Julia’s Design Dilemma

Julia’s living room is bursting with clean-lined and modern potential. Here’s her letter:

I’m so excited to transform my living room with your help!  I want it to work as a living/dining room. We couldn’t decide on a furniture layout so we ended up buying both a sectional and a sofa but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t look great to have so many big couches in the room so we can lose one of them. I’m clueless about what to do with the two huge windowless walls on either side of the room. We may want to add a flat screen TV someday and so I’d appreciate an idea of where that could go. We also will need storage for kids toys down the road (we have an 11 month old). We want to paint the fireplace (the red brick doesn’t fit with our happy modern vision). The dining table and chairs can go- it would be nice to seat 6-8 people and have comfy chairs. I think the room could use some recessed lights and a pendant light over the dining table. Pretty much everything else in the living room room can go. My husband and I coined a term for the look we like called “happy modern.” We like pops of color, clean lines but still very comfy & inviting. Your house actually looks “happy modern” to us – and that’s one reason we like your blog! Oh and I want to repaint- we painted the room Benjamin Moore Barley and it’s too warm and I’d prefer a soft blue-green color. We can’t wait to see what you come up with! Thanks so much! -Julia

This space is primed for a major makeover. Here’s the plan:

And now for the mood board breakdown.

1. Our color palette will be chocolate brown furnishings layered with pops of punchy blue and green and an abundance or soft tan and bright white to temper the more vibrant tones. When it comes to the walls, we’d love to see a serene and soft gray-blue (Benjamin Moore’s Quiet Moments) for a modern and cool overhaul in an afternoon. As for the furniture arrangement, we’ll be losing the sofa, moving the sectional into the middle of the living area on a large rug to ground that space and actually placing two leggy and almost invisible parson’s desks in front of each window that flanks the fireplace for balance, function and a modern architectural vibe. One of them will become a mini-office while the other one will be a great place to sit down and write a letter or pay bills while staring out the window and enjoying the view. We’ll also bring in two fun patterned armchairs to fill out the seating area and a larger dining table for the other end of the room to add function and style to this space that will easily multitask and look great doing it.

2. The first step to adding some fresh color and bringing some life into this soon-to-be-inviting space is to dress those large cold windows to create a warmer atmosphere that still feels crisp and modern. These floor length ring-top “lime” curtain panels are just the thing, and when hung high and wide on all the windows the room will feel taller, grander and instantly more “finished.”

3. As mentioned above, we’ll be losing the sofa in favor of some fun patterned armchairs to add lively balance to the space (and make it look eons larger thanks to the removal of the extra couch). The sectional will be pulled out from the wall and placed on the back left corner of the 8 x 10 rug that will float in the center of the seating area to create a gorgeous room within a room for relaxing and spending time together. And these pillows (here’s one, here’s the other) will add even more modern charm to the space when they’re tossed down on the existing sectional (can you believe one of them is just $7?!).

4. This long clean-lined table will easily slip behind the seating area to create a fully functional dining space that can seat at least six people without taking up much visual room thanks to its leggy construction. We love the rich chocolate finish and the idea of pairing it with these comfy yet crisp white chairs with interesting geometric details that feel a lot less matchy-matchy and more layered and interesting than most coordinated dining room sets.

5. Julia mentioned that she didn’t mind customizing pieces to really make them her own, so we dug up this large and super affordable round mirror in an expected chocolate finish but would suggest applying a few coats of lively leafy green paint (try Benjamin Moore’s Stem Green) and hanging it above the fireplace to really make a statement. And speaking of the fireplace, painting the brick a crisp white tone will instantly update it for a modern and clean look (just like we did in our home, here’s a step by step tutorial). And the fireplace screen can also be painted white (as we did in our living room) to keep everything looking current (just tape off the glass or paint the frame without taping things off and scrape the glass with a razor to remove any paint afterwards).

6. With that leggy parson’s dining table in place it will then be time to install the gorgeous and textured chandelier that will really define the dining area and set the scene (it’s always smart to get the table in the room first before finalizing your ceiling fixture placement). This large scale rectangular capiz beauty will add layered interest and crisp modern elegance without blocking much of the view or feeling overly heavy and imposing. As a placement guide, the center of the table and the chandelier could roughly be lined up with the firebox across the room for a balanced feeling with lots of space for dining (even though the window is more to the right of the dining wall as you face it, hanging art on the left side of the wall will add balance and create a much larger and more functional eating space instead of relegating everything to the corner).

7. These gorgeous and happy clean-lined chairs are just the thing when it comes to adding life to Julia’s living room. They’ll instantly make the whole room feel special and reinforce our entire color palette thanks to the white fabric with green and even blue leaves! We’d love to see two of them with their front legs on the area rug with a side table between them about two feet in front of the wall to the right of the sectional to balance out our sectional and create a U-shaped seating area. Oh and speaking of that wall, since Julia mentioned that she wants to mount a flat-screen somewhere in the room down the line, we believe this is the best place to put it since it’ll easily be viewed from the sectional and the armchairs can be arranged so they flank it without blocking the view.

8. As mentioned in our first point above, we’d love to see two of these leggy and almost invisible white parson’s tables in front of the large windows that flank the fireplace to create a functional and modern architectural feature wall with a mini office on one side and a spot to write letters and pay bills on the other. Desks in front of windows are one the most amazing ways to take in the view and these great green office chairs will complete the look and draw the eye out to the green and blue scenery beyond. And these great sculptural ceramic lamps (on sale!) will look fab on each desk to add even more balance and cohesion to the space.

9. Two of these chocolate storage ottomans will serve as a movable and child-friendly coffee table of sorts and they’ll ground the entire seating area when they’re grouped in front of Julia’s sectional (plus they’re a great place to stash toys). And when it comes to wall art for the left wall (since we like the idea of the flat screen eventually getting mounted on the right wall), ordering a few sets of these textural modern baskets (or collecting your own from garage sales and even on ebay) will make for dimensional, interesting, and lively wall art for that large window-less expanse on the left.

10. Bringing in more hits of green and blue in the accessories will really add life and that undeniably happy vibe to the room. So items like this sculptural vase will look lovely on the mantel, the desks, and even on the center of the dining table.

11. This amazingly detailed yet oh so modern 8 x 10 rug will instantly ground and define the entire seating area to set it apart from the dining area on the other side of the room and create a warm and inviting atmosphere. We’d love to see it floating in the center of that end of the room about three inches in front of the fireplace hearth with the sectional on the back left of it, the ottomans in the center, and the front half of the two armchairs (with a side table between them) on the right edge of it for a cohesive and totally tied together look. And we can’t forget our sculptural green leather magazine rack that’s just one more way to bring pops of our accent color into the room (it can be placed on one of the desks or even on the floor next to one of the chairs for function and form to spare).

So there you have it. A lively living room full of happy modern style. We can’t wait to see what you guys think!

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. Tiki says

    My favorite color combination! I saw that gorgeous chair in the new Ikea 2010 catalog and was wondering how I can incorporate them into my house :)

  2. says

    I think I may have a love affair with the light fixture.. I was originally leaning towards a linear chandelier for our dining area but this one is just so much more feminine :)

  3. Dana Miller says

    Faaaaabulous. I think you totally captured the ‘happy modern’ look they are going for. I just purchased a wall basket like the one you have shown on homedecoratorsoutlet.com for $12!!!!! Can’t wait to see what it looks like on my wall.

  4. says

    Oh, the colors are so cheery — perfect for this space. It’s a bit dark, so those light and airy colors are going to make it a happy space! Hopefully we’ll get to see it down the road. That’s the one thing that saddens me is that more people don’t actually seem to quickly follow through with their results. :( I need instant gratification! ;)

  5. meaghan says

    i can only say one thing, and that is, “Get CRACKIN’ JULIA!!” okay and one other thing, I cannot wait to see this room AFTER! and another slam dunk for the youngsters. love this room!
    so i said a few things, but they just HAD to be said!

  6. says

    This is my favorite!!! You have outdid yourselves on this one! I’m mostly more of a light blue/gray/white kinda girl too! Wow, just amazing! Wonderful job!! =)

  7. Holly says

    This is awesome. Seriously, how do you guys do it?!? I think my mouth literally dropped open when I scrolled down and saw the color scheme!! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE send some after pictures Julia!

    • YoungHouseLove says

      Lauren- Yup, that fabric would totally work. The pattern is a bit small scale for a large number of giant windows, but if your room has one to two windows and you’ll just be doing a panel on each side it should look great. Hope it helps!

      Mira- Great idea! We’ve actually though about offering some sort of perk for people who send after photos, so we’ll definitely consider your suggestion. We do happen to know that there are a bunch of after photos in progress (including this very room- the rug and light have already arrived) so stay tuned…


  8. Mira N says

    Like all the others ..I would LOVE to see the afters !! Could you guys charge $300 for the moodboard and refund $50 if your clients send in an after picture ????

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