Buyers remorse - Support needed!

thenicksterAugust 12, 2012

After putting aside my concerns about buying Ethan Allen, I ended up purchasing furniture for the living room. I worked with one of their design consultants who was very kind, and took a leap of faith that everything would be ok.

The furniture came yesterday and all is not ok. I hate the couches - the feel of it, the color, or the smell of the synthetic fibers (27% of unknown fiber? What does that mean?).

I will have to live with it for a while until a figure out whether I want to accept the loss of over $3,000 and start over. I was hoping you could give me some of your experiences for when you hated your purchase and how you either learned to live with it or moved on.

I should have listened to my mother who said to buy Henrdon or from North Carolina....ugh!!!


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There's no way to return it?

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 11:26AM
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No - custom made. I just feel like I have been sold a bill of goods. The couches are so uncomfortable I would be better off on the floor. And I hate the color. Such an awful feeling!!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 11:37AM
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My Ethan Allen furniture is my favorite. I have one sofa, two club chairs and an ottoman. They are over 15 years old and still feel and look good.
I will certainly be more leary in the future.
But, getting back to your question. Actually the club chairs I purchased with just seeing a swatch of the plaid. I did not know, or was not told by the decorator to order a large memo of the plaid to see if I like it. It is a huge plaid and I order both chairs and the ottoman in it! Funny though, I am so used to the way they look now, but for years I have to say I felt embarrassed by them.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 11:40AM
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Well, the smell will hopefully go away after a bit. I have no idea what unknown fiber is!

The feel -- do you mean the texture of the upholstery itself or the comfort of the sofa, i.e., the seating?

The color, hmm, well sometimes you can play with the color of something by strategically using colors surround that item. So you could add pillows in certain colors, or paint the wall a certain color, etc. If you're able to post pictures, we might be able to help!

One option is to slipcover -- obviously, more money, but if you hate the sofa color that much...

Sorry this happened. A final note -- sometimes when something new happens in decor, like a new paint color in a room, new furniture, new counters, whatever -- it can be shocking at first but over time, it can grow on you. I hope that makes sense. I can think of a few examples here on this forum where people have hated a wall color initially but after putting the room together, have grown to like it. So maybe giving it time and/or tweaking the sofa's surroundings might help.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 11:57AM
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The sofa cushions will loosen up a bit after you've used it for a while, so they will probably get more comfortable.

As far as the fabric and color, can we see pictures? You can get a great deal of help here to make them work rather than take a $3000 loss.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 12:00PM
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I did the same thing. The furniture store designer was so nice that I confused my liking her with liking what she was doing and ended up with living room furniture that I hated.
(pink and blue damask sofas- ugh).
I lived with it for several years and I certainly learned from it.
I would give it more time and decide what to do after you're not so upset- you'll be able to think more clearly about what you want to do.
I understand and sympathize- furniture and design is so important to some of us! (all of us here!) It's so disappointing when we aren't happy with it!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 12:06PM
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I posted last year about a couch that I purchased from EA that was a floor model - that was 4 years old! I paid over 2K for it. While the couch looked fine, felt fine, I was dissapointed that I wasn't getting a "new couch". It really wasn't discounted by that much, especially being that it was 4 years old. I had buyers remorse and also learned a valuable lesson about looking at tags on furniture. I never bought off the floor before, so I had no idea that kept stuff sitting for so long ! WHen I contacted the sales rep, she really didn't seem to care nor were they going to take it back, or give me any additional money off for the age of the couch.
Lesson learned that's for sure. I do like my couch now, but I still have that "funny feeling" that's it's old!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 12:08PM
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    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 12:11PM
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I would call them and tell them that it smells bad and you need them to come pick it up and refund your money. Tell them you can not live with it. Do not let them get away with this. THEY can use it in their showroom to let other people know what their fabrics smells like. Good luck with this and do let us (the consumers) know how you are treated by Ethan Allen!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 12:56PM
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If it makes you feel better, I have never purchased any furniture that I did not feel was a huge mistake when it was delivered. It is such a shock to see it in "real life". After one error, I swore never to order sight unseen from a catalog and that has helped.

Most everything I hated at first I later learned to like, once the shock wore off. Some items I still don't like and others I have grown to love.

My advice is to never buy furniture from a chain store in a mall. I broke my own rule when I got some furniture (media unit) from Pottery Barn, but I have to admit I like it a lot.

Give your new furniture a chance. The odor will dissipate for sure, so don't be upset about that.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 1:03PM
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"I would call them and tell them that it smells bad and you need them to come pick it up and refund your money."

Ditto to this. They can argue with your sense of style but not your sense of smell.

Where was it made? For the past couple of years, Ethan Allen customers have been complaining because the furniture is now made in China, and lacks the quality we have all come to expect.

Google "Ethan Allen" "sofa" and "smell". You'll find other complaints, and perhaps some ideas.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 1:28PM
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I like Sueb20's suggestion of a slipcover, but I guess I would try to complain first. I know this doesn't help you any, but I've been dithering about getting a new sofa. I have my heart set on a slipcovered Lee Ind. sofa, but I don't want to spend the money and keep looking for a cheaper version. I think your story has helped me to make up my mind and go with the quality Lee sofa. Thanks for posting and helping others learn from your mistake.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 1:50PM
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I echo the smell part. Just like new carpet where many people have to flee their house with windows open because the smell makes them sick, you can kind of fudge it and say the same thing.

OTOH, can you not return the sofa..just because? When you picked your sofa out, didn't you sit on it?

I have two rules in regards to sofa buying besides size. 1) the arms have to be short so I can reach the end table easily, and 2) the fabric HAS to be of a comfy material when I sit on it in summer.

Summer is when a lot of people realize their new sofas aren't so great if they bought them in winter.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 1:58PM
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I will post pictures later - I don't have pillows, a rug or end tables so maybe that will help...but I wish I went with Henredon or something with a better reputation. Thanks so much for the comments so far!!!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 2:04PM
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Almost anything one selects in home decor looks a little different in 3D and in your lighting and with your surroundings. I think I am pretty good at visualizing and yet there is always some element that surprises.

Give it a week, and try to be neutral. Try not to keep saying negative things to yourself about the furniture or your regrets or your decision. Be gentle with yourself. : )

If after a few days, and playing with pillows or throws or whatever, you don't like it, tell EA and tell them exactly and honestly and pleasantly what bothers you. They should want you to be happy. They should value your feedback. They may surprise you and "fix" it at cost or whatever.

I had a friend who bought a fairly ordinary Macy's sofa. When it was delivered, she complained about the fluffiness of the cushions. She is rather persistent. I thought she was asking way too much for a Macys sofa. They came to her apartment 3 times until she was happy with the cushions. It became a bit of a joke!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 2:14PM
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If you financed it with your credit card and let the CC company know there is an issue with it, that it's not meeting expectations (smell and unknown fabric) they will back you up and get you your money back.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 2:23PM
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Yes, if you don't like it, particularly if it smells bad, gird your pretty little loins and do everything you can to convince them to take it back.
Including talking to the credit card company, if that's how you paid for it. The worst thing that can happen is that they don't help you.

Read the documents that came with the furniture and the order. See if you can find anything that you can use to help convince them. And keep in mind that there are often parts of contracts you sign that turn out not to be enforceable. You are worth the trouble, you know!

If it were me, I'd be more unhappy the longer I had to live with a mistake. But in the meantime, post pictures, and we'll all see if we can help.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 2:48PM
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I know they always say that custom furniture isn't returnable, but I think they often will take it back--with a "restocking" fee.

That said, I agree with dedtired. I almost always hate a piece of furniture when it's first delivered. It's a shock, and it changes everything about the room immediately. Often I end up loving the piece eventually. Sometimes, unfortunately, not.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 2:57PM
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I am trying to upload a photo. I obviously need a rug and pillows and tables...and don't know where to put what I have so far...I am so hoping that will help. But it looks like a showroom. Any ideas welcome. My design consultant is coming this week...hopefully she can help!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 9:47PM
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Yes, the right rug will help you finish the look - but, if it really smells funny - I would call the manager, if that didn't work ask for the regional or district mgr to come out and "smell" the fabric.You never know it could be that something is really wrong on their end.
IMHO I think what might be throwing things off is all the "legs" you can see in your room, and everything is at the same height. Maybe a glass and iron table would look better. The style of your sofa's is very pretty and transitional looking, But, the dark ottoman is throwing things off - in my non-decorator opinion.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 10:43PM
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Well, I was expecting to see horrible couches. They're nice, and I'm sure once the room is decorated it'll look pulled together. But disliking the smell and feel is another issue. You should certainly try everything you can to get EA to take them back. Do you have allergies? Could you get a doctor's note perhaps? You're smelling VOCs, volatile organic compounds, and they're more than just unpleasant, they can be unhealthy. You'll probably get push back from EA, but hopefully if you persist they'll eventually give in.

Good luck and let us know what happens.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 12:31AM
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Rarely do I not have buyer's remorse of some kind even a little bit when I buy furniture. Few days later after I have lived with it and moved it around etc I usually feel different. Except for one couch that I had bought in haste , but that's another story. Honestly I was expecting to see crappy looking couches. If you hate it you hate it and you are entitled to your feelings. My gut reaction though is that you have a neutral palette that you can pull together. Right now the sofa seems close to the wall color and there is no color or texture bringing the room together. Are those 2 couches the same size? If they are you could put them facing each other with the ottoman in between with the two benches at one end, side by side, and see if that look works for you. You don't have to arrange it in an L shape as is typical. Some colorful pillows and a rug would help to pull it together. Maybe put the benches in another room if they don't work in that room. I do hope you find a solution that makes you happy. Move things around and see if you feel better about it.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 1:21AM
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I just want to echo what people are saying about making them take them back. Just say the smell is making you ill and you cannot afford the medical bills or to compromise your health. If they think there might be a lawsuit over toxins/smells, they might be happy to take them back.

I did expect something much different than your pic - they look beautiful, but I understand the "feel" being different than what you want.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 2:52AM
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Those are good-looking couches IMO.

It's just that the room isn't pulled together yet. An oriental rug big enough to fit under your furniture, curtains, pillows, art...

Those couches would let you pull off all sorts of looks - they're neutral and versatile, and they have good form.

The feel and smell - those might be a problem. Did you get to feel a swatch, does it feel like the swatch you had, what does it feel like?

And what does it smell like? Notify the company now, tell them you're willing to wait a couple weeks to see if the smell dissipates but you're letting them know now in case it doesn't get better - furniture that smells bad is not acceptable.

Is it possible that you're so disappointed in the look of the furniture in your room, that it's influencing how you react to the feel and the smell of it?

I'm going through a bit of buyer's remorse myself, with some jute rugs ordered on-line - they're darker and more heavily textured than I expected and yes, they have a smell which I think is boric acid - we had a futon years ago that smelled like that - the store said it was a flame retardant in the batting and that it would dissipate, which it did. Boric acid is safe - you can disinfect cuts with it but it does have a sort of sour smell.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 3:10AM
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Goodness! I was expecting something ugly! They look great.

As for the smell, feel of the fabric, we obviously can't opine. Does it feel like the swatch? The smell might be some sort of fire retardant. Have you aired out the room? EA may have some suggestions.

Stylewise, the pieces are lovely but lonely. You are only half done! Call back the woman you liked and have her help you with rugs, pillows, throws, wall decor.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 9:44AM
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I really love the couches and I can see where you are headed with your style. I love the leather round ottoman and the fabric on the two smaller ottoman's but they are too tall, and I'm not sure where you should put them. Once you get a rug and a throw and pillows for the couches it will be all pulled together. I think they look classic and lovely, and something that will stand the test of time. I also have never purchased furniture that I did not have regrets about after getting it home. I think it will all work and be stunning if you are willing to give it a chance.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 11:08AM
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Gorgeous looking sofas! Very very nice lines. clean, tight and architectural.
An oriental rug on the floor, some art on the walls and the room will be done.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 11:08AM
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If I could afford it I'd offer to buy the set from you and we'd both be happy. :) The style and color of couch is just what I'm looking for but maybe with a little more comfy arms. I think they're beautiful and open up a lot of design possibilities in the room.

However, I also agree with others who have said that if you invested that much you should really love the purchase and not spend years being unhappy. If the smell is really bad it wouldn't hurt to call with that complaint and see what they say.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 11:37AM
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Ok, so first of all I want to thank you for all your support. It is so much pressure to make these decisions!

I totally agree with so many posts - and I told the designer the benches were going to be too high. I have the e-mails to support it! She is coming Wed. so it will be an interesting discussion. I think they will have to go somewhere else/on teh side and as someone suggested I will look for glass/cube coffee tables.

I have also posted an updated picture using a rug I already had from R&B. It is not going to stay - I think I want something more solid, but the rug definately brings it together more.

Finally, I have never liked the bright white color on the fireplace. Any paint suggestions? Perhaps a deep brown?

I will definately keep posting progress!
As for the smell, it is fading...but clearly still a synthetic smell but one that I hope fades more. I will call EA to inquire.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 1:28PM
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one more pic

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 1:30PM
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I have several pieces of custom furniture in the great room, and they could be returned - but there was a "fee". I want to say 20% but I don't remember for sure. They can most definitely re-sell the items, or as someone said, use them in a showroom. Check your paperwork.


    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 1:44PM
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Oh, I love the rug. It ties in all your colors and you need the pattern with the solid colors of the sofas. You can pull pillow colors from the rug and it all will tie together.

It's the benches I don't like- too high and in the way where they are. What is their purpose?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 2:02PM
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I like them! But....if you don't like the feel of the fabric then I'd return them. There is nothing worse than sitting on a sofa with fabric that feels wrong in so many ways. I had to sell a sofa that I loved because I couldn't sit on it while wearing shorts. lol

If you decide you like the fabric, the smell will eventually go away. Open all the windows when it's not too hot to air the room out.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 2:38PM
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The colors in the rug are lovely, at least as they appear in the second picture, but I still think something not so directional would work better. A solid or stripes bring the floor into visual prominence as a large plane, whereas a gentle pattern lets it subside and keeps the eye moving.

A local Oriental rug store let me take a rug home to see how it looked so there was no sinking money into something I might not like.

How about stuccoing over the brick and going for a soft white-wash look?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 3:51PM
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I am currently living with family room furniture that I hate. I bought a chenille sofa sleeper and a chair and a half sleeper with ottoman from JCP 3 years ago. Love the look in the room, but the furniture has not held up well at all. Noticed a hole in the ottoman almost immed. The fabric is cheap. I could go on and on. Bottom line, worse purchase I've ever made. Sofa is now covered with a slipcover...hate. The fabric pilled so quick. After many years we are going to redo our floors and I think I'll bite the bullet and dump the furniture. It wasn't very expensive, but I have been disappointed since day one. Anyway, I feel your pain.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 4:16PM
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Benches are the designers idea and obviously they don't work in the room. They are nice so I might put them against the wall, maybe under a console. But bottom line is you have to trust your gut - I knew they were not going to work and alas they did not.
The feedback from everyone is making me feel a little better about the couches. This is my first house and fist significant furniture purchases (not because I am so young - but because I did not know what to get!) so I really appreciate the help! I will post updates as available!!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 4:33PM
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As for your fireplace, there's a lot of brick compared to the size of the firebox and the heft of the mantle. Beef up the mantle and add a surround and some decor on the hearth to minimize the expanse of the brick.

Here's an example from Home Depot:

Here is a link that might be useful: How to build a fireplace surround

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 5:43PM
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Well... I actually like the benches more than the round ottoman. They are closer stylistically to the couches, and were meant for extra pull out seating, right? You shouldn't have one next to the ottoman that is serving as a cocktail table, the two benches should be somewhere together side by side.

You also need a large tray for the ottoman, end tables, lamps, etc. I would not paint that white brick brown (too dark) but the cream or even the soft green in the rug.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 5:44PM
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I know this is messy, but can you have the brick partially sand blasted, to get the look of old brick with lime? NO idea how feasible that is, but the colors might work that way...

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 5:53PM
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I would cut 2" off the benches.
The rug works quite well with the sofas.

I think the room is coming together very well.

All it needs is a punch of color from art or pillows or something on the fireplace.

I would NOT return the sofas. I cant speak for the comfort but they do look sharp!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 6:46PM
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Love the sofas. My sofa is a very similar style.

I know how you feel. 9 years ago we went to North Carolina to purchase a sofa and loveseat. we bought a pretty expensive set from Sherill. When it arrived, I hated it. I learned 2 lessons. It's very difficult for most people to imagine from how a patterened fabric will look on a sofa from looking at a little sample. I will never buy a sofa again without actually sitting in it. I lived with them for 8 years and then finally replaced them. They are now in the basement.

For your space, I like the sofas, rug, and stools. Stools are too tall to use as an ottoman, but would be great for extra seats. They compliment the sofa well.

BTW, I purchased an upholstered bed from Ethan Allen 2 years ago and I love it. the quality is superb.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 9:28PM
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Ditto to what BirdGardner wrote:

Sure, it looks like a showroom -- but that's pretty much what rooms look like when the movers just bring in the sofas and tables. The sofas are the building blocks to putting the room together -- a new rug (that doesn't read so neutral, maybe?) if you want, a coffee table that works nicely with the sofas, planning draperies to go with the blinds? And don't forget lighting, which will help give the room some depth. Artwork, your decorative objects. And some contrasting color somewhere.

Do you have any magazine or web inspiration photos of living rooms that you love? Maybe you're just feeling nervous that you plunked down a lot of cash and trust and that you don't know how you're ever going to get "there" from "here"? It just takes time.

The smell issue: I don't want to dismiss the health concerns of others, but this is frequently something that happens with mattresses, too. The mattress companies always say the smell dissipates; usually it does. But certainly raise the question with EA.

Not sure that the "feel" of the sofas is going to make EA eager to take them back, at the full cost.

Were these custom fabrics? (Not sure whether everything at EA is)
Do you still have the fabric swatch (did you get one or take one)? Maybe there was a fabric switcheroo by mistake. Or check your paperwork and look at hidden places on the sofas to find the fabric tags (you may have to flip the sofa over) to try to match everything up.

Comparing what you received with the sofa that you saw and sat on in the showroom, is it the fabric itself that doesn't feel good, or the construction of the sofa, like the density of the cushions or the depth of the seat?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 1:07AM
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I'm assuming the benches are to sit on rather than for use as foot stools. The height looks right to me. Placed right next to each other, end-to-end, they'd look sharp in your room. Maybe opposite the sofa that's perpendicular to the fireplace? (I don't have a sense of the room's layout, so that suggestion about positioning is just a guess.)

Since the rest of your trim is white, I'd revisit the idea of painting the fireplace only after you've added accessories to the room. If you do re-paint the fireplace I'd keep it light.

It'll be nice to bring some texture, pattern, and new colors into the room with accent pillows, a throw, artwork and accessories.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2012 at 2:15AM
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I know you have all rightfully moved on to help other decorators in need...but here is a temporary home for my stools. I will post pictures in the future as I finsih the room. And I am happy to report that the couches no longer smell.

Thanks for all your thoughtful comments :).

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 9:31AM
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It would be much easier and cheaper to have the fireplace faux finished to a brick color you like, than to have the current paint sandblasted. You can get any brick color you like, it's just a matter of choosing your colors.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 4:55PM
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Can you center your couch on the window? It being off centered doesn't look quite right. I think a floor lamp, and some tables and table lamps will also help the space. I probably would not paint the fireplace brown, I do like the pics someone posted with trim and a mantle - it looks pulled toghether.
Your decorator will tell you the benches are PERFECT and maybe they will be when you get some other things completed, but if your gut doesn't like them - tell her to take them back.
Why, oh Why don't some of us listen when our gut talks????

    Bookmark   August 15, 2012 at 6:15PM
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