living room

BTR: Duboce Park Entrepreneur's Living Room

Room:  Living Room

Hours to Complete:  7

Main Objective:  Making the space more grown up and more suited for short-term rentals.

The Details:  On day two of C's we tackled the living room & its enviably deep closet. 

While the layout of the room only required a few essential tweaks: center the couch on the wall, flank the extra bar stools on the wall opposite the windows, and some major cord management -- it was the wall-to-wall closet that required a major clear-out.

After: A distilled library on a wall-mounted shelf adds visual interest in a highly utilitarian manner.

C had insanely deep closet (14 feet) but only one door at the end to access.  This means that the entire back several feet of the closet turns into a dark, inaccessible, ball of clutter.  And you can just imagine how we feel about clutterballs:)

To make this closet a truly functioning storage area we had to remove everything on the floor or walls that blocked the internal passageway.  After nearly 5 hours of sorting and paring down, C was able to donate 15 bags (or 80 cubic feet) of unneeded items to charities.  

Decluttering Tip:  A closet is only as valuable as it's accessibility.  It might seem wasteful to leave a wall open or a top shelf free, but the true waste comes from storing items you can't access!

The greatest success?  C released so much clutter that his two bikes (formerly blocking the bedroom window) can now easily fit side-by-side inside the closet.  This single change drastically improves the energy and rental appeal of his entire apartment.  

After: Bringing both the kitesurfing board (mounted above the bar) and the bikes (in the closet) out of the bedroom create an entirely new mature and spacious feeling throughout the apartment.

Redesign Tip:  One of our favorite tools for Redesigning client's rooms is to take functional items and turn them into unexpected art.  In C's case we used his stunning new kiteboard as "artwork" above his whiskey bar.  We also hung his beautiful woodgrain ukelele in the corner.  What better way to add visual AND conversational interest to a room!

Lastly, shelving was grouped together to have more impact and show off C’s condensed library that we had removed from this bedroom. We also added the dark bar hutch from the kitchen (which you'll see in Part 3 of this Behind the Redesign series).  This both increases seating and allows C to share his fine collection of whiskey in the living room where he does most of his entertaining. 

BTR: Welcoming Guests into a Marin Cottage

Room: Living + Dining Room

Hours to Complete:  5.5 hours

Main Objective:  Creating space to entertain guests by reducing the amount of souvenirs from this client's past.

The Details:  Greg lives in a bright 2 bedroom cottage in the San Rafael hills.  A world traveler, accomplished athlete and passionate musician, Greg has been in his home for several years.  While he loved the space, Greg also felt that it was under-utilized and not convenient for the activities he values most.  

Before: The living room, while full of windows and natural light, feels dark and heavy due to the oversized furniture and limited pathways.

I won't mince words here: Greg was a fabulous client.  Freshly returned from a transformational trip, he felt a deep desire to create a space that echoed his values.  Though Greg's space was full of windows and natural light, his oversized furniture and packed shelves made his home feel heavy and tight.  

Together, we identified the three main goals of this redesign:

  1. Curate all travel souvenirs to represent the best memories,
  2. Create a space to listen to and place music, and
  3. Maintain a comfortable atmosphere to have friends over. 

Before: The cramped couch blocks access to the sitting area and the upstairs. 

In the original layout the flow of traffic from the stairs was interrupted by one too many couches.  By removing the leather couch and armchair the walkway is relieved. 

For the distilled collection of travel accessories, we placed like with like to create larger impact. We utilized the space under the stairs for his vinyl collection and guitars.

After: The orange chair provides a more proportional seating option, better access to Greg's musical instruments and records, as well as adding a pop of visual interest to the room.

From the garage we found the other half of the modern gray couch and created an L-shaped living space to define that side of the room.  The space has great bones and abundant natural light, so once we pared down the furniture clutter, the room really shined.

After: By removing the oversized black leather couches and shifting the grey sectional to an "L," the living room is optimized for ease of access as well as conversation.  

Redesign Tip:  More seating is not always better.  

Greg's gregarious charm made it no surprise that he enjoys hosting his multitude of friends.  For this purpose, he had accrued an abundance of seating: a large leather sofa, a leather love seat and a multiple piece sectional.  While Greg's goal was to have abundant seating for entertaining, his space ended up feeling cramped and was difficult for more than a few people to navigate.  He now has proportioned, accessible and highly utilized seating for 8 (or up to 13 by moving his kitchen chairs).

After a clearing of unused or out of date technologies, all media and music-related electronics were easily consolidated to fit within the television nook.  (Important note: never underestimate the impact of orderly electric cords!)

The focus of the dining room was largely decluttering as the furniture fit well within the dimensions of the space.  It was simply a matter of clearing the table and windowsills to create a clean, calm space to do work during the day and enjoy the views to the outdoors.  

Decluttering Tip:  Honor negative space.  

If your home feels cluttered even when it's clean there is a good chance you have too many things on your walls.  While artwork and photos might not occupy much physical space, they do take up a great amount of visual and energetic space.  Just as important as what you choose to show are the walls or sections you choose to leave blank.  Negative space serves both as a resting point for the eyes as well as adding drama and importance to the highly selective items you've displayed.

  Greg's open-minded, easy-going spirit are now honored in his flowing, spacious home.

The result of their process: a living room that I am excited to live in, a haven where I can do work or clear my head, and a room that highlights things that are important to me.

Before they visited me, my place felt heavy, dark and frustrating; afterwards it felt airy, light, and calming. Kyle and Cary exceeded my high expectations, and I can’t thank them enough!
— Greg


BTR: Clean Start for a New Chapter

Room:  Living Room

Hours to Complete:  6

Main Objective:  Making space for both partners to be represented in the space, so they are able to honor their past, yet step boldly into their future.

The Details:  Max and Jamie are a gorgeous couple living in San Francisco's Marina District.  Daylighting as a nurse and consultant respectively, Jamie and Max are united in their love of international travel, making and collecting art, and creating a home they feel both relaxed in and inspired by.  

Max has lived in this same space for several years with Jamie moving in to join him after their engagement.  It's a light-filled, hardwood floored, spacious unit -- and on a fun street with rent-control to top it off.  All of these factors made the couple anxious to transform the former bachelor pad into a long-term home that suits them as a couple.

When Max & Jamie approached New Minimalism to redesign the living room of their San Francisco apartment, they were quite nervous about the decluttering process due to the breadth of the unique items in their home.  

With a shared passion for international travel, the couple had acquired a large collection of items in their favorite destinations along the way.  In addition, Max’s mother is an artist and antique collector, many of her created and found items have also made their way into Max + Jamie’s home over the years.

Before: The space feels heavy and dark, cluttered by large furniture and overstuffed shelves.

Both Max + Jamie felt the space was too cluttered and chaotic, but since every item held an emotional memory, they did not know where to begin the downsize process. 

Within the space, we wanted to highlight the natural light from the bay windows, create a space for Max to work during the day and maintain a comfortable place for the couple to relax together in the evenings.  The coffee table is an especially bold and beautiful piece that the couple wanted to focus the space around.

Design Tip:  For those folks lucky enough live in a classic Bay Area Victorian era home, light is both your greatest blessing and most sought after resource.  Since Victorians tend to be long and slender with windows only each narrow end, it's important to maximize and draw attention to natural light wherever it occurs.  Placing a low-profile table and chairs in front of bay windows is a great way of doing both!

Before: The couples favorite architectural element, the lovely bay windows, are block by a large arm chair and an unused desk.

After: The round table draws attention to the bay windows by visually mimicking the curved shape without blocking their precious source of natural light.

We created a music and media nook next to the fireplace to honor the couples' favorite leisure activities.  In general, the room was not large enough to accommodate all the pieces of furniture, so we removed the overstuffed chair and a large trunk by the fireplace.  We relocated the mini bar, which was atop the trunk, to a shelving unit in the kitchen.  

The most decluttering work was done with the items on the couples' large shelving unit.  Together, we worked to curate their travel collection to the items that truly represent their best memories and allow the space for new memories to be formed.

Clearing Tip:  As is true for many travelers, Max + Jamie had dozens of figurines, statues, and pieces of art from around the world.  Our most important work was separating their feelings about the trips they've taken (which they loved) from the objects they purchased (many of which were broken, of poor-quality, or generally not of their taste as a couple).  A great way of remembering these same trips while freeing up the space from chotchkies is to take and save digital photos of the items.  That way you will always have the memory of the trip but can donate the item you no longer love.  

Future Design Recommendations:  Adding two long panel curtains to frame the bay windows, replacing the couch with a longer one that will better balance the size of the coffee table, and acquiring a large butcher block island to replace the lost seating in the kitchen.

As I sit here writing this, I am blown away with my apartment’s transformation. It’s really amazing what a needed purge of clutter and fresh redesign can do for your mood! I’m so much happier hanging out in my home. Thank you, Kyle and Cary!
— Max