Easy Living Room Updates and Figuring out My “Style”

I’m the laziest blogger that I’m not even sure I can call myself a blogger. Let’s just say I do a project, and on a random Sunday three weeks later, I’ll work up the energy to write about it. #nowyouknowmysecret

Anyway, I’m sharing two fast painting projects and one addition to our living room that really helped give it some shape that it had been lacking. I couldn’t shake the feeling that there were too many competing colors, textures, and shapes in this room. There’s gray and brown. Light brown and dark brown. Gold, Silver, brass, oil-rubbed bronze, and brushed pewter. There’s weathered gray wood and polished sleek dark wood. It was all just WAY too much.

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Plus, one of the key design guidelines I’ve learned from other bloggers and pros is to layer in textures and metals in a thoughtful way.

Guidelines for Metals and Textures

For metals, courtesy of my favorite blog of all time, Young House Love, mix metals as long as each finish appears more than once in the space. For instance, if you’re working with some existing light fixtures that you don’t plan to replace, but you really love a different metal finish, consider finding something to add to the room that does match the finish of the existing fixture so those finishes “repeat.” Or, if you’re planning a room from scratch, you could work in several items of silver finish with several in oil-rubbed bronze for contrast: i.e. an ORB light and ORB legs on a kitchen table, and brushed-silver lamps on a buffet and a brushed-silver vase in the centerpiece, all in one dining room.

There is infinite advice about layering texture into a room, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to how many different textures you incorporate, so I like to think of it this way: Layer in as many textures as you feel happy with, ensuring that they are balanced (like large patterns mixed with small, or one large shiny item near small rustic wooden items) and come from the same design style. For example: your bohemian style might manifest as a shaggy, knotted area rug with weathered wood furniture, layering in macrame woven wall hangings to complement the rug, and mercury glass lamp bases for that shiny, but a still rustic, appearance.

Surprisingly, I’ve learned through trial-and-error and simply buying the things that I like and putting them into a room that I sort of fall into a mid-century modern style, but I also love the occasional rustic or weathered item. Unfortunately, along with this realization, I also learned that these can be two very difficult styles to mesh together, which is where most of my mistakes have come from. Without inspiration to work from (here’s a couple who did rustic mid-century so right), I was constantly struggling to pull together a space because I didn’t really understand that rustic mid-century was my cup of tea.

Diagnosing Our Living Room Problem

Having those two aforementioned “rules” now in my mind, nailing down my style through mistakes, and looking through photos for inspiration, I finally diagnosed my problem in our living room. The issue here was pretty simple: this room didn’t know what it was trying to be. Was it trying to be just mid-century? If so, how would it play nicely with some of the weathered items I’d brought in, like the thrifted gray-washed blanket ladder? Was it trying to be contemporary? The patterns I was bringing in certainly were, because most of them were geometric and sharp, rather than organic (I’ll explain more later), but the furniture in the room said otherwise.

Then, it also came down to function in the room. I wrote another post about our rug, which I loved for the pattern and color, but realized shortly after laying it down that it competed with our wall color and other furnishings, and it also didn’t work well with our dog. With any jumping or playing, fibers would start to get snagged because it was a woven rug rather than a low-pile shag. Plus, as it was wool, it would shed, so we were often sweeping around it and vacuuming, to little effect.

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Armed with this set of realizations, we had to do a few things to tone down the competing colors, textures, and finishes:

  1. Figure out what to do with the storage bins. These were a medium brown burlap, which I thought would layer nicely into the room, but instead they conflicted with the gray on the walls, and the richer, darker brown of the fireplace surround, furniture, and floor.
  2. Ditch the rug, and in replacing it, find something a little less “contemporary” for the pattern and something more organic and “messy” to inject some color into the room and complement the mid-century chairs that served as another focal point.
  3. Considering all of this, generally bring more color into the room. It was all grays and browns, which don’t really like to work together being on the cool and warm ends of the spectrum, respectively.

This room isn’t really finished with the updates below, but it certainly came closer to my expectations and is moving in the right direction. To help outline what might work well together, I sat down and pulled together a mood board for the room, considering that I was keeping the blue chairs, brown couch (annoyed, but can’t really buy a new couch any time soon), the lamp, the curtains, and the wall color:

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A New Rug, A Little IKEA-Matched Paint, A Little High-Heat Spray-Paint

Here were the three outcomes, plus a bonus:

  • New rug! Hooray! Except I tried to get away with a smaller size than this room needed, which meant we got the rug, moved the whole damn room around, put it down, and literally like 10 minutes later I said it was never going to work. So we returned it and ordered the 9×12. #FAIL
  • Painted the bins! I color-matched the IKEA shelves they’re sitting in and, wouldn’t you know, these don’t stick out like a sore thumb anymore.
  • Painted the fireplace! It was kind of labor-intensive to tape and cover the entire space around it, but boy did this update make a subtly powerful impact on the room just by getting rid of the only brassy gold finish.
  • Bonus: I finally found an awesome sherpa blanket to use for the couch to cover some of the brown and work with the greens in the rug.

Area Rug

So, basically, the rug is perfect. I don’t know how I managed to land such a perfect color scheme and pattern after such a short time searching, but All Modern came in for the win yet again. Here’s what I mean about an organic pattern: it’s kind of painterly and splatter-y (that’s a technical term) instead of geometric and clean-lined and repetitive. It has grays and ivory and cream all mixed in as neutrals, so it works with the dark brown floors and warm gray walls, and the blues and greens work with the other accessories/accents.

This is a wide and long room, so we needed the 9×12 even though, at first, I thought I could get away with the 7×10. Seriously, lesson learned, you can’t cheat a room out of a large-enough rug.

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Storage Bins

For the storage bins, I made a quick trip to Ace and grabbed as many white/ivory swatches as I could find. This was another highly valuable tip from Young House Love. Hilariously, After holding every single one up to the IKEA shelves, the very last one I held up was the color-matched winner. #irony

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So, once we had our match (Valspar Tahitian Vanilla), I grabbed a quart of it in a cheaper brand than Valspar and some 4-inch low nap knit paint rollers. And, sure, for walls, go quality. But this was going to be painted onto burlap, so the paint quality was of zero consequence.

I needed two coats. At first, I wondered if a slightly sheer, rustic finish would work here, but as my lovely hubs reminded me, the point was to make these essentially disappear into the background of the room, not continue to be a focal point. #marriedformorethanlove

And that’s the finished product! Just simple white bins in simple white shelves, and I plopped down this gorgeous lantern to mirror the white color nearby.

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Fireplace

On to the fireplace. I’d basically been wanting to spray this brass since moving in but never worked up the courage. Something about spray painting black paint inside had me shaking in my boots a bit. But after seeing some videos of it done, I figured we could mask off most of the wall and open up the windows and be just fine. I used a Rust-Oleum flat black high-heat spray paint, and chose flat specifically because I didn’t want any shine/gloss when we were done. Here’s before, where you can also see in the corners that the black finish wasn’t even anymore:

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We put up plastic sheeting and taped everything off, including taping paper to the glass:

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I was completely fine with spraying the entire black metal face of the fireplace, since it needed it. It had become slightly dingy over the years, so a fresh coat really helped. Here’s up close once it was done:

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More To Do!

I don’t think we’re done in here, but it’s miles ahead of where it was. And, for me, the best part was allowing this room to teach me something really important about my interior style that I didn’t know about myself. I’ve spent the past few years assuming I knew what I liked, thinking I landed firmly in a sort of rustic farmhouse style, but really it’s this rustic mid-century modern look. Aaaaand just like that, now I’m down a Pinterest rabbit hole.

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