Our rather modest plans for refreshing our sitting room got a bit out of hand when our choice of new sofa set off a chain reaction that led to us deciding to take everything out of the room and start from scratch. I'm the kind of person who likes to plan everything, so when something like this happens out of the blue, I am definitely pushed outside my comfort zone. Unlike most makeovers, where I have a clear idea from the start where I want to end up, the process with this one has been a bit different, with each decision revealing the next step in the journey.
Despite the lack of an overall plan, I still tried to adopt a systematic approach to this makeover. The first thing I usually do when designing a new room (or redesigning an existing room) is to determine the layout: How do I want people to move through the room? What is the main feature that I want to orient the room around? Do I need to do any electrical or plumbing work? For example, in the past we have moved radiators, the bath, the cooker, oven, and extractor hood, repositioned the wiring for lights and sockets, and turned a door so that it opened the opposite way around ... all to optimise the layout of a room. Finally I consider what furniture I need in the room, and how it should be laid out.
We want the fireplace to be the focal point of our sitting room, but the furniture arrangement also has to work well for conversation and watching television. Up until now, we had been re-using the three-piece suite from our previous house. It took up the whole room, yet didn't seat that many people, and seemed too spread out for everyone to be able to carry on a conversation.
What we really wanted in this room was a corner suite that would not only suit the space better, but also seat more people, more comfortably.
So the whole redesign of the room started with the new couch: this corner suite in grey fabric.
We didn't originally intend getting a grey couch and, once we did, we didn't think it worked well with the existing colours in the room (warm white and vibrant green). So the next decision was to choose a new paint colour for the walls. I was torn between staying with something in the green family and changing it up altogether.
The decision about the wall colour was serendipitously made when Hubby and I almost literally stumbled across this gorgeous vintage area rug in The Gaiety (although the Galway store is sadly now closed down, the store near Westport is still open).
The rug became my inspiration for the rest of the decor in the room. I picked out the slate blue colour in the pattern and decided to choose a similar colour for the walls, with the ochre and umber colours in the rug as accent colours.
For the wall colour, I tried samples of Dix Blue and Stone Blue, both from Farrow & Ball, and the Stone Blue was an instant hit with both Hubby and I.
Most rooms for me start with a colour and an inspiration. With the Stone Blue and the vintage rug, I had what I needed to establish the overall design of the room. At this stage, I find it helps to think about how the room should feel and to ascribe adjectives to it. Should it be formal or informal? Relaxed? Cosy? Glam? Vintage? Bohemian? Urban? Rustic? Chic? Luxurious? Minimal? Modern? Etc. Sometimes one of these words rules out another - a room cannot be both formal and informal, or urban and rustic. Having a clear focus makes it easier to make decisions about what goes into the room - and what does not.
But sometimes it's not so clear-cut. Although the rug was starting to rule out some options, like minimalism, it could just as easily suit a formal glam design or a relaxed bohemian room. To refine my ideas at this point, I will either work from the objects I want to include in the room towards a suitable design, or I come up with a design that will determine what I put in the room. For the sitting room, it was the latter.
With a concept already formed, Pinterest is a great place to start looking for room designs that strike the right cord. Or, if you're struggling to narrow down your ideas, it can be helpful to pin a bunch of stuff you like and then see if you can spot a common theme.
For the sitting room, I had decided that I wanted something that felt cosy, rustic, vintage, classic, informal. And blue with a vintage rug. Something like this:
We have never had a fireplace in the room, but we would like to add one - possibly in sandstone in a style similar to that in the picture above.
With the old armchair gone out of the bay window, I planned to build a window seat in the space. This is a room that enjoys lovely sunshine throughout most of the day, and I imagined snuggling up with a cup of tea watching the birds in the garden or reading a book. Then I found this bench (also at The Gaiety) with storage underneath the seat and decided to order a similar one instead of making a built-in fixture in the window bay. The old armchair was our dog's favourite, and I'm not entirely convinced he'll be willing to relinquish it ... which may mean that we'll have to keep that (ugly!) chair in the room. Buying the freestanding bench will give us the option to use this seat elsewhere in the house if we end up keeping the dog's armchair in the sitting room.
I am not sure yet what colour to paint the the bench. Since we will be painting all the pine woodwork in the room in Old White by Annie Sloan, I may go with that to make the seat feel more integral to the room. But I'm also considering going darker with it - maybe Paris Grey or even Aubusson Blue (also by Annie Sloan). We'll make that decision later on I guess.
I also want a sofa table or shelf behind the couch to hold reading lamps etc. and to keep the sofa from being pushed back against the radiator and blocking the heat.
Rather than rehanging the old family photos directly onto the wall as before, I'm thinking of propping them on a photo shelf to make it easier to add the collection over time.
For the soft furnishings, I want to incorporate lots of rustic-style textiles, like navy tweeds and fun prints like this one that celebrates the wonderful wildlife that we enjoy in our garden.
I am also on the lookout for a new coffee table for the room, possibly in oak to go with the floor, and definitely with a shelf underneath where I can add baskets to store whatever magazines or books I'm reading. The baskets will also add some rustic texture to the room.
I am unsure yet what to do with our sideboard (credenza). It's the Bestå unit from Ikea and is a perfect fit for that alcove, so I'll probably keep it and update the look. I'm thinking of painting it a teal or dark blue, and for the doors I'm considering one of two options ... something like this with antiqued gold mirrors:
Or something with texture like this (but in blue):
Finally, I have been coveting this light shade for what seems like forever. I adore it's quirky blend of traditional style with whimsy. The only drawback is the price tag. I do love it, and I think it would look great in this room, but I don't know if I can bring myself to spend so much money on a light shade. So we'll see.
How do you decide how to decorate a room? I'm curious to know how other people go about that.