3-Step Makeover: Cozy Family Space

Every house has a room where the family gathers. We turned this home's gathering space into a cozy retreat in three easy steps.

By Lacey Howard


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living room overall before
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Stage 1: Uninspired Space

    In this suburban ranch-style home, the space just off the kitchen is where the homeowners and their young family gather. But here in Stage 1, the space's lack of storage, dull color palette, and arrangement of furnishings isn't welcoming for family members, young or old. The room is long and narrow with both a fireplace and a bay window as competing focal points along one wall. As is, the room doesn't put its square footage to good use. But architecturally, this space has a lot going for it: the fireplace, the bay window, and the wainscoting that wraps the room.

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Stage 2: Simple Updates

    Midway through the room's transformation, the space is lightened. Drapery panels soften the windows, mask the dark woodwork, and add a vertical element to help heighten the long, narrow room. The room's shell is much improved. A weekend project of replacing the old carpet with do-it-yourself laminate flooring, which promises to stand up to two active little ones, lightens the space dramatically. The furnishings get a boost with color, pattern, and texture. Slipcovers in modern floral linen fabric dress the two chairs, while a lumbar pillow in a velvet stripe dresses up the sofa with texture and color.

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Stage 2: Update Fireplace

    In Stage 2, the old fireplace gets a new look. First, the wood mantel shelf was removed and the brick brackets that held it up were knocked off. A wood frame, inspired by the room's original raised-panel wainscoting, was built around the fireplace and hearth. The design mimics the paneling so closely that the new mantel and fireplace facing look as though they are original to the space. White paint updated the fireplace's dark hues and gave it a more commanding presence.

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Stage 2: Highlighted Window

    In the bay window, a seat constructed in the niche adds comfortable seating and much-needed storage to the room. A large ottoman made of woven natural fibers has a removable top for even more space to store toys and blankets. A pair of woven baskets tuck beneath a sofa table with drawers for additional places to stow playtime necessities.

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Stage 3: Cozy and Chic Space

    The furnishings now boast a colorful, textural palette of upholstery that includes a modern graphic print on a chocolatey-brown background in addition to the sofa's mohair-like beige and the chairs' floral linen. Accessories -- nubby throws and pillows in cotton, linen, and velvet -- add even more texture. On the sofa, a trio of oversize pillows in a faux bois print echo not only the room's view but also the nearby floor lamp. To make the most of the room's square footage, the long, narrow space is now divided into two distinct seating areas, each anchored by one of the room's architectural focal points.

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Stage 3: Reading Nook

    The window seat gets even more layered comfort with a pile of pillows. A perfect place for a parent and child to snuggle during story time or for a pretend tower from which Rapunzel lets down her hair, the niche invites family members of all ages to lounge. Here, accents nod toward nature, echoing the seat's wooded view.

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Stage 3: Fireplace Finale

    The fireplace's facelift is complete with the addition of pretty patterned tile and a new glass-front, gas-burning insert. Instead of covering the original brick with paint, we opted for tiles. To lay the tile over the brick, we covered the surface with a coat of mastic (skim coat) to even out the surface and ready it for the tile. Then we tiled the surface following manufacturer directions. The tile's finish echoes the wall color. The painted-white fireplace surround and mantel have a crisp, cottage look against the wall's new hues. To complement the new surround and hearth's updated look, the new insert features black and brushed-nickel finishes. The addition offers updated efficiency and ease of use, as well. This piece features family-friendly technology and clicks on with a remote control for instant ambience -- no wood, matches, or mess required.

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Stage 3: Grand Windows

    On the windows, taffeta-like fabric panels featuring a giant checked pattern bring color up high on the wall and layer atop the sheer draperies from Stage 2. This soft, layered style allows family members to close the sheers to diffuse harsh sunlight or to close both sets for a movie theater effect and complete privacy.

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Stage 3: Storage Solutions

    A built-in cabinet now divides the kitchen and breakfast nook from the living area. The piece, crafted from stock cabinetry at a home center, not only adds storage to the room, but the top can also act as a serving buffet for the adjacent dining space.

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