Project Reveal: Creating a Living Room Ideal for Hosting

The second room I designed for my amazing clients Boe + Sophie Hayward (whose ping pong dining room I also designed), was their formal living room. The family upsized when moving into this house, so they found that they didn’t quite have furniture or plans for the formal front living room.

On top of that, the rest of the home is an open-concept layout, with the dining room, sitting room, kitchen, and family/TV room all connected – whereas the formal living room is separated on the other side of the entry/foyer on the front of the house. As a consequence, when I first saw the home, the living room was being used as an impromptu storage area, with hand-me-down furniture from their parents, boxes, and kids’ toys left in there.

While the fireplace + mantle were perfect places for holiday decor, the rest of the formal living room was not quite working for the family.

I started working with the Haywards during the holidays of 2014, which is why there are so many stockings + nutcrackers (their nutcracker collection is ON POINT!).

Boe + Sophie, who often entertain at their home, envisioned the formal living room being a chic “showcase” space in the house where grown-up guests could enjoy a cocktail when they arrived. Without further ado, the reveal:

Photo by Colin Price

Photography by Colin Price!

Since the family has three kids under age 5, I also wanted to make sure that even though the space is meant for grown-up guests, the furnishings would be safe for kids to romp around as well.

WHAT WAS ALREADY IN THE SPACE: The wall paint, which the stagers or previous owners had painted before the Haywards moved in, was fabulous – so I recommended we keep the paint as it was (in the “Before” photo, the color looks totally different). The blue sofa had just been reupholstered less than a year before, so we opted to keep it as-is also.

WHAT I ADDED + UPDATED: First I wanted to add some life to the floor covering situation in the formal living room. I chose one of my favorite rugs, the Surya Smithsonian Archive Rug in Brown, to bring together the olive-brown walls and deep brown floors. This selection meant that the primary colors in the room were brown, blue (sofa), and white – so whatever color the coffee table / occasional seats would be had to enhance this color palette.

After doing a ton of hunting for standard coffee tables, I landed on the idea of a giant tufted ottoman-coffee-table – and my clients loved the concept! The ready-to-order options I’d found were either not the right dimensions or the right colors, so I went custom and found a beautiful ochre/mustard fabric from Robert Allen, and worked with my amazing upholstery partners-in-crime to fabricate the piece. I LOVE how the colors + textures came together in the room. Plus, Boe + Sophie told me that their kids love running in and crashing onto the ottoman, so I couldn’t be more thrilled with the piece’s versatility.

Not pictured is the fabulous Room & Board sideboard that we got. It serves as the house bar – and the serving tray on the ottoman is a nod to the cocktails that will be served to grown-up guests in this space!

Not pictured is the fabulous Room & Board sideboard that we got. It serves as the house bar – and the serving tray on the ottoman is a nod to the cocktails that will be served to grown-up guests in this space!

The wooden stools with blue felt cushions are from Blu Dot – they’re fabulously casual + modern, and are easy to move around for versatile seating. Most of the time they stay in the family room on the other side of the house.

The final touches were the gold urchin ceiling light fixture and my *tszujing* of the books in the bookcases (side note, I learned how to spell that word by literally googling “how do you spell juj”). I purchased some bookends and decorative objects to complement Sophie’s collection of novels, and then color-blocked the books to give them a sense of organization and visual order. My personal favorite decorative objects are the Golden Gate Bridge bookends (which I used to hold the red books, and which are meant to look like a long *bridge* that extends through the fireplace) and the brass bear (the youngest of the Hayward children’s nickname is Bear). Here are the two bookcases together:

Sorry, Dewey Decimal System, but you have no home in this house.

Sorry, Dewey Decimal System, but you have no home in this house.

This living room was also featured recently in an article on Houzz about living rooms with fireplaces! If you’d like to read more about how I designed the room to highlight the fireplace, check it out here!

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