One Room Challenge Project downsize Fall 2019:

If you follow me on Instagram then you know that I have decided to participate in the Fall 2019 One Room Challenge. What is the One Room Challenge? It’s an online design challenge started about eight years ago by blogger Linda Weinstein. Linda challenged a group of designer/blogger friends to transform a room in six weeks. Each week they would blog about their progress and act as support for one another. It’s such a brilliant idea because if nothing else, it forces you to get a room decorated. This will be my fourth time participating. Fall of 2015 I decorated our family room, Spring of 2018 I designed a temporary Pied-a-terre at the Boston Design Center, and last Fall of 2018 I made over our Master bedroom and Bath.

ORC guest badge


This go around, I am decorating our living/ kitchen/dining area which is one big room. Truth be told, I have agonized over whether to expose myself and do this challenge but here’s why I decided to jump on board.

The back story

Over two years ago my husband and I sold our large home in the country. We moved into a small apartment while house hunting for a smaller place as close to Boston as possible.We knew it would be challenging, as Boston is one of the most expensive real estate markets in the country.  We looked online everyday for over a year and found nothing we liked or could afford.

As luck would have it, we were two days away from signing another year lease on the rental apartment when we found our new home. It was a new build condo, close to Boston and within walking distance of restaurants, shopping and a theater.  It’s now been just over a year that we have lived in our condo and we love it. You might assume that we would be settled by now…right?  Well it’s embarrassing to admit but the only room in the condo that is finished is our master bedroom that I completed for the ORC challenge last Fall.

Since completing the bed room we have done nothing else, other than to put up some racks up in the garage. The problem is, decorating my own home has been the biggest struggle of my career. This most likely is our last home so, THIS IS IT! Also, making it even tougher, I am starting with a blank slate. The furniture from our previous home was all too big so this is truly a fresh start. All new everything. To complicate things even more, there is that pesky little thing called a budget.

Over the past year, I have been so torn between which direction to proceed that I have developed analysis paralysis. I am my WORST CLIENT! At first I thought I wanted all white and minimal and very sophisticated. It took almost a year but I finally admitted, that’s not me. I LOVE color and pattern, yet I still want an airy, bright uncluttered space. The condo has traditional molding everywhere so it’s not as if the architecture is dictating a sleek contemporary vibe.

Week One: One Room Challenge Project Downsize

The space

In real estate the saying is, “Location, location, location”. Well location is what and why we bought our condo. The condo itself is lovely but the floor plan… is shall I say… “problematic”. The living room, dining room and kitchen is one open space. The dining “area” is actually a niche in the hallway and the living area is a long narrow space divided by a traffic pathway to the back door.

Take a look at the space.

Fall 2019 ORC before photoThe front entrance is the door at the far end of the hallway. The kitchen is to the right and the dining area is the small niche to the left, across from the kitchen. The photo on the left is how it looked the day we moved. The photo on the right is how it looks today.

Yes my friends, that is a plastic office table subbing for a dining table. The chairs are my patio chairs from Story Modern from the ORC two seasons ago and the rug was in my office at our previous house. My poor husband finally stopped asking, after about six months, if we were ever going to get a “real table”. Now I think he’s so used to living like this that he has given up and thinks it’s fine.

The Kitchen

I won’t get into the layout problems and complain about how I can’t reach anything in that upper right cabinet because remember what I said earlier…location, location, location. The only thing I plan to do in the kitchen (for now) is to add a back splash and change out the cabinet hardware.

Fall 2019 Fall ORC

The Living Room

Fall 2019 ORC living room before

Yes, I have a dreaded corner fireplace. Honestly, worse than the corner fire place is how narrow the space is. See that shelf overhang on the left? That is the kitchen bar. There is only six feet from the edge of the kitchen bar to the corner of the fireplace  What we currently have is a mishmash of old furniture (on floor protector pads no less) while I figure out what I want to do with this small, narrow space.

What you can’t see around that back corner is a pile of items that we have no where to put. A thirty pound bag of dog food, my new instapot, some magazines and a platter and casserole dish that are too large to fit into the kitchen cabinets.

That big blank back wall also has to be addressed. I have resisted putting art on that wall because we have an art TV. I want something that won’t compete with whatever art I have displayed on the TV. Also, I want to keep the “eye clutter” at a minimum. A busy gallery wall of art does not lend itself to the uncluttered look I want for the space.

The last two photos below were taken standing with my back to the corner fireplace. The photo on the left is the continuation of the dining niche wall. The dining area is in front of the window on the right that you only partially see. The photo on the right is showing the back door to the patio.

Fall 2019 ORC before photos

The Plan: One Room Challenge project downsize

The entire space, living area, kitchen and dining area is only 19′ x 19′. That is a tiny 361 feet. It was such a challenge to come up with a floor plan that would meet all our needs. Before I decided on this plan I wrote out my requirements for the space, just like I do with my clients.


  1. Seating for at least six adults
  2. Dining table that will seat six
  4. Pathway must be kept clear to back door
  5. Bar stools that can tuck under bar and take up very little space both visually and physically
  6. Rugs to warm up the space

So after months of playing around with just about every conceivable floor plan possible, I have settled on this.

Floor plan ORC Fall 2019

The Solution

  1. Seating: A bench against the window closest to the patio door. Three comfortable chairs near fireplace. The two chairs closest to the bench will be swivel chairs so as to rotate around and have a conversation with whoever is sitting on bench, or face forward to watch TV. The bench and three chairs will accommodate seating for five and when we have more people than that, the dining chairs can be carried over.
  2. Dining: Oval shaped dining table that will seat six. The plan shows four chairs at the table but I plan to place a second bench in front of the window with two chairs facing the window.
  3. Storage: This is a huge need for us. My plan is to source a slim, closed storage console or buffet against the back wall to the left of the fireplace. This will hold extra china and glassware plus house the TV cable box that is currently laying on the floor. For more substantial storage we are building a pantry on the wall between the two windows. Please excuse my terrible line drawing but this shows the location. This will give us additional storage space for dog food, over sized platters, and holiday dishes. This will also give me additional counter surface (again, something we absolutely need).

pantry drawing for ORC

4. Pathway: Clear and open as in floor plan

5. Bar Stools: We eat breakfast at the bar so I do need bar stools. Since there is so little space though I want to find stools that are smaller in scale, yet still comfortable.I also want to be able to tuck them away completely under the bar when not in use.

6. Rugs: Before we moved in we invested in some beautiful “top down, bottom up” natural fiber shades. There isn’t enough room on either side of the windows to hang panels. Instead, I’m planning on using rugs to cozy up the space and add some color and pattern. Since the living area is so long and narrow, I chose a round rug to visually expand the space. A long rectangular rug would have made the space feel even narrower. Plus, the jetting out corner fireplace would make a rectangular rug problematic. I honestly have never been a big fan of round rugs but in this particular space it is the best choice.

So, here I go into my fourth One Room Challenge. Is it stressful? You bet. Am I looking forward to (hopefully) having a finished space in six weeks? OH YEAH!!

Now that I have shared my challenges and floor plan, I hope you’ll check back next week when I will share my design board and color palette. Until then, be sure to check out the twenty featured designers and the other link up participants who are on this wild ride with me.

A big thank you to Linda for creating this ongoing fabulous event and to Better Homes and Garden who is the Media sponsor for the Challenge.




Linda Holt | Interior Designer & iPhone Coach

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