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May 23, 2012

How to Decorate a Living Room: 2 Years of Design Flops

Hey ya'll. As mentioned yesterday, today's the day that I embarrass myself. 

We're going to take a walk down memory lane and witness my living room completely challenge my abilities to tastefully decorate a room. 10 different times.

It's actually 12, but we're rounding down to 10. Hold me tight, ya'll. This is gonna get awkward and embarrassing. REAL fast.

Before we get started, a quick explanation of why I struggle with this room.

1. Decorating is a process, and one I wasn't very good at for quite a while.

2. This room is shaped like a cheese wedge.

 3. We spend 90% of our time in this room, and at the end of the day, it has to be comfortable. Therefore, I'm teetering on the ledge of just calling it a day and installing wall to wall recliners.
Also known as Jesse's life long dream.

 4. I've spent 90% of my time in the past two years trying to make do with stuff that just didn't work. Sometimes you can put an entire tube of lipstick on a piece of thrift store furniture, and it still just looks like thrift store furniture. As time has gone on, I've really learned how to make old furniture look awesome (10 of my success stories found here), but it didn't really start out that way, and I definitely made a few poor purchasing decisions early on. It happens.

So, let's start our story with where the living room is today, a place I'm pretty happy with.
It still could be improved about 800 times over, but it's getting there.

So, that's the living room today. 
Now, let's rewind two years and start with what this room looked like when we first moved in.
This is day one, totally empty with scary wood trim and bland paint.

 I've committed so many heinous decorating crimes over the past two years, that part of me wishes I had just left this room empty and rolled around on the floor instead.

Here's when we finally moved our handmedown furniture into the room. The couches under those saggy brown slipcovers are pink.
They are hot pink, and they still totally live in our basement. 
And you think I kid.

Eventually, we finally got some new furniture. At about $399 a pop, the couches were both relatively inexpensive (although it felt expensive to our little budget) and a nice upgrade from hot pink.
This photo also marks the time when I first discovered my love of painting furniture. That dresser the giant TV sits on was the first piece I ever painted.
Obviously, I was dealing with some proportion issues.

It really wasn't that bad in the beginning. I just didn't have a lot to work with, as after we bought our couches, my budget totally dried up. So, I quickly turned to buying mismatched furniture and trying to repurpose it into something that worked. What's funny is, I eventually kind figured out the right way to do this (like in the master bedroom), but I definitely worked out the kinks of redoing furniture in this living room. 
This poor, poor living room.

The next few versions of this room clearly mark a descent into decorating madness.
Since I was left without a coffee table, I decided to thrift one, and because I desperately wanted an upholstered ottoman, I upholstered the coffee table. That didn't work out so well. It was a good idea in theory, but in practice, not so much.

 Don't worry, it totally gets worse before it gets better.

I went through several different 'reupholstering the coffee table' phases, all the while trying out tons of different wall decorations. 

When Christmas came, the 'ottoman' got reupholstered again, and then I decided to adorn the wall with 800 tiny mirrors.

But, get ready for it to REALLY get worse.

I know. It's so bad. It's so funny to me now, and so embarrasing.
But kinda in a hilarious way. I have no idea what I was thinking.

And I must have realized it was a total flop, because I immediately abandoned that look and turned the room into a dark dungeon of muddy greens and browns. 

Enter the accent wall.

There's so much going on with this room, that I don't even know where to start.

I consider May 2011 kinda my decorating rock bottom. It stayed like this for a little while, and I moved on to other rooms. That ended up being a great thing, as I got a chance to spread my wings in some other rooms and really get better at decorating. So, I came back to try this room again right before I started blogging in December. It wasn't great, but it was getting better.

By the way, that's that same coffee table. 
It got un-upholstered and stained.
That poor little fella has had a hard life.

Finally, (below) I got an actual upholstered ottoman and realized that the accent wall was just too dark. I painted it a couple shades lighter ,and replaced the TV console with a more appropriately sized unit. That really helped. 
But, let's be honest. There's still a lot wrong with this room.
You see it. I see it. Let's just hug and not mention it.

And of course, I painted the accent wall like 3 different times. 
Poor Jesse.
And I still hate it. One of these days, when I can convince Jesse to climb the ladder again, I'm just going to paint this entire space one color. I clearly need to think about my paint color for a looooong time. 
Seriously, poor Jesse. He's such a special man. This room could be fuschia for all he cares.

And finally... 
That brings us to today's room. It's still not perfect, but it feels so much better. I still want to paint the walls all one color, rip up the carpet and install hardwood floors, and one day I'd really like to get some different couches, as they're just too big and make it impossible for me to change the layout of the room.
Any layout ideas, guys? I'm totally over this whole 'pushed against the wall situation' and would like something different. But I have to figure out a way Jesse and I can both have a full couch. We like leg room. Talk to me.

So, that's it. One awkward living room, a million different ways.
Thanks for letting me share my flops with you.
I love ya for it.
'Til next time.
To see what's happened in this room since this post, click here and here. It's a lot.
We've pretty much gutted this entire space. 

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  1. Ooh, I enjoyed reading this post - I really liked seeing you develop your style! And in my opinion, the befores aren't as terrible as you think they are :) But I totally get how you feel - I am decorating for the first time too and my living room is also an eternal work in progress.

    The room looks beautiful now!

  2. You are way to hard on yourself! Seeing the evolution of the room wa great. Very impressed on that coffee table and all the changes. You saved money and learned so much with that table . Keep doing what your doing. Changing and evolving keeps it fresh! Learning so much from you. Xox

  3. You are way to hard on yourself! Seeing the evolution of the room wa great. Very impressed on that coffee table and all the changes. You saved money and learned so much with that table . Keep doing what your doing. Changing and evolving keeps it fresh! Learning so much from you. Xox

  4. I read every word and pondered every picture and thought "Hmmm. Even though you weren't happy with some of the "betweens" ALL of your so-called "flops" look TONS better than a lot of homes I go into around here! If ONLY these people would learn that yes, you CAN paint wood trim, they'd be onto a much better look :-)

    Changing things is a great learning tool for us all! And BTW, totally agree with your comment about "make do" things. Sometimes they! As my husband says "Just cuz you have it, doesn't mean you have to use it!" If that old vase/pillow/table etc. isn't right, do-not-use-it! Give it away or sell it.Of course if you have nothing, sometimes even a hot pink couch is better than sitting on the floor ;-)

  5. Thanks gals! Your comments are all so sweet and make me glad that I shared my 'flops'! :)

  6. You've come a long way, baby. You know, none of those were really AWFUL they just weren't right for you. You figured it out and just kept changing things around until they were right for you. It is perfect! xo Diana

  7. You remind me so much of my daughter. She loves to change things around to see if there is some way her room could look better. Each way she changes it looks fine but it isn't the way she is satisfied with it. Yours looks lovely. Thank you for sharing. Blessings, Jo-Ann

  8. You've changed that room more than I've changed my knickers! (joking!) I love seeing all the different looks - at least you're not scared about hanging different hooks and art and mirrors trying to find the right look. I liked the furry rug it added a bit of texture to the floor.

  9. Oh gosh, I feel you! My living room is currently in the process of redecoration...and I'm sure even after I'm "finished" with this go-round, it won't truly be done. I love all the natural light your living room gets - mine is totally lacking. You can check out my living room progress and more at [just had] A Bright Idea.

  10. Okay - maybe there's something wrong with me but the inbetween pics are great. I even liked the upholstered coffee table. It was cute and it worked. Of course I like the ottoman you have now better but you have done a great all the stages. Keep it up. Love it!

  11. I love it how it is today too. So glad you found something that works. I'm still figuring out my oddly shaped living room.

  12. LOL. That is amazing how different color and a few other additions can make on the view of a room. Love the light and airy look of it all. I would love to have you link this up to Titus 2 Tuesday next week on Cornerstone Confessions.

    Hopping over from Serenity Now.


  13. Haha oh my goodness I LOVE this post!!! I think every single person who has ever set out to decorate their house can totally relate to this! I have so many decorating flops that I look back on and think " what was I smoking??? That was AWFUL!!!" lol. Your living room has come a long way and it's so super gorgeous now! I love it so much! i'm so excited that I found your blog and I can't wait to read more! (btw I looked through the rest of the house tour and I love your home! you decorate beautifully and have such great style!)

  14. Have you thought about building a base or putting legs on the tv cabinet? I think that is what's still throwing me off. It's sitting on the floor of a wall that is huge. It might make it feel more like a cabinet that looking like a dresser. Just my 2 cents. I love the feel of the room and the colors!

  15. That was a fun progression to watch! Thanks for sharing all that. I really like where the room is at now and how far you've come! My favorite part was watching that coffee table change each time! And yes...I am still stalking through all your posts!!!

    Brie @ Breezy Pink Daisies

  16. Just found your blog, so glad i read this one.....I have redone my living room many a time (and I'm cheap so usually I was trying to reuse things I already ahd that didnt work anyway...i.e. like trying to use purple and orange accents with red pillows. SICK!)I'm glad I'm not the only one it takes 400 tries to get it right.

  17. Very cute! I like how your always switching it up! I like the fur rug for the fall too. My walls are empty but I just got a round metal wall art to decorate with. Hopefully its the start of something!

  18. I'm crying real tears of laughter reading this! DYING! I'm on the verge of waking everyone in my house! This entire post echoes my own trials, tribulations & triumphs of interior decorating! This is epic! I adore you for your hilarious raw candor! I'm a total fan-girl of your blog now! Officially. You rule!

  19. It looks gorgeous! That's the exact paint color in looking for- can you tell me what it is?? It would go perfect in our house!

  20. I hope I'm not asking a question that you have been asked hundreds of times. Where did you get your sofas? I'm getting ready to invest in a new one...really wanting a white Pottery Barn model, but I love the color of yours.

  21. I love your process. You got there to a perfectly balanced room that when I look at it, I feel good. You are gifted.

  22. Very pretty! Where are your couches from? I really like them!

  23. I love your couches, where are they from?

  24. I actually LOVED your coffee table and would have loved to use it as a bedside table. The first fabric was gorgeous, but I also loved some of the others. Heck, even the brown wood was really pretty. I also loved that shaggy rug. It looks so comfortable....I just want to lay on it and take a nap! I do love that your couches look exactly the same 2 years later.

  25. I stumbled upon your blog today and I love your style! We're in the process of searching for our first home and I found a home very similar to yours. I was a little on the fence about it because it needs some renovating, but after seeing what you did with your space I'm falling in love with the house. Can't wait to read about your other decorating transformations.

  26. Hi Virginia! I love reading your blog and your style is awesome:) I have been searching for a living room ottoman like the one you have, do you mind sharing where you found it? It's perfect! Thanks!

  27. It's great to see when people own up publicly to their DIY disasters. Thanks for sharing. We are still in renovation mode on our house and so I am slowly trying to decorate. I have no clue what I'm doing. Here's to hoping that it will turn out fine.

  28. I really like the current color of your living room, do you remember what color it is?

  29. I think everyone goes through stages in decorating rooms. I loved seeing the progression & could certainly relate to making change after change. Great job seeing the works in progress. Thanks for sharing.

  30. I loved the coffee table with the wooden top! I think it added a really nice element and some substance to the room. It really is beautiful in all the different stages though! :-)

  31. I really enjoyed this post. I seriously think I am going through these steps with my living room. The shape is pretty weird and I am changing something every single week.

  32. Have you thought about buying a sectional sofa? Or would that look funny with the fireplace?

  33. Loved reading about the life of your family room!!! Thank you for sharing!

  34. I loved this! I actually think the room looks super peaceful. I'm heading over to see it's latest iteration!

  35. Great post! I agree with the others, your "befores" weren't that bad at all! I also agree that you need something more substantial on your TV wall. It's a big wall :) And also, a larger coffee table/Ottoman (or 2!) would do wonders. It kind of gets lost between your larger couches. You may not want new couches once they look to scale with the center piece :) I love your couches btw!

  36. Virginia! I love reading your blog and your style is awesome:) I have been searching for a living room ottoman like the one you have, do you mind sharing where you found it? It's perfect! Thanks!

  37. Hi Virginia! Thank God I found your blog....because I live with someone who absolutely HATES change of any kind, and if I even move something around he gets scared! LOL I actually had tears laughing so hard....I wouldn't even care what your rooms look like...I just like reading your posts!! I love to decorate and find thrift store junk to get ideas.....but that's it...just IDEAS. I need to just start doing what I want, and worry later. I love your style and your humor....can't wait to see what you do next!


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