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Ready for a Refresh? My Best Ideas, All in One Room

Ready for a Refresh? My Best Ideas, All in One Room

When the editors at Westchester Magazine asked if I would decorate a living room for a young family in Connecticut, I said, “sounds fun!”.   When they ALSO said they were looking for super budget-friendly ideas I shouted, “HECK YES!”

My greatest joy (oh yes, except for motherhood – ahem!) is dreaming up affordable decorating ideas and taking the overwhelm out of the decorating process.  So, needless to say this project was right up my alley.

This is the living room before – a long space with all these different openings that made furniture positioning difficult:

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Here’s the after:

Photography by Ken Stabile



I LOVED doing this project.  The owners are young and creative and had a very clear vision of wanting something slightly preppy and beachy (they also love Navy and Kelly Green which was fresh and different).  It was a fun collaboration.

Here are some of the “greatest hits” from this room:


1) Furniture Placement Can Make a World of Difference

99.999% of the time, if you have a long living room, the best thing to do is to divvy up the spaces into smaller areas.

In this case, I floated a slipcovered sectional sofa from Pottery Barn in the center of the room which created a “TV watching area” one one side, and a “landing  entry” area on the other.  The sofa acts like a “mini wall”:

Photography by Ken Stabile

[Wait – a white sofa with LITTLE KIDS?! You can read all about my thoughts on family-friendly sofas here.]  


This is the same view “before”:

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See how the furniture is pushed against the walls?  When you can, try bringing furniture away from the walls.  It can make a huge difference.


2) Hack some IKEA furniture and impress your friends

We took IKEA’s Vittsjo shelf in white and sprayed it gold – now it looks like a high-end étagère.  I just cried a little I’m so happy looking at this picture right now.  The shelf is $80!  We used five cans of spray paint.



3) Budget Accessories – Don’t Break the Bank

All of these accessories were found at Target and Home Goods.  They LOOK like a million bucks but in fact they were a fraction of what you’d find in a designer store.  Even hardcover books can be purchased for pennies at garage sales and flea markets.  (Oh yeah, and see that white Chinese garden stool on the lower right?  I tend to find the best prices on Amazon.com).   You don’t have to spend a boatload!

Photography by Ken Stabile


PS: I wrapped the books on this top shelf in a neutral wrapping paper to keep the colors tame.  You can also wrap books in paper grocery bags – I have done that in the past and it actually looks great.

Photography by Ken Stabile


4) DIY Windows

This has to be one of my favorite affordable decorating tips – buy bamboo shades from a store like Lowes or Home Depot!  JC Penney also has a great selection.  You can actually get them custom cut for your windows.

Photography by Ken Stabile

We then purchased plain white linen curtain panels from West Elm and I had the owner (who is super crafty and creative) find navy grosgrain ribbon at a fabric store.  We had it sewn onto the curtains for a custom look.  (You actually don’t need to sew the ribbon – I’ve done this before in my own home, and I just glued the ribbon onto the curtains using fabric glue).

Here are the windows before.  SUCH a pretty wall of windows….see how they are just begging for a little bamboo shade action??

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And the completed DIY window look:

Photography by Ken Stabile


5) Double Down on Rugs

This is a favorite “sneaky trick” I’ve used a few times.  If you have a super large room, don’t worry about buying a humongous, expensive, custom-sized rug.

Instead, purchase two of the same rug, in the same size.  Here, we purchased two 8 x 10 Indoor-Outdoor Dash & Albert rugs (yet another sneaky decorator tip I use in households with little kids – use indoor-outdoor rugs!).

Photography by Ken Stabile


I know these are a million different ideas, all in one place.  Phew!  Hope you made it to the end!

If you want to read even MORE tips and tricks we used in this room (including my 3 Best Designer Tips Ever), you can find the article here.

NB: all the “after” photos you see here are courtesy of Ken Stabile Photography.

  • Sarah's Book Shelves

    January 24, 2017 at 11:32 AM Reply

    Love this!! A booklover question for you – I get that covering books with grocery bags makes them cleaner looking and aesthetically pleasing. BUT – as a book lover (and someone who likes to stalk people’s bookshelves when I go into their homes), I just have to have the covers/titles showing on my books. Any tips on how to make bookshelves look cleaner while still keeping the covers/titles showing?

    • Lorri Dyner

      March 7, 2017 at 8:01 PM Reply

      Sarah – I’m sorry I never responded to your awesome question!!!! YES, one thing I did in my own home office was to organize titles by color. I did it while on conference calls or work calls – it’s mindless work so you can totally double task. You put all the “white” books next to each other, then the “blue” books, etc. You can see the final result here:

      The effect is very calming and pretty.

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