A Spanish Living Room - Emily Henderson (2022)

Sometimes, just when you start to feel pigeonholed the right project comes along and pulls you right out of it. A year and a half ago I had finished a lot of mid-century eclectic projects in a row, which I LOVE, but I also love every other style(the good versions) so I was jones-ing for a change. Luckily Shana came along with her french-antique/spanish/industrial/country dreams, and a beautiful house that was a total blank canvas and I was as excited as a rider-less rodeo bull in a fence-less field. That’s pretty happy.

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The only problem? They bought it mid-flip – meaning that the ‘flip’ was already under way and couldn’t be stopped (its complicated). It was going REALLY fast with what you can imagine to be not so beautiful builder grade choices. This house was a BEAUTIFUL 1916 Spanish style house and they were going to turn it into a faux Tuscan RHONJ monster. It’s the stuff you have nightmares about. The buyers (Shana and Brian) had very good taste and wanted an authentic spanish house with modern amenities (how novel, right?) and they didn’t want BS faux aged stone, and in fact, like most of us, were pretty offended by it.

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The problem is that (traditional) investors don’t really want the new potential homeowners to really slow down the process of their flip by having opinions. But they did agreed to let them have some say if they hired a designer to help them make good, timely and on-budget decisions. Basically the investor already had a contract with this General Contractor, so they had to finish the house under the original budget and time. By the way this whole thing happened inside of Escrow so it was shaky and weird in general.

So here’s how it went down: they would show us the faux tumbled tile that they were planning on installing in the kitchen, and after we swallowed the bile in our collective mouths, we would say gingerly, ‘Well, maybe we could pick out some comparable tile?’. For the most part they agreed and if we did it fast enough and just covered the budget then they would install our choices. There were many things that weren’t purchased yet but what we wanted went way beyond their budget so we went out-of-pocket. It got tricky at times, for sure, but we all wanted the same thing – a beautiful house and fast.

Meanwhile the situation was even trickier – Shana was in Atlanta directing a feature film while pregnant almost the entire time we were under construction and designing. Shewasn’t returning until the film was over, only weeks before her due date. So her house needed to be move-in ready by then. It was a pretty hard out. In a lot of ways this was amazing – she trusted me and I had a lot of freedom, but then of course it was hard to do some things just from pictures and emails so we didn’t finish everything before she got back.

Six months later it was finished and it now looks pretty darn beautiful if I do say so myself. It was a case of the right client, with the right house, with the right budget with the right designer. The bones of the house are BEAUTIFUL, the layout is so great and open. There is so much character in this old house but now its all modernized with 2015 amenities.

So that’s the general background of the project. Geez, that was a post already. Lets get into it, shall we? First up … The Living Room:

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When I came in the walls were painted this insane avocado green, probably from the 60’s. The flooring was old, scratched and hadn’t been taken care of, but the wood was good. The living room was easy – just updates on the walls/flooring, add some lighting and we were done. That beautiful window with the stained glass crest was insane, and the beams, not to mention the doorway that you can see in the above grid of photos. But the green made it feel really dark and well, nightmare inducing. Oh that crazy double vanity up there? That was what they were going to put in the master bathroom (because it was left over from another house). Luckily we stopped that.

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First things first: picking a paint color. Now, unfortunately this was before my current phase of ‘obsessively take photos of every second of the design process’, so I don’t have the photos of the paint samples. But we tried 8 different colors on top of the primer (not this green) and had some conflicting ideas but ultimately chose the same thing.

We chose Swiss Coffee by Benjamin Moore, which I was frankly SHOCKED by. Swiss Coffee isthe color that so many flippers or landlords use because it’s basically a light beige. But in here it just looked so pretty and light, maybe because we refinished and stained the floors really dark. After painting and refinishing the flooring we got to work on, oh, just everything else.

So as a reminder, when Shana left town it was a big green torn up mess, and when she returned it looked like this – brought to you by my iPhone and NO THESE ARE NOT THE AFTER PHOTOS PLEASE KEEP SCROLLING!!!

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This room was to be the more formal living room. We didn’t have any tv’s to deal with this time, thank god. And because of the way it was laid out, we had a great opportunity to do two facing sofas, and we rarely have that opportunity to do that because how often are rooms that big? These two sofas she purchased from Dekor (an LA store that had them made DTLA), they were custom-made but I’m pretty sure they were actually on the more affordable side (like $2K – $2500 each). Shana chose this blue performance velvet because she has two dogs, 2 cats and a toddler (now), so they needed something crazy durable. I actually would have gotten this fabric for myself if I hadn’t already had so many pieces of furniture in velvet.

Shana was an antiques dealer before she got into filmmaking (which makes her sound old but she isn’t – she’s almost my age) so she knew exactly what she wanted and where to get it and didn’t mind splurging on a few things. The Italian chandelier she bought from her friend, an antique dealer Janet Wiebe. And the big shelving unit was from Big Daddy’s.

So, the living room was live-able but not fully styled out. A lot of the accessories were hers, but we supplemented with antiques from the flea market and vintage stores.

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We threw in this rug (because I had hoarded it before it was in The Fig House) and we wanted to put something in here for her to come home to. So we kinda just staged this rug for now, knowing it wasn’t exactly right. We looked and looked for an antique rug for her but there were none that we could pull triggers on from afar (because every 10×14 antique beautiful Oushak rug is like $14, 000).

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As you can tell Shana had an extensive collection of antique french nudes that were STUNNING. The magazine nixed them as most magazines do because apparently some people in America think that this is pornography (but it isn’t) so just in case they leave it out. But you can see some of them up here and they are pretty darn pretty.

We certainly hadn’t worked out the pillow situation yet. Shana didn’t want to splurge on any pillows because she was afraid that her animals would just ruin them, so in these shots (the progress shots) it’s definitely not ready. The window treatments were by a company similar to Decorview – where they come to you, bring samples, make them and install. We did the whole house (which was probably 10K, but I don’t totally remember) and they are stunning. We chose to do nothing on that beautiful main window because there just didn’t seem like any real solution. They didn’t feel like the privacy was worth the window treatment, especially since this was more of a formal room, not their cozy tv room.

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We kept shopping for a rug and ultimately decided to just go for a 10×14 jute rug (I believe this one is from Restoration Hardware). In case you don’t know too much about sisal or jute here’s their deal; they are relatively inexpensive and can go with a ton different styles (I’m not sure which one we got but it could be this oneand its $1995). Still a lot for a rug but try to find a nice 10×14 rug for under $3k and I’ll congratulate you. If you find a BEAUTIFUL one for under 5k I’ll hire you. Of course the random beautiful inexpensive antique rugs exist out there, stuffed into thrift stores, antique malls and on Craigslist but if you don’t have years to search then you need to compromise or spend, unfortunately. It looked wildly better than the deco rug. Just lighter, less heavy, more modern, etc.

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But we still weren’t done with the project, it was just good enough for them to move into. Shana had her baby, we took a break to let her live in her house, spend time with her newborn and figure out what worked and what didn’t.

Months later, we came in and finished all the loose ends and styled it. We shot it for the book and we took some pretty beautiful shots (these are NOT from the book – those are still top-secret). After shooting I sent the shots from the book to my friend Jami Supsic who was the new style editor at Country Living, and she said that she would LOVE to publish the house, but they’d have to re-shoot because they can’t have the photos of the book. So a few weeks later Country Living came in with their crew and styled and shot these beautiful photos.

P.S. I know that sounds confusing and you are probably asking ‘why didn’t you style it’? The answer is two-fold: a. I was way too busy shooting/styling the book the week of this shoot, but that could have gotten moved I suppose, and b. I had just finished designing the house and then had just styled the whole thing for the book over two days, so styling it again3 weeks later was hard. I didn’t want to make itbetteror worse than the book and it couldn’t beexactly the same as the book, obviously. It would be like finally being finished writing a novel and then being asked to write the last two chapters again and make it different without changing it too much. It just felt weird. So I figured that someone else should take over that one.

I wasn’t even able to stop by set, but I got the pictures the next week and was VERY relived at how pretty they were. They were different from how we styled it but not so different that It didn’t look like my work. I even liked a few things more. Once the book comes out I’ll do a side by side so you can see the difference.

Since it’s for a magazine they only took 3 photo of the living room I just cropped in on these photos to show you more information. When I reveal it in the book you’ll get multiple angles, I promise.

Here we are, the French, Spanish, Country Rustic living room of Shana Feste (and her family:)):

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Boom. Lets get into it:

We found that kilim and while it isn’t the perfect size for the room, with the sisal underneath grounding the whole seating area. These chesterfields are tricky when it comes to pillows. Part of me things they don’t want pillows or just 2 huge ones and a throw. Elizabeth styled them with a lot of pillows and I really like the one on the right (below). That little drum normally lives somewhere else, but its so darn cute (flea market). The coffee table we purchased at a store in the valley for something pretty cheap, like $250 or something. Shana wasn’t into the cement cowhead thing above the mantel so we put this painting instead, but I kinda think that the cow had the right presence. She’s from Texas and she has some cowgirl in her for sure. Meanwhile you can see that they got rid of the nudes. In the book version that you’ll see in 9 months, you’ll see the difference. The rug behind the sofa must have been something that they brought in for the shoot, but i like it! the coffee table styling is very similar to what we did – with the vase and the tray.

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Those huge industrial shelves are legit (aka, not repro industrial) and she purchased them at Big Daddy’s in LA (a beautiful store worth the visit if you are into the whole modern farmhouse vibe. I think we got the horse lamp there as well. She already had the collection of globes, vintage bowling pins and juggling pins, so we just supplemented here and there. But this was definitely more of a case of designing with what they already had, not just buying a bunch of random accessories.

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I found that ladder at a vintage store for $90 and I’ve kinda always regretting not keeping it for myself. Its black iron and just so simple and pretty. Its one of those objects that you can just lean anywhere, throw some vintage textiles on it and you are good to go. And yes, we hung a painting under a window, and we all love it. It was one of the first things that Shana commented on, in a good way.

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We toyed around with updating the fireplace brick with some handmade Spanish tile but it wasn’t something that the contractors were interested in doing so it would have had to happen after they were done and logistically it didn’t make sense to put time and money there this time.

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There you have it. We have many more rooms to reveal – the kitchen, the dining room, the breakfast nook, the guest room, the master suite and the nursery. We are actually shooting more at the house this week so that we have more to show you than what was just in the magazine, but stay tuned …

If you want a sneak peek into the rest of the house and a timelapse video of how this one came together you can watch this video we did around the time of the install.

As far as resources go there really is very little that is new in here so its hard to really credit. The sofas were custom-made from Dekor, the rug was Restoration Hardwareand the drapery was from a company similar to DecorView (sadly I don’t remember the name of the company). In case you want to get the look yourself we put together two boards – 1 high end for you fancier folk, and another more affordable one for everybody else.

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Look for Less Sources:

1. Blue Chesterfield | 2. Kilim Rug | 3. Wood Slab Tables | 4. Wood and Iron Chandelier | 5. Blue Pillow | 6. Kilim Pillow | 7. Taxidermy Bull Skull | 8. Drum Side Table | 9. World Globe | 10. Industrial Shelving | 11. Blue Blanket

Get the Look Sources:

1. Blue Chesterfield | 2. Kilim Rug | 3. Wood Slab Tables | 4. Wood and Iron Chandelier | 5. Blue Pillow | 6. Kilim Pillow | 7. Taxidermy Bull Skull | 8. Drum Side Table | 9. World Globe | 10. Industrial Shelving | 11. Blue Blanket

*All ‘before/process’ shots by me. All ‘after shots’ taken by Max Kim Bee (but cropped by me for more detailed shots!). Designed by me, with the photo styling for the magazine by Elizabeth Beeler. Video by SharkPig

Check out theReading Nook, Guest Bedroom, Master Bedroom, Dining Nook, Kitchen, Nursery, and Master Bathroom.

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