Amy’s Design Dilemma

When Amy came to us for help with her living room we jumped at the chance to inject a warm, layered and lived-in look. Here’s her letter:

Your blog is a favorite of mine. And I need your help with the living room! It’s not a huge room (14 x 14) and we don’t have much wall space (one whole wall opens up to the entry/stairs and the other opens up to the kitchen). I’m kind of confused as far as furniture placement- especially where to put the tv and sofa? I’d like the fireplace to be the focus of the room, but we don’t really like tvs over fireplaces. I’m more into warm colors and want to make it a cozy place to sit and relax, but also entertain an infant. I attempted to find paint colors on my own and am now stuck with a zillion samples and haven’t yet found “the one.” I’m also confused about paint for the hall leading up the stairs (should it be the same as the living room?). As far as my style I think I’m pretty eclectic. I normally shop at Pottery Barn, Anthropology, and Target. I also love Etsy for accessories. I’m looking for that layered look – like we’ve lived there forever. As far as our furnishings go, we purchased the rug from Pottery Barn and I’d like that to stay. The coffee table is also a keeper. Everything else in the room can be replaced. We need a sofa with slipcovers as our baby loves to spit up :)  Would appreciated help with paint colors, window treatments, furniture and accessories. Any suggestions would be great! – Amy

Here’s the plan:

And here’s the newly proposed layout:

Now for the mood board breakdown.

1. Our color palette for the space will be based on Amy’s gorgeous Pottery Barn rug. Shades of deep brown (in the furnishings) and neutral tans and creams (in the sectional and the curtains) will lay the foundation for pops of red and amber in the accessories for a warm and welcoming vibe. As for the walls, we’d love to see a warm wheaty tan tone (Benjamin Moore’s Bridgewater Tan 1096) which will instantly add richness, interest, and really make all those white moldings pop. It’ll also complement the existing hallway and stairway wall tone so it doesn’t need to be repainted. As for the furnishings, by bringing in a few larger pieces and eliminating many of the smaller items in the space (like a few lamps and plant stands around the perimeter) the room will instantly feel more inviting and layered without any sense of clutter or disorder.

2. This great oversized standing sconce will look gorgeous atop the fireplace mantel, especially thanks to the hits of amber glass in the votive holders. It even subtly evokes the feeling of fire, which is perfect for that space above the fireplace.

3. This texture-rich round mirror will look great over the TV between those two rectangular windows to soften things up and add curves to a wall that previously had only hard straight lines. We also love the natural, warm and eclectic feeling of the design (and the price is pretty great for such a generously sized showstopper).

4. We mentioned that we’d bring in hits of amber and red to tie into the rug and evoke the rich, warm, layered feeling that Amy was striving for. These velvet cushions in red and wheaty-gold are actually super easy-care (read: kid friendly) and they will add so much hue and lush warmth to both the sectional that we’ll be introducing and the existing cream armchair by the fire (which will scoot over to the corner of the rug, and fit right into the seating area with this small round table to the left of it as you face it).

5. These elegant and richly hued mosaic rings are a bit less shatter-prone than delicate glass hurricanes, and we’d love to see two of them grouped on one side of the existing media cabinet for a bit of asymmetrical interest and even more layered texture and height in the space.

6. We searched high and low for a slipcovered sectional which is perfect for Amy’s lifestyle and such a square room with two focal points (the fireplace and the TV). This new piece (in “Pearl”) will make TV viewing just as easy and cozy as fireplace viewing… so the focus is no longer only on the TV as Amy requested. And the price. Can we talk about the price for a second? Amazing! And the reviews are extremely flattering as well. Grab it while you can Amy! We also included Amy’s existing rug in the mood board so she can see how everything else will tie into her rug seamlessly for a layered and lovely effect.

7. These rich candlesticks will look dimensional and chic on the center of the kitchen table (which is very visible thanks to a generously sized doorway connecting the two rooms). Atop a cozy burlap runner they’ll bring even more of the warm neutral hues that we’ll be introducing in the living room over to the nearby eating area. And of course they can just be brought out when entertaining or for special occasions if they’re not kid-proof enough for day to day life (or Amy can snatch up similarly toned wood ones which are a bit less breakable).

8. This 100% kid-proof natural basket is perfect for the center of the existing coffee table thanks to the soft and unshatterable construction. We’d love to see it with a few of these natural orbs in it for interest (that also can’t be easily broken by a toddler-sized person).

9. This is one of those rooms where the wall color paired with the curtains will absolutely make the space. These gorgeous textured tan curtains are insanely high-quality and completely marked down (talk about an amazing deal). We’d love to see them hung just a few inches below the ceiling on all the windows in the living room as well as on the nearby window at the bottom of the stairs for even more cohesion and flow. The great thing about the subtle texture in the curtains is that they’ll bring tons of interest and movement to the room without overwhelming the space with pattern- plus they’ll complement the lovely larger-patterned ones in the nearby kitchen. Jackpot. And we still can’t get over the clearance price.

The one piece of furniture around the perimeter that we would like Amy to keep in the space is the chest in that corner area behind the sectional. The curvy existing red lamp will also work right in with our palette, and since this piece is nice and large it won’t clutter up the outskirts of the room like smaller things tend to do (ex: plant stands and floor lamps). Sometimes just letting a smaller space “breathe” is the way to blur the boundaries and make things feel a lot more open and serene.

Oh and this is just extra credit, but we thought that painting the wood banister in the hallway that leads up the stairs the same crisp white tone as the trim around the rest of the house will allow the darker furnishings in the nearby living room to shine and feel even more cohesive and luxe.

So there you have it. A living room full of warm 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. says

    Love the mood board! Love the colours and the neutral warmth.

    I have a question, you only mentioned the one red lamp in the mood board but that doesn’t seem like enough light to light up the entire room. Would you add some more lighting somewhere and what kind/shape/style? Thanks!

    • says

      Good question! Ideally a room will have about three light sources or so, but we’re always fans of adding ambiance with glowing candles (like the votive holder for above the fireplace and the candle holders for the nearby kitchen table). Of course those won’t light up a room like a plug-in lamp, but an overhead drum shade ceiling pendant (centered over the sectional) along with the existing red lamp on the chest in the corner is about 2/3 of the way there. To round things out and add balance, a small side table lamp could be incorporated into the seating area to the right of the fireplace (on the side table next to the armchair). Anything that’s not too tall and spindly (which could come off as top-heavy) or too chunky and overwhelming (which would look a bit too big for the side table) would be a nice third lighting source in the space. Here’s a great small scale option (on sale!) that would look perfect:

      Hope it helps!


  2. says

    Thanks for the answering my lighting question!

    I asked about the lighting because most new build homes around here don’t have ceiling fixtures in the family/living room so we have to rely on lamps.

    How would you plug in a lamp if you put it on that little table since the table isn’t really close to the wall (without tripping over cords)? Is there a way to hide the cords?

    Have you done a post about lamps/lighting or do you know of a good website that talks about lighting? How to pick lamps to go next to a sofa or chair, what style lamps go with different styles/spaces, what type of lamp to pick – wood, ceramic, glass, etc. and what colour, should you pick lamps that match or have them so they aren’t too matchy but still go, etc.? If you have done a post to this, can you point me to it please?

    I’m in the process of finding lamps for either side of my cream sofa and beside a brown leather chair in the family room (very similar to Amy’s room) and I’m finding choosing the right lamps so intimidating.

    • says

      Hey KOS,

      A lighting 101 post is on our list so stay tuned for that but we also mentioned our favorite sources for lighting right here in this recent post:

      As for how to keep from tripping on the cord that leads to that side table, we don’t imagine many people would be walking between the table and the wall behind it so it shouldn’t actually be a big issue. They also sell little floor cord covers (we’ve seen them everywhere from Office Max to Room & Board) which flatten cords against the floor so they’re virtually invisible and easy to walk right over without tripping). Hope it helps!


  3. Becky says

    Hi Sherry!!

    I have a question that I was reminded of when you said to paint this stair railing white…We have a room on the 2nd floor of our house that has vaulted/slanted ceilings bc it is converted attic space. The ceiling is comprised of panels of wood, (where there are pieces of wood all lined up next to each other…sorry cant think of a better way to describe this!)…The wood is stained but un painted. I would like to have the trim in the rest of the room painted white, but do not want to have to paint the wood on the ceiling white because of how high the ceiling is and because of the size of the room. Do you think it would look funny to have a natural wood ceiling with painted white trim?


    • says

      Becky- You can definitely paint the trim white but leave the ceiling that natural wood color. It’ll look gorgeous! Especially if some of the furnishings or the floor of the room are similar in tone to the ceiling (for a bit of balance). Hope it helps!


  4. says

    your plan looks wonderful! i’ve gotta give props to amy for being brave enough to send along a picture of her living room that was taken whilst watching an episode of the simpsons! :)

  5. Bethany says

    I love this mood board! My hubby and I just purchsed a sectional this week, and it will be delivered on Friday! I’m having a bit of a lighting challenge, and I’m wondering if one of your suggestions above might work. The sectional will be located in a corner, against two walls. I’m trying to figure out how to get some light in the corner, but I don’t think we’ll be able to fit a lamp behind the sectional. Do you think a hanging drum pendant might work? I’m looking for something that doesn’t seem too modern… Our style is more transitional, I guess. Thanks!

    • says

      Hey Bethany,

      A hanging drum pendant would definitely work. We love them and you’re right about them being totally classic and timeless. Happy hanging…


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