A Living Room Design for a Reader

About a month ago, I received the nicest email from a reader. She mentioned that she enjoyed my blog and understood from reading my profile that I had a day job, but asked if I ever did any private client interior design or consulting work. Naturally, this was a wonderful surprise for me since I would love to work in the interior design field full time some day.

So, this reader (whom I'll refer to as Mrs. W) and I spoke on the phone about what she was looking to accomplish with her home. To make matters even more serendipitous, Mrs. W and I live in the same neighborhood. Mrs. W was looking for some ideas and suggestions for improving her living room, which also has to function as a dining room at times. I visited her home to see what was at hand. Her home is a lovely nineteenth century house that had been updated by the previous owners who added a new kitchen and bathrooms. The kitchen opens to the living room, which must also serve as a dining room. There is a a separate family room with comfortable seating elsewhere in the house.

This was a an unexpected challenge for me since although the room already had many beautiful features including a great paint color on the walls (Benjamin Moore Manchester Tan), plenty of natural light, a beautiful marble mantel and working fireplace, hardware floors and a crystal chandelier, it is not a an overly large room as it measures approximately 13' x 13'. Mrs. W also already had some wonderful furniture that was to stay in the room including a large breakfront similar to this one, but not quite as large and with a drop down desk top:

The breakfront is obviously a large piece of furniture that can only fit on one particular wall of the room, so it had to stay in place. So from there, I set out to determine what other furniture could be purchased for the room and where to place it.

A mahogany drop leaf table, which is a family piece, serves as a dining table when fully extended.

A pretty blue and white ceramic stool with flowers and birds, similar to this one from Wisteria is currently near the fireplace.

Mrs. W also has a pair of lovely demilune tables like this one. I think these are elegant and so versatile!

And lastly, four Federal style chairs similar to this one, which are in various rooms throughout the house.

In addition to serving as both a living room and a dining room, the other requirements (in addition to the budget) for the room was that it had to be child friendly, include storage for children's toys, include a bit of elegance and comfortable seating for Mrs. W and her husband, plus seating options for guests. A custom cut and fitted wool area rug that looks like sisal (but is much softer) is being considered for the room.
So, after much thought and rumination on my part over whether to add a small sofa to the room or two love seats or two chairs, etc. I decided to start with two slip covered Crate and Barrel swivel glider chairs. The slipcovers are machine washable and are available in a variety of basic colors, plus custom fabric choices are also available through Crate and Barrel. The chair here is shown in "Sand", which I thought would contrast nicely with the Manchester Tan walls. These would be placed next to each other, facing the fireplace. The chairs can be moved to the back corners when the room is set-up for dining.

The chairs look very soft and comfortable, but to dress them up I suggested adding two matching pillows like these from BViz Designs, which are taupe silk velvet with antique gold trim and stump work. They are expensive and not very practical (not exactly the thing to have with young children about!) or but similar pillows would look great too.

To meet the toy storage/coffee table/extra seating requirement, I suggested this tufted (also available "untufted") storage ottoman from Ballard Designs.

Since Mrs. W already had the four dining chairs and needed more seating in the room, I suggested two reproduction chairs from Antiques on Old Plank Road. The upholstery on these chairs is too gold for the room, but the size and shape would be a good fit. These could be placed at either end of the dining table when the leaves are up. When the room is being used as a living room, one chair could be placed on one side of the doorway to the kitchen. The other chair would be placed in front of the drop down desk on the breakfront.

For additional lighting in the room that wouldn't take up too much floor space, this floor lamp from Circa Lighting would be placed in front of the breakfront at the drop down desk top. Mrs. W also has a favorite lamp shown above that would be placed on a concrete pedestal next to the drop leaf dining table so that she doesn't have to put the lamp on the floor when she brings sets up the table for dinner parties.

I suggested placing the demilune tables on either side of the fireplace and topping them with two "Fang Gourd" ivory colored lamps from Circa Lighting. A less expensive option would be to use two Gourd lamps from Pottery Barn. I love the shape of the Fang Gourd lamps and the gilded bases. The rectangular lampshade is a nice change from a standard round lampshade.

The mirror shown in the first photo is another piece inherited by Mrs. W and her husband, so that was to stay in the room. I suggested hanging it vertically instead of horizontally and lowering the chandelier a little (if possible to so do without walking into it) so the crystals would reflect in the mirror. To add a little greenery and reinforce the symmetry, I recommended adding two preserved topiary (from Ballard Designs).

The final touch would be to add some art to the walls on either side of the fireplace. I thought it best not to overwhelm the space with large prints, but for some relief to the symmetry one print or painting could be hung on one side and two prints or paintings could be hung on the other side. The paintings shown here are 19th Century French landscape paintings, used for inspiration. These are budget busting items for sure, but reproductions can be purchased at and local auction houses like Skinner, Inc. often have framed paintings for a few hundred dollars each.

So, that's it! I shared my ideas with Mrs. W recently and received a very enthusiastic response, which was a relief! I can't fully describe how great this project was for me to work on and how very nice Mrs. W is to work with, which makes all the difference. Hopefully, the results and any variations or changes will come to fruition shortly. My goal is that perhaps at the end of the project I'll be able to post some before and after photos of the room. I'll be sure to post any updates and thanks for reading this entire post!


  1. Hi Deborah,

    What a great job. I LOVE the lamps from Circa. Everything looks so professional. I really hope you can post pics when it is finished. How fun for you.


    p.s. now zip over and fix my place!

  2. Furniture arrangement can either be fun or maddening. You can’t always change the basic structure of the room such as door and window placements, but you can do your best to work within those limits and put your furniture and other fixed pieces in places that best complement the overall look and flow of the house.

  3. Great selections Deborah! Looking forward to seeing some photos!

  4. Great choices! I hope we will get to see some before and after pictures.

  5. I have a mahogony drop leaf table for sale.
    We only use it for special occasions, but I would love to sell it!

  6. Great all your selections. I look forward to following!

  7. Deborah - everything looks stunning - just superb choices and classic ones for a room with great bones!
    xo Terri


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