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Decorating UNschool: Furniture Arrangement

Hey there! I’m back today with another installment of Decorating UNschool.  For the other posts in this series click here.

Today I’m talking about arranging furniture.  Because this is UNschool, like I keep saying over and over, I don’t have hard and fast rules for you here.  I just have some ideas and truthfully, I don’t have a magic formula.  Every home is different and the real key is every person is different.  Design is subjective in so many ways and in this area especially, there might not be a perfect way to arrange your living room furniture.  You just might have to try several different ways, and even live with them for a few days (weeks, even?) until you figure out what works best for you and your family.  But I’ll share with you what I’ve found to generally work well.

My general “rules” for bedrooms

When you walk into the room, the bed should be centered on the opposite wall.

Large matching lamps make a statement; matching side tables are not necessary, though the lamps should end up around the same height.

Mismatched Nightstands

This is a great example of mismatched nightstands and big beautiful lamps.  Unfortunately I could not find a source on this one.  If anyone knows it please let me know!!

Pattern/texture mixing and rug rules apply and its always nice if you have room for a spot to sit as well.

Colorful bedroom with books

Source – Lonny

This bedroom is a beautiful example of lots of texture and pattern and of course you know I love all the books!

My general “rules” for living rooms

Pattern/texture mixing and rug rules apply.

Have lots of lamps easily accessible.  Maybe a console table behind a sofa with two matching lamps?  A floor lamp near a chair?

Have side tables easily accessible and don’t feel the need to clutter them up with decorative items.  A cleared off space is a welcoming space.

Pattern : Jones Design

source – Jones Design Company

Those flowers are pretty but not practical in my house!  I keep one tray for books, coasters, and remotes on my coffee table and that’s it.  Its not exactly “styled” but it allows for us to live and play on it.

My living room

My living room

Determine the purpose of the room.  Will there be tv watching?  Is it a formal or a casual space? Do you need lots of open space and a cozy rug for playing on the floor with little ones?  Do you have a high priority for lots of seating?  Will you be hosting a lot of guests in this room?    Do you need storage for toys, books, media?


source – Urban Grace Interiors

Go to the trouble to make the arrangement you’d like to have work. I know some designers may disagree with this (its UNschool, remember?), but I love having my tv over the fireplace.  We have a small living room and it is our only family room.  We do everything in here from watching tv, hanging out, wrestling matches, bible studies with our small group, and sometimes even dinner parties when the kids outnumber the adults and they take over the tables.  Our priority was to have a lot of seating.  Which means there’s not really anywhere to put a big media console.  I love our fireplace and putting the tv over it just made sense.  It took a little reworking since there used to be a window above the fireplace (yep, so weird, I know!!) and we had to have wires channeled through the wall but we had a great contractor help us figure all of that out.  It was a bit of a pain in the beginning but it has worked so well for the flow of our living room and I’m so glad we went through the trouble to make it all happen.

Pull the furniture away from the walls if possible.  You’ve probably heard this before, but everything pushed against the walls can feel too open and awkward.  If you’re going for a cozier feeling, consider pulling at least a few things away from the walls.

two couches

source- Emily Henderson

Even if you’re facing a couch toward a tv, consider having a chair or two that face away from the tv.  You still want your room to feel conversational and welcoming- not necessarily a media room (unless that’s what you’re going for!).

two chairs

source- My Domaine

Consider the scale of your room and your furniture pieces.  Remember to measure everything before you buy.  I’ve made this mistake, too!  You’re looking at it in the store (or online) and it looks perfect but once you get it home, its actually way too big or small.  It is really important to not skip this step and understand the size that you need.  A lot of small pieces in a large room might end up looking kind of junky.  However, a small room can actually handle a few pieces of large furniture if they are carefully planned!  My favorite online tool for arranging furniture is floorplanner.com.  Plug in the dimensions of your room and then add in furniture of varying sizes and play around with different layouts before you actually buy.

Floor Planner Bedroom Floor Planner Living Room


Another thing to consider- create contrast with varying heights in your room.  Make sure everything is not hovering around “couch height.”  Add in a low ottoman, a bookshelf, a large floor lamp or plant, etc for balance.  You’ll notice most of the example pictures I used above have used these elements!

And lastly, are you unhappy with your current arrangement?  Change things up!  What can it hurt?  Take the 30 minutes to rearrange and just see.  Have you been wondering what that little side table from upstairs would look like downstairs?  Go grab it right now and try it out.  Have you been wanting to try the chair from your bedroom in your living room but just haven’t gotten around to it?  What are you waiting for?  Shopping and arranging from your own house is about as low risk as it gets.  The worst thing that can happen is that you hate it and you end up putting it back where it was.  Its definitely worth a try!

Any other questions or thoughts on furniture arrangement?  I’d love to hear from you! It really is subjective because there are so many possibilities and I don’t necessarily believe a room has one right way.  That floor planner website really is my best secret for you though… hopefully it will be helpful! Have a great weekend.



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Links for Your Weekend

I’m taking a little break from the Decorating UNschool posts today to share a few links from around the web I’ve enjoyed recently.

I’m currently working on a kitchen remodel with a client and its been so fun picking out finishes and paint colors with her.  We want a modern and simple look on the main cabinets (white Shaker style doors) but something different for the island.  While the rest of this particular kitchen I’ve linked to is a lot more industrial than we are going for, this little sink area is just lovely and so inspiring with the wood tones and more traditional style.  It looks like a piece of furniture stained and added in!  Beautiful.Wood Island

Trends Ideas: Wood in the Kitchen

This article was a good read and led to some interesting discussion in our house.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

Raising a Creative Child

How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off

Next up, House of Jade Interiors (formerly 6th Street Design School) was one of the first design blogs I ever read.  To watch Kirsten’s career just take off in recent months has been exciting and a learning experience for me!    I especially love this post that includes a brief video showing some of the installation process at one of her newest projects.  I love that part of design- when all the planning details are in place, the bones of the home are finished, and you actually get to style everything with gorgeous accessories.  Looks like so much fun!

House of Jade

Lastly, Paul and I have recently partnered up with a nonprofit company called Hand Up Global Goods (HUGG).  We did a Valentine’s photo series for them and it was so much fun to flex our creative muscles in a different way.

HUGG Valentine's Day

Hugg Valentine's Day 2

Follow them on instagram @handupglobalgoods and check out their website here to see more of our photos.  You can also learn more about the company and see their current Valentine’s specials.

That’s it for now, hope you have a great weekend and however you may be celebrating, hope you have a Happy Valentine’s Day!!

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Decorating UNschool: Pattern Mixing

We’ve talked about lighting and we’ve talked about rugs.  Today its all about pattern mixing, which for me in my own home, and very often for my clients, means pillows, curtains, or bedding.  Since I tend to campout in neutral land and I like for my large expensive purchases to be able to stand the test of time (and my ever changing taste) I generally go for solid pieces of furniture and curtains (we’ll get to those in another post). But when it comes to mixing and matching patterns, pillows are where its at for me.

Pattern Mixing Pillows

I used to feel so daunted by pattern mixing.  I loved examining the work of designers and seeing a room that felt so put together, yet in an effortless way that wasn’t overly “designed” or matching.  I just couldn’t quite grasp how they did it.

Pattern mixing House Beautiful

source– House Beautiful

Pattern Mixing Holly Mathis

source- Holly Mathis

At some point in my “research” and blog hunting, I took a brief online course all about creating a color scheme and pattern mixing.  It was like it finally all made sense.  I’m still no expert and definitely have a lot to learn of course (that’s why this is UNschool), but it was really very simple once someone explained it to me and I started playing around with patterns in my own home.  And by the way, I still love to examine the work of my favorite designers, looking at each element and determining what is it that makes the room so great.  That’s my design school.

Pattern Mixing House of Jade

source – House of Jade

Pattern Mixing - Milk and Honey Home

source – Milk and Honey Home

So, here is my version of basic pattern mixing:

Its best to start with your busiest pattern, your pattern with the most color.  Find something you love that contains all the colors you want in the room, and maybe even a few extra.  If you are color-phobic like me, I have found that a good rule of thumb is for at least one pattern to have 4-5 colors and no less.  This is so you don’t end up matchy-matchy.  Remember the goal here is to not have everything match.  We’re not necessarily picking out colors that you must adhere to.  Just finding your inspiration.

Pattern Mixing- Spring Fabric

Because I’m longing for spring and Valentine’s day is around the corner, we’ll start with this beautiful floral that has some pink and purple in it.

Next, add in a more simple or subtle pattern to contrast.  In order to do this, you must consider the scale of each pattern.  If you have a very large scale pattern, add in medium and small scale patterns.

Similarly, consider the type of pattern.  All geometric patterns is overkill.  Try a floral mixed in.  Or a stripe mixed with an ikat. Too many patterns of the same scale and/or type will look busy.

Something else to consider is the background color of the patterns.  I love a nice crisp white, but if every pattern is on white, they will start to blend together.  Its good to have some creamier colors in the backgrounds for contrast and yes, you can definitely mix white with ivory.

Pattern Mixing - large and small scales

I’ve added in two more patterns with my floral. I’ve pulled the tones from the original pattern but the scales and types are much different. The gray buffalo check, while it is still a large scale pattern, has very subtle colors. The polka dot is a small scale pattern and its dark background gives a nice contrast with the other two.

Its always nice to have a solid with some texture to balance it all out.  I like to do this with a velvet or linen pillow to contrast with the sofa fabric.  Do you feel like your sofa is too dark?  I always encourage my clients to add in some oversized white or ivory solid pillows.  This helps to lighten everything up.

Pattern Mixing adding in solids

So let’s pretend like these are pillows on a dark gray couch. I’ve now added in some washed white linen pillows. They add in some lightness and texture to the mix.

Now, we could definitely leave it as is, but for a little more dimension and color, I’ve added in one more pillow- the wild card.  Its just for some extra texture or contrast.  For this example,  I pulled from the pinks in our original pattern, but the scale and background of the florals are different.

Pattern Mixing with The House of Figs

These concepts don’t just apply to pillows.  Its the same when considering patterns on rugs, curtains, bedding, even furniture pieces for the brave among you.   Remember to consider scale, type of pattern, the background color of the pattern, and always add in solid colors and textures when its feeling busy.  Don’t go for matchy-matchy, go for compliment and contrast.

So that’s it for today- class is dismissed!



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Decorating UNschool: Rugs

New to this series?  Read the intro here and you can find the first day of “class” here.

Hey there!  Today’s UNlesson is all about rugs.  Don’t forget, this is all purely my opinion and not hard and fast rules.  Its simply what I’ve found to be true and what I prefer.  There are always exceptions to this and you will find them all over the wide web, and maybe even in your own home.  That’s great!  That’s why this is decorating UNschool.

But for what they’re worth, here are all my thoughts on rugs:

Rugs Dining Room Young House Love

Image source- Young House Love

Rugs help to define a space.  Even if you have carpet, it can be nice to layer a rug over it (yes you can definitely do that!) to define the specific area.  Rugs can bring in color or texture to a room that might otherwise feel pretty neutral or matte.  Couches and wall to wall carpeting can often be similar in texture and color or at least tone (neutral, earthy, etc).  Its nice to have something breaking it up, something either a different color, pattern, or texture (or all three!) that will act as a separation and contrast.

Rugs- Amber Interiors

Image Source- Amber Interiors

Rugs, (like light fixtures), usually need to be bigger than we think. If they are defining a room, they should be nearly as big as the room itself.  They act as a landing space for the furniture in the room and so the pieces of furniture should at least have their front feet on it (though I feel a media cabinet is exempt from this rule as seen below) so as not to feel like they are just floating in space.  Similarly, in a dining room, its best if all the chairs fit on the rug, even when completely pulled out from the table.

Rugs- Young House Love

Image Source- Young House Love

Rugs can tend to be expensive.  It may end up being one of the most expensive pieces in your entire room.  Buying a high quality rug is probably a good idea, since everyone will be stepping and walking all over it, but I wouldn’t know that because I’ve never really done it.  But I have made some mistakes as well as found some great rugs which I will share…

Because rugs need to be bigger than we think and tend to be expensive, one of the biggest mistakes I see is having a rug too small for the space.  Its an easy mistake to make and I completely understand it.  You want the defined space, the color, texture, etc, but you’re trying to make a cost effective decision.  So can’t you get away with the 5 by 7 instead of the 8 by 10?  Hmmm, not always. Its okay if you’re looking at your rug and you think you’ve made this mistake.  I do have a solution for you and we’ll get to that.

Rugs- Studio McGee

Image Source- Studio McGee

Where your rug will be located and how it will be used should help determine what type of material your rug will be.  I only know this because of the various mistakes I’ve made over the years.  I LOVE the look of a natural fiber rug- like a chunky jute or sisal.  We’ve had two of these in our living room over the years.  However, this is just not the best for our family for a few reasons.  The first was that those tiny fibers ended up all over everything- our clothes, our babies, and our wood floors.  Especially when one of the rugs was a wool and jute blend- wool sheds like crazy, especially in a high traffic area.  Its just what it does.

Rugs- Lauren Liess

Image source- Lauren Liess. She is the queen of using beautiful natural fiber rugs in a space. I just love all the neutral, textural goodness in here.

Rugs- Pottery Barn

This is the Chunky Wool & Jute Rug from Pottery Barn. I LOVED the way it looked in our living room. But the fuzz balls all over our floors and clothing were not good. It didn’t work for this family of five, especially in a high traffic room.

The second reason it wasn’t good for us is that it just wasn’t soft for sitting, playing, wrestling, etc on the floor.  Which we do all the time.  We don’t have a separate playroom downstairs, so our living room is our multipurpose room.  We needed something cozy.  The third reason is that natural fiber rugs, if they don’t have a border, can start to lose their shape over time (especially in a high traffic area).  Some people love this look as its kind of bohemian, laid back, etc. I learned that I don’t love this look and it drove me crazy.  I felt like our nice rectangular rug was gradually turning into a weird oval thing.  Time to say goodbye to the dream of having a natural fiber rug in my living room.

Rugs- my old house

This is the living room in our old house.

I realized I kept being drawn to the natural fiber rug look because I was craving that texture.  So I found other ways to add it in (a burlap ottoman, bamboo roman shades, etc) and moved on from my dream of a natural fiber rug.  Next I tried a beautiful black and white striped flatweave rug from Crate and Barrel.  Stunning with its contrast and stripes, but again, not cozy or soft at all.  A flatweave rug (or dhurrie) is by its very nature flat.  What was I thinking? It was moved into our bedroom shortly after where it is perfect.  We’re generally not sitting or playing on the floor in our bedroom, so it doesn’t need to be soft and cozy there.  A colorful or patterned flatweave rug layered over carpet in the bedroom is a nice way to add in some contrast.

Master Bedroom // The House of Figs

Our Master Bedroom where you can catch a glimpse of that black and white rug.

The Montgomery House - Big Boy Room Small WM_7

I used a rug over carpeting in the Montgomery House boys’ room

The House of Figs- nursery

There is also a flatweave rug in my youngest son’s nursery

So finally for the living room I found what seems to be for now the best solution.  Its soft and cozy, it gives me some lightness that I needed (to contrast with our dark floors and dark furniture), it didn’t break the bank, and its not made of wool (100% polyester), so it doesn’t shed at all.  Nope, its not the highest quality.  And yes, it used to be a lot more white than it is now.  All things that I can most definitely live with in this season of my life.

Living Room // The House of Figs

This is the Keno Moroccan Shag MRC2 Rug from Rugs USA currently in our living room.

We visited my parents over the holidays and their nice wool rug that they’ve had for almost a year was shedding like crazy!  I mentioned it to my mom because I figured the shedding should have stopped by now and she said it doesn’t do this normally.  It was only because we were all there.  Normally its just my mom and dad, walking across the rug and then sitting down on the couch.  They use their living room a lot differently than we do with three kids practicing Tae Kwon Do, ballet, acting like puppy dogs, wrestling, and kicking up clouds of wool by the handful.  I was glad to know they don’t have to live with that constant shedding.  And also glad to learn that in this season of life, we will need a rug that can act accordingly.  So different rugs work for different people, in different seasons of life.  Maybe one day my natural fiber or wool rug dreams will be possible, just not right now.

Rugs - Life in Grace Blog

Image Source – Life in Grace

So what if you have the perfect rug, great material, great colors, you love how it looks, but you’ve realized its too small?  What to do? I told you earlier I have a solution and here it is.  I love to layer that great rug over a larger rug- usually a very flat natural fiber rug that can just sort of blend in but add lots of texture to the room.  Now I know you just heard my distaste for natural fiber rugs in the living room, but hear me out on this one.  If you’ve already got your cozy rug and this will be underneath- this rug will not be the one you will be mostly sitting on, walking on, and playing on the most.  Its just sort of an extender.  Sort of like leggings under your too short tunic top.  Necessary? Yes. But not the primary player.  And if you get one with a border, you can avoid the misshapen-ness that happened to me as well.

Rugs- Layered rugs Amber Interiors

Image Source- Amber Interiors

Rugs- layered rugs Lauren Liess

Image Source- Lauren Liess

Rugs Layered rugs Jones Design

Image Source- Jones Design Company

Rugs- layered Beachy Glam The house of Figs

That last one is from this client of mine.  I love how it extended the room just enough to be able to pull back the furniture and make it feel bigger.  It (along with the coffee table) also brought in some much needed texture and earthiness to this kind of glamourous and modern furniture.  Win- win situation!  You can find the rug that we used here.

So that’s my discourse on rugs for the day.  Bigger is better, know your material, and layering is always an option!  Thanks for reading.  I’ll be back soon talking pillows and mixing and matching patterns.  Hope you’re having a great week!



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Decorating UNschool

I get a lot of questions here, on Instagram, and often in real life about different decor related conundrums. Sometimes I freak out a little about that because the truth is, I’m not really an expert.  I have no degree or formal training in this area. But in my own home, because of an intense passion for contrasts, textures, patterns, fabrics, and furniture arrangements, I’ve grown to develop an eye and a confidence about what to do.  Slowly, I’m learning to trust and lean on that confidence when it comes to other people’s homes and questions as well.

Living Room // The House of Figs

I’ve decided to start a series here on the blog in which I answer some of those FAQs and address the issues I frequently run into when I meet someone in their home looking for advice from me about what to do with their space.  It will kind of be like my version of decorating school- sharing the way I approach a room, piece by piece.  But since I never went to decorating school and my education in that area consisted of Pinterest, a handful of blogs, magazines, and HGTV over the years, we’re going to call it UNschool.

The House Of Figs - Greene Living Room-6 Small WM

So, welcome to decorating UNschool.  Ditch the number two pencils and don’t worry about getting here on time.  It’s all about freedom and there really aren’t any rules.  We’re just going to talk about things like light fixtures, selecting a rug, mixing and matching fabrics, and hanging curtains.  I’ve already made two videos about gallery walls so I’ll probably skip that subject, but please let me know in the comments below if there’s anything you’d like to hear about over the next few weeks!

The Montgomery House - Kitchen Small_0 WM

Looking forward to it!

xoxo Bethany

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A Bit of Ugly

In keeping with my post earlier this week about 4 elements of design, I’ve been thinking about the idea of contrast more.  This led me to remember a lovely book on my shelf by Deborah Needleman called “The Perfectly Imperfect Home.”  Its a little more rules driven and “professional” than I usually care for (since I am neither!) but it does have some sweet little illustrations and excellent tidbits of advice.

A Big of Ugly
My favorite bit of advice has to do with contrast.  She says that to create a beautiful home, you always need “a bit of ugly.”

Ummm… what?  Ugly?  Yes, that’s right.  And I love it.

 Here’s what she has to say:

“Think about a room in which all the colors are pretty pastels like duck-egg blue and green and cream: the look can go rather dollhouse and saccharine.  If you were to include a little gray, dull black, or faded green, those very same lighter colors would actually look fresher and more dynamic….  Similarly, while most people go overboard on brown furniture, a bit of dreary brown wood, or dull finishes, can be a sobering and stabilizing influence in a space, especially one that has any excess of glamour or girliness.”

So good, right?

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!


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Decorating Lessons from What Not to Wear


Was anyone else a fan of What Not to Wear back in the day?  Stacey and Clinton sure knew how to put together an outfit.  The snarky commentary was a bonus.  But really, isn’t it amazing how they could take anyone from frumpy to fashionable in a matter of days?  And the best part was they let everyone maintain their own unique style, while keeping a few guidelines consistent in putting together outfits.  They called these golden guidelines “the rules.”  Any of you super fans like me out there remember the rules?  It was almost like a mantra: color, pattern, texture, & shine.  Add these in to any outfit in the right amounts and you’ve got something good going on.

So as a fashion enthusiast myself, today, I give you:

Decorating Lessons from What Not to Wear

(thanks for the inspiration, Stacey & Clinton!)

So, color, pattern, texture, and shine to make a great outfit?  I’ve found that the same is true for a room.  Every room needs some amount of these elements- no matter what your style is.  If you love one or two more than the other, that probably defines your style, but you still need a little of the others.

Its all about balance and contrast.

For example… do you love nailhead trim?  Sparkly light fixtures?  Silver and gold?  Maybe you have a “glam” style so you’ve got the shine covered but make sure to add in some texture and pattern for contrast.  Maybe something distressed or earthy? It will make the sparkle shine that much brighter. Make sure to consider color- add in a little black or deep wood tones to keep your shiny sparkly room from floating away.

Glam Room


Do you love bright color?  Do you find that you’re drawn to buying bright accessories, pillows, and pieces of furniture?  That’s great, but maybe consider balancing it with white walls.  And then make sure not every pillow or accessory is the same finish.  Have some that are shiny, some that are matte, some that have a textural earthy dull color and will contrast with your love of bright things.  This will make your love of color really come through in your home.




Do you love neutrals?  Do you find yourself drawn to the beige couch?  Oh and the beige rug or the white furniture and the white walls?  Well that’s all fine and dandy until you find yourself living in neutral land and it feels all blah and boring.

Here’s the good news: white and beige are colors too!  But don’t forget the other three element- pattern, texture, and shine.  I consider myself in this camp.  I don’t love a lot of glam and I prefer color in small doses. So to balance it out I make sure to have lots of pattern, even if its subtle.  I also make sure to have lots of textures going on.  And I consider my “shine” to be as simple as the few reflective surfaces throughout my home- the vases, the picture frames, mirrors, countertops, etc.  Its subtle, but its just enough (you can see my house here).  Here are some more examples of this neutral/textural style from one of my favorite designers.  See if you can find the color, pattern, texture, and shine in each picture.

Textural Home 2

Neutral and Glam

Textural Home

Neutral Home


I never realized I could learn so much from a makeover show, but seriously this concept of balance and contrast among four consistent rules is so helpful for me!  How about you?  Which of the four guidelines are you drawn to most in your home?  How can you (or do you already?) incorporate some of the other three in subtle doses?  I’d love to hear from you!



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