Design Projects

An Update on Haley's Living Room: Accessories Matter


It's only 3 weeks until littlest sister Haley moves away to Madison and into her grown-up condo. Because she's furnishing and decorating this place from scratch and on a budget, we've been spending a ton of time shopping, looking at fabric swatches and paint decks, and scrolling endlessly through the interwebs for the greatest and cheapest (fill in the blank).

I teased some concepts for her living room (and really her dining room and entryway because it's an open great room) a while ago and figured it was time to update you on how closely those plans had been followed and what we've bought. Most of your favorite design also happened to be hers, so we started from this "Classic and Cozy" concept.

I loved the idea of a mostly neutral and pulled-back space with some pops of color (blue couch!) and warm wood and leather. The aspirational part of this design was the notion of tiling the fireplace - we loved the look, but just couldn't justify the cost in a temporary home for a med-school student. Haley also really screwed up when she was budgeting and didn't budget for multiple leather Moroccan poufs which can easily cost $200 a pop. I tried to tell her that I needed EMERGENCY pouf money in the budget, but she's way more sane than I am about these things and said no. Lame.

I think Haley was like a lot of people who really struggle to make the first big purchase when staring at what is basically a blank canvas. She liked the idea of the blue couch but was hesitant to go with something non-neutral for the first and biggest investment in the space. And honestly, brightly colored furniture wouldn't be my recommendation in most cases, but we found this great, expensive looking fabric in just the right shade of blue, and Haley's fun side won over.

With the first big purchase made, a lot of other things came together quickly. The rug and chair matched the design plan pretty closely. Haley's not a big fan of mid-century, so we went looking for something more industrial for the coffee table, and she and my mom found a great one at Macy's, of all places.

And after a lot of looking for poufs with fairly specific requirements (not too tall, comfy to sit on, not requiring emergency funds) I found a great floor pillow at target. Now of course I only found one, and it was in an odd spot in the store, and they were sold out online and in all nearby locations. But middle sister Rachel came to the rescue and found one in a suburb of Milwaukee even after the store told her on the phone that they didn't have it - score! Here she is showing off her pouf hunting skills.

So with the "big things" purchased, I asked Haley how she was feeling about everything. Basically, she liked everything we had purchased, but was worried about the room/house being too masculine and serious. We hadn't gotten anything bright or cheery or girly or particularly young - so I got where she was coming from. Without any of the "extras" the room was coming together like this.

Looking at this, I understood why she was feeling that way - it was a whole lot of neutral without a lot of personality. I assured Haley that accessories would make all the difference. And guess what? They do! Even in a mood board before we have anything in the room.

Instead of making this post way too long, I'm gonna get fancy for just a second and show you how I plan on aaccessorizing the room with a nifty gif.

Well would you look at that - Girliness! Personality! A little youth!

Here's how this works in my head and the basic path we'll follow when we're actually loading in...

First, we found great paint stencils that are meant to give the effect of tile from Dizzy Duck Designs - she even ships fast and cheap from the UK! I was originally thinking we would do the stencil design in a charcoal, but I think the blue will balance out the space better.

Next, I picked some art to go in the big Ribba frames we purchased on our epic Ikea adventure. And honestly, 4 hours and 4 carts in Ikea on a rainy Saturday does qualify as epic. Here's a super cute picture of Haley to prove it.

The happy abstract art pieces are all from Minted. Haley was really struggling with what sort of art would work well, but the more I've looked, the more I keep coming back to these big shots of color that don't have subject matter to get sick of.

Because we'll have all these frames over the couch, I wanted to do something more sculptural over the fireplace. This big, brass line sculpture is from Target, and I think will be a good modern contrast to the more traditional pattern on the fireplace.

To bring the blushy tones from the art into the room, I added some vases that I got on clearance at Target a while ago. Next, I populated the mantel with a mix of blue glass from Ikea and some fake pink peonies that will look good all year long - ha. Plants are a must to soften up the space - even faux plants bring life and texture. And finally, a few throw pillows will bring everything together.

Just look a what a difference a few accessories can make! Of course, if she got sick of blush or wanted something more mellow all she would have to change is the art and swap out a few pieces. Now I just have to hope that Haley likes all this stuff. :)

Stay tuned for the reveal of the full space!

A Living Room with Personality for My Sister


I'm baaaaaaaaack. I didn't mean to go into hiding for a year, but there was a wedding (future post on that later, but YAY for being a Mrs.), a job that has become pretty all-consuming, and you know - life in all its messy glory.

So why did I come back from my extended hiatus? Because I got a really fun job from the toughest client ever - my littlest sister.

Haley is starting medical school in the fall in Madison (whoop whoop) and just purchased her first condo. She doesn't want it to feel like a dorm room, but doesn't know much else beyond that. The only descriptors of her style that she's given me are "happy, colorful, and clean lines". Soo.. I'm pretty much starting from scratch.

Because I know my sister, I have established a few ground rules for the design of this place.

1) There's a time to be rustic, but this ain't it. This is a walk-up condo in a city, for a twenty something. I love Joanna Gaines as much as the next person, but a bunch of shiplap and milk crates just isn't gonna happen here.

2) There's a time for all white and sleek and museum-like, but this ain't it. There is only one person better at spontaneous napping and most-of-the-day couch sessions than me, and that is Haley. So a place that feels cold and too sleek isn't gonna work.

3) Haley's gotta feel happy there.

With all that in mind I put together 3 different looks for her living room... which when it was listed looked like this.


Because this is an open space to her dining room, kitchen, and hallway, the walls will be a light, happy neutral. No matter what, I think I want to do some floating cabinets or a long credenza along the wall to the left of the fireplace. I think this will square-off the room and make that inset space more functional. We (meaning me and my expert design and installation team - the fam) are going to wall-mount her TV where that too-small art hangs now (like the Homepolish image below). A couch will be where the current owners have their couch, but we'll put 2 chairs in front of the fireplace to make it one cohesive room.

Ok, so design plans - the fun part. I put together these mood boards so she could have a better idea of how stuff works together and the general feel of the space. Not every accessory is included, obviously, but I tried to make sure the major pieces were working together well.

Option 1

Rug | Couch | Chair | Coffee Table | Lamp | Curtains | Art | Poufs

For all of these spaces, I want to take the flimsy white framing off the current fireplace and have my dad (the furniture-maker extraordinaire and handyman of this operation) put in a chunkier wood mantle to make it feel more finished. I don't want to say too much about my thoughts on each design, because I want to hear what you (and of course Haley) thinks first.

While we're talking about family roles in this endeavor, let me try to draw some HGTV parallels for you so you understand the dynamics. Here's our cast of characters for Dysfunctional Design:

Carrie (me): The designer (I still cringe every time I call myself that) with lots of ideas and plans. Mostly concerned with look and feel of spaces, not so concerned with logistics, budgets, how to make things happen, etc. You know who I really miss on HGTV? Genevieve. She was a classic.

Haley: The client, obviously. She's not nearly as annoying as those people on House Hunters that only care about granite countertops and paint colors, but she's also not real decisive. Anything to make her happy!

Mom - Jaci: My mom is like that semi-annoying design assistant that doesn't get much camera time, but does most of the actual work. (shout out to Dessa on Love It or List It!) She's chief list-maker, budget watcher, painter, installer, problem-solver, etc. etc. I'd be lost without her.

Dad - Dan: Ty Pennington, Chip Gaines, take your pick for ruggedly handsome man wielding a hammer and saw. That's my dad. He makes beautiful furniture (like these built-ins - still love them!) does what needs to be done, and in this case does all the real life-saving work that helps to fund these little endeavors for his girls. His only fault is that he's not always real quick to concede that something needs to be done by a pro...

Andy: Super helpful, but not super handy. He's great at holding the dog when it gets scared of the air compressor, running to store for that thing we forgot when we were there the first 8 times, holding and carrying stuff... He really is pretty helpful, but we like to give him a hard time. Love you, hubs, but this is real talk.

Rachel and Andrew: The sister and her hubs in Milwaukee may make an appearance and get a spot on the "show", but they're probably smart just to skype every now and then, give a critique, and then go back to their sane lives and leave us to figure out what to do next. Actually, now that I think about it, they're like the subcontractor that walks in half-way through the demo says "this isn't gonna work, here's my bill, see ya." That's the sweet life right there.

That was an odd little tangent...back to the design.

Option 2

Rug | Couch | Chair | Coffee Table | Lamp | Curtains | Mirror | Poufs

My mom the budget watcher might hate me for suggesting we tile the fireplace, but seriously... how great would that look with a pretty cement tile? The patterns would probably be a slightly smaller scale than this, but I think this space could use a showstopper focal point, especially if we keep the rest fairly neutral.

Option 3

Rug | Couch | Chair | Coffee Table | Lamp | Curtains | Mirror | Poufs

This is definitely the girliest option, but if Haley and a potential roommate have this bachelorette pad for awhile, why not girl it up a little bit? This fireplace is tiled again, but this could easily be a geometric patterned wallpaper too.

Ok - if you've managed to hang in there through this much of rambling, you get a reward! Vote below and let Haley know which option you would pick. Or - leave a comment and let me know what you love or hate about any of them. Ready, go!