5 top tips on setting up a room.

I’ve been trying to figure out my livingroom seating situation forever. And with no budget, it’s been tricky at best.

Back in May, I scooped up this partial sectional for $30. Score!!

Loved  the colour and did tricky things to the one end where no arm existed. No one even noticed.

I just really loved how it fit into the room! It provided acres of extra sitting room plus the creamy lightness added the perfect pop against the woodsy surroundings. It truly felt right!

And then…

… it became this. Do you have one of these?

It’s called a laundry-cat couch. No home is complete without it. Ever so handy to help with your chores, keeping riff raff off cat/dog hair infested hardwood floors. And it’s the best pit stop EVER for projects under construction!

And do you know WHY it became one of these? Because quite frankly, the couch hurt my back to sit in.

I honestly tried the thing before I had 4 guys haul it in. I thought it was great out there in lah lah land. But for some reason, it sat different in my house. So, the laundry-cat couch ate up alot of my living area. Not good.

I even stopped watching TV because my OTHER couch hurts my back too. (more on that another day)

Anyway, in enters my UP chair. I first talked abit about it HERE. 

I’m happy to say, this here little chair dramatically changed my entire livingroom. For the BETTER this time. Out went the laundry-cat couch, and in came…

… the UP seating area.

I mean, tell me you think of this when you see that picture. 🙂  Two VERY different chairs serving two VERY different personalities. Yet looks wise, it kinda works in an eclectic kinda way. I mean, even the colours are fine!

In a perfect world, I had envisioned two identical slip covered wing backed chairs. However, as always, my finds lead me to where my room takes me. I work with what I have, and modify my plans to incorporate the new more productive find.

We now use the room to it’s fullest potential and LOVE it!!

The reason for my couch story? It’s to portray how I personally set up rooms.

The 5 best tips EVER on setting up your rooms

Ever make a purchase blunder? Try these steps the next time you think you need something new for a room and see if you can’t save yourself alot of future grief, AND money.

1. Figure out what you like.

2. Function first.

3. Mimick the trial run.

4. Try using what you have first.

5. Buy price efficiently and morph.

1. Figure out what you like.

Getting inspiration from books is helpful so you can grasp what you like. And someone else already wrote the book on this one, so please go visit Cottage Instinct’s amazing post HERE on finding your loves. Best advice EVER.

Just keep in mind, books offer you inspiration, but not necessarily the end result. Why? Because, your home will not look like what’s in the books. Just like a hairstyle from a magazine can’t be exactly yours. But it can indeed be a variation of that. Good news is, in most cases, your version will be BETTER because you’ll have made it work for you own home’s requirements.

ie: I wanted a kitchen office. So I figured out what I liked and at the time, it was all about antique white. So I scooched the kitchen table, chairs and hutch out of the way and tried this variation with stuff I had on hand. I really liked it! So now I knew what to build on.


2. Function first.

We all love pretty things and we want our surroundings to reflect our taste. HOWEVER, pretty doesn’t equate function. They are two separate categories.

Function allows you to use every square inch of your home. All pretty does alone is create a museum. Your house cost you alot. Don’t you want to use it? 

So, allow abit of ugly in until you can make it pretty. I live with all kinds of odds and sods for a long time until I know without a doubt that my environment will function well. And only then do I bring out the paint and smarten the place up. I never NEVER finish up until I know the pieces work their best first.

ie: As for the kitchen office? The new setup functioned MUCH better than the kitchen table and chairs for eating ever did. Hence, the new kitchen office was born.

3. Mimicking the trial run

Mimicking a trial run will allow you to better define just how well the space functions. You can generally mimick a new function in a new room with things you already have on hand. This is a hard phase, as you have to look past what your eclectic mix really looks like. Don’t think pretty. Think pretend pretty. 🙂 

ie: By mimicking this trial run with a headboard, desk, chair and chunk of pegboard,  I was able to create a functional pretend office within 5 minutes of scrounging around in the garage. While using the space, the mimick time allowed me to quickly figure out I needed more desktop and storage than what these pieces allowed for. Now wasn’t this awesome to find out before purchasing anything?  

4. Try using what you have first.

Any DIYer knows, in many cases, you can morph objects into uses other than what they were intended for. So try it out with your own stuff before purchasing.

ie: When I  moved the hutch, table and chairs all back into place until I could land some decent office decor, I realized I could create the office I needed with everything already there!

Kitchen office today, HERE.

This area is one of the most used places in the house today. (thanks to ahem.. blogging)  Had I not done a trial run with the office idea, I don’t even think I would have been able to think of these components for office use. Much like the couch story, the trial junk saved me many dollars in potential costly mistakes. Only thing left to do is bring some of those beloved antique white highlights in. And I will. Soon!

5. Buy price efficiently and morph.

Rather than running out to get that high ticket item, try your local thrifts etc first. Because again, you can morph a sweet find into a must have.

ie: I purchased one thing for this kitchen office, and that was the chair on the right. This one small $20 investment took my eclectic look to the next level. By having two different chairs, it created a fun and casual look, rather than everything higher end ‘matchy matchy’. (nothing wrong with matchy matchy, btw! I was just going for something more casual)

Here’s another story. This is a shot of when my kitchen was being built. Take special note of the island to the left. See the boards on top?

When I was trying to figure out how large to make my island top, I cut out a 4×8 piece of corrugated plastic (coroplast) in the exact shape I had in mind. I also then cut the entire board in half so I could make it smaller and larger upon will to grasp the reality of what was to come. I lived with that sample for nearly 2 weeks before committing.

And I’m so glad I did! I was able to give my idea a trial run before running out with money in hand, which could have led to a  VERY costly mistake. As you can see, this is a very customized metal topper. Extremely heavy and there to stay. I did NOT want to make a mistake on this one!

See the curvy shape? I did the shape in the trial run with the coroplast too, right down to how large I desired the radius corners.

Try it first.

Efficient trial #1. BLEEP. (sorry Teddy)

Efficient trial #2. DINGDINGDING!

I only have one small issue left unsolved.

Getting a turn in the Up-Cat chair.

How about you?

Tell us about a purchase blunder you’ve made.  Could trying out these tips have saved you alot of grief? How do you trial run new ideas when setting up?

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33 thoughts on “5 top tips on setting up a room.

  1. Great post and very informative. You have a talent to make everything look good! As an indecisive person, I’ve learned to live with things too. For trial runs, I’ve hung brown paper bags on the walls and wrapped lamps in aluminum foil to see how I’d like a shape, color or texture before committing to purchase. It’s great to hear I’m not alone. Thanks for sharing your secrets. Lisa

  2. I thought we were the only ones with a laundry couch. My 4 year old (at the time) was asking where something was one day and I was telling her which couch and she said Oh, you mean the laundry couch. So, 3 years later it is still lovingly called the laundry couch. Love this post.

    Cha Cha

  3. What a wonderful post that translates well into any decorating style. I don’t have a couch like yours, but rather a “laundry, trash waiting to go downstairs and books to return to the library” built in bench storage unit in my hallway. I think everyone has those “collection points” in their home.

    Annie @ The View from 256

  4. Could trying out these tips have saved me a lot of grief? YES! A lot of grief and a lot of $$!

    This is so wise, espcially the trial run part. Why I never thought of that is beyond me, but I never did. So many times I’ve seen something in someone else’s home and decided that is what I want only to do it in my own home and realize that it doesn’t work in my house at all.

    Wish I could have traded you two uncomfortable wingbacks for one uncomfortable sofa section.

    Hey, they make chair covers for wingbacks? Really? Where does one get them?

    Thanks for your continual flow of wise advice.

  5. These tips will definitely save me time and money!! Thank you so much!! I love the new chairs and I see your cats do too!! LOL! “Beautiful cats by the way!
    Thanks for all the ideas and the pics.

  6. Lots of brilliant going on here! When you emailed me the ‘function first’ idea last week, my wee brain went “aha!” I’m trying to set up different areas in my home as ‘hot spots’….homework station, office, eating, reading, relaxing, etc. Because I have so many people and one big dog sharing lots of small rooms, I need to be efficient and organized. FUNCTION. But I usually jump the gun and go for PRETTY first and end up disapponted.

    I’ve written about my morbid revolving furniture story….blame it on craigslist. But I’m done ‘buying and trying’ to instead trying what I have first.

    Hey, and thanks for the mention! *smooch*

  7. Great advice, I’ve made a few of those oops purchases over the years and mostly because I didn’t do one of the things you’ve listed. I let the piece win me over without really thinking about how it would fit in somewhere. I don’t do that anymore.

    I did the same thing you did with our kitchen layout. We had more blue painter’s tape than you can imagine on the walls, the floors, everywhere, and pieces of cardboard laid out to define certain areas to make sure there would be enough room for walkways, etc.

    Thanks for always providing useful info on your blog and I love you house!!! I especially love your metal topped island! Is it zinc?

    Kat 🙂

  8. I love your hutch, Donna! I do like that area you put together as your “home central” there, too. I understand about the couch and I even tell clients “you need to sit in it and if you like to take naps, you need to lay on it, too”. These are large pieces that can eat up a budget. I love your resolution to the situation.

  9. Love this post. When we built our first home, I was so impatient and had to have things done now, long story short, I ended up hating some very big ticket items. Like my countertop. With this home, we are building as we go, and we do not buy until we love. I’ve had plywood counters for 4 months now and do not mind at all. When I find the right stuff I will know. Finally have my project done.. fits perfect with this post. I picked it up thinking it was going to be a coffee table, lived with it for awhile and it morphed into something totally differnt. Can not wait to post it to SNS…Loving your posts!

  10. These are great! I believe firmly in a house being a HOME not a museum. I need to figure out how to “sample” a kitchen island since we can’t figure out what size would be best.

  11. I love that your cats have now taken over the chair! heh! My cat does the same thing. Great ideas, I especially like the office you created. I just bought some pegboard yesterday and can’t wait to get it up on my wall and using it!

  12. Hey, thanks for all the kudos!

    Cindy, your kitchen redecorating made me think of this post, so thanks for your table buying blunders! 🙂

    Cindy’s table buying blunders are at:


    Sheri, for a pretend kitchen island, search for some large boxes so you are able to add/remove as need be for varying sizes. If you take a look at this following link, pictures 5 and 6 down show my pretend kitchen island, which is a garage worktable. Proved that I loved this size so much that I used these exact dimentions for my finished island…


    The concept totally works!

    FJ Donna

  13. Loved your post! We move alot with the military so have had to re-do, re-arrange, re-align, re-upholster, re-think…re! re! re!… and the list goes on…and I can’t seem to say no to free furniture! So I have stuff we never sit in (like the hard rock maple rocker that is going to the thrift shop this week!), or the 4 director’s chairs in the attic with no backs or seats…but your post reminded me that this is “trial junk” and when we stop moving I will have a handle on what kind of “permanent junk” I want!

  14. Great post. You definitely have to take the proper time to think things through and try things on before committing to them. I’ve lived with the yukky side of my kitchen for almost 3 years now before I was sure of what I wanted to do. LOVE the chairs where the couch was. Great improvement!

  15. I love the picture at the end with the two cats snuggled up. So cute! I think comfort is #1 in rooms and I try to make the comfortable as attractive as possible. Our houses aren’t for show, we live in them! I love my family room except for the giant recliner in there. But guess what? I’m the one who bought the recliner, because that’s what my hubby is comfortable in. I think your box/end table is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!!

  16. While the tips were great I’m really writing to let you know that I saved one of your pictures into my “New House Ideas” folder on my computer. Your fireplace is absolutely gorgeous and someday in the future I will be using that picture as inspiration! Thanks!! 🙂

  17. A girl after my own heart for sure. I’ve decided that we were separated at birth! So many of your posts are exactly what I’m thinking about at the time. This was indeed a great one.

    I’ve been doing the furniture dance myself for 2 weeks now. It’s a bit tough when you have everything just the way you like it in one house, even purchased exactly for that house – and then you move, and nothing seems to work the same. I have a room full of my favorite furniture pieces that now have no home because they don’t work here.

    I always shop from my own home first before I spend a dime anywhere. If I don’t have it, and I can’t build it, then I’ll go shop for a solution elsewhere.

    I am totally in love with your kitchen office now. I’m also gonna be using your first attempt at the office as a bit of inspiration for a bare spot near my workroom very soon.

    Great post.

  18. I need to read this over and over and OVER! Our furniture just doesn’t fit in the new house the way I want it to (that is what I get for letting hubby pick out the house himself ;D)

    I think my biggest problem is getting past number 1! I like EVERYTHING! 😛

  19. #23 Lorie, I know what you mean. You live there so it’s harder, MUCH harder to be totally objective and see the function over the form.

    I suggest get a friend who knows their decorating thang to come in and give honest opinions on what works/doesn’t work and what would work. You need objective eyes. We all do at times. Even ME! 😀

    FJ Donna

  20. I am trying so hard to slooow down when making purchases, big or small. I can be very haphazard and not think things through long enough. I’m a get it done quick kind of person and that is certainly not always a good thing. I also love the advice given over at Cottage Instincts about loves. I am really trying to think that way…do I like it or love it. I am also trying to get rid of so much “stuff”. I want things to be simpler and easier on the eyes. Your things are lovely.

  21. You do such an awesome job! Love your blog and honesty!
    We moved two years ago and didn’t want to spend a bunch on different furniture…visited IKEA….bought the EKTORP TULLSTA chair cuz it came in red and the POANG. The Tullsta…no lika….in fact it got moved to the bedroom…but our kitties love it! Like the POANG chair so much we bought another one. They are the matching chairs by the fireplace and they are black and red and comfortable…perfect!
    Love your kitties 🙂

  22. Loving the cat up chair!! That movie was too cute and your chair certainly fits the bill. Our furry kids love taking up space on the couch or really anywhere you sit down.

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