Big Mama Blog

Because the living room is for living

So I’ve been so busy whining about my cold that I haven’t even told y’all what happened last Thursday.

My dear friend and interior designer Holly Mathis came to visit to help me make a few final tweaks to my living room. Which means she was also subjected to spending ten hours with me while I was all jacked up on 120 mg of Sudafed. She’s too sweet to say it, but I’m pretty sure she feared for her life when we pulled into the parking lot of Goodwill and I jumped a curb.

Anyway, Holly started helping me with my house so long ago that it’s hard for me to remember. But then I got completely sidetracked and ended up with a book deadline and that tends to mess with the amount of time you have to spend at Target.

And when I was finally ready to start painting and changing things up, you may remember that P decided that was a good time to get our walls insulated in his ongoing quest to make our home a large Igloo cooler. Which resulted in much drilling of holes and mental anguish.

So it was early December before the walls ever got patched and painted and the built-ins were finally built (hence the name built-ins) and the furniture came back from the upholsterers and things in general began to finally all come together.

And so Holly drove into town to help me figure out what to put on my bookshelves because I’ve never had a place for tchotchkes before and I was suddenly in need of tchotchkes. There’s a good likelihood that I also just enjoy saying the word tchotchkes.


We still need to add a rug in the living room but it’s more than $15 and I need to wait a while. And then there are a few more things I need to do in the dining room and kitchen, but I thought I’d show you the living room because chances are good you don’t want to hear anymore about how I sound like a three pack a day smoker named Hazel and yelled at some kids to GET OFF MY LAWN today.

First, this is a before picture.

I realize it’s small and doesn’t really show the whole thing but you get the gist. It was very maroon-y and serious. And there was an enormous picture of an urn above the mantle.

And here are some after pictures. Please keep in mind that I am a terrible photographer and I have no idea how to really style any of this. I just put the pillows on the couch and considered it a win that I remembered to take the remote control off the coffee table. Which reminds me that Holly told me I need to find a shallow basket for the top of the coffee table.

Also, the walls are painted Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore which may be my new favorite color. It’s very soothing.



If you’re wondering what those are pictures of then I will ease your curiosity and tell you they are the people who pose for pictures for frames that come from Target. I have real pictures ordered to put in the frames but they’re not in yet.

And this is the mantle. You may remember that P painted those lanterns red for me almost a year ago. The wooden sign with the grace quote was made by Andrew and Tara Lowry at Between You and Me. I love it so much and they can make a sign with any quote you want.


I guess this is the neighbor’s weird kid that photobombed my photoshoot.


And here are the built-ins with the newly upholstered chairs in front of them. It’s my favorite part of the whole thing. Holly said built-ins would change the whole look of the room and she was totally right. Before, this room was always so hard to arrange, but now it makes sense because it has a focal point besides the fireplace.

(I have no idea if that’s why. But it sounds good and I like the way they look.)


You may notice that the antelope of the Lord is MIA. He has been relocated to the playroom because Caroline loves having him in there and WHY WOULD I DEPRIVE MY CHILD OF AN ANTELOPE?

I know. I’m a giver.

And here are a few little things on the bookshelves that I especially love.

This pear print by Jones Design.


This old picture of P’s grandfather and dad with friends and a limit of fish.


This bird print that Holly randomly found in some book at Barnes and Noble because she just knows how to find good stuff. I promise I could have looked at that same book and just thought “Oh look. Some birds.”


The antique birdcage I already had, some red books we found at Goodwill for $1.00, a framed photo of my great-great grandparents and some fun Orla Kiely paper in a pattern I’ve always loved.

(I don’t think the red candle is supposed to be there, but I set it there and took the picture and hopefully it’s not all ruined.)


This Janet Hill print that I knew I had to have as soon as I saw it because HILARIOUS.


And another picture of my great-great grandparents from Sicily hanging on the wall under the deer. I’m sure it’s just how they imagined their great-great granddaughter would commemorate them.


When we (Holly) finished with the shelves, she stepped back and said, “We just need a piece of coral or something to put on top of these books”. And I was thinking the same thing.

(No I wasn’t. You could have given me a million years and I wouldn’t have thought about a piece of coral.)

P happened to overhear, remembered that his mom used to have some coral and called her. Ten minutes later, my mother-in-law was at my house and gave me her coral. It was like an early birthday present.


And I think it adds the perfect, quirky touch.

Holly had also mentioned we were going to hang plates on the dining room wall. And so we’d bought a few plates during her last visit. Then after the painters finished I texted her and said, “Do you think I can try to hang those plates?” She said, “Yes. Just lay them out on the floor and text me a picture.”

So I did.

And then she texted me and said, “Yeah. Wait until I get there.”

I was a woman in search of a vision.

But I was glad I waited because Holly came and hung the plates and even found a fun pillow to add to the mix.


I can’t wait for the whole dining room to come together.

Anyway, I’m so happy with it. The thing about house stuff is I know what I like when I see it and I can pin things on Pinterest all day long, but I want to pull my arm out of the socket when I think about trying to figure out how to do it myself. I can put outfits together all day long, but house stuff ends up with me lying on the couch eating chocolate staring at the holes in my wall. That is to say, I get overwhelmed.

That’s why Holly is so amazing. She knew exactly what I wanted and helped me come up with the right mix of quirky and fun and bright but with pieces of our life and family everywhere. It’s comfortable and casual and totally us.

And now I can sit back and enjoy the feeling of not having to think about decorating my living room for another ten years. While I continue to cough and sound like Hazel and wonder why kids today are so opposed to pulling up their pants.

Oh, and I needed to discuss Downton Abbey so bad yesterday that I wrote a post about it over on Ree’s blog. Please feel free to click over there and leave a comment if you are like me and need therapy over the whole thing.

Also, tchotchkes.

(Edited to add that Holly Mathis does online consultations since so many of you have emailed to ask. You can find her at Holly Mathis Interiors for more information.)

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  1. 1

    Your living room looks amazing! I love it all.

  2. 2

    That’s how I am! I want to decorate so bad, but when it comes time to doing it? I get so overwhelmed! Maybe Holly can help me! hahaha :)

    • 3

      Holly definitely can! Go to her site. She can do long distance decorating. Her fees are completely reasonable.

  3. 4

    Maybe Hazel can start a Canasta group? Y’all have a card table you can pull out and set in the middle of your new great living room? ‘Cuz I’ve been channeling Velma all week with the nastiest cold crud ever to hit planet Earth. Velma is sure it is a manufactured plague for the specific purpose of increasing over the counter cold and cough medicine sales.

  4. 5

    Oh my goodness, Melanie! I love love love it!!!!! There’s just so MUCH that I love…the new pillows, the bookshelves (swoon), the plates on the wall, the COLORS!!! Sorry, I’m raving here. It’s just that last night I was trying to enter a giveaway on Young House Love, and the question was, “What is something quirky in your home?”

    And, for the LIFE of me, I couldn’t really think of anything.

    And I LOVE quirky. I AM quirky. Yet–where is the quirky in my home? I need Holly Mathis to come tell me I need some coral!

    Enjoy your pretty living room! It’s amazing! :-)

  5. 6

    So beautiful!! Bright, fresh, livable. That Holly knows what she’s doing. I live in Houston and REALLY want to get her to help me with my house.

    Hope you feel better soon, Melanie!

  6. 7
    Peggy from Hempstead says:

    Wow! Looks so awesome! Holly Mathis is so talented. And she happens to be married to a pretty awesome boss, too! 😉

  7. 9
    Melanie Miller says:

    I have some serious living room envy going on here. Stunning, I love it! Want to pin the whole thing. And that art on the mantle, it’s the best!

    You have done something jolly with the room. Well done!

  8. 10

    oh yay! i love it melanie!!
    way to stack some red books and a whimsical janet hill print …all that AND a deer head thingie on the wall.!! ( did i call it the right thing?)
    the chairs are fabulous
    the sofa is gorgeous and the dining room wall-o-plates is wonderful!!
    ps. if id’a known that final chapter was all about letting them go i might have chosen to finish on the next to last chapter instead 😉
    also, i knew when the reference to green sparkly earrings came it was gonna be good.
    well done my friend, well done!!!!!! love that sweet book & wish you blessing upon blessing!!

  9. 11

    May I ask where you found that cute red plate with the bird on it in your dining room? As a matter of fact, where did most of those come from?

    Everything looks so great!!!!

  10. 16

    So your living room is AMAZING!! I must have built in’s installed in my living room :) Love!

  11. 17

    Yay for built-ins! And tchotchkes! (tchotchkes!) Your living room looks fantastic…and the darling “neighbor girl” who photo-bombed your shoot just adds to the realistic, lived in look. My kids would have that area covered in Barbies and plastic play food in 20 minutes.

  12. 18

    Love the plate wall! Fun fact: I have the same bird plate from Pier One in yellow, and it is on the wall in the Dunphy’s kitchen on Modern Family in green! I’m pretty sure that makes you, me and Claire some kind of virtual bird BFFs. Which has always been a dream of mine.

  13. 19


  14. 20

    Melanie, it’s GORGEOUS! well done! can you, or Holly, tell me where I might find some large class bottles like the ones on the shelves?

  15. 21

    I was THRILLED to see your book at Family Christian Bookstore yesterday so, of course, I snatched it up. LOVE it and I’m even looking forward to my time on the treadmill today so I can read some more! I also love knowing that I have a new gift idea (your book!) for friends.

    And, your house looks amazing!

  16. 22

    I LOVE that ‘nest’ pillow. Would love to know where it came from ..

  17. 23

    I love your built-ins! And I am totally copying them in my living room :-) I have a wall space that has bugged me for years and they will be perfect. The rest of your living room looks great too, I love the colors.

  18. 24

    The upholstered chairs, grace quote and plates are my faves!

  19. 25

    Looks FABULOUS! So warm, inviting, and full of personal touches. Please keep us posted on the upkeep of the white Slipcovers. I’ve been dying to to that!

  20. 26

    Can holly come to my house??? Love your dishes most.

  21. 27

    THOSE CHAIRS! Oh my goodness at the print on those chairs! And the throw pillow on one, and the fabulous little footstool in front of the other one. And the couch pillows! And the built-ins arranged just so! LOVE LOVE LOVE all of it!

  22. 28

    The built ins look divine! I have a weird corner built in that is made more weird by the fact that they are not at all styled looking. I’m bookmarking those pics and going to try to be inspired by them.

    Sadly, I’m also having a Hazel kinda day . . . so it may have to wait for another day!

  23. 29

    Love the wall plates! Sorry if I seem slow or something, but how do you hang them? I mean, how are they securely attached to the wall?

  24. 30

    1. I totally agree about kids’ pants these days.
    2. LOVE LOVE LOVE that pillow cushion in your dining room under the plates.
    3. How convenient that P even remembered that his mom had coral!

  25. 31
    Lisa Loves Boston says:

    Oh what is the name of that chair fabric? It’s what makes the bookcases pop, I think. And I have a well-loved chair desperately in need of recovering. PLEASE please reveal your source. And feel better, darling.

  26. 34

    I love everything about it. The chair fabric is my favorite!!

  27. 35

    Angie Smith just wrote that she used the Revere Pewter, too. I had gotten a sample a week or two ago and loved it…my painting motivation stopped at the sample for now. :) Everything looks fantastic!!

  28. 36

    I love your living room. I have pillows that are the same print as your chairs. So fun. Quick question, what is your trim color?

  29. 37

    I love your room transformation, but that quote over your mantle has been convicting me since I saw it early this morning in your new blog post email. Thanks for the spiritual inspiration even though I am sure that was not your intent. :)

  30. 38

    Oh it looks great! I’m so happy for you! It must feel so nice to sit on the sofa and look at the built ins and your newly designed shelves! Love it! I’m a interior designer by trade and even I feel the way you do when it comes to my own personal house….but Holly is amazing and I’m so glad you were able to get the living room done! Yipee!

  31. 39

    I love the new room. Very upbeat and fun!

  32. 40

    Dang if I don’t love those plates on the wall. HOW. CREATIVE. Your living room looks great. This is my second comment in 2 days. You’re going to get sick of me. You’re also making me feel better with the side note about yelling at a kid to get off your lawn. Similar issues here. Sigh.

  33. 41

    So, how do you pronounce that word that you kept talking about? And what is it??

  34. 42

    BigMama, perhaps you could go over to Ree’s blog and fix the title of your post—it’s episode 4, not 5, and you have folks upset that this is a spoiler for next Sunday’s episode. People take their DA quite seriously!

  35. 43

    LOVE your living room!! The built-ins look amazing! I am the same way with decorating — I can “pin” together the most beautiful rooms but when it comes down to a real house — I never know where to begin. We were in our last house for nearly 6 years before we painted the first wall — and that was only because we were preparing a nursery for our daughter — and a dear friend offered to paint it for us. :)

  36. 44

    LOVE IT! Where did you get the frame with the pic of P’s grandfather? I love how that mat is cut at the top. I know that’s a super random tidbit to pick up from all the other things I could be asking about. 😉

  37. 45

    Hi! I don’t normally leave comments.. Even when there is a drawing. (I never win, which is probably because I don’t enter.) I do love your renewed living room. I’m commenting because I happened to be at a small bookstore here in Arizona and saw your book. I have no idea why it is already available. Anyways, I read about 1/4 while my husband tried to make a decision on a commentary. I laughed out loud so much. I kept reading him parts that were particularly funny. It’s one of the most enjoyable books I’ve ever read. I didn’t buy it because I thought I could get it cheaper later and I didn’t have the money to spend. I went to amazon today because I thought I could do the kindle version. That’s when I realized the gift of laughter and a smile that God gave me through your book at just the right time. I can’t wait to read the rest. Thank you for writing it and sharing.

  38. 46

    I love what you’ve done with your family room….
    the wall of plates…the way you’ve styled those amazing bookshelves…..and our sign on your mantle! It looks so great!!

    Thanks for giving us a shout out about the signs…we’ve had so many people visit our shop from this post!

    Let us know if you’d ever like to offer your readers a give away!

  39. 47

    Fisrt, HOW did I miss this yesterday? Have been waiting so eagerly, I can’t believe I missed this post:-) Looks beautiful, and I am in love with the fabric on your chairs. This room just seems so “you”, warm and fun and spirited. Absolutely a wonderful living space. Her comment to you on hanging the plates cracked me up, glad you waited for her, because I love the arrangement.

    Enjoy your new space!

  40. 48

    Completely adorable. I LOVE the color on the walls.

  41. 49

    I have been a reader forever…but have never commented (I don’t think). Anyways…I do love everything about your new living room…cute sit-arounds and prints and pillows and ESPECIALLY that fabric on the chairs…I am IN LOVE with it!!! But what really intrigued me and led me to comment is the mounted deer head on the wall. My husband has been begging me FOR YEARS to let him hang his deer heads in the house!! And I always say absolutely not!! He killed his biggest deer yet this past weekend and is already hounding me about hanging it at home. So when I saw your living room, I thought, well my goodness, if Big Mama can have a deer head in her absolutely adorable living room, then maybe we could too??!! Ha! I showed your post to my husband…he was quite thrilled…cause he knows how much I think of Big Mama!!! I told him he could hang his head at the house if I got a couple of chairs covered in that awesome fabric…so we shall see…!!!

  42. 50

    I love that you said ‘I can put outfits together all day long, but house stuff ends up with me lying on the couch eating chocolate staring at the holes in my wall.’

    LOVE. I feel your pain, but am now totally inspired, because if you can do it, we all can do it!

  43. 51

    I absolutely love plate walls, I have 2 of them, one above the sofa in the family room, and one in the living room….such a great way to punch up a wall! I used to make mosaics with broken china etc. so I had a ton of plates to choose from.

    Thank you SO MUCH for posting that picture of “the houseguest”….it is absolutely what I need for my family room! I ordered it today from the artist, a fellow Canadian living not to far from me! It makes me laugh out loud…..YOU make me laugh out loud so often!!!

  44. 52

    I’ve been stalking the impeccable pig since you put it up last week- love that necklace you posted-had been to the site several times to look at it already :)

  45. 53

    You must do a post about the built-ins! Did you hire someone to build them or did you take big-box-store cabinets and customize?

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