re-energized by design: the living room challenge

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It’s that time again — time for the next challenge in the Re-Energized by Design competition! This week, the remaining four teams are making over the living room. The Bedford’s room is dramatic, with vaulted ceilings and a wall of windows (with some broken panes). I found the space overwhelmed by the arc lamp and the red brick fireplace, but not in a good way. Also — there was not a lot of lighting options. Reading was impossible on the couch unless it was daytime, and entertaining? Dim lights might be fine for a nightclub, but for a family-friendly party? Not so much. The stairs were just exposed plywood splattered with paint. Not much on the walls in regards to art, either. Their furniture was good though — a nice neutral modern sectional, and an heirloom mid-century lounge chair and dresser.

Rather than using bold bright colors on the walls, we went dark — Dark gray on that red brick fireplace. Instead of painting everything one color, we only painted two walls in the dark gray; and used a lighter gray on an accent wall and staircase, leaving the rest of the room white, allowing the space to feel more intimate and cozy without overwhelming the space with such a dark color. And next to the fireplace, Slade put in some nice open shelving painted to blend into the wall, styled with art and objects from around the house. We also broke up their sectional and reconfigured it, and flipped over their old rug for a more industrial look. Kristen also repainted their coffee table glossy black.

Kristen made some colorful decoupage art; and I (along with my uber-talented seamstress pal Suzanne) got to work on some accent pillows, a floor pouf, and the reupholstering of the mid-century lounger with a colorful new fabric. I thought the chair turned out gorgeous, going from something you barely noticed to something that can anchor a space on its own. If you know me, you know I had to work in some of my signature vintage orange velvet, too. But I’m honestly proudest of that pouf: my first sewing project in 4 years, made entirely by myself, with NO PATTERN. The boys instantly gravitated toward it. Liam declaring it “his dice”, proceeded to toss it around the room and jump all over it.

In the energy improvement category, the Bedfords did a lot as well to improve their usage. Slade installed (from scratch) a LED track lighting system that we hid behind the beam, so we could add light around the room on the bookcases, on the couch, and on the new art. We also swapped out LED bulbs for incandescent in the other lamps around the room, adding significantly more light to the space while reducing the wattage in half. Slade caulked all the windows and beams, helping to reduce heat loss. They also put their stereo and charging docks on a smart powerstrip, so they can reduce that energy loss when not in use. And if that wasn’t enough, they reduced their thermostat 3 degrees to produce a significant savings in energy usage.

Alas, it wasn’t enough for the judges, sadly. I loved our room — basically, I think it all came down to a matter of points. I wish we had more time on this room, we could have done so much more. My project checklist had about 10 more to-do’s left unchecked, believe it or not. Our fatal error was when our plans to make fabric roman shades for the windows became impossible; rather than the shade choice made, I wish we could have thrown up some cute no-sew curtains on tension rods. I think that could have made enough of a difference to get us into the next round. Twenty-twenty hindsight, I guess. Honestly, I’m proud we made it this far; a lot of which I should credit to the valiant efforts of Kristen and Slade. Our rooms were up against some pretty stiff competition from professional architects and designers, so our rag-tag team of DIY’ers made a good show!

Stick around for next week’s post, where I bitterly tear apart the remaining contestant’s rooms with derisive judgements we see how the competition proceeds with the laundry room challenge! Who will get the chop next?

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steal this idea: asian plate wall

Sometimes you find decor inspiration when you are least expecting it. The other night, we ducked inside Noodie’s on 9th Ave in NYC for a quick pad thai before a concert (not just any concert, but Leonard Cohen at Radio City). Faced across from this wall full of gorgeous Asian bowls, I could hardly concentrate on my chopsticks. Going up at least 20 feet high, there were about 175 bowls of various sizes drilled onto the wall. The large ones were statement pieces, the kinds you’d use to impress guests with a whole sea bass; others were standard issue rice bowls that are about 99 cents each at Pearl River. To make an impact like that, you’d have to quite a collection of your own, but I think 10 to 15 plates would be a good place to start. The key is to have a palette of colors that work well together — here it was a mix of browns and blues with some pops of red. To adhere to the wall, you’ll need an electric drill with a diamond head drill bit, a C-clamp, spare wood pieces, masking tape, a friend, and patience. Here’s how it’s recommended over at Ehow:

How To Drill A Ceramic Plate To The Wall:
1. Cover the place on the ceramic plate where you want to drill a hole with a strip of masking tape, then mark the exact point for the hole with a pencil dot on the tape. The masking tape will prevent the drill bit from slipping when you begin drilling though it.

2. Place a flat piece of scrap wood on the surface underneath the plate. Position a G-clamp around the wood and plate, place a small piece of scrap wood between the top of the clamp and plate, then screw the clamp closed to hold the plate firmly in place.

3. Fit your drill with a diamond bit of the appropriate size for the hole you want to drill. Set the drill to a speed of 100 to 200 rpm.

4. Recruit a friend or family member to spray the drill bit with cold water as you work when you are ready to drill through the plate. This prevents the bit from overheating.

5. Position the drill bit over the pencil mark on the masking tape and hold it at a perfect right angle to the plate. Begin to drill slowly and steadily without applying any additional pressure. Don’t be tempted to speed up or press down as you work, just take your time and let the drill bit do all the work.

6. Stop drilling as soon as you feel that you have gone all the way through the plate and into the scrap wood underneath it. Un-clamp the plate, wipe it clean with a soft rag and remove the masking tape.

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want it now: new mad men poster

We’re dusting off our cocktail shakers and getting ready to cozy up with Don Draper in tonight’s overdue return of Mad Men. The year will be 1968, and the show’s set design will no doubt be getting groovy. The transition from mod, streamlined mid-century design to organic and shaggy late 60s should be interesting. You can see the mood shift already in the new official poster. Gone are sharp graphics and free-falling silhouettes. They’ve been replaced with hand-drawn lines and pencil shading. It was created by an illustration master Brian Sanders and it is reminiscent of the kind of work that was frequently found in magazines like Reader’s Digest in the early 70s. Not only does the drawing hint at the drama that may lie ahead, but it also the change in fashions. (Note the wide striped tie — radical for Don.) Unfortunately, the team at AMC has not made the new work available for purchase. We might just have to pick up one of these more classic graphics from Needle Design, below, available through Fancy for $30.

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re-energized by design: the office/garage challenge

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The second elimination challenge in the Re-Energized by Design competition is here! This time, each team had the option to makeover either the garage or an office. My team, The Bedfords, decided to makeover an office.

This space serves as a multi-purpose room for the Bedfords: an office for Slade, a guest room, and a napping space for the youngest member of the family, Theo. I was overwhelmed by the dark window coverings, multiple desks, and overall cluttered feel of the room. Something struck me immediately though — the giant, vintage pull-down school map of the United States. SO COOL! I decided to let that be the focal point of the space, and pulled all of the room’s inspiration from the color palate and theme. The color, Overjoy by Sherwin Williams, is a nice, warm golden yellow. It’s a perfect counterpoint to grey Seattle skies, and also complements the yellow and golden hues in the map without looking to pastel. This is a man’s office after all, so I wanted an air of distinguished masculinity to permeate the room. That being said, Slade wasn’t too convinced of my bold color choice at first.

Not having tons of money ($500), we scrapped plans for new furniture and instead focused on organizing and styling the space. We got rid of one of the two heavy dark wood desks, immediately making the room feel more open. I took the yellow-brass drawer pulls from the desk and antiqued them, making it look more expensive and more like an actual antique than the 1990’s repro it actually is. We purchased some dark wood shelving, a new set of Nate Berkus curtains from Target, and some nice dark wood blinds to help block out the light when little Theo is taking a siesta. Bonus — those window treatments will help reduce energy costs by blocking out the brutal summer sun through those west facing windows.

Instead of buying a brand new light fixture, we found a vintage one at our local buliding salvage for a song. We paired it with a dimmer switch to allow maximum flexibility for the multi-functioning room. The brassy 70’s feel of the fixture helped tie some of the pre-existing furniture into the new design. In fact, our motto for this room became “embrace the brass” — Kristen scored a few vintage hand-me-down brass lamps that really added some warmth and more focused light around the room. We outfitted everything with new GE LED bulbs, modernizing the vintage fixtures and adding an abundance of more functional light while simultaneously reducing the overall wattage.

Once again, the room was styled mostly with items from the Bedford’s home: an emerald green ceramic stool from the backyard added a touch of the orient, a vintage beer barrel from the basement served as a unique side table, and memorabilia from previous travels became art. My favorite little touch? Those three inexpensive matching clocks echoing the travel vibe. So fun.

I couldn’t be more pleased with how this room turned out. Slade, despite his reservations at first, loves it as well. And most importantly, the judges loved it! They gave me high praise for my color selection this week. Let’s see if this momentum keeps up — the living room challenge is next week!

From our partners

help! we need to replace our ikea coffee table with something more grownup

After three year’s in our house, we have are slowly replacing our Ikea furniture with more permanent pieces. The one at the center of our home — and indeed, the center of our lives it seems — is our Strind coffee table. It serves us well, offsetting a dark brown leather couch with its round white surfaces and delicate metal legs. We love the bottom shelf for stacking our current selection of magazines and children’s books (both of which seems to pile up effortlessly). The wheels make it easy to push aside when it’s time for one Isadora’s gymnastic demonstrations or we just want to kick our feet up with ease. But, it is getting wobbly.

To keep the balance in the room, we’d like to stick with white and round. We’ve found a few options. Which one do you like?

The Sybil table reminds me of the 70s rec rooms from my youth. It’s pretty groovy, but maybe too heavy? As a bonus, the top level swivels for optimal drink poising. $550 at

A high gloss and metal table is the most elegant of the bunch. $565 at

Classic modern may be the way to go. The white version of the design stable seems sensible. $313 at

What do you think? Any suggestions I should consider?

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