Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Queen of Less

Like the parable of the cobbler's children having no shoes, only the interior design version, I've been busy and not focused on my own house, and didn't get around to ordering a sectional for the living room over the summer. In the meantime other more pressing issues have risen to the top of the must-do list and new furniture is on the back burner. So, to improve the neglected living room situation I went shopping in my house and relocated these bookcases I originally had made for my daughter's room.

My library of design books that formerly filled the three green cabinets I moved into the dining room is now housed in this pair - albeit in a new, much smaller incarnation. The culling of the collection was inspired by an unsettling documentary I recently saw called The Queen of Versailles. The piece won filmmaker Lauren Greenfield the award for 'Best Direction' at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and it made me want to get rid of every non-essential thing in my house.

If you are not familiar with it, The Queen of Versailles is the story of a couple who embark on building the largest single-family home in America - at approximately 90,000 square feet - and are ultimately unable to complete the work. There are several cautionary tales one could come away with after viewing the film. Personally, it made me think about what I really want to be saddled with.

I only kept the books that still inspire me, that I reach for regularly or that I use for reference; the rest were donated to our community 'book shelf.'

I love the way the new arrangement is shaping up and have re-considered my seating options. My grand scheme for the living room is to make it less formal and more comfortable so I put my Lee chairs (which I still think are one of the most stylish club chair designs around) in the sunny south-facing window between the bookcases and moved the Country Swedish console back to its original spot by the sofa.

I have helped clients include existing pieces in new designs, which often involves reworking upholstery, and decided I should be approaching my great-grandmother's sofa with that in mind. For the time being, replacing the all-down seat cushion with something more forgiving and less high-maintenance could bring the antique in line with my relaxed vision for the living room.

And for extra seating that can be pulled up when necessary, a chair I had in storage reupholstered with an Ian Mankin check left over from another project (it also graces the bench under the console.) Going forward, storage is only for those things I am saving for my daughters. (There is a disturbing storage scene in The Queen of Versailles.)

While it is still 'a ways away' from my ideal, the room works for now. As for the books which I never never thought I'd part with (I packed and moved them three times, once to a rental house I knew I would only be in for one year,) after unloading them the house feels lighter and less dense, like there is more oxygen available. Weird, I know.


  1. My contractor is famous for telling clients, when they ask for more plants, "It's your prison to build."

    I agree.

    Purged books years ago. Need to do it again. Furniture, lamps....... And I only saw trailers for the movie.

    XO T

  2. Oh - there is SO much inspiration for me in this post Phyllis! I have a very similar footstool in my family room, which is currently covered in a plain, off white linen. Although I absolutely adore it as it is, the colour is completely impractical for the living area (twins, pre-teen and a dog - you get the picture...!) The check on yours is fabulous, and as I am a major cheerleader for Ian Mankin fabrics (most of my curtains and my favourite Victorian armchair are Ian Mankin checks of some sort or another), I may just have to copy your scheme! I don't think that I can copy you with the books though - I am a dreadful hoarder. I try to clear out my magazines once in a while and that is painful enough, but books -'d have to sedate me!
    Best wishes, and thank you for your lovely comments on my blog!
    Paula xxx

  3. Your home is sooooo gorgeous!! So peaceful and tranquil, love the colors and softness and am a sucker for Swedish decor/design. Its fun to go shopping in your own house and reinvent things, isn't it? I also adore your buffalo check fabric, antoher weakness of mine! Hope you have a fabulous day Phyllis!

  4. Hi Phyllis,
    Your home looks so calm. A definite 'plus' of de-cluttering.
    I'm afraid I hate to throw anything away, books in particular. I'm one of those 'you never know' people.
    Hope you have a lovely day,
    Liz x

  5. You know what I love about this post Phyllis is that while you are moving "stuff" around you are finding peace and reminding us of how restraint can calm and clear the head allowing us to clearly see our priorities for today and down the road. There are so many women who don't allow themselves that luxury.
    Thanks for keeping it real!
    XO Lisa

  6. Fabulous post!!! I'm all about letting go of those things we don't use or need... less is definitely more. I LOVE the book case, I thought for sure is was a Swedish antique!! When I see images of your home I think of a place that would definitely de-clutter the senses and help one to breath! Stunning!!


    1. I had them made to look like it, so I guess they did a good job! Thanks for the kind word!!

  7. While I haven't seen "The Queen of Versailles" I am also in a 'cleanse and purge" stage in my home. I love the uncluttered, airy feel of your home. I am now inspired to keep paring down! x Sharon

  8. Such a serene color palette. Do tell, what's the color on your walls? Looks kind of like Revere Pewter from here. It's great!

  9. It's harder for me to let things go. Working on it. Beautiful color palette, Phyllis! Soft, serene and sophisticated. BTW, I've been meaning to ask about your floors. You had them sanded and clear coated, right? Not stained? Love the chair....very neoclassical.

  10. It looks so beautiful, Phyllis. The bookcase was the perfect addition...maybe there is no need for a new sofa after shopping at home!

  11. I totally get it Phyllis. You seem to be doing a beautiful job of keeping the important pieces and letting go of others. The serenity translates. I am working on lightening up my colour palate in the main living/dining area and I need to do another cull of the storage room! Oh my goodness, you ARE inspiring! xob

  12. I have one question! If you ran into 20 of your friends somewhere; (forget food and drink); would you be able to invite them home immediately and ( out for a pizza and good stuff we can now order with it!)

    the most important part of the question is.......would they just sit right down in your house? Just the way you have it arranged?

    That is my goal!

    Love your post!

  13. The room looks lovely...the colors, the lovely bookcases. I agree with the decluttering, but am not there yet. The film is very disturbing, but what is more disturbing is, apparently, they are in the money again and have resumed building their McMansion. What a frightening duo.

  14. Oh Phyllis this post is so inspiring. I need to purge, purge, purge, and the books are the main problem! Thank you for reminding me. I just have to find the time!

  15. So love this look, Phyllis. I must see the film to also begin the big clean-out. Did you really get rid of things or just store them?

  16. Your home looks beautiful! I need to do the same thing...remove the clutter.

  17. Your home is beautiful and serene.
    When we recently moved, I made an effort to pare down our belongings. I feel as if a weight has been lifted from our lives.
    I know I will continue this process when we move into Patina Farm.
    Only the items we love will make the cut.

    I was pleased to see that "Patina Style" survived your house cleaning :)

    Thank you for the introduction to Ian Mankin. We do not have those fabrics here in Los Angeles. I will have to request some samples.


  18. I was trying to decide how to spend my time this weekend and when I read that you had gone shopping in your own home I decided that that's what I would do! Thanks for the inspiration. I adore your home and love following you on Pinterest.

  19. Phyllis, LOVE your look. YOur home is lovely. Your floors are fantastic…sometimes I need to have no color after being surrounded by it all day and your home is exactly what I need to inspire me to get on with my own home!
    Happy Weekend!

    1. Hi Amy,
      Thank you so much. And that is exactly it, I need a 'clean' palette at home to clear my head after the day’s work.
      Have a wonderful weekend!

  20. Phyllis, this is my first visit to your blog. I am enjoying your post very much. Just became a new follower,

  21. Gosh, I need to see that movie. Your room and style is so serene and quietly elegant. I love it all...!

    xo's Terri


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