alison_young4377290

What to do with this living room?

Alison Young
6 years ago
last modified: 6 years ago
Our living room is north facing and so pretty dark despite having two large windows. We've put quite a bit of time and money into it so far, but it's not working quite right, with 2 main flaws:

Firstly, what do we do with the 1960's fireplace, which is dominating the room? Replace? Somehow update? It has a small wood burning stove squeezed into it currently, which sticks out and doesn't look great. We can't afford to replace the existing wooden floors, so need to go with the same shape at least regarding the lower hearth.

Secondly, the wall to the right of the 4 square shelves looks really bare (ignore the temporary floor light) beside the curtain. We use the seat there as a little reading nook so it needs some sort of lighting, but as the square shelves make such a statement I don't know what I can get away with on this wall. Should I drop a dramatic coloured pendant light? Would some artwork conflict with the strong lines of the shelves?

Also, I'm wondering if the walls are too white? Would something with more soft grey tones work better in this dark room? We're stuck with the mahogany window frames, and also mahogany doors (although decent doors).

Thanks!

PS - not sure if dropping a pendant light would conflict with the floor lamp already over the sofa (this has green shades - can't tell from the photo). Would a second floor lamp also be a no-no and too much?

Comments (157)

  • decorgirly
    6 years ago
    you could cover the fireplace but I happen to like it as is. If you don't want it to be the focal point of the room then clear all the stuff off. How high is the ledge? if it's not too low and you don't use the fireplace you can make it into a bench
    Chevy Chase Condo Alteration · More Info
    Alison Young thanked decorgirly
    Best Answer
  • pjlhome
    6 years ago
    Have you considered buying a round dining table and changing out the base so it is coffee table height? Try shopping estates sales or used furniture stores.
    Alison Young thanked pjlhome
  • Related Discussions

    What to do with living room?

    Q

    Comments (1)
    You need to start with a base colour, or a favourite item like a cushion or picture and then build a design around it. Like the navy and white in the picture below.
    ...See More

    Paint colour help!

    Q

    Comments (1)
    I saw the first photo and thought add turquoise as it works well with the chocolate and then I saw the 2nd photo which already has blues - I think you are already on track. As you are leaning towards nature's colours - brown (earth) blue (sky) you could either keep with these layering different tones or introduce another earth colour - green. There are so many shades that would well in this room but if it were my room and furniture I would look to be working with these colours to keep it calming. If you want to keep the walls neutral tangerine or red would well as accents - rug, throw, cushions, curtain trim too and add just a hint of spice.
    ...See More

    Please help - sofa and chair arrangement in a very long living room

    Q

    Comments (10)
    My experience for the distance between tv and point of watching is how big the tv is. You could also try and see what distance suits you. In my experience, you as a dweller create how you intend to use the space: watching tv / reading / entertaining / kids playing / guests sleeping / playing an instrument/ plants or a collection exposition / writing / paying bills / printer & IT hub... I am just brainstorming... In my case, I like to create piles: out of my books and magazines for projects, library books to return so separate from the many books we have, so I tend to welcome long shelves or tables. Sometimes it’s convenient to have separate dining and work tables - if you have space - because you can keep the surfaces dedicated for different activities. But again, it all depends on how you (want to) use the space.
    ...See More

    Second/holiday home just bought. What to do with the living room?

    Q

    Comments (6)
    Hi Matthew, what a lovely open living room you have - love the fireplace! We’ve found that people are now turning their backs on the cool, sleek look of laminate flooring for the natural warmth of carpet as it can feel so uninviting and cold. Home owners are realising that in rooms such as the lounge, bedrooms and hallway, carpet really is the only option. Not only does it feel great underfoot, but it’s also a great insulator too, which will help on the heating bills over the winter. There’s also the fact that it’s quieter and helps to absorbs sounds, it’s easy to clean, with little maintenance compared to the upkeep of hard wood floors or laminates and it’s also good for reducing the number of allergens in the air. You could try a textured look pile carpet like Malabar or a textured twist like Natural Berber Twist (pictured here) if you’re hankering for a more rustic look. We also have more flooring advice on our website here: https://www.cormarcarpets.co.uk/carpet-facts.php - hope that helps!
    ...See More
  • pjlhome
    6 years ago
    Also instead of more pattern in the rug how about one of these soft textured rugs from overstock.com
    Alison Young thanked pjlhome
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    6 years ago
    Thanks pjlhome. Interesting idea about cutting down a dining table - might have to consider that as as a plan b. Interesting rugs you added - I nearly bought one very like the green shaggy one, but which had a little bit of cream through it too. Unfortunately it was soiled and end of line so on the look out for another one like it. Many of them are too "bright lime". Do you think we have enough patterns going on already?
  • pjlhome
    6 years ago
    I think the two rugs posted above might be a little busy with your drapes, which I love. I would not hestitate adding more pattern in the pillows but not on the rug. I think the rug should be soft and calming.
    Alison Young thanked pjlhome
  • Cristina Hopper
    6 years ago
    A - I would not mind the pink in the 1st rug, but I don't love either rug because the colors in the rug are muddier (=grayer) than the drapery colors. If it were pillows and draperies I would not mind as much, but the rug is big, so the eye will pick up on the difference. Generally you don't want to mix clean colors and muddy colors because it will look off. The trick is really to get lucky and either find a rug in a lighter hue of blue and green, or with lots of white.

    I like the lamp you found, but I would probably paint the base is a bright blue (to match the draper blue).
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    6 years ago
    Thanks folks! So much to learn...!!!! That's really helpful advice on the rug. I'm clearer on what to look out for now.
  • pjlhome
    6 years ago
    Hi Alison, What did you decide to do on the fireplace? I personally like the stone on the fireplace and before I would go to the expense of replacing it I would try painting the walls
    so that it compliments it. It's hard to tell exactly what color blue and green is in the drapes since the lighting plays a big part in the appearance, but I have attached some samples that might go well with it all.
    Alison Young thanked pjlhome
  • zweiback
    6 years ago
    TONS of good advice as well as conflicting advice here! My head is spinning for you!

    The shape of your stone fireplace wall puts me in mind of adobe fireplaces, like the one I'm attaching. I think with your white couch and a slight color on the walls it would be striking.

    Also, about those square shelves - what about two on either side of the wall with one low, floating shelf mounted between them, with a mirror or large piece of art above it?
    Alison Young thanked zweiback
  • Renee
    6 years ago
    I love your shelves. I would just suggest centering them on the wall, or better, get 4 more and fill that wall with them. I think they are fab!
    Alison Young thanked Renee
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    6 years ago
    Thanks all for more comments on this thread. I think the fireplace has ultimately got to be radically changed. It's done in a local stone which is widely regarded as something that was put in 1960's houses in this area. I normally love stone fireplaces, but the colours and shapes are all wrong in this, plus the proportions are all wrong.

    I'm thinking something fairly modern that perhaps expands over where the TV is so that the TV looks like it's included in the design of the area rather than an after thought. Haven't found my Holy Grail design inspiration pic yet, but still looking!

    Agree the wall colour has to change, and the shelves position. All on the to do list!
  • lnicol8
    6 years ago
    I would switch your current rug out for a big white shag rug, that will brighten the space a lot. And in the wall right of the four box shelves I would do a large leaning mirror which also might reflect more light into the space. If you don't like the mirror idea you could do a large canvas art piece with an art light above it...
  • cbear33
    6 years ago
    I think a fireplace screen would give the illusion the opening is bigger than it is. It would really even out the space. They come in all different sizes and designs.
    Alison Young thanked cbear33
  • PRO
    Cocoweb
    6 years ago
    Where is that picture light from www.cocoweb.com ?
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    6 years ago
    Thanks clarebear - the fireplace screen could be a great interim idea, although the stove currently protrudes so it wouldn't sit flush, which may not look great.
  • pjlhome
    6 years ago
    I know the focus has always been on the fireplace but what if you moved the tv to the wall where the bookshelves are now add some artwork around it and turn the sofa facing that way. Then move the shelves to the opposite wall. You could run some additional storage from the extended part of the hearth down that blank wall to store toys in and put cushions on top for additional seating. Then place a chair or two in front of the fireplace so that that half of the room is more of a reading/play area. Just a thought. Is there enough width in the room for the sectional to basically float since you can't place it against the wall with the low radiator? Just a thought.
    Alison Young thanked pjlhome
  • pjlhome
    6 years ago
    Something like this for storage.
    Alison Young thanked pjlhome
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    6 years ago
    Thanks pjlhome. I don't think we'd have enough room to turn the sectional round. Plus, the back of the sofa would then be facing the main door into the lounge. Like the idea of the low storage / seating!!
  • PRO
    Vicki Simon Interior Design
    5 years ago
    Alison, it has been a long time since this post was active, and I hadn't been keeping up with it but just read through to update myself, and was wondering where you ended up. I'd be curious to know how it is looking now.
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    Hi VIcki, so kind of you to remember my long rants about this room! Progress is very slow, but I've made some updates. I got a new green shaggy rug which is working well (a little smaller perhaps than I'd have liked, but I think it's OK), and found some new blue cushions which I think are a better colour match than the previous ones (plus the texture works better than the previous silk). I have been hunting high and low for a coffee table, but haven't seen one that grabs me yet (at least not one that doesn't require a month's salary!!).

    Funds have been low for the past few months, so I've not been able to tackle the fireplace yet, but I've seen some pics on Pinterest where people have used Annie Sloan paint with remarkable results. Haven't decided if I'm brave enough to try it yet! Once I get a few more major changes I'll add some updated pics. I'm hoping to upholster my footstool soon. Slowly but surely!!!
  • PRO
    colourhappy
    5 years ago
    You don't need another spanner in the works but I have to say... If it's a sixties house then you need to go with the fireplace, I love it. Analogous colours (colours that lie next to each other on the wheel) are also very mid century so any combination of mustards, olives and turquoises teamed with some neutrals could look fab.
    Alison Young thanked colourhappy
  • secretdesigner22
    5 years ago
    We had a fire almost identical to that one!!

    We decided to rip it out but keep the charm and use slate and knock through to the hallway for a double sided fire - this is work in progress but hope the pic helps!!!
    Alison Young thanked secretdesigner22
  • secretdesigner22
    5 years ago
    Sorry! Pic here
    Alison Young thanked secretdesigner22
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    @secretdesigner22 - your fireplace looks fab!!!
  • PRO
    Vicki Simon Interior Design
    5 years ago
    Alison, I read your update. Sounds like your living room is coming together nicely. I'm glad you are working with those fab drapes in your accessories colors you speak of! in reading your search for a coffee table, this recently pinned find of mine comes to mind as an option for you because it picks up on the lovely arched doorway while respecting very loosely the rectangular format of the sofa.
  • cavgirl
    5 years ago
    Your photos- and especially the fireplace- are a real blast from the past for me. We lived in Dundonald when I was a kid and we had a fireplace that was nearly identical to yours. I was thinking about the hiding it option - could you clad it from the shelf up? That wouldn't alter the floor's footprint at all but I've no idea what the safety implications would be for when the fire's in actual use! Alternatively I like the grey option for the walls to knock it back, that'd be nice with the tones in the floor too.

    Re your shelves, is there any reason the top two can't be mounted at the same level as the bottom two? That would solve the balance issue there. Apologies if someone's said that already - reading this while making dinner!
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    Liking that Vicki. I'm keeping an eye out on Casafina and Joss & Main - looks like our equivalent of your onekingslane.com. Keep seeing the same kind of tables in all the local shops - all very samey.
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    Thanks cavgirl. I think cladding the fireplace is definitely an option. It's obviously a big decision to make, so thinking it through carefully. I don't want to make the room too featureless at the same time.
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    OK - grab a strong coffee (or a big glass of wine) - I'm throwing this post open for more ideas again!!!!!

    I have made progress this week!! Found some nice material to cover the brown foot stool which brings that in better. Hoping for a pre-Christmas delivery!!! Now, I have some key questions for you clever people out there:

    1. There are differing opinions on bringing in a hit of black v a hit of white. I have a cheap purchase to make of a couple of IKEA wooden kids chairs (where they sit around my lamp table currently sometimes for a treat at dinner time). Do I go for black or white, as whatever I go for I know I need to start bringing in elsewhere? Or, crucially would both go and this is just a question of personal taste rather than what makes the room work?

    2. The fireplace saga - for a complete replacement, I'm drawn towards the modern fireplaces where the low hearth is maybe in a mid to dark grey and the rest of the fireplace is a lighter more neutral tone. As I need to keep the floor print of the existing fireplace due to flooring issues, I also thought of lowering the TV stand so it's the same height as the rest of the hearth, but maybe growing the fireplace out to the right over where the TV currently is so that there's almost a little nook beneath that the TV is in. I can't find a pic of what I mean - maybe I'm going crazy. But I've added a few pics of the kind of style I mean. Thoughts?

    OR

    Will add a separate post below as running out of pics space, but I saw this picture as an interim step where someone had painted their fireplace in an Annie Sloan wash. Cute, but maybe too country cottage for my style? Not that I've ever been successful in applying Annie Sloan paint to anything yet.

    Thank you!!!!
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    The Annie Sloan fireplace I mentioned...
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    Sorry - one last idea (save me from myself if necessary!!!). Instead of buying a floor stand for the lights, if I reposition them as a 3 along the lower level, what if I create the lighting from the bookcase itself? There are quite cheap little small coloured lamps in Ikea that would fit (or I could go for black), or I could put in hidden lighting. Thoughts?

    (If you're just seeing this post please check out the other 2 posts I just added in this thread in case you can help me with that too!!!).
  • fissfiss
    5 years ago
    Alison, you have a great eye, I like all of the pictures you posted, including the paint it interim step...this is not helpful I know! Ask the kids about the chairs, someone is likely to have a strong opinion, and you don't want tears, or a tantrum...and sometimes their eye is better than ours, because they have no fear. And if you end up with one black and one white, then there won't be squabbling about ownership.
    Alison Young thanked fissfiss
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    b
  • Cristina Hopper
    5 years ago
    Alison - glad to hear and see you are making progress.

    On the picture you posted with the Annie Sloan paint. That mantel appears too rustic to you because of the weathered wooden mantel. Your fireplace is different. Also, you will need to choose your color wisely, because that can make a difference. Here is a thought - try painting the stone anyway.

    Here is an idea I like.
    Mix it up · More Info

    Your firebox is disproportionately small, and once you paint the stone a very light color that will be even more obvious. Building a "frame" around it with a flat stone or tile, could be a way to change that with little effort or too much money.
    Alison Young thanked Cristina Hopper
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    Cheers Cristina - always wise words! I am about to take some big steps - 90% of the way towards deciding to paint the room a palish grey from Farrow & Ball following good advice about the undertones for my north facing room. Woo hoo!!! This must be the slowest room update ever!!!!

    The guy suggested perhaps a dark grey paint over the fireplace to make the limes in my room pop. What do you think? I'm just worried if painting the fireplace suddenly makes it very flat - too wrongs don't make a right if I spend money just making it a different kind of wrong.
  • Cristina Hopper
    5 years ago
    Can you post a color sample of the paint color you had in mind for your walls? I can help you pick a color for your stone then from that same company.

    Don't worry about how long it takes; it's not a speed contest. Plus it's easy for perfect strangers to suggest you spend money major renovations; they are not the ones actually footing the bill.
    Alison Young thanked Cristina Hopper
  • Cristina Hopper
    5 years ago
    I was also rethinking your coffee table. Since you are going for an edgy vintage style, I think looking for second hand furniture could be your ticket to fabulous. Here in the US we have an online classified called Craigslist. If you live near a nice city, you can often buy fabulous used furniture for ridiculously low prices. Another underutilized resource would be an antique center. Sometimes their pricing is crazy, but often there are fabulous finds, for much better quality than new, and incredible pricing. And don't forget, if you find the piece you like with great lines, the finish can almost always be changed.
    Alison Young thanked Cristina Hopper
  • PRO
    DINA G SCULPTURE
    5 years ago
    The wall with the bookshelves needs a dark colour I would dare a nice matt black and using it as a blackboard...That way it will visually create more distance and make the room look larger.
    Another idea would be a vibrant colour at the ceiling, like cadmium yellow, as it currently seems like a pale yellow and could be more daring.
    Alison Young thanked DINA G SCULPTURE
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    Thanks all. Dina G - I'm just about talking my husband into grey. I think a matt black might push him over the edge! I'm loving all the really dark colours in Elle Decoration, though, and get where you're coming from.

    Cristina - the first photo is Purbeck Stone which I'm going to use on the wall (Gina - against that back wall it's definitely adding more depth). The second photo is the Mole's Breath(!) suggested by the F&B guy for the fireplace. I like the colour on the swatch I did, but I really feel the fireplace would look really flat. It's almost putting me off painting the fireplace full stop. As it's not a flat surface I can't hang a picture or anything on it, so think it might end up looking a bit blah.

    Interested in your thoughts (and anyone else's!!).
  • Cristina Hopper
    5 years ago
    I feel like if you use Purbeck Stone on your walls, you might not need to add Mole's Breath on the stone. Look at the attached picture. The color in the stone is now complementary, and not something you have to fight. I would still consider trying to rebalance the proportion of the firebox in relation to the rest of the fireplace.
    Alison Young thanked Cristina Hopper
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    It definitely blends it in more, Cristina. I think we'll see how it looks when the room's painted, and then go from there (but would still love a brand new fireplace!!!!!. Lottery - I need to win!!!!).
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    Oh, and thanks again for taking the time on this Cristina :)
  • wendy Anderson
    4 years ago

    Hi Alison. For what it's worth, I think virtually everything in your room is lovely. Keep your sofa, curtains and shelves. You bought them cause you loved them, they are beautiful pieces and reflect you. I think small tweaks would hugely improve the room. I would move the shelves either to the right or centrally (though I think off centre would look less predictable). I think the pics without the fuchsia accessories looked more cohesive and I agree with you that the fireplace throws the look of the room off kilter. Can you have it plaster boarded with fire resistant board and painted? This would make such a massive difference to the room, and then you could consider what, if anything needs adding.

    Alison Young thanked wendy Anderson
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    4 years ago


    Hi andersonw, thanks for your comments. Believe it or not, this room is STILL work in progress. Funny enough, I was just saying to my husband a few days ago that plaster boarding over the fireplace and putting down something nice for the hearth could make a big difference for a lot less cash. I have been sold on moving the shelves for ages - I'm only dithering because I want to paint the walls a soft grey when I take them down, and want to figure out if I can sort out the fireplace at the same to save re-painting again in a short period of time.

    I have attached a photo that gave me a bit of inspiration around the plaster boarding idea - we couldn't go exactly the same direction, but thought something similar might work.


    Comments welcome!!

  • dotdavis
    4 years ago

    Alison, where did you purchase your corner sofa?

  • wendy Anderson
    4 years ago
    hi Alison. That pic of the fireplace is gorgeous! Would be so easy to do finishing touch once that was done. I say go for it!
    Alison Young thanked wendy Anderson
  • maddiemo
    4 years ago
    I haven't read all the threads so it may have been mentioned already, but the wall with the book shelves looks perfectly fine to me, I'd just buy a really tall house plant and put it at the side of your reading seat.
    Alison Young thanked maddiemo
  • Alison Young
    Original Author
    4 years ago

    @dotdavis - the corner sofa is by Collins & Hayes. I bought it from Fultons in Belfast, but I think it's stocked all over the UK.

  • Anca Rizescu
    2 years ago

    I don't have the patience the read through what everyone said. But, you have a GREAT space already. The fireplace is fabulous, it only needs an wooden mantle. On that wall where you have those shelves, on half of it, you should place a book case on the entire wall, or almost (Ikea used to have them). It sounds like you ahve some readers in the household, so why not showcase your books there? Plus, it will dress that wall beautifully. You can paint the walls, or not. But if you do these two things that I mentioned, that space will look like a million bucks. A plus would be to add some lighting, but not the modern looking lamp you have there now. Something that would warm up the place, wither on each side of the book case, or by the fireplace.

  • PRO
    Dreambath Sanitaryware Factory
    2 years ago

    Your living room is enough large. Do you install solid surface bath in your bathroom?

  • PRO
United Kingdom
Tailor my experience using cookies

By continuing to browse this site or use this app, I agree the Houzz group may use cookies and similar technologies to improve its products and services, serve me relevant content and to personalise my experience. Learn more.