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Big house... decluttered... now it seems empty.

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

I'm not really sure how to go about phrasing this so I get it across right.  Bear with me.  :)


So I'm pretty minimalist, and DH is very minimalist.  I grew up with a hoarder for a mother - no, that's not an exaggeration.  It was as bad as some of those shows they show on TV.  So for a few years in young adulthood I had a bit of processing to do.  I learned how to not bring things into the house that we don't need.  I regularly make thrift store runs to get rid of things that we've outgrown.  We really don't have a huge amount of things.


Trouble is, we also recently moved into a pretty big house.  (For us, anyway.)  It's a four bedroom, 2900-ish (I think?) square foot house.  It has way more space than we're used to.  Fine.  Trouble is, it's kind of... I dunno.  Bare.  Our stuff would be perfect for about 1000 square feet of space.  It would be cozy that way and not overloaded.  Now we have a lot more space. 


DD and DS's rooms are fine, and the master bedroom would be fine if it wasn't painted white.  (The walls are kind of bare and it's a huge room and I just hate white walls.)  But OK.  We got a really nice bedroom set consisiting of bed, dresser/mirror and nightstands.  And that's all we have there.  It doesn't even take up half the space in the room.


But the largest bedroom (which is supposed to be my office, one day) is just bare right now, has a bookshelf and that's it. 


The living room has this huge couch, and that's it.  Also the white walls.


The kitchen and dining room are fine.  Dining table, hutch, no problem.


There is a foyer area that we're using as a TV room (I'm sick and pregnant right now, so the kids are not TV-free as they normally are.  Once I'm better, though, we'll move the TV back out, so it will just be another room with a couch.  And again, white walls.


The WHOLE basement (i.e. first floor) is DH's domain.  It is three huge, white, bare rooms.  He has his computer desk and TV in one tiny corner.  The rest is just bare.  The kids like to run around it and strew their toys around it.  It's a total eyesore, and I rarely even go down there.


There is some artwork put up here and there, and a couple of houseplants, but overall, there's a feeling of... I dunno.  It looks unfinished.  It doesn't feel nice.  Or cozy.


We don't have a whole lot of money free for furnishings, and honestly, what sort of furnishings would we need...?  I look at catalogs for inspiration, or sometimes I'll look at houses in moveies or on pinterest, and it just looks like people have a lot of STUFF lying around.  It's not like we're broke, but if we have money we'll be spending it on the yard


(it's hideous right now, really needs some TLC, it's all just dead grass and weeds in a neighborhood of manicured green lawns).

I'm thinking a paint job would improve things, but it would cost a pretty penny for a house this size.  Plus while I don't love the white paint, it's pretty new, so I can't really justify spending the money "just" to spruce it up.  I'm thinking a few twinkly lights here and there would work, but with a house this size?  HOW can you make it cozy?  And how can I feel at "home" in such a huge beastly thing?  I'm kidding, this house is actually really lovely and has low utilities and it's in a great location and there's a lot that's good about it, but it's just... I'm just at a loss to how to make it look not-bare, while not just buying random things to fill it with... ??  We have everything we need...  But it still seems empty and bare.


I can't put more houseplants in because our cat digs them up.  And DH hates rugs, which I like to at least have for visual effect.  In the winter we'll probably be getting some heavy drapes for the windows which might make it a bit cozier, but right now it's just sheer curtains everywhere.  Which is pretty and breezy but adds to the sparse feeling.

post #2 of 23
I understand your position. I even have a hoarder mom
luckily I moved into a home that was already painted and had nice window treatments. So I just had to add plants and mirrors to help "fill" the space.
Lived in plenty of apartments where the white really doesn't seem to work against you
post #3 of 23

You could possibly share your office with your DH, or have your office in part of the master bedroom and close off the office bedroom entirely.


Do Sarah Susanka's Not So Big House books appeal to you?  (She emphasizes that houses need soul over square footage.)  Maybe there are ways to scale down some of the huge rooms or add some satisfying architectural details.  I can picture a minimalist living room with one wall covered in some interesting material (in other words, a focal point besides bare walls), and very little furniture.


You could also add some half-walls. partitions, soffits, lowered ceilings, alcoves, or built-ins to break up some of the space, where that makes sense architecturally.


If the basement is close to habitable, I'd think about finishing it for renting out or for housing an aging parent or two. 

post #4 of 23

In the living room of our house, we brought the furniture towards the center of the room, instead of pushing them against the walls.  That could be a start.  We like houseplants, too, but not too many. Big ones fill the space better.

post #5 of 23
Color on the walls would really change the feel of a house. Nice neutral warm colors can make you feel like you are being "hugged" by your home.
post #6 of 23

We moved from a small to large house as a kid and didn't have furniture forever.  It was awesome! As kids we could take over.  The best thing was the town we made from appliance boxes.  And when we got sick of it, we got rid of it.

post #7 of 23

Before I offer up suggestions, I guess I'm a little curious why you purchased a much much larger home than it seems you need or feel comfortable with.

Maybe pick a few rooms to keep empty and close off and save heat/cooling costs. Consolidating some rooms could help fill up the space, like if you and dh share an office, then just keep the basement off limits or rent it.

I second the paint- we do different shades of yellow for a warm, sunny feel.  If painting is too daunting, pick some accent walls to do.  If you just have a couch in a big empty room, find a cozy chair to put perpendicular to it with a table and warm lamp between thus creating an inviting gathering/conversation area. having a few "cluster" areas may warm it up instead of just a random piece here or there.  Try inexpensive, large-scale artwork to fill up a wall- get some large blank canvas panels and give your kids the colors of your choosing and let them do something abstract. Or cover large canvases in pretty fabrics and create a fun arrangement.  Or for fairly cheap, print poster-sized prints of your kids/ family vacations to hang to help make it more personal. My sister has a vaulted ceiling/loft in her living room and hung poster-sized prints with the bottom of the prints lined up at ceiling height... helped fill the space and not make it seem so hollow.


I dont know how old your kids are, but I'd have a field day with my kids in a big empty house; I think I'd designate a whole room filled with pillows and balls for them to let it all out! or if it's an unfinished basement, set up a track for rollerskates or something large-scale and fun.

post #8 of 23

Have some "purpose" rooms. You can change one into an exercise room - an elliptical machine, some weights, and other sports equipment stored and at the same time displayed - like roller blades, tennis rackets, whatever you have. It can be stored in that room and serve as decor (and motivation). Add a poster of your favorite activity (cycling, rock climbing, whatever), and voila.


If I had an extra room, I'd have a "jungle" room. I have a few rare tropical plants (some can grow to 30 feet long), and if I had lots of space and bare walls, I'd place the monstera branches up and then sideways in all directions under the ceiling. Lots of plants and maybe a couple of chairs to sit there and relax. Our cats didn't dig up because 1) monsteras are too huge and cats don't see them as plants and 2) it is possible to cover the soil with decorative pebbles or even crystals (quartz, calcite, etc., are sold in packages at hobby stores or in decor sections of plant stores). Then the cats won't dig for sure and the plant pot looks great. 


Plants are my hobby, so find yours that can function as decor and display. Quilting? Painting? Fine fabrics and tapestries?


How about a 3 yard wide world map for the kids? A yoga room?

post #9 of 23

Big artwork is, IMO a huge help.  You don't need a lot either - maybe one big piece in a room.  I personally have my own large paintings/drawings so I use those.  If you don't have that yourself - a really great fabric that you love stretched over really big fabric can work well - I'll act a little like wallpaper, but you can change it too if you ever want to.  Just putting something up on otherwise blank walls will make a difference in how it looks.  


And when I say big, I mean at least 3 feet/36 inches in one direction - you want something in that 3-5 feet range unless you want to cluster a lot of smaller pieces (one 11x14 is really not going to make a difference - you'd want like 6, arranged so you're creating something that's really much larger). 

post #10 of 23
Originally Posted by Oliver's Mama View Post



I dont know how old your kids are, but I'd have a field day with my kids in a big empty house; I think I'd designate a whole room filled with pillows and balls for them to let it all out! or if it's an unfinished basement, set up a track for rollerskates or something large-scale and fun.

The girls ride their bikes around in the basement.  :)

post #11 of 23
Thread Starter 

OP here.  :)


I think if I could upload photos, it would help get the idea across...  But let me address a few points in no particular order.


We bought the house because a) DH fell in love with it and b) we were on a really, really short timeframe to find a house.  It's in the perfect location, right near the hospital where he's being treated.  And it's almost brand new - which means that in a town where most houses would need significant upgrading, this one is almost all entirely energy efficient, won't need replacements of a lot of things for a while (roof, furnace, etc.) and it was already in good condition.


The basement is already finished but doesn't have a bathroom.  DH kind of claimed the entire downstairs (all three rooms) for himself.  That's where he keeps his media.  He doesn't work so he's down there all the time, and he needs a spot for himself to get away from the kids and noise.  So he's usually there all the time, playing video games.  For this reason we can't rent it out and I don't really want to move his media upstairs with the kids.  Eventually they'll get over bringing their stuff down there - he's been "watching" them a lot more since I've been in bed, sick.  He played his games and they played in the empty room next to him.  So, it worked out, but he's getting annoyed with them down there and I don't like them being exposed to the games, so he'll be getting his basement back as soon as I'm feeling a bit better.


I really wanted a room of my own, but right now we don't have any furniture for it yet.  I just think it's important for everyone to have at least a spot where their stuff is.  DH hates my books (to him they look like clutter, eyeroll) and everything, and I need a quiet space to write.  Plus I will set up my sewing things there as well.  We just didn't get furniture for it yet.  Eventually, with a third child a third bedroom might come in handy, but that won't be necessary for a few years, anyway.  Closing it off is a decent idea, which we sort of already did.  Not formally, but it's just not being used much.


Unfortunately I messed up really badly and bought a HUGE couch for the living room that will fit in only one particular way.  It's actually kind of an eyesore, and it was a total impulse purhase.  Not like me at all.  It's big and brown and one of those corner units so it takes up two whole walls.  Not like I can move it around.  The rest of the downstairs is open plan (yuck!) and I would *love* to close the living room off from the kitchen with at least a half wall at some point.  DH likes the open design (groan) so I dunno if he would go for it, but maybe.  I'd just put up dividers but the kids are nutty enough that I know they wouldn't last.  (In the few months since we've been here they've already torn down a blind, a towel rack, and even the entire freaking stairway railing... yeah a divider wouldn't last.)


I love the idea for the jungle room.  I think I'll definitely try to turn the front room (what's doubling as the TV room now) into a plant room.  I'll have to experiement with how NOT to let the cat dig...  Just this morning I was vaccuuming up dirt from the palm that it somehow dug into.  Sigh.  Those pebbles sound like a good idea...


Thanks for the ideas, ya'll.  Keep them coming, it's giving me a lot of idea to brainstorm. :)

post #12 of 23
Without seeing pictures, I can't tell for sure, but it might be possible to put the sofa/sectional between the living room and kitchen as a divider. You put a console table behind it with a pair of lamps or vases and maybe some storage baskets under it.

Also some simple chairs, which can be picked up at a thrift store and painted fun colors might round out the space. Storage cubes as a coffee table. But really you're right-- posting pictures would help.
post #13 of 23

Paint, moldings, window treatments, plants, rugs, and art on the wall are all fairly inexpensive things that make a high impact and will make your house seem less empty.

post #14 of 23
I've seen ikea shelving turned on their side to make a half wall. I personally have the sofa with console table behind it to separate the family room from kitchen.

I would love to have the L sofa, but I agree they arent very flexible and I move way too much o make it practical
post #15 of 23

I tacked up a long piece of yarn to my huge living room wall and took clothespins and hung up the kids' artwork on it.  I also have garland/bunting things that hang across the rooms.  It's fairy cheap to buy and makes the house feel really homey.  I'm saving up for a huge batik one on Etsy that I want to run across my kitchen/dining room ceiling.  Also you can buy large canvases on sale at a craft store and make homemade art to hang up.  It would really help with those white walls.

post #16 of 23

I would get some color on the wall by painting. To do that cheaply, ask for paint on freecycle if you have that in your area. Or craigslist. If the paint has little bits in it as partially used paint sometimes does, run it through cheesecloth or a screen to filter it. Check the mismixed paints at the paint store. Once I bought 3 gallons of similar mismixed colors, poured them all together and blended them. Then, I redistributed them into their cans and had enough of one color to paint a large room. Or you could paint a stencil pattern so you don't need as much paint. I also recently painted a book shelf purple because I had a blue semi gloss paint and a red semi gloss paint which I got from freecycle. I didn't like either color but the combo made a nice shade of purple.

post #17 of 23

Look for large yard sale paintings and try to hit thrift stores or craigslist for cheap items. Someone might even be willing to deliver for extra $ if getting out is a problem. Also, chose an accent wall and then hunt around Home Depot or Lowes or other home improvement stores for discounted paint - the ones people have made up but the color is wrong. We were at HD today and I saw a lot of good colors (sadly my husband is OCD about stuff like that and wouldn't go for it unless it was the exact color he had already picked out and he just got lucky).

post #18 of 23

I've been where you are.  When DP and I bought our home together, we moved into a 100% empty house that was larger than either of us had had before.  We were in a different position, in that we bought a "fixer upper" and totally gutted it upon moving in, and slowly put it back together over the course of 2 years.  We had zero furniture.  For the first couple of months, it was totally overwhelming, because we knew just how much we had to buy.  But then we looked at it from a different mindset and decided to tackle each space, one at a time.


The first rooms we finished, of course, were the kids' rooms.  We needed them to have their own spaces.  A can of paint is only $20ish and if you're doing one room at a time then it's really not much.  It's by far the cheapest way to transform a space.  We bought minimal furniture for the kids' rooms after we had laid hardwood and painted and put up moulding/trim.  This kept the spaces feeling open and fresh.


The main floor was a longer process, and we very slowly accumulated furniture starting with the basics.  Kitchen table to fit the space. Sofa that, like yours, was a bit too large but the right size for our family (we have movie nights every weekend so we all need to fit!)  Over time I watched for sales and picked up other things that matched well.  A nice book case that fit perfectly where I needed it.  A storage unit for the front entrance for all of the kids mittens/shoes/etc.


Don't let yourself get overwhelmed, and try to look at it one room at a time.  It will be a gradual process, especially if you are furnishing with intention.  Don't buy things just to fill the space.  Buy things that WORK for the space, and that have a clear purpose. The book case we bought for our living room, for example, wasn't purchased to fill an empty space and hold junk.  It's our mini office, as we all run off laptops and we needed somewhere to hide our wireless printer and pretty baskets full of wires/manuals/etc.  It took awhile to "dress" the book case so it didn't look like shelves full of tech junk.  I raided my in-law's basement and they were nice enough to give me some very old cameras (which I hlready had a small collection of) which worked perfectly with the few decorations I had to sit on the shelf and dress it up a bit.


Re-decorating a new home is super fun.  Just don't rush it.  Watch for great sales (you can even get nice, cheap paint in the rejected mix section - we got a lot of ours this way), slowly fill the spaces with things that make sense and have purpose, and have fun with it all!  And above all, don't get overwhelmed!  I found that when I was getting a bit stressed about it all, it really helped to just go sit in one of the few finished rooms, and just appreciate what I had already accomplished.

post #19 of 23

if you like plans but just need to keep the cat out of them, then focus of amazing hanging planters! some can be set up so they are really easy to water and they rally bring in a room nicely by rounding the corners. i literally replaced window treatments with long draping hanging plants once, it was amazing!



also you might just be ok with the fact that you will grow into the space, you bought this house so hopefully you are taking a long term approach.


and lastly i do reallllllly agree that color is a great thing to spend money on, i would find a way to paint some walls, and make sure you dont settle on a color cause it was cheep, you will probably wish you had spent that little extra in the future

post #20 of 23

When I had a larger house, I had the same problem. Even in small space, I like things pretty simple. As far as wall space, I took my favorite photos and spent a little money to have them printed on large canvases. I have one of my dog and one of my son and the other is a pic of the countryside thatI took with some longhorns grazing. They are all in black and white or sepia tones and I LOVE them. They are 16 x 20 or larger with wrap around canvas frames. They add just that SOMETHING to the room and home. I also have a huge mirror in my entry way and I made a coat/catch all rack with an old piece of board from a wooden pallet and added some hanges to it and INSTANT cute and a place to hang my purse, jacket du jour and my son's backpack. I also took some heaveir twine like string and tacked it up to the wall and my son has his own art display now. Woodedn clothespins are cheap at the dollar store. :)  Simple yet chic, at least to me. : )

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