Susan’s Design Dilemma

Susan’s living room is ready to be transformed. Here’s her letter:

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about this! My sister-in-law thinks you’re fabulous and this was an early birthday present  from her. Yay! To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin with my living room. I guess I am looking for a “Pottery Barn” type space. I’m trying to get the look and still keeping in mind the ages of my young children. The entertainment center is brand new and has to stay. I would like to recover the big chair. It doesn’t go with anything. My couch is comfy and we thought it would be okay to keep it for now because the kids are so young but I was thinking of purchasing a new L shaped sectional so ideas for a later purchase would be helpful. The paint color will have to stay for now but it’s a neutral color so it should be easy to work with. The space is turning into a toy room so any ideas for toy storage are welcome! Three issues I have are: 1). What kind of curtains do I get for these windows?  2.) Where to hang pictures/art?  3.) We need a better fireplace mantel (we bought a cheap one from Lowe’s, but it was too short and we felt not thick enough). Thanks sooo much for the help! -Susan

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 sophisticated and welcoming with rich chocolates, wheaty tans, soft beiges and pops of vibrant teal to wake everything up and keep Susan’s large living room feeling dimensional and interesting.

2. We dug up this amazingly affordable upholstery fabric for the existing armchair that Susan would like to recover. At around $5 a yard this yarn-dyed 100% cotton fabric will add texture and ambiance to the whole room and give the existing armchair a whole new life. And speaking of the armchair, we’d love to see it placed on the other side of the fireplace so it faces the media cabinet (for easier TV viewing) while the toy area is moved to where the armchair used to live.

3. This amazing printed ottoman shot me straight through the heart when I first saw it and I’ve been itching to use it in a mood board ever since. And oh happy day… this space is perfect for it! The new sectional that Susan will be introducing will pair perfectly with it for something kid-friendly (no pointy wood corners) and effortlessly chic (plus that pattern will graciously hide any stains that may arise).

4. When it comes to the walls, Susan requested a weightier mantel and we think bringing in a longer one that’s a bit thicker and deeper in tone will add presence to the mantel and create a place to lean an amazing mirror like this to bounce lots of light around the room. We’d also love to see these two tall teal vases on one side of the mantel for a bit of chic asymmetry that’s simple yet undeniably impactful. Then as for adding interest to the long blank wall seen above the existing sofa, we’d love to see two of these gorgeous teal panels (just $14.99 each!) framed on top of each other (only about four inches apart) for some chic repeated pattern and style in the room.

5. This basket not only adds texture and more of that sandy tan tone to the space, it’ll also become an important part of our new toy storage area that will live to the left of the fireplace (as you face it). Stay tuned for more details a little later in the breakdown…

6. Here’s the new beige slipcovered sectional that will totally transform Susan’s layout… and the best part is the price. Maybe Susan won’t even have to wait very long to make the upgrade! Ikea’s Ektorp series is their best selling sofa line and we’ve heard nothing but amazing things about their durability and quality (and most importantly, their ability to survive small children). Gotta love washable slipcovers and affordable seating for a growing family.

7. This rich 8 x 10 rug might just be our new favorite thing in the world (well, it’s tied with the ottoman that still has us drooling). The braided chocolate texture is reminiscent of a luxurious cashmere sweater and we really think it’ll break up all the lighter neutrals in the room (the sofa, the carpet, the walls, the new curtains) for a dimensional and layered look. We always love a spacious area rug in a large room (even one with wall to wall carpeting) to define the seating area and add tons of polish and inviting ambiance.

Oh and as for the placement of the new sectional and area rug, we’d love to see the rug floating in the middle of the room with the front legs of the entire L-shaped sectional sitting on the it for a room-within-a-room effect. With the sectional positioned so it faces the fireplace (the room’s focal point) and the wall to the left of the fireplace (to facilitate some TV viewing from the same angle as the existing sofa) it’ll create a totally new room full of function and form in an instant. Pulling items of furniture away from the wall is always a great way to create a sense of balance and fullness in a large and lofty space.

8. Let’s revisit the toy area that Susan will be creating in the corner to the left of the fireplace. We’d love to see two of these storage benches placed in an L in the corner and filled with these baskets that we mentioned above (see #5). The rich finish on the benches will tie into the existing media cabinet (and the new fireplace mantel) for a chic yet totally functional toy station that doesn’t take anything away from the rest of the room.

9. We love how these vibrant patterned and solid pillows will add more pops of teal to the sectional and the soon-to-be upholstered armchair that will live to the right of the fireplace. Layered in with the exotic art, the printed ottoman and the textured rug, this room will be full of character, interest and style to spare.

10. Here are the billowy beige curtains that we’d love to see hung on either side of every window in the room at the same height (above the first transom window). They should drape down to about a quarter of an inch off the floor (keeping them from pooling makes them more kid-friendly). And being sure that all the windows are treated in the same way at the same height keeps everything cohesive and will add a finished feeling to the room (and help bring down those super high ceilings for a more intimate and cozy feel).

So there you have it. A lovely living room full of inviting 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. Cindy says

    Love the colors on this design board! Great adult design with functional kid friendly theme on a easy budget. Love the vases on the mantel and that artwork! Missed on what they would do to add to the entertainment center? My first thought would be family pictures and some smaller teal glass pieces.
    Another job well done!

    • says

      Hey Cindy,

      Glad you’re digging Susan’s mood board. We totally agree with using teal along with other colors from our scheme to decorate the entertainment center (tan woven baskets, cream and chocolate hardcover books, teal vases or candle holders, natural linen picture frames, etc). Hope it helps!


  2. Tracie says

    That looks great! I was wondering if the colors that you picked out had names. I am trying to do the same kind of color scheme in my basement and am wanting to do the painting only once.

    • says

      Hey Tracie,

      Glad you like it! Check out number one on our mood board breakdown to see our color scheme rundown (included below for your convenience):

      Our color palette will be sophisticated and welcoming with rich chocolates, wheaty tans, soft beiges and pops of vibrant teal to wake everything up and keep Susan’s large living room feeling dimensional and interesting.


    • says

      Hey Laurie,

      Thanks for chiming in! The fabric is listed in the site’s “upholstery fabric” category so we assume that it’s upholstery grade. A lot of times we link to fabric for the texture/color and our clients visit a local fabric store to actually purchase something similar (where they can double check that it’s thick enough by asking the fabric pros there). We’re hardly fabric gurus, so it’s always something that we encourage people to double check. Hope it helps!


  3. Lauren says

    Thanks for this. I’m doing pops of teal in my living room, and love the accessories you chose for this board!


  4. says

    I love the rug! It’s nice that it’s natural, but in a deeper chocolate color. And that Van Gogh print is one of my favorites. I hope we get to see the after!

  5. Donita says

    Hello YHL’s……..this is a fabulous mood board. I love these colors and everything you chose here. We too have a pop of turquoise *a bit lighter, more dusty* in our living room. We love the brighter too though, may throw some of that in, like couch pillow’s, etc. ;-) Thanks again, for showing us another great design. I love you guys!!!

  6. Lisa says

    Curious, what type of rod/hanging system would you recommend for the curtains? The top of the transoms seem to run right into the fireplace rock, without much room, if any for a curtain rod mount.

    • says

      Hey Lisa,

      Good question! We usually like curtains high and wide, but due to the tiny amount of space between the windows near the fireplace, we’d recommend very thin oil-rubbed bronze or black rods mounted right into the trim above the first set of dormers. It sounds strange, but once the curtains are up it will look more polished and intentional, and the fabric panels will soften all of those sharp corners and lines for a cozy and warm room, even with those super high ceilings. Hope it helps!


  7. prettythings says

    What a fabulous mood board! I was trying to guess which accent color you would use and I was so happy to see TEAL! LOVE it… and once this room is finished it will be so EASY for them to pick up pieces here and there to continue the theme into the dining room and entry/stair area. I hope they have a Home Goods in their area (or Tuesday morning, or some great ‘junque’ shops, etc) so they can continue to add texture and color throughout.

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