New coffee table and bonus side tables

When we put the living room back together we already knew the couch wouldn’t work. Once we secured a replacement, we started giving the coffee table the stink eye.

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This bohemuth of a table (it’s 4′ square) has served us well through the years, but the green tinted glass just didn’t work in the freshly painted space. Plus it covered up too much of the rug.

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So the hunt was on. We searched high and low, in person and online, new and vintage. We even ordered a mid century inspired, glass topped table from a flash sale site. But when it came in, we didn’t even unpack the glass all the way because it had the same green tint! Thankfully, we only gave it a chance because of a good return policy.

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A few Sundays ago when it was much to rainy to work on the fence, we hit up a favorite antique mall and (again) walked away empty handed. We only had one more place to check before being resigned to a long wait: The Future Antiques. St Louis lovers of all things mid century know this store well. It’s filled to the brim with high quality MCM goods – everything from housewares to clothes to furniture.

Aaron claims he had a feeling that we’d find the right piece. All I kept thinking was, “Anything mid century will be much too small.” But when we walked into the back furniture room, a long, leggy wood table caught my eye.

We did the usual checks: measure (I’m not the only one who constantly totes around a measuring tape, right?), check for wobble, check for wear, check the price, ask the question “If it doesn’t look perfect in this space, could we use it somewhere else?” (Is that just us, too?)

It passed all the checks, but I was still worried about the size. At times, we maxed out our current 4′ table with snack buffets and reading material. But then we noticed that there were matching side tables nearby. So we did the same checks – price (more than we wanted to spend for all three pieces, but we were falling in love… and rationalizing), size (I worried they were too tall), reuse (possible side tables in the guest bedroom), condition. You already know where this is going because you read the title of this post.

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All three pieces came home with us and we couldn’t be happier. The wood tone is perfect and will be needed when we move the current bar out of the space (foreshadowing). They are solid wood, and they look like they just came from the store. Seriously, we’ve been pondering how 50+ year old tables have nary a scratch on them.

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008midcenturycoffeetable

The legs and rails make the pieces feel light… and leave lots of open space for rug viewing. It’s hard to photograph, but the long sides actually curve up just a bit. This was likely the inspiration for the name: surfboard tables (from Bassett’s Artisan Collection.)

We think those curves are the perfect compliment to the curvy sofa (which is back and OMG! OMG! It’s amazing. Way too many pictures later this week.)

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I did zero staging for this, except to toss some books and a plant on one of the end tables. Hopefully it gives you some sense of scale. The end tables are nice and deep and provide the perfect extra table space. We don’t miss the 4-foot square at all. (If you’re in need of a massive, modern coffee table it’s up on Craigslist right now.)

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Seriously, if you haven’t been to The Future Antiques, get yourself over there (or torture yourself with their new Instagram feed). They have an amazing selection and everything is pristine. Just don’t come back complaining if you spend way to much money there on a Sunday afternoon… I feel your pain.

Upgrading the upstairs sofa

While the living room was still in a state of chaos and we were holed up in the captain’s bedroom watching TV, Aaron turned to me and said, “Now that the living room is going to be white, we should think about getting a bright rug.” My reponse? “What we need to do is think about getting rid of this. (Motioning to the off-white couch) Have you thought about how ugly it’s going to be an in a bright white space?”

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Honestly, the current couch wasn’t even our first choice when we bought it several years ago. We had our hearts set on a white (so predictable) couch for our FIRST studio in the basement of our suburban house (my, my how things have changed.) In our typical we-decided-let’s-do-it-NOW fashion, we didn’t realize that choosing custom fabric for a couch meant several weeks of production time. Instead we opted for this in-stock, “it will do” off-white sofa.

It’s always been “just fine.” But with the new paint job and lighting, this space is feeling so much more finished and that couch is looking so much dingier.

So instead of spending money on a rug… oh wait, we bought one of those already… So, before spending money on a rug, we decided to do some serious sofa shopping. We checked a few online stores and were leaning toward something mid century inspired when Aaron found this on craigslist:

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It’s a great size: 8′ long, 3′ deep. We keep sitting on it exclaiming, “We’re not touching.” Apparently after many years of a too small couch, you get excited when a piece of furniture allows you to lounge without being on top of each other.

The clean lines and the legs had us more than interested. It’s also in phenomenal condition – very sturdy. The woman we bought it from nabbed it at an estate sale about 8 years ago, making us likely only the 3rd owners.

But what really got us was the curve on the front.

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Hello sexy!

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Ok, ok, she’s not quite beautiful yet, but at a negotiated price of $400 we thought we were getting quite a steal. We went in knowing that we’d have to reupholster this piece to make it feel right for our space. The color and condition of the fabric confirmed it. This couch has had a good run… and it shows.

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Recovering it will allow us to have the middle cushion cut to mimic the shape of the base. We can also get rid of some of the piping to make the whole thing feel a little more modern.

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Legs: You’re staying. I love you.

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With the couch safely tucked into the car, we mulled over colors. Yep! We’re going with a color. We love white spaces because they allow your eyes to really focus on pops of color. Usually that means artwork and other furnishings, but I had been secretly pinning and falling in love with the idea of a bold, jewel toned sofa. Emerald green had me drooling and Aaron was quickly on board.

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(via Pinterest, original from Melissa Mercier)

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(via Pinterest)

The hunt was on for an upholsterer. We learned that you should definitely get a lot of quotes. Many places will let you email a picture to get a rough estimate on the labor. Fabric will always be extra, but they can give you an estimate of the yardage you’ll need for a particular piece.

The estimates for our couch ranged from $2,900 to $750 (all without fabric). We were shocked at the discrepancy. We opted for a mid-range quote from an upholsterer who is also an artist and lives above his shop. His space was profiled in the newspaper and he talked about his love of white walls and bright accents. We’ve clearly found a kindred spirit… and it didn’t hurt that he called our couch cool when we sent him the photo.

After a little online searching we were coming up short in regards to emerald green fabric. We headed to the upholstery shop to peruse some swatch books and couldn’t find anything even close to the green we had been lusting after. After flagging some jewel toned blues (and even eyeing a bolt in his showroom) we changed courses and opted for a deep blue. Not surprisingly, a check of my Pinterest board confirmed that deep blue was also on my wishlist.

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(via Pinterest, original from Design Milk)

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(via Pinterest, original from JCPenny – oh! And it’s on clearance!)

The swatch we finally settled on as “perfect” rang out at $100/yard… also known as “not gonna happen.” Luckily, the bolt of fabric in the showroom had nearly the same tone AND he was offering 50% off all in-stock fabric. So we walked away with a gorgeous peacock blue at just $25/yard. He even cut me a sample to take home.

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I’ve been a fool with this fabric swatch – caressing it, toting it around, showing it to everyone. It’s a little bit too Frodo up in here. (Please note: that will be my first and last Lord of the Rings reference. Sorry/you’re welcome.) Suffice it to say, we’re very excited. The couch was picked up yesterday and then we have an excruciating 6 week(ish) wait. Good thing I have that swatch to keep me happy…

Has anyone else taken the upholstery plunge? (It seems to be the season for it based on Yellow Brick Home’s recent find.) What piece did you get done? Were you surprised by the variance in quotes? Did you have trouble finding a fabric?

How to: Make an organic, industrial light fixture

The lighting in the living room was seriously depressing. Some holes in the ceiling¬† and a defunct fluorescent fixture led us to believe that this space was primarily lit by fluorescents at one point. When we moved in, we inherited a sad bunch of single bulb sockets. Even with high-watt incandescent bulbs, these “fixtures” did little to illuminate the room because they were tucked up among the duct work. I’ve circled them below because they are easy to miss.

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Single bulb and an old hole…

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As a temporary fix, we added a DIY fixture that used to hang in Aaron’s office at the studio. This gave us a little more light over the couch.

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Aforementioned dead fluorescent fixture. Now removed. RIP.

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I didn’t have a hand in coming up with this particular fixture, but Aaron has lots of ideas in this realm. (It’s also not the first time he’s made a light fixture for the firehouse.) He has a pretty extensive Pinterest board for lighting inspiration. For the living room. he honed on this gem (originally from Petite Passport):

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There wasn’t enough room in the original ceiling boxes for all of the pendant wire and he thought it would look more finished if the wires weren’t coming directly out of the ceiling.

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So for each drop (we have 4 total) he spray painted an electrical box, ceiling box plate with center knock out (not pictured) and an electrical conduit coupling. They got a flat black treatment to match the cord.

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The new box is screwed right into the existing box.

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Next it’s a good idea to lay out your pendants. We just spread the sockets on the floor to give us a good idea how the lights would be spaced. This also helped ensure there wouldn’t be too many wires going into a box. The conduit connector can only hold 4. Once they were laid out, we strung fabric-wrapped cord from the box to the approximate location where a bulb would hang. This allowed us to eyeball the amount of swag each wire would have.

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Then we needed something to loop the wire through. In a normal ceiling, you can just screw in a hook or an eye bolt. Because we have old plaster ceilings, Aaron grabbed some toggle bolts to give everything extra staying power.

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He removed the screw and replaced it with an eye bolt and washer (both painted white) in the same size as the screw.

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Then it’s just a matter of drilling and adding the bolt. The cord is looped through and we decided to hold the two pieces together with some thin metal wire (the same stuff we used for our DIY decanter tags.)

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Determine how low you want the bulb to sit. We opted for varying lengths, which adds to the organic feel.

Then it’s time to attach the socket. This seems like a good time to mention that we are not certified electricians. This is relatively easy, but if you have any doubts, please consult a professional.

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Here’s what you need – a socket, a standard cable grip (also called a strain relief) and the end of your fabric wrapped cord.

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Slide the standard cable grip and top of the socket over the end of the wire.

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Push them up a few inches to give yourself some room to work.

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Cut the cord wrap to expose the wires and remove the excess insulation.

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Strip the wires.

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Take the inner part of the socket and loosen the screws on each side.

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Make a hook in each strand of wire and wrap one around each screw.

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Tighten the screws

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Pull the top of the socket down.

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Screw on the bottom of the socket.

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Push the standard cable grip into the top of the socket. This will lock the wires in place.

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Repeat for each pendant and wire the other ends into the box. Then add a bulb. We opted for 40W incandescent bulbs. This gives us a ton of light in the space, and the whole system is on a dimmer so we can set the mood for movie watching.

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Viola! This is a really adaptable project. If you don’t have this many boxes on your ceiling (most residential spaces don’t), you could simply hang the ceiling box and wire a cord to a plug. Swag the cord to the wall and down to an outlet for an even more draped effect. You could also wire each pendant cord to a plug and plug them into a 4-gang outlet in the ceiling box (a la the inspiration photo).

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This simple fixture has made a huge impact in the space. We love that it adds some interest and softness to the ceiling. But most importantly it gave us much needed LIGHT!

Has anyone else created a custom light fixture? We have several more brewing for other areas of the firehouse. Oh, what about lamps? Let’s not talk about the number of things we’re hoarding to be turned into awesome lamps.

A clean slate

Where were we? Oh, right, the living room was in ruins. Let’s take a step back and look at the space before the project started. Awful red, awful tan, half-painted duct work on the ceiling, a lovely green border at the base of the wall, negligible lighting… basically nothing good going on.

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Ba Bam!

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It’s amazing what a coat of paint can do. The space is so different, so much cleaner. I usually photograph this room without the lights on. The single bulbs stuck between the duct work didn’t do much for the space. For the sake of comparison, here’s the room with the lights out.

But you probably noticed that we added a lot more bulbs and a cool fixture to the space.

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It literally floods this room with light, which is a very dramatic (and welcome) change, especially in the evening.

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Everything is looking a bit more fresh. Before:

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Lovely, lovely after:

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Before:

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After:

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Oh! Did you notice the rug? Can we stop and talk about how amazing this rug is?

Once this room was in progress, we started to think about what we wanted to make it a bit more liveable. A rug was high on the list. Initially, we were leaning toward something with a pop of color, but those plans were derailed when we realized the non-white couch would have to go! We have some fun plans to inject color with a new-to-us sofa (We JUST picked out fabric and I’m so excited! More to come!)

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We casually kept an eye out for a neutral rug and found this one (Tahoe Sunset by Loloi) on Gilt. We fell, and we fell hard. We love that it runs from dark to light and back again. It also gives us a chance to inject some brown into the space, which can be hard with a black and white palette. We even like that it makes the floor feel a bit more intentional.

It’s a nice natural element in the space thanks to the cowhide material. We even love the rectangular blocks and the stitching that becomes more evident in the lighter squares. I’ve never loved a rug more.

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Overall, we are in love with the space. (Ugh. I need to stop saying “love.”) This may be one of those times where pictures don’t do it justice. What used to be a slightly depressing cave is now a light-filled sanctuary.

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Now that the bones are good, we’re already planning more changes. The tan couch (could it look any worse in this space?) and coffee table (Ditto. The green in the glass, the fact that it’s blocking THE RUG! Boo!) are definitely on the chopping block. The media unit might not be safe either…

We’re also looking for art to add some interest to the walls. We definitely want to bring in some color and use the space to print some of our photographs. The stairwell is still in progress.

In the meantime, I’ll be back with a tutorial for the light fixture and more details on the new couch.

 

A surprise in the living room

Can we talk about living in a half-renovated building? My trick to survival is to ignore. The downstairs living room is overrun by tools and our bridal show booth? Ignore it. The awesome bathroom has a leak that makes it non-functional? Ignore it. The trim in the bedroom isn’t attached to the wall? Ignore it until you fix it when you are inspired to paint the space.

It’s my coping mechanism. Because if I looked, really looked, at all the problems in a space I would drive myself crazy.

Case in point: the upstairs living room. This is our main living space (heck before the studio was done it was our only living/working space). While it gets a lot of action it hasn’t gotten a lot of love.

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It’s amazing what good photography can do, but when you really start to look at the picture a lot of problems pop out.

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It’s a mixed bag of crumbling plaster, non-essential exit signs, a helpful note about not smoking, and awful, awful paint choices.

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Why am I telling you this? If you’ve been paying close attention you know that the workshop was next on our major project list. Apparently, Aaron was keeping me in the dark. While I winged away to warmer weather for a business trip and subsequent girl’s weekend, he undertook a week-long living room and stairwell overhaul that would have me walking into a brand new space upon my return. (Can we stop so I can point out that I have an amazing husband? Just wanted to put that out there.)

He contacted my best friend’s husband to get the requisite paint (and that husband didn’t even tell his wife about the surprise.) He designed a custom light fixture and ordered the parts. He planned a rigorous schedule, only leaving himself one night off.¬† He even considered doing a Room Crasher-esque nightly video capturing the changes. (If you haven’t noticed, he’s not the writer in the family.)

He told me all of this, because things quickly veered off plan . We assumed the slight plaster damage (seen below at the top of the wall behind the TV) would need a gentle scrape and quick coat of mud.

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Wrong. So very, very wrong. A little scraping caused massive amounts of the wall to literally fall off.

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A few spots on the ceiling joined in the plaster revolution and crumbled on contact.

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To make matters worse, a section near the stairwell window also came tumbling down. So for the week I was gone, he spent his time mudding…

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And mudding…

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And mudding… (yep, 3 layers & 150 lbs of mud)

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And sanding and wiping down the walls.

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That wasn’t the only surprise the living room had to offer. After the jig was up and I was home, he started to get back on track with the rest of the prep work. He turned his attention to our upstairs electric panel and what we thought was a piece of conduit inexplicably wrapped in insulation.

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No worries, right? Just pull off the insulation so the conduit could be painted.

Wrong!

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That, my friends, is a code violation so sickening that I want to punch the inspector we hired to inspect this place square in the mouth. (Actually I want to punch him elsewhere but I’m trying to keep this PG.) The man who supposedly gave us the “A OK” to purchase this space (after Aaron gave it a thorough review) DID NOT NOTICE THE LOOSE WIRES RUNNING OUT OF THE PANEL.

The only good thing (if there can ever be a good thing about a serious electrical hazard) is that whomever wired the box in the first place did such a poor job that there was enough excess wire for Aaron to easily remedy the situation. He unhooked the wires, fished them through a new piece of conduit and reattached them to the breaker.

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Crisis averted.

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So that’s where we’ve been the past week or so. Finishing the prep, painting, cleaning and slowly moving back into the fresh space.

While we get it back into shape and work on some after shots, tell me about the time a project went majorly off track (bonus points if it was supposed to be a surprise for someone). We need a little commiserating up in here.