Katie’s House: Sometimes it ain’t Pretty

*If you came here hoping for pretty pictures – run away!  Come back next week; today is not the day for you.  If you’re here because you woke up this morning hoping to see a photo of a mummified squirrel, keep reading.*

Part One: In Which I Spend All Weekend on a Roof Just so it can Look Exactly the Same as it did Before

I desperately want to show you something lovely today.  I’ve been working on a pretty, decorative DIY project that I had every intention of sharing, but instead the reality of home ownership reared its ugly, bulbous head and spewed forth a time-consuming and expensive task from its gaping, stinking maw.  Maybe I’m being melodramatic (maybe), but I think the very worst part of home ownership is maintenance – costly, onerous projects that result in no visible change.  Sure, the days spent sanding drywall in the Chamber of Secrets were tedious and uncomfortable, but at the end of it we had a beautiful room!  A tangible reward!

In contrast, we spent the last four days replacing part of our roof, and at the end?  We have a roof that looks exactly the same, a yard littered with debris, and myriad aches and pains resulting from crouching on an incline for hours on end.

Red House West || Sometimes it ain't Pretty

You might notice that the trash pile is wet – it rained for the very first time in months this weekend (of course it did).

In happy news, our five year-old niece had the time of her life using the magnetic pick-up stick to hunt for the many nails hidden in the summer-scorched grass.  She squealed gleefully every time she waved the stick across the ground and heard the thwack of a nail connecting with the magnet, and when it was time to go she begged to stay.  What joy to have an aunt and uncle whose house is a magical wonderland of hidden (tetanus-y) treasure!

As you know, treasure and mummies go hand in hand, and our house is no exception.  Boy were we excited to find the mummified remains of the lesser-known Pharoah, King Nut, entombed in the carport eaves:

Red House West || Sometimes it ain't Pretty

Don’t forget to pin to Pinterest!

In all seriousness though, this project needed to be done and the reward will be that we no longer have the fear of a leaking roof (or a literal dead squirrel) hanging over our heads.

Red House West || Sometimes it ain't Pretty

Part Two: In Which I Ruminate on Whether this Sow’s Ear of a Couch Could be a Silk Purse

I had some meditative moments up there on the roof – the hiss-kathunk of the staple gun a metronome for some very deep thoughts.  Very deep thoughts concerning sofas.  As many of you know, I’ve been obsessively hunting for a couch to use in the freshly-painted family room.  I’ve had a couple of near misses (a cute sofa so liberally doused in Febreze that I almost couldn’t detect the eau de ashtray underneath), and a couple of Craigslist heartbreaks (it is a cruel, cruel person who posts their $40 mid-century couch and then doesn’t respond to emails).

Maybe it was desperation that caused me to look twice at (and even snap a picture of) this thrift store sofa:

Red House West || Sometimes it ain't PrettyIt might not be a coincidence that when I shared this photo of it on Instagram we lost four followers.

Red House West || Sometimes it ain't Pretty

I asked for people to do some free association and comment with what came to mind when they saw the couch.  The responses cracked me up:

Red House West || Sometimes it ain't PrettyThe fabric is reminiscent of 80’s crafting, and it would make a compelling pair of culottes, but I actually really like the shape of the couch – those square and slender arms, the loose back cushions, and the straight, low back.  While on the roof, wishing I were anywhere else (including lying on this couch covered in way too many cats), I tried to imagine how – if – I could make it work.

I’d start by removing the skirt, and maybe replacing the legs with some sleek ones like these from Pretty Pegs:

pretty pegs legsAs Mera said (diplomatically, with great restraint), “it would definitely be the boss of the room,” so I’d keep the rest of the room neutral in color.  I’d bring in lots of black, and try to counteract the 80s/granny/feline/culottes nature of the couch fabric by keeping the other furniture and decor more modern and sleek.

My imaginings looked something like this, but with better Photoshop skills:

Slide2The intent here was cool and contrast-y, but I fear it just looks like a dog dressed up as a cat.  What do you think, did the roof altitude go to my brain?  I’m really curious – if you absolutely had no choice but to make this couch work, how would you do it?

We’re both adventuring with our families over Labor Day weekend and won’t be posting on Monday, but Mera will be back on Wednesday with a beautiful antidote to what I shared here today.

Finally, thanks so much for reading and commenting on the essay I wrote for the Design Sponge contest!  I didn’t win, but I’m really, really glad I did it. Have a great weekend!

37 responses on “Katie’s House: Sometimes it ain’t Pretty

  1. Nina

    “…if you absolutely had no choice but to make this couch work, how would you do it?”

    Lighter fluid. 🙂

    Isn’t the simplest answer to reupholster it? (Says the person who has difficulty sewing loose buttons back onto shirts.)

    1. Katie Post author

      The squirrel was pretty cool (fun to find a fully articulated skeleton) – a friend at work who reads our blog suggested that including the squirrel in my moodboard would have made the couch more palatable. A real missed opportunity.

  2. Katy Gilmore

    Ah Katie – nothing better than to start the day with your great writing and sense of humor. You are so right about the invisible maintenance (says she who has crawl space “issues” – speaking of something you don’t see and will seem exactly the same after thousands of dollars disappear into it as we are not brave like you about tackling the work ourselves).
    I wish you had won the contest – your piece was so perfectly paced with delicious language and universality.
    And I can see the next big project – reupholstering that floral beauty. Wasn’t their some green velvet in an earlier fantasy – and isn’t there a huge bolt of it languishing on a thrift shop shelf near you? xo

    1. Katie Post author

      If such a bolt of dreamy green fabric exists, I WILL FIND IT! This couch hunt has me out at the thrift stores with a renewed sense of purpose – thanks for your kind words and xo right back atcha.

  3. Margaret Campion

    KATIE!! I LAUGHED SO HARD! MORE THAN ONCE! BIG, BELLY LAUGHS AND I THANK YOU SO MUCH! “King Nut”!!!! Oh my gosh. I just thought that today’s post was so so funny. Funniest ever, right from the start … and all the way through. Honey – if this blogging gig gets old, you have a career as a comedienne awaiting you. SO funny. Thank you. It was the absolute BEST way to start my day.
    As for the couch … umm …. I began to realize that you were NOT planning to reupholster?? And so … I’m gonna go with Mera’s brilliant comment. Yes – it would be the boss of that room. But quite honestly, I do wonder if the roofing altitude maybe did get to you … yeah ….
    And! I must apologize! I’ve been making the transition from CT to NC and have not had all my eggs in my basket, so to speak, and I also thought that there would be a longer “voting period” for your essay! I didn’t realize they were going to be so quick about it! So – I apologize! Cause I was going to vote for you as many times as I could, and I’m so sorry to say that I haven’t even gotten to Mera’s email to open it. I just starred it and planned to get back, once I had my feet more on the ground here in the hot and steamy southlands. I’m so sorry you didn’t win, cause (even tho I haven’t read ANY of the essays) I’m POSITIVE yours was the best.
    Oh – you girls are the BEST. Katie – thank you so much for today’s post. Laughter. Ahhhh ….. the best thing ever.
    xoxoxoxox Margy Campion

  4. Panda flannel

    I am a sucker for dark florals, so maybe I’m biased, but I LOVE that couch and think you should go for it. Ha! Depending on how much it costs, and if you’re not upholstering, how much do you have to lose?

    The way you did that mood board, with lots of black and hard lines, is perfection. I would say maybe don’t keep the rest of the room *too* neutral; having other rich stuff around it will tone down that boss-of-the-room vibe, I think.

    1. Katie Post author

      If this were a floral print on fabric, rather than the woven-tapestry upholstery that it is, I think it would be doable. There’s something about the texture, though, that gives my hands a squicky tactile revulsion. But I presented this idea in earnest! My budget is tiny (no new upholstery, no brand new furniture), and I’m trying hard to think outside the box.

  5. Lea

    As with Margaret, it took me awhile to realize that you were considering incorporating that sofa into the space without reupholstering it, because it looks comfortable, but replacing all of that floral with a green velvet or a semi neutral would be easier to work around. I am not sure your mini vision board of super sleek and stark black and white really works visually with the couch. And I suspect that a room with that striking black and white against white wall may not give you the relaxed feeling your were going for, although with enough plants it might. What about incorporating accents that pulled on some colors from the background or foliage of the couch or working with muddled neutrals a la the background of the hypothetical bird picture. Also consider that floral screen behind the floral chair in a floral wallpapered room in last week’s post and maybe just go super crazy botanical so that the couch it’s the only element that’s a riot of flowers and greenery.

    1. Katie Post author

      Oooh, that could be a genius solution! So instead of trying to rein in the crazy granny vibe, amplifying it. I like the way you think, Lea.

  6. Carol Bryner

    You’ve done it again, Katie. You made my day. Funny, funny, funny. You totally should have won that contest. And, really, this is what home sometimes means – having to fix the roof and clean up the mess afterwards. As for the couch. The thing about that couch is that it looks comfy (assuming it doesn’t smell of Fabreze.) And it isn’t bad with those black pillows on it, but they might be real cat-hair magnets. And maybe it looks better in person???

  7. Michelle

    Sorry, even with time the sofa hasn’t grown on me. The shape isn’t bad, but I can’t imagine that the cost of reupholstering wouldn’t be close to buying a new one…

    1. Katie Post author

      No, upholstery would definitely cost a lot (close to a grand), and that’s not in the budget. I’m trying to stretch my brain a little just in case I don’t find the perfect green velvet sofa of my dreams at a thrift store ;). This one isn’t it, but it was a fun exercise to try and imagine how I might make it work as is.

      1. Michelle

        Have you thought about building your own? You and Cameron are so talented–I can see you designing/building the NetFlix watching sofa of your dreams. You could use a twin or youth mattress for the base cushion and an assortment of pillows. Add a couple cats and you’d have a cozy winter nest!

        1. Katie Post author

          I have thought about it! A lot! Pretty much exactly as you describe (down to the twin mattress and cats). The problem is that there are some more pressing house priorities and not enough time. I was hoping to find an inexpensive option that we could live with as is – for a while at least.

  8. Jen

    I really like the shape of the couch. If you don’t want to reupholster, the stark black and white color palette of the mood board just seems to highlight the fabric in a not-so-great way, IMHO. I’d suggest looking for inspiration in rooms with bold floral wallpaper. I know I’ve seen beautiful rooms on Scandinavian blogs with really bold, granny-esque floral wallpaper that is balanced with a lot of natural materials (baskets, jute, wool, etc.), lighter and rustic wood furniture, green accents, and plants. That said, it’s probably a mistake to decorate a whole room around a sofa fabric that you’re truly not crazy about, even if in theory it can be done. If you don’t really love it I think it’s always going to bug you, and the room itself might end up feeling like a place you don’t really enjoy if the design is dictated by making a sore thumb of a couch fit in rather than by what your heart actually desires. You’ve spent enough time in a family room that doesn’t really meet your aesthetic needs, so I’d say hold out until you find something you really want.

  9. Gillianne

    Shape, yes; fabric, alas no. Most definitely no. A contemporary slipcover–no hint of country–in a solid or tone-on-tone fabric would do the trick if you didn’t want to reupholster. Sadly, new fabric would be best. Maybe the blog can bring you a reader with mad upholstery skills who’d be happy to do the work in exchange for a few days of hospitality in the beautiful Emerald City? Just a thought.

  10. Hilary

    Actually, I love your mood board. I love the contrasting florals with the spare lines of everything else in the picture (and that bird painting is amazing- source?) but if the couch has a squicky feel, could you leave the arms and back floral, but make top and seat cushion covers in a coordinating velvet, perhaps a greyish green, so that the parts you are actually sitting on aren’t so squicky? Something like this (pardon my also less than stellar photoshop skills, pretend the velvet bit is actually multiple sections):

    Making cushion covers isn’t any harder than making covers for throw pillows, and finding smaller yardages of velvet second hand is also (theoretically) easier.

    1. Katie Post author

      I’m sad your link didn’t show up – I’d love to see! I really like your idea for grey-green cushions; it would be a good way to update the sofa and tone down some of the crazy, but not all of it. I don’t have a purchase source for the art (unfortunately, because I love it). I clipped it from this source: http://www.lovelylife.se/blog/homevisits/hemma-hos-nina-palle-mila/ Thanks very much for sharing your excellent thoughts Hilary!

  11. P

    The couch is totally something Andie from Pretty in Pink would choose. And I think she would also endorse all the black you have with it, but she would dump some off-white crocheted doilies on it too. I don’t think the couch is horrible. It would be much better without the skirt and different legs. Could you save up to reupholster it in a couple years? I think the shape of it is really good. And I agree with whoever else said that you should switch to two cushions if you reupholster someday. Too bad there’s no way to over-dye it; that might be kind of neat.

  12. Chenell

    I think the skirt stays. Modern legs on that sofa is trying too hard. I would go a bit Tommy Smythe on that a** and do a kind of English tea room meets English upscale 80s punk rock vibe. With books, some strategic plaid, a hit of leather and a dose of metal, plus one great, incongruous hit of lipstick red, I think it could be amazing. Here’s a link for the kind of mood I have in mind:
    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_aIP8JVAuaeQ/TJTQGAi3rJI/AAAAAAAAA_k/nITieEqjgd8/s1600/Tommy+AP+3.jpg
    (Imagine the floral sofa right where the white one is.)

    As a real stretch, black matte walls could make that sofa so chic!!!

    1. Katie Post author

      I love your ideas Chenell! You gave me a totally new vision. Updates on the couch saga (including a little more about this one) coming soon.

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