A beautiful mess More progress on the family room

If you’ve been reading for awhile, you know we link regularly to the William Morris Project at Pancakes and French Fries.

william morris project

The WMP is all about creating homes filled only with things we find useful or believe to be beautiful–which is as much about figuring out what those things are as it is about decluttering or rearranging or organizing.

We recently did some of that figuring out, which is why our family room currently looks like this:

This (sorta) Old Life:  Messy family room

Perhaps you can’t see the beauty in random tables piled with junk and boxes stacked in front of an empty cabinet and pictures leaning up against the back of a sofa–but I do.

This (sorta) Old Life:  Messy family room

When we last shared pictures of our family room, it looked more like this:

thissortaoldlife bright family room

We didn’t consider it a finished room, but it was such a far cry from the family room we lived with for most our first year in this house:

thissortaoldlife family room window wall

And when we shared that transformation, I crowed a bit about the great craigslist find our green couch/chair was and what a revelation I had about getting over OPD (other people’s dirt). Which was all well and good, but I neglected to mention something we’ve come to realize was really important:

Our kids hated the green couch and chair.

thissortaoldlife family room retro green chair

Not in some you-guys-are-so-weird-with-your-old-furniture way, but in more of a we-hate-this-stuff-so-much-we-won’t-hang-out-in-this-room-and-you-can’t-make-us sort of way.

We thought they’d get over it. We thought they were just barking because our tween/teens kinda like to bark about all kinds of things these days. We thought it was just about a couch and chair, forgetting that most things in a house are never just things.

We think that for the kids, the green couch/chair came to be symbolic of their powerlessness over all kinds of things that are out of their control. All three kids really liked the old furniture. They didn’t care about how it looked; they loved how it functioned. The old brown chair has now reached near-legendary status as the most comfortable, awesome chair ever made–and not only is it gone, but it disappeared without their notice, approval, or participation, from the room that they thought of as theirs.

When we put ourselves in their (children of divorced parents, learning how to live with other people who aren’t really family) shoes, we began to understand why the couch/chair had become such a sore spot.

We realized that they hadn’t gotten over it, and it didn’t matter how retro-cool our couch might be or what it great deal it was if the kids don’t want to use this room because it’s full of two big, fat, concrete reminders that their parents can (literally) pull the rug out from under them at any moment.

It’s a problem when 3/5 of the family doesn’t want to use the Family Room.

thissortaoldlife retro green couch with new pillows

And we had to admit that even we weren’t crazy about it. We liked the looks of the couch/chair, but the couch wasn’t really big enough or comfortable enough. We don’t have enough seating for all of us, and the loss of our futon meant the room wasn’t working as well for sleep-overs.

One of the kids has been longing for a big Ikea sectional for several years. There are all kinds of reasons I never pulled the trigger on one of those, but when I realized recently how much the family room furniture was bothering all three kids, none of them seemed so important.

Which is why we began a conversation with the kids about what they really wanted from this room, which resulted in Cane and I driving out to Ikea last Sunday to buy one of these…

This (sorta) Old Life: Karlstad sofa


…and to spend Monday evening dismantling the family room and assembling our big fat Karlstad sofa.

This (sorta) Old Life: Ikea parts

This (sorta) Old Life: Ikea Karlstad pieces

This (sorta) Old Life: Assembling Karlstad sofa

This (sorta) Old Life: assembling Ikea Karlstad couch

It’s only been a few days, and we haven’t really used it yet, and the room’s a mess (and smells like Ikea), but we love it.

We’re looking forward to family movie nights, games in front of the fire, and a roomful of teenagers sprawled out on the sofa and the air mattress that fits just perfectly into that L-shaped opening. Not much of that was going to happen with the green furniture.

We know we’re not going to magically experience Hallmark family moments just because we went out and bought a new couch. We’ve still got all the tender, touchy points we ever had.

We want to stay grounded in the reality of who we’ve got living here and what our challenges are.

This (sorta) Old Life: Girls trouble

“If you touch me one more time with that stick…” (not one of our finest moments)

But we know we’ve got to get them in the same room to have any chance of the kind of family time we’re hoping for, and chances are now better that we can do that.

And while we’re talking about being grounded in reality…

We’d love to have waited to find the perfect used something at a great price. If you’ve read us before, you know we are all about finding and celebrating old things.

But sometimes, the new, not-super-cool thing is what works best. (And because so much of what we do for the house is done frugally, we can make an occasional splurge.) We don’t want to be so tightly bound to any ideal about how we should make our home that it keeps us from living in it easily and happily. That’d just be all kinds of bass-ackwards.

This (sorta) Old Life: Karlstad sofa assembled

We’d also love to have waited to show you this room when it looked as put-together as it did in June, but I don’t think we have to be there to be in the true William Morris spirit. We’ve found that when it comes to improving spaces, it almost always has to get worse before it gets better.

Right now it’s worse, with some funky color and furniture combos going on (not to mention the boxes and extra furniture hanging out there). And we just didn’t have time to do any more with it this week. (Remember those three kids all still just starting the school year? And this week we’ve also had an auto accident to deal with. That’s been a time-suck of the worse kind.)

This (sorta) Old Life: Family room September

We put that area rug down because the carpet is so stained and it kinda goes with the brown couch. Not sure what to do with the blue chair and all those pillows. We’ll get to that later.

We think that’s OK. Better function has its own kind of beauty.

We’d love to know if you’ve done anything this week to make your home more beautiful and/or more functional. Comments are always so appreciated.

If you’d like to make sure you don’t miss that bathroom project update we keep promising (I’m blaming the car accident for the delay on that, too), we hope you’ll choose one of the ways below to follow us.

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Hope your week is going well. In spite of the car mess, we’re grateful that no one was really hurt. Getting hit on 9/11 helped me keep the size of our trouble in perspective.