A New Season of Home

By Carrie Meiers

Welcome home, October. Let’s cuddle up, reveling in the sanctuary of our abodes; the crisp freshness of fall framing the edges of a dew-christened kaleidoscope of color.  A season of profound duality, fall transforms summer to sweetened memories while holding the wonderment of winter at its fingertips. It forces reflection and encourages change, so let fall speak to you and your home; guiding you gently into a new season of life and living.  

In that sense, let’s begin together in the rooms most lived in! Let’s explore your home with new eyes, focusing on fresh design ideas and inspiring trends that will make your space perform at a level you never thought possible. 

Life of the Party!

The living room is a heavy hauler. It hosts gatherings large and small with guest lists of all ages. It’s tasked with everything from nurturing stillness to accommodating enthusiastic gymnastics practice with equal hospitality. It’s the room where we flop down, lay-out, veg-out, talk it out, laugh it out, expand our ideas, dream up plans, and make memories of all kinds. So it makes sense to begin within these particular walls when considering a design refresh.

Living rooms, no matter the architecture, usually contain similar contents. So, let’s individualize the main components, offering some trend-worthy ideas to bring what “is” up to what it “could be”, starting with the classic coffee table!

The Coffee Table Trials

Coffee tables act like they’re a prerequisite for a living room space, but that is design fiction.  Classically used as a focal point of the room, a coffee table (or the lack thereof) must be a strong consideration in your refresh plan.  

First, reflect on the flow of your room as a top priority to evaluate whether the coffee table is just a tenured roadblock or whether it’s an essential piece for both the form and function of the space.  There are MANY brilliantly designed coffee tables on the market, however open space is a hot commodity and can often take your design to the next level by simply offering openness and availability for movement and flow.

Consider the size, shape, and scale of the piece. You’ll have to channel your inner-Goldie Locks; not too big, not too small, not too clunky, or too delicate, and the shape combination must be “just right”. Notice the size, scale, and shape compatibility of the couch/coffee table combinations pictured. This is what you’re aiming for! 

If you are finding it tricky to nail down a compatible arrangement, cheat it! “Clusters” like the one pictured, are extremely helpful in tying together a difficult furniture combo while adding unique architecture to an otherwise standardized space. They are also value-added pieces, serving multiple purposes (additional seating, side table, etc.).

Time to be honest. What does your current table attract? Does it just sit there showcasing your clutter like a haunting MySpace page? If so, it might be time to upgrade your coffee table with customized storage equipped to do the job you need it to do. The style pictured here is a fantastic compromise of an open/airy piece, while still providing streamlined storage drawers within the top portion.

If you can’t decide why a coffee table just isn’t right but you still need something there, creative options abound. Ottomans are extremely customizable and functional! 

If all options leave your space wanting, think outside the box. I just love the integrated coffee table shown here. Built into a lower portion of the couch, this coffee table alternative showcases accessories (in this case books), while leaving the floor space unabused. 

Shelf Therapy

Let’s swallow the frog here and troubleshoot the built-ins and bookcases. Often dated, huge, and completely galvanized into a room’s architecture, built-ins are fixtures we hesitate to tear out (too costly, too difficult, too much repair, too much apathy), so we must not only learn to live with them but use them to our advantage!  

Use camouflage!  Nature can be our best inspiration for many reasons! In this case, paint the built-ins (trim and all) the exact color of your walls, erasing the visual stop between what is wall and what is built-in. The dramatic use of deeply saturated colors can be a way of establishing a strong anchor wall without being visually busy.

I have a design trick I’ll teach you. When something in a room sticks out, don’t fight it. Embrace it and LEAN IN! I know it sounds crazy to emphasize or even duplicate the exact thing that’s got you scratching your head, but believe me, it works! Take these examples. Look at the picture to your left. The addition of more (yes, more!) shelving running the perimeter of the room now delegates the heaviness and integrates the lines of the built-ins into the rest of the room, resulting in a more balanced flow. The full wall of expanded shelving, as seen in the second photo, is an outstanding example of how to embrace the built-in by leaning in. By bringing the shelving to ceiling height and extending it wall to wall, you now have an incredible architectural showpiece.  

If you only have a few hours to “fix” the built-in problem and you aren’t dying for DIY’ing, start slow and see if the visual disturbance is not really the built-ins themselves, but in how you have them accessorized. Seek hidden symmetries.

Notice in the first picture how the accessories follow a circular pattern. The middle of the middle shelves carries the largest accessories and creates the nucleus. The second shelf from the top on each side contains a tall white accessory, the third shelf down on each side showcases books turned backwards to neutralize the color scheme, and the bottom shelf on each side is reserved for similarly sized framed photographs or art. It’s a dance you don’t always consciously notice, but you can tell when it’s not employed. Compare it to the non-example and I’m assuming the lack of symmetry will hit you pretty immediately. A lot of missed opportunities in that room!

Entertaining Design

Have you noticed how very few interior design cover photos include a television in a living room? A lot. Thought to be somewhat of an eye sore, let’s change the stigma and set it up for success. Let’s talk entertainment centers. 

I have very simple advice for you on this one. Tie it in with the other hard-surface furniture in the room and you’ll win the design challenge. It should have similar lines to your table and bookcase selections.  

The great thing about entertainment centers is that they are usually a mid-tier price point in relation to the rest of your living room inventory, so switching one out more regularly than other investment pieces allows you to freshen up your space without a lot of stress or guilt in doing so. Here are some really awesome trends in the design market now:

Floating/Wall mount fixtures. These are not a new concept; however, the materials, design, and color schemes are. The architectural interest is unbelievable, and it definitely ticks all the boxes for both the new minimalist trend and for the homeowner that wants ALL. THE. STYLE. 

Extended low profile. With the advent of the flat screen, we saw our televisions go from swollen monstrosities to sleek megatrons. Still big in its own way, there’s a definite air of sophistication that follows even the largest of flat screens. With that said, the entertainment center has slimmed down in solidarity, remaining extended side to side in order to marry the large surface area of our movie screen style electronics. 

Sophistication is in High-Def! Entertainment centers that are sleek not only in their footprints but in their color scheme are absolutely on trend. Just like the built-ins, there’s a real congruency and high-end nature to pieces customized to be the exact color of the walls. Using only a delicate amount of flirty metallic or rich earthy wood tones in juxtaposition to a saturated color choice, your entertainment center is reaching A-list status

High-tech Fashion. Want to really wow everyone? Install an entertainment center cabinet that has a rising television mount inside. When stored away, the cabinet follows all the trendy design rules that currently apply, but with a major bonus … you don’t have to look at your television all the time! When you’re ready to settle in for a movie night with you and yours, simply raise up the television with a press of a button and your sleek minimalist cabinet turns into a mecca of modern technology at work. 

Kitchen and Bath; All Dressed Up

Kitchen and bath trends have gone from nostalgic farmhouse fresh primitive white to dramatic date night dress black with an air of remaining whimsy. Are you ready for the change?  Let’s check out the ingredients for the new mix!

Cabinets have officially dropped below the counter line. Substantial lower cabinets and the absence of uppers takes precedence in today’s design. Deep drawers and tucked away appliances are king in keeping this kitchen fetching high design marks while maintaining incredible function. Microwave drawers are absolutely one of my favorites in making this design scheme work.

Open shelving on top leaves the room airy despite the dramatic color palette. A stately choice, the openness allows freedom for the tile art to run uninterrupted. 

Multidimensional dark shades for cabinetry are rich in interest and popularity. Warm blacks like Sherwin Williams “Caviar” is the perfect mocha inspired black. Navy (like Sherwin Williams 2020 Color of the Year “Naval”) is also a go-to pick in keeping up with the Joneses. 

Pops of gold emphasize the warm nature of the deeply hued cabinetry and earthy flooring. It’s a perfect merriment between the two surfaces, providing an elegant touch of glam, pairing well with pearlescent tile and light colored countertops holding strong in style trends.

Delicate, yet architecturally intricate, lighting is the perfect jewelry to showcase this overall design. Melding the love of the farmhouse Edison bulb and oversized pendant, current lighting trends pull strong inspiration from the diverse yet iconic ritzy midcentury modern design.

The Hugging Spot

My lionhearted 4-year-old daughter, Hazel, once asked me what part of the house our front entrance was. I told her it was called the foyer. This was both confusing and full of nonsense, so she immediately turned to me and said, “Well, I’m definitely not going to remember that word, so I’m just going to call it the Hugging Spot!” And that’s what it shall be called. Now, just as we have it in our arms, let’s embrace our entrance ways with endearing design!

Paint it right! A dramatic color palette will surely wow guests, however use these “WOW” colors as your “pops” instead of your overall base tones. Throw pillows, artwork, a small vase, or flowers are great ways to infuse sophistication and color. Your base color should be light and airy. A glossy finish can assist in light infusion while providing you respite when it comes to cleaning those walls splattered by dirty shoes, bags, jackets, and pets.

Make it light! Add a lamp or sconces for softer lighting than an overhead fixture. Put them on timers so they greet you at the advent and conclusion of your day.

Invite us in! Create a functional but unobtrusive seating option for the inevitable shoe logistics. Don this bench with rich textured throw pillows to soften the space. A colorful runner can assist in visually summoning your loved ones back home.

Find the floor! In whatever commodity you can, having room to move is an incredible luxury for all that happens at your Hugging Spot!  Stow items away in baskets under the bench. Create an organizer system for keys, mail, shoes, coats, band instruments, hockey gear, and toads in buckets (No? That’s just my kids then?). If you ever need the inspiration to organize, go to IKEA! From shoe cabinets to collapsible coat hooks, those engineers can make any hot mess seem like a chic, streamlined process.

Add space and moments of grace. A large mirror will not only serve its obvious function but will create a window on any wall it’s hung. Do not over accessorize this area as clean surfaces provide Zen and calm. Infuse nature with a plant or floral arrangement. Place a heartfelt memento or display a photo that makes you melt every time you look at it.  Frame a handwritten note from someone you love, even if you can’t take time to read it upon each passing. The visual reminder will help motivate you through whatever challenges lie ahead or storms rage behind you through that door.

Oh, and get a really good welcome mat that actually brushes off those boots. A good Wisconsin salted driveway is essential, but not a salted foyer.

Well, October, this is where I leave you. Signing off at the Hugging Spot. May our days come alive in vibrant color and may our hearts and our homes be wrapped in this beautiful season of transformation, reflection, and celebration. Next month, I’ll be back to my single page near the back, but I hope you come around all the same. I’ll be there ready to welcome you in.