3-Step Makeover: Living Room

Real people rarely have the time (or money) to decorate all at once. Take a look at this three-step plan that invests in furnishings slowly and lets your living room's personality blossom over time.

Stage 1: Starting Point

Beige may be boring, but it makes a good interim color for a room, providing a quiet environment in which you can objectively evaluate and reevaluate options until you're more comfortable committing to a color. The sofa provides a solid starting point for the room, with clean lines and easy-to-complement blue upholstery. Inexpensive black accent tables, purchased at a discount store, can easily move into a family room later. Checked chairs may be classic and comfy, but the style is a bit traditional for the future version of this room.

Stage 1: Floor Plan

Pushing your sofa against the wall often feels like the safest option and in smaller rooms you may have no alternative. Granted, it does free up floor space, and -- paired with obligatory artwork -- the sofa is reinforced as your primary focal point. But in today's larger homes, moving the furniture away from the walls can increase intimacy and interest.

Stage 1: Choose an Inspiration

Relegated to the corner for now, this garden stool is eye-catching with its layered glaze and attractive lines. Its Asian heritage will inspire the direction for this room's transformation.

Stage 2: Add a Theme and Color

Kicking off this room's progression is a yellow striped wallpaper that contrasts boldly with the blue sofa to create a lively, more vibrant room. The furniture arrangement is much more dynamic when pulled away from the wall, lending the room an inviting atmosphere. And simple bamboo shades bring texture and warmth to the room; you can layer on fabric treatments later.

Stage 2: Floor Plan

Muster the courage to pull the furniture to the center of the room, improving traffic flow and composition. The interim floor plan creates new issues, however. The perimeter of the room is underused, and the furniture arrangement looks unanchored. Also, the sofa's position in front of the French doors blocks a pleasing view into the entry hall.

Stage 2: Begin to Accent

Green is a natural accent color, falling between yellow and blue on the color wheel. This hallway right off the living room provides a soothing counterpoint to the sunshine-y yellow of the living room (pillows and a new upholstered chair add green in there). Accessories such as the painted box and figurines build on the Asian motif inspired by the garden stool.

Stage 2: Find a Spot for Heirlooms

The pretty floral plates that previously hung above the demilune table now find a spot on the mantel. They'll remain a part of the plan as the room evolves -- decorating around what you love is a surefire way to make sure you'll enjoy the results.

Stage 3: The Final Stage

Details reign in the final stage of this makeover with a fearless mix of colors, patterns, and styles. Regular placement of black accent furniture punctuates the liberal assortment of pattern, art, and accessories -- some new, some retained from prior stages.

Stage 3: Floor Plan

Sometimes you just have to live in a room for a while until the ideal floor plan reveals itself. In its final stage, the room feels comfortably appointed and the colors are distributed with a pleasant rhythm. The furniture arrangement fosters conversation and efficient traffic flow, and the new rug is large enough to anchor it. With chairs facing away from the fireplace, the French doors retain their presence as a focal point. The sofa divides the room, increasing intimacy and creating a zone for the desk.

Stage 3: Update Vignettes

Bamboo motifs in the writing table, chair, and frames reinforce the loose Asian theme. A quad of botanical prints used to hang in a row beside the French doors. The images were cut from a calendar and paired with inexpensive frames found on the Web for a bargain gallery wall.

Stage 3: Choose Your Splurge

The demilune table remains from the beginning, but it now wears a sophisticated box-pleated silk skirt (make your own with hemmed fabric and adhesive hook-and-loop tape). Adding fabric to this end of the room foils the hard-edge elements and balances the large orange area rug seen in the overall shot.

Stage 3: Layer on Fabric

The exuberant print of the window treatments unifies the space with a perfect mix of all the room's colors in a bountiful array of flowers. The blue background melds the upholstered pieces, and it gives license to add the stunning tangerine rug and accents. Get mileage out of the bamboo shades and show them off with simple valances, which are less expensive than floor-length drapes anyway.

Stage 3: Add the Final Touch

Fresh-cut Chinese lanterns create a dramatic and surprising focal point for the room and are an easy way to test out an accent color before investing money in new upholstery or pricey accessories.

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