Beautiful living room vignette from Bernhardt

A Living Room is for Living

quote-a-house-is-a-machine-for-living-in-le-corbusier-6-43-45As 2016 came to a close, it became very clear to me that my living room needed an update.  This revelation came to me as I moved items about the house in order to have my carpeting replaced.  I found that the stacks of books and magazines in my living room had gone from neatly arranged light coffee table reading to extreme clutter.  In addition, the decorative items on display were in need of an update and serious styling help.   Every time I saw a beautifully curated table scapes, I had a deep sense of longing.   My issues were due to a lack of attractive, functional storage furnishings combined with holding on to items that no longer served a purpose.

Holding on to things which are no longer needed is a challenge for many, and it is a problem which can creep up on us, slowly robbing us of our joy.   I suspect this is an even greater problem for us as we ahem, mature.  As the carpet installers moved items from room to room to do their work, I found myself wondering why some of these things weren’t just moving out the door to make room for what would bring more joy and utility into my day to day experience?  Famed architect Le Corbusier nailed it — my machine for living just wasn’t working very well for me.

The confession I’ll use as an example may date me, so let’s just say that yes, I am over the age of 40.  A significant amount of space in the living room was taken up by a 1990’s era component stereo system that I really don’t use any longer except to plug my iPhone into (see photo at left).  The speakers on that old Kenwood system were pretty good, but I was finding that I had moved on and I was now using my highly portable Bose SoundLink Mini — wired speakers have really become a thing of the past.  The huge revolving stand which I used to store CDs (barely visible behind the sofa arm) was also a relic of the past.  Many of my CDs were long ago imported into iTunes and all of my current purchases go straight into iTunes.  iTunes, streaming services like Pandora and internet radio really did away with the need for my less than attractive component system.  Note that the image on the right is the opposite end of the sofa — a far more interesting corner of the room.  I painted that accent wall several years ago and the pop of color made a huge difference.  The image at left is from before the paint job as my more recent photos of that corner didn’t turn out well.

The point of this disclosure is that I had quite a bit floor space dedicated to things I didn’t need, didn’t use, and that didn’t make a positive contribution to the aesthetics of my living space.   It was time for me to rethink the whole living room space to better reflect my lifestyle in this century.  Clearly, this was bigger than a table-scaping problem.

As I assessed the space, it was clear that I needed to do the following:

  • Remove old component stereo system and CD storage
  • Ensure all of my CDs have been transferred to iTunes and discard
  • Find an upgraded, more permanent audio solution
  • Remove old wrought iron wine rack (I bought this inexpensively as a “temporary” solution–I wanted a nice bar cart type of setup
  • Reduce the number of “coffee table” books and magazines
  • Bring in additional shelving as I knew that I had more books that I wanted to keep than would be fit on just my coffee table
  • Add a second side table as I only had one (I did this a few months ago)
  • Update decorative accessories to create an attractive table and “shelfie-scraping” space
  • Purchase a piece of furniture which would be attractive and play the bar cart role with plenty of display space

img_0015Once I had my list, the furniture and audio elements were fairly easy. I had a good idea of what I wanted and absolutely fell in love with what I feel is now the focal piece —  a gorgeous Chinoiserie cabinet with a gallery tray top and shelves.  This Chocolate Garden cabinet by Theodore Alexander has it all — substantial size, beautiful painted imagery on a mahogany base, open Chinese Chippendale or fretwork side and front panels  —  it really was love at first sight.  And oh by the way, it does have built in LED lighting which is a plus.

The second piece of furniture I purchased is the Villegas etagere by Bernhardt.  The photo here shows three units side by side, but I only needed one.  For an upgraded audio solution, I went with the Bose SoundTouch 20 which I’ve been really happy with thus far.  I’m able to easily access music from Amazon Prime (another reason to be a Prime member), Pandora, and my iTunes library.  I also love that I can expand the system over time by adding additional speakers.  My one disappointment is that I cannot connect a non-Premium Spotify account.  I like Spotify, just not enough to spend $9.99 US per month for it.

Finally, I prepared by scouring Instagram for inspiration and identifying vignettes that appealed to me.  You can see some of my favorites in my Instagram grid.  I also did a quick read of pro stylist Emily Henderson’s (em_henderson)book Styled: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves.  I then started to work on rearranging my existing decorative elements and selectively buying or creating some new ones.  I still have more work to do and will plan a follow-up blog post in the near future.  Below is a photographic update on my progress.  One of the issues I need to work on is reducing the amount of visible cord clutter, but I think I’m off to a good start.

I’ll also plan to share further updates via Instagram, so if you’re not already a follower, do join me.  Tell me, are you holding on to stuff that no longer serves you?  If your living spaces don’t reflect your current lifestyle, what changes would you like to make, and how do you plan to tackle the project?  I’d love to hear all about it!