29 September 2010

Our New Living Room - So Sunny and Bright!

A {double} Before & After Story 

I have always found Before & After stories about decorating to be a lot of fun, provided they show steps along the way. As I am now decorating our living room in Brewster, it occurs to me that there are actually two B & A stories here:
       (1) our old living room furniture and fabrics, as translated into their new home, and
       (2) the living room in this house, as it was for the previous owners, and as it has changed since we moved in.

Before # 1: Our old living room at Tranquility Lodge in Hingham:

Readers of this blog know that we used to live in a house that was nearly 300 years old (parts of it were older than 300!) In decorating our living room there, I incorporated colors and looks that reflected the history, as well as the coziness of that room. Walls were upholstered in a coral-red silk from Brunschwig et Fils, giving the room with it's low ceilings, a sense of warmly enveloping its inhabitants.

We had painted the backs of the bookcases, as well as the inside of our Dutch breakfront (top), with a paint that was custom mixed to match the silk on the walls.
(Above photo by Nan & Monty Abbott)

Rich, dark and very wide pumpkin pine floorboards called for a rich, dark decor.

Our drapes were historic in design, and while appropriate there, were more fussy that what I wanted in the new house.

Before # 2: Our new living room as the previous owners had done it:

The two gentlemen who designed, built and lived in this house for 25 years had exquisitely beautiful antiques, mixed with what I call moderne furnishings. The whole house was rather masculine, and included tons of mauve, which is perhaps the only color in the entire spectrum which I really do not like. The decorating also had an opulence to it that is not our style.
Glitzy and grand.

The furnishings were mostly dark. Plus there was a lot of leather, shiny brass, gilded wood and shiny marble. While there were some beautiful pieces, the room was not our style.

Mauve, mauve everywhere!

After: Our new living room incorporating elements from our old one:

The sun-drenched and open feel of this new house is one of the features which first attracted us to the property. The living room (as indeed all of the rooms here) seems to demand a much lighter feel than what we had in our antique home. However, I still adore most of our old upholstery and wanted to keep it. The solution? Instead of highlighting the deep coral tones of our fabrics, we are focusing on a lighter aspect of the same prints. By painting the walls a very soft yellow, we have captured a whole new look, while recycling our beautiful furnishings.

Before and after: same couches with different walls.
For added depth of texture, I strie glazed the woodwork, tinting the glaze with a darker shade of the same yellow family.
Above: Home from my trip to Baranzelli.

The table from our former kitchen is now in our new living room and has just gotten a whole new purpose in life, with an upholstered skirt in a beautiful silk stripe from Baranzelli Silk Surplus. (For a "how-to" on making this table skirt, go to this recent post of mine.) For anyone who doesn't know, Baranzelli is the close-out store for discontinued Scalamandré fabrics. (Flora Baranzelli was the wife of the original Franco Scalamandré, hence the name, and the business is still in the family.) I bought my yardage in the Boston shop, where I happened to be killing time while my mom was at a  doctor's appointment, but they are also in NYC and online, although the online shop is sadly disappointing.

To give the windows an updated look, I chose a large-scale silk gingham, also from Baranzelli. I just love silk gingham. A cotton gingham has such a homespun look to it, and yet it is absolutely luxurious when woven of beautiful, shiny silk. The fringe trim is also silk, from Scalamandré. 

My new drapes are simpler design than the old ones. For one thing I decided against valences here, and instead went with decorative hardware. I lucked out at Calico Corners, who were having a drapery hardware sale, and got everything I needed (albeit unmatching) for this room at 75% off!! All it took was a couple of coats of white paint, and presto - all the hardware matched!

My next step with the hardware was to glaze it. I decided that a yellow to match the woodwork in the room was just plain boring, so opted for a light green, pulling out a shade from my Cowtan & Tout fabric, elsewhere in the room. Here was my first go-round:
...and here's what I ended up with, after tweaking the glazes:
...and finally, after more tweaking (toned down colors, and the addition of gold over the black):
With trim applied to the lead edges of the drapes, they came together beautifully with the ultra soft green glazed hardware.
Here is the Cowtan & Tout fabric which inspired the green glaze, with new pillows to match to curtains:

Next step - revitalizing the pillow situation:
Still in love after all these years! I adore this fabric, "Out of Africa" by Brunschwig et Fils. We have two bergeres upholstered like this - one's a little larger, so I call them the his and hers chairs. Although the colors have faded a bit, they are still in wonderful condition. The pillow pictured, above, is from our old house. Here's what I chose for a lighter feel in the new setting:

[Detail hint: I made my own cording out of the Cowtan & Tout weave - turned inside out, so I got the color tone I wanted without the jacquard pattern of leaves standing out so boldly.]

I had saved all of my leftover fabrics from the original living room. I had just enough for several pillows, including this one in "Out of Africa" (the selvage says it was printed in 1994!) with leftover cording from the couches:
I love the way the Cowtan & Tout waving vine is echoed in the Brunschwig et Fils waving ribbon. It is often subtle little details like this that make a room sing!

My new favorite pillow is absolutely influenced by Charles Faudrée's lampshades and pillows with fabric insets. The pillows on the right, below, are Charles Faudrée's:
Here are the pillows I just made in (you guessed it) "Out of Africa" in the yellow colorway. Those two needlepoint grape pillows in the background were from my green C & T chairs in the old house. They also look so different in their new setting.

[Detail hint: more homemade cording and flat trim, which I'll describe "how-to" in a future post.]

The plates that had been on our old mantle are now in the Dutch breakfront (which came across the Atlantic from Holland, with Jack's mother's family). I'm still deciding whether to keep the coral paint inside, as I love the way the plates stand out against it as a background color, or to repaint the inside with a deep yellow. Most of these plates are from John Derian (about 20 years ago) and a couple were hand decoupaged by Jack.

And so.... here is the "after" result (that is until I decide to tweak it again!) Future projects include refacing the fireplace wall - probably with handmade tiles - and adding a mantle, hanging more artwork in bare spots, recovering all of the old lampshades, and painting the Chinese Chippendale stairway fretwork a Chinese red. Stay tuned for updates.
The exquisite hand painted and decoupaged table, below, is from Carson & Co. I had it in my store in Hingham, but decided to keep it when I sold the shop. It is perfect in the new living room!


  1. So pretty! And I love how you custom painted the hardware!

  2. Beautiful job and I LOVE what you did with the hardware!

  3. I was googling "gingham" and came upon your delicious site. Beautiful job and most appealing rooms.!


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