A Blah to Beautiful Living Room Makeover

Living Room Decorating in Stages
Boring, boxy rooms with zero personality: Raise your hand if you've got one. Better Homes and Gardens decorating editor Amy Panos did. Take a peek at how she and BHG remodeling coach Meredith Ladik turned a 1970s suburban room into something special.

Blah Beginnings

Lacking architectural detail with the blank walls, no trim and popcorn ceilings, this room was in desperate need of a facelift. Decorating editor Amy Panos asked makeover maven and Better Homes and Gardens editor Meredith Ladik to help her with this project. First order of business -- add character.

Creating a Peaceful Space

To dress up the space and create unity between the dining room and living room, Amy and Meredith chose to add instant character with classic-looking wainscot. Amy chose to wrap the room in urethane trim because, compared to wood, it comes in more styles, is lighter in weight, and is easier to install.

Urethane moldings, $7/foot fypon.com for dealers

Editor's Tip: It's perfectly OK to place furniture in the middle of a room. Just keep the visual footprint light (a pair of chairs works better than a sofa) and pick pieces that look good from all sides.

Away with Popcorn Ceilings

Beaded board on the ceiling complements the traditional style of the paneling. It goes on in 7-foot planks, right over the offending popcorn texture.

WoodHaven Beadboard, $3/square foot, armstrong.com

Window Wise

Vinyl replacement windows with Energy Star-rated glass are more efficient than the 1970s originals, and the trim never has to be painted. Plus they can be ordered to the size of the existing opening, which saves on installation costs.

Four-lite casement window, about $1,500, simonton.com

On the Ledge

Three styles of molding were stacked to create a chunky ledge atop the wainscot. The result: a built-in spot for displaying art at eye level.

Wood Works

Amy traded the carpet, for a floor with a lot of color variation from board to board. Wood such as walnut adds another layer of visual interest and warmth.

Bellawood Brazilian walnut floor, about $6/square foot, lumberliquidators.com

Editor's Tip: Ideally, a rug should be big enough to contain all the legs of the furniture in a grouping. If that's not possible, at least the front legs of all pieces should land on the rug.

Desk Space

Amy took the corner of the room and created a little office that is perfect for paying bills.

Editor's Tip: Picking paint colors is a challenge, but landing on the right blue proved extra tricky. If you want a gray-blue, like Amy did, you have to go much grayer than you ever imagined. We must have tried a dozen different shades. Thank goodness for $4 sample paint pots.

Tasteful Accessories

If you choose to keep your desk in a more formal space such as the living room/dining room, choose accessories that will coordinate with the room like Amy's stash of orange pencils.

Before: Dismal Dining

With the large windows and flanking bookcases, the dining room had the bones to be transformed into a quaint space.

Pretty Dining

To connect the dining and living room, Amy continued the color scheme and wainscot around the room. Adding more storage in the dining room was a must. Replacing a pair of rickety bookcases with glass-front cabinets gives the dining room structure and storage capacity. The cabinets are semi-custom, meaning you can choose the door style, finish, size, and extra trim for the top and bottom to give them a built-in look.

Thomasville Cabinetry, through The Home Depot, Thomasvillecabinetry.com

Handy Hostess Station

Pairing 12-inch-deep upper cabinets with deeper lower cabinets allowed the units to tuck neatly under the existing soffit while still offering plenty of storage. It also left space for a small countertop -- handy for setting dishes or food to serve.

Hidden Storage

Tucked below the window seat, large drawers are the perfect place to hide extra china and crystal but keep them handy if needed.

Not ready to take the plunge into a full living room makeover? Decorate and add color in stages! Here's how to plan your design and make smart choices along the way for an end result that's gorgeous.

BONUS: Living Room Makeover in Stages

See how this living room went from drab to fab in stages and learn how you can create your own new look over time.

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