Last month, it looked like this:
You know, to be fair to my former living room, it wasn't all that bad. But now that it belongs in the past tense, I'm able to pin point what exactly bothered me. The lights did not match. The bookcases were too dark. Our furniture lacked personality. In fact, the entire room lacked personality. And most of all, the walls were just too dark. They were so dark that no matter what we did - changed the sofa, hung up bright paintings - did nothing to brighten the room.
One of our biggest mistakes back then was that we didn't check out how much sunlight the living room got. The dining area hardly got any sunlight at all during the day, and it was made worse by our choice of wall colour. We opted for earth tones then because we wanted to create a cosy feel. Dark and gloomy was what we got instead.
The thought of re-painting the walls constantly crossed our minds, yet it was the thing we procrastinated most about. Because seriously, who has the time (and patience) to clear out everything to make space for painters? Not to mention who is able to find temporary accomodation for a couple of days till the horrid smell of paint goes away? But when Dulux asked if they could paint my living room for me and said that I wouldn't have to clear anything because their painters would do everything, I was sold. And truly, they did everything. You can read about the process at Asian Parents here.
This is what our living room looked like during the painting. I cannot believe I once thought I would be able to re-paint the living room myself! Oh, naive you are indeed, Adora!
|It felt like I had a new house!|
|Blank walls! Oh, the possibilities! I stared at this wall uncomfortably for a week, wondering how best to dress it up|
I moved stuff around, experimenting with new layouts and configurations, then suddenly, something in me just clicked - this was the PERFECT time for a complete room makeover! We'd just gotten our walls painted white in an attempt to brighten up our room, and most of our dark furniture started to hurt our eyes because the contrast was so extreme. Plus, there were things that we'd been intending to change for a while, and this was the best opportunity to do so. And this was the time I learnt that furniture is nothing without fittings.
We were mindful of our budget, yet there were things that really needed to go. Most of the stuff stayed, but we did make some purchases (after many hours of browsing and window shopping!). Out went our black bookcases, and in came two very tall, very wide, and very gorgeous ones in a light birch colour from IKEA. You probably recognise them; every other home in Singapore has them. They're the famous Billy bookcases, one of IKEA's best selling items.
Against our new white walls, they blended in beautifully. We considered white but there was the risk our living room would end up looking like an insane asylum so we opted for birch instead. And that armchair! It's a preloved vintage chair that I bought at - you will not believe it - $35! I am so in love with it. And I love Hock Siong, where I bought it - gosh, when I visited, it felt like I had stumbled upon the set of Mad Men!
We also repurposed the old homelearning bookcase into the family games unit to promote more family time. Already, we're enjoying sprawling on the living room floor with the games. And those orange boxes below? The kids' toys - one houses blocks, another is a home for train tracks, one's for dress up and the other holds random bits and pieces. Oh so neat! I love it! No more runaway toy boxes! This is an old Expedit bookcase (now known as Kallax) from IKEA, another preloved item, from my mum!
|I had a bit of trouble adjusting to this particular wall - it's the area that gets the least sunlight, so while all the other walls looked white, this one showed a slight hint of purple. But nothing a picture frame can't fix!|
I knew that one of the factors that contributed toward our house looking so disorganised (apart from the fact that we have two very small and messy kids) is that our wall art was all over the place. This time, I was determined to (attempt to) coordinate. The problem was our budget - it wasn't very big. So buying 'real art' was out of the question. Else I would have loved to get a lovely painting of our neighbourhood. Instead I got two big basic white frames (these ones) and made these babies for the dining area.
We're not really the kind of family who would put up random pictures of scenery or abstract art, and much as I love doing art and crafts with the kids, this was something that I did on my own one night. I love the bright burst of colour! So simple yet so striking. Oh, the joys of a white wall! One thing that our living room lacked too, was plants. I'm known to have brown (as opposed to green) fingers, and have always tried to steer clear of plants. But I'm loving how these two are breathing a fresh breath of life into our home. And yes, they are not being ill-treated.
I've long toyed with the idea of a huge picture or painting on this wall, but everything was either too expensive or impersonal. So I made these instead with 3 simple and easy-to-find things: Stretched canvas, cloth, and super glue. The vintage chair sparked a love for vintage in me, so the fabric was chosen to match the chair (Spotlight!). The completed pieces didn't cost much so if and when we tire of them, we can simply make new ones with new fabrics. My initial plan was to get one big stretched canvas frame but Spotlight was having a special promo on a pack of two smaller ones, so I was easily swayed. Here's my DIY post on how you can make your own stretched canvas one-of-a-kind piece.
Max and I are the sort who like moving furniture around occasionally, and ultimately the sofa might go back to be against that wall, so we made sure the fabric panels were measured to fit the sofa.
I love this area now but I'm thinking a coffee table (preferably a vintage one with those slim slanted legs) will pull everything together. But the rug! I never thought we were rug people but this one is simply gorgeous!
Cushions for the sofa! We have a white sofa from IKEA and it's got washable covers (how clever, right? Washable covers when you have young kids?), but it's also pretty badly stained with markers (thanks, Calla) and spills (thanks, everyone). Cushions not only help to mask some of these stains, but also make the room look more homey and cosy.
|This pic shows the room without soft furnishing (cushions and rug). Compare it to the previous pic! Different eh?|
Lighting. I mentioned that this room doesn't get a lot of light. Primarily because it's quite big. A good problem, I know. To save costs, we decided against putting downlights in a false ceiling when we moved in. But that also meant that we always had insufficient light at night. So we were very excited to change all the living room and dining room lights.
Out went our old entrance light which was a lovely deep red Vietnamese lamp that reminded us of our honeymoon (we honeymooned in Hanoi). The problem with it was that it was so dark that it didn't really to its job. Well, it was pretty, but also incredibly dark. So we opted for a paper lantern which really brightened things up (we chose this one from IKEA. There are many others at Daiso as well!). Our living room got a lovely red one which cast a wide distribution of light over our long dining table - in the past, only a portion of the dining table would be lit! The hardest light to choose was the one for the living room. This was the one that cost us many moments of debate at IKEA's lighting section. Finally, we got this one to match the armchair and I love love love how it fits in so beautifully. Max however, is a bit bothered by how it sways with the wind both from the window and the ceiling fan.
For additional light, this standing lamp is both a reading lamp and an uplifter - it gives us direct light for reading, and its uplifter is bright enough to light up the entire living room area, supporting the warm glow of the ceiling lamp. And the best part is? It was really affordable - yay!
So there you have it, our living room make over! I've mentioned before that I've yet to sit back on the sofa, breathe a sigh of contentment and say "Ahhhhh". Well my friends, now I can. Thank you, Dulux, for giving us this push. We all love our new living room. This is home, surely, where my senses tell me.
Disclaimer: Actually, this isn't a sponsored post. The one that I wrote for Asian Parents was, but I wrote this as a part 2 of sorts, because I wanted to share about the other things we did to create this look and feel. Plus, all purchases were made on our own account, so.
Double disclaimer! : A few weeks after everything was bought, IKEA invited me to be part of their blogger programme, which included a sponsorship package. Just thought I would clear that up. And here's what I wrote for IKEA about our #1nightnolight challenge.