It’s been two months since we made the move from our studio apartment on Northrup to our third-floor Victorian on Flanders. In distance, the two places are just eight blocks apart, but psychologically the move was big, for a few reasons.
One is that in our old place our living room doubled as our bedroom, so right beside the futon and coffee table (which we have since sold), was our bed, with no door, no separation between the two areas. Joe and I both lived in studios in South Korea for two years before moving to Portland, and that set-up can totally work—it’s liberating, even, to have everything you need for daily life in one open space. But by this fall, we started thinking how sweet it would be to have our living room, which we hang out in all the time, be just that. (Truthfully, we also wanted a bedroom with a door to stop Cleo from waking us up at 5 a.m. wanting to play fetch with her little paper balls. This totally hasn’t worked. But it’s a dream we hope to see play out in the future.)
Part of the call for change was decor driven: we wanted to go in a new direction with our colours and furniture, but when you’re trying to create two spaces with two different purposes in one pretty small room, and you know the apartment is temporary, it’s a bit of a losing battle.
We were in a holding pattern: not that stoked about the stuff we had (bought rather hastily when we first moved to Portland), but not prepared to redesign when we knew a move was inevitable. I believe your surroundings impact your mental state, and being somewhat on pause in terms of our living space and uninspired by its aesthetic was making me feel blocked.
So I was pretty happy when we found a one-bedroom we really like, sold the pieces we didn’t want, packed up the rest, and moved in.
This is our current living room, the week before the move.
That’s a whole lot of tan-coloured flooring and tan-coloured grasscloth wallpaper. If I were renovating, instead of just decorating, these walls would be stripped and painted white, and the floors would be hardwood (still light), not laminate. But we’re working with what the universe has given us here.
This is where the living room is at now:
Two months in, it’s far from done, but our vision of cozy and calm, cohesive and eclectic (with style and pops of colour) is beginning to take form.
For those of you who are interested in such things, I’ll break down what we’ve done so far. The couch is the first thing we chose, and it’s this guy, from Walmart. We needed a sleeper sofa for guests, but didn’t want to spend a ton because when we eventually graduate to a two bedroom (one day!) we’ll invest in the real deal (meaning a couch that is only a couch, and doesn’t double as a bed), and this sleeper will find itself in that second bedroom.
For now, it’s great. A touch firm if you sit in the same spot too long, but totally does the trick and looks good. It’s modern, but with soft lines. We love the grey and I’m into the subtle tufting. My best friend Melissa who came to visit in March spent three nights on it and was her usual happy morning self, every morning.
See, she looks like she had a good night’s sleep, right? That’s us down the street at Blue Moon Tavern. This was taken in the afternoon, after a hike through Forest Park, by the way. We don’t actually drink ciders in the morning. Although that could be fun. Maybe next time.
The coffee table and jute rug we found through craigslist (they’re the same pieces I mentioned in this post). The jute is originally from West Elm. It has a few snags, but they’re barely noticeable and we got it for the half the price of what it sells for new. The sheepskin under the coffee table was my grandma Lil’s, and I am so grateful to have it, and a part of her, with me forever. It’s not going to stay there though—I see it draped over my future desk chair that I have yet to find. I’m on the hunt for a bright beautiful patterned rug to layer over the jute instead, bringing more colour into the room and breaking up all that tan shade.
Something like this rug (photo from littlegreennotebook) would be cool. Maybe not quite that bright, but you get the idea:
The green floor cushion is from World Market. It’s essential seating for devouring cheese plates with friends around the coffee table. The little round dining table is also craigslist, a $20 rescue from a nearby town called Scappoose. Its legs are getting painted a soft grey this spring because while the size and shape is perfect, its colour blends in way too much with the floor and walls.
The bookcase: craigslist Ikea (this one) for a crazy deal.
I’ve gotta say, there is a whole lot of second-hand Ikea on craigslist. And while I much prefer unique vintage pieces, sometimes a well-priced Ikea item with clean lines that requires no sanding, repainting, or restaining lures me in. One day we will own a serious solid wood bookcase but for now this hit the size and colour we were looking for.
Plus, Cleo officially approved it.
Though I think she secretly wishes we’d put one of those giant wall-size cat scratching towers here. That will never, ever happen. (We have a small one for her strategically tucked behind the couch, next to the window.) Decor trumps kitten castle. Sorry, Cleo!
Other plans include: Replacing the green mirror above the dining table with one that’s more interesting. I’ll know it when I see it. Different dining chairs, probably. (I like the yellow but its impact is diminished next to these walls.) Switch out the big gold pillow on the sofa for a few smaller ones, possibly patterned. Some sort of cozy reading chair in the far corner, to the left of the window. And more plants, of course!
Wow, that was some major chit chat about my living room. Thanks for staying with me, friends. This space is currently doubling as my office, which is much cooler than doubling as our bedroom. I can happily write in here for hours, which I do, most days. I’ll share more progress as the apartment evolves…our bedroom and patio are also in the works.
Are any of you moving/decorating/recreating your space? I’d love to hear about it, the challenges and the inspiration. Tell me what you’ve got going on! Happy spring to you all.