Before and After: My Bright and Comfy Family Room


When I moved in to my shiny new house a little more than a year ago I had two primary feelings. First off, I was insanely grateful to my family and friends that helped me get there, both literally and figuratively. I had moved 4 times in 5 years, and bought and sold 2 houses during that time. I knew this would be a more permanent locale (God willing) and moving in felt like one big giant sigh of relief. But like after most sighs of relief, the overwhelming weight of what you've just done sets in. Where on earth was I supposed to start? I hardly had enough furniture to fill 3 rooms, let alone the whole house.

Fortunately, the answer to "where to start" came fairly quickly, because I didn't own a couch. In fact, one of Andy and my first dates involved sitting on approximately 3947 couches and Andy filling his manly role by extolling the virtues of leather reclining couches with built-in cup holders and speakers. Unfortunately for Andy, it wasn't his house, and he wasn't buying the couch, so there was no man-cave special purchased.

I did, however, put my big girl pants on and bought a giant sectional that is perfect for sitting on and sinking into. It's what my giant living room needed. When you have a giant living room with just a couch, a too-small TV on the floor, and an 80s brick fireplace, that's where you focus your attention first.

Here's the before shot from when the house was listed. Please note: this is not the couch I purchased.

To start with, I knew that fireplace needed some TLC. I gave it a good scrubbing (seriously, ew. Bricks are dirty.) and then whitewashed it with watered down white paint. I toyed with the idea of painting it white-white, but in the end I still wanted to see some of the variation in the brick and the texture come through. It's amazing what the effect of lightening up that big heavy fireplace had.

I knew I didn't want to mount the TV above the fireplace because it's one of my personal pet peeves. Lucky for me, my dad had built a giant buffet for my previous house that I knew would actually work super well as a TV stand. It has lots of great storage and provided some punch to the room. Now I know that most people wouldn't decide to design a room around a large piece of orange furniture, but I am an unapologetic color person, and I still love this thing and its color.

My dad had also previously built me a large, beautiful coffee table that was meant to look like one from a higher-end furniture store that rhymes with Lottery Yarn. My dad is really the MVP of my house, big time.

After that, I said a little prayer for my bank account, bit the bullet, and bought a BIG rug that I knew would tie the space together. I think I rant in almost every post about how expensive rugs are, but in this space it was SO SO important to get the big 10x14' rug to cozy up the space.

I wish I had more progress photos to show you, but at that point in time I was really just trying to remember my zipcode and unpack boxes. The thought of taking pictures of rooms mid-disaster didn't even occur to me.

Anyway, you'll have to live with the after photos.

I'll point out some special things on these shelves that either Andy or I really love, but I would be remiss if I didn't point out the single most contested decor item in my home. Enter the fuzzy green ball.

If you look on the left side of the shelving toward the top, there is a fake turf-covered ball. Andy has a completely irrational hatred of the fuzzy green ball. In fact, when we have friends over it's not unusual for Andy to say "Yeah, Carrie did a great job in here except for that stupid ugly green ball. What the heck is the point of it?! I don't get it.... blah blah." Dear Andy, I love you, but please get over the green ball. But I digress....

Andy's most prized possessions in this room are the 3 baseballs on the right hand shelves. They all have to be on that side (drives me nuts) because otherwise the direct sunlight will fade the treasured signatures of Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and Hank Aaron.

The awesome orange and gray bud vases are done by my uber-talented brother-in-law, Andrew. And yes, my sister is married to an Andrew and I'm dating an Andy. If Haley doesn't find a Drew to settle down with pretty quickly everything will just feel out of whack. But AndREW is a chemistry teacher and potter, and I love displaying and using his work in my home. Find him on instagram @ALpottery.

The adorable dog on the mantle is my parents dog/the family dog, Trooper. He's freaking adorable, and I miss him, so it didn't strike as weird to put his picture on the mantle. That is, until everyone started asking in hushed tones when my dog had passed away, or where the dog is now. Picture of dog on mantle, and no dog in house = assumptions of dead dog. But hey - no worries. Troopy is alive and well and living out his ridiculously spoiled life at my parents house.

Please excuse the basketball game on TV. Me photographing the room for the blog was not a good enough reason to turn the game off for Andy. But honestly, this room is a long way from perfect or magazine worthy. But I love it, because it was the first room that was done, and it's where all the best stuff happens in our house.

It's where Andy's posse of cable-mooching friends gather to watch football on Sunday, and where some intensely competitive board games are played. It's where Game of Thrones gets watched with friends, and where I convinced Andy to binge watch all of The West Wing with me. Living rooms are the best, and here's my favorite view of mine.