A living room is supposed to be lived in, unless it's as ugly as Ann and Jim Kauffman said theirs was.
"It was just a downstairs storage area," Mrs. Kauffman said about the room that had the dubious honor of winning the Rich's-Macy's Ugly Room Contest.
The contest, which was held in conjunction with the July grand opening of the retailer's furniture showroom at Augusta Mall, netted the Aiken homeowners a $10,000 room makeover. The winnings included new furniture and the expertise of an interior designer.
"We'd still be hanging on to things over the years," said Mrs. Kauffman, a teacher at Byrd Elementary School. The plan had beento donate the furniture to her sons one day, but time got away from them. The sons grew up, started families of their own, and the stuff was still there.
Then there were the little things that added up to a decorator's nightmare - such as the white carpet left with a pink stain after a red Christmas tree skirt bled onto the floor after a spill.
"I couldn't get it out," Mrs. Kauffman said, "so I gave up on the room."
Instead, she would take guests to a room in the back of the house. Now friends have told her they can't remember what the old living room looked like.
Interior designer Martha Warrick can.
"They had basically just old, out-of-date, inherited furniture," said Ms. Warrick of Rich's-Macy's Furniture Showroom.
"I thought, 'Well, they tried.' They had this pretty ugly sofa - but they tried. They hadn't really screwed it up, they just didn't know what to do with it."
After talking with the Kauffmans about what they wanted the finished product to look like - a cozy, library feel for the two educators - Ms. Warrick went to work.
To create their library, the Kauffmans removed the old carpet and installed hardwood floors. They chose to decorate the room in warm gold and spice tones and anchored it with a gold-and-mauve sofa hand-picked by Mrs. Kauffman the day the contest winner was announced.
"I said, 'I like that sofa,"' when asked if she saw anything she wanted. But Mrs. Kauffman liked the freedom to choose without counting cost even more.
"I just started picking without looking at the price tag. I've never done that in my life. I've never bought a $200 lamp," she said.
The sofa is complemented by two armchairs that are the reverse print of the sofa's accent pillows. The room is completed with oval-shaped, glass- topped tables over black-steel bottoms; two iron lamps with detailing that resembles palmetto leaves; a chest; an area rug that Mrs. Kauffman told her husband couldn't be purchased from a home-improvement store; two framed pictures of flowers; and a nearly ceiling-high, dark, wooden, three-piece bookshelf with built-in lighting to show off some of the art Mr. Kauffman's parents brought back from Cambodia.
"It was beyond my wildest dream," Mrs. Kauffman said. "Never in my life would I have thought I'd have a room straight out of an interior design magazine. When I first saw it, it took my breath away."
Yet it's not so formal as to be unlivable.
The Kauffmans said they enjoy the room and sit in it daily - but only to read. There's no eating or drinking, for obvious reasons.
"I don't want (Mr. Kauffman) to spill anything, he'll just feel awful about it and I don't want to be the first one to spill anything, either."
They also can't wait to show off the room. Mrs. Kauffman already has sent pictures to her children and family. And she's in no hurry to get the window treatment up since not having it provides the perfect view of the new room from the street.
The Kauffmans, who are planning to redecorate other rooms with Ms. Warrick's help, aren't stopping there.
"I think we'll put a sign on the back door saying, 'Please use the front,"' Mrs. Kauffman said with a laugh.
Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or firstname.lastname@example.org