Bright and Budget-Friendly Family Room Makeover

Stephen in chair
See how Stephen Saint-Onge, designer and Better Homes and Gardens contributor, dresses up a half-done family room and converts it into a cozy, beach-theme relaxation spot.

Before: Half-Done Haven

Homeowner Merrie Frisch was tired of her unfinished family room. The walls were bare and lifeless. The layout was uninspired and lacked pizzazz. Bottom line: The room had no personality. Frisch wanted her family room to be a welcoming space where she could spend time with her husband and daughter. She turned to Stephen Saint-Onge to transform her incomplete room into a cozy, family-friendly space. The room's features -- vaulted ceiling, hardwood floor, and upholstered furniture -- provided a good starting point for the makeover.

After: Welcoming Family Room

Saint-Onge thought the room just needed a few finishing touches, such as a brighter palette, more furniture, and a bit of rearranging. He chose a blue-and-yellow palette and inexpensive wooden pieces. He also borrowed furniture from other parts of the house to keep the cost down. The TV cabinet provides extra storage space to keep the family's items organized. Saint-Onge pushed the seating areas closer together to encourage conversation and make it easy to play games or share snacks.

Added Innovation

Saint-Onge found the coffee table and rug in the formal living room and repurposed them for the family room -- the new environment gives the furniture a fresh look. The nautical decor -- seashells, baskets, and decorative ships -- creates a beachy theme. The homeowner asked Saint-Onge to include photos of her daughter in the room. He took digital photos of her, printed them in varying sizes, and leaned the framed photographs on a picture ledge.

Stephen's Photo Art Tips

Behind the sofa is a classic place for a multifunctional table. Use it to hold decorative items or beverages. A floor lamp provides ample reading light. Photos of the homeowner's daughter create the perfect backdrop for a homey family room.

DIY TIP: Create photo art out of your own photography. Consult your camera's manual to find the best setting for producing high-resolution images. Try to shoot in natural light with high-contrast backgrounds. As a rule of thumb, get down on your subject's level, especially when photographing children, and don't be afraid to move them from the middle of the frame. Off-center subjects make the pictures more interesting. Also, try getting wide or detailed shots. Closeups of your child's hands or feet make creative memories.

Comfy Side Nook

Saint-Onge increased the seating in the family room by creating a sunny seating area by the window for the family to enjoy. He grouped a newly slipcovered armchair with an existing rattan chair and occasional table to add comfort and texture.

Wraparound Window Seats

Saint-Onge also turned the room-length window seats into the perfect spot to curl up in the sun or sit with a good book. He added comfort with inexpensive padding and bright yellow pillows. The yellow pillows pop against the blue seat cushions and window treatments.

Last-Minute Details

Floor-length drapery panels in a blue-and-white pattern add elegance and complement the buttery yellow of the walls. Saint-Onge created the window treatments by measuring the fabric and cutting it to fall right above the floor. Next, he hemmed them with iron-on fusing tape and used fabric glue to attach ribbon to the edges.

Before: Bare and Boring

The other side of the family room needed help, too. To keep the family room makeover budget-friendly, Saint-Onge scoured her house for potential pieces to relocate to the ailing family room. He added a coffee table and rug from the formal living room to the sofa, blue armchair with ottoman, a pair of wicker chairs, and a white occasional table already in the family room.

After: Beautiful Beach Decor

Saint-Onge filled the rest of the room with inexpensive retail buys to up the room's style but keep the price down. He chose pieces that would make a big impact, such as the striped armchair, media storage, curtain panels, picture ledge, cushions, and pedestal side table. This setup around the door makes coming and going from the room enjoyable.

Editor's Tip: Saint-Onge added a window treatment to the French doors. Adding drapery panels to a doorway softens the space and can add color and pattern to the room.

Meet Stephen Saint-Onge

Stephen Saint-Onge's keen understanding of the homeowner has moved him into the spotlight in recent years through his work on television and in magazines. This understanding, accompanied by his friendly, approachable, and creative style, is making design accessible to everyone -- no matter who they are, where they are, or what their budget may be.

As a husband, father, and homeowner, Saint-Onge understands the needs of the family-focused lifestyle. "I have the same to-do list on my refrigerator that everyone has," he says. "There is always something to be done with our homes, and hopefully what I bring to the table will help everyone see the best in their homes." He draws on his background in film and design to help owners create a home that truly captures who they are, but at the same time captures a mood they are looking to bring to life that represents their home in the right light. Good home design has the power to change lives.

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