Before & After: How One 'Great' Room Finally Went from Pretty Good to Truly Great



Ten years ago I spent a whirlwind weekend house hunting in San Diego with Anne, my cousin who I adore more than I love The Container Store ,which is a big statement and mostly true.


Between house tours and sort of a lot of mimosas we gaped at the beach, the flowers, and the prices. In the end, a 1954 ranch won out and while it was clear the house would need some work, as all houses do, it was a perfect spot for Anne, her husband, and her three perfect daughters. Children exude perfection when they A) don't belong to you, B) live in a different state, and C) don't smell like boys.


Throughout the years there have been many changes to this house and I was lucky enough to be there for all of them, including this recent bathroom renovation for those aforementioned perfect girls. The kitchen is updated, the yard is Shangri La, the primary bath is complete and a stand-alone casita (aka: my apartment) is slated for later this year. But the great room was always sort of limping along because it was fine... a little dark-but-not-awful, and when you buy an old house you need to focus on awful first, so this fine great room was low on the list.


Below was how this room looked ten years ago.

Those leather couches were so slippery that

pillows, pets, babies and Olympic skaters weren't safe.

Take a peek from the great room into the kitchen. How about that teeny tiny window? Fancy.

The thing about this space is that it faces the back deck and the pool that now feels like one of those resorts where staff walk around with cold cloths that smell like cucumbers and money. And the room has those great beams that are real wood. And vaulted ceilings. And loads of light. And lots of character and - thus - lots of potential. But this room never ever felt bright. It felt tired and heavy, like me after Christmas cookies for breakfast. And lunch.. And it definitely didn't smell like cucumbers and money, I'll tell you that.


A view of the fireplace and a fan that hurts my feelings so much. SO MUCH.

It isn't even centered on the beam which just feels mean.


A few years later this room got a furniture upgrade with a sectional we lovingly referred to as Big Blue. We did a little styling of the shelves and this room felt pretty good.


Good enough.

But soon Big Blue started leaking its feathers and then the house felt left out and was all 'we should get in on this leaking thing too' and a teeny tiny pinhole leak quietly caused enough damage to ruin the subfloor and flood the crawl space before anyone was even the wiser, though I feel like Big Blue knew the whole time.


By the time the baseboards turned ugly colors and started to smell way different than cucumbers, it was too late. Mold had taken hold and asbestos came to play. The entire family had to vacate for a month, the floors had to be replaced and all the ceilings and walls had to be repaired and repainted. In a way, this was a blessing in disguise because it forced a remodel. Anne used a different word (repeatedly) but I am pretty sure it meant 'blessing' in a different language. Maybe Swahili. It was hard to tell over the phone.


Anyway. The great room finally got a shot at being truly great. The fan was removed (talk about a blessing) and everything was painted White Flour by Sherwin-Williams. The fireplace front was re-imagined and the shelves were removed and refinished. Lighting was added and floors were installed and Big Blue was politely asked to leave. And now this room is truly beautiful.


This is what the room looks like now. Isn't it pretty? Light and bright and white and wow.

The white sectional is a custom piece from Greathouse.

These blankets were hand-knitted by a friend.

I tried to take them but they were too bulky for my suitcase.

Next time I will plan better... that's a mistake you don't make twice.

This was our second mirror - we waited months for the first one (thanks to Covid our first choice is still floating on the ocean along with a cocktail table for a Denver client and a rug that I've now decided I don't even like, so there); we finally bought one from West Elm.

Need a high-end look without breaking the bank? The trick is in the texture. Warm leather, nubby fabrics, linen lampshades, live plants, shiny glass, a concrete fireplace, the woven console and the textured wood is what makes this room - and most rooms - sing.


The little table is to-the-trade but you can find similar ones by searching 'tripod table' - these are great solutions for a floating chaise because they don't take up too much space.



We love the sheen of this beach glass lamp against the pattern on the console. Ours is to-the-trade but this one from Perigold is gorgeous.

The flowers in the vases and fruit in the water and in the bowls all comes from the backyard. Which is why I don't feel guilty about 'forever-borrowing' the blankets.

Tables with a live edge finish and simple legs are easily moved and the perfect perch for a drink; we don't ever put our drinks down but to each their own.

The rug is to-the-trade. The dog is a gift from heaven and will be part of BlanketGate. Stay tuned.



Hiding remotes is always a plus; this white bowl is both pretty and functional.

The console stores board games and puzzles and the smudge bundle on the books is there to remind the house to play nice and not leak. Anne owns an amazing yoga studio so we pulled a few special items Mission Beach Yoga, including the candles found throughout the house.


Here is the house as a work in progress

(also known as the messy, expensive part that makes you cry in the shower).

Anne and I did a lot of work via Facetime and texts and calls and photo sharing,

including picking out this gorgeous French Oak flooring. Notice my professional circle.

And you thought the French were only good at fries and kissing.

C'est absurd!

I did make the difficult choice to leave my husband and children behind in snowy Denver to travel to San Diego several times. It was serious work. We had to hike and go out for coffee a lot.

For inspiration.


Many of the accessories and the fabulous leather chair are from HomeGoods. What a find and what a beast but worth the two trips in a borrowed pick-up truck to get it all back to the house. We did treat ourselves to some of those old, dusty caramels found at registers.

I lost a filling but totally worth it.

All kidding aside, there are silver linings in all leaky rain clouds. USAA Insurance and Servicemaster saved the day for Anne and her family and they are now invited to our annual Christmas Eve celebration (this may or may not be a benefit to them because we are very loud and eat dinner at 10:30PM). Big Blue is sharing feathers with his forever family. The asbestos is forever gone. We got to use White Flour as a paint option because GOD KNOWS we can't use it in recipes according to every doctor and nutritionist and allergist so I gleefully coated the walls with it. I got to spend time with my lovely extended family and eat those old dusty caramels for lunch and, honestly, dinner. We said goodbye to that fan and I will soon say hello to those hand-knitted blankets. We were reminded that stuff inside our house doesn't really matter but that the people tucked inside our homes matter more than ever and that is what I hope we hold on to in 2022.



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