Before & After: Retro Coastal FUN

UPDATE: This project was featured on West Elm's blog, Front & Main! ///

I remember clearly the first time I met Julie. As she walked into West Elm in OKC, where I was then the Lead Home Stylist, she and her sister were giddy about near everything they saw. Their adorable Southern accents immediately endeared me to them, and this was before I even knew how much she loved color and midcentury goodness! She began to explain the many offenses of her living room, and how the house was fighting her to make sense of the space. For this reason, they hardly went in the room, despite the prime location, good lighting, and the fact that it's what first greets you upon entry.

Once I arrived at her consultation, I could see immediately the issues of which she spoke: the primary factor throwing off the room was that the fireplace was quite off-center with the windows opposite it. This made furniture arrangements a nightmare, because anything centered to the fireplace would be oddly ignorant of the window, and vice versa. Add that there are three openings to enter the room, and that this living space is a combined dining space, and well, it felt distinctly off. She told me this before I'd arrived, and I found it to be true. It was a tricky room! 

BEFORE: See the tile that barely shows in the bottom right corner? That's the edge of the fireplace. See how far from centered they are, leaving the room to feel off balance? What was also obvious: Julie has a fun style, and has some good tricks up her sleeve! The ceiling was pink! She used rugs to define the two space in this room! Look at all the retro originals in the room, like that Heywood Wakefield dining set!

BEFORE: See the tile that barely shows in the bottom right corner? That's the edge of the fireplace. See how far from centered they are, leaving the room to feel off balance? What was also obvious: Julie has a fun style, and has some good tricks up her sleeve! The ceiling was pink! She used rugs to define the two space in this room! Look at all the retro originals in the room, like that Heywood Wakefield dining set!

My main objective was to balance the feel of the room while maintaining the injection of whimsy along with two of her loves: the ocean (ahem, Alabama beaches, remember that accent I mentioned??) and midcentury styles. The strategy here was to create a focal point that united the architectural features -- window and fireplace -- and defined the spaces. I first recommended a rounded sectional that centered under the window and framed the fireplace, and painting the walls + trim the same shade of white so the pink ceiling could shine.

This very juvenile mood board (poorly made in an app instead of how I usually make them) highlights the elements of texture, color, pattern and line that would unify the two schemes in her home. All items were from West Elm, excluding the artwork that was commissioned by us, and her existing rugs, buffet + plant.

This very juvenile mood board (poorly made in an app instead of how I usually make them) highlights the elements of texture, color, pattern and line that would unify the two schemes in her home. All items were from West Elm, excluding the artwork that was commissioned by us, and her existing rugs, buffet + plant.

AFTER: Notice also that having large art on the dining area wall plus floor to ceiling curtains served to bring your eye up and away, while the curved sectional and floor lamp cemented some definition between the spaces in this large room. We used her two existing rugs as layers under the sectional to further promote the dichotomy of retro (pink shag) and coastal (jute). The Jetsons-esque barcart at left holds playful glassware, colorful drinks, and a vintage ice bucket.

AFTER: Notice also that having large art on the dining area wall plus floor to ceiling curtains served to bring your eye up and away, while the curved sectional and floor lamp cemented some definition between the spaces in this large room. We used her two existing rugs as layers under the sectional to further promote the dichotomy of retro (pink shag) and coastal (jute). The Jetsons-esque barcart at left holds playful glassware, colorful drinks, and a vintage ice bucket.

Tone-on-tone curtains, always hung high and wide, are one of my favorite tricks in the book. Beyond the textural addition these pom-pom cotton sheers provided, they added height and ambience to the room without blocking all the light, stopping your eye or feeling chunky. 

BEFORE: Color blocking and asymmetry are her trademark, and I maintained that as much as possible. It gave me so much insight into her bold style!

BEFORE: Color blocking and asymmetry are her trademark, and I maintained that as much as possible. It gave me so much insight into her bold style!

The fireplace was already gorgeously finished, and I love any opportunity to form up a focal point. We didn't touch the stonework but tweaked the paint and styling of this area to best balance the sectional area, especially since this is your first hint into the room from the front door.

AFTER: Simplified paint schemes allowed the fireplace to really shine, and it features vintage art painted by a long-time professor at Oklahoma State University.

AFTER: Simplified paint schemes allowed the fireplace to really shine, and it features vintage art painted by a long-time professor at Oklahoma State University.

That amazing chair is a nod to the Wagner Wishbone chair, an absolute MCM icon, but a modern take on it from West Elm. The woven texture of the seat still felt modern but a subtle nod to the coastal elements of the room.

BEFORE: The entry told me that Julie isn't afraid of color, and I love her for that! I felt that we could tie it into the adjacent Living Room a little more if we painted it white, as well. For reference, I am standing in front of the large bookcase/silver barcart to snap this.

BEFORE: The entry told me that Julie isn't afraid of color, and I love her for that! I felt that we could tie it into the adjacent Living Room a little more if we painted it white, as well. For reference, I am standing in front of the large bookcase/silver barcart to snap this.

Continuing to draw the rooms together, I sought to maintain the calming white paint so that the colorful accents got their due attention. Her color blocked pink frame stayed exactly as it was!

AFTER: The entry still boasts a statement front door, but now has a piece (similar) that fits the space proportionally, and ties into the midcentury vibe. The midcentury light fixture was found and salvaged locally by the wise Julie! 

AFTER: The entry still boasts a statement front door, but now has a piece (similar) that fits the space proportionally, and ties into the midcentury vibe. The midcentury light fixture was found and salvaged locally by the wise Julie! 

It was also amazingly thrilling for me to connect my worlds of art and interiors in this room. We knew a large piece of art was needed in the dining area to draw your eye to the room's completion, and I felt confident that I could deliver such work. Nora and I painted this and Julie agreed that it would do the trick! You can commission us for some artwork of your own by contacting us here.

AFTER: Ducks Are Good At Singing and Dancing. 48x48. Acrylic on canvas. Artists: Ashley and Nora Whiteside.

AFTER: Ducks Are Good At Singing and Dancing. 48x48. Acrylic on canvas. Artists: Ashley and Nora Whiteside.

The Heywood Wakefield set is such a stunner in this room, and combined with the other details of the room, doesn't feel themed or too kitsch. I loved the fabric already on them, an interesting velvet Fair Isle that I'd likely have never chosen, but it was so perfectly weird, and would hold up well to wear. Why mess with that?! Also, her Fiddle Leaf Fig tree is such a perfect touch. She's to thank for that, as well.

Detail of the intentionally messy textures in the artwork and the flowing dotted curtains. My insight into the concept of the room gave me a certain advantage when creating this piece, and led me to a color pallet that included elements in the room. I chose to vary them slightly in some places to avoid being matchy-matchy.

Detail of the intentionally messy textures in the artwork and the flowing dotted curtains. My insight into the concept of the room gave me a certain advantage when creating this piece, and led me to a color pallet that included elements in the room. I chose to vary them slightly in some places to avoid being matchy-matchy.

Though certainly partial to large art, I find it to be such a powerful transformation in a room. The visual weight it carries is unmatched by a gallery wall, especially when you aim to bring peace or rest to a space. Had we used many small pieces instead here, I feel the room would have leaned towards busyness, and connecting the rooms would have been less effective. Sometimes, there's just no substitute for the real thing.

Julie hasn't been shy about how much her family loves using this room now. They also sent me their Christmas photo, taken Mad Men style in the space! 

Julie hasn't been shy about how much her family loves using this room now. They also sent me their Christmas photo, taken Mad Men style in the space! 

This was all in 2015. Since, I've helped Julie complete her son's house while he's in college, their suite at Boone Pickens Stadium, the Master Bedroom, and now we're rounding out the basement living space. To say she's a favorite client is an understatement! Be on the lookout for more about her projects soon!