Group Therapy: Paulette's Decorating Dilemma

Paulette reached out to me a few weeks ago to chat about her living room and how to best arrange the space. She has a long, narrow living room that makes it hard to configure her furniture to really utilize the square footage.

 Paulette has some really great pieces. How fabulous is that campaign chest and gallery wall?

This is what Paulette had to say about her family's living space:

I'm looking to change the sofa, rug and coffee table (it's just too much wood). I want to try to lighten up the space and figure out something to do in the area behind the chair. It's essentially another room which the kids tend to play because there is absolutely nothing there. I was thinking about using it as more of a sitting area, but I am not sure how to divide the areas and place the furniture.  My kids are 5 and 7, so we have finally hit the stage where toys are kept in the room, but I do want the kids to feel like they can also hang out there. I bought some simple white curtains from IKEA and add trim if need be for color. I would call my style transitional. I do have a tendency to be scared of color but am trying to step out a bit – thus the camping dresser in peacock blue.

Alright Paulette, here's what I would do – take it for what it's worth!

To split the living room and sitting area into two separate areas, I would move that tan accent chair into the sitting area and angle the two chairs in the corner. I would replace that chair with a chaise lounge or long upholstered bench – either of those options would allow you to have the same seating but keep the rooms opened to one another better than any furniture piece with a high back. The low-profile nature of a chaise lounge or bench allows the eye to see easily into each area and for the people in each room to interact easily, but it still provides the separation you're looking for to delineate the sections of the room.

Here are some pieces I think would look nice in the living area. I tried to find affordable pieces because what good is it to suggest furniture that is overly expensive? I hate it when people do that! This is real life; most of us can't spend a fortune on a throw pillow!

One thing I think always helps lighten up a space – like Paulette wants to do – is to get brighter rugs and incorporate mirrors. Mirrors bounce light around the room and really make a space feel lighter and more glamorous.

Paulette's Living Room

I would create the seating area in the back corner using the two existing tan chairs and bring in some colorful pillows to tie the two chairs together and coordinate with the red chairs from the dining room.

Paulette's Sitting Area

Another thing I would do is create a small desk area on that empty wall leading to the back door. If not a full fledged desk, that would be a great spot for a colorful console and some big artwork.

Paulette's Desk Area

Enough of what I would do – what would YOU do if you had Paulette's space? Share your thoughts in the comments section. Let's help Paulette tackling this decorating dilemma!

If you have a tricky situation in your own home that you want us to discuss on the blog, shoot me an email at jgrantham106@gmail.com. Thanks so much for writing, Paulette. It brings me true joy when blog readers reach out to me with thoughts and questions, and I LOVE to discuss decorating!

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Guest Bedroom Makeover for $7.48

Happy Monday, folks! Our weekend was very relaxing, yet productive. I made it my mission to give our guest bedroom a makeover, and by golly I did it. Well, we did it – the husband did help a little.

When we left off on Friday, we had a beige guest room with the essential pieces: a bed, a nightstand and a dresser.

And here's how it looks today!

My goal was to shop my own house and give it a fresh new look without spending any money. I came really close, but I ended up spending $7.48 for that lampshade by the bed. (At least it was on sale!)

Though I wasn't in love with the beige color chosen by the previous owners, I needed to embrace it for this project. We hope to eventually use this room as a nursery, so we don't want to bother painting it now only to repaint it sometime down the line.

The bed is a $40 thrift store find I picked up a month or two ago, and we painted it one of my favorite colors – Valspar Hematite. That's also the color of our front door, master bedroom dresser and outdoor shutters. It's one of those colors that looks good on anything. It's a really dark grey with a hint of navy blue. I like how it gives a strong contrast against the beige walls without being quite as harsh as black. Not only did I already have the paint (free!), but it helps tie the house together when you use the same color in various ways.

Before this mini makeover, the room was sort of a storage space for all my extra junk. I had a hod podge of random pieces in there that really needed help to look right together.

 With some DIY art on the walls and some junk removed from the room, I'm loving the new space.

After painting the bed, I started by trying to figure out what to do with the walls. I really wanted the wall behind the bed to be the focal point, but I didn't have a standout art piece for that spot. I thought about hand-painting some pattern on the wall, but I didn't want anything too permanent. (Plus I bet it's a huge pain to paint over a pattern. You probably need multiple coats of primer just to even it out, and I'm far too lazy for that!)

In the end, I was inspired by one of my past projects – DIY paper wall flowers – to use paper arrows to add some interest to my wall. It's literally as simple as cutting out a shape and taping it to the wall. It's perfect if you are renting or are noncommittal like me – if I tired of them I can just take them down with zero hassle!

The room was instantly less boring as soon as that wall was finished. That's what you see when you look into this room from the rest of the house, and I think it's such a charming view.

As for the other walls, I decided to raid my storage closet for some free large frames. My employer moved into a new building in January, and they were going to throw away all of the art and frames that were hanging in the old building. You know I couldn't allow that! They were tossing out fancy, heavy-duty professional frames with nice mats and glass. I took as many as I could fit in my car and have been hoarding them in a hall closet ever since. Both frames were silver, but we spray painted them gold to match the thrifted lamps in this room.

I didn't have any art, so I created my own. The simple "rest" poster above the map chest was inspired by this huge, simple painting I saw on Pinterest. I really want our guests to feel relaxed when they come to visit– like they are on vacation– so what better word than "rest" for the guest room art?

I originally wanted the "rest" poster to just be the text with no embellishment, but when I was painting it I got some black paint on the heel of my hand and smudged it below the word rest. Not wanting to give up on the whole painting, I improvised and added some cute dots around the word to cover up my mistake. Sometimes you just have to make it work, as Tim Gunn would say!

I knew the lamp would be in the bottom left portion of the poster, so I purposely made the text asymmetrical and put it near the right side. Even though it's not balanced on the canvas, the whole vignette feels balanced because they are opposites.

The painting on the other side of the room was inspired by one of my favorite songs, Oceans by Hillsong United.  (It's SUCH a beautiful song.) This one is a mix of watercolor, sharpie and paint pen.

I already had these cute frames from Target, so I framed a few prints from my favorite artist, Gustav Klimt. I bought a booklet full of photos of his artwork last year and cut out these small pieces to fit the frames. I like how they balance out the modern "rest" poster with something a bit more traditional.

Since it is a guest room, we wanted to make sure it was really functional. We spray painted some silver hooks to give the guests a place to hang clothes or purses, much like the hooks I use to plan my outfits in our master bathroom.

The tray on the chest contains a few essentials for our guests, including two water bottles, a candle and some toiletries (just in case they forgot something).

The nightstand has more water, two glasses and a short note that contains essential info for our home (garage code, wifi information and how to turn on our overly-complicated TV).

To make our guests feel at home, I hung a simple piece of ribbon with clothespins to create a photo strip. Now I can switch out the photos depending on who is visiting and make the room feel more personal for them.

The bedding is a mix of stuff we had around the house. Somehow it looks OK piled together, don't you think? I wouldn't think beige and grey would work so well together, but the golden/beige tones really warm up the grey and make it feel comfy.

Overall, I'm pretty thrilled with how much better this room looks after just a small amount of effort:

Here are all the sources, just in case you're wondering:

Bed: thrifted
Bedding: Target (comforter and shams), Marshalls (dotted blanket and diamond sheets)
Throw pillows: Pier 1
Nightstand: thrifted
Lamps: thrifted
Lampshades: Target
White frames: Target
Golden frames and artwork: thrifted/DIY
Map chest: one of my favorite bargains ever, from Wisteria
Stool: thrifted
Boxwood wreath: Wisteria
Cowhide rug: flea market
Small throw rug: thrifted

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Guest Room Makeover Plans

So we have this cute little guest bedroom that really deserves some attention. It's the same beige it was when we bought the house, and the furniture is a total hodgepodge of random things we have collected over the years.

Even though I'm not too keen on the beige color of the walls, I don't want to paint it. I need to embrace the beige and make it look like I actually chose that color. My goal for this weekend is to whip this room into its cutest self without actually spending any money. I love a challenge!

One thing I did buy a while ago is this cute, chunky wooden bed from the thrift store for $40.

We have since painted the bed a better color, but you'll have to check my next post to see how it turned out!

Here are some of the other random items I'm thinking about using in the room:

Guest Room Plans

We have company coming next weekend, so I'll be trying to get it ready to go before then. Sometimes I need a hard deadline to really get my butt in gear!

What do you have going on this weekend? Do you have any idea for my beige box of a guest room?

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The Art of Marital Compromise: Home Audio

Have you ever heard a woman rave about her surround sound system? Gush about the quality of her amazing subwoofer? Make you sit and listen to the powerful sound system she had installed in her car?

Me either.

I've decided audio is a man thing. I'm sure there are some women who are really into it, but for the most part, we don't care. Women usually don't see any need to upgrade the sound system that comes with our car or new TV. Men, on the other hand, can obsess over these audio details.

My husband is a bonafide audiophile. He can hear the difference between high quality sound systems and the kind that come with the TV. He looks at me in disbelief when I say something like, "It all sounds the same to me" while standing in the Magnolia section of Best Buy.

So anyway, this Mars/Venus situation came to a head when the husband went to an estate sale and came home with this gigantic home audio system for our den.

That's a lot of ugly black speakers, am I right?! Who needs a 10-piece surround sound system for a relatively small room?

As you can imagine, I didn't love the home audio system. After all, we spent so much time fixing up the den – painting everything, including the built-ins; installing new travertine; styling up those pretty shelves – and I knew those bulky black speakers were going to be distracting.

Here's the thing: I didn't want to squash the husband's hopes and dreams about having a nice home audio system. I know that is very important to him, even though I could care less. He was really excited about the new system and kept showing his friends how powerful it was. (It was LOUD. REALLY LOUD.)

I got lucky, though. The husband decided on his own that the speakers were too big for the room. (Sweet relief!) We decided to sell them on Craigslist, and I told him to keep looking for a sound system that was less intrusive and still gave us the home theater vibe that he wanted.

We actually made a profit when we sold them on Craigslist (he bought them for $390 at the estate sale and sold them for $600). I love it when that happens. And then he stalked Craigslist until he found a guy selling much sleeker, smaller and higher-quality surround sound speakers that I could handle, which are now mounted on the wall beside our TV.

These Paradigm "center, left and right channel speakers," as the husband calls them, retail for about $900, but we bought them for $300 from a really nice guy who was renovating an awesome old house in historic Dallas. It was kind of hilarious because he and Scott were both total audio geeks and they discussed sound systems (with great enthusiasm) for quite a long time while I wandered around the guy's house and admired his renovation work. It was one of those really pleasant Craigslist transactions where you feel a strange bond with the other person when you leave.

Of course to make this a real "surround sound" situation, we needed smaller speakers to place in the back of the room. We found these subtle white surround speakers by Definitive Technology on Ebay for $160 for the pair, which is about 60% off the normal retail price. I was totally OK with these (as opposed to bulky black speakers sticking off my ceiling) because they are sleek and coordinate well with our spotlights by the built ins.

It's so weird to have surround sound! Sometimes it totally messes with my senses because I'll hear the sound of rain coming from behind me when I'm on the couch, and I'll look out the window to see perfectly clear skies. Then I remember that the rain sound is coming from those crazy surround sound speakers! Gets me every time.

Luckily my husband's audiophile geekiness extends to the installation of those speakers, so he was able to do that himself. That always saves us a lot of money.

The last thing we had to do was customize our poor old Ikea console to fit the all-important receiver that makes all these fancy speakers work together. It was too tall for the existing cutout, so the husband used his jig saw to create a bigger opening. It's not exactly gorgeous, but I don't think many people would notice unless we pointed it out. We put it in the center so that the cutout wouldn't make the console feel off balance, so I think that helps.

All in all, we have achieved the perfect marital compromise with our home audio situation. The husband has the upgraded home theater experience he wanted for watching movies and football games, and I didn't have to sacrifice my cozy decorating scheme. Everybody wins!

 What is something that your husband/wife really cares about that doesn't matter to you at all? Surely we aren't the only ones!

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So, I Bought Some Stuff...

You know I hate to pay full price for anything. It's un-American!

And technically I didn't pay full price for this new dresser, but it was still a splurge for us. I mean, 80% of our furniture was purchased at the thrift store or flea market, so anything we buy at a real store feels like a major investment.

This classic beauty was purchased at a local furniture outlet for $600. I know, I can't believe I paid $600 for a dresser! But hey, it was on sale from $900 so I figure that's a little win in the grand scheme of things.

When I showed a picture of the dresser to my best friend, she said it was more traditional than she expected. I guess that's true. But I believe that investment pieces should be classics, and I hope to have this one forever. Plus, it's a versatile piece; it would be equally gorgeous as a dining room buffet, nursery changing table or an accent piece in an entryway.

When I showed a picture of the dresser to my best friend, she said it was more traditional than she expected. I guess that's true. But I believe that investment pieces should be classics, and I hope to have this one forever. Plus, it's a versatile piece; it would be equally gorgeous as a dining room buffet, nursery changing table or an accent piece in an entryway.

The best part is that I now have adequate storage for all my clothes, which makes the husband very happy. He's not a fan of my messy tendencies. I'll consider this purchase an investment in our marital happiness!

If you're wondering what happened to the thrift store fail that was doomed to smell bad, I sold it in our garage sale this past weekend. Farewell, stinky dresser!

While I'm talking about shopping, I figured I would show you some of my favorite recent bargains!

How cute is this backpack from Aeropostale? I've been wanting it for some time, but I waited patiently for the price to go down from $60 to $18. It's better quality than I expected, too!

Have you ever been to Clothes Mentor? I tried it out for the first time last week to sell some of my clothes before the garage sale. I was so impressed! I not only received $110 for the clothes I brought in, but I found some great stuff to buy, like these pristine Cole Haan shoes for only $30. (They retail for $250 online). I'm a huge fan of Cole Haan shoes but they are normally out of my budget. They're so comfortable because of the Nike air technology in the sole. I have black and grey Cole Haan flats that I wear to work almost every day, so I knew I would love these heels.

My local Clothes Mentor also had a great selection of nice workout clothes, include this Lululemon pullover for $16. Lululemon is another brand I love that I normally can't afford, so I get excited to find great pieces at secondhand stores!

If you're familiar with Plato's Closet, I would say that Clothes Mentor is the mature version of Plato's Closet. This particular store had very nice clothes and told me they have really high standards for what they buy from customers. It has to be less than two years old and in nearly impeccable condition. They only have women's clothes and accessories, unlike Plato's Closet, which also has men's clothing. Anyway, you should check out Clothes Mentor if you're not above shopping secondhand!

Speaking of random purchases, do you think I am too old for this little girl's shirt from Target? I'm a sucker for graphic tees and hearts. I like to joke that this is one of the few perks of not being "well endowed" on my top half – I can still fit into children's shirts (size 16). Haha!

And how cute is this miniature gold tea set I found at the thrift store? This was such a lucky find because it was packed away in this nondescript cardboard box on the dishes aisle, and I have no idea why I decided to open the box. I'm so happy I did though; I was instantly smitten!

So, do you love shopping as much as me? Have you bought anything fun lately?

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