An Elegant Living Room Makeover

Better Homes and Gardens contributing editor Stephen Saint-Onge takes a drab, empty living room and converts it into an elegant space for family and friends.

Before: Vacant and "Safe"

This spacious living room had potential as a great gathering and entertaining space, but lacked ambiance. The cause was far from lost when designer Stephen Saint Onge arrived with bold design ideas to take the space from safe to sophisticated.

The Mission: Unveil the hidden potential of a room with elegant touches. Stephen set out to create a polished look, but wanted a room that was open to evolution and change.

Color Me Blue

Stephen wanted to show the homeowners that dark walls don't need to be scary. Deep hued-walls can make a room inviting, without becoming claustrophobic. Stephen chose a rich shade of gray-blue that shifts with the light, creating different day and evening moods.

Reuse and Recycle

Sometimes items you already own can be updated for your new space. Stephen liked the lines of the old sofa and knew that shimmery new pillows would create a fresh and elegant look.

Designer Tip: When putting together a new room, skip the furniture store and go shopping in your own home. An extra side table in the guest bedroom could be the perfect perch for a new living room lamp.

Find Your Inspiration

The designer chose accent pillows to revitalize the sofa and chairs. The new pillows will meld the colors of the walls and the existing sofa.

Designer Tip: When constructing your color palette, think about colors that catch your eye and trust your instincts. Inspiration can come from any number of sources -- magazines or art books, a paint chip display, or even your closet, which gives insight into what colors you are drawn to.

Old Is New Again

Changing a room's layout brings a fresh feel and flow. Stephen arranged the seating group opposite the entry to present a great first impression. The existing chair, like the sofa, complemented the new colors. Its position was shifted and a small chair was slipped in for additional seating.

Purposefully Beautiful

Traditionally, the wall behind a sofa showcases a piece of art. But Stephen chose a different look by incorporating a large mirror. The mirror's frame is painted a soft champagne for a stylish touch. The large mirror adds depth to the room, gives the illusion of space, and enhances natural light.

Designer Tip: Remember nothing is permanent. Don't be afraid to change wall decor as you discover new items or your tastes change. Certainly a large painting over the sofa could look great, or three matching frames with wide white mats featuring black and white family photos.

Sitting Pretty

A new floral chair and ottoman are a decidedly traditional touch within the transitional room. The chair's soft edges and floral pattern contrast with the modern, clean-lined sofa. But the chair looks right at home because the fabric's golden brown background matches the lighter hued pillows while the blue print ties in with the walls.

Eye-catching Display

A well-accessorized console table anchors the far wall beside the seating area. The elegant arrangement features glass lamps with crisp white shades, beautiful flowers, and rich wood. Style this refined doesn't have to cost a fortune. Stephen picked up the lamps and shades for a bargain-basement price.

The Warmth of Wood

Traditional straight-back chairs flank the side table for a symmetrical back-wall arrangement. Stephen added blue pillows for a pop of color. The trio of pieces maintains the elegant atmosphere of the room and the dark wood finishes warm the cool blue walls.

Designer Tip: Down the road, comfy fabric chairs would be great here. You can build upon a room over time instead of decorating it all at once.

Season by Season

Simple tabletop accessories are an easy way to change the personality of a room. For summer, Stephen displays a seashell and coral sculpture, and beach vacation photos on the side table. Other times of the year, new accessories can capture the essence of the season, such as a vase of bare branches or a flowering plant.

Pretty in Pink

A splash of color steps up the sophistication of the living room. Pink orchids pop against the cool blues and browns, and the color is reprised in the flower arrangements on the coffee and side tables. Repeating a color in small doses keeps the eye moving through a space.

Designer Tip: The pop of pink shows how a small burst of color can make a huge impact. The pink could easily change to orange or a bright purple. Contrasting splashes of color add interest to a room by keeping it from looking too coordinated.

Dramatic Drapes

Without missing a beat, the stylish window treatments look like they were made for this room (they're strictly off the rack). "They almost remind me of an elegant dress a woman would wear to a party," Stephen said. The drapes are the same color as the walls but the shimmery fabric brings distinction and the puddled panels look glamorous. Roman shades offer light control and privacy.

After: Refined Elegance

After the last accent pillow and picture frame were placed, the room really came to life. Each element -- from the iridescent drapes to the coffee table books, contributes to Stephen's goal: an elegant and modern gathering space.

Designer Tip: If you fear your room isn't coming together, withhold judgment until the final touches are in place. A few elements can change everything and the final touches give a room energy.

Resource List

Like what you see in this makeover? Re-create Stephen's look with these resources:

Designer : Stephen Saint-Onge

Sofa, Lounge Chair, Ottoman: Hallagan Manufacturing Co.;

Round Side Table: Butler Specialty Co.;

Silk Drapes, Rods, Throw Pillows: Linens 'n Things;

Sisal Rug, Mirror, Clear Glass Lamps, Shades, Baskets, Artwork: The Christmas Tree Shops; 888/287-3233;

"Lyon" Cocktail Table: Harden Furniture;

Roman Shades: Bed Bath and Beyond; 800/462-3966;

Mirror: The Christmas Tree Shops (see previous)

Paint:"Jamestown Blue, Aura Collection -- Benjamin Moore & Co.; for a retail location

Yellow Floral Slipcovered Chair: Ottoman: C.R. Laine;

Wooden Chair: Amesbury Chair; 800/802-0678;



Meet Stephen

Stephen'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, he understands the needs of the family-focused lifestyle. "I have the same to-do list on my refrigerator that everyone has. There is always something to be to done with our homes and hopefully what I bring to the table will help everyone see the best in their homes," says the designer. He draws upon his background in film and design to help homeowners 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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