Before & After: Our Living Room

 We recently updated our living room–to see the most recent version, click here.

Before & After: Our Living Room //

Oh sad, sad living room!  So dark, so dreary…so mismatched it’s painful.  Why must you have a big furry blanket?  Why?!

There are so many things wrong with this picture, it’s embarrassing to post.  There have been many reincarnations of our living room, but this was the first, two years ago.  And I’m sharing it with you so that you can see that there is definitely a learning curve and that everyone makes mistakes.

Big mistakes.  Like enormous, box-like club chair mistakes.

Despite the large front window, this room gets very little natural light and has no overhead fixture.  Also, it’s quite small.  Therefore, my goal for this room was to make it lighter and brighter (just like our kitchen!), and seem bigger.  Here’s the end result:

Before & After: Our Living Room //

Big difference, right?

The room isn’t perfect by any means.  That bookshelf was an impulse purchase that I’ve regretted ever since, but I’m waiting until we move to replace it with something lighter and more modern.

Eventually I’d like to get a fiddle leaf fig and move the philodendron to my son’s room, but our puppy has a distressing habit of eating and digging up any soil she can get her paws on.  So for now, I need a plant that can be raised up off the ground.

And I’m not in love with our son’s rocking chair in this room, but it will stay there for now.  And the shelves on the opposite wall are hung way too high.  And…and…you get the idea!

How I transformed this room from dungeon of doom into happy, sunny, loveliness:

Decorating in dark colors was a very bad idea to begin with.  I was stuck with the couch (which, by the way, I still love), but I needed to brighten up the rest of the room.

So, I spray-painted my Ikea curtain rod gold and hung some lovely, sheer white curtains that cost me only $7 each.  Win.

I added a mirror to reflect what little light there was–$10 on Craigslist.  It came from an antique, Art Deco vanity and still had its original Bakelite clips (which unfortunately I had to remove before hanging it on the wall).  I like the slightly tarnished look behind the glass, and the nicely beveled edge.

The pillows I replaced with ones I already had that were solid and light grey, so as not to distract from the carpet.  Then I added a white Eames chair from eBay and some white accessories to bring the color palette up a few notches.

Before & After: Our Living Room //

To make the room appear bigger, I got rid of the end tables and table lamps.  I’m a big believer in eliminating excess furniture! Unless your living room is huge and it feels empty without those extra tables, I’m all for replacing them with a single floor lamp.

This lamp I found on eBay and is an original vintage piece (still works!).  I wanted something with a modern silhouette and a graceful arch.

Next I found this fabulous rug!  I’ve seen living rooms where people make small rugs work, but generally having at least the front legs of your furniture pieces on the rug should be the guiding principle.  This actually makes the room appear larger, and in an open-plan house like ours it created some physical separation from the dining area.

Let’s take another look at the original room (cringe):

Before & After: Our Living Room //

Before & After: Our Living Room //

That trunk belonged to my fiancé’s grandfather and is over a hundred years old.  It’s beautiful, but it was not helping create a light and airy feel.

So, back to Craigslist to find an original mid century slat bench.  My inspiration came from Smitten Studio’s to-die-for living room:

Smitten Studio

Photo source:

I found an expanding slat bench for $250 on Craigslist (perfect for my extra long couch), but was at a loss as to how I could replicate the look of her marble slab on the cheap.

And then it hit me.  Marble tile from Home Depot! And it was only $4.

Before & After: Our Living Room //

Before & After: Our Living Room //

Here are a few more views:

Product guide: Abacasa Sonoma Jewels Rug from Wayfair // Dunham Sofa from West Elm // Joya Rocker from Monte //  Tripod Table Lamp from Target //  Solid Silk Pillow from West Elm // Artwork from Louise van Terheijden Art Studio and Blue Palette // Marius Stool and Planter from Ikea // Reclaimed Wood Shelves from West Elm // Greyson Sideboard from World Market // Coffee Table from Craigslist // Other planters, vases, etc. from Goodwill.

 To see the rest of our home, visit the Before & Afters page.

Comments (14 )
  • Donna Brewster
    | 9 July 2014

    I like they way you’re including a few vintage objects, giving a bit of, um, history? Art? The right kind of weight?? I need a better word for what that does…

  • Annabode.
    | 9 July 2014

    Thanks Donna! I always try to buy used or vintage if I can. Saves our planet!

  • Karisa | Petite Modern Life
    | 3 December 2014

    Girl, you should’ve just linked me straight to your blog! You did a great job with this space. I hear you on the furniture and space theory, and I wonder if I bit off more than I should’ve chewed with our sectional. But if we replace the expedit with a wall mounted shelf, I think it will open up space like you’ve done here. Your vintage finds are amazing, well done!

    • annabode
      | 5 December 2014

      Thanks! I can’t wait to see how your living room turns out. Your couch is baller, I can’t believe you found it on Craigslist!

    • kelly
      | 21 January 2016

      where is that amazing carpet from?!

      • annabode
        | 21 January 2016

        Hi Kelly, the rug is from Wayfair. You can find it here.

  • Stephanie
    | 18 January 2015

    I love your living room! Do you have the source for the wall color?

  • Barbara Ostrinsky
    | 29 April 2015

    I can’t tell you how happy I was to see this post on Pinterest. I have been looking for an area rug for our living room for over a year. My original inspiration was a $2300 carpet from Room and Board and I was looking for something similar in a more budget-friendly price range. I have been combing through websites for months looking for the right size and color combination, and this was exactly it. II ordered the Sonoma Jewels rug yesterday and can’t wait until it arrives. Great job on your redesign. I hope ours turns out as well.

    • annabode
      | 2 June 2015

      Thanks Barbara — I’m so glad to hear your search is over! Finding the perfect rug can be so hard!

  • Kristin
    | 23 May 2015

    i love this rug! What size did you have on this room? I love the proportion!

    • annabode
      | 2 June 2015

      Thanks Kristin! It’s 7’9″ x 10’8″.

  • Kristi Jones
    | 1 October 2015

    Hi! I can’t believe it…I’ve been lusting after the same west elm curtain rods, but even on sale, it’s a budget no no. I was wondering whether I could find sheets of the wood grain stuff to wrap around a cheaper version. Do you know? Also, what brand and color did you paint your ikea version?
    Thank you!!

    • annabode
      | 16 October 2015

      Hi Kristi! You can definitely buy sheets of veneer at craft stores like Michaels, but not long enough to cover the entire rod (see this post where I did a similar thing: Home Depot has veneer tape but I don’t believe they have large sheets of veneer. My go-to brand is Rustoleum metallic. Hope that helps!

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