the conservatory

We have this weird little room in the front of our house. We’ve never really known what to call it (except “the little room”), and a few years ago we began calling it “the conservatory” in a very high-brow accent.

This very small room has stumped me for years. How could we use this space most efficiently? How could it be part of our living space?

The previous owners used the room as an office.

That never worked for us because it’s just so small. And we couldn’t add a door to make it a quiet space because the opening to the room is arched. Plus, it’s the first room people see when they come in our house — at night, you can see into this room from the street — and we didn’t want it to be a mess of paper and office junk.

My mom very selflessly helped me remove all that pink wallpaper . . . that chore took forever. We primed the walls and painted them a beautiful blue. I added three Ikea bookshelves that I already owned, and I painted them the same color blue. It looked ok . . . but not great.

We added some chairs that John had inherited from an older relative, but the chairs were so uncomfortable that no one ever sat in them.

We eventually donated those chairs and added a chair that John had in his old apartment. We ended up parking the girls’ dollhouse in the room, too, which made things rather tight.

No one ever read in there. Ever. I had high hopes that one day I’d find a kid curled up in that chair, reading away . . . but the room was too crowded, and the bookshelves felt too chaotic. I never read in there, either. And I didn’t like seeing this room when I walked in the front door.

During the pandemic, we started thinking about ways to make our home cozier. That’s when we decided to build the bookcases in the living room, which freed us up to do something else in this room. Eventually we decided to use this room for calm and beauty.

For Mother’s Day in 2021, I asked for a piano from Craig’s List. John bought it for me. No one in our house plays the piano (yet), but it looks beautiful. And we have high hopes that we’ll sign the kids up for lessons at some point.

We painted the room a light purple-gray (Imagine by Sherwin Williams) so the walls would flow with the front hallway and the wallpaper in there. That wallpaper is a print of a very old DC map, and it’s one of my favorite things in the house!

I painted the piano with Fusion Paint — my favorite for furniture and cabinets — and I love the result. You can’t see any brush strokes, and the finish is very matte.

Over time, we added a faux sheepskin throw from Ikea and two palms in planters from West Elm. Our electrician installed sconces from World Market — I thought they looked like the ones from Serena & Lily, but much cheaper! I added a dimmer to the switch.

And a few days ago, we received the crowning touch — a beautiful print from Asheville Pictures. It’s a time-lapse shot of fireflies on a summer night, and you can see the streaks of light weaving between the trees. I absolutely love it! The photographer, James Reynolds, is one of John’s oldest friends, which makes this print even more special.

Apologies for the mood lighting — during the daytime there’s too much glare on the glass in the picture frame, so I took these photos at night.

On the side wall, we hung some family photos and an old game board I found at a thrift shop.

The wall opposite the piano is lined with windows, and someone long ago installed cubbies under the windows. We used to store books in the cubbies, but John had the brilliant idea to add six baskets — one for every member of our family — and we can put people’s junk in there when we’re cleaning up. I love the idea! I’m not sure how effective this will be, but at this point we’re willing to try anything to keep the house tidier.

The hanging basket contains some faux succulents I bought a few years ago from Amazon. Thanks to their faux nature, they’re still going strong!

How would you have used this tiny room? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear your ideas! For now, you’ll find me sitting on this piano bench gazing at the beautiful new picture and thinking of fireflies on summer nights.

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