Welcome back to my little tour of the open-plan kitchen and living areas of the flat that we used to live in, the one above my shop in Knutsford that we moved out of in January this year. Having already shared my Enchanted Garden bedroom from the flat, and shown you how I created my bathroom on a budget in Part 1 & Part 2, last week I concentrated on the main part of the flat where we spent most of our time; two open plan rooms that provided us with a T.V. living room, a kitchen and dining area, and an extra seating area for relaxing and socialising. I explained a little bit about how I wanted to treat each room with vastly contrasting colours but maintain a cohesive style of decorating, and went on to describe the decorating stages and decisions that went into creating the light, bright and airy kitchen/dining/socialising space. This week I’m going to show you how I went about decorating the smaller, dark, cosy living room where my husband and I, and the animals, would snuggle up in every evening to watch TV.
Even though this through-room led onto the large light filled room via a squared archway, it was windowless and too far away from the windows in the other room to actually get any benefit from them, so it was dark and dingy, and could quite easily have become a large corridor of a room used just to access that larger room, had we not given it a purpose. This was one of the main reasons I chose to make it the room where we had the TV, as this would not only give us a reason to use the room, but the darkness would not be a problem; plus I always like to feel quite cosy when I’m curled up watching telly. If you’ve read my article on my bedroom (see the link above), you’ll already know that if I’m faced with a naturally dark room, I like to embrace this darkness and make the room dramatic and atmospheric, rather than try to fight it with light paint and paper, which never really works. So a dark wallpaper was a no-brainer.
However, it took a while to find the perfect one. At first, I chose a plain brown, textured paper which resembled seagrass. It fitted in with the tropical feel I wanted and would balance the brown of the Kenzo Jungle fabric I’d chosen for the curtains in the other room. But once up, I absolutely hated it! And I learnt an incredible decorating lesson: never try to be something you’re not. I’m not a plain textured wallpaper type of girl, I can’t be that sophisticated and stylish; I’m a pattern freak and should’ve known better! I hadn’t loved that plain, brown textured paper, I had chosen it because it ‘worked’ and fitted the brief….but I learned that I need to LOVE whatever I use.
And when the love came, it was at first sight. I remember standing in my shop and being shown the new wallpaper range by the Cole & Son wallpaper agent, and when she got onto the black and green Jungle design, I got extremely giddy and did a little excited new-favourite-wallpaper dance in front of her; don’t worry, she had already witnessed this a few times so she didn’t seem too fazed. This paper was absolutely perfect and I just HAD to use it. It was dark, it was tropical and it was glamorously retro. And I loved it. All I needed to do then was somehow break it to my husband that this entire room was going to get re-papered!
To reward my lovely husband for allowing me to change the paper, I decided that for once, we’d buy a comfy sofa. For years now, I’ve made him sit on really beautiful but really uncomfortable antique and vintage sofas, and we were sick of having numb bums and nowhere to rest our heads. This time, I wanted the biggest, squishiest corner sofa I could get, so we could lounge for hours with the pets watching films and box sets (which we do a lot. Name a box set, we’ll have seen it. Dexter was one of our faves, and for months after watching The Wire, we spoke like them! Greg became “G”, and the police were now “Five Oh”). I scoured eBay for hours, searching for the perfect one to fit the space; we couldn’t afford new but I also knew I’d want to choose my own fabric, so recycling gave me that option at an affordable price. I chose a gorgeous pink velvet from Designers Guild, decided to go a bit old school with some kick-pleats so it looked a bit more vintage, and popped a load of lovely cushions and throws onto it. It was so comfy, it was hard to get off.
We also needed a TV cabinet, more specifically, a long, low, retro number; which didn’t seem to exist; anywhere. Oh, hang on, I think I’m lying, I vaguely remember eventually finding one after hours of searching and it was perfect and I got really excited, only to discover it was thousands of pounds of money I didn’t have. I realised I needed to think outside the box, so I started looking at retro 1960’s sideboards on eBay, and having found the perfect one that looked the most ‘tropical’ to me, once home, I carefully removed its legs so that it sat low down at TV unit height. This might seem a little reckless, but when we recently moved house and no longer needed the cabinet, we had our furniture restorer reattach the legs and we managed to sell it as new (well, old new; you know what I mean). If you ever do anything like this, remember to remember where you put the missing pieces! We had to have a bit of a rummage before finding everything.
I also had to think a little bit out of the box for the rug as well. Rugs are jolly well expensive and we had quite a big space to fill. Plus, I didn’t want plain. I wanted big vintage floral loveliness (of course I did). After a bit of fruitless searching at various online shops, I began to concentrate on vintage carpets only, and as usual, I searched on the website that I sold my soul to many many years ago, eBay. Sometimes I think I have an eBay angel, because somehow I found this beautiful large but dirty old carpet that someone was getting rid of. And it was perfect, the colours were just so right. And I think I paid about a tenner for it. Postage was far more expensive at £90. But all in all, I had this huge piece of carpet for £100. I simply decided on how big I needed my rug, and got my carpet man to clean it, cut it to size, and bind it with a turquoise trim. This wasn’t exactly inexpensive, but I think the overall cost of the rug ended up being about £500, which compared to anything new, is a bit of a bargain. And I will love this rug forever, so it was worth the investment.
With the main pieces sourced, I just needed to add a few more items to make the room feel properly furnished. I didn’t think any self-respecting tropical tiki-style living room would be complete without a cocktail cabinet and I couldn’t resist this vintage one with pretty little pink flowers that I found on…..yep, you’ve guessed it….eBay. And another absolute essential for me for this room was a 1970’s peacock chair, to add even more retro glamour to the room. This was accessorised by a cushion from the brilliant Emily Humphreys, a homegrown British designer whose fabrics I’m particularly partial to.
One of my favourite elements of the room is sadly missing from the professional photographs I had taken, which was a doorway curtain in a stunning yellow geisha fabric from Jean Monro. The internal door opened inwards into the room and took up valuable wall space, and seeing as we never shut it, I decided to remove it all together and dress the doorway with a curtain. My photographer managed to capture a close-up shot of the tie-back, and if you squint at one of the larger pictures, you can just about see the curtain with it’s gilt pelmet above it in the background. It was a bit of a tricky curtain to design, as you would see the reverse side of it as you looked into the living room from the hallway, so both sides had to be decorative. However, the yellow geisha fabric would’ve jarred with the hallway scheme, so I needed to choose a lining fabric that would look good with both the hallway and living room wallpapers. I chose one from Jessica Zoob’s collection at Romo’s Black Edition range.
Finally, I just needed to put the finishing touches to the room, with some original retro 1960’s prints and paintings, my vintage Hawaiian lady lamp whom is one of my all-time favourite pieces, a floor lamp with ivy growing up its base, a pair of gorgeous toleware palm tree wall lights (which I upcycled by gilding them) either side of the telly, a tropical candle sconce with parrots painted on, and a 1970’s style spiral shell chandelier. Plus flowers; you always have to have flowers.
The most important thing to me was making the two connecting rooms, with their contrasting wall colourings, work well together and flow seamlessly from one to the another, without your senses feeling assaulted. And for Greg and myself, we thought it worked; we thoroughly enjoyed using the different areas for different activities, and now that we’re back in a conventional house, are thoroughly missing the open plan living we enjoyed at the flat. If we weren’t renting, I’d be getting the sledge hammer out!
We loved our living room and were very sad to leave it and leave all that lovely wallpaper on the walls! But at least everything else came with us, so one day we’ll be able to enjoy it all again. I just hope the new tenants of the flat don’t paint over the palm trees, as that would make me wish I’d steamed it off before I went!
If you’re a fan of the recent tropical trend, or would like to share any living room inspiration with me, I would love to hear from you (I’m just in the middle of getting my website lady to see why nobody can leave comments just at the moment though, so bear with us; we’ll try and have it fixed as soon as poss) x
© Carnival Of Colour 2020