Reader Question: Elissa's Vintage Couch Conundrum

When Elissa wrote to us for help designing her living room around a newly purchased vintage couch, she appealed to our sense of Texan loyalty. Ok, plus she told us how much she liked the blog, and we're total suckers for flattery. Buckle up, kids. This is going to be a looong post, because as a Texas ex-pat now renting a gorgeous 30s apartment in Seattle, Elissa really needs our help moving forward.

Elissa says:

PLEASE HELP ME. Here's the thing, I got this couch off of Craig's List. I call it my "grandma couch." Because it so is... I just love it. The problem is... I'm terrified to buy anything else. All I have is a hand-me-down unfinished Ikea mission-style couch table that is against the wall for my record player that I figured was better than the storage stubs my record player was previously on. I'd really like to make my front room nice, but I'm terrified that if I get something not in the style of my couch, the couch will look really weird, and if I DO get something in the style of my couch, I may as well put out a bowl full of unwrapped hard candies and cat hair and call it a damn day.

I want to make my place awesome but I'm totally commitment phobic. I need guidance rull bad y'all.

Dude, there is nothing in this apartment. How do people live like this??? Nature abhors a vacuum, Elissa. I would have filled this placed with tschotskes five seconds after moving in.

Well Elissa, you've come to the right place. I love to play decorating party, and I love an empty space. So, looking around I notice some fairly modern pieces that need to be integrated with the awesome grandma couch. I also see that the front room is pretty tight and needs to remain open. She can't paint because the apartment is a rental. When I asked Elissa if she had any ideas or if there were any things she wanted to avoid, she mentioned that she liked Persian rugs and hates glass.


I'm going to overlook that for now, Elissa. Let's get started with some inspiration:

So is it possible for a grandma couch to look modern? If the homes of Nanette Lepore and Annie Schlecter are any indication, then absolutely -- especially if you want to reupholster it in a punch color. I'm just guessing that isn't an option right now.

This room gave me a mini brainwave: Elissa can't paint, but she can add big color and/or texture through a folding screen. Putting something sculptural in that back left corner would rock, too. So, I propose she buy a cheapo screen off CL or Overstock and staple some fabric to that bad boy. It couldn't be easier. Even duct tape would work.

Keeping that in mind, I found this groovy bird of paradise fabric that I felt had a Persiany feel. I really like the muted but interesting colors:

And then I made it into a folding screen... ok, I pasted it onto the wall in photoshop.

My formula for designing her space went a little something like this: CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP. I mean, why else would she ask the world's biggest penny pinchers for advice? Ok, seriously -- to create an eclectic/transitional vibe that would embrace the grandma couch yet avoid going Miss Havisham on Elissa, I mixed an organic pattern with a modern, geometric pattern, and kept the furnishings light and airy so that the room would feel open.

Room #1 source list: Tapestry is $30 from Amazon, Rug is $179 from Ikea, floor lamp is $79 from Ikea, coffee table is $40 from Seattle craigslist (I might paint the base black...), sweet Thonet chair is $25 from Seattle CL, velvet pillow is $32 from Urban Outfitters.

Did you see all that craigslisting I did? Hells yeah.

I also did another room with a Persian rug I found off Seattle CL. I'm calling this one, Ike's Room With Grandma Couch.

Room #2 source list: fabric is $7/yd Ikea Kajsastina, rug is $150 off Seattle CL, floor lamp is $249 from CB2, reclaimed wood and metal coffee table is $116 from Overstock, leather Wassily chair is $70 from Seattle CL, velvet pillow is $32 from Urban Outfitters.

At this point I became weary of photoshop,and then I decided to just pull a textile combo that could be used with the furnishings I selected above. You can use your imagination goggles, right?

Tree of life tapestry is $38 at Urban Outfitters, Ikea rug is $179, magenta velvet pillow is $28 at UO. Dizang this would make a cute room. Also, apparently I love stripes. And hot pink. Who knew?

I'm sure that once art and accessories are added in, Elissa's pad will be killer. I'm pretty excited about this room, in case you couldn't tell... maybe I went a little overboard?

Do you guys have a favorite combo?

Thanks, Elissa, for writing in with your question. I had a super fun time playing decorating party with you!