Well, this is by far the longest I’ve ever spent decorating a room and maybe the most challenging room in our home, but the payoffs are SO BIG. This den is the living space we spend the most time in as a family. I completed it right before we left for China. It’s where we spent Nova’s first Christmas and I have a strong feeling that someday when we move away it will be the room we miss the most.
I have a zillion photos to share. But first, a walk down memory lane! (You can see all the before pics here.)
This is more before/after pics that I would normally do, but I wanted to show all the angles to really explain the transformation.
From this view, the most obvious thing that stands out is that, yes, we painted the stone fireplace. You can read all about how to paint brick and stone here. Jeremy and I painted this ourselves with an inexpensive sprayer and it was a lot of work, but worth it in my eyes. When we first viewed the home, I disliked the style of the dark stone fireplace so much that I wanted to remove it completely and start over. Now I love it and am amazed what paint can do!
The other big note from this room was the dark carpeted floors and painted walls along with heavy drapes (we actually REALLY opened them for this “before” photo if you can believe that). This is still one of the darker rooms in our home because of a large magnolia tree outside the front window so brightening up the color scheme and lighting up the curtains went a long way. I love the feeling of it now because it’s bright, yet diffused.
This room was tricky because there really was no place for a television. The previous owners had a large TV in the corner you can see there between the fireplace and the window (on a stand) and the sofas were facing the windows. Since we knew we wanted to have this as our TV room, we had the choices of either: a. mounting one on the fireplace stone, b. configuring a TV into the bookshelves or c. facing the sofa away from the fireplace and putting the TV where we put the record player set up.
We decided on option b. And instead of using a TV, we traded it out for a projector set up. When you see the bookshelves below, you can barely even tell a projector comes out of there, as it’s hidden really well. This turned out to be a great choice. Initially we were SO nervous because this is the only TV in our home. But we have never once missed having a “real TV”. This view toward the kitchen changed so much. The kitchen is really blown out in this photo, but if you’re curious how our kitchen started out, you can see it here. I had a really strong visualization of a record player set up being a main element in this room. It’s nostalgic to me and I knew we would use it a LOT for entertaining, Saturday mornings making breakfast together and random “dance parties” with children.
The bookshelves view makes me extra happy! It was one of the first things I painted right after we got the keys to this house. It’s much bigger than it looks in photos! I struggled for a long time over styling these shelves and eventually decided that since we already have rainbow books in another room that I would keep these shelves mostly neutral. It’s also mainly cookbooks since it’s right near the kitchen and we plan meals in here a lot. Jeremy and I both collect cookbooks (although very different ones), so it’s nice to have a mix of our only mutual collection here.
I know painting wood is another subject of debate, but I say love what you love. And I love white shelves!
I always loved this little built-in desk and knew I wanted to keep it. My friend kept telling me to rip it our since it was so “outdated,” but I loved the vintage feel of it. Although we really updated this home, I wanted to maintain some of those 1970s vibes.
You’ll notice that the art is different here than in the photo above. The (new) print here came one day after we shot the rest of the room—haha. But I still wanted to show it because I love it so much. It’s by my good friend Arielle Vey. I love her photography so much, and she has the most gorgeous Instagram account as well.
The gold hardware is from Schoolhouse Electric. I love their hexagon pulls, we used both sizes on these drawers and cabinets. The chair is from Wayfair, but it’s no longer in stock (here’s a similar one).
Augh! The memories we are making in this room are JUST INSANE. It is by far our most used room in the house. We hang out in here on and off all throughout the day (lotsss of playing in here), and at night (after Nova is asleep) it’s where Jeremy and I unwind with a glass of wine and an episode or two of The Office.
First, let’s talk about this fireplace! Painting stone was, is and will always be one of the great debates in home renovations. I’m sure some people will say they liked it better before, and that’s cool with me. I LOVE IT and I am so happy we took the leap to paint it. If you’re considering a DIY project to paint a stone or brick fireplace, read this post first.
For the inside of the fireplace, we were originally going to keep the gas insert it came with. When I called the gas company to get assistance lighting it for the first time (I am super careful and paranoid about all things gas), they very strongly recommended that we upgraded it for both safety and efficiency reasons. After spending wayyyy too much time looking at options we decided to go with a new gas insert that is covered in glass crystals. To use it, you just turn the key (it is not accessible for Nova) and then light the top of the crystals with a lighter. We had a fireplace like this at an Airbnb in Palm Springs and it always stuck with us. I’m really happy with how it turned out.
The macrame I have above the fireplace is this one (I think the plain colored one is out of stock, sorry). Also, I get a lot of questions about the fireplace screen. It’s from Horchow. I searched for SO LONG to find this style in this size, as it was very specific. I went with two white poufs by the fireplace because I was visualizing s’mores and sitting by the fire. We move them around the coffee table when we have a lot of guests over, though. So it’s nice to have some portable seating.
I’ve never been asked more questions about ANYTHING than I have this sectional. It’s from Article and I’ll tell you all about it. We actually have the same style sofas in our living room and after having them for over a year I decided to get the same thing for our den. I debated it for a long time because I do realize it’s slightly lame to get the same sofas in different rooms (haha), but they are SO GOOD that I gave in.
Here’s my quick, honest review of the Sven sectional. I picked our first sofas (they’re in the other living room) on the recommendation of my friend Katie, who said they are great for both kids and pets. I definitely agree with her on this. Our dogs LIVE on this sofa and it gets spilled on and abused on a daily basis. We even spilled some oily Chinese takeout on it when we first got it and it has all cleaned up really well. I wipe it down regularly with just a wet washcloth and it has held up as well as any sofa could. In addition, we had a HUGE dog hair problem with our last sofa and so I love this much more because dog hair doesn’t stick to it or seem to collect nearly as much.
In terms of the style of the sofas, they are pretty “slouchy,” which I love. Highly-tailored sofas age really quick with high traffic (we’ve had quite a few of them over the years) and these really hold their shape over time. I fluff the back pillows once in a while, but otherwise I don’t really think about it.
So, yes, I highly recommend these sofas for anyone who is open to a leather sofa or is specifically looking for something that will hold up with kids and pets. They are also extremely comfortable. This is probably TMI, but when we first got home from China, we were all sick and had bad jet lag and I slept out here a couple nights and it wasn’t bad at all.
OK, I guess I’m done ranting about my love for this sofa. I could have just said, “it’s comfortable and easy to clean.” Haha!
The coffee table is my absolute DREAM coffee table. It’s the shroom coffee table from CB2. It comes unsealed, so you do have to seal it (or be OK with color change). We sealed ours with concrete sealer and it’s been really great. You can also use car wax, but I chose the concrete sealer since it didn’t require as much maintenance.
Brass light fixtures are a theme all throughout our home. These lights were actually the first purchase I made for this room. They’re from Lucent Lightshop, one of my favorite small businesses. Their level of quality for real brass fixtures is unmatched (make sure your contractor wears gloves when installing, as they are real brass).
We also painted the wood beams along the ceiling. Funny story, they aren’t wood! They are actually made of plastic and foam. We found that out when we were doing the projector install and it was WAY easier to modify them than we thought (we cut them with a utility knife). I actually think light wood beams would be pretty magical in here as well, but since the ceilings aren’t crazy high, maybe white is best.
Oh! And the shiplap wall. There’s a DIY for that. I didn’t initially want any shiplap in this home because I didn’t think the style fit, but it’s just so damn cozy I couldn’t help myself. Doing just the one wall added just the right amount of texture. Since this room isn’t very colorful, the texture is carrying a lot of the load.
Plants are a big part of this room and most of them are fake. I know some of you have strong feelings about fake plants, but as a new mom I am feeling ZERO shame about them. Plus, this is one of the darker rooms in our home and I have killed a lot more plants in here than other rooms.
My personal rule of thumb is that if I kill a plant in a certain area in my home more than twice (two plants), then I have to replace it with a fake one. I wrote more about fake plants here.
This standing plant stand is from Modernica. Our large bookshelves holds mostly sentimental items like photo books from vacations, cookbooks and neutral decor pieces like baskets. I recently added a few more family photos here. I also store all my white ceramics and vases here since they look nice as a collection, and a borrow from them anytime we get fresh flowers.
These binoculars belonged to Jeremy’s grandpa.
This little 1970s rattan rocking horse was a vintage find from my hometown. I impulse bought it since it was a good deal, but it has been one of Nova’s most used and most loved toys. Bonus points that it matches the decor, I guess. She loves to rock on it while we listen to her Chinese songs.
You didn’t think I was going to pass up an opportunity to post a photo of our little cutie, did you?
Our record player set up is one of our most loved indulgences. I love that it is the centerpiece of our room instead of a television. Playing our records seems to be the only time we still get to experience the full album format (as opposed to playlists) which was a big part of our teenage years and something we are not wanting to give up. I did a full post on the turntable and speakers and everything here.
Record table sources: Console Table/West Elm, Palm Tree Print by Moonlight Magpie on Etsy, U-Turn Audio/Orbit Basic Turntable, Speakers/Audioengine, Alvvays record, Wooden Beads.Nova has good taste in music already (actually I don’t think we’ve even played Violents for her, she just loves the purple record).
I love the quote from Dorothy Draper, “I always put in one controversial item, it makes people talk.” I guess our hand chair counts as that? It’s definitely a love it or hate it piece. I get a lot of strong reactions from it. But it is a DREAM chair to me … it looks just like the vintage ones (it’s new from Wayfair, and it’s out of stock, but here’s another one). It’s so iconic to me!!!!
Our curtains are from Anthropologie. We used them in every room of our home except for the bathrooms and I LOVE them. I find it really difficult to choose curtains and these were the perfect fit.
Oh! And the rug I got on super sale from Anthropologie (here’s a similar style). Choosing a rug for a high traffic room is not easy and I think the quilted cowhide is a great option for a room like this.
Here’s another view of the little desk. I keep my stationery here and letter from my main penpal (my grandmother, Norma).
Well, I hope you have enjoyed this tour! After so many phases and some trial and error I am happy to call this room complete! It was worth all the paint mistakes. Haha!
A little disco sparkle before I go! People always ask how I get the “disco lights” in my Instagram photos, and all it is is a disco ball (12 inches) sitting on the book shelf opposite the window. At about 7:30 a.m., the room gets the prettiest sparkles. Get your own disco ball, you won’t regret it.
Thank you so much for coming along on this tour! If you have any questions about details, I’ll get them in the comments! xx! Elsie
Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Project Assistant: Collin DuPree. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.