I started working on my building’s front door fully intending to finish painting the door and the surrounding trim over the course of a few weekends. But now, a month later, the door remains completely unpainted. There are a number of good and not-so-good reasons for the snail-like pace of this project. Earlier this month, some hot, swampy weather settled in over Boston, leaving me unmotivated to work outside, or to exert myself in any way, really. And then, I spent the last week and a half on a combined vacation/business trip in Italy and Slovenia. So while I continue to make slow progress on the front door, I thought I’d update you on some recent changes in the living room.
Over the past few weeks and months, I’ve begun to formulate a plan to convert the condo’s front room from a staging area for the kitchen renovation into an actual living room filled with the kind of stuff you’d expect to find in a living room – seating, lighting, artwork on the walls, maybe a bookcase. A key part of this plan involved finding a rug for the room. I imagined that the rug would define a seating area and help separate the living room from the office, which is just an alcove on one side of the room. The architecture of the room is very formal, so I wanted a classic rug that would fit in with some of the room’s fancier elements. But I also wanted a rug that would offer some color and interest. An antique Persian or Caucasian rug seemed like it would fit the bill.
So I began scouring eBay for a large, affordable, antique rug, which, I quickly realized, was like searching for Bigfoot. Antique Persian rugs, it turns out, can be very expensive. As you might expect, rugs in pristine condition command top dollar, while slightly worn rugs are a little more affordable. Antique, hand-knotted rugs are hard-wearing and can last for generations, so even worn rugs have many years of use ahead of them with proper care. And I actually like the look of old, worn rugs. So I narrowed my search to rugs with areas of low or missing pile, but I drew the line at rugs with large holes or serious damage.
After a series of crushing losses in which I was outbid on rugs in the final seconds of auctions, I came across a promising rug with a low starting bid. The seller didn’t seem to know anything about the rug beyond its questionable provenance – the listing stated that it was found “hidden away at an old, Southern estate” (which brought to mind a giant, decaying plantation house shrouded by towering oak trees draped in Spanish moss). The rug was about the right size, and it looked pleasantly worn-in with low pile – it seemed like a perfect fit for the living room. So I stalked the listing for a few days, waited until the final moments of the auction, placed my bid, and won the rug for $88, which seemed like a bargain since I had resigned myself to spending three times as much for a decent rug.
Here’s the rug after it arrived and I unpackaged it and spread it out in the living room:
I know very little about Persian rugs, but the rug appears to be pretty old and hand-knotted, possibly in the Herati style. It’s covered in an intricate, dense pattern of geometric lines, angles, and floral shapes with a medallion in the center. The edges are slightly abraded, and the rug could use a cleaning, but otherwise, it’s in pretty good shape. It gives the living room the feeling of an old library reading room, which I like.
Along with the rug, we also got a new sofa. When I moved into the condo, I brought a love seat sofa with me. This half-size sofa was a perfect fit for my old, 400-square-foot apartment, but in the new, much-larger living room, the proportions were all wrong – it looked like a piece of doll furniture. So after looking at a bunch of different sofas that fell within our price range, we settled on the Dekalb Sofa from West Elm, which at 85 inches long, is big enough to fit the room.
On the other hand, since the condo is located on the second floor at the top of a narrow, curved staircase, the sofa was also potentially too big to fit up the stairs. So before placing the order, I carefully measured the stairwell. The stairs were wide enough to accommodate the narrowest dimension of the sofa with a few inches to spare, but I wasn’t completely sure that the sofa would fit around the curved corner at the top of the stairs. After some more careful measuring, I was about 95% sure that the sofa would fit, which, since I really liked the sofa, was good enough for me. So we ordered the sofa. West Elm was having a 15% off sofas sale at the time, and when I went to the store to see the sofa in person, they offered to reduce the price by an additional 10% to cover the cost of shipping. So, all in all, the price was pretty reasonable. And when the sofa finally arrived, 10 to 12 weeks later, the delivery guys carried it straight upstairs and around the curved corner without any trouble.
It’s a big, comfortable sofa with plenty of room to spread out, but it doesn’t have the overstuffed, globular appearance of many larger sofas. We chose a medium-gray linen upholstery, and the lighter color keeps the sofa from looking like a giant black hole in the center of the room. Before the sofa arrived, I wasn’t sure how best to position it in the room. There were two obvious options: floating lengthwise in the center or the room, facing the fireplace, or positioned widthwise just in front of the bowfront windows, facing the entrance to the room. But once the sofa arrived, it was clear that floating the sofa in front of the fireplace made the most sense. It fit the proportions of the room, which is longer than it is wide, and helped to divide the office alcove from the living room space.
So, the living room is starting to come together. But there are still a few things on my wish list for the room: a pair of club chairs to go in front of the bow front windows, a barrister bookcase, a side table or two, a lamp, a giant piece of art for over the fireplace, and an overhead light fixture – maybe an art deco chandelier if I can find one for a reasonable price.