Room Makeover: Refreshed and Improved Living Room

Choosing a Color Palette
This living room says "so long" to scattered and dated decor. With a fresh color palette, a better furniture arrangement, and a design that accentuates the room's unique architecture, the space is now welcoming, vibrant, and super stylish.

Personality Potential

This living room has all the fixings to be a great space -- the wall full of windows, the unique architecture in the angled walls and alcove, and even the furniture. But the dated color scheme and lack of cohesive personality make the room somewhat unsettling. Adding a brighter color palette, repositioning the furniture, and emphasizing the room's best qualities turn this drab room into a cheery, welcoming space.

Tucked-Away Space

Shifting the furniture back so the sofa is against the wall, and positioning the chairs so they're across from it make the room seem bigger and open up space for passing from one room to another. A colorful rug and light celadon walls balance a sense of calm with splashes of color and give the room a cozy, cheery feel. Throughout the room, zingy raspberry and yellow warm up the celadon walls and teal upholstery. Ivory, brass, and chocolate brown keep the candy colors sophisticated.

Finding the Right Color

The light yellow shade of this room is pretty uninteresting, and although the pickle-green accent wall behind the couch (shown on Slide 1) added contrast, the color scheme still fell flat. "Extra credit for the accent wall behind the sofa," says Elaine Griffin, the designer behind the room's makeover, "But pickle green is not a cozy color." The dark color of the couch, the rug beneath it, and the murky color from the wall cancel out the natural light from the windows and give the room a dreary feel.

Bright Spot

With the seating area pushed back against the wall, the free space in the bay window was put to good use as a desk area, flooded with natural light. The raspberry-color spray-painted console table matches the colors in the rug (not shown) and chair, making the colors cohesive. Simple Roman shades trimmed with green ribbon, a comfy wooden chair, and a white lamp and desk accessories keep the area from looking too busy or overdone. "Just like makeup," Griffin says, "you can have bold lips or eyes, not both."

Traffic Barrier

Positioned across from the bay window, the fireplace and large doorways on both sides make this room a pass-through space. Its plain decor and dull color did nothing to catch the eye. Even the placement of the furniture creates an awkward walkway with the coffee table positioned right in the middle of traffic. Reorganizing the furniture and opening up the room makes it more inviting and more of a destination rather than a pass-through space.

Open Access

Repositioning the furniture creates a spacious front section of the living room, giving free range to add transitional furniture like this bench. The bench blocks the black space of the firebox and provides extra party seating that fits right in with the rest of the furniture. Colorful artwork above the fireplace highlights the simple beauty of the fireplace mantel. The arrangement of this section of the room makes the room seem less crowded and more conducive to smooth traffic flow.

Set the Mood

Small mercury-glass lamps add warmth and ambience and eliminate the need for wall sconces. Half shades make it easy to position the lamps close to the wall to ensure that they fit on the shallow mantel. The elegant and almost vintage finish of the lamps adds character and a bit of texture to the room.

Hidden Features

Prior to the redesign, a long window covering hid this charming window seat, and the awkward placement of the furniture left the built-in bookshelf somewhat inaccessible. Repositioning the furniture and partially uncovering the window allows the seat to be integrated into the room's furniture arrangement. The shelves were painted a few shades darker than the walls to call out the character of the built-in without being overbearing, achieving Griffin's design goal to "call them out without screaming."

Useful Cubes

Both cute and functional, these cubes in the built-in bookshelf offer a unique focal point in the room and serve both as storage and decorating space. The room's palette colors the accessories for a cohesive look.


Designer tip: "There is such a thing as too many colors," Griffin says. "If your eye has nowhere to rest, you have too many colors and you need to edit."


Switching the Sofa

The dark brown leather sofa was too nice of a piece of furniture to get rid of and the scale was right for the room, but its deep tone gave a dark look to the room as a whole. To brighten up the room but keep the same furniture, the original three seat cushions were swapped for a single lighter-color one. The antique look and the comfort that the couch provided are still present, just in a lighter way that accentuates the other new, bright features of the room.

Designer tip: "Contrast is the way we decorate today," Griffin says. "A mix of finishes and style is the recipe for a beautiful space."

All-Around Polished

A circular coffee table adds a much-needed round shape to a very rectangular room. The antiquelike table was once dull-looking, but a bit of metal polish did the trick to make the brass table shine, and it coordinates with the new tables on both ends of the couch. The zigzagged edge and patterned tabletop are discreet yet pretty details.

Use these tips from designer Elaine Griffin to help you create the perfect color palette for decorating.

Video: How to Choose Colors

Watch and learn tips from designer Elaine Griffin about choosing colors -- plus more about this makeover.

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