When You Have a Small-ish Living Room...

My living room.

It’s small, but it works hard.

This is where we spend most of our time hanging out as a family (the dining room table coming in at a very close second).  Oh, if these walls could talk, the stories they would tell! Games and movies, giant tents and all sorts of crazy antics have happened here in this wonderfully small space.

I love this room.

And yet, I never seem to ever be quite “finished” decorating and rearranging in here. I feel like I move something or add something or change something just about every week, sometimes every day. It’s a constant work in progress. (Not to mention how many different colors of paint have adorned these walls over the years…but that's a whole other story ;) )

One of the reasons I keep messing with this room is just the space. It is small-ish, and because of all the doorways and windows and fireplace, I’m really limited with how I can arrange furniture and still have room to actually move around and have a space for every booty to comfortably sit.  Storage is always a challenge for me (mainly because we have too much stuff and I have people here (ahem, ahem) with high levels of “collector” genes…so declutter, declutter, declutter is becoming my mantra… “What can I get rid of today?” is becoming part of my daily routine…but that’s a topic for another post all together ;) ).

So as I am still working on the whole minimalizing thing (or avoiding it, depending on how you look at it ;) ), I am constantly trying to find ways to organize and store stuff and still make things beautiful. Because I think there’s something to be said about cultivating beauty in my home…not a “Pinterest-perfect” kind of beauty, but the kind that ministers to my family and anyone who comes through our door, a kind of beauty that makes our home a cozy place to rest from the flashy fast-paced world, a safe space where our souls can breathe, a tangible reminder of God’s beautiful abiding Love.

I’ve been reading through “The Lifegiving Home” by Sally and Sarah Clarkson, and I love what they say in the chapter entitled, “The Art of the Ordinary: Finding Beauty in Your Own Backyard”:

 “When I speak of beauty…I don’t mean the ideal. I mean the real loveliness lurking in the corners of the ordinary: a bowl of apples, a child’s face, a Mason jar of wildflowers. I mean the breathtaking loveliness that comes when ordinary moments are filled and formed by hospitality, ritual, and relationship: dinner by candlelight, heart-to-hearts over hot chocolate, a shared autumn walk, a sick day in which real love is made tangible in ginger ale and chicken soup and a child's favorite quilt. On the level of home life, beauty is the order and grace we bring to the waiting hours and spaces of our lives, the celebrations we choose, the rituals we make, the gardens we plant, the care we give with as much attention as we can muster.
“It has almost nothing to do with Martha Stewart or House Beautiful or ‘the perfect home.’ Beauty is about picturing God’s unchanging goodness and daring to bring it into my own small, dusty days.”

So I keep working at this little home of ours…changing it and tweaking it, switching out the artwork, finding new storage solutions, adding little pops of color or getting yet one more soft fuzzy blanket (because can you ever seriously have too many of those?!).

Today I’m sharing the 3 main things I think about as I craft our living room space:

Because of the small-ish space in this room, I have to think about the function and purpose of each piece of furniture I bring in. And sometimes this requires a lot of thinking outside the box. For example, we needed some kind of surface near each sitting spot to place cups and books and supplies and whatever else we carry with us into the room. End tables would be great, but I just have no space for them.

Insert…tree stumps!

A few years ago, my parents had all of the trees in their backyard cut down. At the time, I had recently read a blog post by The Nester (LOVE her), about how she used tree stumps around her house. So I asked my parents to save me some stumps. They had to dry out for over a year before I could sand them down and paint them and actually start using them. (I have learned to not be in a hurry when it comes to crafting a home I love on a budget. Sometimes the loveliest things and the best finds take a bit of time ;) ). They were totally worth the wait! I use them all over the place now. I love them because they are easy to move around and very versatile. They don’t hold a ton, and more than a couple of them may not be quite perfectly level, but whatever, they are perfect little “end tables” for us. (I also have a couple on our porch by the front door…right now they are holding a pot of dead flowers which I’m sure is super welcoming, but that’s beside the point ;) ) I love my tree stumps. And all they cost me was time and a bit of paint and elbow grease.

I also love furniture that can serve multiple purposes. My favorite new-ish addition to this little room is my trio of little tables that now function as our coffee table. One is a tree stump that I just moved over from another place in the house. The other two are from Target. I waited patiently for that little dotted one to go on clearance (I got it for $20 marked down from $70! Sometimes my patience/procrastination pays off!).  The other little table serves a double purpose…it’s a basket that holds blankets, but it has a wooden top so I can use it as a table too. I love these three little guys because I can move them around really easy and they are just super functional in our small space (not to mention I just really like how they look all grouped together there).

A couple of other pieces in here that pull double duty are the trunk under the window and our shoe storage thing from IKEA. The trunk under the window was actually my “hope chest” that my parents got me before we were married. I used to keep it crammed in our closet full of random junk, but I cleaned it out a few months ago and now it serves as a sort of bench seat as well as storage for most of our (insanely large collection of) board games. On the wall just inside the front door is a shoe storage piece that we got at IKEA. This little guy has been here for years, and I could not love it more. My girls have so many shoes (mostly flip-flops, because hello central Georgia where it is summer for 10 months out of the year). Having this right by the front door has helped keep the shoe mess to a minimum (there are still, inevitably, some sort of random shoes lying around the house every day…it’s just the way it is.) :)

I’m a pretty touchy-feely person. We’re a pretty touchy-feely family. I like textures and warmth and lots of softness in our home. In the living room, this translates into more blankets than any human being could ever need, and a soft (and pretty) rug under our feet.

I recently got a new rug (because the other one was old and had lost it’s fluffy softness, not to mention it literally stank (something spilled or some dog did some unknown thing on it, I don’t know…but I couldn’t get the smell out, or the mountain of dog hair that was smooshed between every fiber…this is real life, folks. Pictures might look pretty, but honestly the real version is much less sparkly and not everything smells like roses ;) ).

But I found this one on clearance online (it’s from Joss & Main, and was only a little over $100 for a big soft round rug…jackpot! Rugs are hard to find at reasonable prices. But I have learned to not be in a hurry and shop around for deals. I want a pretty home, but I don’t want to break the bank to get it ;) )

Another thing I love is light. I think the light in a room affects how I feel (there might be something scientific to that, I have no idea…I just know that lights change how a room feels to me). So I open the windows during the day to let the sunshine in (this has made a huge difference in my mood during the day), and at night I love to light a bunch of candles. I don’t know if you can see from the photos, but the fireplace is full of mason jars with tea-light candles in them and I have candle holders on almost every surface. I love it when they are all lit up.  There’s just something about candlelight at night that just makes the space feel warm and cozy.

Ok, so maybe I go a tad bit crazy on the walls. But I saved this one for last because it's my favorite. Between all the different colors of paint and designs I've slapped up on our walls - not to mention all the bajillion different pictures and photos and artwork and randomness that I've had hanging up around here (and all the bajillion nail holes that are in every single wall as a result) - it's no secret that I love to fill up my walls. I've toned it back a little over the years, but I still like to cover my walls with beauty and grace. For me, this means artwork I love (nothing fancy or expensive…in fact, most of the things I have on our walls are things I made, my girls made, or that I collected from little art shows or freebies I found online). It also means words that encourage and inspire. I especially love Scripture art that points our hearts to God.  I change out the art on our walls all the time. And I move stuff around on the mantle more than any human on the planet, I’m sure. But I actually find that I notice things more if I change things around. (There’s probably a deeper lesson in there somewhere…but I'm too tired right now to figure it out ;) ) 

One easy way I've found to hang and change out artwork on my wall is by using these pretty little binder clips instead of frames. I just clip the artwork onto a clip and hang the back little thingy (super technical terminology right there) on a little nail. This way, I can move things around and change out my artwork really easily. (Plus, it's a super cheap way to hang up printables or pretty cards or even photos!) 

Most recently I made a big painting for the wall, mainly because of love this verse (Lamentations 3:22-23) and I wanted it right in front of my face every day, but also because I was under some big deadlines and was feeling stressed out, and painting/creating is one way I de-stress (and possibly procrastinate ;) ). So last week, as I faced a huge deadline and a stack of projects (not to mention the girls had their first full week of school and I kinda had a run-in with a curb and busted up the car a bit and then Lilly sprained her wrist and we ended up at the doctor getting x-rays all that jazz), I spent the better part of a day with a giant canvas and some paint doing something that wasn’t even on my to-do list, because of course ;) And then after finishing said painting, of course I had to rearrange everything on all of the walls because, again, of course. (I tell myself I work better under pressure and at the last minute, but really I think I’m just an expert procrastinator…sigh…)

You really don’t have to spend a lot of money to fill your walls with beauty and grace. Family photos, kids’ paintings, or even old salvaged windows (all of mine were found for $5 each) can add a lot of loveliness to a room. And it’s easy to find Scripture and artwork for your walls if you take time to look…in fact, that new painting I made for my living room?

I turned it into a printable image and it’s now available in the shop. You can purchase the PDF bundle (5x7, 8x10, and coloring page) for just $5…OR, with this design, I’m also offering a high-resolution JPEG that you can purchase for just $10. This image can be uploaded to your favorite online print shop (or taken to a local print store) and you can have it printed (as a poster or on a canvas or however you wish) all the way up to 24” x 36” size. (More details and information can be found in the Shop)

Crafting a warm and inviting space where our family and friends can gather and just enjoy being together can sometimes be challenging, especially in a smaller space. But it’s also a lot of fun. I like moving things around and trying new things in my home. Sometimes the things I try work out great, sometimes they don’t. But I’m not afraid to put another hole in the wall or try another color of paint…after all, what’s the worst that could happen? :) 

One final note: lest you think I'm the only one who decorates around here...this little "Rocketeer" is currently hanging from the doorway between the living room and dining room, courtesy of none other than our Lilly (she even made smoke coming out of the jet packs...that kid.) :) I think I'll leave it there for a while...it's a completely perfect addition to the room! ;)