Tips for Refreshing a Living Room
by Lucy E.M. Black
When we moved in seven years ago, the movers plunked down the furniture and things have stayed pretty much the same since that time. I’ve shifted the couch a few feet every now and then but have basically left the major rooms alone. Having renovated the kitchen, the front hall, two bathrooms, the laundry room and the mud room, it’s now time to take on the living room. Realizing that this has the potential for being very costly, I’ve been prioritizing the things I want to achieve without completely blowing our budget. There are lots of decorating magazines and websites with fabulous ideas. I’ve compiled a list of suggestions that I will use as a sort of checklist for our project.
- Paint the walls and woodwork. The trend seems to be to use pale neutrals (i.e., creams, whites, grays, beiges), with only a few pops of color. Accent walls may be painted a rich contrasting color with accent furnishings like pillows and lampshades and throws and curtains to either match the accent wall or tone in with the neutrals.
- Improve room lighting. There should be overhead lighting with a dimmer switch plus task lighting such as a reading lamp, and mood lighting such as lamp on an end table.
- Inject at least one “trendy” piece in the room that will draw interest. Something shiny like a large mirror, metal vase, or interesting art object.
- Add texture. Use the carpet and soft furnishings, particularly throws and cushions, to add layers of texture (i.e., sensual to touch) to the room.
- Edit clutter. Pack away anything that isn’t useful or beautiful. (Admittedly this will be tough. I have collected far too many tchotchkes.)
- Create a focal point and arrange seating around that area. It might be a fireplace, a huge window with a great view, or a fabulous piece of art.
- Balance the location and size of a television with a credenza or sideboard or similarly bulky piece of furniture that helps to ground it in the space.
- If you have small children in the house, or small children who come to visit, create a designated play-safe area with storage for some toys.
- Include some flexible furnishings in the room. Things like ottomans can double as seating or coffee tables when entertaining. Many ottomans also have hidden storage which will help keep clutter under control.
- If you don’t already have one, find a great coffee table. It should be large enough to hold snacks or drinks when entertaining. Avoid sharp corners if there are small children in the house.
- Invest in a great piece of art. Choose a piece that makes your heart sing. (This one will be easy—I live with an artist, and I always get first pick in the studio!)
- Add something whimsical to the room that speaks to the personality of the people who live there. This could be a photo wall, a travel souvenir, a small collection of prized objects, a pile of interesting coffee-table books, or anything that speaks to who you are and what you love.
- Try to rearrange your furniture rather than buying new (to keep the costs down). Take pieces from other parts of the house and use them in quirky ways. Repurpose a dresser for magazine storage or equip a tea trolley as a portable bar for mixing drinks. (I’d really like a couple of new chairs and a love seat. We’ll see what happens.)
- Create attractive vignettes with some of your interesting objects. Some scented candles and plants with a couple of other items perched on an end table or mantelpiece always looks welcoming. If you have a fireplace that you don’t use, fill it with fat, chunky pillar candles.
- Arrange your seating so you can have intimate conversations in the room while also accommodating larger gatherings. Ensure that you can move comfortably around the room with a vacuum cleaner without bumping into things and bruising your shins.
- Remember to keep the space inviting and warm. You want the room to embrace you without making you afraid of spilling something.
Our living room project will start with lighter paint. It’s currently a light beige, but we are switching it out to a pure white. I love the fresh, soft white of Benjamin Moore’s “Cloud White.” The house has a wraparound veranda, which is fabulous but means that the living room doesn’t get as much natural light as I would like. The white paint will brighten the room. The next job will be scraping the popcorn ceiling (ugh) and having crown molding installed. After that, I will tackle the other items on the checklist. It may take several months, and I’ll probably blow our budget, but it’s fun to plan a project like this and see it gradually come together. I hope my list gives you something to dream about, too!
Photo credit by: Spacejoy (Miami FL)
Lucy EM Black is the author of The Marzipan Fruit Basket (Inanna Publications), Eleanor Courtown (Seraphim Editions), and Stella’s Carpet (Now or Never Publishing). Her award-winning short stories have been published in a number of literary journals and magazines in Britain, Ireland, the US, and Canada. She is a dynamic workshop presenter, experienced interviewer, and freelance writer. She lives with her partner in a small lakeside town north-east of Toronto. The Brickworks (Now or Never Publishing) will be released in the Fall of 2023.