It eased the tension, though.
My two helpers were fantastic. They took things I claimed to my table, fumbled with removing the backs off of the stickers, so I could keep looking, etc.
(That pillow in my cart is the one I dove for!)
60 minutes actually ended up being plenty of time and I found myself circling again and again to claim new items, take pictures of ones I had claimed, and review the table of accessories I had collected. In hindsight, I should’ve been quicker to claim things. At the rate I was putting stickers on, you would think I was spending actual dollars! Instead of picking four chairs, I would claim two and then change my mind and remove stickers off the first two and claim two more. I did way too much editing in the showroom when I should’ve given myself plenty of options for the designing the next day.
My top priority was finding great artwork and then I would work from there. The art I was hoping to find, landscape paintings of a cranberry bog (heavy on the greens and blues), wasn’t in this showroom, so I had to find something else that spoke to me. The artwork I did find had more color in it, but I used it as my inspiration and selected pieces that would work with that art.
There were about 20 minutes remaining and I had only used about half of my stickers, so I gave a few to Cassity, who was already done with her dash, and to Kelly, the host of the event. It was an impulsive thing, but I’m so glad I had a few “surprise design elements” to work with. I ended up using a few of them in my finished space.
At one point during the dash, I heard someone announce that we could select pieces from the lobby as well. I didn’t know where the lobby was and I was so focused on what I was doing that I didn’t take a minute to ask. I was frantically looking for a tall piece of furniture, like a bookcase or etagere. All of them were claimed. I knew I would be suffering without something tall. At the last minute, I tagged an enormous mirror that could add some height in a pinch.
The time was up and they ushered us into the foyer for a toast. As I was sitting there, I spotted the most amazing green and blue plaid side chairs. My heart sank. I immediately recalled a piece of art with lots of blues and greens in it and it would’ve been perfect paired with those chairs… I imagined a room coming together around my sofa and the chairs and artwork I didn’t claim. I also noticed several unclaimed tall pieces. Why, oh why, did I not go into the foyer?!
I pushed aside the “what ifs” swimming around my head as we visited the local Ronald McDonald House and then went to a local taco place for dinner. Did you know La-Z-Boy furnishes all of the Ronald McDonald houses in the US? I was very impressed with that. While my son didn’t have to be hospitalized long-term when he was diagnosed with diabetes, many children are. One boy in Calvin’s pump-training class was in the hospital for a month.
Touring the house did put things into perspective.
When we got back to the hotel, I was nagged by those pieces I didn’t claim. I didn’t care if I won the contest, but I started to worry that I would hate my room. I was rooming with Traci from Beneath My Heart and it’s hard to get too wrapped up in worry when you’re chatting with her! She’s a blast and such a sweet friend.
A funny thing about Traci…she asked me to room with her when I went to my very first blog conference. I had never met her and was worried that she would be annoying or a total nightmare to room with, so I opted to room by myself. As soon as I met her, I wished I had said yes to her invitation. Now, years later, we finally got to room together!
When we finally tucked in for the night, I couldn’t shut my brain off. I kept thinking through the list of items I claimed and regretting the ones I didn’t. Then, a realization hit me – when I looked over the showroom, scanning the walls for the artwork I wanted, everything worked. Many different collections, styles, and color palettes were represented, but the overall aesthetic of the space was pleasing. I don’t know if it would be possible to put together a room that was a complete train wreck. With that thought, I was able to drift off to sleep.
The next day, we were taken to a studio and shown our rooms and sofas for the first time. All of the stuff we claimed the day before was lined up in front of each “bay”.
Since my bay was first, I had the “movers” and photographers ready for me to start arranging. I wished I had a minute to gather myself and just think, but we had a limited amount of time, so I had to dive in. The first thing was to decide how the camera would be positioned, so I knew what would be in the shot. With the way the room was oriented, the best option was shooting at an angle. I usually prefer straight-on shots, but it was just too limiting for this space.
Once the angle was determined, things fell into place pretty quickly. Since I had edited heavily during the dash, my options were pretty straight-forward.
I would shuffle things around and then check how it looked on the monitor. This challenge was more about styling for a still photograph, so I made decisions based on that. For example, I would’ve used two chairs opposite the sofa, but that blocked off the shot too much, so I ended up just using one.
I also ended up leaving a big white space in the corner, because anything I put there looked like it was just growing out of the sofa.
I used a trunk as a side table, even if it was the wrong scale for the chair it was next to. It just peeked into the photograph, so it worked, but it didn’t look very good in person. I felt I needed to throw a disclaimer when people were checking out my space.
Once the furniture was arranged, I began to relax. I was struggling a bit with the accessories, though. And, just in time, I was called to take my 15 minute turn in the prop room. Now, I was just expecting some vases, fruit, etc. This was a two story prop room filled with everything from books to games to food, dishes, baskets, everything… And antiques! There were antiques!! I was in my element in that prop room and I claimed things that were “me”. An antique fan and alarm clock. Warm woods, brass binoculars, old books, and a woven French laundry basket.
Those props made a big difference for me. I also claimed some hydrangeas from the flower buckets and arranged them in an old mason jar.
Since I was the first one with the movers, the photographers, and in the prop room, I was one of the first ones finished.
Here is how my room came together…
I loved that artwork of the river. I think it draws the eye into the room. I based the colorful hooked cotton rug, pillows, and pops of yellow around it. It gets cut out of the picture a little, but I love the large gold-leafed feather over the small blue cabinet. That blue cabinet, by the way, was the piece that was most “me” out of everything I selected from the showroom. I’m glad I was able to sneak it into the room.
In the interview after the event, I was asked how my room is different from the others. I answered that, in my opinion, my room is the “quietest”. The large windows and French doors sort of forced me to have more white space, which, if you’re familiar with my home, you know I like. In that sense, it fit me perfectly.
As someone who has done some styling for photoshoots, though, I know that sometimes rooms that are “too quiet” don’t provide much visual interest. So, we’ll see how it stacks up against rooms that have a bit more going on.
In the middle of all of the dashing, designing, and styling, we paused for interviews with Kelly and the crew.
And, of course, we were photographed a lot! I don’t know what in the world was happening here…
And, when I was all done, I roamed around the studio to check out the other rooms…
Man, all of the rooms are so amazing! I would think one was my favorite and then I would get to another one and think that one might be my favorite. They’re all crazy good.
And, as I mentioned before, it was a good group of people, so we had such a good time together. Even though it was a competition, it didn’t feel like it at all. There was a sense that we all just wanted to do our best and love our rooms.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that La-Z-Boy brought in three of their top designers from showrooms around the country and they acted as a sounding board for us.
And there were teams of people who helped with hanging, moving, and fluffing. There was even a “soft furnishings styling expert.” She made sure all of the upholstery was camera ready.
It was fun, but it was tiring, too. At least we had comfy furniture to sit on!
And they brought in a “glam squad” to spruce us up for the camera, which was a nice treat, especially after scooting around furniture and running through a two-story prop room!
We ended the day with a relaxed, celebratory dinner of southern comfort foods. I mean, there was a mashed potato bar, mac & cheese, chicken & dumplings, grits, and a Krispy Kreme bread pudding. How’s that for southern comfort food?
When I accepted the invitation, I was hoping this opportunity would pull me out of my bubble and would offer a challenge. Both things were accomplished. Being around other creatives and just talking about the blog world and social media and business and how everything is so different from when we started was really good for me.
And it was also good to work outside of my comfort zone. I’m still an antiques-lover through and through, but it’s still good to push myself and continue to learn and grow as a stylist and designer.
Here’s a short video about my space…
And, since this is a competition, you have a chance to vote for your favorite room and will be entered for a chance to win $15,000 in product from La-Z-Boy with each vote you cast! (You can vote once a day.) The designer with the winning room will earn $10,000. Not too shabby! (It’s funny, but neither Traci nor I realized we won anything until about 3/4 of the way through!)
So, visit the Design Dash website and vote for a chance to win. All of the rooms are amazing, so I have no idea how this one is going to shake out! Good luck to you and to all of the Design Dash designers…
Click HERE to vote.
Disclosure: I received a piece of furniture from La-Z-Boy as compensation for participating in this event. I do not receive any additional compensation for posting about the event on my blog or social media. All words and opinions expressed in this post are my own.