dear d*s

dear d*s: shoe storage, distressed paint + reader advice

by Grace Bonney

question: i have seen so many before & afters that have been transformed by a good paint job. i want to jiffy up a piece with color, but want it to end up looking well-worn. one example is the hutch in this post. i’ve heard of sanding, but am afraid that would look too contrived. how else can I achieve this look? -trina

answer: hi trina! a distressed look can be achieved many ways- here are some of the most popular: crackle glaze (applied over a base coat of paint), sandpaper (rubbed on areas that would typically show signs of wear and tear), liquid paint remover (can be brushed or applied with a towel), manual distressing with objects (using a chain or other rough objects to physically wear a piece. this can really damage a piece though so i don’t suggest it normally, but some people love it). but my favorite option is the wax method. all you have to do is: clean your furniture, apply wax (you can even use a crayon) over portions of the furniture you’d like to look distressed, then paint over top. once the paint is dry you can use a light piece of sandpaper or brillo to remove the paint on the wax portions. it will have a hard time sticking to the wax so it will easily come off. barb from knack adds:

“in my opinion, the best way to get it is to use an orbital sander with 120 grit or finer paper on it. an orbital sands much rougher than you can hand sand and takes off more paint. if you want it to look less contrived than you need to look at it as a canvas add more paint in the corners or edges, take away some in the middle, etc. you can also dry brush on a couple shades lighter (or a light gray) in places to simulate the weathered look.”

here are some more great ideas online.

question: my boyfriend and i like the idea of taking our shoes off when we enter the front door (which has no foyer, just bam! and you’re in the living room). any suggestions as to how to keep shoes (only a few pairs) organized and not too eye-catching? -jessica

answer: hi jessica! as someone who shares the same problem as you, i figured i would tackle this question. my apartment door opens right into our living room and almost hits the couch it’s so close, so storage for shoes, coats and rain gear can be tough- and pretty unsightly. but here are some solutions i love:

  • j-me horizontal shoe rack: slim, modern and great for just a few pairs (here‘s similar pre-made version and a diy version)
  • baskets/containers: if you don’t mind having your shoes a little visible, using this or this as a storage spot for shoes can look pretty cool. there was an image in dwell magazine years ago of a guy who used a planter to hold his collection of vans and it always made me want to try it
  • bissa shoe cabinet: i have seen these wallpapered, painted, stained and even decoupaged to match rooms. bonus points for hiding the actual shoes
  • hanging storage: if you have a closet in the room, consider hanging options to keep things totally out of sight
  • upholstered storage seating: this is my favorite option and one i use at home. whether you diy one or buy a pre-made upholstered storage bench/cubes, you’re left with extra seating for the living room and a place to stash shoes and winter/rain gear.

[have a design question you’d like answered? just shoot us an email right here with the title “dear d*s”. if you’re asking a specific interior design question please include a picture of the space in question and your budget for any new projects.]

CLICK HERE for jenny’s living room redesign question after the jump (SHE NEEDS YOUR HELP!)

question: help! are your readers up for a challenge? i think i have the most challenging living room to decorate and arrange – i could use some advice. it is the pathway into the house, to the kitchen, and to our bedrooms. it is also 12 X 15 which the size also makes it a little challenging too. here is the current layout w/ photos (more pictures here!). any thoughts from the readers? -jenny


answer: what do you guys think? this might be crazy, but i’d love to see a faux-foyer set up. so that when you walk in, there’s a folding screen to your left (behind which hooks or a coat rack live) and then a smaller couch placed about midway through the room, facing the fireplace. but, behind the sofa i’d love to see a console table that runs the length of the couch, so that when you walk in you see perhaps 2 lovely lamps and a plant, and maybe some decorative (but functional) storage baskets beneath the console for books, magazines, etc. i didn’t see a tv in the shots, but if one is required, you could mount it above the mantle (assuming it’s not in use) or mount it to the right of the mantle where the pictures are- and perhaps create a gallery wall on the right side of the room. but this is coming from someone who still can’t get the right layout in her living room 2 years after moving in. what do you guys think? just leave your suggestions and ideas below….

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  • I think the room needs some more light, for sure, so the console table seems like it would be a great plan.With storage baskets underneath.

    There’s nothing wrong with having ‘floating’ furniture, it can often make the room seem a lot bigger and more organized. I think the faux foyer isn’t necessary because you could accomplish the feel of that with a console table behind the coucch….couch facing the fire place is a great idea, it could be a beautiful focal point, especially for fall/winter.

    I would put one table at the end of the couch, in the ‘middle’ of the room and a chair next to it, making a small L shaped seating area facing the fire place. the other chair i would leave back to the left of the door when you walk into the room with a lamp and small table for reading, taking off shoes, etc. put a large plant off to the right when you come in the front door. your space seems very neutral, so the green could throw in a nice contrast.

    Have that walkway from the front door off to the left when you come in…does that all make sense?? leave the couch and the chair seating area back far enough from the fire place that it makes the console table create a cozy entry way, and enough room is left to walk between the chair and the fire place comfrotably. Let me know what you actually decide to do!

  • Thanks for the painting tip! Another way to use wax to “age” a piece of furniture is to rub a coat of furniture paste wax (for dark wood) over the paint job and then buff it off. It leaves a little bit of darkness in the corners and grain, but not so much to look deliberately “antiqued”. It also leaves the furniture with a nice subtle sheen.

  • I like the living room solution (and question!), but how do you run the lamp cords (without tripping over them) when the console is in the center of the room? Also, what is behind the drawn curtains?

  • Here’s the living room diagram with a little rearranging — moving the couch and chairs as I think beck is suggesting, placing a slim console table behind the couch, and changing out the two little tables for one big one. I like the other chair next to the fireplace, otherwise it seems kind of empty over there, but it’s hard to tell if there’s enough space to do that. I left the other table (?) behind the door because I wasn’t sure what it was… I also see what look like two speakers next to the chairs? Maybe those could go in the two corners next to the front door? http://www.flickr.com/photos/shescomeunstrung/3984326962/

  • Our place has the same lack-of-foyer issue — we put our sofa perpendicular to where yours is on the layout and stuck an Expedit bookcase behind it, only half-filling the shelves so light still gets through. It separates the entry from the rest of the room without boxing it in like a solid wall would.

  • I live in a faux-studio (one main room; french doors into the kitchen/dining area; and another door to the closet/bathroom). . . Anyway, what helped us arrange our space was repeatedly asking the question “What do I want to do in this room?” And then setting things up.

    If you want to read in the room you need better lighting. If you want it to be like a cozy art gallery you need better lighting and to pull the furniture off the walls. If you want the whole space to open up try taking every piece of furniture out of the room and slowly adding back in.

    Because I love space and entertaining, and reading, and order I would personally move the couch and add a console table (as suggested) preferably a console table with a shelf, thus leaving the floor clear. Take out all of the other smaller tables. Place a low coffee table in front of the couch (if you need more surface space), something curved to combat the otherwise boxy layout. The chairs should hang out where they are most needed – as additional seating facing the couch for entertaining; on the wall where once the couch was with a good reading lamp and a petite bookcase (or wall mounted shelves); near the door to sit on for removing outdoor items/holding bags & coats. And, personally, I wouldn’t place furniture against the curtained wall. Maybe a screen to hang artwork from.

  • Or here’s another one, with the two chairs opposite the couch and a round or oval coffee table in between. Then you’ve got a conversation area, a path to either door, the curtained wall (window?) is free of obstructions, the fireplace is still the focal point that the eye will go to when entering the room, and the console would give you an entry table. Will it work with your dimensions?

  • like the little shelf/rack thing the best, that way you don’t lock in any smells, however mild they may be. plus you can vacuum under it no problem.

  • Jenny,
    I know how you feel, but at least you have one solid wall. My living room is literally the center of my house. One wall has the door to the back porch. The opposite wall has the front door. The third wall has the walkway to the kitchen, and the opposite has the doors to the bathroom and bedroom. Not to mention two closets near the front of the room. Almost all my furniture floats in the middle.

  • Thanks so much everyone! I’m taking all of these comments and am working on a plan. I’ll send the results through – hopefully before the Thanksgiving holiday. Cheers!

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