living & dining rooms, part 6: redecorating the living room

01.07 tales of an illicit love affair

click to see the full photo galleryYou may recall that one of the earliest projects we did in our house was to decorate our living and dining rooms, including painting the walls and ceiling. Purple, in fact. With a sage green accent wall. And despite the doubting Thomases who filled our email inbox with messages questioning our sanity, or at the very least our sense of decency, we like it very much. Love it, actually. We didn't have any plans to change it, were perfectly content to leave it that way for many years and focus on the ten gazillion other projects that needed our attention. You could say we were in a committed, monogamous relationship.

But then love struck out of nowhere and we were helpless in its grip: the chest constriction, the shortness of breath, the inability to think, the butterflies in the's either love or the flu and either way, you're not walking away unscathed.

When we moved into our house, we were struck with a vision of our living room, and that vision included something like this:

(Yes, we sometimes have caviar dreams on a canned tuna budget.)

It's not even that either of us is really into leather furniture -- neither of us had ever thought about having a leather couch until then. But something about this house and its craftsman details inspired the idea of curling up on careworn leather cushions with an old book -- the kind of book that has a fabric cover that you find forgotten somewhere in the corner of the library -- on a gray, rainy day with the mist hanging over everything like gray silk drapery. You know the kind of day I'm talking about, and the kind of couch I'm talking about, and the kind of experience I'm talking about.

Obviously, that couch was out of our reach. And anyway, we had a perfectly nice couch already. A good and loyal couch that was with us during the harder times, and made the move with us twice without a complaint, and supported us through school and jobs and put aside its own dreams for the future so we could be comfortable and happy. Still, we kept an eye peeled when we walked past furniture stores and...okay, yes, we admit we did the occasional browsing on craigslist and even dog-eared the latest Restoration Hardware catalogs. But it's not cheating if you only look, right?

But wandering eyes opened the door to temptation. Actually, they opened the door to a furniture store is what they did. We told ourselves we were just looking that sunny December Saturday when we stepped into the furniture show room. And we weren't lying, but within minutes, we'd laid eyes on The One, and it fit our vision and our budget and it was all downhill from there.

We left the furniture store and realized if we were going to make such a big change, we were going to have to do it right, transition the old to the new. Now, we weren't about to get rid of our beloved (and painstakingly painted) purple walls. But a change in color was called for, so we settled on changing the green accent wall to a gold color to better accentuate the dark leather color. We chose a color that matched the roman shades in our dining room and then we realized that we had already been trending away from the purple sage green combination in our accessories, that we already had touches of gold and orange and dark brown throughout the room to pick up.

We had five weeks until the couch was to be delivered, which meant we needed to get the wall painted, move the old couch downstairs (it was a good and faithful friend, we weren't getting rid of it -- we felt guilty enough already), rearrange the room, get a new rug and lamps, and build a small sofa table for those lamps.

The color we used is called Bakelite Gold. It's a little bit of mustard mixed with paprika and turmeric and saffron, rich and warm and a great complement to the purple. We're very pleased with how well it turned out and how nicely it accentuates the woodwork. It was sad to see the green wall go, but the change was worth it.

Instead of doing a paint treatment to that wall, I had an idea to do a stenciled phrase under the window. I already had a pretty good idea of the font I wanted -- an Arts & Crafts style font that is one of my favorites of that era -- but I wasn't too keen on making a stencil. It would need to be about five feet long and the thought of cutting out all those letters made me not want to even do the stencil idea at all.

Deciding perhaps a decal would be better than a stencil, I checked out WallWords instead. But they charge far more than I wanted to pay. And then I remembered that when my office moved to a new location, we'd had a print & sign company design a big vinyl logo for our glass doors.

Called them up and sure enough, they could do exactly what I wanted: a 5' vinyl decal, 1" high, in any font I wanted as long as I could send it to them electronically. They had a lot of colors to pick from and even offered a great selection of metallic-looking colors/finishes. I picked a very pretty bronze/copper. The whole thing took about a week, and cost about $35. Score!

The quote is Goethe's "That which matters most should never be at the mercy of that which matters least." This is our guiding scripture.

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