How could we modernise this living room?
May 2, 2015 5:57 PM   Subscribe

We are thinking about bidding on a house at auction next week that has a very unusual living room. My husband thinks it can be modernised to be amazing, but both of us are struggling to see exactly how. Obviously the flooring and light fixture would be changed, but to what? Does anyone with better design sense than us have specific suggestions or links to similar looking spaces? I think I'd feel a lot better about bidding for this place if I had a clearer idea of what we could do with it.

There's an enclosed fireplace on the other side of the room, and a semi-open-plan kitchen attached to it (double door frame that has no doors currently, and a pass through window to the kitchen bench). The rest of the house interior looks like it was updated more recently and is fairly neutral, although the outside is painted bright red and green(!)

The thing we like about the place is that it feels like a giant treehouse. Because of the way the house backs into a steep slope, the living spaces are all at the same height as the tops of the surrounding trees. So anything we can do to highlight this treehouse feel and the amazing view would be nice.
posted by lollusc to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Change the floors. I wood do a dark stained hardwood or laminate, and do the wood ceiling to match.

Circular couch, obviously. Plants or palms.

It's AWESOME!! I hope you get it!
posted by jbenben at 6:03 PM on May 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I love it and think it looks like a treehouse!

Depending on your budget, you might try circular sectional seating like this circular room. This picture is super sleek and modern, but you could do several sections of a casual version of that in neutral, nubby uphostery. (Gray, cream, or green, maybe?) And see how they complete the circle with a corresponding wedge and a pouf/beanbag for a cool look.

I like circular furniture. One of my favorite clients has a huge circular couch in their lobby and it invites group conversation.

I had a circular bedroom once and it was fabulous and fun to switch around.
posted by mochapickle at 6:08 PM on May 2, 2015

I think a more spherical chandelier would go a long way towards filling up the space and modernizing the design, like this one from RH.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:15 PM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

The floor and the light fixture are the main things that date it. (Well, the furniture, too, but that isn't yours.) Changing those will change the whole feel.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:23 PM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wanted to add that we are in the treetops and have plantation shutters, which really look great with the trees outside. Maybe more appropriate for this room would be wood blinds?
posted by jbenben at 6:25 PM on May 2, 2015

Ohh, that chandelier from RH is right where my suggestions would be. Unless you want to go Caribbean, in a room like that, go steampunk.

I prefer overhead lighting that doesn't make me look straight into bulbs, so maybe something like this or this.

For the floor, if you're going to go a little steampunk, maybe a slatey-coppery tile like this?
posted by Lyn Never at 6:27 PM on May 2, 2015

I'd paint the wood trim around the windows to match the walls. They are just boxing those windows and it's no good.
posted by 58 at 6:36 PM on May 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

That room could be amazing.

If the structure could support it, I'd be tempted to install a gigantic, warehouse-style ceiling fan.
posted by builderofscience at 6:41 PM on May 2, 2015

I was also going to suggest changing the trim around the windows and door.
posted by stowaway at 6:45 PM on May 2, 2015

Since it hasn't been mentioned yet, i'd also say ditch the black-framed windows. Those date it really hard as well. Either plain wood, or just wood painted white. NOT vinyl. The black aluminum windows just look sooo tacky now.
posted by emptythought at 6:51 PM on May 2, 2015

If it were me, I'd paint the ceiling white, ditch the black framing on the windows, and change out the floors to be dark hardwood.
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:59 PM on May 2, 2015 [8 favorites]

When I look at it I wonder about opening up the roof some with skylights. It depends on the structure and the facing, but it'd be neat for an "open view" effect.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 7:10 PM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, remove that timber trim on the windows for starters.

John Lautner is celebrated for his treescape-y round houses - perhaps browse through some pics of his work?
posted by honey-barbara at 7:26 PM on May 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

The wood ceiling and wood trim are very much in style right now...already perfectly modern, with a great midcentury feel. Please don't paint it! What a waste of gorgeous wood. Change the horrible floor, change the light fixture, and add your own furniture, and you'll be set.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:08 PM on May 2, 2015 [11 favorites]

I think I would paint or stain the wood ceiling white. Stain would be my first choice if it's possible to use depending on the finish and texture of the existing beams. Then I'd get as big, lush and beautiful a tree as I could afford as an accent piece, and put it dead center of the room, perhaps surrounded by some other plants (assuming you or hubby are a green thumb of course). Then I'd go for really comfortable, sleek, modern furniture that can be arranged circularly (is that even a word?) around the edges of the room. It's got great light, I love the space!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:14 PM on May 2, 2015

Paint that ceiling!!! and the wood trim! people get superstitious about painting over wood but that really only applies to nice wood, like a carved wood fireplace or old, detailed builtins. that ceiling and the unpainted trim just distract from the view outside and will loom over your head, dominating the whole room. one thing to think about in changing a house is that you always want to harmonize and unify things. don't try to make everything look the same, but reduce visual distractions that interrupt how you'll actually live in the house. simple things like making sure all you door knobs match. or that your plumbing hardware is all the same. using the same window frames and window types when adding windows. not using pine trim next to oak cabinets next to some other wood. it would be great to have a room with that much volume but that ceiling would just suck the life out of you. paint it a nice soft white or other pale neutral color so that you don't have to focus on it. a pale wood floor could be nice but which way to angle the pattern? what about wood thresholds near the sliding glass doors and a carpeted center? what is the rest of the flooring like? try to do something that suits the character of the rest of the house, but also fits your lifestyle.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 8:59 PM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Paint the ceiling white. You could leave some crossbeams in a natural colour or do a different colour. Also definitely paint the window frames and skirting board white or to match the walls. Give the walls a fresh layer too. Change the floors to either polished concrete or a natural stone look.

If you want to accentuate the tree house appeal it might be worth looking at the verandah too, perhaps removing the timber beams and using glass so the view if more seamless when you're looking out from the lounge.

Blood & Champagne is a great source (my favourite blog) for modern interiors.
posted by Under the Sea at 9:20 PM on May 2, 2015

It will have a tendency to get cold in the winter (if your winters get cold). A ceiling fan might help with that.
posted by amtho at 9:32 PM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

I came in to say paint door trims white and replace floor with polished concrete but 'under the sea' beat me to it. I'm not sure I'd paint the ceiling white though - I like the warmth it adds but would probably sand it and stain it to a more rosewood colour.
posted by nothing too obvious at 10:01 PM on May 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Whoa! Not a suburban shoebox!

Whatever your original plans are when you move in, wait and live with it for a few months. Keep thinking about it, getting ideas, deciding on designs, getting bids -- just don't anything right away. I'm betting you'll be surprised what starts to bother you, and what other features you might want.

In the same vein, wait a full year before doing any serious landscaping. Keep notes about what areas are in full sun on the first of every month.
posted by kestralwing at 10:55 PM on May 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

I'd definitely paint the ceiling and trim white (at most, leave the ceiling beams wood, and stain them darker), and replace the floors; you could think about doing some kind of herringbone wood, maybe, or the concrete suggested above. Here are some more dramatic floors for inspiration if you decide to go that way.
I think I'd also probably personally shy away from circular couches — those things are so massive, and I have trouble not reading them as 1970s. Maybe go for a conversational grouping of chairs and couches instead, and break off the space with rugs and lamps.
posted by you're a kitty! at 11:17 PM on May 2, 2015

Getting rid of that hideous floor is going to change the room completely. I would go with a darker color for the walls, something that you love, that reflects you. You can put the couch against the flat wall and then put a pool table on a rug, in the middle of the floor. It will be the coolest house ever.

Many people can't see past the ugly in a home, which brings down the price. Unless you are bidding against house flippers (miserable bastards), then you should come out pretty good because of the ugly floor and the red and green exterior. I could actually hear your smile in your written description. You have to go for this. Good luck!
posted by myselfasme at 4:54 AM on May 3, 2015

That is a wonderful room and could totally be modernized. I would definitely change the floor to hardwood or tile, and swap out the light fixture. The black around the windows does date it but is NBD. Please leave the awesome wood as-is!

Round couches could be cool, but you might not have the budget or might need to use part of the room for other functions, so here are some additional links using more standard furniture:

Number one (although I wouldn't paint the ceiling, but I love the chandelier)
A little more rustic (less fond of the chandelier here)
Or this one, which is a smaller room--you would want to showcase your lovely view, though, and you would probably want a couch.
A more tropical look

I think that room is super cool. Hopefully no one else will see it and you can get the house cheap!
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 6:55 AM on May 3, 2015

That is a great room and you will be able to do something awesome with it. I agree that you need to redo the floor and update the light fixture. The ceiling could be repainted and the black around the windows is heavy. But also, the room looks very empty/hotel room lobby. Adding plants and a cat will help a lot.
posted by jeather at 7:21 AM on May 3, 2015

I think that as you live in that big room, you'll find you'll want to divide it into zones, furniture-wise, reflecting how you use it. If you have children maybe you'll find that part of it wants to be a kids play zone. Maybe you'll want a we-crash-out-here and watch TV zone, and another one that's more for entertaining. What I'm saying is, don't rush to buy new furniture, etc, for it, until you've lived in it and seen how your family really uses it. Use your old furniture for now and then see what needs arise.

Do switch out that dreadful light fixture, and the floor probably wants to be dark wood, but otherwise just GET IT because it is an amazing space full of wonderful possibilities, and and start living in it and see what it wants to be. It's going to be beautiful!!
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:56 AM on May 3, 2015

Response by poster: You guys are awesome! Thank you for so many helpful ideas. I can't even possibly give a best answer, because they are all so great.

My husband loves the wood and wouldn't paint it, but he might go for a stain to make it lighter or darker.

And lol at the people who think we could get it cheap. This is Sydney. If we are lucky it won't go more than $200,000 higher than the estimated price! But it's true that it would probably be even higher again if the floors weren't so ugly!
posted by lollusc at 2:54 PM on May 3, 2015

Painting the wood:
1) The door/window trim and baseboard: definitely paint to match or accent wall color.
2) The ceiling itself: depends on the look you are going for in the room/house. If something with a bit of a natural feel, like French country or Industrial (think Restoration Hardware) it can stay as wood, but maybe with an updated stain color. If you are going with a sleeker, crisper style (think IKEA or Crate and Barrel) you would probably want to paint it.
3) The ceiling beams: I'd think long and hard about painting them, regardless of your style. Certainly you might want to change the stain color, but those beams will be a very cool accent for the room in any style.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:29 AM on May 4, 2015

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