“Hidden” Treasure: A Golden Rectangle

I spent years fighting my living room, until I learned its wonderful secret.

Dateline: November 29, 2020

It took me a very long time to come to terms with my living room. It’s longer than it is wide.

I don’t have a foyer or entry way. When guests come over, they step right into the room.

Even worse, the fireplace is situated “behind” the front door. (This is the view the day after the refinished floors were dry and I could walk on them.)

Living room with fireplace © Dianna Huff, 2020

For years I’d think, “Who the hell designed this place anyway?” I struggled with design and decorating. Nothing seemed to fit or feel right. Because I was so discouraged, I let the room go. It was a very sad room. I hated having anyone over.

Understanding focal points and proportion

About six years ago, I picked up a book from the library, Creating a Beautiful Home, by Alexandra Stoddard.

In it, she talks about focal points; she also includes a section about the golden rectangle — of which I had no clue, being an English major vs. a math major.

From Wikipedia: “A golden rectangle is one whose side lengths are in the golden ratio, which is displayed by the Greek letter phi, where phi is approximately 1.618. Golden rectangles exhibit a special form of self-similarity: All rectangles created by adding or removing a square are Golden rectangles as well.”

I got out the tape measure, did a drawing with calculations, and was delighted to learn I was fortunate indeed: my living room was a golden rectangle!

Living room calculations © Dianna Huff, 2020

Then, realization hit: the room had always felt “off” because the couch faced the windows rather than the fireplace — the focal point of the room.

Instantly energized, I made some quick changes — and once I moved the sofa to face the fireplace, the entire energy of the room changed. It felt lighter and happier — even with the worn furniture and “distressed” floors.

Left – sofa moved to face fireplace; Right – view from the sofa © Dianna Huff, 2020

Did my own drywall repairs

The shift in the room’s energy increased my own energy. A few weeks later, I repaired the sheetrock around the fireplace. Cracks had appeared at the seams / joints, and the area around the electrical outlets had been damaged from years of overuse.

Watching YouTube videos, I learned how to tape seams and make simple repairs. If you look closely in the photo below, you can see where I made a repair around the electrical outlet.

Want to practice zen? Repair your own drywall – ha! © Dianna Huff, 2020

I also bought as many Made-in-USA products as possible. Joint tape is made in the USA, as were some of the tools and other materials I used, such as the box cutter, the “mud,” and FrogTape.

Made in USA drywall joint tape © Dianna Huff, 2020

Continual work in progress

Due to the long list of house projects, and life in general, the living room project has proceeded slowly, but consistently.

I spent one weekend cleaning the soot off the fireplace brick. (Thank you again, YouTube.) I spent another weekend adding a fresh coat of paint to the walls and trim. I replaced missing baseboard. I painted the front door.

Two years ago, I replaced the baseboard heaters in the living room and kitchen. While watching the contractor struggle, I said, “You know, the guys on YouTube said I could do this myself.” The contractor’s response: “Yeah, right, lady.” 😂

Replacing the baseboard heaters © Dianna Huff, 2020

The baseboard heaters are manufactured in the USA by Haydon Corp. When the contractor came to quote the job, I asked him if he could use USA-made goods, and he replied that he used them whenever possible.

Pro-Tip: Always ask your contractors this question — sometimes, they’ll go with less-expensive goods because they want to give you a competitive quote.

Last winter, I replaced the big picture window with three smaller windows (a separate blog post to come because the story involves a run in with a wild turkey).

Then three weeks ago, I refinished the floors.

A lot of smaller things happened, but this post is getting long, and I want to bring you up to date to say, I’m now ready to begin the fun stuff — buying mid-century modern / Made in USA furnishings — including finding the perfect wood-burning fireplace insert (the hunt is on!). Stay tuned!

Houses speak your language. Rooms take on your sensitivity, mood, attitude and spirit. When you feel discouraged, your four walls will comfort you because they will reflect back on you, remind you of your energy and personality. A house becomes your friend; the furniture, your possessions, your most intimate circle.

— Alexandra Stoddard, Creating a Beautiful Home


Leave a comment  •  2 comments

Maralah Rose-Asch

The finished room with all decor???


Dianna Huff

Hey Maralah -- Working on it. Right now, I have the old brown sofa and a beautiful MCM credenza. Basically, the room is empty!

I go back and forth on the sofa. I love it as it's the perfect napping couch and quite comfortable and cozy, but it's not mid-century.


Drywall Contractors and Painting Hunterdon

You should make this home modernization like into a definitive guide or something. I bet a lot of your new readers that come to this site would want to be able to find this post. It's too good to keep secret!


Dianna Huff

Thanks for the idea! Maybe a coffee table book one day. 🙂