Mood Board for a living room

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When my friend Ashley asked for my help redesigning her sitting room, I jumped right on it. Design is one of the favorite aspects of my job, and even though most of my DIY makeover gig involves building, sometimes it’s relaxing to just make things nice with furniture, ya know? 

She wasn’t sure which design style she favored, so we started by browsing through various Pinterest and Instagram accounts to look through and narrow down her interests. In this case, we discovered she prefers a more modern, traditional style, and found several images from Studio Mcgee to use as inspiration for her living room makeover.

White room with a window and couch
Living room with a grey couch and red rug

When I’m designing a room, the first piece I choose is the rug, because of its huge statement potential. I love finding a rug that includes multiple patterns and colors, and then building the rest of the room around the tone of the rug.

Ashley loved the look of this rug from the Amber Lewis x Loloi collection. Its subtle colors and patterns grounded the design, without overwhelming the senses.

Red rug

We began her living room makeover by searching for one piece of furniture at a time that fit within the styles we had pre-determined, starting with the couch. Since this was to be a formal sitting room, Ashley loved the idea of a more sophisticated couch, and especially liked the look of tufted sofas. However, she also valued comfort, and we were having a hard time finding anything that satisfied both requirements. We decided comfort was the priority, and so we looked for something with a softer upholstery. Color wasn’t much of a concern since her children were grown, and sticky fingers and dirty shoes on the couch weren’t a threat anymore. We considered a camel-colored leather upholstery which would have lended a more modern vibe, but she settled on a beautiful white couch from DownEast home. It had a very modern vibe, with slender arms and a wooden base, and it was a big, beautiful couch that brightened up the room considerably. And, as an added bonus, it was extremely comfortable.

White couch

With our rug and couch picked out, we were able to start mapping out the space. We weren’t sure what size rug to buy, and wanted to really capitalize on it defining the space. It’s important to make sure it would be big enough to overlap the couches and chairs at least halfway, while still having enough space in between the furniture for comfortable movement. We settled on 8’4″ x 11’6″, which left us about 3-4 feet of carpet visible around each edge (Yes! You can put rugs over carpet!).

We used painters tape on the floor to map out the rug, chairs, and couch. This gave us an idea for which sizing to consider when looking at coffee tables, end tables, accent chairs, and sideboards. With that information, we knew the search parameters to shop within.

Painters tape on a living room floor

A quick google search for “furniture spacing guidelines” can give you an idea for ideal spacing if you need some direction, but keep in mind that these aren’t hard and fast rules! Design is largely creative, so don’t be afraid to step outside of what “should” be done if you find something else you love!

When doing a living room makeover, my general rule of thumb for selecting accent colors is to pick out one or two NON-neutral colors from the color palette of the rug. When I say “neutral”, I mean anything that is white, black, beige, cream, tan, grey, wood, or gold. The rug had some beautiful blue undertones, and Ashley loved the idea of utilizing a muted blue as an accent color because of its calming, relaxed effect. 

When it comes to selecting a color, including neutrals, I pick a base color, then try to spread them evenly throughout the room in various sizes (but again, design rules are meant to be broken!). For example, my white base color was brought in through the couch and the color on the walls.

Since we picked a blue tone out of the rug, we emphasized the color in the curtains we hung. Then, through the throw pillows, we tied the color it in again, but in a subtle approach. Lastly, we included the color in small doses here and there, across the room, throughout the images in the gallery wall.

Doing this with each or most of your colors will help make the room look cohesive, and as if each item was purposely made to go together. If you’re just starting out, I would keep your non-neutral color selection down to 1-2 colors and go from there.

blue curtains in a living room with a white couch
blue curtains in a living room with a white couch

We knew we wanted a gallery wall, so in a similar way, we tied the black picture frames in with the black legs from the side table and the hardware of the curtain rods. The color black is evenly spread throughout the room, and thus, the whole room is tied together. I also do this with wood tones, but in some cases I will count wood tones and gold as one “color” if they are similar enough.

Also, don’t be afraid to mix wood tones! I would try to stick with the same general warmth of the wood. i.e. I wouldn’t mix a very warm cherry red wood with a very cold gray toned wood, although, I’m sure there are instances where this has been done and it looks amazing! You can see how the wood tone of the chairs is far lighter than the sideboard, but it still works, so I wouldn’t be concerned about mixing a warm, light colored wood with a warm, dark colored wood.

black framed pictures above a console table
living room

When selecting my decor, I also like to add a variety of textures. In this case, we have the softness of the couch and cushions, the texture of the wood, the shiny blingy-ness of the white lamps and globe on the sideboard, the rough earthy-ness of the concrete tops on the end tables and pottery, the waffle weave of the throw blanket and the wicker baskets, and so on etc. Changing up the textures makes a room much more interesting. 

And lastly, the plants. I love how plants, specifically green plants will (literally) add life to any space…even if it’s fake. It’s amazing how realistic artificial plants can look. I like to spread plants in various sizes, shades, and textures throughout the room.

living room with a plant on a coffee table

After adding those final touches, suddenly the space is brought together and you can enjoy your hard work and grab a front row seat to the beauty of your new room! Good luck with your own living room makeover!

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