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Our poor formal living and dining area.  I think I’ve tortured it more than any other area of our house!  I’ve done so much to this area that I actually forgot quite a bit until I went through really old phone photos.  Beware these before pics are old, dark, and out of focus.

Everything really started with the room switch up while we were still renting.  Thanksgiving to be exact.  We were so cramped in the small dining area.  Meanwhile, we had this massive formal living area at the opposite end that we didn’t ever use.  We have the main family room and an upstairs loft with a couch for the kids.  I really do not need another huge living area.  Then I had a lightbulb moment and decided to switch the rooms.  Now what’s funny is a long time ago my Mother-in-Law did the same thing.  Switched her formal living and dining, and I had completely forgotten about it.  So when I told Brian I wanted to switch the rooms out, I said your Mom did it remember?  That’s all it took to convince him.

Why not?  Switch out a room anytime it works best for your lifestyle.  I think this photo was taken when we were moving in since there isn’t any furniture in the family room.  All this furniture worked so much better in our old house, not so much here.

This photo below is a perfect example of how to NOT hang your curtains.  Look how small and dinky I made the window look?  In fact I managed to shrink the whole room by doing this.  In the after photos see how much larger the window looks by hanging the rod high and wide.  I want to slap myself for ever doing this.   I was trying to find curtains to match the chairs and I didn’t even like the color of the chairs anymore.  Ugh…lesson learned…I go neutral or buy slipcovers from now on.

Every single item in this photo I sold in garage sales or on Craigslist, except for the bunny who’s in my kitchen now.  I love bunnies.

Making the switch was actually easy.  You just move the furniture and the light fixtures.  About this time was when I started to sell all the furniture so the room was pretty empty for months.

This area of our house has been tweaked more than any other spot in our home.  I just couldn’t seem to get it right and I couldn’t leave it alone.

Here below is a perfect example of why redecorating a room when you don’t have a solid plan is a bad idea.  I was trying to figure out exactly what I liked.   You can’t effectively decorate a room to your liking when you don’t understand what you like!  I ended up spending more, returning items to the store, and buying and selling what didn’t work over and over.  It was exhausting.  The entire situation was unnecessary.

I found this cute furniture set, and it’s managed to stay with me, through many transitions in the formal living area.  The “Cute as a Button” sofa and chairs from World Market.

Meanwhile, I experimented with an old coffee table from my husband’s childhood lake cabin.  I painted it turquoise.  I knew I liked some color.

This photo above was all about trying things out.  What worked and what didn’t.  I tried sheers over the window.  I loved how the window seemed larger and let in more light.  I wanted to see outside but I was hiding an ugly view of large boxy overgrown shrubs, and a stop sign was visible.  These were temporary rugs I moved in from another area of the house.

Once the room was switched and the dining room furniture was sold, the transformation began with this table.  I had an empty dining room and no direction.  I was poking around on a Facebook buy-sell-trade page one day when a man advertised he could make tables.  He was local and a fraction of the cost from a furniture store.  I had the measurements of the table I sold, and since it fit well in the room he built it to that size.  After the table was delivered I thought what now.

Now was the hard part of putting everything together.  I started with chairs.  I’m actually surprised I didn’t get banned from Pier 1 with all the dining room chairs I ordered and returned.  Each time I returned them I groveled and apologized.  One day the manager said to me sweetly “it’s ok, decorating is all trial and error”.  This is a comment that’s really made me feel better over the years.  Sometimes we can easily get things right other times it’s freakin hard!!!

The new chandelier really helped give me direction for the room, and I managed to settle on the Parson chair from Pier 1 for the dining chairs.  I should have just bought Parson chairs the first time, I’ve always loved Parson chairs even before I knew their official name.  While waiting on the other four chairs to arrive I found slipcovers from Ballard Designs in my favorite french script pattern.

Next, I started looking for a buffet table.  The only problem is I couldn’t find one I liked, again one day on Facebook a lady who flipped furniture had a French provincial buffet table for sale.  I liked the measurements and we decided on black, lightly distressed, with crystal knobs. Here you can see I have the buffet measured out with tape and a mirror size.  I use paper to tape everything to the wall.

I love the pretty strappy tabs on the top of the sheers, but the room seemed surprisingly gloomy with sheers.  So I ended up selling them.

I found this quatrefoil mirror and started looking for rugs.  I also decided I wanted the coffee table black, so I stripped it and repainted it.

You see the red ruffle pillow below?  I started to notice that every time I looked at it it made me insanely happy.  This was when I was starting to realize I needed pops of red and with black and white.  I loved this look but hadn’t given myself permission to do this yet.  Why not??

I experimented with lots of art on the sides of the armoire, nothing was really appealing to me.  I was lost.  After I painted the little wood coffee table twice, I realized I wanted a round one instead.  I love glass coffee tables, they make the room seem lighter and they’re easy to maintain.  I’ve got that little wood coffee table in storage, hoping one day it will go perfectly in my future tiny country home.  I always try to incorporate sentimental items into our home decor when ever possible, I can’t get everything to work though.

Next I decided I wanted a taller armoire.  I desperately need this to hold the over flow of my china, and serveware.  The space above the armoire bothered me and I needed more space anyway so I found the perfect one at Restoration Hardware.  Definite splurge item, I’m planning to keep it forever.  This old armoire is now in our guest bedroom.

There was crown moulding in the new dining area but not the new sitting area.  So we added crown moulding here and removed the chair rail and wall trim.  I like the wall moulding on the one wall in the dining room, but over here it just annoyed me and it’s always dusty.

The round rug didn’t work so I sent it back and I again switched out the light.  I need one that dangled.

I love this light!  It really compliments the dining room light.  I decided to add ceiling medallions to both lights as well, and I painted both recessed ceiling trays white.  It brightens the room and adds a visual lift.

Meanwhile, over in the dining room, I’m loving the slipcovered chairs.  This neutral pattern goes with everything, and I can easily switch the slipcovers out for a different look if I need to.  I found this nice simple border wool rug, too.  Yes, it sheds.  I hear wool rug shedding eventually stops.  I’m waiting for that moment.

I added another small cabinet in the corner to hold all my stemware.  I found simple charcoal curtains and mounted them high and wide.  Look how much bigger this window looks, the window makes the entire room look bigger.  I can’t wait to add plantation shutters one day.  We have planted a tree to hide the stop sign and updated the overgrown shrubs.  Now I have a pretty view.

I kept moving the furniture around here in the formal living room, never sure which direction I wanted, I’m certain now it was the rug throwing me off.  I love the rug but it was hard to get the size right for this small sitting area.  I was happier with the black and white photos next to the armoire, but it still wasn’t quite right, but progress was being made.

I removed the leopard rug – just having it gone I liked the room better, and I placed the sofa back in front of the window.  I’m currently loving this oversized mat trend in the pictures, especially with black and white photos.  I can’t say if this look is here to stay, but I’m really into it….for now.  I needed larger frames and the contrast of the white mat with the black frame really does it for me.

I’ve been wanting a cow hide rug for a while now.  I almost put one upstairs in our loft, but a spur of the moment decision had me place it here and I love it!  I love the curves of the rug and how the smaller size lets more wood floor peek through.

If you love the look of a cowhide rug but you’re having ethical issues purchasing one, this one is faux and great quality.  Faux also = less money.  You can purchase this same rug off Amazon.  It’s the 5′ x 6’6″ size.  It’s easy to vacuum and soft under my feet.

This little spot is perfect in the morning for reading and sipping coffee, and in the evening it becomes a nice wine spot.  It’s just the right size.

I found lamps and added finishing touches to the dining room.  I try to always keep fresh flowers on the table, I have a flower addiction.

Every morning the sun light fills the room and it’s beautiful.

I framed a painting my daughter painted that has a special family meaning to us.  It goes perfectly.

Not to scare you, but let’s see that before pic again…

What an improvement!  Not only is this an improvement, but it’s my actual style.  It’s me, and finding out what I like has made redecorating the rest of the house a much, much easier process!

So here we are today, all done!  Now let’s see if I can leave it alone.