Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The room where we live

I've been making slow but steady progress on the living room - no radical makeover like the bedroom got, but changes here and there. It's still a work in progress, but here's what it looked like at Christmas 2010:

And here it is a year later:

Below is a project-by-project breakdown.

First there was the coffee table, a giant white IKEA monstrosity that we love for its bottom shelf and hate for its appearance. In the battle of form vs. function, we've chosen function for now. But at least I could try to improve the form a little bit. I decide the endless white top wasn't doing it for me:

I thought about covering it or painting it or something, but then I saw a photo of some stenciling that I thought was a cool idea. So in the spirit of Portlandia, I put a bird on it ( More precisely, I ordered some wood-grained contact paper ("walnut"), found some silhouettes of two birds and a dandelion that I liked online, printed and cut them out (just half the dandelion), traced them onto the contact paper, cut out the contact paper, and stuck them to the table. Presto, a little visual interest.

I also made that tray (well, I bought it at Goodwill, painted it two tones of gray, and mod podged a vintage world map from a calendar I had onto the bottom of it). And I made those coasters ages ago, they have pictures of Own in them. Yes yes, the cat is the center of our universe.

Another project involved recovering the living room rocking glider, which is a great chair but was a lot of beige:

So I got some fabric while on a trip to IKEA, and made new slipcovers for the cushions.

(Note: that throw pillow came with a bird on it, not my handiwork)

Another project was the accent lamp. The before:

First I spray painted it with Rustoleum "Night Tide" (high gloss), then bought a new drum shade (and actually I did this to two lamps since I had a matching set, the other one is in the kitchen). Then a few months later I came across a cool yarn-wrapped lampshade online and thought I'd give it a go. I picked red, burnt orange, and ivory yarn, and wrapped the shade in an ombre design. I clipped a faux flower hair clip to the top, and called it done:

And of course the curtain situation over the stained glass window needed to be remedied. For over a year, we used a map to block the light when we were watching the tv during daylight hours or had company sleeping in the living room who needed protection from the early morning rays:

Oy, that's an embarrassing photo.

I decided to make a roman shade. I used a shower curtain from Target for the fabric (as is my wont, apparently), then followed a few tutorials that involved making loops on various levels of the fabric and attaching those to a hook mounted inside each side of the window sill. So the shade doesn't go up and down on a drawstring like a real roman shade, but you can lower it by unhooking various levels - read a how-to similar to what I did here.

Let's see, I also got new curtains for the rest of the windows in the living room. Another IKEA purchase, just big plain white canvas-like curtains (I think these, the "merete"). Fair warning, this project is a bit of an odyssey, or as much as buying and hanging curtains can be an odyssey. I really wanted something light colored to brighten up the room, but also something heavy enough to block outside light and give plenty of privacy (our living room is on the first floor and has three windows facing the street). Instead of mounting them individually over each window, I bought three curtain rods but mounted them high and wide and kept the finials off the adjoining ends so it looked like one big bar. Then I hung the curtain panels so there wasn't any wall space between them to sort of cheat them to look like a big bay window. The before:

And the after:

I think it makes a big difference. Though when I say "kept the finials off," I'm glossing over the part where I needed to shorten two of the rods - which IKEA's instructions claimed would be easy using some magical tool that I couldn't find on either of my trips to IKEA (oh yes, I had to go there two days in a row because the first time we totally forgot our curtain rods in the check out line after paying for them...better believe I was going back to collect them even though it meant renting a zipcar again and enduring a painful visit to the IKEA customer service counter that involved hearing many bizarre assembly-gone-wrong complaints from fellow customers).

But anyway, back to the shortening of the rods. I couldn't find the right magical tool, but in the instructions it looked enough like a normal hand saw -- which I own -- that I decided to take a risk rather than wander aimlessly around IKEA looking for the right tool for even one more second. But actually, it was not easy. After a long time of trying to do it myself and making it about two millimeters into the first rod, I concluded that I would need to give up on the curtain project altogether and just throw myself into a pouting heap on the floor.

And that's where I lay when my beloved roommate/boyfriend arrived home. Seeing my despair, he offered to help. I explained my plight. He looked skeptical. But he picked up those too-long curtain rods and that hand saw and retreated to the back yard. I heard some truly terrible noises coming from back there (ie the sound of sawing through metal with a non-magical hand saw), but 20 minutes later he returned with one shortened rod. "I don't think I can do the other one, that was almost impossible," he told me. I gave him my best desperate/crazy/I'm-about-to-cry eyes, and he returned to the back yard without a word. Another 20 minutes later, the second rod was cut. He's a keeper, there's no question.

So then I hemmed the panels to just brush the floor and hung them using ring clips. Then I used white tape to secure the three adjoining curtain rod segments to create a more seamless look like it's one big rod (otherwise it just looks like sawed off ends abutting each other). I do wish I had put the rods higher up (but we have such high ceilings, they would be so far above the tops of our windows), but I did have to hem the panels up a number of inches so I could always move the rods up one day and lengthen the curtains. Oh and I almost forgot, if you clicked on the IKEA link to the curtains you may have noticed they were grommet top curtains, ie they are mounted by putting a rod through the large metal eyelets across the top. I bought them knowing that I wanted to use ring clips and would just cut the grommet tops off (by removing the first ~3 inches of of each panel using a pair-o-scissors) and hem them. It added some hemming time because I had to do the top and bottom of each panel (6 panels). But it was good practice on the ol' sewing machine.

One last thing: I had them hung up for a day when I realized that they were driving me crazy when they were closed. Basically they closed really unevenly, bunching up in some places and lying flat in others because there was so much excess fabric. So I took them back down and did something a little odd that I dreamed up while lying in bed contemplating the issue: I measured each window, and divided that number in half. That's the amount of space each curtain panel would need to cover when closed fully (because each window has a panel on either side, and they meet in the middle when closed). Then I cut a piece of ribbon that exact length for each panel, and marked the ribbon with a pen at even increments to match the number of evenly-spaced ring clips along the top of each panel. Then I attached (using hot glue) each mark along the ribbon to a spot a few inches below the corresponding ring clip, so basically when the ribbon was completely taut, it pulled along the back of the top of each panel and kept it in evenly-spaced pleats. Here's a picture of the top of a panel that's completely closed, and you can see (sort of) a piece of ribbon running between the pleats, in case that helps make any sense of it:

So now when you close the curtains by pulling on one end of a panel, it pulls the ribbon taut which bring the whole panel along with even pleats. Okay, I may be a little OCD (I prefer "meticulous"), but now it looks lovely open or closed and that's 100% worth the extra effort.

One more change, which you could see in the recent living room photo: we got a large rug for our living room. Rugs are absurdly expensive, but I really just wanted something pretty neutral (but on the gray side of things). My mom suggested a carpet remnant might be an affordable route (many carpet installers have pretty large remnants available, and they bind the edges so they're just like a regular rug). She was also kind enough to go to a local store near my hometown and report back on their inventory, buy the one that I identified as my favorite through camera phone pictures, and bring it down to Boston on the top of her car when she visited over Thanksgiving (thank you, Mom and Fred!).

A reminder:

I'm a fan - I do love the hardwood, but the rug lightens things up so much, and also is a great insulator in the winter since our floors are quite thin and we're above the cold cold basement.

So, that's about it for projects in the living room (besides the doors and the fireplace, which I've already posted about). Though I guess I made some of those throw pillows (the one on the left is a monogrammed one I wrote about here), and the one on the right is two napkins I sewed together that happened to be the perfect fit for an extra throw pillow I had on hand.

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