Friday, February 7, 2014


Something old, something new,
Something borrowed, something blue.
I had to think about this one but I think I can make this perennial verse work to describe the transformation of our living room. The first part of the verse is easy to comply with. We're both reluctant to throw things out and unlike children that you are required to turn loose, furniture and objects that also build history and sentiment are prisoners of your clutches for as long as want.
Most of our inanimate pieces have the ability to outlive us; we purchased wisely and built well.  Our well-built pieces are the ones from our original Shaver/Melahn line: the Emmy cigarette tables and ottoman, the Lee breakfront, the "X" Series floor lamps and trolley
and the beautiful Lorena side table.
Although these pieces are part of our older line the real use of "old" is showcased in our Biedermeier sofa from the mid-1800's and the eighteenth century olive jar we brought back from Provence on a buying trip financed by a very generous client.
The sofa has its own history but its history with us dates back to our first apartment Rick and I bought in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
We really tried to keep new to a minimum but one thing we absolutely couldn't live with anymore was the shag rug my parents had laid down a good forty years ago. That carpet had seen more dog accidents, and an encounter with battery acid disguised as a Christmas present that had been turned upside down so that the acid ran out and ate through the carpet. My sister and I discovered this by trying to sneak a peek at the gifts under the tree and when we had finished snooping and got up our socks fell apart and dissolved into shreds. So for "new" we put a new wooden floor and topped it with a pair of silk and synthetic fiber rugs we purchased at
Then we added some pillows from Global Views and a couple of throws we picked up in Dublin,
but probably the newest and most fleeting of purchases are the roses. A room is just a room without fresh flowers; at least that's what Rick says.
We've already told the story of something borrowed, that Hollywood regency sofa we borrowed from the curb on a lonely street in a working class neighborhood in Madison. Left for the trash collector and minutes before Mother Nature would take it for her own with an impending rainstorm I enlisted the assistance of my youngest sister and her mini pickup truck and snarfed up the sofa. Dressed in emerald green chenille with a drooping fringe skirt and missing its cushion, it was a wounded stray I couldn't pass up and not come to its aid. Through the magic of local but French trained, Matthew Nafranowicz,of The Straight Thread, our pig's ear of a couch was transformed into a gem of a sofa, borrowed from the street and resurrected to new glory topped off by handmade poms made by Rick.
One can look to the sky for blue, so for the last piece of the puzzle we also looked up but only as far as our ceiling where we captured a thousand shades of blue in our stained pine slated ceiling.
Designing spaces needs forethought; it's not advisable to go headlong into a project without a plan. For our living room we developed a concept based on the bones of the house and the region it sat in. It was a sixties ranch that leaned toward country cottage. Conceptually we wanted to bring out the cottage aspects of the house so part of our plan was to change the moldings and window casings to a larger profile, add the pine ceiling and put more emphasis on the three sided fireplace.
The layout of the room was our biggest struggle. We moved furniture around in a dozen configurations on paper and then pushed the real furniture into all of them until we found what we think is the best use of a long narrow space. We created two conversation areas with one of them doubling as a TV watching area.
It's got its own sophistication but there's a lot of comfort and loungeability (you can look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls). I can't tell you how many times I've slid down on that couch while watching Modern Family only to wake up to Chelsea Lately.

Blues at the Overture Center, Madison, WI, 2014
Lee Melahn, photographer

1 comment:

  1. Good post. Those simple and little things seem to complete every design. Thanks for posting.