Tag Archives: interior decorating reader question

Reader Question: John’s Blank Slate, Part 1

We were really excited to get a request from a California reader, John, asking for advice about decorating his “blank slate” condo.  We’re both well past the blank-slate stage in our own homes, and more in the one-thing-in-one-thing-out stage, so this was a fun opportunity for us to start from scratch.

From John:

I’ve never put much effort into settling in to any of the places I’ve lived prior to the place I am now (for the first time in a long time) calling home… And as a result, I’m having a hard time trusting myself when it comes to purchasing anything because I simply don’t have a lot of experience doing so. I know what I like when I see it, but for some reason, I never can seem to reproduce the same aesthetic (or anything remotely close to it).
I have been eyeing the West Elm Tillary sectional sofa for a while now, but would die trying to figure out the right color/fabric. I also need a rug, a chair and a coffee table, and all of the other awesome little things (throw pillows, etc…) that make a living room. The West Elm media console and the IKEA book shelves are the only items I’m attached to. I plan on staining the bookshelves and possibly swapping out the wooden base legs for miniature 6″ hairpin legs.
I work in healthcare (occupational therapy) and spend 90% of the day on my feet, so I really need a comfortable place to relax after work. I do like to read and I’ve always wanted a reading nook. And I’d love to be able to have friends over for movie/show watching. I also play guitar, so a place to watch movies, read, and play guitar are pretty much at the top of my list…
John also described wanting a warm, cozy, quirky, but grown-up aesthetic.  He loves rich colors and a vintage feel, but with a minimalist vibe.  Here are some photos we pulled from his Pinterest board that illustrate his style and what he’s going for.



Clockwise from top left: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

This is a huge task, with lots of details to consider, so we’re breaking it up into two posts.  This week we’re tackling the layout and major furniture pieces, and next we’ll come back with textiles and decor, and some ideas about the dining area.

We spent a lot of time (together!  In Alaska!) trying to figure out the best use of space.  Mind you we don’t have dimensions, but it looks like John’s place has a long and lean living room area that presents some challenges for cozy reading and TV watching.  Here’s what we came up with:


We like the idea of the TV not being visible when you first walk in the door, so to make the room feel more multi-functional we tucked the West Elm media console against the short wall opposite the floating sofa.  The idea is to create several separate zones in the living room; one for cozying up and watching movies, and another next to the windows for reading or playing guitar.

John wants to keep his Ikea shelves, but we struggled to figure out a good spot for them. We came upon this example of them on their side, end to end, and think it’s the perfect solution.  In this orientation they’ll help define the long room, and also provide a lovely base for a gallery wall – which featured heavily in John’s inspiration pics (more on that next week).

Red House West || Reader Question

John mentioned that he likes the Tillary sectional from West Elm, and has been close to buying it recently.  We like the look of it, but we did a little poking around and learned that the back cushions are not attached to the sofa at all.  That means unless it’s pushed completely against a wall, it’s pretty much nonfunctional.  And, because we think floating a sofa would work best, we’re recommending going a different direction:

Red House West || Reader Question

This sofa from Interior Define is a similar price to the West Elm Tillary (better, actually!), and it has a ton of great customization options.  We’re nuts about it in Citrine Mod Velvet, but chose more toned down options for John.  Based on the palette of his mood board we’d recommend ordering swatches in both navy and gray, and think either velvet or their canvas-like “heavy cloth” would be good options.

We think John could create a nice conversation nook against the large window at the back of the living room with a pair of mid-century chairs like the ones featured in many of his pinned spaces.  These days there are a lot of new versions at reasonable prices, but Craigslist is always a great source for these types of the chairs too.  Just make sure you have a matching pair (or at least two very similar chairs) to make the space feel cohesive and pulled together.


Two cute options (left, right)

Here’s a mood board with the main pieces we recommend for John’s space.  We think these would go a long way toward creating the warm and grown-up, artful space John hopes for.

Reader Question Living Room


Next week we’ll share ideas for textiles and art to pull the space together and give it more personality.  What do you think of the direction we’re headed so far?

Thanks for reading along, and we hope you’ll stay tuned!