Olga’s Design Dilemma

Olga’s living room is ready for a major makeover. Here’s her letter:

I’m excited to get your help. I need to keep most of the furniture in here. I will be buying a new couch sometime in the near future, but it will be a light color sectional close to the one I currently have, so I would like to use this one for now. The media table and towers I recently bought and I like them, so I would like to keep them as well. The table can go, if it’s better to let it go, as can the art in front of the fireplace. I would like to use as much as I can of what is in the room, along with adding more accessories, but things can definitely go if they don’t fit in. I also purchased some medium brown shelves for the fireplace wall if you think one or more of them would add interest. The chair can go; it’s old. The walls I think are fine color and recently painted.  I’m not even sure what style I like as I tend to like a whole lot of different things, but I really do like the way your house is decorated!  I think I’m leaning towards traditional with modern twist and interesting items/decor. I don’t like red, multi colored things, flower patterned upholstery, and I do like big, bold, items, in neutral colors. I do need to stay on a budget as much as possible. Hope you can help!  Thanks a lot! -Olga




This space is primed and ready for some sprucing. Here’s the plan:

Textured & Neutral Living Room

And now for the mood board breakdown.

1. Olga made her penchant for a neutral color scheme known, so we decided to layer white, cream, tan, and chocolate furnishings & accessories for maximum interest and dimension. Relying on varied materials, textures and accents to tie everything together will really add to the chic and collected over time feeling for a living room with style to spare.

2. Since Olga mentioned that she’d be replacing her sofa down the line with another light colored sectional, we dug up this lovely option from Room & Board that would certainly look stunning in her room when she gets to that step of the makeover. Plus since it’s still a generous size, but not quite as monstrous as her current sofa, there will be room for side tables and two chairs by the fireplace for a balanced and expansive seating area.

3. Nothing will crisp up this room like these sleek grommeted curtains from Ikea. We’d love to see one panel hung on each side of every window in the room- including the two skinnier windows on the wall to the left of the fireplace (by hanging them 18″ wide on each side of those windows, they’ll appear larger and more balanced in the space).

4. Olga mentioned that she had some brown shelves for her fireplace wall, and we’d love to see one sleek long floating shelf (like this 74″ inch one from Ikea- for only $29) hung centered about a foot above the firebox to create an instant mantel. Removing the art from in front of the firebox and leaving it natural and open (perhaps with a basket full of firewood inside or even an elegant potted fern) will also make it look more centered on the wall since the art makes it feel like it’s shifted to the right of the space.

5. Since we’re sticking to a neutral scheme, a bit of shine is always nice to keep things feeling vibrant, varied and oh so interesting. And we love the price tag on these babies! They’ll look fabulous clustered on a few of the shelves in the towers on either side of the media stand (Olga can even order a few sets since the price is so nice). We’d also love to see white planters (Ikea has some great ones for $1), woven baskets, and hardcover books on each of those towers to accessorize them to the fullest (adding pops of lighter colors will break up all the dark wood).

6. A dash of tone on tone pattern is just the thing to keep things feeling dimensional and alive. These chic tan on cream zebra slipper chairs from Target (on sale with free shipping) will instantly add ambiance and style to the side of the room with the fireplace. And by angling one of them in on either side of the fireplace towards the center of the room (facing the sofa instead of the fireplace) the seating area will feel a lot more expansive and balanced to boot.

7. When it comes to art in the space, Olga needed a piece for above her new fireplace mantel, another for above her sofa between the windows and a third piece for above her media stand. We loved the idea of hanging a simple bamboo serving platter on the wall above the TV to bridge the gap between the two towers on either side and add texture and interest in one fell swoop (plus it doesn’t get much better than art that’s $12.99). For above the fireplace mantel, we’d love to see this natural rattan sunburst mirror centered above the firebox (hung about a foot above the mantel for even more balance and height). Then for the space above the sofa between the two thinner windows (which will soon look wider thanks to some curtains) this lovely print will add shine and geometric interest to the entire space.

8. We mentioned that a slightly less massive sofa would allow for end tables on either side, which will really be another great way to add instant style through varied materials to create more layered and dimensional interest. These gorgeous beauties happen to be on sale (just $29 each!) and their wood tops and metal bases will really look great when they’re paired with the other elements that we’ll be bringing in. On top of each of them, we’d love to see a modestly sized low light (to keep things in scale since they’re on the small side) – our first choice would definitely be these textured and amazing masterpieces, but we also dug up these budget friendly alternatives from Ikea as well.

9. Replacing Olga’s current coffee table with something a bit more crisp in the same color as her media stand will definitely make things feel more balanced and cohesive. Plus this stunner of a table is leggy and light looking even though it’s dark in color, and the round shape will fit nicely with the sectional while tying in with everything from the end tables to the circles in the art above the sofa.

10. And last but definitely not least, this 8 x 10 rug will immediately ground and define the entire seating area (the chairs by the fireplace, the coffee table, the sectional and the side tables will instantly have a relationship and feel like they’re truly connected once the rug is in place). This gorgeous natural rug has texture to spare and even boasts a subtle striped pattern which will add so much to the space for very little pocket change (it’s nearly impossible to find an 8 x 10 rug that’s under $400 and this one’s $144). It’s definitely going to be one of the most impactful additions in Olga’s newly spruced space.

So there you have it. A lovely layered living room room full of soft and inviting style. We can’t wait to see what you guys think- especially you Olga!

Update: We sadly can no longer find the time to take on client commissioned mood boards (we now whip up general inspiration boards instead) but if we ever reinstate them we’ll make a big announcement!


  1. says

    Sherry, you did it again! I’ll be honest, I was wondering what suggestions you were going to come up with since she wanted to keep things neutral. But you managed to give her a light and refreshing space with accents that brighten the living room up. Kudos to you!

  2. Elle X says

    Off topic: Did my voting today and you are still in first place!! YEA!!! Go John and Sherry! Go John and Sherry!

  3. says

    I do have to agree, you make a neutral palette work! Though I see gold accessories instead of the silver ones, but that’s just me! (And I don’t even like gold!)

  4. Christen says

    Hi! I absolutely love this new mood board! I’ve been quite addicted with checking your website and voting for you guys lately. Here’s my blog: http://lovelifelists.blogspot.com/ It has a few pictures of before and after for my living room as well as one plug for you guys under the post “my mini living room makeover”. Feel free to post under your “link love”list if you want to. Thanks for being such an inspiration (and for giving me something extra to look at when I get home from teaching each day!)

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Christen,

      We clicked over and checked out your living room makeover- what a difference a little paint and accessories can make! We especially love the Pottery Barn “ogee” pillow that we fell in love with a while back (still sad we never snatched one up for ourselves). Thanks so much for sending the link our way! Happy blogging…


  5. Adriana says

    Sherry, I looove this moodboard. So much, that I would like to have this neutral feeling in our new home, which we will hopefully get in about a month or so. Do you think all the accesories would work with this sectional or would it look completely off? I don’t think we’ll be able to replace it anytime soon, so it would be nice to know if it would work with lighter accesories. Thanks :)


    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Adriana,

      That sectional will totally work. Go for it! We’d love to see before and after pictures so don’t hesitate to send them our way!


  6. Jen says

    Sherry and John, I wanted to first say, I love your site. You guys are great. Such great information. I love to decorate and we are in the middle of remodeling our Family Room. I have one question that I’m just not sure about. I have a white console table, but I’m having a hard time finding a white table & chairs. A lot of the time they are Antique White table & chairs. Do you think in the same room you could have white and antique white? Check out the pics in this link below to see ideas and products for the room. Thanks! http://www.lifamilies.com/community/album/?ID=2201

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Hey Jen,

      Good question! It certainly depends on each piece (some antique white pieces are slightly cream which would look layered and lovely with a white console table, while others can be more of a buttery yellow which would clash with a white table). We’re definitely a lot less about being matchy-matchy and more about layering textures and tones and materials in a room so you’ll probably be just fine as long as nothing is inches away for comparison. Hope it helps!


  7. Jen says

    Thanks for your response Sherry. The console table will be on one side of the room with the brown couch and then the table will be on the other side of the couch. Still looking for that white white table and chairs though. And I completely know what you mean about cream and buttery yellow. I will look out for that when shopping.


  8. Emily says

    What do you mean by the print from allposters.com – do you suggest just getting pictures on a poster type print? What exactly is it…isn’t that just a thin high quality poster? Or get it printed on canvas?

    • says

      Hey Emily,

      Yup, we’re suggesting that Olga snatches up a print and frames it for a finished look in the space. We frame prints throughout our house for an upscale look on a dime- the key is just hunting down prints that aren’t too obviously not original (ie: no one will think a Picasso poster is the real thing, but some nice photography or abstract art can look fabulous). Hope it helps!


  9. Bev says

    Hi Sherry,

    I am really drawn to this mood board you’ve created and have a similar scheme going on in my living room. I wanted to ask- what wall paint color would you suggest for this type of room. Also, (at the risk of sounding like a real rookie here) do you have any “How To”s regarding how to paint a wall? I’m working up the courage to go for it, but I have no idea how to get started painting a wall and I know just how yuck a bad paint job can look.
    Thanks so much!

    • says

      Hey Bev,

      Try Benjamin Moore’s Ashen Tan (a soft sandy tan tone that will work perfectly with a scheme like this). And the good news is that painting the walls is so easy it doesn’t need a how-to. Just wipe down the wall with a damp cloth to remove cobwebs and roll your flat latex paint on with a high-quality roller. Then cut in the edges with a brush (we like this one). Hope it helps!


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