Stories from middle America

Last summer I started chatting with a friend of mine who was also interested in interior design. She mentioned that she had another friend in Florida that had been asking her for some help decorating his beach house. Being the crafty business woman my friend (and now business partner, Amanda!) is, she told him she’d be happy to help him if she could enlist me (Birdhouse) as the lead designer on the project. He jumped at the idea and before I knew it I was heading down to sunny Florida.

The goal of the project was to keep the spaces feeling light and airy, stick to a relatively modest budget, and decorate the house in stages. Our client has a young son and a dog, so purchases needed to be durable. And, since our client assumed he would be selling his house in the not-too-distant future, he didn’t want it to scream masculine and alienate future buyers. He also wanted to feel like it was his space while living there so it couldn’t be too feminine either. We tried for a place that would look and feel inviting to everyone.

We only had time to finish about 90% of the living room and dining room before our client had to put the house on the market and move for a new job. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do some of the additional styling that I really love that makes a house feel really warm, but we did do a lot to make the spaces feel more put together and interesting.

Here are some before photos of the living room (though Amanda had already sourced those awesome Missoni-esque chairs):

before florida project

before florida project 2

The room started a little sterile and the furniture was too heavy for a beach house. The console and end table were far too traditional for the space and we wanted a little more color and pattern.

The almost After:

Florida Beach House - Birdhouse

Florida Beach Project - Birdhouse

We didn’t get to style the room completely before these photos were taken. I know that it shouldn’t be a big deal, but a few details are off to me. For example, I am not sure why the front two legs of the gray couch got moved off the rug, why the chairs are so far apart (I think the realtor wanted a better view into the porch and backyard), and I want those seahorse pillows to be a bit more casually placed on the chairs. But, that’s just me being a nutty control freak and wanting to showcase what we did through our Birdhouse lens.

In progress

The in-progess stage before the new rug and framed art. Notice the tighter seating plan though?

So, what did we actually do in this space? Basically went crazy at affordable retail stores and shopped in our client’s own home. We got rid of one of the dark brown couches and found a sleeker and more contemporary gray leather one from West Elm. It really helped to modernize the look of the space. It felt a little strange walking into a beach house by the water, owned by a really sharp-dressed bachelor, and see a sort of man cave kind of thing happening. We really wanted to try and reflect both the environment and personality of our client a bit more.

The somewhat dated and traditional side and console tables were replaced with light, natural wood tables that have a more organic feel to them (from West Elm and Restoration Hardware). The chairs were a splurge that added a lot of energy and style to the space (there were much more generic chairs before). Amanda sourced them through a local furniture store in Omaha and they were simply shipped to Florida. We infused some pattern with a large printed, natural fiber rug and kept the color palette in blues and whites.

Our client already had some really great art that we had framed using larger mats to give the pieces a greater scale to show up in such a big room and chose white so they would pop against the light ecru wall color. The tall living room wall needed to be addressed and the larger art helped to fill it up and turn it into a focal point of the space. Finally, we found some cute seahorse pillows from Jonathan Adler that brought a little personality and reminder that you are at the beach.

We wanted to add a white ceramic garden stool in between the two chairs and also add some wallpaper for behind the television in the little nook. But, overall this area has much more style.

What about the dining room? The before:

before dining room

The After (minus our tabletop styling):

Florida Dining Room - Birdhouse

Florida Dining Room - Birdhouse

In the dining room we replaced the rug with the sisal one that was originally in the living room. It was a great place to reuse an existing piece that was good looking and perfectly functional. Since all the furniture was the wrong scale for the area, we found a bigger and again, more natural, wood table from Restoration Hardware. We wanted the seating to be comfortable but practical, hence the leather chairs. Having the end chairs taller and in a different color creates more balance and visual interest. Finally, in went more of our client’s art framed in white, over a larger console table and two modern green lamps for additional color.


We wanted to replace the fan with three of these recycled boat pendant lights, but didn’t get the chance. However, we think the space still looks pretty great without them.

Working on this project has been really exciting as it has opened doors to work outside of Omaha. Getting to work in different environments is key to an interior design business’s growth because it allows us to highlight many different types and styles of design.

Next up on the out-of-area projects, Amanda and I are thrilled to begin working on a lovely home with a wonderful family on the Jersey shore!

Stay tuned.

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