Make over your rooms with these affordable and fresh ideas.
Within these walls, cats nap, dogs play, and babies crawl. Laundry piles up, and shoes come off. Relax—your rooms don’t have to showcase someone else’s idea of a perfect home. Instead, use these makeover ideas to transform them into rooms that say something about who you are, what you love, and where you come from.
Dingy and drab is how Associate Decorating Editor Anne Turner Carroll describes the living room of her first house with husband Neal. Among its challenges were a large, blank, windowless wall and bad carpeting.
The living room is transformed with fresh color and a beautiful blend of secondhand furniture pieces.
Sleek Surface: Anne Turner ripped out the old carpet and had hardwood floors installed.
Fabric Fix: An inherited sofa, recently re-covered, is the linchpin for everything else in the room.
Beautiful Balance: Creamy-toned paint on the walls balances the room’s darker elements. To highlight the architecture, she painted the crown molding and baseboards a grayish-green and the window sashes dark olive.
Done in a Day: How To Create Your Own Salon Wall
Limited light and gray walls conjured the feeling of a submarine more than a sailboat in this benighted beach house.
From dark and dismal to bright and breezy, this living room seems twice as large with the addition of new doors; wider openings
to neighboring rooms; and a crisp, unifying coat of white paint.
Beautiful Illusion: Residential designer Ankie Barnes created the illusion of greater space by replacing the original windows with French doors to add more light and showcase the view. They also facilitate traffic flow for indoor/outdoor entertaining. He took it a step further and created wider, arched openings to the dining room and foyer.
Conversation Zone: The furniture grouping consists of a sofa, two chairs, and a coffee table from the room’s past life. Anchored on a sea grass rug, their dark color offers the ideal visual heft to draw attention into the center of the room.
Right White: Residential designer Jodi Macklin followed up by coating virtually every surface of the living room in crisp, clean white.
The paneling, trim, and ceiling got Donald Kaufman Color Collection DKC #38, the walls got the slightly darker Donald Kaufman
Color Collection DKC #51, and the floors got a hardworking Benjamin Moore enamel (Moore’s Latex Floor & Patio Enamel #122).
Pillow Fabric: Circles in Chocolate from Galbraith & Paul; www.galbraithandpaul.com or (215) 508-0800
The dated rug, tired sofa, and space-hogging television armoire had to go. And burglar bars were a major style no-no.
This slim down doesn't require celery or rice cakes. Toss the bulky furniture that takes over your living room, and instead
use tailored pieces and thoughtful space planning.
Now the seating area―not the TV―is the focal point in homeowner Candace Schlosser’s living room.
Tailored Furniture: The simplicity of the new sofa, with low arms and square seat cushions, prevents the piece from overpowering the room. A pair of small armchairs and a cushy shag rug create a cozy feel.
Sofa: Sofa (5285-03) in Rayina Chocolate with Antique Nailhead trim by LEE Industries; www.leeindustries.com or 1-800-892-7150
Enlarge the Room: Creamy walls with dark trim make the room feel open, and the pale blue ceiling and vertical-striped draperies raise the eye
and give the effect of more space.
Chair Fabric: Salem Brown by LEE Industries; www.leeindustries.com or 1-800-892-7150
Trim Paint: Sierra Spruce by Benjamin Moore Paints
Wall Paint: Matchstick (2013) by Farrow & Ball
No voting necessary. Oversize furniture and blank walls made Associate Home Editor Amy Bickers Mercer’s living room a prime candidate for change.
Here’s proof that you can mix old and new, formal and casual, neutral and bold to make an inviting and comfortable space.
Masterful Mix: A neutral-toned sofa and armchair from Thomasville introduce contemporary lines into the space while custom draperies add a touch of tradition.
Tales and Tails: Grown-up reading fills the bookshelves while the Dash & Albert area rug keeps the space kid- and cat-friendly.
Side Tables: Modernist Wooden Side Table (W2346) and See-Through Side Table (W1813) from Wisteria; www.wisteria.com or 1-800-320-9757
Draperies: Reigate in Linen (000012123) from Calico Corners; www.calicocorners.com or 1-800-213-6366
Side Chair: Showtime in Spearmint by Robert Allen, www.robertallendesign.com
Copy Editor Stephanie Gibson was looking for a fresh start, and this condo was in the right place at the right time. But the color was so wrong for a new life.
Step away from the neutral paint and fabric. Color is the key to the big changes in the living and dining rooms.
Easy Green: Stephanie began with the easiest remedy for bland rooms―she painted the walls Celadon Green from Benjamin Moore. The spring green immediately brightened the spaces and created the perfect base for Stephanie’s collection of brightly hued furnishings and accessories.
Nature's Own: In the dining room, she tempered the bold hues of the living room with shades of green and brown. Mother Nature couldn’t have done it any better.
Draperies: Bengal in Spring from Calico Corners, www.calicocorners.com or 1-800-213-6366
Dated furniture, suffocating red walls, and bad lighting made this former bachelor pad a newlywed’s worst nightmare.
Smack in the middle of their cottage, between the living room and kitchen, Caroline and Byron Woods’s dining room needed to
handle a lot of traffic and take on a variety of roles. “We do everything in here―eat, pay bills, hang out, entertain―so we
had to make it useful for both living and working,” says Caroline.
New Furniture: A large oval table and comfortable seating transform the multipurpose room into a spot that’s casual and easy to enjoy.
Good Lighting: An elegant two-tiered chandelier casts a soft light and adds a touch of sophistication.
Rug: (81⁄2 x 11 feet) in Diamond Navy/Khaki from Dash & Albert Rug Company; www.dashandalbert.com or 1-800-442-8157 for retailers
Generous Storage: Caroline’s new china cabinet, customized with wallpaper lining on the inside, is the perfect spot for her dishes and other
China Cabinet: no longer available; for a similar look, try Garrett Glass Cabinet from Pottery Barn, www.potterybarn.com or 1-888-779-5176.
An uninviting, windowless dining room served only as a pass-through to the kitchen.
Homeowner Jennifer Eggleston knocked down a wall between the living and dining rooms to open up the cramped space.
Cottage Chic: Jennifer created a light and bright look with her mix of minimalist accessories and flea market savvy. “This room has sparseness, but it’s not contemporary,” Jennifer says.
Simple Style: Lightening the look begins with white on the walls. Black accents and industrial-look pieces such as the metal reproduction French bistro chairs add an urban edge.
Affordable Accent: Instead of a chandelier, this paper lantern “glows like a moon”. Plus, it adds big style for a low price. Jennifer paid less than $30 for hers.
Round Paper Lantern in white: For a similar look, check out the round paper lanterns at www.paperlanternstore.com.
Even the cubicles at Dunder Mifflin looked more exciting than my home office. There was no storage for files or supplies, and the room was devoid of any personality.
Thankfully, my office got a promotion. It all started when I fell in love with a painted floor I saw in a magazine. I was
determined to paint my own and convinced my husband we could do it together. (Good news: Our marriage survived!)
Pattern and Texture: The bold geometric pattern instantly adds a huge dose of style to the room, while Japanese raffia wallpaper lends subtle texture to the walls.
Design Details: Crown molding and a beaded-board ceiling create architectural charm. Blue-painted trim adds energy to the scheme.
Fine Furniture: A new desk and bookcase offer sufficient storage, and a tufted armchair and ottoman give me a space to relax with a book or late-night work.
"Full disclosure: Painting this floor was one of the hardest―but most rewarding―home-improvement projects I’ve ever done."
Floor Square Paint: Clarksville Gray (HC-102) by Benjamin Moore Paints
Floor Square Outline Paint: Night Horizon (2134-10) by Benjamin Moore Paints
Floor Square and Trim Paint: Woodlawn Blue (HC-147) by Benjamin Moore Paints
Floor Background and Ceiling Paint: Antique White (14-31) by Pratt & Lambert
Senior Photo Stylist Buffy Hargett used this second-floor room as a painting studio. Unfortunately, she had to walk through the messy area each day to get to her bedroom.
Buffy moved her studio downstairs and turned the long space into a home office.
Pale Perfection: The first step was to cover the entire room, including the wood floor, in white paint. Then she established a largely monochromatic color scheme.
Stylish Seating: Dark-toned furniture pieces ground the light and airy space. Each window seat cushion is made from foam, cut to fit and covered in a fabric remnant. Brown-and-white throw pillows add pattern and interest.
Chairs and Leather Ottoman: World Market; www.worldmarket.com or 1-877-967-5362
This half bath was cramped and right next to a full bath. But that wasn’t the home’s only problem: The washer and dryer hookups were inconveniently located.
Heather Chadduck turned this minimal space in a modest 1930s cottage into a charming laundry nook with maximum function.
Custom Carpentry: The old fixtures were removed, and a carpenter opened up the wall and built a platform to raise the height of the washer and dryer.
Surface Smarts: Beaded board lines the top half of the closet, and a concrete countertop serves as a bar for mixing drinks during parties.
Concrete Countertop: For a similar custom look, try www.cementry.com or (205) 599-9941.
If there could be anything more depressing than a sunny day spent doing laundry, it would be a sunny day spent doing laundry in this bleak basement. It had all the charm of a load of dingy whites.
Leigh Anne Montgomery treated the spartan space like a canvas and liberally dabbed her own artistic touches throughout to
create a laundry and project room.
Storage Smarts: Colorful containers and modular shelving hold utility room necessities and more.
Artful Accessories: Leigh Anne displays collectibles to add fun and life to a room that is normally neglected.
This was no bed of roses. Dark blue walls and a yellow bedspread made this room feel heavy and long overdue for some posh pruning.
Stylishly simplified, the bedroom is as easy on the eyes as it is on the body.
Sleeper Hit: A modern four-poster bed bridges past and present and gives the otherwise contemporary space a dash of Southern romanticism. Designer Jodi Macklin dressed the bed in a quilted silk duvet in a soft shade of gray. Navy pillows and an antique needlepoint lumbar pillow in navy and white highlight the bed.
Whitewash: A fresh coat of white paint freshens the room without making
it too bright to be relaxing.
Window Dressing: Contemporary patterned fabric panels draw the eye to the windows and to the backyard beyond.
When Sara Anderson moved into her apartment, this room’s walls were black. Once she remedied that, she was left with a blank slate and two requirements: The room needed to be a home office and a comfortable place for guests.
The bedroom provides space for Sara’s two sisters and their luggage, with room to spare for a convenient desk area.
Room for Two: Upholstered headboards give both twin beds more presence and create symmetry on either side of the window.
Sunny Shade: Pale yellow quilts continue the light feel established on the walls.
Clever Containers: Storage cubes at the end of each bed pull double duty as suitcase stands when company comes.
Upholstered Headboards: Squire Headboard in Arden Green from Ballard Designs; www.ballarddesigns.com or 1-800-367-2775
A basic bed frame, metal shelving unit, and rickety ceiling fan made this guest room reminiscent of a freshman dorm. Plus, just like in college, the tiny closet left little room for a complete wardrobe.
Thanks to a cheerful application of color and a new storage armoire, homeowner Lindsey Ellis Beatty has a place for her shoes
and the in-laws.
Combine Fabrics: A mix of three different florals yields a layered look.
Address the Bed: A nail-studded fabric headboard, matching bed skirt, and wall sconces make for a grand bed.
Draperies: Peyton Drapes from Pottery Barn; www.potterybarn.com or 1-888-779-5176
Wall and Trim Paint: Summer White (7557) by Sherwin-Williams
Pillow on Bed: Sunswick in Pink by Sister Parish Design, Inc.; www.sisterparishdesign.com or (914) 234-7452
Headboard Fabric: Slubby Basket in Spray from Calico Corners; www.calicocorners.com or 1-800-213-6366
In this blah room, visitors were certain to sleep well, if only because they’d be too bored for anything else! Offering little more than a bed just isn’t enough for overnight company.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the homeowners abandoned the master bedroom for this lovely getaway.
One of a Kind: A custom headboard upholstered in crewel inspires the rest of the room.
A Completed Package: Coordinating bed linens, simple draperies, and a space-enlarging mirror make this the kind of room visitors won’t want to leave.
Headboard Fabric: Shannah Trail in teastain by Vervain; www.vervain.com or 1-800-611-8686
Bedspread: coverlet from Peacock Alley; www.peacockalley.com
The young girl who lives in this room was unimpressed with the baby blue walls and bland personality.
A courageous color choice sets the stage for a fashionable space fit for any tween or teen.
Show-Off Shade: The vibrant pink paint on the walls is any little girl’s dream.
Good Night White: The bright walls are tempered by creamy whites on the bed: a heady mix of ruffles and matelassé from Pine Cone Hill and an elegant but wallet-friendly headboard from www.target.com.
Area Rug: Shaggedy Shag Cream Rug by Shaw Living from Lowe’s; www.lowes.com or 1-800-445-6937
John Taylor Moore and his wife, Catherine, agreed to wait until their baby’s birth day to discover its gender. But how do you decorate a baby’s room without knowing if it’s a boy or a girl? They needed a solution to create a sweet nursery before the stork arrived.
With soft furnishings and nostalgic accents, the couple fashioned a cozy sleeping and playing space for baby boy Jack.
Sweet Retreat: “Overall, we were going for a casual cottage look. We wanted somewhere any tiny person would feel safe, comfortable, and calm,” Catherine says.
Color Secret: Sage green is the new yellow in gender-neutral nurseries.
Twin Bed: Claudia Bed in Distressed Antique White from Pottery Barn; www.potterybarn.com or 1-888-779-5176
A drab paint color, splotchy wooden floor, and lack of architectural detail made this room, like, totally not cool enough for a 10-year-old girl.
With a chic upholstered headboard and matching valance and draperies, homeowner Lee Kleinhelter’s stepdaughter, Madison, got
a sophisticated bedroom loaded with ideas.
Accent with Color: Fabric and furniture in sky blue, orange, and chocolate brown really pop against bright white walls, which visually enlarge the space.
Follow the Rules: “My goal was to make this room useful and stylish,” says Lee. “I’m a fierce editor. My only decorating rule is to use things that you love. It’s a less-is-more approach that really works.”