Family Room Rearrange

mid century family living room abstract painting tulip table coffeeHey all! Today I’m sharing the 17th rearrangement of our family room. OK I lost count at 10, but there’s been many versions. A little context. This room was the room that sold me on this house. Rock fireplace + sunken living room = take my money. Unanticipated, it’s the room that I can’t figure out. It’s constantly in a state of transition, and therefore one I rarely share. Here’s how it looked last year, and the year before that. The main workarounds are its large size (needs more substantial furniture/accessories than I’m used to), dueling focal points (fireplace and tv), and a lack of wall space (step down, divider, and sliding door occupy one wall and fireplace occupies another). A few months ago we upgraded the fireplace screen and refreshed the fireplace built-ins, and just recently we reconfigured the layout and added some new-to-this-room furniture, all of which have dramatically upped the flow and function of this space. Let the lack of cord management serve as evidence that we still have some work to do in here, but I feel like we are headed down a promising path! Pictures first and more words below!
mid century family living room fireplace tulip coffee table saarinenmid century family living room fireplace rocking chair danish teak mid century family living room tulip table coffee abstract painting lamp mid century tv television zenith stereo credenza console danish record cabinet vintage mid century family living room tv television credenza console danish record cabinet vintage

Things that are working include:

The new layout. Dramatic improvement. The TV/fireplace double focal point is self-imposed. We adore this room too much to waste it as a rarely used living room, the intended use, and want to make it our main family hang out space. Read: TV TIME! I didn’t want to cheapen the fireplace wall by hanging a tv on it, leaving us with only 2 tv wall options. We tried floating the couch and hanging the tv on the wall next to the fireplace, mainly so that I could theoretically stare at both. That was OK, but really closed off the room and ate up a lot of floor space. Also, the tv looked ridiculous on that giant wall and I could never find a work around for that. Moving the TV opposite of the fireplace solved a lot of issues. For one, the TV isn’t right in your face when you approach the room. For two, the room has opened up into the rest of the house and to the yard. For three, way more floor space for playing and hanging. I can’t keep one eye on the fireplace and one on the TV anymore, but that sacrifice is worth the gains.

The coffee table! Moving the couch against the wall made clear that our old coffee table (which I AM MADLY IN LOVE WITH) was not gonna work. Just to get a sense of what size we needed, I dragged in our large tulip coffee table from the patio (a 42 incher) and it was perfect. Like the room had never felt so pulled together. I really did love it outside, but my husband despised eating at such a low table. So, the decision to move it permanently into the family room made sense. It makes this space. And is so family friendly, a great place to gather around for games, coloring, or fort building. I still think that mosaic belongs in this room, but I haven’t found a logical spot for it, so the den is housing it for now.

The stereo cabinet. The first try of this arrangement brought in our bookshelf from the den to sit under the TV. While that was a big upgrade itself, the piece was never quite right. The light color and tall and narrow scale didn’t feel beefy enough to hold its own. And double shelves facing each other created a secondary fight for attention that was way too much clutter for my eyes. A long and low vintage record cabinet has been on my FIND ASAP LIST for years, for this room and all other family rooms before it. I even passed up on a gorgeous 7′ teak credenza a few months ago to wait it out. I’ve been pretty picky with design and price so it hasn’t happened sooner, but somehow this beautiful Zenith popped up on Craigslist recently and we jumped on it. To be clear, this item is on my husband’s DO NOT BUY EVER LIST. He’s practical and thinks having 6′ of heavy just to house one record player and two speakers is INSANE. It may be. But to me it’s the obvious and only solution. And a dream fulfilled. I’m also practical, and more storage only means storing more stuff. We don’t need either. Let’s not talk about how the stereo and record player currently aren’t working. Instead let’s focus on how well this record cabinet is working in this space.

The TV. At this point in the journey it became clear that it was time to buy a bigass TV. Our old one was tiny for even a tiny room, comically minuscule in this large space. I pushed back for years against a big TV because I didn’t want it to shout louder for attention, but upping the size dramatically improved the balance of the room and made it stand out less. Shocking but fantastic. (Part of my bargain for the record cabinet means I will joyfully live with a mess of cords until my AV dude feels like getting around to it. Gladly.)

The brutalist sculptures. YES. I’ve been in a big purging mode, really focusing on only keeping and having and hanging things I love. I’m so in love with these. Maybe two is too much for one room, but they are the things I currently want to look at.

That large painting. Though our bedroom is majorly missing it.


Things that aren’t working include:

The side table situation. We have two matching Heywood Wakefield tiered tables that I love. Ideally, they should be much bigger. But, like I said, I love em and they’ve been good to us for many years, so I’m gonna be content with them until the day I come across a cute, beefy pair for cheap.

I’m not loving the couch color. Now that I have a clearer vision, I wish the couch were orange or brown. Or at least lacking in blue undertones. And a foot or two longer wouldn’t hurt either. But again, contentment! Making it work!

So much busyness. There’s a lot going on. I lean towards the minimal side of life. In person, it isn’t as in your face because the room is so large, but I look at some of these pictures and think a crazy person must live here (she does – hi).

The step down. As you can see, fully unfinished and a mess. In due time…

The railing. We decided long ago to nix it in favor of a wood divider, but just haven’t gotten to that fun project yet. Can’t wait, but front yard duties call.

Baseboards. Much like the rest of the house, baseboard neglect. I failed to paint them, failed to remove them, and failed to replace them. Yet.

Not enough wood in here. The painted fireplace built-ins are better than they were, but I hope to one day rip those out and build custom walnut built-ins, a custom walnut mantel, a wall of walnut (behind the couch). My husband doesn’t call me Custom Jenny for nothing…


The current list:

My dream for this room is a cross between the Parker’s fireplace room and this Kelly Wearstler masterpiece. Common elements: cozy, textured, earthy, and brutal, basically like a refined hippie lair. I’m not totally there and doubt I will ever have a wall of Stan Bitters (SINGULAR LIFE GOAL), but feel like this space has a point of view and is making sense for our family for the first time since we’ve owned it. Or at least enough to live with while other projects take priority right now. Thanks for reading!!!

Frey House II

Frey House II 2 Albert Frey architecture Palm Springs mid century modernI’ll say it again: what an incredible treat to tour the Frey House II during our recent Palm Springs visit. Visiting Edris was enough for a lifetime, so this pushed things over the top for this crazy architecture lover. I have a thing for rock in homes so obviously this house blows my mind in every way. Albert Frey isn’t called the Father of Desert Modernism for nothing. He designed some of the most iconic structures and homes in Palm Springs. Mix that design genius with the purity and creative explosion that occurs when architects are their own clients, and you’ve got a masterpiece personal residence. Frey meticulously custom built this beauty literally into the mountain site. At the time, it was the highest home in the city. Though it comes in at only 800 sq ft and utilizes humble materials (plywood, corrugated aluminum, concrete and found giant rocks), the house is the opposite of modest. More like spectacular and breathtaking. Impeccably designed.

Frey lived here from its completion in ’64 until his death in ’98. At that point, the Palm Springs Art Museum acquired it, opening the home up to public tours. During my visit, the docent encouraged us to take the full sensory tour with only napping on the bed off limits. I touched the dimmer switch in the rock and all! The house is highly photogenic, warm, and full of angles and colors, but again, my gazillion crappy iphone photos don’t begin to do this justice. This is definitely one you have to see through the lens of actual architectural photographers…or better yet, in person!
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Second, and I say this in the most endearing way, but all the aluminum and warm wood, hidden storage, and size (color scheme too!) remind me of our old Shasta trailer. But the thing that sets it apart from shabby trailer is the spaciousness, light, and site. It has a presence. The home is a true testament to the power of great design. That luxury doesn’t come from size or expensive materials, but from inventive solutions and creative problem solving. Or in other words, thoughtfulness. I would say this house lives very, very large even though it is relatively tiny and it makes me wonder why this type of practical sophistication (I’m talking cantilevered pool practical sophistication) is still out of reach, or want, to the masses?

Lastly, if you don’t already know, this is the second home Frey built for himself in Palm Springs, hence the II. Frey House I sat on the desert floor and is sadly is no longer standing, but is absolutely worth a study (highly recommend this video! No clue what they are saying, but the animated models of the house and its subsequent additions provide fantastic visuals! My kids and I can’t stop watching it.) Some common themes are small living, standard materials, but exceptional design. And built in concrete pool loungers too. What a mind.

OK, I promise to put a lid on the Palm Springs talk for a while. Back to our regularly scheduled humble house updates next time!

Edris House

Edris House E Stewart Williams Palm Springs Desert ModernI am beyond grateful for the opportunity to tour the Edris House during Modernism Week last month. Perfect is the only correct word to describe this dwelling. Utter architectural perfection. Built in 1954 by architect E. Stewart Williams, the house was meticulously custom built for his friends, the Edrises, who gave Williams free rein in design and budget. He obviously went to town and the result is, in my opinion, incredible and perfect. It’s a pleasure from top to bottom. Elegant, restrained but playful, organic, textural and impressively at home on the boulder covered hill where it sits. The epitome of desert modern. When it comes to houses, there is simply none better. I totally teared up inside and am only slightly embarrassed to admit it. Good architecture is moving and, man, did this house move! Did I mention P.E.R.F.E.C.T.I.O.N.?

(Note: This house deserves better than my crappy iphone photos…I thought about lugging my good camera along with me, but then thought why? A slew of extremely talented photographers with the correct equipment, Julius Schulman being one of them, have expertly captured this house many times so definitely check out their work! And I didn’t get a good shot of the kitchen space or the bar and those are must see features!)
Edris House E Stewart Williams Palm Springs Desert ModernEdris House E Stewart Williams Palm Springs Desert Modern Edris House E Stewart Williams Palm Springs Desert Modern landscape designEdris House front door sconce light entry porchEdris House Entry sconce mid century indoor planter Edris House E Stewart Williams Palm Springs Desert Modern fireplace rock mid century sconcesEdris House E Stewart Williams Palm Springs Desert Modern fireplace rock mid century Edris House built inEdris House Planter Indoor mid century Edris House E Stewart Williams Palm Springs Desert ModernEdris House Bedroom Nelson lamp mid century sconce woodEdris House Bathroom mid century floating vanity cone sconce mirrorEdris House Bathroom BathEdris House Bathroom Shower Edris House lighting mid century original sconceEdris House E Stewart Williams Palm Springs Desert Modern pool palm treesSo, just some details I want to make sure you didn’t miss: First, that mega floating vanity/dresser/mirror in the master suite. It’s double-sided and sits between a wall of closets and the bathtub. The side pictured is a floating dresser and the opposite side features a floating vanity with a sink. The light switch is under the mirror frame! Second, all the original beautiful sconces, inside and out. I think one of my favorite things about this house is how cohesive it is. Every room, wall, corner looks like it belongs to each other because only a few consistent, though interesting and sculptural, materials are used throughout, the lighting being a great example. Lastly, that indoor-outdoor flow! Nearly every room has a wall that extends seamlessly passed a wall of glass. In the master it is the Douglas fir wall, the living and second bedroom have a rock wall, and even the master bath’s tiled shower wall extends into a private patio, where original towel hooks hang on the exterior side of the sliding glass door. Woooo-weeeee!

I can’t give a big enough thanks to the owner of the home for opening it up to strangers (and their cameras!), not to mention for being an excellent steward of this amazing property (as far as I know, it’s still for sale and absolutely worth the millions asked!!!), and to the Palm Springs Modernism Committee for putting the tour together. You made this weirdo’s dream come true for $30. The best 30 bucks a weirdo ever spent.