Before and after: A living room makeover with a purpose – East Bay Times

“It doesn’t have much of a living room,” I remember DC saying when we looked at the house we ultimately bought and moved into one year ago.

“Don’t let the furniture deceive you,” I said. The 10-by-12 room with a fireplace and view of the backyard had all the makings of an inviting space, you just couldn’t tell by the way it was decorated. A long chaise angled dramatically across the space implied there was no room for anyone else.

After: Today, a better-coordinated color palette, a warmer shell, more seating, and generally more functional furnishings have created an inviting space. (Photo courtesy of Marni Jameson) 

As a former home stager, I know these three real estate realities: 1. Décor projects lifestyle’ once you declare how a room will be used, most buyers don’t see it any other way. 2. An empty house shows better than a poorly furnished one. 3 After curb appeal, the impression a home makes when you first walk in matters more than anything else.

In this house, the living room was the first room you saw. The way it was furnished likely explained why the beautiful, structurally sound, Southern plantation style house, with a well-proportioned floor plan, in a beautiful, desirable neighborhood had sat on the market for months.

Fortunately, the needed cosmetic changes, which probably put others off, did not stop us from buying the gem in the rough, and for much less than the asking price.

Today, a better-coordinated color palette, a warmer shell, more seating, and generally more functional furnishings have created an inviting space.

To help me put the transformation into words, I showed the before and after photos to interior designer Tina Crossley, who put the changes I made into concrete advice for anyone redecorating a room:

  • Think function first.  “The room before didn’t make any sense,” said Crossley. “Why furnish a living room for one person?” The seating was disproportionate to the adjacent dining room. The redecorated room seats several. Now when you walk in the front door, you see, oh, here’s the dining room where you have a dinner party, and here’s where everyone sits afterward.
  • Enliven the walls. The original room had basic builder-white walls. We repainted with a warmer neutral (Sherwin Williams Patience), which better sets off the white moldings, and added an accent color (SW Quite Coral) to the walls behind the built-ins on either side of the fireplace.

  • BefGround the floors. The original wood floors were a dated, yellow-blond oak, which contrasted too much with the black granite fireplace, said Crossley. We refinished the floors in a mid-tone walnut brown. “The darker color warms up the room and works better with the hearth.”

  • Dress the windows. We replaced the under-scaled drapery and hardware with a heftier rod, fuller drapery panels and more substantial decorative finials. Placing the rods at the ceiling, rather than just over the door, makes the room feel grander, brings the eye up, covers more drywall, and better frames the view, said Crossley.
  • Add the right rug. “Though the large, animal skin rug in the original living room filled the space,” said Crossly, “it wasn’t enough to carry the room and didn’t look integrated.” The current rug’s colors (medium and navy blue, deep orange and cream) repeat in the throw pillows, drapery, art, accent walls and upholstered furniture, pulling the room together.
  • Accessorize. “The overall feel (of the original room) was jarring,” said Crossley. In the made-over room, the chrome accent lamp ties to the chrome and glass table. Metallic embellishment on the navy pillows refer to the gold and silver objects on the coffee table, while the lines relate to the geometric pattern in the rug. Color connects the accessories, so the room has flow.

Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of three home and lifestyle books. She can be reached at

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