Furniture Update: A Couch and Table and Chairs, Oh My!

Two years ago, my family and I moved into a 3-bedroom, 1700-sq-ft house. It was a big change from the 390-sq-ft apartment we’d left behind in England—but just about the smallest home we could find within a short commute of my husband’s office.

Several readers have asked me how our larger space has affected our furniture needs. In particular, inquiring minds want to know: do we have more, less, the same, or different stuff than we had before?

The answer: a little bit more, but really just different.

Our house has an open floor plan—the kitchen, living room, and dining room are all in one big space. In that space, we have the following:

1. Couch
2. Dining table + chairs
3. Shelf for Plumblossom’s toys and books

In our former tiny apartment, we had two lounge chairs and a coffee table instead of a couch. The reason: we moved often, seldom entertained, and had no real need for a large and unwieldy piece of furniture (see my post, Questioning the Couch).

In our new digs, we did a 180 and replaced the two chairs (figuratively, not literally—they were left behind in England long ago) with a couch. Why? Because it better fits our new lifestyle.

First, we have a toddler who loves to climb. The couch provides a low, wide space for her acrobatics, without the tipping potential of chairs. Sure, IMO, cushions on the floor would be even better, but… Second, we entertain friends and family quite often; some are older, some are posher ;-), and most are generally not enthusiastic about sitting on the floor.

We made do for some time with the futon we had in storage (seen in Our Dirty Secret)—but the foam was disintegrating, the cover was threadbare, and the heavy metal folding mechanism proved too much of a hazard for my daughter’s curious little fingers. So we settled on the little number pictured below—which I’m happy to report disassembles and packs flat (!) in case we pull up stakes again.

We replaced our tiny-apartment coffee table with a dining table. This was a tough one for me—my husband and I haven’t owned one in 15 years, and loved the relaxed, bohemian ambience of eating at a low table. However, we now host dinners about twice a month, as well as holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and want our guests to be comfortable. I think it’s helped Plumblossom, too—since she’s accustomed to sitting at a proper table for meals, she’s remarkably well-behaved in restaurants and at dinner parties.

We did keep versatility in mind when selecting a table: it’s simply a birch slab with (detachable) metal legs. We can repurpose it as a desk, if need be—or replace the legs with shorter ones if we ever return to floor dining.

Finally, since our living room doubles as Plumblossom’s playroom, we acquired a long, low shelf for her books and toys. We’re trying our best to create a Montessori-style environment for her, which calls for a carefully-edited, nicely-arranged selection of materials (in contrast to a jumble of things in a toybox). I’ll write more about this (with pics) in a future post.

Wondering about the rugs? We have hardwood floors throughout our living space, and used FLOR tiles (20” carpet squares) to create area rugs. Plumblossom spends most of her time playing on the floor, and the tiles add a bit of softness and warmth underneath her. They also provide some noise-dampening—important in a small house, especially when the resident toddler has finally succumbed to sleep.

The random patchwork of tiles under the dining table was also a Plumblossom-centric decision. Babies and toddlers can be messy eaters—and while the tiles can be individually-removed and washed (yay!), we’ve had need to replace one or two. The patchwork allows us to do so without worrying about a color or pattern being discontinued (we simply pick a new one out of the sale section).

Another plus for carpet tiles: if/when we move, they can all be stacked into a pizza-sized box and easily transported. I know, I know, why all this talk about moving when we just bought a house? Because the wanderlust doesn’t go away just because you’ve stopped wandering.

So that’s two chairs replaced with one couch, and a coffee table replaced with a dining table. Not too bad. Do the four dining chairs and shelf tip us into slightly less minimal territory? If you practice minimalism by the numbers, I guess so. But if you prefer my kinder, gentler, lagom version of minimalism—where you own just enough to meet your needs and make you happy—then it’s all good. :)

Note: I’m really enjoying my new monthly posting schedule; while the weekly one was starting to feel like work, this is more like coffee with friends. I hope I’m not boring you with the mundane details of my life—while I love to read (and write) a good philosophical post, sometimes I think we bloggers need to show how we walk the walk. Do you have any requests or suggestions for future posts? Let me know in the Comments!

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

66 comments to Furniture Update: A Couch and Table and Chairs, Oh My!

  • Please don’t feel apologetic about describing mundane details. It is exactly the kind of information that gives me ideas about how to actually implement minimalism for myself. For example, I knew about the existence of carpet tiles, but I never heard of a type that you could assemble and disassemble, and now I might decorate our (currently bare) lounge room floor quite differently to what I planned.

  • sommer

    love the details yo. would love more details, anything related to PB/montessori/home tour/wardrobe/toiletries/kitchen/etc, including pics (i have an 18mo and our home is also montessori, she sleeps on a floorbed too!). and love the blog.

  • Kaity

    I love your blog! I recently found it and can’t wait to read every entry up to this present one. I’m inspired to action. Please do tell where you got that beautiful sofa. It’s perfect. Thanks!

  • CM

    Where did you find your couch? My boyfriend and I are looking for one, and yours looks like just what we want!

  • Exactly, Margaret – I love the “mundane details” about living environments, and posts on them can be far more instructive and illuminating than yet another philosophical post filled with compelling abstractions.

    Since most of the “big” bloggers in the field seem to have moved through their minimizing phases and onto newer projects, it is especially nice to see the how-to and the what-we’ve-done addressed again by one of the originals.

    The minutiae of our different lives, the framework for our varied existences – that is fascinating stuff on its own merit.

  • denise

    love the couch. i have had two chairs for years and they are about to fall apart and i have been thinking of something similar. i have been looking since october and have a problem with the big purchase. i go into the furniture store and i am pounced upon by sales people who tell me i need end tables and lamps and coffee tables. i run out of the store and do not return for a month or so. at this rate i will not buy until i sit down in my chair and the legs give out!

    i also love the way you adjust your minimalist philosophy based upon your current needs. congratulations!

    denise

    • Hi Denise. You might try looking for furniture at estate sales in your area. You’ll find great, quality pieces at good prices.

    • Susan

      Also it helps to go onto the store’s website and know pretty much what you want before you go there in person. I’ve found this to be a confidence-boosting measure to help me be quite assertive with pouncing sales clerks.

  • It’s nice to hear your voice in your posts and have a glimpse into your home, so to speak. Less furniture makes it easier to clean, I am sure, and opens the space up. Does it ever feel too big or echoing?

  • Jane

    Francine,
    I’m delighted you’re back!
    After reading this post, I can see how carefully you’ve selected your furnishings.
    Would it be possible for you to explain your thought process before you make a purchase? Maybe explain it in the form of a Purchasing Strategy including each step?
    Thanks for considering,

    Jane

    • Adam

      Not sure about Francine’s, but I have a very simple strategy, Jane. I ask myself, “Do I *need* it, *really* need it; will I *use* it; and can I *afford* it?” If Yes to all three, then I purchase it; if not, I don’t!

  • Fuji

    I remember asking you about entertaining when you were still in the UK. Your suggestion at the time was to buy some folding chairs. I guess having a child and a home has changed your outlook somewhat.

  • Kurkela

    Is four chairs really enough, if you host dinners and family gatherings, especially at Christmas time? How do you manage to seat your guests to dinner? You yourself, your husband and Plumblossom – that makes three, and you have only four chairs – how does that work?

  • a suggestion for a futur post (or maybe one already written that I need to read? Please let me know)
    Decluttering since three months now, I see myself strugling with one thing where you may have an answer for. I have a lot of yarn/fabric/notions stash. For myself, after a colourtype analyse, I know I have to keep the automn colours and get rid of all the rest. But, my 10 months old daugther seems to be a winter/summer type :-). I can’t stop but thinking ‘what if’ for her. What if I will sew/knit for her. What if she will walk on these high heels. What if she becomes a crafter and will need/use all this feathers/felt/beads/yarn ends/…What if she will love this old magazines/suitcases/gloves/….
    As I’m trying to reduce my trash as well, I don’t want to throw things away wich I’ll have to buy again sometime. I know there is a big ‘maybe’. Maybe she will dress like a boy and hate old stuff and want to play computergames instead of crafting :-)
    Are these just sneaky mind games not to declutter?
    As I understand from previous posts, you don’t have much to pass on to your daughter anymore but maybe other readers can tell me how they solved this declutter problem?
    thanks very much

    • Riet,

      Yes, I think they are mind games not to declutter. I still have old toys and my sons are 17 and 14. I keep hoping the 14-year-old will pull out the Legos again, but I doubt it will ever happen. It’s hard to let go of things that you want for your children, but my advice is to do it now before she is old enough to THINK that she wants something when she probably doesn’t. Make sense?

      Also, I’ve never had a color analysis, but I really couldn’t imagine planning my future life (or that of my child) depending on what colors work best for me. That seems to be too much work.

      Good luck.

      Kathy

    • Susan

      Miss Miniamlis’s post on decluttering your fantasy self is really helpful.

      • B.

        I agree with Susan, this post helped me A LOT, and I often think about it whenever I am in doubt abiut keeping something that I don’t need right now

    • Kathie

      I have a lot of craft supplies, too. I keep them organized in labeled bins. I use them once a month to teach a class to youth, so I need to keep them around. There are 12 bins and the stack on top of one another in four rows in a corner of my office. It’s the best I could do to make them look as minimal as possible! As far as leaving possessions for your daughter, best to toss and GIVE her lots of space now to be the lovely person she will become! This is my second year decluttering, and this year I am able to get rid of more and more that I was holding onto so tightly last year. Just keep reading the book and throwing out all the stuff you don’t use. The emptier the house gets, the more you’ll love freedom and life!

    • Thank you all for the good words. I will get better at decluttering, I know. ;-)

  • Nancy

    Love the carpet square idea for an area rug!! We are having hardwood flooring installed next month & I have been on the hunt for area rugs. This is the perfect solution. Thanks!!

  • Annie

    I loved this post- so practical. I would love to know how to make a home warm by decorating when you have kids and also stay minimal. Also, would love a post on your kitchen.

  • I love the details. I love knowing other people analyze every corner of their spaces like I do. :)

  • Good choices…at first I thought the photos you were using were from a furniture catalog…they have that wonderful”Design Within Reach” look!

  • Anne S.

    I LOVE this post! I’ve missed your views on minimalism as they are always my favorite. Future posts I would love more like this one on how you’ve made your house work for you and why. I’m very curious about the kitchen and child’s room.

  • Joyce

    You had taught me on how to live and be happy with less but reading about your ‘mundane’ details had inspired me and regain my focus paring down my stuff which slowly and unconsciously accumulated my living space over time.

    Keep writing regularly and inspired us with your own ‘minimalist’ story, your current view and even how you cope with being a mother as a minimalist.

    Thanks for your inspiration.

  • Tina

    I love all of your posts! So nice to see you writing again. I just returned from England and part of me is considering a move to London in the future. In the future would you consider writing a post about the pros and cons of living in London? Thank you.

  • miss minimalist

    Thanks for all your replies! To answer some of your questions…

    The couch is from Ikea. We wanted a low and modern silhouette, but didn’t want to pay big $$$ for something that would be jumped on, drawn on, playdoh-ed on, and strewn with Cheerios on a daily basis. :)

    So far, the 4 dining chairs have sufficed. Our sit-down dinners are generally with one other couple, and Plumblossom sits in her high chair. For Thanksgiving and Christmas we borrowed folding chairs, and used my husband’s desk from his home office. His desk is the same birch slab as our dining table, so we pushed the two together to make one large table–with a vase of flowers in the center, it actually looked rather nice.

  • I love that couch from Ikea! I would love to see some more posts on how you clean and organize :).

  • Chandra

    CountryMouse said it best here, but I will go ahead and add my two cents. I agree with the others that posts like these are the one’s I enjoy the most and find the most motivating. I am always fascinated by the way others choose to live, what they choose to live with, and why. …Maybe it’s the anthropologist in me, lol. And I always LOVE when pictures are included. :)

    I very much so look forward to your next post!

  • DeAnna

    Love the occasional update and visuals.

  • Amanda

    I love your posts and am so glad you are back! I also love seeing how minimalism works in real life. Lots of minimalist blogs are about young, carefree people woth no real ties. Those of us who aspire to be minimalists who also have houses, children, pets, gardens, etc appreciate seeing how minimalism can be achieved. Like many of the others have said, I also appreciate the pictures. Thankyou.

  • Ditto to what everyone else has said. Love the post. More just like it please!

  • Susan

    I also love this post with your account of how you solved household needs in a minimal way. Very helpful. And yes the couch will probably go through a lot. I had two boys and we had to dismantle our couch and put it in the trash when they reached early adolescence. Aside from spills, they also jumped, walked,and threw themselves and each other on it while wrestling.

  • Oh I’ve missed your ‘voice’, I’ve realised I love the way you write, it’s almost melodic to me. I love all the mundane things, I also adore the idea of a tiny plum blossom with her little hold friendly height shelf. I know this is all a tad gushy (I am British after all) but I’m so pleased my favourite blogger is back at a pace that suits. What would I love to hear about?? When it comes to cosmetics/wash stuff what do you do? Where do you store it?x

  • Eliza

    I’m simply glad to read posts from you again! It’s like catching up with a friend who has moved far away!

  • Cara

    Thanks for this post, I have just had a child myself and love hearing about how others are living with less.

  • MelD

    I’m with Fiona – it’s so nice to hear your voice again, so thankyou for fitting us into your busy life, it’s much appreciated.

    Great, simple solutions where you adhere to your own advice in only getting what you need, i.e. examining your needs! I know I would then succumb to cushions and blankets but that’s me ;) We also have visitors who wouldn’t be happy (or able) sitting on the floor…

    Really with you on the table/chairs. Our house is quite small and I have tried to keep a red thread in style throughout (light oak) – like you being able to use the desk in addition to your table for a big meal. We live a little more conventionally, but I find that I can easily add chairs from desks or stools from our bedrooms/bathroom to make up seating for larger parties, if necessary – they are all from the same series (Kartell Ghost) so the look is just nicely eclectic.
    Wheels can be good on furniture, too…

    And really – these are all strategies my granny has been using in a small house since the 1930s :)

  • Diane

    Welcome back and thank you for the terrific post. I never knew there were carpet tiles let alone reusable ones. In about three years I’ll be moving and will need a dining set and love the birch — I’m getting drawn to paler woods and colours and away from the heavy looking mahogany and dark oak. Love the blue sofa!

  • Lisa

    Love..Love…your website and ideas!!!! Been on the journey for a year now going back to clean out more!!! Please continue reading. I’ve read your book 3 times and come to the website when I need help.

  • Lisa

    oops I meant please continue writing!!!

  • Sonja

    I love this blog! It’s the only one I keep coming back to…

    I’d love to hear about digital de-cluttering—something I struggle with, especially with all the pictures I take of my pics. Let’s just say, I have several memory cards that are full, and need some tips.

    Thanks, Francine!

  • heather

    This is my favorite type of post! Practical and so inspiring! Thank you!

  • Angela

    I LOVE this sort of post! I am still a LONG way from becoming minimalist, but we’re getting better and better. We have 3 children…one just a new toddler, and I am eager to hear and especially to SEE all your neat and fun things for Plumblossom-how you organize her toys, her room too if you will show it! I love seeing it all-the visuals inspire me and get me letting go of more stuff. Thank you for sharing!

  • Angela

    I’m back to add that I would love more visuals (yours or examples) of how to keep rooms minimal and serene yet comfy, organizing/storing the things use, and clever types of furniture to help with both of these themes.

  • MelD

    I also wanted to say about the carpet tiles under the table – I didn’t protect my hardwood floor with any kind of carpet and despite felt pads under the chair legs, the floor has been badly scuffed and scratched by the chairs being moved around.
    The other thing that has not improved our hardwood floors (oak) is dogs – not bad or deep scratches but just a generally used look! Tiles or a runner in traffic areas would have been a good idea but I didn’t want to be vacuuming hair off them all the time – my mistake.

  • For future posts, may I suggest some ideas for a minimalist wedding?
    And I would appreciate your latest ideas (with pictures pretty please)regarding entertaining. What do you serve, how long do your guests stay, what do you do while they are at your home?
    Then maybe giving an idea of what kind of guest you are. When you visit someone, do you bring a gift, offer help, bring toys for your little?

  • I love your blog, thank you for starting to post again. Yours is one of the few voices which talks about ‘less’ not always ‘more’ like the majority of western culture does. To me ‘less’ in everything makes me happier and more peaceful. I love how your blog gives me very practical, specific ideas on minimalism. I’d love to see more about home organisation and what else you think you can live without. I appreciate that you had to find a blogging ‘schedule’ that suits you and doesn’t overwhelm you, once a month sounds like a nice balance. Thanks for coming back to us and thanks for the inspiration, x

  • mrs Brady Old Lady

    I quite like the philosophical posts you have done in the past.

  • Stephanie

    Oh please oh please do a house tour. My husband and I are baby minimalists, and just going for it. We found Ryan and Joshua’s blog: the minimalists.com which led us to yours! We bought a 1,900 SQFT house just a few months ago, and found the minimalists lifestyle shortly after. I am so happy to have found a woman/mother’s blog. I am a Jesus follower, and minimalism is teaching so much, especially about Him! I’ve had less anxiety, more joy, in such a short amount of time. I would love to see more of your home. I think most people think everything needs to be white! I know I did! Until seeing a few pictures of your home! Please share more! :)

  • Allison

    The posts about the “mundane” details of your real life are my FAVORITES. I would love to hear how you keep your daughter’s toys and gear organized and to a minimum, how you dodged (or what you did) when everyone wanted to give you presents or host baby showers for Plumblossom, how you handle her birthdays (in regard to simplicity and again the gifts from well-meaning family thing). Thanks for asking!

  • Sara

    I love the simple and practical choices you’ve made in your home!

    I especially like the practical posts – preferably with occasional photos – but variety isn’t bad, so I appreciate the philosophical ones, as well. I’d be interested in reading something more about simple choices and clothes, and also, home office tips interest me.

  • Anna D.

    House Tour, please! I would love to see pictures of living spaces (like you did when you were overseas before PB). I think we can all appreciate visuals as minimalists;) Thank you for checking in with us- you are one of the few minimalists over the years that I feel has remained authentic and true to “a beautiful life with less stuff”!

  • Alice

    Aha! That’s the sofa we chose, just the two seat section though. It’s the comfiest one we could find that I can sit cross legged in with my back straight.

  • Kym

    Hi again! I for one love to hear how you make things work. I am interested in the lagom idea and I am curious if and how it works for quilters/knitters such as myself? I recently moved as well and my answer was to shove all that stuff (!!) in one room. I still feel the need to get it under better grips. Here is what I have come up with.

    The yarns I have left over will be made into blocks/afghans and donated to the Linus Project or similar programs.

    The fabric is a bit tougher. I can make crazy quilts I suppose out of the smaller pieces, but really I would like to have less.

    I don’t want to give up knitting and quilting tho. Great stress reducer for me. Ideas on less and management?

    • Anne S.

      Hi! I’m a knitter/crochet/striving minimalist. I never had an outrageous yarn stash but it took up 4 bins worth. My focus this year has been to trim it down to a small container that would house my needles and other important tools as well as some yern. The way I’ve achieved this is I sorted my yarns into two catagories: yarn that makes my heart sing and the rest I set aside. I took those fibers I loved so much and made a crazy colored but beautiful afghan I display proudly on my bed. The rest I had a learn to knit night with friends. I envited them over to drink wine and learn to knit and that really helped diminish my stash. I hope that helps or gives you some ideas!

  • Anne S.

    I need help! What do you do for window coverings? I prefer bare windows but three of ours face the neighborhood and I need the privacy. It would be awesome if you could write a post about this now that you have a home. I would love to know what you have done as well as all your amazing readers.

  • Tina

    When we have a crowd over which is seldom, we borrow my son’s folding chairs and folding table. He usually throws the big holiday gatherings but we have no steps and a main floor bathroom.

  • Tina

    We own 4 kitchen chairs and 3 folding chairs. Recently we had 16 people over. We borrowed a folding table and 4 folding chairs from my son, and people sat on the couch, armchairs and 2 office chairs. Our dining room table, from Ikea, second hand, has a pull out leaf which we used. We put both tables next to each other and used the kitchen table and counters to serve from. Next year, we expect to have 20 people over and may rent or borrow another table and more chairs. My son routinely has 40 or 50 people over and does fundraising parties at his home which is much bigger than my apt.

  • Tina

    My place is more cluttered than some of the pictures I’ve seen on minimalist blogs. Periodically, I cull the artwork and doo dads so it looks more serene.

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