My husband, I’ll call him Cowboy, was the one who encouraged me to consider moving to the country. And I confess, my three story single girl charming character colonial on a tree-lined street just didn’t suit my new rugged groom. With that black hat of his tipped just so, he is reminiscent of an Old West hero, don’t you think? He’s my Michael Landon all day long. And Pa needs to be in the country. He just doesn’t fit in next to Nels and Harriet Olson. No matter how adorable the house.
And so I agreed to move on from my oh so feminine and meticulously decorated house I’d called home for ten years and start a country chapter in a new one with Cowboy.
It wasn’t too hard of a decision. After all, from a decorating and design perspective, my girl power tricked out Martha Stuart house was done – I’d redone all the rooms (twice) and exhausted this pallet. I’d had the hardwood floors refinished, painted the plaster the perfect shade of blue, and updated the kitchen (yes, granite – of course). I was secretly itching for a new project anyway, and this idea of a new canvas seemed like a great adventure to embark on with my new leading man.
It was a brisk North Dakota winter afternoon and we were exhausted from a full day of house hunting the first time Cowboy and I walked into what would become my favorite room to date – a four season porch tucked into the back corner of a river house.
With its bank of windows on two sides, I found myself standing in an indoor space that melded into the outdoors. The world beyond the glass was frozen by Mother Nature and I was transfixed by it, frozen by awe. Perched just atop a bend in the river, the scene beyond the panes framed a picture of oak tree branches reaching into the newspaper sky, the iced river meandering like a snapshot of forgotten summer beneath it.
And so this jaw dropping porch in what Cowboy and I would come to refer to as The River House soon became . . . my favorite room.
Because you got it, we bought it.
I am now going to tell this story a bit backward, for the picture you see here is the “after” picture of the porch. And I’m doing that on purpose because, well, the house when we bought it was, ah hem . . . in need of much love.
Ok, who am I kidding, it was awful. Absolutely hideous. From the bug filled florescent lights in the kitchen to the choppy and strange floor plan to the explosion of pink paint and floral wallpaper (yes, you read that correctly – pink paint – this was Barbie’s vacation home when we found it) – the entire thing was just god awful.
If a new project was what I needed, this house was not going to disappoint.
But before I had a chance to start plotting any transformation at all, I’d start my mornings in my new favorite room on the couch with that view stretched before me, hot coffee and crisp newspaper in hand. I watched geese skate in for a landing across the ice, and later as the water began to flow again and flood the bank just a bit, ducks and their baby caravans would navigate the grasses on the edges.
In the two years since from the windows of this porch, I’ve watched flocks of wild turkeys waddle through my backyard, a lone coyote duck in and out of the grass before evading further detection, pheasants glide gracefully across one side of the river to the next, and endless deer traipse here and there, their ears forever turning and sensing, their white flag tails chasing their leaps.
But best of all I’ve watched a hundred sunrises bring the promise of a new day from this very spot.
Wallpaper border? What wallpaper border? For the first several months that we lived here I just absorbed what was outside the windows, not inside.
But eventually, it was time to get down to business. And so it began, the transformation of the view on the inside of the glass, which is the mismatched disaster that you see below in the before picture of the porch.
Design Elements of The Porch
Wallpaper. This means war.
The first thing to go was the oh so 80’s floral wallpaper border along the top. Scalding hot water in a spray bottle and a whole lot of elbow grease is the only recipe I’ve found in all my years of wallpaper war, of which I am a tenured veteran.
Cowboy knew full well my makeover intentions for the porch, but his timeline is always “someday” and mine is always “yesterday”. Somehow that translates into “today” in our marriage. And the porch project was no exception. It started with me proclaiming that “Today is the day!” and that I would be starting the process, with or without him.
Cowboy said, “Have at it!” and promptly left the room. An hour later he wandered in and was not impressed with my methods or progress. Before long, he was on a ladder and had a much larger percentage of the wallpaper border gone faster than you can say “Yee Haw!”
Design Tip ~ If you need wallpaper removed get yourself a cowboy. Or at least someone with some biceps. It does go faster.
Paint & Color Commitment.
Next, the original pale yellow paint was replaced with Benjamin Moore’s 2014 color of the year, Revere Pewter. (Note: I love this color! It is the perfect calming shade of grey, and it changes as the light changes. It calming and serene. I would dye my hair this color if it wouldn’t make me look like I was 100 – I love it that much.)
Design Tip ~ Pinterest is a great place to find paint suggestions. Don’t pour over paint swatches until you’re so overwhelmed you’re in a fetal position on the floor of Lowe’s. Instead, start pinteresting like a maniac and find three colors that you like the look of the most. Few people can really envision what a color will look like when it is surrounding them on four sides. Use Pinterest. That is where I found Revere Pewter!
Design Tip ~ If you still aren’t sure about a color and are having commitment issues, buy small samples and paint a few large 2 foot by 2 foot squares of each color on a wall in the room in question. I was actually waffling between two colors so I did this and the family voted. (Cowboy passed on the vote. He’s color blind and waves the white flag when it comes to color.)
Paint color will actually change as the day light changes, it really does make a difference depending on the time of day. Paint the square. You’ll be glad you did if your swatch looks like heaven and your square looks like someone pooed on your wall. Painting is a lot of time and money. Cover your walls in heaven – not poo. This is wisdom, people. Who wants to live in a poo room?
To Recover or Not to Recover?
Your furniture matters. It is typically the largest investment and makes the biggest statement. The porch was no exception.
What was most fun about this project was I did something amazing that I’d never tried before in all my decorating adventures: I had my furniture re-upholstered. I did not do it myself – good lord no. I found a wonderful woman who’d been at it for 40 years. I had to schedule her six weeks out and we lived without furniture in this room for a solid month but it was worth the sacrifice. (Cowboy came in handy once again as the man can literally fireman carry an entire couch on his own to and from a trailer. And yes. That’s hot.)
The couch and chair were both Ethan Allen pieces that I had splurged on ten years earlier. They were still incredibly comfortable and their lines were classic. It was worth it to have them re-upholstered and as you can see, a great decision.
Design Tip ~ Although I did chose a light fabric, it was more taupe than cream. I love the look of light/neutral pieces but if the fabric is too light then it can easily become dingy looking simply from the day to day wear and tear of blue jeans. (At some point I will write about the great white sectional debacle – it was a beautiful ivory color for about a whopping month. Now it looks perpetually dirty no matter how often I have it steam cleaned. Live and learn.)
Accessories, Accessories, Accessories!
One of the biggest design blunders I see people make is they are afraid to accessorize. They will completely redo a room with paint and furniture, throw in a lamp and maybe one safe piece of artwork, the polyester pillows that came with their sofa and call it a day. Not that I am anti-minimalist, I am all about simplicity – but a even a simple look is accessorized. Do not be afraid to put a pillow on the couch that did not come with your couch. Take some risks. Express yourself. The accessories are what make a room, I am staunch on that point. Without accessories, the room is not YOU. Put some of “you” in your space.
For the porch, beyond the fabric and the paint (which were both complimentary light and neutral pallets that would not distract focus on the view beyond the windows while simultaneously emphasizing the immense amount of natural light) accessorizing this space was a ton of fun, and also a fantastic excuse to feed my throw pillow addiction. Pillow Hint: Get as many down filled pillows as possible, they fluff up best and are the most comfortable for drooling nap attacks.
I also switched out the leather ottoman for a smaller tufted fabric piece that scaled better to the space, found a great oval braided rug in a neutral tone, and picked up a quaint re-purposed piece to use as a television stand. (We have three teen daughters, having two many televisions keeps the peace, trust me.) Last but not least, I found a great rustic desk and a neutral chair to finish it off. I have a few black and red accent pieces that I added for a little unexpected color to contrast with all the light and neutral going on and last but not least, the quaintest signage ever hangs above the sofa that pretty much sums it all up, “Welcome to the River . . . Where Life is Good.” (I died when I found that sign. It is perfect!) The artwork is inspiring and complimentary to the color scheme and every surface has an odd or end that brings interest and texture. Accessories cozy up a space and I wanted this room to be the coziest of the cozy.
Voila! It is Finished.
That was a test. Because guess what? No room is every really finished. Our spaces change like life – nothing is constant. I am forever adding or subtracting to this room, doing so makes it feel alive and I encourage everyone to always be on the lookout for a inspirational piece to bring home. (I am still on the hunt for an idea for the odd interior window next to the sofa – I am thinking a pressure rod with a monochromatic printed sheer in cream?) Hmmm . . . still considering my options.
But for the most part, this room is in its “after” state most definitely. And considering it was my favorite before, even with the mismatched floral fabric, wallpaper border and dated Ethan Allen – now?
It is magnificent.
And so this is where my family hangs out. And where we nap. And where I set up my home office. Just this summer, at that desk in the corner of the room, I watched a bald eagle swoop down and take a fish out of the water. I was on a business call at the time (my day job) and I interrupted the conversation to tell everyone what I’d just witnessed.
They applauded. And then asked to move in with me.
So that is story of my porch project. Thank you for letting me share it all with you!
Eagle, throw pillows, cowboy and all.
Joy, Blessings & Peace,