7 Years in Kingston! Revisiting the Living Room

I gotta pick up the damn pace on these posts! Let’s talk about my living room, which has undergone some recent changes to celebrate 7 years in this kooky house! It’s #2 on the plan above so you can stay oriented. We covered the hallway (#1) and half-bath (#9) a few weeks ago!

Here she is when I first bought the house! Acoustic tile drop ceiling, crazy pattern on all the walls, exposed radiator lines that ran in front of the original molding—take it all in. Ah, memories.

Here we are today! I probably futz with this room more than any other in the house (you can see past versions here, here and here). It’s had a couple different sofas, rugs, side tables, art, and it’s probably held every chair in the house at one point or another. It’s feeling pretty good these days, but I’m sure it’ll continue to evolve!

You know I’m a terrible blogger because there’s very little in this room I can link to for you to go buy. I found that rug at auction several years ago, the ceiling fixture is long-discontinued West Elm (who do still make great lighting, fyi), and the art between those two windows I pulled out of the trash. The Patrick Townsend String 10 light is one of my favorites—I got it forever ago on a flash sale website for like $30. It’s the coziest thing at night!

One of the biggest parts of renovating this room was demo-ing out the ceiling. It was originally plaster, over which furring strips had been installed to put in acoustic tiles, probably in the 60s or 70s. I’ve you’ve ever demo’d plaster, you know how insanely dusty and heavy and miserable it is. The plaster itself was half missing and totally unsalvageable, unfortunately. I removed the lath as well, but if I were doing it again I might have opted to leave it in place. Woulda, coulda, possibly shoulda? Ah well. I used the opportunity to have some electrical work done, as well as re-route the radiator lines so they could be tucked into the walls/ceilings before the new drywall went up.

When you walk into the house, this is the first glimpse you see into one of the rooms. For years I had tons of books hanging on track shelving on this wall, but after my KonMari purge I didn’t need nearly that much shelving anymore. And in any case, this massive painting came into my life, and how perfect is that wall for it??!

So down came the shelves and up went the painting, and I’m very happy with it. I inherited the painting from my grandparents, who collected lots of art throughout their lives. Their collection is now scattered around the country with various family members, and I was lucky to get to choose a few pieces to come live here! This piece is by Wesley Kimler, a Chicago-based artist they loved. Thinking about it now, this room has a LOT of pieces from my grandparents in it—the sofa, side table, and Eames lounge are all from their house as well. I love that my family heirlooms are pretty much all stuff like this—they had great taste!

It was pretty obvious from the get-go that, at one time, this wall had a mantel. It was never an open wood-burning firebox, but would have had some kind of wood or coal-burning stove in front of it, with a flue that hooked into the chimney up by the ceiling. The house was fitted with radiators probably around the turn of the century, so these older heating methods became obsolete, and it wasn’t uncommon for fireplaces of all varieties to be bricked over and/or removed. I think the previous owners used this room as a bedroom (2-family house at the time, remember?), so they probably wanted to put the bed there.

ANYWAY! I recently found out that this fireplace was originally marble (SIGH), but whatcha gonna do. This mantel came out of my friend John’s house (it wasn’t original, so he took it out and had a period-appropriate one installed), and I kind of like that it has some personal history and I think it works well with my moldings. I wrote all about the process of installing it here! Anyway, the whole set-up is totally fake and useless, but it provides a nice focal point and something to kind of organize the room around. It felt like something was missing without it!

The art above the fireplace (sorry about the reflection on the glass) is a pastel by Michael Mazur, also inherited. I found the little robin’s egg Eames rocker out in Portland, Oregon years ago—long-time readers may recall a totally gross episode of fixing it up in my Manhattan apartment. I remember some seriously sore fingers after that endeavor.

Oh! The pillow cover on the lounge chair is from H&M home, and it’s actually super nice! It is also, naturally, out of stock. I’m really doing my best here.

And my worst.

That’s the door to the hallway! This wall has seen a lot of iterations, but here’s how it looks right now!

That hulking beast of an armoire is a recent-ish acquisition—a gift from my friend John (of mantel fame—see above) who got it at auction and gave it to me for my 30th birthday. Ha! That’s a big thing to just arrive at your already-crowded house, so it sat in the hoard room for a while before finally finding a home on this wall. It’s a traditional Dutch Kast (which means cabinet—it’s also called a Kas, but I guess that also means greenhouse? I DO NOT SPEAK DUTCH I APOLOGIZE), a carryover design brought by the Dutch from their motherland when they settled this area. It’s clearly had some work done to it over the years (the drawer has been rebuilt, and the enormous crown around the top is newer but a faithful reproduction of how it would have been), but the original piece probably dates from the late 1700s. If you live in the Hudson Valley, keep an eye out for these—super cool and pretty specific to this region! Currently it’s holding books and photographs.

The little ceramic planter is from Lail Designs, a local ceramics studio that does beautiful work! I have a few of their pieces here and there and love them.

I mean, that molding. How could I not fall in love with this house? I was powerless.

Because of the way the doorways are aligned, you can stand at the far end of the kitchen and see this view! I’m digging it.

The lamp was from a collection Terence Conran did for JCPenney, of all places! I snagged it years ago once it went on super-sale. I think it was like $50. It’s just so cute!

ANYWAY! Like every other room in my house, this one still has plenty of things on the old to-do list. They include things like:

    1. Restore all three of the windows.
    2. Add a doorstop behind the hallway door so the knob stops hitting the wall.
    3. Swap out the outlets and light switch for brown receptacles with unlacquared brass plates.
    4. Refinish the floors.
    5. Repaint! Yes, of course I painted this room already, but it could really use a freshening up. This house has been through the WRINGER over these past 7 years with non-stop renovations, so rooms I did at the beginning are feeling kind of shabby. I also feel ready to switch up the paint scheme—kind of over the white on white!
    6. A little molding repair or replacement where Bungee helped himself as a puppy. Little jerk.

We’ll get to all that at some point. Projects forever.

About Daniel Kanter

Hi, I'm Daniel, and I love houses! I'm a serial renovator, DIY-er, and dog-cuddler based in Kingston, New York. Follow along as I bring my 1865 Greek Revival back to life and tackle my 30s to varying degrees of success. Welcome!

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  1. 9.9.20
    Hannah B said:

    I think about that Terence Conran collection often. I wish I had that lamp, it’s so damn good! But also, yay projects forever!! :)

  2. 9.9.20
    Jill said:

    Would you considering painting the walls blue? Before I even saw that you wanted to a paint the room again, I was feeling like, with this current art and furnishings, the walls were sitting there wondering when they were going to be painted blue.

    P.S. I love how your grandparents’ art got disseminated through the family. I also inherited a painting from my grandmother, and my great-grandmother was an artist whose paintings are now dispersed among my parents’ generation. It’s such a cool thing to pass down.

    • 9.10.20

      Ya know, I’m usually not really a fan of blue walls! It’d have to be something pretty specific. But we have plenty of time to think about it! ;)

  3. 9.9.20
    Mary said:

    Love it. I have my grandparents’ mid century dining table, coffee table, and lounge chair/ottoman and am also so grateful for their good taste. I think your new cabinet is calling out for some additional plants on top! Looking great

    • 9.10.20

      Yeah, something to bump the height up a bit, I agree! MUST BUY MORE STUFF ;)

  4. 9.9.20
    Dee said:

    Hi, I’m Dutch :)
    It’s called a ”˜kast’ indeed, that’s the general word for cabinet. This type would also be called ”˜kabinet’, to make things more confusing. That heavy crown doesn’t seem very accurate though, I only find those on much older (1600s) ”˜kabinetten’ that were much more ornated and decorated with exotic types of wood etc.

    • 9.9.20
      Jennifer Tr2 said:

      Here’s an interesting assortment in an online exhibition that are mostly from upstate NY. Dee, do you think that maybe the outlandish cornice is a New World holdover from the older, fancier models? https://hudsonvalleykasten.org/gallery/

    • 9.10.20

      @Jennifer—I think that’s exactly what’s happening! I wonder if “Kas” has a similar story, since these cabinets are definitely called that both colloquially and in various academic things I’ve read, although I was SWIFTLY corrected by some Dutch readers!

    • 9.10.20
      Dee said:

      Yes, I suppose so! It’s so interesting to see! The name ”˜kas’ would probably sound more like how the Dutch pronounced ”˜kast’, so I can see why the t was dropped.

  5. 9.9.20
    SheLikesToTravel said:

    I always wonder what that little “closet” is behind the firebox. Perhaps you have answered that question before, but I can’t currently find the answer if you did. I think I like this version of your living room best!

    • 9.9.20

      If you go back up to the top if this post to the tags there or better yet, the links in the body of the post itself where he links to the various interations of the space, it might be there. He may also have links to the tags he’s used and linking to the living room for instance will likely pull up all posts on the room and if my memory is correct, the little closet is part of a larger post. like when he installed the mantle itself.

      Good luck!

    • 9.10.20

      John, you’re hired! Haha!

      The little closet is called a chimney cupboard! Evidently the traditional use (that I’ve heard, at least) was to basically use it as a dish-warmer in the winter. For me it’s currently storing keepsake kinds of items—yearbooks, notebooks, some stuff from school I didn’t want to part with, that kind of thing.

  6. 9.9.20
    Bailey Jane said:

    That drop ceiling is how I found your blog!! My husband and I were looking at buying a home that had something similar and I went searching for what the take down process would look like – and stumbled on Manhattan Nest. We didn’t end up buying the house, but your blog (and it’s inspiration -I modeled my own fireplace surround after the one you added) has stayed faithfully with me in the years since. Love the most recent room updates as always!

    • 9.10.20

      Awww, thanks Bailey! That’s so fun to hear!

  7. 9.9.20
    Emily Clough said:

    I just wanted to hop on here and say that this post reminds me of one of the things that I love most about your blog: your fundamental respect for the fabric and history of these buildings. The combination of a respectful renovation and modern furniture is such a terrific example to set. Long may you influence!

    • 9.10.20
      Amy G said:

      Agreed. And your sense of humor makes the writing fun to read instead of just taking in the photos. You always make jokes about your voice on insta, but now it’s all I hear when I read your posts, and I LOVE IT. Projects forever, so lovely to read. Thanks for putting some positive out into the world, every word helps.

    • 9.10.20

      Well shucks, thanks to you both!

  8. 9.9.20
    Alexis said:

    I love how Mekko is sitting there on the couch looking all put out like your photography is really cramping her style. I too have a gorgeous dog who refuses to pose for photos.

    • 9.10.20

      Haha! She was going for “aloof” that day!

  9. 9.9.20

    I have always liked this room in most of its incarnations, and currently as well. I agree, that HUGE painting is perfect where it is.

    HOWEVER, I totally agree on the white, it needs to either go, or be toned down as in, the woodwork detailing is kind of lost in a sea of white on white and I’m not a minimalist like many are (nor to I think you actually are either), but there is way too much emphasis on white for days right now by way too many (and don’t get me started on white subway tile). :-)

    The room needs some color on the walls, besides the artwork. I’m thinking go bold with at least one wall as an accent wall or use the woodwork as the accent, either way, it’s up to you. I’m actually planning on painting my living room white with 2 walls painted red – at opposite ends of the space to reduce the fact that the room is long but narrow (at roughly 11.5x15Ft, yeah, it’s small). Right now it’s painted, all 4 walls and ceiling in Cucumber Green, read the light green flesh inside of said cucumber, ugh and it zaps light from the space. It’s not helped by one, lone window facing west.

    Anyway, until my income stabilizes and all that, I’ll begin to acquire the paint, primer and something to tone down the awful texture (and I mean awful, that small bit of an “orange peel” look or similar is OK, but not plaster of Paris, thinned out and glopped on half assed to all four walls, ranging from horrid to just OK first, LOL.

    Anyway, keep it all up my friend, let’s continue to see where you are now, 7 years in on this crazy house you own. :-)

    • 9.9.20

      BTW, you are NOT a bad blogger for not listing everything in your living room and you DO have a legitimate reasons as to why.

      I think too many expect to have their hand held and be told where and how to get the exact item (and how much it is) in your space when they can use your space as inspiration and get something similar through their own researching. :-)

    • 9.10.20

      Thanks John!

  10. 9.9.20

    Love your house, love this blog, and I can’t tell you how excited I get when I see you have a new IG story. Watching your house evolve has been/is/will be a constant delight, especially because everything is so personal, and not the whim of a decorator….Now, a quick question about this room: at some time in the distant past, you used a product to rejuvenate the hardwood floors. I shoulda saved the name of it, but I didn’t. Would you mind sharing that again (especially if you can include your Lowe’s link for extra credit)? Thank you so much!

    • 9.10.20

      Good memory! It was called Hardwood and Laminate Floor Refinisher by Zep, but I can’t seem to find a source online that still carries it! There are various other products out there like it though—Bona makes one, there’s a brand called Rejuvenate, I think something called Mop n Glo? I’d guess they’re all pretty much the same—it’s a nice short-ish term refresh, but I wouldn’t expect results to last more than 6 months or so. But it’s easy and fast so you can always just do it again!

  11. 9.9.20
    Diane said:

    LR looks amazing!,,

  12. 9.9.20
    mh said:

    i’m curious what, if anything, you store in the chimney cupboard.

    • 9.10.20

      Right now just an assortment of keepsakes—yearbooks, notebooks, journals, some school stuff I decided to hang onto…nothing too exciting!

  13. 9.9.20
    Joan said:

    I LOVE that giant painting.

  14. 9.9.20
    shannon said:

    Wow, your grandparents put the “chic” in “granny chic”! They had amazing taste. I love that you’re able to use so many of their pieces in your own space. And the way the painting plays with the rug! Perfection.

  15. 9.9.20
    Kylie said:

    That chair in front of that painting, it feels meant to be!

    • 9.9.20
      Claudia said:

      The Dutch last and the HUGE painting as my favourite things about the space. Well, other than Mekko!

      It’s a great space, which I’m sure will continue to evolve. It’s amazing how much better it all looks compared to seven years ago!

  16. 9.9.20
    Carlene said:

    I love this room. That rug really looks great with the painting.

  17. 9.9.20
    Jill said:

    How did you find out that the fireplace originally was marble? Did you see a picture or something?

    • 9.10.20

      I actually tracked down the child of a previous owner! She lived here in the 60s and I believe is the last living person to occupy my house aside from me, so you can imagine my excitement and all my questions!

  18. 9.9.20
    Laura said:

    I’m having a hard time finding unlaquered brass switch/outlet plates that I like. Any recommendations?

    • 9.9.20

      Look at architectural salvage places as they will have vintage plates from old homes, even those that still had the push button switches, or maybe even the older rotary switches from the earliest days of electricity that still remained many decades later before being updated to modern equivelants.

    • 9.9.20

      Also, check out Restoration Hardware, they make accurate reproductions but don’t know if lacquered or not though.

    • 9.10.20

      Two sources I’ve used are House of Antique Hardware and Kyle Switches!

      The first one carries these forged brass plates that are REALLY nice. Spendy, but great quality: https://www.houseofantiquehardware.com/brass-switch-plates

      The second one carries the less expensive “pressed brass,” which I’ve started buying instead. They aren’t as fancy but are more accurate to what I’ve seen used originally in the area. The switches themselves are a little cheaper at Kyle Switches too, but I think they’re all manufactured at the same place so I’ll take a couple bucks in savings! https://www.kyleswitchplates.com/1-push-button-light-switch-plate-cover-unfinished-raw-brass/

  19. 9.9.20
    Janet said:

    I’ve loved that room in every iteration, but this is wonderful! That painting is so massive and awesome, and so nicely balanced by that huge crown on the Dutch Kast. You are so lucky to have inherited so many good modern pieces from your grandparents. I love that the rocker picks up the blue of the painting, too. You didn’t mention if the rocker base was newly added, but perhaps I’m forgetting that happening at some since its desk chair swivel days.

    Good job, Daniel! And Juliet, too, for helping you move that massive cabinet and the interim piece you tried out!!

    • 9.9.20

      If I recall, it was always that way or he had to add the base, he did a blog about it many yeas back.

    • 9.9.20

      I stand corrected, found the post when he bought the chair, it I think didn’t have a base but he did remove the vinyl upholstery that covered it from the factory that would not clean up and add the old office chair base to it and later got the rocker base.

    • 9.10.20

      Yep, I added the rocker base! I got it from Modern Conscience on eBay—great source for lots of repro Eames stuff! https://bit.ly/35pyw06

  20. 9.9.20
    Katie said:

    I remember the gross episode wherein Daniel salvaged the Eames shell! Glad to see you are still keeping it classy after all these years.

  21. 9.10.20
    Chel said:

    That’s a great living room! I like that you can’t actually link to everything. Those blogger’s rooms are nice but it loses something when everything is new from a current retailer. Family and vintage pieces give a space soul. That said, I actually have the Terence Conran lamp, I drove across town to get the last one in Phoenix when you posted about it on clearance. I love it so much but I dream of the giant Anglepoise on his website (not sure I spelled that correctly)

  22. 9.10.20
    Tara said:

    Put the projects like light switches at the bottom of your to-do list – these are ok for now. You need to do the kitchen first – don’t think I’ve forgotten! *wink

    • 9.10.20

      Don’t tell me what to do!!! But yes you’re right ;)

  23. 9.10.20
    Keely said:

    Can I move in? I can be Juliet’s sister wife and help with the cooking and hoard room of doom. After 6 straight months in my 50s rambler in need of much work- I need out!

  24. 9.10.20
    Vicki said:

    I love reading your posts! Your writing and humor are so entertaining. I’m curious: What is in that teeny tiny closet behind the fireplace wall?

    • 9.10.20

      Right now just an assortment of keepsakes—yearbooks, notebooks, journals, some school stuff I decided to hang onto”¦nothing too exciting!

  25. 9.10.20
    Sara L. said:

    This room is so lovely. That giant painting makes me so happy. I was originally kind of sad when you said you were taking down the book shelves, but I can’t be mad at this, it’s glorious! I may be alone in not totally loving the giant crown on the Dutch piece. It feels overwhelming to me, but at least this room can handle it, mostly. And never claim to be a bad blogger! I love seeing how you redecorate without buying anything new. Much more inspiring.

  26. 9.10.20
    Lauren said:

    I love the warm white on white in here, especially because NY winters are long, and the warm white and warm string lights would be necessary (for me and my winter blues). But, there are enough windows to pull off a different color.

  27. 9.10.20
    Devyn said:

    As always, an absolute delight!
    The Kimler piece is fabulous! I think it is an absolute to have a show stopper when you come into a room, and this piece is certainly that.
    I also snagged the same Conran floor lamp from close out at JCP. I love the lamp, but will admit it takes up a lot of real estate in our parlor floor.

  28. 9.10.20
    Stompy_Cat said:

    Is it weird that I *totally* want to see pix of the hoard room? Like, really really want to….

    Also, lovely LR it’s beautiful like I always knew it would be! :)

  29. 9.11.20
    Lynne said:

    You clearly come from a long line of awesomeness! Your grandparents had amazing taste and vision, clearly. And we know awesomeness didn’t skip a generation, because we’ve all seen your mom’s comments here. Loving the room as it is now, and looking forward to seeing how it evolves in the future!

  30. 9.11.20
    Sterling Davenport said:

    I remember not only the Eames shell rehabilitation (an episode that convinced me not to buy one in worse shape as an ambitious “project”) but also…ahem…trigger warning…an episode with the arm of another Eames. It’s been such a treat watching your blog evolve from a dormitory to this, one of the nicest houses in the blogosphere.

    • 9.11.20

      Hahaha, the accident that almost did me in! From rage, not personal injury. Ha!

  31. 9.11.20
    Jill said:

    Hi Daniel. I really love all the decorating you do along with your restoration projects. You have great taste.
    Also, I made Juliette’s clam spaghetti today and wow! I really loved it! Honestly, it’s so so quick and easy and delicious and it’s everything! Thank you so much, Daniel and Juliette!

  32. 9.12.20
    Julia said:

    Hi Daniel, can I ask two questions please?
    1. I remember that you considered oiling the bluestone slab when you created your fireplace (yes, I am a reader since 2009 with the memory of an elephant and I actually re-read your whole blog recently during the lockdown in spring and no, I am not a crazy stalker freak why do you ask?). So, did you end up treating the bluestone?
    2. what is that beautiful sculpture on the slab? It is always half-hidden in the pictures and I am just curious. Looks nice from what I see!

  33. 9.12.20
    susan said:

    I called my husband in from the other room to see this glorious post. You are THE MAN. I love your home and what you’ve done with it. I love that it looks like YOU and not like all the other homes and rooms out there. Perfection. And that new painting? Ooo la la.

  34. 9.15.20
    Susan said:

    Art from the trash pretty much sums up what I love about your blog.

    Rooms where everything has a link and is shiny and new are boring. I understand that is probably a source of income for a blogger, but you have unique and sentimental items that give your home personality and warmth.

    I really enjoy the story of your journey…your home, your life, your professional work. So yeah, more posts would always be welcome!

  35. 9.16.20
    Krista Richards said:

    Gah. I love your design style and your writing style. Your posts are always such a joy to read. Are the String10 lights hardwired or plug-in? I think I need some of that cozy soft glow in my life and I can’t tell from their website.

  36. 9.17.20
    Julie. said:

    I so remember when you bought the house and all those before pics, wow. I also bought a couple items (a throw pillow and a cotton blanket) from that weird Conran JCP collaboration and still have them!

  37. 9.21.20
    Bonnie said:

    I love how the room enhances Mekko’s beautiful coloring. Or is it the other way around?

  38. 9.23.20
    bonnie said:

    it’s gorgeous. I’m obsessed with that painting!

    a question on the shades: do you know what level of opacity they are? do they cut the glare of the sun well enough, or are they too sheer for that?

  39. 9.24.20
    adina said:

    Daniel! Everything you do is phenom. I am loving these room-by-room tours. What is the red cord hanging down to the right of the fireplace? And what about that tiny skinny doorway on the left of the fireplace bump-out!?!?!?!?!

  40. 9.24.20
    Jeannette said:

    Thank you for the 2020 floorplan
    I finally get the whole bathroom of death/pantry connection
    Seeing the light in your newly configured downstairs rooms is almost overwhelming
    The house is very special
    Im so happy you found each other and get to take the time to do things right

  41. 10.11.20
    Cody said:

    That painting lives in my head rent free. It’s such a fantastic fit!