Before & After: The Den

Today I am going to give you the before & after on the sunroom, bar, tv room, den.

This room always leads to a bit of a “who’s on first” situation for me and Pete.

“Pete, can you get Gracie’s shoes from the sunroom?” -me

“What room is the sunroom?”-pete

“The TV room!”-me

“Oh! You mean the Den!!”-pete

the very next day

“Pete, are my keys in the den?”-me

“You mean the sunroom?”-pete

I think part of our confusion is because of how totally the whole feel of the room changed in our renovation, it was definitely a sunroom when we bought it:

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And well now…
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Not so sunny.

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Cozy and handsome and sexy, but a whole different feel.IMG_1470 copy

So why did we choose to go in the complete opposite direction of what was here?

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Like I have said before, the house to me just felt like it was in drag, or something, when we bought it. The decor before was lovely and pure, and VERY “Houston”, but the actual architectural style of the house and the exterior is a sort of olive green/gray and it just felt like a cozy sort of gentlemanly house to me.

The kind of home that is cool and shady in the summer and warm and snuggly in the winter.

(citing george stanley banks for that description)

Also- The cabinetry in here was kind of crazy.hr2924042-26 copy 2

It isn’t even that I mind the paneling, though that certainly was not ideal. It’s just like…what the what? There was no real structural reason why the shelves/cabinets were all lopsided like that. There was a slight bump-out from the living room fireplace that meant you couldn’t have full depth shelves or cabinets, but put a faux door on it people! That is why we had to do the two levels of cabinet doors, because the second level can only be about 4 inches deep. Too shallow for shelves, so we put doors on it and now they hide lots of little junk. And are symmetrical.

And the old furniture layout?

What, were you supposed to sit in on your couch 6 feet away, crane your neck up, and contemplate literacy?

It made no sense.

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But then OHay! There is the Tv! Way…Up there…In that corner?

So we knew immediately that we would be redoing the cabinetry. And then it was suggested that we rip out the paneling, and then I thought…lacquer.IMG_1496 copy

And because I am such a visionary genius, I thought BROWN lacquer!!

Inspired, right?Miles Redd-6

Oh. Yeah, well.

It is hard to be completely original and fabulous when Miles is out there doin’ the damn thang.

I didn’t actually start with the Miles inspiration, though. I ROYGBIV’D it. We wanted something a little grayer and muddier to work with the olive green and other muted colors we were doing in here.

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And if you have been reading here for any period of time (except for the 9 months I was housing Grace) you know that Pete and I avail ourselves of a beverage regularly. So we obviously put a bar in 3-1You can see here our backyard which is about to get ripped apart. You can’t see the guns on the chairs because I just can’t handle them right now. I go back and forth constantly of what they mean now, but that is a whole different discussion.

Opposite the bar we put a game table that folds out. Day to day it is Pete’s catchall table.

Seriously, how do boys have so many ITEMS!? Our house is filled to the brim with keys, golf tees, pens in various states of malfunction, golf balls, wads of $1 dollar bills, chapsticks. Is it because they don’t have purses? That these items find themselves all around? It is incomprehensible.

NOT day to day, like fancy entertaining days, it folds out and can be a card table for all those cards we play.
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The bar.

I kind of pride myself on my bars. People tell me I should specialize in kitchens and baths. But what about BARS?

Do most people not build shrines to alcohol in their homes?


Let’s do a little retrospective, shall we?38943980cbdf25f87856a9a9009cd7d9

Chicago. We really used this bar so much, probably because we were younger and childless and drank more, but I loved that we had wine and bottle storage built in. The mirrored backsplash added some sparkle.


Austin. Carried over the mirrored backsplash and some super sparkly wallpaper. We had the wine fridge and the ice machine, but no sink.

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My favorite.

That would be green leather on the countertop. Don’t even try to tell me that’s a Design Don’t. And the tortoiseshell wallpaper backing. And the brass. And the ‘cessories.

I am a self-proclaimed non-beige(r) but I really loved the challenge in this house of working within the neutrals and seeing if I could bring the same interest and sparkle that I am drawn to in colorful spaces in that palette. I think while working with neutrals and monochromatic spaces it is essential to bring it with different textures and patterns. Even though Kelly Wearstler can work a color like a boss, she is the queen of texture.interiors_hillcrest

I mean…Look at that biscuit. Narry a dollop of color, and yet so vibrant and lush and exciting. Wood paneling, brass accents, leather, velvet, silk.interiors_evergreen

Again, just a lot of black/gray/brown, but you have leather, and stone and matte and shiny and diamonds and stripes and wood and metal and marble and brass and metal. Not your average neutral.interiors_evergreen_4

Oops, she did it again.

See my point?

So we went with brown. The fabric on the couch is this awesome olive and brown houndstooth suiting type of fabric. Another texture in the same palette with the sisal carpeting. The back of the bar is an incredible tortoiseshell wallpaper from Schumacher. We have lucite, and brass, and wood, and lacquer. It all feels layered and interesting yet soothing.

But you might be like, where all dem pillars from the shoot? Those were on loan from my mom. Ours are very similar but still in sewing.

ABOUT to go into sewing. The crazy most awesomest window treatments of life.fd258_h22-e1355845025904

You knew this was coming, right?

I couldn’t keep it totally neutral forever. We went back and forth on whether or not to even do a window treatment. We have a lot of privacy from the street with our landscaping and all the lacquer looked soooo delicious. But then Pete saw this post I did on the fabric and, surprisingly, LOVED it. We are going to do shades and the birds are going to look like the ducks are flying all about the room. Plus adding in another texture in the velvet and a bit of something unexpected and beautiful.

So some takeaways from this room:

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1. Neutral can be just as exciting as balls out color, but you have to bring interest in the form of texture, pattern, and a variation of material. Here we have the lacquer on the walls contrasting with the natural seagrass. Sparkly faux tortoiseshell with leather and brass. Woven wool with velvet and silk damask.

2. A note on brown paint: I included the color that we used which was Mink by Benjamin Moore, but brown is one of those colors that changes hugely in every room. I had tried to use mink when I did the Truffleberry Market tasting room awhile back and it looked completely different with all of the light in this space.

3. I had a comment on another post asking me how lighting affects my color choices. Lighting does change the color, but I tend not to obsess over every single time of day and how the color shifts. You have to like the color in full daylight with lighting turned off since that is how you will experience the room most of the time, but make sure to come see it at night with artificial light on it. Artificial light is easier to manipulate to make the color work than natural light. There are white, yellow, pink, blue spectrum bulbs that can help with any weird tonal changes lighting brings on. And dimmers, and lamps. However, if you are carrying a color from more than one room say into hallways or on trim, you need to test it in each space. I ran into this issue upstairs with our trim color. I have always used BM white dove for trim in Chicago, Austin, clients- it never changed that much on me as a trim. We tested it in our fairly bright entry hall downstairs here and it looked great, but upstairs the hallways have no natural light and it looks straight up beige.

4. Lacquer is a ridiculous process. There is a difference between high gloss and lacquer. Lacquer in a room is hugely labor intensive and not a DIY. I believe for this room they tinted a formula from Fine Paints of Europe to match the BM Mink because FPoE has a higher gloss. They would fully spray the room, let it dry for a full day, and then come back and sand it down to be completely smooth and glassy without drips or varying thickness- but that also took a great deal of paint off. So you do it again, and again. I think they fully sprayed and sanded the room at least 6 times to get the depth of color and finish. But it totally makes the room. And in a space like this where the wall space would have otherwise been an afterthought (with so many windows and cabinets, there is ilk 1 foot of actual wall) the walls literally shine.

5. I have also received a lot of questions of finding people who can make custom furniture for you. I have gotten trade recs from friends and colleagues everywhere we have gone, but there is no substitute for doing your own research. Google, ask around, see if any fabric showrooms have people they send fabric to a lot or that they will recommend.

If you saw a pretty picture in this post, it was taken by Emily. If you saw a crappy picture, it was taken by me. If you saw some design and thought GENIUS! It was by Kelly Wearstler and/or Miles Redd.

Y’all have been asking some legit questions lately, and I appreciate that. It is helping me come up with an editorial calendar of stuff you want to see- so keep it coming! I will answer everything I can in the comments, and have been pretty good at responding to emails as well. Loving all the feedback, so keep it coming!

What do you think about this transformation? Do you miss the sunniness of the original room, or do you dig the cozy? Anything I can help you with?

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It’s our favorite room.

41 thoughts on “Before & After: The Den

  1. Another awesome feast of info. Just looked at a house with a bar. Now, instead of mentally ripping it out, I am mentally taking note of how to turn it into something inspired by you.

    Quick question, do you decorate rooms based on mood? For example, do you prefer TV rooms dark and moody and dining rooms light and bright? Is there an ideal, or does the individual house just speak to you?

    Thanks again for sharing your brain!

  2. That picture of y’all is so adorable! I am CRAZY for the tortoiseshell situation. I am beginning to feel intimidated about “masculine” influence in design. I myself love beige, grey, white, linen…soft, pink, feminine stuff. Not so much with Steve. I need help fluffing up a home that will make a husband happy!

  3. Always read but never comment, until now. This room is giving me LIFE. I’m super girly but when decorating I love a sexy masculine style just like this. Absolutely amazing!

  4. I dig the coziness! You provide amazing den and BAR inspiration! I also love all of your couches; you have singlehandedly inspired me to get a velvet couch.

  5. LOVE! I am obsessed with this room and your new home. That bar is to die for! I love the small details. That lacquer is just out of this world. I love all those windows. Good luck with landscaping the backyard!

  6. Glad you gave insight into the labor of lacquering. I knew it was a more involved process, but didn’t realize the extent. So, are your kitchen cabinets lacquered, too, or just a high gloss finish? If high gloss, to what degree can you tell the diff b/t it and the true lacquer?

  7. Turning a sunroom into a cave should not work. But you have turned that milquetoast room into a dead sexy refuge. bonkers good. double bonkers. any broad who enshrines her libations is a good broad in my book.

  8. I Looooooocve this room. It’s just so gorgous and cozy and so perfect to read and drink in. I wish I could move in it. 🙂

  9. I don’t think I can properly express how much I love this room. My fiance and I are ALWAYS talking about how much we eventually want (and will have) a library-esque space. We look at each other and say “dark wooooods”. There isn’t room in our condo now, but this is for sure a direction we’re going with our next place. Keep up the amazing work!! Love that you go into detail for your readers, too. And that bar: shut up. Perfect.

  10. This is my favorite room ever. But then again, I’ve been partial to a chocolate brown den since the 3/08 miles redd spread in Elle decor. My den is a chocolate womb, too!

  11. This is such a fun series about how you did each room and love hearing about your process. I would be curious for a post on how you choose a home knowing that you will be doing renovations. What kind of things are must haves structurally or for translating your vision. And then maybe how you know what to tackle first! So many choices!

  12. Love love the lacquered shelving. We are moving into a new house next month and there is a ton of built in oak bookshelves. I want to be able to DIY them by painting them….but your bookshelves are amazing! I will have to give it more thought.

  13. I LOVE this series and all of your insights! My husband and I are embarking on a renovation and have just started planning with an architect. The biggest thing on my mind right now is finding the right builder. Can you give me some insights on how you have found the right people for you in various towns? I am definitely listening closely to recommendations from trusted friends, but would love your insight on interviewing, decision factors, must-haves, etc. Thanks so much!!

  14. It’s gorgeous, and although I like all of the rooms, I really love this room. I love the lacquer. I also love reading about the back story and the decision process. Thank you.

  15. I love it! That tortoiseshell wallpaper is insane!!!! I wish I could teleport you to my house for some up comings renovations we’re planning. P.S. I think the bars you’ve designed are fabulous!

  16. Beautiful room, and you are precious. I love your little aside and pause on the yellow chairs. It seems so rare and real to hear an ‘I’m not sure’ these days….. I think you are an original and it shows! I knew it when I saw your upstairs baths and your decision to keep the quirk and character of your original tiles! Can I over-analyze or what !? 🙂 think you are great 🙂

  17. You are a fantastic colorist and so very talented. I especially love to see what you do, as you are your own client, and can really be creative. Love all you before and afters as well as your commentary on you design process.

  18. The den,bar,sun room whatever – is absolutely gorgeous. And the pic of you and Pete at the end would make any room look cosy. Super job as usual. Dem ducks do look a wee bit like Canada geese. lol Betty from Ontario,Canada.

  19. Best room ever, right up there with those counters from your Austin kitchen. I love these finishes. You are all about the details. I can’t wait for your backyard transformation. Claire

  20. I think you did a fantastic thing to that room! I can’t believe it’s the same space. The brown is sooo much more fitting. And the shelving was ridiculous! Good for you for fixing it. Now I want to go and lacquer my whole house 😉

  21. The Austin bar…(sigh)…LOVE. And the current one just beckons, “come hither…” Cozy, indeed. Girl, you do a delightful bar.

  22. I love this-brown and beautiful and real
    the bar is best
    please tell me where to go get beauty bar things for myself in CO

  23. Bailey,

    I couldn’t tell, did you use shades on all those windows? We also have our TV facing two large windows and glares are such a problem. Was wondering if shades were your solution or if you have some other magic trick up your sleeve!

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