Re-Energized by Design: Living Room Challenge

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The living room challenge was what, upon first touring Mike and Marie's home, I was the most worried about. There were two living spaces we could choose from - an upstairs room that was mostly empty, and a downstairs room that was fully furnished. Both spaces were mostly kid play spaces. My worry about the rooms was that $500 was not enough to furnish a rather large room, but that the already furnished room was "done" enough that a dramatic makeover wouldn't be possible (but key to moving on to the next level!).

Boy, was I wrong!

Here's the episode (lots of great design and energy savings tips - I learned a lot on this challenge!):

   

Here are the Mendes family living room befores:

Living Room Before 1

Living Room before 2

Living Room Before 3

Living Room Before 4

Living Room Before 5

Lots of beige, my friends.

And afters:

Living Room After 1 Living Room After 2 Living Room After 3 Living Room After 4 Living Room After 5

The first thing we knew we need to do was paint. It's seriously the cheapest way to make a dramatic change to any room. For the sake of the competition, we knew we needed some impact. I chose a dark blue (Sherwin Williams "Moody Blue") for the walls, being careful not to go SO dark that the color would be unrecognizable on camera. To liven it up, bright punchy suzani curtains from World Market were the exact right piece to bring in the rest of the color scheme. We really wanted to make this more of an adult-friendly zone, and move some of the bigger toys to the upstairs area where Marie can keep an eye on them when she's cooking dinner... perhaps when they are older she'll switch the two areas, but for now it works.

Mike had the idea of rearranging the sofas - the sectionals actually came apart, so the "new chair" used to be part of the sofa! I actually liked the way this turned out, though in 95% of the homes I decorate, I wouldn't have chosen to put them at a diagonal. The exception here has several reasons. The sofas are SO far away from the TV when they're put along the back and side wall, but there isn't a comfortable way to float them on a right angle (the room isn't quite long or wide enough). Also, the boys were constantly trying to climb behind the sofa when it was in the sectional position - I think Marie and I agreed that running AROUND the sofa was safer than climbing OVER the sofa. The boys treated this "hidden" area as a little fort, and miraculously the toys that stayed in the room are all behind the sofas. Works for me! Also, having the furniture in essentially the exact same position as the "before" didn't give as much of a change for the "after" so we felt it was best to mix things up. And finally, it did help the too-small rug feel not QUITE as small (since budget didn't allow for a new one!).

 

What we did for design:

1. Painted the walls!

2. New curtains accented the existing, functional window shades, helped the ceilings feel taller, and added lots of color.

3. Rearranged furniture.

4. New coffee table.

5. New knobs on an old dresser gave it new life!

6. A shelf was brought in from upstairs to help hide some toys in baskets. Media equipment (DVDs, game controllers) also moved into baskets.

7. New accessories joined other items from around the house that fit our color scheme.

 

For energy efficiency:

1. Changed out the door for one with glass panes (had been in the kitchen) - did this without having seen a similar change-out from another contestant during the bathroom episode! Too funny. Helps bring in more light from the stairwell.

2. The existing window shades provided excellent insulation against cold weather, so we worked around them.

3. Put almost all the appliances and TV/stereo equipment on a power strip that you can teach to auto-turn-off to reduce the loss of "phantom energy" (ie any electricity used when your appliances are OFF but still plugged in). This was a cool feature that Mike and Marie knew about!

4. Bought new throw blankets - the temperature can be turned down a degree or two, and the family can now cuddle under some blankets for movie night.

5. Replaced all the overhead bulbs with a mixture of energy-efficient LEDs (in front of the fireplace, as accent lighting) and CFLs (around the rest of the room for ambient lighting). Mike also did a simple rewiring to put the accent lighting on a separate switch - when they're watching TV it's easy to turn off just those lights and save energy.

6. A new glass fireplace screen (a major score on Craigslist) blocks way more cold air than the mesh that was there before (and it looks better too - a win-win).

 

I even managed to grab a picture of the behind-the-scenes (pretty much the ONLY time I remembered to...). I actually think these colors are a little truer to life!

IMG_1888

 

Did you watch the episode? What did you think? What was your favorite design? I went into this challenge thinking it would be our toughest, but I think it might have actually been our strongest! Apparently the judges didn't think so - we were skating on thin ice there.