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Blog Michael Penney September 21 Before Living Room 1

Blog Michael Penney September 21 Before Living Room 2

Blog Michael Penney September 21 Before Living Room 3

Large, overstuffed furniture, too many decorative bits and bobs, tired colours? If any of this sounds like it could describe your space, help is on the way. With a few cosmetic changes — and on a tight budget — I gave this living  and dining room a little design facelift.

A few things HAD to stay: the dining table and chairs, the sofa the owners had just purchased (not shown) and a good amount of seating for family gatherings. I injected a fresh palette of putty-grey and neutrals with bits of plum, smoky purples and touches of black. I hit up budget-friendly shops like HomeSense, Ikea, and thrift shops and used lots and lots of paint. I also re-upholstered a great set of mid-century wing chairs found on Craigslist with inexpensive fabric and covered the seats of the old Chippendale-style chairs I found a while back.

Blog Michael Penney September 21 White Wing Chair

These $150 wing chairs from Craigslist had great lines and were heavy and solid. They just needed new fabric and the skirts removed for a fresh modern take.

Blog Michael Penney September 21 Chippendale Chairs

These classic Chippendale-style chairs have a generous wide seat and would be perfect as loose occasional seating pulled up to a sofa. Plus, their patina would really help out the spankin’ new feel of the house.

Et voilà...

Blog Michael Penney September 21 After Living Room 1

These after shots were taken by the lovely and talented photographer Jessica Lin. See how the putty-coloured walls are soothing and bring sophistication to the colour of the sofa? The burgundy fireplace mantel was painted out a great poppy seed colour (they don’t always have to be white!) and simple cotton Ikea Ritva drapes were layered over the existing drapes and hung high on an iron rod from The Home Depot.

Other deals? The ceramic drum side table (above), glass lamps and purple cushions (below) are all from HomeSense. The killer waterfall-style Expedit coffee table (which tempers the antiques and subdued colours) was under $100 at Ikea. The jute rug was from Ikea too (Tårnby) and I love it for adding some much-needed earthiness to this builder-new house.

Blog Michael Penney September 21 After Living Room Chairs

The Craigslist chairs turned out well, don’t you think? Inspired by one of my fave designers, Steven Gambrel, I had the chairs upholstered with a large-scale ticking stripe — horizontally! They look so fresh and modern with the legs showing. We had originally looked at some fairly affordable living room chairs for $2,000/pair. But these Craigslist beauties came out to about $1,500/pair with re-upholstery and new fabric! It’s so worth it because they’re customized to the space and you won’t see them anywhere else!

Blog Michael Penney September 21 Cushions West Elm

The cushions on the sofa are a mix of pattern and texture. I love the mixture of purples, like this plum next to the grey-purple in the dining room. This pleated burlap-like cushion cover was on sale at West Elm for $10!

Blog Michael Penney September 21 Mantel Books Pottery

On the mantel, I went for a loose mix of things including leaning art (the one in the living room photo with the purple stripes is actually grosgrain ribbon framed), and old books from a thrift shop. I also picked up some old pottery for 25 cents to place here and there.

Blog Michael Penney September 21 Pears In Bowl

A great way to add freshness to a space is through fruit! These pears cost next to nothing and are grouped in this HomeSense wire bowl. I love the colour and organic shapes of these industrial metal coils — plus, a healthy snack at your fingertips!

Blog Michael Penney September 21 After Dining Room 1

In the dining room, you can see the smokey purple paint. We added a chair rail and painted it out to add a little detail. The homeowners are still hunting for the perfect art for this wall. But I don’t really mind a blank wall now and then — it brings some relief. You don’t need to buy everything at once anyway — add what you love over time.

The hurricane pendant light was under $150 from The Home Depot and the table and chairs are the existing set. Adding that great patterned rug and bringing in a new hutch makes it feel less like a perfect set. Mason jars with wild flowers — cheap and charming!

Blog Michael Penney September 21 After Dining Room 2 Cabinet

I love this Shaker-style Norden cabinet from Ikea for housing all the dishes and glassware. And again, it makes the dining room feel like the pieces were collected, not bought all together at a department store. The black adds some weight and stature to the room, too.

I funked up the owners' beautiful vintage Wedgwood china with some woven placemats from West Elm. It’s a perfect lesson, and symbolizes what I did in this room actually. Start with what you have, what you love, and what your budget will allow. Then look for interesting and inexpensive ways to work with what you have. Add some new layers — woven placemats, a jute rug, an inexpensive light fixture. Splash on some new colour with paint and hunt your local thrift shop for pieces with age and patina. Before you know it, you’ll have a refreshed space with tons of personality and style.

Photo credits:
Michael Penney
Jessica Lin

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