Need a little help with small living room furniture layout

jreed22November 9, 2011

Hi all

just joined garden web, but have been looking for some time at all the great ideas/pictures/discussions on here for a bit. I started out looking to get ideas for our bathroom remodel, then ventured into other forums, I especially like this small homes area!

We live in a 1600 sq ft cape. didn't start out planning on being here this long(15 yrs) but have made do with what we have. We're not going anywhere anytime soon now that we have kids in college/approaching college!

Anyway, I need a little help with the furniture placement in my living room. I have always hated this space as it's kind of awkward. The front door opens right into the room, with no foyer or entry way. It has the stairs that empty right next the front door, a small arched doorway to the hallway, and another larger arched opening to the kitchen, a fireplace(not centered) and 2 double hung windows on the front(south side). I am always trying to move things around but have never been able to find a happy place for everything. We do not have a tv in this room, so it isn't used much but will use on occasion to read, or sit and chat etc.

Excuse the clutter in front of the fireplace! Dh hasn't cleaned up from his last project yet. I am thinking I might get rid of the coffee table and try to find a small end table to use instead, then maybe I can fit the ottoman in front of the chair/loveseat area. Maybe turn the loveseat so it's perpendicular to the window wall? I don't just doesn't feel right yet.

Any ideas or suggestions would be appreciated!

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I actually like it the way you have it. It looks cozy and a good conversation area. Do your stairs have a rail?

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 1:49PM
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thanks for the input marti8a. I'm not sure really what it is I don't just doesn't feel right. I took away the coffee table and rug, then positioned the loveseat perpendicular to the window. Not usre this is much better...trying to leave it this way to see how I feel! I wonder if a small side table would work under the window?

oh...and no rails on the stairs. We took out what was there when we moved in to remove the carpet on the stairs and refinish the floors, but never put them back because they were awful. Always meant to put in some really nice turned spindles but never got around to it.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 2:40PM
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When I read your title, I thought that this living room was going to be ALOT smaller. Love the paint color!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 7:25PM
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thanks donnamabob! I guess awkward is a better description than small haha.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 8:11PM
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It's a beautiful space and very similar to Young-gardener's living room. She has posted on here before, trying to come up with ideas...if you want to try a search. If you can't find anything, I'll check for you, tomorrow :)

As for the space, I think the problem is that all your furniture is on one side of the room, so it feels 'too heavy' compared to the other side. Also, your chair, while comfortable looking, is a little large for the space.

Is this your only living room...or do you have a family room in the back? Just asking, since you don't use it very often. If it's not necessary to use this as your living room...then what about making it a dining room/library? I love the fireplace and think a few bookcases would really warm things up. Maybe a little bench or table by the staircase, to make more of an entry area?

If you put a small dining table with upholstered seats (or slipcover some upholstered parson chairs) in front of the fireplace, I can imagine this being a great place to read, write letters, pay bills, etc. Maybe put the loveseat and chair off the kitchen, for a cozy seating area? It would help to know what other spaces you have in the house.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 8:19PM
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we have a family room in the back of the house where we have a tv and large sofa and recliner, so that is where most of our time is spent. I agree with the chair being a little to big for the space...we can't replace any furniture at this point so I must make do with it in this room.

One of my dream plans for this house(not sure if we'll ever get to that point) is to knock down the wall opposite the door/windows and expand the kitchen space(kitchen directly behind that wall). If we ever get to that point, a dining table set would go in the living room space, but for now it's just not possible. We currently have a dining table in the kitchen.

I am going to stop by my grandmother's house tomorrow and go through her stuff to see if she has any small tables I can use (she passed away several months ago and her husband has given us freedom to take what we want/need)

thanks for the suggestions!

    Bookmark   November 9, 2011 at 8:36PM
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jreed22, I hope you take these suggestions in the friendly way they're intended. You have a lovely home and I can see why you feel something is wrong. The problem is the balance of the room is off. First, you need to move the sofa to be placed near the wall abutting the door but more centered to the firplace and don't angle it, make it sit facing the fireplace, then take the table that is opposite the window and put it at the staircase wall, some of it can cover the stairs. That will add balance. Now move the chair and ottoman over to the right side of the fireplace. Ideally a smaller chair would look better but you can alter this to work. A larger rug is necessary to put under the legs of the coffee table and it should be at least a 5 by 8 or more. To the left of the fireplace you need something taller as the height of every thing in the room is too even. You need to vary the height. So get a standing lamp to go next to the chair on the fireplace right and put a cream colored throw over that chair and let it cover straight up and down about 1/6 of the back of the chair and the seat, this will minimize the size of the chair. Remove the valence on the window and get drapes to extend beyond the window. Move the pictures on either side of the window to the staircase. Remove the blue pillows from the sofa and get cream color to put with the red. Then use coffee table opened up, that will anchor the room. Put some books or pottery etc. on top. Remove the mirror from your fireplace and find a larger print or painting. The mirror is only reflecting the arch and if you get a narrow shelf for the right wall put it on that along with a few nice items, preferably cream to bounce the light off the dark. A table and lamp would be nice for next to the couch or on the table. Cream colored lampshades. I'd move the torchere lamp to the left corner of the fireplace. I think some of these will make a huge difference in the balance of the room. The photo screen is nice but it's a little to dark and modern for the room style. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 1:25AM
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yayagal, thanks for all your suggestions! I will try the large chair on the right side today, but I'm not sure it will fit. Because the fireplace is not centered, it makes the right side much smaller than the left. In the right side I currently have a small rocker with a green pillow that matches the loveseat/chair fabric. so do you think I should swap the green chair and the rocker? Putting the rocker on the left side of the fireplace with the torchiere? How about the ottoman? In front of the green chair?

that dang picture screen...I bought it years ago and I do like it to show our family photos, but it justs gets in the way. I have no good place to put it if not next to the stairs. I may need to consider removing it. The console type table usually is at the stairs but I moved a a couple months ago for a change, haha. I will try it back there again, but I feel it makes that wall opposite the door/window to bare, like something is missing. Is this where you think I should put a shelf?

I took down the mirror and took down some of the gold-ness of it with dark shoe polish yesterday, then angled it on the mantel instead of hanging it back up. I am on the lookout for a nice print and also a larger rug for the area. I've never really liked that smaller rug's size, but the color scheme was good.

Thanks again for all the great suggestions! I really appreciate it!

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 5:58AM
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I would definitely try and put the table across from
the entry door in front of the stair wall... if it will fit.
Then put the photo frame stand in its place.
That might just work with the last pic you posted.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 11:12AM
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Yes, move the small chair over to the left and have it sitting straight against the wall. Don't put the pillow on it, you don't want the eye to go to the color. You need the fireplace to be the focal. Also center it on the left wall and bring the art work closer down on the wall. You want to create various heights to make the room look more cohesive. You can see that all the items are about the same level and you need to vary the levels. Find a container like wicker that is able to hold some branches on logs and put them on the left side of the hearth. That is, if the large chair fits on the right. If it doesn't and you have to put the chair back on the left then put the wicker on the right. Make the mirror go the tall way rather than wide, vary the height and, if there is room, you can leave the table where it is presently if there is enough room. Yes I think the picture screen has to be relocated and find something large and tall to put on that wall. Maybe a metal piece would work. You're well on the way to have a well balanced room. Just remember, whatever you put in there has to have more variation in the heights. For instance, putting the two pictures on either side of the picture window makes more uniform lines and you don't need that. The more the variation of heights, the more charming and warm a room will look. Uniformity is more successful in contemporary settings and uneven rhythms are better to a more traditional relaxed look. If you do buy drapes, try and get them with texture. Texture really warms up a room.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 11:31AM
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I like the idea of replacing the mirror over the fireplace with a larger picture.

As for the photo screen, it really doesn't fit with your furniture or the style of the room. Also, IMHO, the front living room is not always the best place to put family photos. It's not a place you really want people to stop and look at photos (as they enter the house) and block traffic...and it's distracting from the rest of the room.

One of my grandmother's best friends was an actress in the 1940s and actually worked with some legendary Hollywood stars. She had some beautiful photos that she framed and hung in her hallway...and it was a wonderful way to display and see the pictures. Someone can take their time looking at the different pictures and it gives the hallway another gallery. It would be just as interesting with family photos, especially if they were all black and white or had similar frames. It doesn't have to be expensive, to be unique and memorable :)

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 11:57AM
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okay, I'm back from my grandmothers house with two side tables and an area rug. Can't decide between these tables...the tall, square one I really like but I'm not sure about it in this space. The smaller, drop side table I also like...what do you think? Tall table next to the loveseat or drop side side table here? Tall table or rocker on the right of the fireplace? Should the area rug be turned the other way?

Ugh! I hate being so indecisive!

Thanks for the suggestion to turn the mirror vertically...I didn't think it would fit but it does! It will do until I come across a print that I like for above the mantel.

I tried to move the green chair to the right side of the fireplace but it was just too big for that spot so it had to go back to the left side.

Just not sure about this wall opposite the feels empty but the space really is too narrow to put anything there.I saw apicture here somewhere of someone's house that had shelves of varying lengths hung assymetrically. Maybe that would work here instead of the three prints that look like there should be something underneath them,

I really appreciate you all taking the time to give me suggestions; it helps so much to get input from others! My family is no help with fact my daughter just told me she hated it, but what does she know ;)

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 3:34PM
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This looks so much better!

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 4:34PM
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Yes!!! It looks so much better. You're on the right track. I love the table next to the chair but you need a bulkier lamp. The furniture cries for bulkier things. The mirror looks so much better. Now lets address the table on the wall at the stairs. Take every thing off and put a stack of 3 good sized books on the left hand corner, then take the new lamp you have on the end table of the sofa and put it there. This will bring some height on to the wall. Now pick five of the pictures and put three at an angle on the right and two in front of the 3 and that's all. The eye needs places to rest so leave the center empty. Do you have any ample sized plants in your home. If not think about one in a large pot to put on the table to the right of the sofa, a full fern would look great. I can't see what's on the fireplace but I'd like to so I can advise you on how to make it pop. Because the fireplace isn't centered, let's fool the eye and move the mirror more to the right and put lower items to the left. That gives more heft to the room to balance out the right. Love the rug, if you can find a throw and and drapes in the background color your room would look great. If you can take a pic of the mantle I can help you with that too. Go to thrift stores for art and decorative pieces.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 5:30PM
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you guys have been a great help, thank you again! yayagirl - the table in front of the stairs does not have an outlet nearby, so I can not put the lamp there unfortunately. When I moved it over there this morning, I never took the lamp off of it. I think what are suggesting for that sounds great though. Will have to find something else to put there.

The taller table is really growing on me...I like the shape of it and it reminds me of my grandmother, so that is the one to stay (for now!)

Here is a closer picture of the mantel. the only things on there at the moment are the mirror, and a mantel clock. I have some candle trios and another tall, grass/twig like piece that I can pull from other areas if you think any of them work for the spaces. Let me know what you think.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2011 at 8:15PM
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Do you have a large cream colored vase or pitcher that you could put artificial hydrangeas in it, preferably blue or white? They could then go on the mantle on the left. Push the mirror over more to the right and put the clock in front of the mirror at an angle to the room. Take the twigs and put them on the left hand side of the table near the stairs and then the photos to the right. Do you have a pretty view out that window, if so you could pull open the curtains. You could also try putting the mirror to the right and put those three twisted candle holders to the left with larger taller candles in them. It takes trying things out and moving things about to work out a room. I'd love to see a bigger lamp on the table next to the couch, one with a base made of pottery that is a light shade. Your grandmothers need something, another lamp would work well if you have an outlet and stack some books underneath or a basket of magazines.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2011 at 12:16AM
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Sorry I am kind of late to this party. Looks like you are already getting great advice.

Love the area rug and the tall table. Curious how you like the ottoman with your chair? I have been considering doing that here.

Great looking house. Enjoying all your hard work.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2011 at 12:34AM
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I was thinking about the wall in your room and you may want to consider this. Take some of the pictures from your standing piece you used to have and frame them in similar frames and put them on a picture ledge that would be on that wall. Not too many or not too long. Stagger the heights of them. You could even take them to a color copier and have them make in to black and white or sepia for about a quarter each. It would make a pleasant statement. I've attached a site that shows what how they look.

Here is a link that might be useful: picture ledge

    Bookmark   November 11, 2011 at 5:55PM
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Chris - I do like the ottoman in front of the chair. I wasn't sure how I would like it with no coffee table, but I think it's great. I could not fit both the coffee table and the ottoman, so the ottoman has always been off to the side never being used. I saw some great trays at Marshalls that I think will work nicely on the ottoman if I need it to act as a coffee table when we entertain. I have to go back and pick one up soon.

Yayagal - This is sort of what I was thinking about doing on that wall as well. (the wall opposite the door/windows you mean right?)I love the picture ledge idea. In our family room, we have a wood stove with a narrow stone ledge "mantel" that I just started layering framed photos on today (had to find a new home for my daughter's senior portrait)and the look is similar to the pictures in your link.

I also saw a great picture on that moccasin_landing(I think) posted in her living room that is a similar layout to mine. She had several, maybe 5, framed black and white prints all in dark frames lined up along that long wall. It looked great!

I took all the photos out of the screen and gave that away on CL today ( had tons of interest and it was gone within the hour!)

I went to Michaels today and picked up some new candles for the twisted candle holders, as well as a pottery vase and some other twig like things for the table by the stairs. I don't think I liked the other twigs there. It was lacking color.

Still on the lookout for a larger lamp and some small, low accent pieces. My daughter and I are going to take a ride to Christmas Tree Shop tonight and there's a Home Goods along the way I'm sure we will stop at as well.

My family thinks I'm nuts...everytime they come home, something in that room has changed, lol.

Will post pictures again once I pull it all together. You guys have been awesome!!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2011 at 6:35PM
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There's nothing more fun that getting a room to look right. Love that you're enjoying it.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2011 at 11:59PM
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ddOh wow, how did I miss seeing this thread? I read through the initial response by Yayagal, and it sounded perfect.

And when I saw that row of frames same size along the traffic pattern, I too thought it was similar to my solution for something on a long bare wall where you must walk. Thanks, J.Reed, for your nice comment. It was 5 black gallery style frames with good sized mats.

And Yaya, I did print my Mystic Seaport photos in B&W on my printer. Intended just to see if they'd work before doing on photo paper, but golly it looked fine to me as B&W.

If you are looking for lamps, do not forget to go check out the clearance section at Target. I found the nicest pair of pretty modern chrystal lamps about 2 years ago, originally $80/ea and I got them for $20/ea so I was happy as a bug.
The store keeps a clearance section for all housewares I think it is called, not just the regular SALE items, but really clearance. With my lamps, there was a chip on one point of a crystal, which I simply turned to the back, and it doesn't show. After a little while in the house, it doesn't matter that it did not BEGIN perfect.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2011 at 2:28PM
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moccasonlanding, do you have a link to your pics of the wall, I'd love to see it. I love that you printed them out yourself and that you check out clearance, I do the same. I room can be made beautiful with a few high end items and others that aren't. I'm an artist and so balance and design sort of come naturally to me. I love helping people do their rooms.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2011 at 2:49PM
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I just wanted to thank you all again for such great advice. Still looking for a larger lamp as well as something for the wall opposite the door/window. Maybe some new curtains too. But, for now, I am much happier with the layout. Before, the room felt like a big hallway. Never felt like a functional room and we rarely went in there unless we were coming or going through the front door. Since I've changed things around last week, I've been spening more time in there and I found my daughter and her friends in there more than once over the weekend!
Here are some more pictures as it is today:

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 2:30PM
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I like the rug. It makes such a difference in pulling it together.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 4:11PM
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I'm so happy your using it more and I can see why. It's so much more inviting. Take your time and finish it off leisurely. There's no hurry. You were busy as a bee there but it sure paid off.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 6:46PM
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Really looks nice.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 7:09PM
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Okay, let me see.......where did I file those pics of the pics.....duhhhh.

Yaya, I will put my peabrain into gear and see what I can find. I did upload an album for the HouseMA, which means Massachusetts, which I'll link to below, but there are tons of IN PROCESS photos of the various rooms. But of the small parlor/living room, with that row of pics....which I love, BTW, for the subject matter as well as the frames....
I'll look for the best one and insert it HERE.

Look for the albums about the Massachusetts Cape @ Webshots.
I took the pictures with my digital camera the day we went to Mystic Seaport CT. It was in December, and the place was almost deserted, so there were no folks in the shots. As a boat captain, I knew of Mystic Seaport for many years, and I was in hog heaven being there. So the pictures meant a lot to me. The second image from the right is a bow shot of the whaling ship Charles W. Morgan, before it went on the ways/weighs to be restored/rebuilt. Fantastic and beautiful, a work of art. Then I saw the end of every bowsprit (pointy end of the ship) had a star carved into it and usually painted gold or sometimes blue. This is a tradition with old sailing vessels, a good luck sign, which meant "follow your lucky star," and I'd always, on every boat I worked on, painted a blue star (5 point) on the bow of the boat. It is a sailor tradition. I just love the traditions of the sea. Seeing one from the "old days" was awesome. That is why I love the last picture to the right.
And, of course, I took some figurehead shots. You know of course the ancient mariners would strap a live virgin to the bow, as a sacrifice to the sea gods for their safe return. Eventually, they carved and painted wooden figureheads, not all female, as figureheads. I guess they ran out of virgins? If you have a chance to visit the Mystic Seaport, it is a real treat.

Here is a link that might be useful: Moccasin's Webshots albums

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 7:36PM
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moccasinlanding, wow you do a lot of photography and very good at it if I may say. I looked at all the Cape house and love what you did to it, you're very good. I live in Ma. and have visited Mystic numerous times and loved it. We live at an ocean side town south of Boston and love the water and boating. Love the b/w photos on the red wall, soo captivating. We live in a rancher with two additional rooms we added and it's just perfect for two people. Love seeing what others have done.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 1:20PM
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love this picture you posted moccasinlanding! I think your photography is amazing and love the way the gallery frames look on this wall.

yayagal...we must be neighbors because I am along the coast south of Boston as well! We spend a lot of time during the summer at my inlaws houses at the beaches in Humarock and Marshfield. Small world!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 1:37PM
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JReed and Yayagal, it is so good to know of others in the MA area on the forum. I am a real south Alabama gal, with a great chance....a dream of a lifetime come north and experience a whole different lifestyle. My DH's children have looked at what I've done to their dad's cape and seem to think I've given it a southern interpretation. Well, it looked like a cape should look to me, but they think it is a gentler softer way of living here now. And I sort of like that. Life can be so hard here in the winter!! Mercy yes, I discovered that when the very first snowfall this year took out the power for over a week.

Result of that is, instead of taking out the gas hookup in the fireplace in Mobile, I'm updating the gas logs. Those logs will be my contingency plan if the power goes out in the cold weather. Down south, our problem is power outage after hurricanes etc and NO A/C.....

Yaya, did your screenname come from the Yaya Sisterhood? I love that movie.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2011 at 8:24PM
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JReed, I live in Scituate and my daughter lives in Marshfield hills. lol. Love it here.
Moccasinlanding, my sister did the opposite, she relocated from Boston to Tn. and loves it. We do too and often visit her in the winters when we can't take any more lol.
Decorating is a passion of mine. I'm an artist so it comes naturally that I want everything around me to look like a still life shot. Now that I've reached 70 I've done a total redo on my home. I always had lots of layers and antiques and now it's all open and more minimal. I want to make it easier on myself as time goes by. Right now we're doing over the last room, the bathroom. Hope to get that done in the next month. Any time I can give someone an idea, I'm happy. I'm sure both of you feel the same way. This is a nice forum.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 12:17PM
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Hey hey, Yaya, you are so is a nice forum. We have a good mix of ages here, in various stages along life's pathway.

I've been up in MA long enough to know how to pronounce your town Scituate, and even make a stab at SQUAMSQUAT? Hmmm, the first time I was there, I followed a car into its driveway...looked like the road to me....but oh well, no harm done....and I also know how to say Wooster and Worcester...I think.

We are now DONE packing our PODS which will take out a lot of extraneous items from DH's cape, and move these things south where my poor Teahouse will be overwhelmed for a little while. I suppose it will help STAGE the cape for sale next spring. It will also make replacing carpet in the study and upstairs bedrooms and the family room much easier also. The big problem remaining here will be cleaning out the GARAGE. We added a basement mudroom just inside the door from the garage to the house, and I think having a clean garage will be a big plus. Not having to slog through waist deep snow up an incline to the back door but come in through the garage, much shorter and more pleasant. Nice.

When you live in a small house, keeping some breathing room around the furniture always makes the house feel bigger.
If you want to know what living small is all about, you should try living on a boat. Awesome challenge.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2011 at 8:01PM
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I loved the sisterhood movie too but my name comes from my niece being unable to call me Sheila so I became Yaya, long before the movie.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2011 at 7:43AM
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