Ashley’s Design Dilemma

Ashley’s über excited to transform her living room. Here’s her letter:

We are so thrilled to get a Youngsters mood board! We need help with our living room. We have had a hard time trying to figure out a furniture layout that works. The fireplace is huge and off-center. It definitely needs a mantel (we recently painted it after seeing your tutorial– that’s how we found you). To the right of the fireplace is a french door that leads outside. We don’t really know what style we are but we love all things YHL! Clean, crisp, light & airy is what we’d like to move towards. We are interested in getting some streamlined modern furniture and we would like a brown leather sofa or sectional. We have 3 young kiddos, so we’d love a chair with a washable slipcover too . There’s nothing in the room that we want to keep. We are looking to eventually get a big flat-screened TV and would like to find something to hide it (similar to the armoire we have, but bigger) . We’re actually about to install wood floors so we would prefer a wall color that adds a light feel to the space. A paint color that is neutral would be great, but hopefully something that flows into the new yellow in the kitchen. Although we generally prefer neutrals, I would love to add pops of color in artwork or pillows. We look forward to seeing any and all of your ideas! Thanks so much. -Ashley

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

And now for the mood board breakdown.

1. Our color scheme will include rich chocolates, warm wheaty tan tones and pops of blue and green in the art and the accessories to keep things interesting. When it comes to the neutral tone that Ashley requested for the wall, we’d love to see a soft sandy tone (Benjamin Moore’s Ashen Tan) which will really make the white trim and the painted fireplace pop while keeping things light and airy.

2. Speaking of light and airy, this amazing huuuge ottoman (on clearance!) will totally lighten up the large leather sectional that we’ll be bringing in. An added bonus: there are no sharp corners so it’s super kid friendly.

3. This gorgeous discounted art had us at hello. It’ll look crisp and cool on the tan walls and at just a little over $60 for each print AND frame (they come ready to hang!) this set is quite a steal. We’d love to see three of them hanging about six inches apart on each of the larger walls (where the two large square frames currently live) for eye-pleasing balance and interest to spare.

4. We’d love to see this large clean-lined entertainment center (that’s majorly marked down!) placed on the wall where the desk and the smaller armoire currently live to provide an insane amount of storage and display space in a snap. Switching out a number of smaller furnishings for larger clean-lined pieces can actually make a space feel larger and more orderly- along with providing a ton of function to boot.

5. To lighten up the darker pieces we’ll be bringing in (like the leather sofa and the large entertainment center) these gorgeous wheat and sky blue pillows will break things up and this big round mirror (on clearance!) hung above this new fireplace mantel will bounce even more light around the room.

6. Here’s the aforementioned large leather sectional (on sale!) that we dug up to make sense of this room’s floor plan and facilitate tons of seating. We’d love to see it floating about two feet in front of the walls where the current leather furniture lives with the new padded ottoman in the center to further complete the arrangement. We’ll also bring in a new rug and a chic end table to help our entire seating area make sense in the middle of the space (which will cure the empty-rug-syndrome going on in the before pictures). It actually took us a while to hunt down a sectional with a chaise on the left side (as you face it) but it’s imperative that the right side of the sofa has back cushions to facilitate easy TV viewing and make the room as comfortable and functional as it is beautiful.

7. On the right side of the sectional (as you face it) we’d love to see this lovely end table (hooray for free shipping!) which will add more storage and clean-lined elegance to the room. Especially with this sculptural blue-based lamp on it. It’ll look so great with our other pops of blue in the pillows and the art.

8. This light brown armchair has an easy-to-keep-clean slipcover and will provide even more seating. We’d love to see the little feet get a quick coat of dark gel stain to match the deeper wood tones in the room, but the light upholstery will look airy and perfect. The new placement will also totally make sense of the room’s floor plan so instead of putting it to the left of the french door like the one in the before photos we’d love to see it placed about four feet in front of that spot angled in to face the center of the sectional. The new rug will also be shifted back towards the sectional so the chair will sit on the corner of the rug and easily relate to the rest of the seating area since it will be closer to the ottoman and connected by the rug (which will tie everything together). Best of all, the room’s flow won’t suffer since there will still be plenty of room to pass behind the chair and go out the french door or walk in front of the chair to pass through to the kitchen.

9. We loved these glittering glass vases (just $6.95 each!) for the fresh and airy look that they’ll bring to the room along with a few cheerful pops of color. Ashley can order a few sets of them and place them in her entertainment center (mixed in with textural baskets, hardcover books and other decorative objects in the color scheme). We’d also like to see one or two of them on the left of the fireplace mantel (as you face it) for a nice asymmetrical display.

10. And speaking of the fireplace, Ashley mentioned that she didn’t know how to create more balance when it comes to her off-centered firebox. We think a large cylinder vase full of these light and sculptural sticks (they’re super cheap too!) placed to the right of the firebox will fill the void and add a lovely vertical element to keep things interesting. The last step is just adding this plush wheaty rug (which is totally kid friendly thanks to tons of layered tones and textures that should hide nearly every stain that could arise). It will effortlessly ground the entire seating area- and combined with the chocolate sectional and the light tan ottoman, it’ll create a layered and dimensional neutral effect that’s set off by the pops of color in the pillows and the art.

So there you have it. A living room full of functional and 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. carmen says

    LOVE IT!! I am going to copy this idea for my living room…already have the leather sofas. Love the chocolate, greens and blues…

  2. Krysta says

    love the color combo, very similar to what I’ll be doing in my master bedroom & the twisty branches just might find their way into my living room!!

  3. says

    I like those prints too. I actually traced them on Adobe Illustrator a couple of months ago and might have them printed (larger scale) and frame them in Ikea Ribba frames for our big wall space above our couch. I found them at Ballard designs, though, giclee prints instead of in frames…and 9 of them…but a little more expensive! Here:

  4. Jarman says

    Hi! I have commented before because I work for an art publisher in town and once again you have featured some of our awesome prints by local artists (via Ballard). These pieces happen to be by a good friend of mine Riki Zarris, who lives here in Richmond! She is super talented and also has a new blog orinui where she shares her current inspiration.

    Thanks for sharing another amazing mood board!

  5. says

    Wow, this mood board totally speaks to my my living room. We’ve got a brown leather sectional, chairs in a similar color and style to what you’ve suggested, pillows the same blue as you have. I bought the turquoise vase that you’ve listed last week and have been eying that wall art from C&B for a while. Glad it’s finally on sale! The main difference is that our walls are Behr’s “Sagey”. This actually gives me some more ideas, and hope that my designs may actually be on the mark!

  6. Amanda says

    I’d love to see an after picture of this room!!! Actually, I’ve been wondering if you usually get after pictures from your makeovers? I’d love to see a post of befores and afters.

  7. Kim says

    My first thought before I read the details was that the Crate & Barrel art was just fabric squares framed. Seems like that could be recreated easily with similar fabric, if anyone is looking for a more cost-effective idea!

  8. Sarah Temple says

    I ended up on the American Signature Furniture Store site. Are there any comparable stores out in Southern California? The prices are so reasonable.

  9. Laura says

    I have the asymmetrical fireplace problem too, but our couch faces it. Would you recommend centering the furniture in front of the fireplace itself or in front of the unit as a whole?

    • says

      I would try both arrangements and take a picture of each of them and use that to evaluate which layout works better. Photos tend to really help in those circumstances.


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