Erica Chan Coffman, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the cult (and cheekily named) blog Honestly WTF, moved into an early 1900s Craftsman in Oakland, CA, in late 2013. But although she’d completed extensive renovations, her living room had been languishing ever since. “It was bare as bare can be,” she says. “Because the space is open plan and there’s a custom-built alcove on one side where the TV is mounted, I just couldn’t make up my mind about the design and layout.”
Always up for a challenge, we jumped at the chance to help Erica figure out this all-important room. Over many phone calls, emails, and shared Pinterest boards, Alex Reid, one of our stellar head stylists, nailed down the look with her: a picture-perfect family room where her son, Quincy, could entertain his toy cars and she and husband Abe could entertain their friends. Then Alex arrived at her door with amazing assistant Kate Smithson in tow to install all the gorgeous new furnishings over the course of three hectic days.
This is Erica’s diary of exactly how it went down.
DAY 1: IT ALL BEGINS
“On the first morning, I was rushing around trying to get the space ready. I was supernervous—more nervous than excited, actually. I kept thinking there’s no way this is all going to come together in three days, especially since I’d only seen things online and nothing in person!”
“It sounded like the delivery trucks might not come on time, so we were freaking out a little. But then they arrived! And everything went immediately from zero to 100. There were boxes and boxes, and crates and crates. Once Alex and Kate started unpacking and sorting everything I started getting really excited. I was running around going, ‘OMG, I love this! OMG, I love that!’”
When I was younger, more was better. Now that I’m a mom, less is more.
“Quincy is such an extrovert—he was saying hi to everybody and totally wanted to be part of the action. Our nanny took him to the park, then they came back and he started climbing on all the furniture. He’s very gentle, though; I didn’t worry about him getting hurt or hurting anything.”
“As soon as the couch showed up, I called my husband. That couch was probably the thing we were most worried about. He and I are both couch snobs. We’d just purchased a different couch several months before, and while we didn’t totally love that one, we didn’t want to wind up with something worse. But lo and behold, this one was perfect and awesome and comfortable.”
“I work from home—usually at my dining room table—so during the slow moments I’d be on my laptop, trying to let them do their thing, but then sometimes I’d pop over and interject myself into the situation. From the beginning, Alex had one layout in mind for the room, and by the afternoon of the first day, it had really started coming together.”
DAY 2: GETTING CLOSER
“I’d made it clear to Alex how much I love blue and white—Japanese indigo, delft pottery, Blue Willow china, and chinoiserie—there’s a blue underlayer throughout our whole house. So I loved seeing the palette coming together and totally working.”
“There’s a running joke that I say: ‘When in doubt, put a tassel on it.’ Earlier this summer I decorated a straw market bag with tassels, and it’s been one of my all-time favorite projects. That’s the first thing I thought when I saw this basket. It was a no-brainer.”
“I love indoor plants, but I have a major black thumb. Alex wanted to work in plants for a pop of color, so he gave me a fiddle-leaf fig tree, succulents, and a big thing of orchids that he and Kate put together. He told me that you just water the fiddle-leaf once every two weeks, and you drop an ice cube in with the orchids and succulents once a week. So easy! These plants and I were meant to be together.”
DAY 3: FINISHING TOUCHES
“Time for Plan B. We had a pair of sconces for this wall that just weren’t working out. The room has plenty of lighting, and the wall was better without them. So we put cover plates over the holes and hung art over them. I ended up loving the wall so much better that way.”
“Filling up the bookshelves was the best! Finally I had a home for all my books that had been in boxes in our shed for months.”
I love the juxtaposition of modern with traditional, rustic with sleek.
“The last thing to do was add all of our personal pieces: putting Quincy’s toys in the baskets, setting family photos on shelves in pretty frames, putting my matchbox collection on a tray on the coffee table.”
… AND THE BIG REVEAL!
Now that we’ve settled into the space, it really feels like home. We are in this room morning, afternoon, and night.