before & after: living room transformation

I sincerely hope I’m not offending anyone when I say this, but I think the “before” living room is my personal nightmare. I love me some burgundy, don’t get me wrong, but the oversized maroon leather sofa, white lace curtains, thick floral carpet and lacquered furniture are giving me a dusty, old dollhouse vibe that I do not enjoy. And don’t get me started on that clock coffee table . . . the famous coffee table scene in When Harry Met Sally instantly comes to mind: “It’s so awful, there’s no way to even begin to explain what’s so awful about it.”

The “after,” however, is like a breath of fresh air. I appreciate that Laura and Cully took pains to preserve the original character of the home, selecting beautiful historical colors for their walls and furnishing with a curated selection of thrifted pieces and antiques. They also managed to imbue the home with their own modern touches, like cinder block shelving, artwork and accessories. The result is a light, airy, welcoming space, with a perfect balance of old and new. — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read the full post after the jump . . .

Time: about 1 month

Cost: $4000

Basic Steps: The most important thing for us was to remove the carpet and have the wood floors redone. We asked friends, neighbors and coworkers who have wood floors we liked who worked on them. We ended up finding someone who wasn’t in the phone book but cost $1 less per square foot.

Second, we removed the wallpaper and picked historic paint colors that would have been used around the time the house was built. We also used to find paint colors that would match with our furniture and woodwork. I was on a first-name basis with the guys at our hardware store; their wealth of knowledge and skillset at matching colors and helping with the right quality and gloss is amazing, but as with anyone else, a smile goes a long way in getting good service.

The best advice we got was from Cully’s dad, who said, “Don’t do everything at once — live in the house a while before making big changes because you may be surprised what will work best for you.” That’s why there aren’t before and after photos of the kitchen yet. We are still in the process of deciding how we want the space to work. In terms of working with your partner, I would say divide and conquer. With as many hours as we put in ripping up carpet, painting and moving in, I think I may have killed him if we hadn’t taken on different rooms at a time. Plus it feels inspiring to see the work each of us has done by the end of the day! — Laura

Paint: Benjamin Moore
Bathroom floors: Home Depot
Couches: Estate sales, Craigslist
Chairs: Ikea

  1. The “after” is EXACTLY how I would want my house to look . . . if I owned a house . . . which I don’t. *sobbing sounds* I especially love the contrast between the wall color and the couch color. (And, yes, the “before” is my nightmare too).

  2. Jennifer H. says:

    I’d love to know the color of blue on the walls, it’s beautiful. Well done on the renovation!

  3. I am…speechless! I never would have guessed this was the same room; the “after” is so relaxing and stylish. I hope you share your kitchen transformation once it is complete!

  4. isabel says:

    brilliant. great job.

  5. Jennifer D says:

    Beautiful. Just my speed.

  6. Diana says:

    This is my personal nightmare too! It’s hard to see the potential when there is so much unfortunate going on. What a lovely turn around!

    This is my favorite part of your blog!


  7. Suzy8track says:

    Lovely transformation. The rooms looks so bright and airy now.

  8. robyn says:

    haha, wagon wheel coffee table. Next thing you know you’re singing Surray with a Fringe on top in front of Ira!

  9. EGADS!!!! (not a word I commonly use, but honestly this jumped to mind in a big way. ) This has got to be one of the most dramatic transformations I’ve seen here. OH MY GOODNESS. Truly….dusty granny chic before is the kindest way I can put it, and just lovely with the new decor! WELL DONE.

  10. Ally says:

    Wow, what a perfect update! I love the blue, and against the trim/woodwork it’s to die for.

  11. Stephanie says:

    I’m wondering if she meant to say she used That site is such an amazing resource!

  12. kathi dunphy says:

    Yes the original was really awful BUT I dont see anyplace to throw oneself horizontal with a good book in the reno. Despite that red leather couch being ugly, I bet it was comfortable!

  13. Katherine says:

    Stunning! I’d just spend my days sitting and reading in this room. Could you tell us where your mirror is from?

  14. Sofia says:

    beautiful! Kathi their green sofa looks comfortable, no?

  15. Laura says:

    Thanks for all the nice comments! I did mean The mirror was my grandma’s but you can get a similar one from ikea and paint it white. The blue paint color is benjamin moore “newburg green.”

  16. Maricel says:

    Love it!,,, speciallynthe cozy cornersm

  17. Monique says:

    Wow this is really gorgeous!

  18. June says:

    Itá one of the best transformations I´ve seen here, the space seems a lot bigger, lighter, efficient. Well done.

  19. Bree says:

    Probably a dumb question, but how did you research historic paint colors? I really like the idea of using colors that match the time period of the house.

  20. how2home says:

    This room is very interesting i see that client’s vision is definitely keep the “history” of the room…and i think the after photos really reflected on their vision! Not a fan of the wall color though….

  21. Tricia says:

    I absolutely love what you’ve done! Beautiful but with soul. Well done! Can I pick on one thing? I make, sell and install paintings, and those paintings over the couch (stuck to the cieling) are floating and giving me a neckache! Bring them down so their centres are at around 56″ (eye level)

  22. Sarah H says:

    What color is the creamy yellow walls?

  23. casey says:

    I agree, before pictures =nightmare after pictures = absolute dream! I am in love with this transformation!

  24. Martrese says:

    I love Robyn’s comment, and only yesterday did I see the base of a coffee table sitting abandoned curbside and thought of the wagon wheel scene from WHMS. Ha!

  25. Katy says:

    We have natural wood trim in our 1890s home and it’s really challenging to find inspiration for design. Thanks for posting this before and after – it’s giving me some great ideas! You did a fantastic job of balancing old and new.

  26. lua says:

    After shows off the antique charm of the house and I love that pretty carved trim sofa. Well done.

  27. jen_g says:

    I’ll have to let my mother know that her cinder-block shelves to house all my father’s textbooks were ‘modern’ ;) Lovely transformation!

  28. jacqui says:

    Wow, I really love the integrity of this subtle design. The character and history of the house were left intact, but replaced with light and charm.

  29. I love this so, soooo much. We’re in the middle of house hunting right now and looking at 1890s farmhouses so this is incredible inspiration!

  30. Katie says:

    Love it!! Such a great transformation! From drab to fab! :)

  31. Curleys says:

    Great house!

  32. Hug says:

    wonderful transformation!

  33. miska says:

    Ha! Kate, that was some cleaver writing. You made me laugh out loud, thanks!

  34. Alice says:

    I’m not exactly blown away by the after, but I do like it. Just about anything would be better than that before.

  35. sarah says:

    I love that you took those windows out of hiding. Thanks so much for sharing this fantastic transformation!


Design*Sponge reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.