Lindsay’s Design Dilemma

Lindsay’s living room is bursting with total makeover potential. Here’s her letter:

I’m really excited to begin! My living room as a mismatched disaster! It’s a big space and I really can’t figure out what to do with it. I love your rooms and would like mine to reflect them. I am working to move all of my rooms into a more light and airy feel. I do have a 2 year old (with more babies to come in the future) so it needs to be somewhat kid friendly. My hubby won’t let me go too overboard so I need to keep: the entertainment center, toy chest, couch, chair, end table and coffee table. Obviously the giant orange wall (what the heck was I thinking?) is bare and needs to be repainted with the rest of the room. I just painted my kitchen Ben Moore “Sterling” so I need the new room to compliment that color. My plan was to paint the living room Ben Moore “November Rain” but I’m open to new ideas. I would love to put up a photo collage with frames on that accent wall (if you think it would work). I also was thinking about a roman shade for the window above the stairs- any ideas? There aren’t any patterns or colors that I don’t like for the room, I just want to keep it somewhat light. Thanks so much! -Lindsay

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

And now for the mood board breakdown.

1. Lindsay’s room will be open and airy in no time once we add some soft tans and creams for a layered and lovely tone-on-tone effect. We’ll also bring in some more coordinated wood furnishings (in the same tone as her media cabinet) and even encourage her to stain some of her existing accent tables for a more cohesive look (on a serious budget). And when it comes to the walls, we’d actually recommend Benjamin Moore’s Coastal Fog. It’s a soft taupy-tan tone that will pair perfectly with the color in her kitchen while opening up the room and really making the white trim pop.

2. We know Lindsay requested that her current coffee table stay, so we think she should use a simple gel stain to darken it (along with the side so they look more like the media cabinet) for a less mismatched effect. And if Lindsay does want to upgrade in the future, this large round coffee table (on sale!) will really crisp up the entire space (plus it’s kid friendly- no more sharp corners!). Once she brings in an area rug and floats it in the room (moving the seating area away from the walls a bit will really create a cozy room within a room), a big round coffee table that matches the tone of the media cabinet will be the icing on the cake.

3. Since Lindsay has a little one, a nice child-friendly centerpiece for the coffee table might be a shallow wooden bowl or basket (shatter proof!) full of anything from these pretty faux pears to this chic little collection of globes.

4. We’d love to see the basic bookcase next to the window (which also appears to be lighter than the media cabinet) get switched out for a pretty demilune table that will instantly add effortless style to the entire space. And for the wall above it, this gorgeous starburst wood mirror will be a showstopper. It’s beachy and soft and will bounce around so much light for that airy and open effect in a snap. Sometimes just a few special accessories like these can make a room full of the same furniture feel instantly elegant and upgraded!

5. We love the idea of a wall of frames on that soon-to-be-repainted accent wall. Keeping the frames cohesive (all in the same wood tone as the media cabinet) will tie everything together. And grouping everything about 3-5″ apart will make it all relate so it doesn’t look too spaced out. Oh and framing soft and airy neutral art (like this super affordable print and this also-affordable one) won’t be too jarring or busy so the look will be interesting yet not too overwhelming.

6. We love this oil-rubbed bronze beauty of a floor lamp, and would like to see it placed to the left of the armchair to shed some ambient reading light (while the existing side table which will be stained darker will be placed about a foot away next to the sofa to connect the seating and create an L-shaped arrangement that floats a few feet away from the back walls).

7. For all of the windows and big glass doors in the space (including the sliders in the adjoining dining room- not shown- and the window above the stairs- see third photo) we would recommend that the same light and airy bamboo roman blinds be hung high and wide (outside mounted) to create the look of an even lighter and more open space. Here’s a post all about how we used bamboo blinds and curtains to expand the windows in our house. You can find these blinds extremely affordably at Target, Bed Bath & Beyond or even Walmart (where we got ours for next to nothing). Then for every window except for the one above the stairs, we’d love to see the bamboo blinds paired with these breezy linen curtains (keeping them cohesive in the adjoined dining room will really expand the space and increase the flow). Oh and bringing in oil-rubbed bronze curtain rods (we got ours at Target) will even complement the new floor lamp.

8. Here’s the aforementioned demilune table (super on sale!) that we’d love to see to the left of the picture window in the living room in the place of the mismatched bookcase. Under that amazing wooden mirror and next to the new curtain and blind combo the entire wall will look straight out of a magazine.

9. We actually love the existing punchy botanical pillows on Lindsay’s sofa, but we’d love to see some beachy cream and tan ones (with free shipping!) layered in to really complement the other textures, materials and accessories that we’ve selected to achieve the soft and airy look that Lindsay’s after.

10. This gorgeous 8 x 10 area rug ($570 off!) will actually be the one item that truly makes the space. Floating it a few feet away from the walls with the sofa, side table and arm chair to make an L-shaped seating area will instantly create a room within a room that’s cozy, inviting and anchored by the coffee table. It’s always a great idea in a room like this (with so much empty floor space in the middle) to bring in an area rug and float your seating area out in the space to truly take advantage of the room in a balanced and beautiful way.

So there you have it. A soft and cozy living room full of light and airy 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. says

    This may be the most obvious or silly question ever but do you all have a good way of searching for the “right” rug on I’ve noticed that you frequently recommend their rugs but everytime I look on their site, I’m completely overwhelmed with their selection… any hints on how you wade through all of the choices to find the perfect rug?

    • says

      Good question! We search by the size, for example we put in “8 X 10 rug” if we know that’s the right size for the space and it’s a nice way to cull things down a bit. Hope it helps!


  2. Julia says

    Coastal Fog is a beautiful color! A designer suggested it for our house and we didn’t think it looked all that great on the chip. However, it is really beautiful on the walls in our hallway! Its probably my favorite color in our house! Lots of colors look great against it. Its a neutral – but very complex and interesting. It looks slightly gray in our house although the hallway doesn’t get a lot of light so that might be why.

  3. Amy says

    Ugghh! I have been looking for those bamboo shades everywhere since I read your post on them a few weeks ago, all of the wal-marts around me dont’ have bamboo shades at all, and targets are all the wrong color! Is there any way you could post a link? Has anyone else found them anywhere?

    • says

      They’re unfortunately not online for me to post a link. What about World Market or Pier 1 or even JC Penney or Macy’s? You can also google “bamboo blinds” and see what comes up through that (or check out ebay and Hope it helps!


  4. Wehaf says

    Amy – if you search “bamboo blinds” or “bamboos shades” at you’ll come up with hundreds of options.

    • says

      Hey Lolo,

      Any gel stain from Home Depot or Lowe’s will do. Our experience is that the brands they offer all work well, so it’s all about hunting down the color that you like best (sometimes we get mini pots and test them in a discreet area first, and sometimes we just go for it). Good luck!


    • says

      It depends on the finish of the piece (and whether it’s super glossy) but the directions should be pretty easy to follow on all of the cans of gel stain. Hope it helps!


  5. Pamela says

    I am a fan of floating furniture to tame large spaces and make conversation areas more convivial. What puzzles me is what to do with electrical cords when lamps are part of the arrangement? Most people do not have floor outlets and I would be concerned about the cord trailing to a wall outlet, especially with an active 2-year-old or an elderly parent in the home.

    • says

      Good point Pamela! It’s definitely something to take into account. Sometimes with an area rug you can tuck any excess cord under them in a way that makes them less easy to trip over and in Lindsay’s case we suggested the single floor lamp for the corner behind the sofa and chair since people probably won’t be back there (even children) to run by and trip. Also sometimes the addition of a floor outlet is only around $125, which is a pretty affordable fee when you gain so much longterm function in the space. Hope it helps!


  6. Krista says

    I have to say that I love your presentation of the design boards! And the breakdown is extremely helpful… I’ve been reading a lot of your tips and can’t wait to make some real progress on my own projects :o)

  7. Sara says

    I just recently found your website and absolutely love it! My fiance and I are currently under contract—and hopefully have no issues—to buy our first home. We are really looking forward to using your tips and how-to’s!

  8. Sarah says

    I have been reading your blog for a while now and you two are so inspiring – you have done a fantastic job with your house!

    I do have a question, where do you get the paint samples you use on your idea boards?

    • says

      Hey Sarah,

      We actually own about a million paint decks that we reference when we do mood boards, and since we make the boards in Photoshop we just replicate the paint swatches by choosing colors that closely match them in that computer program. Hope it helps!


  9. says

    Love that rug!

    Also, Amy- try a walmart supercenter. I looked forever in my regular walmart, and they never had any bamboo blinds at all. The supercenter had a ton.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *