A Calm Living Room & Sunroom Retreat for an East Grand Rapids Family of Four | Day Session Diaries



On one of the first sunny days in March, I headed out to East Grand Rapids for a Designed in a Day session. My clients, a family of four, had renovated the majority of their 1960s home, and were struggling to pull together furniture in a couple of the rooms.


My task was to help with their living room and the connected sunroom, specifically on space planning, furniture, and art placement. Their living room was particularly challenging due to its smaller size along with entry points on every single wall. Where to put the TV? Where to put the sofa? What would be a good flow?


I mainly worked with the mother/wife of the family—we'll call her J—and she expressed needing a space that was peaceful and calm, while also very functional. "I'm an introvert, and with my job, I spend all day on the phone or in meetings interacting with people. I need a space that helps me feel at peace."


Ready to see what we came up with? Let's dive in...



Style Discovery Conversation


Since their home had been recently renovated, I was able to get a sense of their overall style direction—the colors they were drawn to, finishes, fixture styles, etc. I also noted in their dining room in sitting room that the main furniture style was MCM, so I used that as a jumping off point.


J didn't bring many inspiration photos, but she was clear about what she was after. The images she showed me were tonal spaces with natural, earthy pallets and lots of texture, and they also appeared lived in and comfortable. She showed me one photo of a very well designed space, but expressed that while it felt beautiful and cohesive, it was almost "too perfect". "I'd be afraid to touch anything in this space," she'd said. J also has two teenage boys, and wanted pieces that she wouldn't have to worry so much about from a durability standpoint.



A Look at the Space and Their Plan for Built-In Shelves


Here's a few shots of the space, starting with the living room, then a view looking from the living room into the sunroom, and finally, a view of the sunroom (SUPER jealous of this space!):



They expressed that they've struggled with layout in the living room. "All four of us squeeze onto this small couch to watch movies," J told me. And with their two boys now teenagers, it was getting a little tight! It was also a challenge because there were doorways on every. single. wall. Tricky!



Another element I needed to consider in my design was that my clients had planned for two different built-in units. The first would be in the living room surrounding the french doors in the above image, and the second would be in the sunroom (below) along the left hand wall. This unit would have an integrated desk, and would be where J works much of the time.


Below are a few reference photos for the builtin concepts for both the living room and the sunroom. The first few show the concept for the living room builtins surrounding the french doors, and the last two are similar to what would go in the sunroom:


While these designs were already in process when I was hired, I did get to help J land on a color for the sunroom builtins. She was originally looking at white shelves with a grey back wall, but knowing that she was looking for something visually peaceful, I encouraged her to go with something solid. The grey and the white she'd been looking at had a lot of contrast and would make for a very busy look visually, which, while still very beautiful, felt in contrast to what she was looking for in the space.


Instead, we chose a medium to darker toned blue/green color. Initially, she was apprehensive about the paint color being too dark, but because the sunroom is a space that gets SO much light, this wouldn't be a problem. We ended up landing on Sherwin Williams Portsmouth.


QUICK TIP: Dark colors work fantastically in spaces that get a lot of sunlight!


Space Planning


The next step was to create a space plan. In the living room, I decided on a single, smaller scale sectional that we would float in the center of the room. This would create a comfortable walkway on all sides, making traffic patterns in the room very efficient. I moved their TV to the same wall as the fireplace so that they could enjoy both the fire and the TV from the sectional, and used a large are rug to ground the sitting area.


Because the room had no logical space for floor or table lamps and there was no overhead lighting, I added two picture lights over two oversized canvases on the wall behind the sofa to give them some out-of-the-way lighting.


We used two smaller ottomans instead of a coffee table to act as additional seating; In the summer months, my clients often have J's parents stay with them for extended periods of time, so they would need more than their usual four seats in the living room.


In the sunroom, we planned for two comfortable swivel chairs with a couple of functional side tables, a large organically shaped rug, and a floor lamp. We also selected a desk chair for the builtin unit, and decided on art placement for some existing pieces of artwork.




The Furniture Plan


Once we landed on the layout, I got to work sourcing product. For the living room, I already had some specific pieces in mind, so this space came together rather quickly.


THE LIVING ROOM


I chose a warm grey sectional in a performance fabric with a beautiful wood accent on the base. For artwork, I wanted something very large to fill the back wall, but I also wanted something fairly neutral so it would add to the calm vibes in the room. Above the artwork, I recommended two wired picture lights in a dark metal to add some much needed lighting to the space.


On the wall opposite the sunroom doors, I selected a large arched leaning mirror to reflect some of that beautiful light, and to play off the shape of the mirror, I went with a media console that had rounded ends. This piece also brought in some new material elements, with its metal body, marble top, and mesh doors.


QICK TIP: When working in a fairly neutral color palate, try mixing up both your materials and adding lots of texture to create the visual interest you wont be getting from bold colors.


For the rug, we went with a kid-friendly rug that, while lighter, had a lot of variation, so it would hide dirt well. The ribbed leather ottomans were definitely a statement piece, and brought some needed warmth to the color palate.


For the end table, I went with this cute black metal tripod table to tie in with the media console and picture lights. Lastly, I recommended use white frames with white mattes for some of their family photos, which would live on the wall just to the right of the builtins.




THE SUNROOM


The sunroom was a little more challenging, and I'll tell you why: my client specifically said she wanted chairs you could curl up in and plop your legs over the armrest. If you follow some of the more popular styles right now, you'll know that smaller scale and very-cool-looking but not-super-cushy accent chairs are all the rage. So, I found it challenging to find a chair that was both cute AND comfy!


When I found these leather swivel chairs, I was very excited. I liked that they had the cozy back cushion, and that the arm rests were rounded, so would be comfy for throwing your legs over the side. I also loved the idea of swivels in a sunroom where all the views are nice.



I went with a warm taupey sheepskin rug, one because I wanted a rug that wasn't rectangular, and, because the color would hide dirt in a space that will be their main access to the backyard. To add some texture, I went with a chunky round pouf with a woven design, and also brought in some cool wood tone and texture with the center side table.


We chose a wood tripod floor lamp with some brass accents to add some soft lighting, especially for at night, and also added in a small metal drink table for functionality. Lastly, I chose a taupey leather dining chair for their desk chair. I loved the way this color played with the color of the builtins, and I liked that it would be easy to clean in this space.



The Wrap Up


All in all, this space came together so beautifully! And the best part? We were able to create this entire design, which my clients could then execute on their own timing, all in a single 5-hour session.


I find that setting aside this focused, limited amount of time helps my clients to get really clear on their desires and come to our session very prepared, and it also lends to making decisions more quickly, along with coming up with some very creative solutions.


In this particular case, my clients left this session with their full customized design plan. This included style boards for their three rooms with the exact pieces I recommended, a link to their custom collection of furniture that allows them to order their items via a one-click checkout, and a to-scale floor plan so they know how to set it up when items arrive.


Designed in a Day has hands down become our most popular service, and it's easy to see why! It's incredibly cost + time effective, and it's super flexible as far as the kinds of projects we can tackle, the range of budgets it fits, and the kinds of styles and functionality needs that clients have. BUT. Because these days generally require travel, as well as being fairly energy intensive, I offer just one of these session per week—you know, for my own sanity.


If you'd like to find out more, you can click here to view the service, and then complete our project intake form here and I'll reach out to schedule a discovery call to discuss your project. Can't wait to help you create a space that works for you!!