Category Archives: House / Living Room

Creating a Home Office in the Living Room

Living Room Home Office secretary desk closedWhen you live in an apartment, space comes at a premium and you don’t always have an entire room to dedicate to your home office. But whether you use your office to work from home full-time or just to pay your bills, having a dedicated workspace is a necessary part of keeping your small space organized.

I had the luxury of a dedicated home office in our small rental home but recently gave it up to create the baby’s nursery.  As an alternative, I tried creating an organized office space in an unused corner of our living room that didn’t sacrifice the style of this space we use for entertaining.

Living Room Office secretary desk in useI set up my vintage secretary desk against some unused wall space between my living room and dining area.

A secretary desk is one of the best pieces of furniture for creating a low-profile office in a common area of your home. These desks usually have drawers on the bottom, shelves on top and a fold-out desk top that can be closed up to conceal your computer and other electronics at the end of the day.

Living Room Office desk comparisonThe upper shelves are perfect for storing office clutter, but style also matters when the workspace is trying to blend with an area that might be used for entertaining, like the living room. I kept things stylish with the following storage tricks:

  • A decorative white file box holds folders for my paper clutter, such as bills to pay, papers to scan or file, and coupons.
  • A shoebox and lid, wrapped in solid and patterned wrapping paper, contains notes and cards received.
  • Binders are a great organization tool, but they aren’t exactly decorative, so our household binders also got wrapped in wrapping paper.
  • A cubby holds blank notecards, while another holds a stamp dispenser and a pretty tea box for dumping loose change.
  • The addition of a few decorative objects amongst the “useful” storage on the shelf finishes off a polished look that complements the living room.

Using a desk with drawers offers the added bonus of extra storage space. While the top drawer of my desk stores office supplies, the lower drawers hold kitchen and dining linens that don’t fit in kitchen cabinets.

Living Room Office double duty drawer storageIf you don’t have a secretary desk, there are many other options for creating a workspace that blends with your apartment’s style.

In a modern space, the simple Parsons table provides a sleek workspace, and a laptop can be tucked in the middle drawer when not in use. In a more traditional living room, an antique or vintage wooden desk with big drawers could do the trick. The addition of a few small wall shelves above the desk provides more decorative storage space.

A few tips on making an office space blend in your living room:

  • A simple desk can double as a table when placed behind, or next to, your sofa.
  • When storing office items in plain sight, get creative with decorative containers.
  • If your desk lacks storage, a decorative ottoman with hidden storage and a removable lid could double as file storage and a coffee table or extra seat for guests.
  • Instead of adding clutter with a desk chair, find a seat that does double duty, such as a comfortable dining chair that can be moved back and forth between the desk and the table.
  • Keep cord clutter contained with cord wraps or clips. A tangle of cords cascading down the back of a desk and onto the floor will quickly make a space look less put-together.
  • Charge your electronics out of sight. A desk drawer can provide concealed charging storage; just drill a hole in the back of the drawer to pass the charge cords through.
  • In very small living rooms, consider letting your computer monitor do double-duty as your TV.

No matter how small your apartment, the key to sneaking an office space into your living room décor is to stay organized and keep clutter to a minimum. An organized space is always a happier space!

Living Room Office chair at secretary desk

Our Reupholstered Petrie Sofa is Back!

I returned home from my business trip to Las Vegas last week just in time to take delivery of our reupholstered sofa!1-Leather Petrie Sofa-001

It’s amazing what a difference it makes in the room.  I was worried that it would be too dark, after having such a bright white couch, but it’s nice and warm without being depressing.

In case you’re new here, after years of debate we chose to reupholster our well-worn Crate & Barrel Petrie sofa with leather rather than buy a new leather sofa.

The distressed leather feels amazing – already broken in and soft, not plasticy and new.   At the last moment I chose to have the cushions made with piping, because I realized that without the original biscuit tufts the seat cushions needed a bit of definition.  I’m glad the tufts are gone, because they were wearing out (starting to tear) in the spots where people sat down the most.

4-Leather Petrie Sofa-004

The reupholstery shop – Looney & Sons – provided excellent service, did a fabulous job, and their delivery people were courteous and careful.  The wait time was about 3 months from the time we placed our order. 3-Leather Petrie Sofa-003

I think I’m going to make some other changes to the living room now that the sofa is here.  It’s been the same for about 4 years.  I may add drapes, switch out the pillow covers, and maybe change the end tables (because they almost blend into the sofa).

These changes will occur slowly, since the sofa was a big splurge we saved up for.  It’s the most expensive piece of furniture we’ve ever bought, by a long shot.  Labor was $695 but the leather cost several thousand.  We paid for it with some savings, some leftover wedding gift money, a bonus I got from work, and some furniture I sold on Craigslist.  2-Leather Petrie Sofa-002

We expect the sofa to last for at least 10 years, so we feel it was well worth it.  Aside from the bed, it’s the most used piece in the house.

Reupholstering Our Sofa: Choosing the Leather

Blog photos often convey a much cleaner version of real life.  I know this for a fact now, because our white living room sofa looks so much better in blog photos than in real life.  It’s become embarrassing to have guests see it in person.

Living Room The Borrowed Abode June 2012

We’ve gotten 4.5 good years out of the Petrie Sofa since I bought it on Craigslist for $350, and I am very glad that I didn’t pay full price to get it new at Crate and Barrel.  Many of the buttons in the seat cushions have tears around where they’re attached, and some of the folds in the seat upholstery have torn apart.  The fabric stains easily and wears poorly, too.

Want to see some proof?

Crate and Barrel Petrie White Sofa Problems

I scored it for a steal because of the tear in the arm rest. But now it’s gross all over.

It’s finally time:  Ryan and I have saved up to have the sofa reupholstered in top-grain leather*.  In the context of home decorating, this is an intimidating decision because of the cost and the longevity we’re going for – 10+ years or more.

When it came to leather, I knew exactly what I wanted.  A few years ago I saw a distressed leather sofa in medium brown at Crate and Barrel. It immediately brought to mind a Ralph Lauren catalog – I have no idea why – but I pictured it in an awesome lodge with a roaring fire.  And maybe a Ralph Lauren male model sitting on the arm of the sofa.  😉

Ryan and I agreed we should go with medium brown distressed leather. Distressed, because it would be already soft and worn and pre-scratched, and future scratches would only add to its loved, comfy look.  The square modern lines of the sofa will keep the distressed leather looking elegant.

With this image firmly implanted in my mind, I thought it would be easy to pick the leather we’d use on the couch.  Boy was I wrong.  There are so many different colors in the swatch books.

Here are the colors we’re trying to choose from:

Leather Sofa Swatches

Considering Undertones

Ryan leans towards the bottom left, Nutmeg – while I lean towards the bottom middle, Pecan.  I just worry that the Nutmeg leather is a little too dark.  I was hoping to have a lighter feel. We need to come to a compromise somehow.

I think the Lynx is too light and yellowish even though I like it.  We need to be careful about the leather’s tone. Just like paint colors, there are undertones to leather.  Because we rent, it is so important to keep our sofa neutral – something that will adapt to many different spaces and possible wall colors over the years.

Some brown leathers have red undertones, and some have yellow ones.  Beware of both!  I held our two favorites up to the mid-century credenza because we have several pieces of wood furniture in that stain color:

Leather Swatch Wooden Furniture

I think we want the leather to match, or at least not clash with, the furniture stain colors.  What do you think?  Advice on how to choose the color is very welcome.

*I know the choice of using real leather may be controversial, and I plan to share our reasons for choosing leather in a different post.

PS:  Jeannine at Small Chic Home went through a similar process to choose her new leather sofa.  She had even more choices since she had to choose nail-head trim and leg stain colors.  Thank goodness I’m only choosing leather!

Updated Rental Home Tour: Living Room, Dining, Kitchen

June is my blogiversary month, and May marked the end of our third year in this little rental home.  Three years of living here, and four of blogging? Holy cow. Where on earth does the time go?!

Since it’s been three years since I moved in and shared a full house tour, I’ll be giving you an updated tour over the next few days.

Living Room

When we first crossed the threshold of this rental home, the light streaming through the huge living room window had us at hello. IMG_8609

Entryway Details & Projects:

Living Room Details & Projects:

When I did a budget breakdown for the entire space, I was thrilled to find that this entire space cost only $745.

Dining “Area”

The living area opens straight into the dining and kitchen areas, contributing a loft-like feeling to the main floor. It was challenging to find a dining table that fits comfortably in the space, which is short and narrow.



Dining Room Details & Projects:


The kitchen, on the other hand, is perfect, and it’s definitely not your average rental kitchen.  I haven’t really had to do much with it.

DSC_0222 DSC_0224

Kitchen Details:

And that’s about it for these public spaces in the house. Hope to see you back soon for the next part of the tour!