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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Need help for my living and dining room

Emily BFebruary 2, 2013
We are in a new to us house, and I am so design challenged! I can look at pictures and love things, but as far as putting it together on my own, I'm lost. I'm also on a tight budget which makes it hard. When you first walk into my house, the first room you see to the right is this living room which the previous owner used as an office. The bookshelves are not original to the house, but he had them custom built to fit the space. On the one hand, I like having the storage, but on the other hand, I don't know how to decorate around all these shelves since it takes up the entire wall. I'm torn between leaving them or taking them out altogether. The other idea I had was to paint them to match the trim to make them blend in more, but I don't know how involved or hard it is to paint them. We are using this room for the computer right now, but obviously we need a better dedicated space for that. You can see I just have the laptop plopped on the little chest and the printer under the chest. So do I make this room an office or a formal living area?? I would like it to be pretty since it is the first room you see off the foyer and at night with the lights on, you can see in this room.

The other small wall in the room is used for the piano which has to stay there. Please excuse the mess on the shelves and elsewhere! I have four kids ranging from 11 years to 15 months, so it's been a challenge trying to move in, decorate, clean, and keep up with our busy life.

This living room opens to the dining room which also needs design help. The picture over the buffet belongs to my mom who is in the middle of a move, so it won't be staying there. I'd like a mirror and lamps for that space. I also know I need window treatments and maybe a new paint color to tie in with the rug. I'm not very good at accessories. I never know which pictures to hang or which fabrics go with my rugs, etc. I always feel like I will make mistakes, so I just end up buying nothing.

Thanks for any and all ideas or advice you can give me.
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Emily B
Oh, and that awful chair can go! I have just kept it in there while I am trying to figure out what to do. We can buy a few things if we need to, but inexpensive items. If we do take the shelves out, we we have a couch we can use against that wall. And the room is probably 12x13 or so.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 8:11AM
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Emily B
Anyone have any ideas for me?
    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 4:32PM
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Inside walls are best for pianos so that was a good decision. I think mirrors should reflect something interesting or beautiful, so I'd replace that one with a piece of art. Lucky to have that great built-in system. I wouldn't paint it. It is too big a job and you might get discouraged or even poor results. Work at styling it better by checking out photos at Houzz. Someone mentioned recently that the rule for styling shelves is 1/3 open, 1/3 books, 1/3 accessories. Try that. I would replace the plain living room rug with one similar to the dining rug in style and color. If the budget allows you might try plantation shutters in place of the dated skinny louvers. Stationery panels hung floor to ceiling at all the windows will help warm and soften, club or swivel chairs (with footstools, if you like,) a table lamp and a floor lamp is all you need. Put one chair by the chest at the end with a table lamp and the other one and a floor lamp where the current chair is.
In the dining room, upgrade the chandelier and hang the mirror vertically over the buffet to reflect the a pretty new fixture. Can't be for sure about the rug size. Should be 4 feet wider and longer than the table top. If is isn't, consider using it in the front room and getting a properly sized one for the dining space. You don't have far to go to have a pretty space. Rug, panels and a pretty fabric on the chairs will look very nice when people enter your home. Here are a few inspirations.
Rysso Peters · More Info

Jennifer Brouwer Design Inc · More Info

Musical Chairs · More Info
1 Like    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 5:03PM
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Emily B
Thanks so much for the comments. I wish I could replace the shutters, but if I do that room. I feel like I have to do the whole front of the house for uniformity, and that is 11 windows. It is possible I could afford to do 2-inch faux wood blinds, but I got an estimate for plantation shutters that was $5000 for my whole house, so probably half that for the front. Would you put panels on the living room windows as well as dining room? I have always felt challenged picking out panels to go with that rug. I'm afraid of picking the wrong pattern or color. Also, what about painting the dining room? I would like the wainscoting and molding to stand out, but I can't decide on the best color to go with that rug. I tend to gravitate towards lighter, airier design, but I inherited that rug and don't have it in the budget to buy another rug of that size. So I always struggle with it. I had it in the living room to begin with, but it just looked so busy in there with the shelves and no furniture that we decided to move it to the dining room. Usually we leave the leaf out of that table, so the rug is plenty big enough when it is the smaller table. If I switch it back, then I feel like I will struggle to pair chair fabric with it.
    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 6:11PM
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Galleria Place
You need some bookends for your book cabinet...
    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 6:17PM
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Blinds Direct Canada
If you have the budget I would remove the shutters and replace them with a silloette type blind to soften the space. If you want to keep them I would recommend putting up a decorative rod 6'' above the window with 2 drapery panels 24'' wide to frame the window.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 6:20PM
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Emily B
So for window panels in the living room, I should do two on each window? I guess they would have to be narrow panels since there isn't much space on either side of each window. And what do you think about painting the dining room. I'd really like my wainscoting to stand out more, but I am having a hard time deciding what color to paint since I typically like lighter, airier style, but the rug is very dark and heavy. It is sentimental, though, and is nice, so I would like it to stay. And silk drapes in there??
    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 7:01AM
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Blinds Direct Canada
Yes 2 panels per window. I would recommend either 20'' or 24'' panels depending on the size of the window. A solid silk would look amazing!!
    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 2:04PM
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Interiors International, Inc.
Wood shutters would look richer and add a lot of style to the room.
2 Likes    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 2:08PM
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Monica Ellison
Well...I have no idea...because you have a beautiful home. I would not change anything. Enjoy your new home.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 2:30PM
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Barbara Griffith Designs
The library room, I agree with III above, that the room should have shutters, but the more up to date, 2-1/2 - 3" slats. I would also paint the back wall of the shelves whatever color you choose for the walls. I would first purchase a new rug with pattern and color, and work from there. If possible, remove the 3rd shelf down from the top on all shelves. Use this space to display large items, plates on stands, vase, lg bowl, framed pics. Intersperse items on the other shelves with books. But keep it simple and do not overload with too much "stuff". You may be able to use the "desk" area at the window end of the unit..leave it open with a comfortable chair. A very tall narrow framed mirror over the chest between the windows. Large stuffed chair & ottoman when you just come into the room. Move the piano to the right so it is more off center. Over it place a pair of large art. To the left of it, place a smaller chair..like the green? one and angle it to the new chair & ottoman, one large piece of art ( or metal piece) over that area. Choose your paint colors last, after you have chosen all your rugs and fabrics. It will help you decide the paint color. More about the dining room later.
    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 2:41PM
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Do away with the rug altogether--show off the beautiful floors. open up the shutters---no drapes. put matching club chairs on each side of the chest. replace the other chair with a chaise and floor lamp. Find the furniture first then determine the paint scheme.
    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 2:51PM
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Leave the built-ins--without them, your living room would not have as much character and depth. Don't be afraid to put furniture in front of them to create better seating. [houzz=
Riverhouse · More Info

I would choose the same drapes in the living room as you use in the dining room. A long, silk drape would be beautiful as mentioned, however there are poly blends available that are less expensive and look similar to silk (and can be spot cleaned easier if that's an issue - I have young kids too!). Since they will be an investment, I would suggest going with a neutral - a warm gray, gold, tan, beige, taupe... what colors are in the oriental rug?

As yes I definitely think you should paint your dining room! I would paint above the chair rail only to keep it lighter. Can you take a better shot of the rug?
1 Like    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 3:02PM
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I wouldn't paint the bookcase (except the back wall). If you want the moulding to really pop, I'd paint the living room and dining room above the chair rail a blue/gray. Here is a photo of "Puritan Gray". I'd move the area rug into the "library/music sitting room" and for now, no rug in the dining room. Use the living room rug in the bedroom? Two matching chairs at your living room window and a chaise floating in the room would be nice. I'd put the chaise in a bit with a side table facing the chairs at the window.
Queen Anne Residence 05 · More Info

Cozy Library · More Info
    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 3:09PM
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Emily B
Thank you so much for the responses! You all have given me some really great ideas. Here are some pictures that show my rug more clearly. I put the solid sisal rug in the living room because I don't know what kind of rug to put in the living room that doesn't clash with the Oriental rug. Should I reverse the rugs? I had the Oriental in the living room at first, but then I was struggling to know which furniture would look right. I'm totally pattern challenged! Should the drapes be solid or a pattern?
    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 4:53PM
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Emily B
Oops, sorry - the pictures are showing up sideways on my monitor! But at least you can see the pattern and colors of the rug.
    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 4:54PM
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Emily B
I had thought of navy walls in the dining room above the wainscoting with gold panels. I looked at Benjamin Moore Van Deusen Blue and Hale Navy. Or maybe red walls? I probably won't paint the living room walls, though. I love the idea of darker, more dramatic gray walls, I'm just not really sure which paint would go with that rug since the rug is full of darker jewel tones with not much gray in it. I could always recover that chair in the living room - but what fabric??? Too many decisions for me!!
    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 5:44PM
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I would leave the bottom of the dining room white... do the top in either gold or blue.
Contemporary Living Room · More Info
Edwina Drummond Interiors · More Info
    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 9:55AM
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Me again. Emily, you need a starting place. Go to the upholstry fabric store, take a deep breath, look until some thing catches your eye and something will. Trust that feeling, then ask a sales person to help you find coordinating fabric. buy a quarter or a half yard, throw the pieces across the chairs to see how it looks in your room. Look at it off and on for a few days---if its not 'speaking' to you go back to the store and try another set. Many of us professionals use 'inspiration' pieces be it fabrics, painting, or furniture to begin developement of our color scheme/design. My feeling is that room is just too small to be further cut up by an area rug let the wood floor be the sparkle and think about color schemes instead.greys are popular now but don't let that dictate to you. I'm in the northwest and the last color for my home would be grey---the skies are enough grey for me:)
1 Like    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 10:25AM
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Barnhart Gallery
I know you said the piano has to stay where it is, but it's a bit lost on that wall and is where a couch would be better suited, I think. From the shadow outside I'm guessing that your home faces north, and wonder whether you'd be willing to try the piano between --and yes, slightly overlapping -- the windows. If you're concerned with drafts, you could slide a thinnish piece of upholstery foam behind it for protection where it won't be seen. Moving the piano would open up the space for a nice seating arrangement for piano listeners, etc.

Yes to taking out the third shelf from the top for some larger objects, and editing your bookcases to give them a bit more rhythm. Try to resist spacing your items evenly and group them instead. And I agree that it's okay to put furniture in front of your built-ins -- which you may have to do if the piano can't shift over to the windows.

Let that lovely rug dictate all of your color choices and you can't go wrong. It will be beautiful!
    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 10:45AM
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Emily B
Thank you so much everyone! Like Rosemarie said, I just need to take a deep breath! I think I need a break from thinking about it all. I overthink everything! I just can't afford to make mistakes, and I'd really love to hire someone to help me make the decisions. I appreciate all the perspective and will think on it all and try to make it work. Part of my problem is that I am home all day with my baby while my older kids are at school, and I have so many thoughts going through my head but can't actually get around to doing much! Painting and shopping are probably the two toughest activities with a toddler around! Ha ha! I really appreciate all the great ideas. Once I make some changes, I will post some pictures.

14th Street, that Edwina Drummond dining room picture was one of my early inspiration pictures. I felt like it was something similar to what I could do in my dining room! I have been playing around on the BM room visualizer, and I think I am leaning towards the navy walls as opposed to the gold.
    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 10:51AM
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