Living Room: A Paint Saga in Three Acts

When I first moved into my new apartment, I showed you all this picture of my living room:


A dark room with sage green walls with a nice dented texture that you can see on the left. Since I was sticking with light gray for most of the rest of the apartment (Burnished metal in the foyer, dining room and back hall and French Silver in the bedroom), and this was one of the few rooms that was open, but separated from the other rooms by wood trim (the halls, kitchen and dining room all flow together with plaster archways), I thought it was an opportunity to add another color to the house. I know some people like to use one continuous color when rooms are open to each other, but I really like the effect of looking from one room to another and seeing a touch of something different – as long as it works together! (My disastrous interim kitchen color did not, which is a story for another blog entry.) With all the wood accents throughout the apartment, I thought brown would work really well and would make the room feel warm and snug. I’d planned to get a light gray couch, a gray patterned rug, a light-colored ottoman coffee table, and then I was finally going to recover those estate sale chairs in a light/neutral fabric and paint them white.

But, where I ended up was this:

Brown Living room

As I mentioned before, I ended up getting a brown leather couch. I’d spent hours and hours looking at couches online and reading reviews. I didn’t really want an IKEA couch (the reviews for long-term wearability are mixed, plus I’d have to rent a truck and spent over 3 hours driving to get one), but I was considering a Karlstad with the gray cover, because I thought it was the only new couch I could afford. I also considered a fake-leather/bonded leather couch in light gray from an online site, but I was really leery of buying something that big sight unseen and cushion un-sat-upon. Leather would have been my first choice because of the dog—when we were upstairs her hair was constantly getting woven into the upholstery of the gold love seat. I was spending a ridiculous amount of time vacuuming, lint-brushing and tweezing the hair out of the furniture, even with protective throws in constant rotation. (I did try banning her from the furniture, but that made both of us unhappy.)

I really wanted to invest in the couch as my first piece of real, honest-to-goodness-grown-up furniture I picked out myself. I was 33. It was time. I went to JCPenny to look check out the gray fabric version of their Darrin couch and it turned out they were clearing out ALL the furniture. The floor models were going for insanely cheap (50% off list price, and this was when JCPenny was doing the no-sales, low price all the time thing). And suddenly, I had the opportunity to get a gorgeous, real-leather, mid-century style, ridiculously comfortable couch. A leather couch had previously been way, way, way outside my budget, but combined with the credit card deal they were running, I ended up paying $750 for a very high quality piece of furniture. I know that still seems like a lot of money to some people (it did to me – the couch is officially the most expensive thing I own aside from my car), but I think I’ll have this couch for a long long time. And I love it. More than one person can sit comfortably on it! I can stretch out and nap on it! People sit on it and comment how comfy it is. And the dog hair comes right off with a brush of the hand or a light vacuum. So, so happy with the couch. But it meant the brown paint on the walls and the wood trim was causing brown overload.

And it only got worse with each additional piece of furniture, like this:

brown living 1

Let’s add a big wood dresser to the back wall, shall we? Because there’s not enough brown in here yet. In this picture you can see how I desperately attempted to lighten up the room with the light-colored chairs (and we will talk about the chairs soon—didn’t they turn out great? My mom basically did them for me) and the light pillows and light rug. And then added a giant horse painting, which just made it even less cohesive.

Basically, the only part of the room that was even remotely working was the window wall, and that was mostly due to the long white curtains I added:

Living before

There were light-colored curtains, and the light rug, and the cream ottoman and light-green chair. I even had a plant. The whole brown-on-brown-on-brown thing wasn’t bugging me as much on this side of the room. But it’s pretty sad when you only like one corner of your living room. So…

paint supplies

It was time to haul the painting supplies back out (keep in mind that I spent the first month living here painting every single wall and much of the trim. It was ridiculous.). I decided to go completely in the other direction and do a light, airy almost-white blue. I settled on Fresh Day by Behr (which almost looked like a neutral instead of a blue). It took about three coats of Behr’s paint and primer in one to get a clean covering of the brown — the plaster walls in this place just suck the paint up.

And the end result:

TV corner after

Same corner as before, but doesn’t it look so much lighter and happier? Now, the other corners of the room actually wound up looking a little sterile with the lighter color:

IMG_0585 big wall after

So I was a bit desperate to get some art on the walls to warm it up. We’ll talk about art next time, because I have had so much fun finding new pieces for the new place and figuring out how to get them all hung!

(In this picture you can also see that I replaced the too-short coffee table I originally purchased off Craigslist with a larger, taller table from Potter Barn. After trying to live with it for a few weeks—because it was really cute—I realized that in order to be comfortable I needed the table to be at least an inch taller than the couch seat cushions. I tend to have a cup on the coffee table and constantly reaching way, way down for my beverages was driving me crazy.)

But that’s it: The color evolution of the living room. Have you ever made a big color mistake? How long did it take you to give in and repaint? It took me about two months for the living room, but I redid the kitchen about halfway through the first coat of the first color.


2 thoughts on “Living Room: A Paint Saga in Three Acts

  1. Beeeeeautiful!! I’m dying over that sofa. DYING. You totally stole it. I would love one exactly like that, but my husband oddly hates leather furniture because “it’s too slidey.” So weird. Your whole living room is GORGEOUS!! Well done!

    • Thanks, Kelly! I used to feel the same way about leather, and then I sat on a really nice squishy leather that felt great. I still don’t like it in certain applications, but I’m loving it on the couch.

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