A Lived-In Living Room Update

Learn how designer Tony Stavish gave this Chicago living room a collected-over-time look, making it the perfect blend of old and new.

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DP_Tony-Stavish-transitional-brown-living-room_s4x3 Dave Burk © Hedrich Blessing

After over a year of waiting for all the right accents, designer Tony Stavish was able to give his clients the classic living room with modern details that they all worked so hard to achieve.

Describe the homeowner's wish list.

The family wanted a comfortable living room that functioned for large entertaining as well as intimate family gatherings during the holidays. Second, it was important that the room look current and fresh, reflecting their taste. “No old lady stuff,” the husband said. That is how we settled on a collected look. I pulled from their collection of furniture, artwork and accessories, mixing it with a few new things to pull it together. When the art dealer delivered the abstract painting that hangs over the fireplace, the customer and I hugged. We knew we had the heart of the room then.


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What was the biggest issue the design addressed?

The biggest obstacle was the large scale of the two existing tufted sofas the customer wanted to keep. I let their scale lead me to selecting other scaled pieces that would work to balance the room, including the large bergère chairs and rectangular ottoman.

How did the end result match your original vision?

Not everything goes right. We waited over a year for the custom silk and wool rug from Pakistan. One day it arrived unannounced with the morning mail. Somewhere in transit it had lost its wrapping and had unrolled, so there it lay in a heap on the doorstep covered in dirt, looking like a hopeless design loss. We prayed to the all-powerful patron saint of lost decorating causes, St. Rita (a fabulous decorator), had the rug picked up, and a week later, it arrived like new. Amen. With positive thinking and good karma, all worked out in the end.

What lessons did you learn from this project?

This project reinforced my mantra of process, process, process. If you can work on things in a room, you can resolve challenges. The process will lead you to all the solutions. The two very large tufted sofas now give the room a very comfortable European-chic look.

What are the hidden gems that make a big difference?

There are so many things that came together to form the cohesive look. The stone capital was used as a console at the end of the room and actually was architectural salvage from a building torn down in Philadelphia. The vintage brass lanterns on either side of the bay add to the collected look. I think they came from a mod-1950s Italian restaurant. The custom-fitted seat in the bay window was a splurge but worthwhile. The giant plaster hand came from an estate sale.

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