The den makeover is complete

The den is done, and I like the way it looks. More importantly, I like the way it feels. Having said that, the outcome was kind of an accident. There must be at least a few colors that don’t look good with Benjamin Moore’s brownish-blackish-grayish Iron Mountain hue, but I haven’t found one yet, so I’m glad I chose it over safer options (think taupe). Painting a room usually leaves me a bit depressed (it never looks like the chip) but not this time (it looked better). Then I found the perfect sofa at the perfect price at the nearby Broadway Antique Market and the other pieces just fell into place. It’s a great place to read, listen to music, and (thanks to my finally refinished steel tanker desk) to write. It’s the most me a room could ever be, and being there literally makes me a little happier. That’s my big takeaway. Design Rules: Don’t worry about what you’re supposed to do. Just do what you want and use the things you love. Have fun, because it can be. See beefy captions below for more information. Contest Reminder: For a chance to win a $100 Home Depot gift card and a can of KILZ, please click this link and leave a comment with your favorite paint color. Contest ends October 31st. Thanks for taking the time to participate!

Steel picture ledgesArt and Ledges, a company on Ebay. Top left: A limited edition print from Transmission Atelier sits behind a  framed sign language flash card from FourSidedTop right: I found local artist Harry Sudman‘s painted wood blocks a few years ago at Las Manos Gallery and finally have a suitable place to display them. Bottom left: Original Wonder Woman drawing for board game. Bottom right: Framed prints.

Before photo:

Desk: I finished reassembling the steel tanker desk a few weeks ago, and I love it. I’ve wanted one since I was a kid, but I wanted to find the killer deal ($50 or less). It was years before I finally found the right one at the right price. Although it was in horrible shape, spending all those hours stripping the layers of paint with noxious, skin-burning chemicals made me love it even more. (As it turns out, Ward Cleaver was right: working hard for something actually does make you appreciate the results all the more). While I bought a walnut veneer for the top, I liked the exposed steel so much that I’ve decided to leave it for now. Phone: I scored this for eight bones at the Andersonville Brown Elephant, and I just read somewhere (maybe Apartment Therapy?) that this is the God phone from Dead Poets Society. I want it to be true, so I haven’t checked it out yet. ChairRoom Service. Lamp: Flos, purchased at Room and Board (circa 2006) Super-cool glass car: Architectural Anarchy at Andersonville Galleria. Vintage black and red thermos: Edgewater Antique Mall.  Metric converter pencil holder: Scout.

Notes: Limited edition status of Superman and Batman stand in front of original comic book art by artist Tony Harris for the 90’s DC Comics series Starman, which chronicled the life of reluctant superhero, Jack Knight. By day, Jack’s a hipster antique dealer who fetishizes the vintage and waxes poetic about bakelite. While Jack resists his elderly father’s wish that he take over the mantel of Starman, by the end of the series, Jack has embraced his fate and become a great hero (sans his dad’s red, yellow and green 40’s-era costume). During his odyssey, he falls in love, travels to space, has a kid and retires happy. It was a great series. You might even like it. Regarding the funny book stuff, I love it without irony and with great enthusiasm.

Originally designed in 1952 by Eva Zeisel, Crate and Barrel brought this elegant design back recently. I use it for spare change (and to display a vintage pool ball).

My ode to motherhood. Front photo: My Mom’s high school graduation picture. Back photo: Practically family, my good friend Sara and her amazing daughter Esme on the beach in New Buffalo, MI.

Ladies and Gentleman! Before you is a freakish wall of curiosities, the likes of which you’ve never seen before! Six pence gets you a peek! Arrows: Estate sale. Horns: I needed something to hang above the T, so I was happy that Roost had this pair of horns with red and white leather. It’s exactly what I had envisioned. Paint-by-Numbers: Roost (circa early 09). Roost is becoming one of my favorite shops. Danny does vintage in a very cool, very different way, and the displays are amazing. Ceramic Polaroid sculpture: Urban OutfittersSkull: Ebay (it’s some kind of African animal (I think)) . Metal Red Cross wall cabinet: The Curiosity Shoppe (one of my favorites in San Francisco). Sad superhero statue: Designed by Chicago comic creator Chris Ware for Chicago Comics. Note: Like one of my favorite urban antiques shops, Scout, Chicago Comics regularly paints their hardwood floors different colors. I wish I were brave enough to try that. Beads: Fantastic and available at Michael Del Piero’s Damen Avenue shop. I’ve been displaying them in a large wood plate, but I like them better hanging on this old brass hook, which my mom salvaged right before my hometown demolished my childhood middle school, the same building where my mom and her dad also attended 1st – 5th grade. (Hey, who cares, right? It’s just history). This hook was in one of the cloak rooms, which were large, rather strange closets (ding, ding, ding). Mixed media: Robert Maloney, purchased at Copley Society of Art in Boston. Hanging Superboy page: This is an ad for the upcoming Superboy comic. I think it’s cool, and I needed something there, but nothing worked, so there you go. Tacked up. I kind of like it though.

I thought of this a few days ago, and the photo just arrived in the mail today. Too much?

Sofa: Many mornings, I take a quick break and walk over to the nearby Broadway Antique Market. A few weeks ago, I spotted a pair of sofas I’d never seen before. Their boxy clean lines, tufting and off-white color made them perfect for the den (they were priced right too). According to BAM owners Danny and Jeff, the sofas were custom made in the 70’s. I only needed one, and I had no qualms about splitting them up, which means you can have one too, because as of Friday, the other sofa was still available (although I’ll bet it won’t be there for long).

Framed red Cross flag: I have no idea why, but I had a very clear mental image of a Red Cross flag in this room before I’d even painted the walls. I ordered this one from Quinn’s Flags and framed it in a very inexpensive Target frame. I set it in the window sill while I decided where it should go, and that turned out to be the right place for it.

The birds aren’t meant to invoke Hitchcock’s classic film (at least not consciously).

Bow and arrows: Two weeks ago I stopped at a random estate sale I happened to walk past (the second such sale in as many months), and I found this vintage bow and arrows in nearly mint condition. Trendy or not, I think they’re cool. Sisal rug: 8 x 10, Lowes.

Geometric wood sculpture: I want every part of the room to be beautiful or surprising somehow, so I decided to place one of my favorite things – a small wood geometric cube handmade by Kindling‘s Aaron and Meghan Pahmier – atop the radio next to the sofa. Although hidden from view, I see it at least twice every day, and it always gives me a nice boost. Music: I’ve been listening to Loyola University’s student radio station, WLUW, 88.7 on the FM dial, which plays everything: old-school country to electronica to jazz to alternative to seventies rock. Most of the time I love it (although last night, the DJ played a strange modern version of the Munsters theme song). Loyola’s campus is a few blocks away, so great reception is a bonus. Note: Notice how the check subtle check pattern in the sofa is repeated in the sisal rug and then again in the vintage wire locker baskets? I’d love to tell you that was intentional, but I shan’t lie. Not today anyway. Purely accidental. I use one of the locker baskets for magazines; the other, I flipped upside down to make a small table for the Tivoli radio that’s hidden from view.

Posters: I’ve had the Vertigo poster since college. Neither poster is an original, but I really don’t care. I love them. Pharmacy lamp: Pottery Barn. I bought it years ago, but it’s been out-of-rotation in my place since 2005 or so, and I’d nearly given up on it. But I like it here a lot. The room transformed it into something completely new.

Stool / accent table: World Market. I added a mirror to the top, because the room told me it needed some glam. The Metro sign was once used at the Gunnerson family service station in Morris, IL. I had it framed. Candle: Via Condotti, Jayson Home + Garden. I bought the candle at Jayson Home + Garden, because it smelled exactly like my all-time favorite candle, the Hotel Costes candle, and the room really needed that final layer – a signature scent.

Dresser: I bought this inexpensive dresser from Crate and Barrel years ago, but I’ve never liked it, so I decided to mirror the existing vertical side panels and replace its black knobs with polished chrome (before shot below). Now it looks like a Z Gallerie piece (or Neiman Marcus), but I like it much better. But should I mirror the top as well? Cut mirror can be purchased at many hardware stores. My favorite is Clark-Devon Hardware (which is conveniently located at the corner of Clark and Devon in Edgewater / Rogers Park). Pump a little Mirror Mastic on the back, apply it carefully to the veneer and shazam! Lamp: Andrew Hollingsworth.

Before photo:

With such an eclectic collection of things displayed in the den, you might think I could find a place for the ceramic cow head and the T, but the room repelled them. (It’s very opinionated). I guess two T’s is one T too many (say it twice). And to be honest, that goofy cow head wore on me over time – just a fling I guess (and not my first). Now it’s in the basement, never to be seen again.

Door: I wanted a surprise pop in the room, so I painted the back of the door using a high-gloss oil-based paint. (Did you know oil paint doesn’t dry, it cures?) Appetizer plates: CB2. Leo Designs co-founder Stephanie Wirth gave me these as a thank you for taking a great photo of her son Reed dressed up like a superhero. Reed’s Open House is super-cool too. Click here to check it out. Ultimately, I took down the plates. I love them, but they didn’t quite work in the room, so I’m happy to be using them for appetizers again. Just think, one of my future guests will literally be eating off my decor.

Silver bust: This beauty came from Architectural Anarchy, a really cool shop at the Andersonville Galleria. Owners Gosia and William are opening a massive new showroom at 2229 S. Halsted, and I cannot wait to see it. William owns Zaps Props, a large prop warehouse on the south side. I spent hours roaming its halls when I visited in 2008.

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22 Responses to “The den makeover is complete”

  1. Looks so great!

  2. Gorgeous room. And, what a lot of work you put into not only the room but also the blog post. So much information, so many links.
    what a treasure trove.

    I love paint by number too. In my (former) gallery I had a whole show devoted to PBN. I had over 100 of them. So much fun, so much work. I bought them all on eBay- took me months just to collect enough. I love how PBN crosses the line of kitch and folk art.

  3. Love the room, it turned out great. The paint, sofa, desk and blue door are my favorites and the little table by the sofa is great too. Congrats on completing a bug project!

  4. I never thought I’d use “fierce” to describe a post- hello, such a cliche but this place is FIERCE!!!!! OMG!!!! It’s amazing Tate….AMAZING. Love, love it. Seriously, if you decided to be an interior decorator you have the muscle. There is so much to look at that’s interesting and unique in this room. Great job.

  5. WHOA! tate what a transformation! i have many favorites in this one room and loved that you shopped local. the color combinations are perfect. well i could babble on but just wanted to say ‘well done!’
    debra phillips

  6. The room looks great…definitely keep the paint-by-numbers photo coming out of the ceramic Polaroid!

  7. That’s an amazing makeover! I freakin’ love your den! All that hard work has definitely paid off, if I could take your den I would. lol. I like the sofa you chose, but still think that green leather one you spotted would have been a fun addition. You’ve definitely got my brain going for what I can do to my room…so many possibilities.

  8. Wow, Tate, this room looks great. I love the tanker desk, you did an amazing job on it. Also love your new blinds, the sofa, and all the accessories. I don’t think I’d mirror the top of the dresser, though -might be too much of a good thing. I’m looking forward to coming up to see it for real – even if I do have to sleep in the basement!

  9. Love it! Did you see my post about the Swiss Army flag love or do we have design ESP happening?

  10. slendiferous!
    absolutely love that paint colour on the wall.
    you should be so proud.
    what’s next??

  11. TATE!!! This is fabulous. I actually gasped when I saw the first few pictures and continued to breath hard (TMI?) as I scrolled down, taking in all the details, enjoying the beautiful photography, and reading every word. My favorite after the desk and the turquoise door is the Metro service station sign. Well done! Thank for all the shopping details.

  12. Robert Stordalen 27. Oct, 2010 at 6:46 am

    Gray walls and a boxy tufted sofa remaind me of…..

  13. Bravo! Fab job on the makeover. It’s so personalized which is the way every home should be. I can see this being the perfect cozy cave for you. Thanks for listing your sources (now I know where to go for custom size mirrors to place atop my living room end tables) Would you recommend the sisal you got at Lowes? I’m looking for a vintage/industrial desk chair so I’ll be on the lookout at Room Service and other sources. Enjoy your new room!

  14. Thanks for all the kind comments. I’m enjoying the space a lot. The den has such a different vibe from the spare bedroom that it’s hard to believe it’s the same space, and that’s the best thing about design. One thing I neglected to mention is that I’ve been so influenced by all the amazing places I’ve photographed over the last couple of years, so thanks to everybody for the tips and inspiration.

    Melly: Definitely not TMI. Thank you so much.

    Johanna: The living room wants a new paint color, but the dining room wants a radical makeover. I’ll make it the subject of a future post, so I can include some inspiration images.

    Libby: It’s totally possible that I saw your post, but it could be design ESP. I’ve had the image in my head for awhile.

    Neil: I’m glad you appreciate the Polaroid idea! Folks, if you haven’t already seen it, check out Neil’s Open House from a few months ago. It’s a true original.

    Debra: Shopping local is the way to go. (Debra’s shop, SG Grand, is causing quite a sensation over in the new Grand Avenue design district).

  15. Looking good! Where did you get that simple pendant/chandelier (round frosted glass) from? I need one for my sons room. Thanks in advance.

  16. Hey E, I bought it from lighting designer Ted Harris last year (and I need to update my source list! I guess I take it for granted as part of the room already). Scout carries Ted’s work, so that’s a great place to start.

  17. Thanks Tate. I will stop in the weekend.

  18. Tate, I love it!! Love the desk the door color and so many other things. The most important thing is that you love it and that you want to be there! Success! (Borat accent and rubbing my hands) :)

  19. Hi: I just came over from Diana at FineDiving (one of my favorite blogs…). Her post on Iron Mountain is what brought me! We are about to paint the mantle and fireplace, and then the bannister going upstairs, in our new house with this color. Love it love it! The walls will be Pale Oak, and then splashes of orange in the furniture. But it’s interesting to see an entire room and how well it works.
    Another deep color I’m using is BM Mysterious. Fabulous! I am in love with my new lavatory in Mysterious, with white woodwork.
    Hope you will come visit my blog! and I’ll sign up here to get yours.