When Ashley asked for some living room advice, we fired up our laptop and pulled out our paint decks. Here’s her letter:
I love your blog and I’m coming out of lurkdom to seek some advice. We recently purchased a new home and we’re struggling with our formal living room. Our house is very traditional and we like clean lines. Our favorite stores are Crate & Barrel as well as Pottery Barn and I think a new wall color is necessary since it blends with the couch so much. We tend to like cool colors. No purple or red or anything too bright. The couch and chairs must stay but the buffet can go (it’s actually part of the dining room set). The rug and curtains can go but we wouldn’t mind keeping them either. There is no overhead lighting in this space so lighting definitely needs to be addressed. You can see the dining room through the doorway so if you think of something to tie these two together that would be great. Soon there will be an upright piano in this space as well. Thanks you guys, I can’t wait to see what you come up with! – Ashley
This room is already half there, and the great wood floors, gorge fireplace and large windows will ensure that this transformation will be truly amazing. Here’s our formal luxe living room mood board:
Now for the mood board breakdown.
1. Our color palette for this space will be nice and neutral to work with the existing furnishings and curtains (which we’d love to keep) and tie in with those sage chairs that flank the fireplace. We’d love to see a light khaki-sage tone with a cool tan undertone on the wall (try Glidden’s Enchanting Land) and bring in some more dark wood and elegant metal pieces along with some wheaty tan and sage accessories to keep things feeling formal and elegant without ever looking sparse or cold.
2. This fabulous round mirror will look picture perfect above that gorgeous fireplace to reflect more light around the room while adding oodles of polish and style to spare. And the fact that it’s around $200 cheaper than similar models at high-end boutiques is the icing on the cake.
3. Ashley requested a lighting upgrade, and we think bringing in this large tweed three pendant light will add effortless ambiance and elegance to the entire space (we were surprised to learn it was only around $150 for an electrician to wire a ceiling fixture last year). Oversized pendants can be seen popping up in every room (bedrooms! kitchens! living rooms!) for that clean-lined look that’s always classic and crisp. And we’re particularly taken with the quality and craftsmanship of this fixture for the price (love the iron chain, the tweed shade, and the fancy diffuser that all contribute to that luxurious look for less). If Ashley would rather avoid the electrician, she can instead place some classic iron table lamps (like these) on end tables (like these) flanking the sofa (although the cost of adding a new ceiling pendant might actually end up being substantially less than the cost of adding two side tables and two lamps).
4. We love to see one of these soft feathery fern pillows on the couch to add even more of those khaki and sage colors while picking up the tone on the walls and in the existing arm chairs for a seamless look in this formal living room. Paired with some linen colored throw pillows and maybe a few solid sage toned ones, the couch should be totally transformed to fit perfectly within our new color scheme.
5. And with such strong verticals in the space (thanks to those gorgeous existing curtains) we thought we could bring in two tall furniture pieces in an espresso wood tone for additional height while filling in a few empty areas in the room. Since the buffet in the second picture is moving back into the dining room, we thought we could add a dark wood leaning bookshelf in its place (the window on the left side of the fireplace will feel a lot more balanced thanks to the addition of this tall piece on the right). Oh and it’s on sale for just $79 (over 50% off). Score!
6. Another item that will really add polish and function to the space is a coffee table. And we thought we’d go ultra elegant and use two square glass tables in place of a big and bulky wood one to keep things light, open, and super chic. We fell in love with these pricey Pottery Barn versions ($249 each!) but searched high and low for a better deal and happily found these identical glass tables for just $99 a pop. Gotta love saving almost $300 on the coffee tables alone.
7. Now many of you may wonder about what must match in a space, but these days designers are all about the subtle mix of textures and materials, which is why we favor the black metal and glass tables (mentioned above) mixed with some dark wood pieces for a rich collected-over-time look that could never be called matchy matchy. And to that end, we’d love to see this antique bronze coffee table accent (for just $9.97!) on a stack of books atop one of our glass coffee tables for even more of that mixed-and-matched feeling that’s oh so elegant and upscale.
8. Here’s one of our favorite pieces for the space, a gorgeous dark wood etagere that Ashley can place between the two far windows in the top picture for added interest and display space in the room. The addition of the leaning bookcase and this handsome etagere will draw the eye up, add balance and richness, and fill any bare spots that make the room appear unfinished. Oh and once the upright piano arrives, we think putting it where we placed the etagere (between those far windows in the first picture) and moving this etagere into the far right corner in the top picture will maintain the balanced feeling with the leaning bookcase on the other side of the fireplace.
9. And although we love Ashley’s current rug, we’re afraid it’s a bit too small for the space. But replacing the current 5×8 with a large and stately camel 8×11 wool one (which is actually identical to the one in our guest bedroom except a bit lighter in color) will instantly ground the seating area and tie the whole room together. Oh and the fact that it’s $200 off really makes it a no-brainer. The rich and clean tone-on-tone design will add more of that crisp polished feeling to the room, and hopefully the existing rug can find another place to live in a bedroom, office, or family room. And by simply floating the new 8×11 rug in the middle of the room, Ashley can place the front legs of her chairs by the fireplace on the rug and also move her sofa away from the back wall by a few feet (again placing the front legs of it on the rug) for a current and fresh floor plan that’s über inviting and balanced to boot.
So there you have it. Ashley’s formal living room makeover with effortless elegance and ambiance. We can’t wait to hear what you guys think!
Update: We sadly can no longer find the time to take on client commissioned mood boards (we now whip up general inspiration boards instead) but if we ever reinstate them we’ll make a big announcement!