dining room

DAY 4 Update, Don't Renovate Challenge: Clear The Room

This is one of my favorite and easiest ways to update a room and a perfect Friday night project. I know, I’m a party animal. Invite some people over. Have some food delivered. Open some wine. (Yes that’s part of the challenge.) Tonight we…

Often times when I am staging a house, the room just doesn’t feel quite right. I always think I just don’t have enough stuff in it yet. I’m starting from nothing after all. Then it gets to a point that I have to remove some things. Such is often the case in my client’s homes. When I visit homes for design consults, specifically the ones that are having a hard time making the house “feel right”, the problem is simply all the stuff. This is precisely the stuff you hopefully already removed on DAY 1 and 3. Other stuff could be:

  • Something that “isn’t going to stay there”. That hutch that was your grandma’s but you haven’t found a good spot for it.

  • That pile of kids toys that “really should” go or “is going to go” in another room. I hear these two phrases often.

  • That table you have that hasn’t found a home yet.

  • Garbage. In the case of my staged rooms, it’s usually wrappings and tags from things I have purchased, the boxes I toted them around in, cleaning supplies, etc. In your case it might boxes leftover from Christmas, food wrappers, mail, whatever.

  • Stuff that is “extra”. Sometimes, like jewelry, there are just too many things.

Let’s assume you have been in your space for a bit and not just now putting it together…

Your Mission Should You Choose To Accept It:

Choose a room. Your living room is preferred, but a bedroom or dining room is also appropriate. Choose the room that needs the most help, but not the kitchen. That’s a separate deal.

  1. Take everything out of the room. Sometimes you can’t take the sofa, bed, dining table or TV completely out of the room because they are just too big or heavy. That’s ok if you know they will stay. If not, like the hutch, get it out. This is when you might need to rally the troops (and where the wine comes in). Try to pull as many things out of the way as possible. Put them in the hallway, the garage or an adjoining room. You should only have maybe a rug and a bed/sofa/dining table.

  2. TV placement: The TV, the ugliest thing in the room, is often the dictator of where everything else goes. Deal with the TV first because everything else will follow suit. Figure out if it is in the best place. Don’t be lazy. Really consider moving it. Unplug that shit and move it. You can survive without it for a minute. NOTE: above the fireplace is RARELY the best spot. It’s usually too high making it uncomfortable to watch or just a bad idea should you actually want to have a fire. Try a corner of the room if it is not gargantuan. Try on a media stand or credenza/buffet. Try getting rid of it altogether or getting a smaller one. DO NOT FREAK OUT ON ME HERE. STAY WITH ME. You can make your own decision, but maybe it just needs to go. <shrug> Don’t let the TV dictate your life.

  3. Try the biggest furniture piece in a new spot. See if your bed or sofa will be better in a new location. Here are some ideas…not all work in every situation so don’t try to force them if they aren’t working:

    1. Pretend you are going to photograph the room. Sometimes I find that the way I would photograph a room is exactly the way I want to see it every day. A bedroom with the bed centered on a wall would photograph well. It may feel better that way to you, too, even if it seems like less space.

    2. One option is to stand in the entrance or doorway to the room. That is the place you will see this room every time you enter it. Where do you have to put the big pieces in the room to make the view better?

    3. Try a new place you’ve never thought of like angled in the room (don’t lose your OCD mind), on a different wall, floating in the room, etc. Try a place that doesn’t seem to make perfect sense. For instance, in The Lounge Airbnb condo I just furnished, many people working with me wanted the sofa to face the large row of windows so one could look out the windows. My thoughts were to put the sofa under the window. While the windows are awesome, they don’t have a great view of anything in particular. Additionally, putting the sofa opposite the window put the sofa smack dab in the middle of the room. This would cut off the flow of traffic and the back of the sofa as the first thing you would see. That didn’t feel right and feelings are what matter.

    4. If the piece just sucks altogether, get rid it! Too often people choose sofas or beds that are just too big for the space. Sell it, donate it, give it to a family member. More on this later in the month.

  4. Move the rug. Again, like the sofa or bed you were working with, try a different angle or position. Take your time to position the big piece with the rug in different locations. It takes time. Sip your wine. Try again. Don’t lose it yet. It will look bare and uninviting. Press on.

  5. Start bringing back in smaller furniture items like side tables, coffee tables, dressers, etc. It’ll start to look a little better but still naked. It’s ok.

  6. Now, layer in the artwork, decor, pillows and blankets that you LIKE. There are two kinds of “like”. 1. You actually like the item. 2. You like the item in the room. You may actually like an item itself, but it just isn’t working with the overall feel. Try taking it back out for the moment. You’ll just feel it. Something won’t feel right. ***Don’t add something back “until I find something to replace it” unless it’s a dresser and you actually do need to put your clothes somewhere.

  7. Steal like a thief in the night from other rooms to complete “the look”. Take from your kids rooms. Take from a bedroom. Search your basement and garage. Even your kitchen might have a tray or plant or something that might finish it off. You should start to see some life in the room now. It will finally feel warmer and inviting.

  8. Anything left over that hasn’t made it back into the room SHOULD NOT GO BACK INTO THE ROOM. Find a spot for your pile of misfit items. They could come in handy in other rooms if you try this clear out again. Otherwise, make a plan for the things that didn’t make the cut (donation, give to a friend, trash, list it for sale, etc).

OK you should have a pretty fresh looking room by now! If you have holes to fill, don’t worry. We’ll get to that soon.

If you tackle this challenge, show us! Use #updatedontrenovatechallenge in your posts or stories to show us your progress and final results!

Before & After: Client Abstract Gets A New Kitchen

Gray Kitchen with Subway Herringbone Tile and Quartz counter tops

Client Abstract had been living with her blah oak laden kitchen for years. Not only were her oak cabinets a seriously depressing shade of....oak, the brown floors and the beige walls were just not helping matters. She tried everything she could to give it some life by infusing some decor and a bit of her own bold artwork. Wasn't working. Nothing could overcome the beige!

Beautifying it was only have the battle. You can see in the photos that the room is quite large, but the layout of the old kitchen was ridic. The sliding glass doors are placed right in the middle of the room separating the kitchen and dining area. Now the kitchen is all squished into one side making the center of the room useless. The appliances are all sitting on top of each other, meanwhile there is a dance floor size space going unused. Unless you're dancing of course.

Oak Cabinet Kitchen Beige with Dance Floor

I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that this one was a tricky floor plan to overcome. It was a big room, but very long and not very wide if you're going to try to squeeze an island in. Also, the length of the room was becoming an issue because we needed to include a way to allow the dogs to get out to that section of the yard. The doggie access point was right in the middle of where we wanted the new kitchen.

Moving on to the other side of the space was the dining area. Client Abstract wanted to put in a new slider to the pool deck here. We'd need to move the one in the middle of the room to make way for the new kitchen, so this was a good plan. But, space was already an issue. It was getting pretty tight as it was.

Dining Room Before with Red wall

I ask a ton of questions during design consultations. Through this questioning I want to know what people want, but I also try to discover what it is they REALLY want. Many of my clients hire me because they have so many ideas and need help making sense of and weeding through them all. It's my job to take those ideas, try to implement many of them but also make sure that the overall goal (what they REALLY want) is achieved. Client Abstract, for instance, wanted a bar area in the dining room. After some debate, we realized it was a fun idea, but in reality it would probably just collect dust and be in the way. Not only that, all of those bottles would really take away from the new uncluttered vibe we were going for which is what she REALLY wanted. So, instead of a bar we made sure there was a dedicated area in the kitchen cabinets for the booze, as well as a wine fridge to take care of the important stuff.

So, back in the kitchen I set to work trying to come up with a game plan for these cabinets. We originally thought a peninsula coming off the wall where the original sliding doors were was the best option since the room wasn't very wide. Only problem was that it eliminated the doggie door. There was just no way to fit the sink, the range, a peninsula and room for seating on the wall and still allow for the doggie door. We also didn't want to move the sink because we didn't want to move the plumbing or do new flooring. To move the plumbing, we would have had to jackhammer up the floor since houses here in Arizona are generally on a slab. No basement ceiling to run plumbing through. The flooring was in good shape and replacing the entire first floor would be a huge expense.* Long story short, a peninsula wouldn't work.

An island would work but could only be 2 feet deep to allow enough room to move around it. Also, we'd have to axe that arch that looked important but was just really in the way.  Client Abstract didn't mind losing the arch, but didn't like the idea of looking at the kitchen and seeing the side of an island. Hmmmm....then I discovered the answer. An angled island. It was weird, but good weird. AND it worked.

Long Skinny Island Floor Plan with Angle

In real life the island is not angled this much. We set the cabinets exactly where we wanted them to allow enough clearance all the way around. The red lines in the floor plan indicate countertop placement. We were able to angle the island because the counter on the range wall ends while the island continues. Normally you wouldn't have the island jut out longer than the cabinets on the opposite wall, but then again Client Abstract and I are not normal. The angle helps the longer island feel balanced in the room. We put 2' deep cabinets in the straight section of the island so it could house an trash bin cabinet and plenty of storage. The angled section we made 1' deep with an overhang to allow for seating. Here's the new and improved kitchen.

Angled long skinny island with gray cabinets
Gray Kitchen Cabinets with White Quartz Countertops, Sputnik chandelier and wire pendants

You may have noticed in the floor plan the area opposite the island that had a counter overhang. Also seen in the photo above where there is a counter but no cabinets below. Say hello to the doggie door!

Doggie door built into cabinetry

This is one of my favorite parts! I felt like a mad kitchen scientist when I came across this idea. Putting the doggie door "in" the cabinetry allowed the counter to extend under the new window replacing the slider. We wanted the width of the new window to match the existing window over the sink. The doggie door closes and locks if Client Abstract is away. If she or a new owner are no longer in need of a doggie door, they can frame in and drywall the area inside and slide a stool or a rolling cart under the counter. Shelves could even be made to fit the space.

On the other side of the room is where I put my client to work. Don't worry, she was game. We needed something on that far wall as an accent to break up all of the white paint and her husband wasn't feeling the whole wallpaper thing. I found in her Pinterest boards a piece of abstract art that looked like giant black brush strokes. I knew she could pull this off after seeing some of her work around the house. It would be perfect! Nice and bold, but yet would not detract from the monochromatic uncluttered feel of the room. She did a great job!

Abstract Black Brush Strokes Accent wall
Gray Kitchen with Abstract Art Accent Wall

My client was also gifted this great mirror that kept with the theme of uncluttered-ness, but also was useful in reflecting the light from the new patio sliding door, as well as a view of the pool. 

I'm very happy with how it turned out, not only in aesthetic but in how it worked for my client's needs.

Before and After: Oak to Gray Cabinet kitchen
Before and After: Dining room with abstract black and white accent wall
Gray Kitchen Cabinets, White Quartz, Herringbone Backsplash

Even though there are twice as many cabinets and added seating now, the new kitchen feels much more open and airy. I can only imagine the sort of buffet she could serve on that huge 12' island! She could even take the booze she was going to have in her bar and set up a mixing station with plenty of space left over. I see many parties in her future.

Want your very own kitchen design? We offer consultations, room design (in Phoenix) and e-design services! Learn more

*Side note: we did have to run electric in a small trench to the island but got lucky! The tiles popped up and we were able to replace them no problem. 

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