Design Crew

Posted on Sat, 15 Sep 2012 by midcenturyjo

Got a problem? Need some help? Just standing there shaking your head? Don’t know what to do? You’re not alone. Send us a link to photos of your design quandary and let the Desire to Inspire design crew help you …. that’s you lot… the readers! This week’s email is from Sol of Casa 13 who lives in Puebla, Mexico.

The last year we bought a house and we’ve been doing some little stuff, but I don’t see any big change. Maybe is because of the color (everything is a little monochromatic), or maybe because I can’t see what else can do. Here is a little of our house before…

And here is the major change we have done till now…

Some of the plans are to change the dinner, put some things in the entrance, some large art in the stairs… but first is to finish the living. Can you gave me some guidance? Thanks a lot.

Donald says:

Love the bookcase and sofa! Looks like you've got the bones of that room down just need some little things to bring in warmth and color….so I'd start with some kind of rug in front of the sofa. Maybe something with a pattern, since the sofa is all one color. I'm guessing also all the wiring belongs to video game consoles and such…I'd try to figure out a way to hide it when it's not in use, a narrow basket to fit on the lower shelf just to get it out of sight. Some really sheer drapes in front of the sliding doors. A few pops of metallics in accessories. A different ottoman…like a tufted leather to break up that large expanse of couch color.

David says:

First I'd get rid of the impossible-to-straighten gallery wall (these never look good unless you mash them together into a single piece – and even that can be tough to look at) and replace it with a single, larger piece. You have so much space in your new wall unit that you can pepper it with the images you take down from the wall. You could even add some color by painting the wall reveals behind individual openings in the wall unit different colors – kind of a Mondrian effect.

oregonbird says:

Well, the sofa is great! And the bookcase is… very middle American. Right now, you have a focal point that doesn't actually exist, and that appears to have been built to house a collection of books you don't have. It simply doesn't work, and is unattractive to boot — but you've invested in an immovable object, and with a little rethinking, it should work.

Start with the books — don't respect the horizontal visual of the sets; that sort of display is very out of date. Stack them horizontally, mix them up, make sure that you have a good book/object-to-shelf space visual for each vignette. Bring in *more* books! There should not be a lot of air over books you set up on a shelf — usually, you don't want more than an inch or two from the book to the shelf top. This isn't true when you group small books with a larger object such as a vase, of course. Think of it as a process of layering — you don't want a vase, you want a brightly-painted wooden jointed snake sprawled over a coral knob on top of Grandmother's orange mitten in front of a vase on top of a couple of books in front of an set of instagrams.

You will need to do some research, which this site is excellent for, and figure out what you have to use as display materials. I think that those little colored objects, which stand out so nicely, prove that color might be your friend in this — if you can mix unifying doses of grey, to echo the couch, along with big pops of bright colors to lift the mood of the room, that would be a good idea. The table and chairs prove that you aren't afraid of color.

Gather up small paintings, pictures, mementos, collectables — I don't think you're going to be able to go with 'less is more' in this situation. Go with 'more is more'. Once you have about twice as much as you think you need, invite a friend with decorating taste you admire over, and ask for help in just FILLING the shelves attractively. Think 'vignettes'. Then, over the next week, tweak the display until you're happy with it.

I recommend offsetting the TV, perhaps to the upper right, and vignetting that as well, with a primary piece of art and a large piece of statuary or pottery. Deal with the cord issue! The speakers need to be housed on the shelves, discreetly incorporated into the display, and if the white objects are gaming systems, find some way to consolidate them and put them behind a sliding panel. If this is simply where all the electronics in the house have migrated to be stored — this is NOT the place for mundane tasks.

Consider painting the walls a complimentary light grey, and then bring in bold, primary-colored rugs, cushions and art. Mix a few patterns!

Did I mention how much I like your tablecloth? 🙂 That is the commotion of color you need to take across the entire room. The black-framed pictures are great, but obviously need to be rehung — again, this is a matter of research. There are many pictures on this site and on others that show how to achieve a modern layout of art; you just have to put in the time.

Replace the small storage unit in the dining room with something impressive — if you can't match the dining set, go for a colorful mexican-style buffet.

Lisa says:

First, I think you might need a bigger TV. It is kind of dwarfed by the space you have it in. And I agree about putting the speakers in the shelves to the right and left and definitely controlong the cords, etc. Also, I would try painting the wall of the entire opening the TV is in black. You could see if you like it first by painting a pice of cardboard and putting it in there or a piece of black paper. I also agree about a rug, although I'd keep it fairly neutral.

Personally, I would get rid of the table cloth and cover the chairs with something neutral. Washed canvas drop cloths might be good and economical. I agree you need a bigger piece in the dining area and maybe hang a big mirror or artwork over the niche or mirror inside it. A narrow sideboard/console might work against the long wall, with three larger frsmed prints. Actually, I would suggest a different table (longer, fairly narrow) and chairs. They don't have to be a "set."

Also, is there anywhere else you can put the water cooler that is not so prominent?

I find taking photos (which you've already done) helps to see things from a new perspective.When you live with something all the time you kind of get blind to it. Good luck.

Ginger says:

I love your builtin, it's beautiful! I agree with a previous comment that it needs more stuff – I suggest taking the pictures you have hung over your dining room table and incorporating them into the shelves. I also think your photo collection looks a bit uneven – having done a display similar, I've learned that it's the smaller pictures that really become the issue. I suggest removing those and enlarging photographs to add in. I in my small space, I often incorporate mirrors into my picture clusters and really like this effect. I've also noticed that you have a cool lite nook by your table. As this appears to face a window, I strongly suggest getting a mirror cut to fit and adding a glass shelf. You can then use this nook as a bar or a place to display smaller nick-nacks. I also suggest in investing in some sort of pendant light for over your table . Something big and dramatic could really lift the space. Overall, I think you have great foundation pieces and are well on your way to a space you will love 🙂

Anne says:

I do like your bookcase, but I feel it really dominates the room. Maybe it's the color, or all of the uniform horizontal shelves. I would remove the cornered end pieces and have the bookcase end at each wall. Not sure if you can do that at this point. I would suggest some square linen baskets, (same style) to house your videos and hide some of the remotes, cords etc. I would place them under the shelf of the TV. If possible move the shelf up a bit that holds the TV so there is more room under the TV for the baskets. Is it possible to stagger the shelves, so they are not so uniform? I would break up the long line of books on the top shelf and maybe put them in groupings on the other shelves. I agree with other comments that you need to mix it up with pictures, vases, baskets etc. and I would try and hide the rabbit ears and other antennas. Have fun with adding some color. Good Luck

Caroline Y says:

Get rid of the cables and only display beautiful books & objects) (no CDs etc). Could you add more doors, e.g. inbthe midde bottom part?
I also recommend to inject more warmth and colour in the room. With the stone floor and basic colours it all looks a bit cold. Add a a big rug? Some colour on the walls, e.g a sophisticates grey/beige if you want to stick to neutrals. (incl behind the new shelves to make brown /white cobtrast less and to 'absorb' the tv more.
The dining room chairs look heavy/bulky and have very straight backs and they look quite uncomfortable. If they are indeed uncomfortable: get new ones and a longer (narrow) table where all chairs can be placed around (i.e. No chairs against the walls). The photoframes are too black and heavy for the rather small photos and they have been hung very sloppily wrt distances and also not straight individually. Buy new frames (white?) with larger passepartouts but smaller outerframe and hang them with care. I.e. Make a plan before you hang them (e.g. By trying it first on the floor and measuring & trying with papercuts, you can find frame-hanging advice on the internet). If you like the colours of the table cloth (personally I find the right orange-blue colourcontrasts too screamy) then use it more in the room. For exampe, make two pillows out of it and add some more colourful (but less contrasty bright) pillows. You could put them on your new dining chairs and/or the sofa. At the monent there is too much contrast between the very bright dining area and the neutral sitting area.
Perhaps you could do something with the niche over the cupboard? E.g. Add colour, put/gang something nice there that you want to show off. Do not place things (vases etc) on the cupboard since it blocks the niche.
Finally: could you hide the watertank in the kitchen so you don't see it from the livingroom?

GH says:

Hmmm… A couple of things come to mind right away: I agree that the TV is too small for the space. However, instead of buying a huge TV (ugh), you could just extend the shelving and the verticals, so the next shelf above the TV is lower and the verticals are closer to the sides of the TV, if you know what I mean. Then there will be less free space around the TV. Baskets and/or doors are a good idea too, to make the shelving area neater and possibly hide cords, wires, DVD collections, remote controls, etc. And more books! Definitely agree with that!

An easy way to clean up the photo wall is to install some picture shelves. Two or three eight-foot shelves placed 18" to 2 feet apart (one above the other) would work nicely. Then you simply arrange the photos, large and small, on the shelves for a neater look that still lets you display the small photos you love.

The small shelving unit below the recessed nook in the wall is too small for that space, and the vase and stuff on top look cluttered. I would get a different hutch, or perhaps do away with the hutch altogether, and simply put a very large piece of art on that wall–larger than the recessed nook. Perhaps a framed vintage movie poster? A large mirror leaning against the floor in that space might be another alternative.

An area run would work nicely. I also suggest painting one wall a more dramatic color–perhaps the wall behind the photo collection, or the wall behind the bookcase.

Good luck!

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