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living room

our house: midcentury modern in st. louis

our house: midcentury modern in st. louis

I feel as though I've been working on this post forever. Growing up, my family moved around a lot. Then, as an adult, I lived in five different cities. Although I've always loved design, when you move that much, you just can't acquire too many belongings or settle in too much. Something I looked forward to for years and years was creating my own style in a space I knew I'd be in for a long time. One benefit to delaying the process until I was in my thirties was that by that point, I knew what I loved. Similar to defining your personal (clothing) style, taking the time to learn about your preferences in design eras and styles is important. And like the way I honed my personal style, defining my design style meant collecting images for years. I have a design inspiration binder just like I have a fashion inspiration binder, and of course, a design Pinterest page. Even since buying and decorating our house, our style has continued to evolve and furniture's constantly getting moved. You can see photos from right after we were finished in this lovely writeup in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Maybe some of you are also considering buying a house, so I'm going to go into a bit more detail about our process - feel free to skip to the pictures if you aren't interested! For a number of reasons (safety, quality of schools, resale value), my husband Dave and I decided to look in the inner suburbs of St. Louis. However, we still wanted a home that was architecturally interesting. The design style I love more than anything is an organic midcentury modern. I use the term organic because I love calming, neutral colors and designs with lots of different textures, and less of the kitschy, bright midcentury style. Conveniently, St. Louis had a mini-modern architecture boom in the suburbs in the years following the second world war. There are several neighborhoods which are made up entirely of modern architecture (Ridgewood, Craig Woods) as well as others sprinkled throughout the area and we focused our search on that style. For such a big commitment, we also had a list of must-haves: 3 bedrooms and 2 baths (this is the best configuration for resale value), a two car garage (I'm a wuss when it comes to weather and wanted the luxury of not scraping ice off of my car), something that hadn't been recently "updated" (we knew we would want to make it our own and didn't like the idea of undoing and paying for someone else's taste) and a purchase price that was low enough that our mortgage payments wouldn't be a hardship if one of us lost our job. With all of those requirements, it's no surprise that we looked for almost a year before finding something that was right!

When we finally found the right house, it was actually a mess. It was in foreclosure and looked so bad that we actually had the walls tested for meth residue (luckily, there was none). However, it had vaulted ceilings, large windows, amazing light, an open floor plan, a free standing central fireplace, 3 beds/2 baths, a two car garage, and a very low purchase price. Check! Here are some before pictures of the main living space.

We spent weeks ripping up carpet, baseboards, cleaning the walls multiple times, and priming and painting 3 coats of paint. A major issue for us was the floors. Although we (I should say, mostly my husband) did do almost everything ourselves, with the help of some great friends, we hired someone to refinish the floors, mostly because we had a deadline and learning to do them would have been a much longer process. Dave would like me to point out that in order to even out the floor level where there had previously been different flooring, someone had laid an extra layer of subfloor, which he had to rip up before the flooring could be laid. We chose to have the original oak floors refinished with a dark stain, and had additional oak laid in the rest of the open living area, so that the entire space is the same. We were counseled against having hardwood in the kitchen, but we really wanted that continuous look, and we're glad we did it - haven't had any problems.

Here's how the living room looked after our (and our floor guy's) work:

And here's how it looks today:

As far as the furniture throughout the house, a lot of it is secondhand. In true planning ahead style, once I knew we would be making a permanent home, I started buying furniture at thrift stores and from craigslist over a year in advance. We had a basement full of furniture in our rental house by the time we moved. Most of the rest of it came from low-cost sources like IKEA,, and Target.  In the photo above, the chairs are from TFA: The Future Antiques (I chose not to recover them to match, I kindof liked the contrast), the coffee table is from Costco (a purchase made by Dave when he first moved - alone - to St. Louis), and the side table is thrifted. You will see in all of these photos that I haven't really mastered the art of removing evidence of our real life or taking those arty close up photos like a true design stylist would. Please enjoy our remote control storage in a dish from Target ;)

Here's the living room from a few different angles:

I wrote about the desk corner in this post. One of the things I loved about this house was the central ceiling beam. It was painted white when we bought the house, and I would have loved to have stripped it to its original wood, but it would have been nearly impossible. We painted it with a charcoal/brown color and I love how it looks.

Our couches (there's one in the den too) were one of our few new purchases. The one above is the Clare from Macy's. I don't recommend it. We should have gone with a darker color, but more than that, the fabric is just really thin and not durable. Lesson learned, better to spend more for quality (where have I heard that before?)! The rug is from Target, and the two tv cabinets are from Overstock. I made the Cy Twombly ripoff (or homage?) artwork from foam core board and chalkboard paint. The sheepskins (you'll see a lot of those - I love the cozy texture they add to a space) are from IKEA and the pillows are from Target.

We had a lot of wall space to fill, and I was faced with the timeless question of how to make the tv less obtrusive, so I opted for a gallery wall of mostly black and white artwork to make it fade into the background. The large print is a Franz Kline poster, there are two architectural Frank Lloyd Wright drawings that were my grandmother's, and the rest is photography purchased around town, or by me, my sister, and mostly by my friend Sarah. The frames are almost all the Ribba from IKEA.

Since this has turned out to be such a long post, I'll be breaking up the rest of the house details into a few others. I hope you enjoy this little diversion into home design, it's definitely been one of the most fun projects of my life!