before and after

Before & After: A Bohemian Makeover in Nebraska

by Annie Werbler

In a charming 1917 Omaha, NE home, interior decorator and blogger Megan Pettipoole helped the Whealy family play up coveted classic details like recessed window nooks, French doors, and original woodwork. Megan wanted to see the personalities of the people who lived there (including mom, dad, and two small boys) reflected in the decor, which it did not accomplish previously. “It just didn’t yet reflect the vibrancy and creativity of its residents,” she notes. She went for a look dubbed “grown-up bohemian — basically a little whimsical, but still luxurious and refined.”

After detailed conversations with her client, Darby, Megan quickly envisioned an ideal design scheme, but sourcing the items was a slower process full of antique shopping for the perfect pieces. Her patience ran out in the endless hunt for a light-wood dining table, and she called off the search, instead deciding to make it herself. “I’m not a carpenter or craftsman by any means,” she says, “Just possibly too naive and single-minded to care.” The living and dining room combo was completed in three months, and incorporates unique vintage finds on top of practical retail purchases. All decisions work toward maximizing the space’s natural light, aided by bright colors and patterned wallpaper. The original furniture layout in the living room was anchored by the fireplace with a sofa just steps from the front door. Reconfiguring this arrangement allows the space to be better-utilized with more breathing room, secures a tighter connection to the window seat, and offers a less obstructive view upon entry. In the dining room frequently used for entertaining, beautiful details were once lost in a drab color palette. “By choosing to paint the walls a darker and richer color,” Megan shares, “I was able to inject a little warmth as well as interest into the space.” She also replaced the impractical sconces that could only be shut off by unscrewing their lightbulbs!

Creative collaboration with homeowners allows Megan to “join a new family, see how they live, and create a space where their passions, goals, and dreams are realized and can flourish.” Satisfying the needs of appreciative clients is always a pleasure for Megan, but to team up with “a fellow lover of color and weird, whimsical objects” made it an absolute blast. —Annie

Photography by Bethany Gilbert

Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
In an Omaha project by decorator Megan Pettipoole, a mix of patterns, textures, and colors draws the eye into the space, while two lounge chairs offer a more welcoming view than a solid sofa placed just beyond the front door.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
A grouping of slipcovered IKEA chairs, a Moroccan tray table, mid-century lamp, and a wicker plant stand in the living room. "Adding in the tray table near the chairs provides a coffee table-like surface, and fills up the unused space between the regular coffee table and the chairs," Megan offers.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
The full seating area arrangement, viewed from behind a vintage sofa table and Darby's pair of mid-century table lamps.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
Megan believed the already-charming fireplace deserved more prominent focus, and as a result, moved part of the homeowners' book collection elsewhere in the room. She found the metallic gold floral Syroco wallhanging during a cross-country road trip. Her husband "didn't fully understand why it was important enough to take up valuable space in our rental car for the duration of the trip," Megan jokes, but "I love the way they both relate to the wallpaper, and that they are neutrals in a room otherwise filled with color."
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
The living room window seat felt too remote from the main seating pieces, so Megan warmed it up by layering Mexican serape blankets and throw pillows, making most of them herself.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
Target bookcases flank the French doors, echoing the table lamps' placement.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
A "sunlit casual vibe" in the living room, courtesy of many mixed patterns and colors on the window seat.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
The unpainted window seat woodwork adds additional warmth beside vibrant textiles.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
For some bookcase decor, Megan found a gold skull at HomeGoods that ended up being one of Darby's favorite additions to the home.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
"Love that black and gold vase with the bright pop of scarlet against the neutral wallpaper," Megan notes of the "Knots" pattern by Hygge & West.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
On the piano, another of Megan's most treasured vignettes. "Something about the spindly plant in that white geometric planter atop those adorable (and perfectly colored) kids world travel books, plus that little glimpse of wicker wallhanging making a cameo," she explains. "Love."
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
"Even pianos gotta get a little boho," Megan quips.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
In the dining room, differentiating upper and lower wallcolors gives the space light, life, and dimension.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
The charming built-in ledge below the windows now stands out against a bold teal "Sensual Jade" wall color by Valspar.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
A window nook in the dining room offered an ideal spot in which to introduce the ideas of pattern and texture, as in the living room. Megan shares, "I made these curtains using one of my favorite upholstery-weight fabrics from the Nate Berkus line at Jo-Ann Fabrics."
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
When she couldn't find an ideal ready-made model, Megan decided to make a light wood dining room table herself.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
Repetition of forms in the diamond patterns of a table runner and drapery panels.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
An understated petite hutch scored from Craigslist with a silhouette portrait of homeowners Darby and Andrew by artist Graham Burkum.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
"Love the way the wall color, table runner, Urban Outfitters black-and-white floral print by Debbie Carlos, and blonde hutch all relate to each other," Megan explains.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
Darby's vintage glassware with aqua and metallic gold detailing.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
Vintage Mexican folk art prints hang on either side of the windows. This one was found at an estate sale.
Before & After: A Grown-Up Bohemian Makeover, on Design*Sponge
Megan's friend Tiffani (owner of Hank's Fuzzy Guitars in Des Moines), found this print for the right side of the window opening.

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  • In my opinion the “before” was alright but a little dull. The “after” is much more better due to the fact that it brings life to this home.

  • I feel it would be a much fairer comparison if the two sets of photographs were lit and processed the same way. As even an amateur photographer I can tell that they are not. It gives an unfair advantage to the after photos.

    • Kirsten

      This isn’t a competition and people’s homes aren’t made for blogs. I know it’s frustrating when before & afters aren’t lit perfectly both ways, but the reality is, that isn’t how people live. They don’t plan to shoot things knowing they’ll go on a blog and be judged by other people. People often grab a quick snap and have only 1-2 shots to go on for makeovers. After 12 years of running these I can confidently say we’re lucky to get even that many “before” shots, and we’re especially lucky if they’re from the same angle. We do the best we can do get similar shots and angles and lighting, but no one is trying to trick anyone and there’s no “advantage” because this isn’t a competition, it’s a story of change in someone’s home, plain and simple.


      • I agree with Kirsten. The high-contrast photos of the afters, with their brightness pulled up so much that the highlights are blown, present an unreal picture of the change.
        For example, the after dining room here with the dark wall colour cannot possibly be brighter than the before that had light wall colour but it appears to be so.
        While the catalogue-style photographs help me see details, I would appreciate one after photograph that has the same lighting as the before.

      • Grace, I apologize if it sounded a complaint about your blog or the process. I love these types of posts and realize it isn’t a competition but rather a story. The problem is I want to be able to see and compare the differences since it is a before and after. I just couldn’t even discern what was going on in the before shots and know that lightening them up a little in photoshop and some white balance would go a long way toward helping me (and the readers) see the differences.

        • I so agree, not a complaint, just an observation that the difference in lighting is very striking. The after pics are nice but are also much brighter.

  • This is a happy home. Very nice. Do you know where the living room rug is from? Thanks.

  • It’s true, it’s definitely hard to know what photos to take at the beginning because it’s unclear what the room will look like in the end. But, with each project I’m learning a lot including the importance of taking more photos at the front end. Thanks so much for the feedback everybody! It was such a rewarding project and a thrill to have it shared!

  • Love it. Fresh and lovely! It takes a lot of skill to mix all of those patterns and colors so well. Wonderful work, full of soul. Now please come do my house!

  • Impressive! Hauling the metal flowers around in the rental car was worthwhile–it’s stunning on the mantel. Lots of good ideas here.

  • This is a gorgeous, gorgeous home, and I love the decor choices. I think they compliment the style of the home and add to it in an interesting way. The first image was gasp-worthy to me; I love the rug and wallpaper. The designer and homeowner wanted to add vibrancy and they definitely achieved that; this looks like a happy place to live.

  • Wow – what a difference! It’s so bright and vibrant and welcoming compared to the darkness before. What I love even more is that I’ve met the artist that did the silhouette! I live right across the river from Omaha, so it’s fun to see something local on this blog.

  • So pretty. I would never have thought to paint the wainscoting in the dining room a lighter color on the bottom, but it totally works. I love that teal.


  • I’m painting my dining room this weekend — it was already a lovely turquoise and I was going to go to white, but seeing this dining room inspired me to just go darker teal! Lovely makeover!!

  • I love the new living room, and that kitchen color is to die for! The space feels alive and happy….somewhere I’d love to have friends come and hang out. Oh, and that rug is amazing.

    Because there seems to be a before/after photo debate, I just wanted to say that I’ve always been keen on the idea of making the “after” photos really shine; I feel that it shows the true feelings behind the project as a whole. I mean, really- if I had a dull, dingy basement (which I do) and I was taking before photos, I’m not going to wait until the lighting is perfect or spend a ton of time editing the photo for a space that makes me feel down. I’m going to let the photo show the way I really feel about the space, and same for the “after”….once I put the time and energy into making the room beautiful, I want people to know that I’m proud of it! Anyway, just my 2 cents on the before and after photo thoughts.

  • That jade paint is amazing in that dining room and looks stunning next to the plants and copper. The wallpaper and bright textiles in the living room give it so much character and still looks like it can be lived in effortlessly!

  • Thank you for showcasing homes and designers from across the country. Many sites favor a particular region, but I love how you show a range of possibilities, people, and places. By the way, I also want to thank you for offering so many tools and resources for creatives. I found a fabulous web designer through you: fluxgusto.com. I’m incredibly grateful for your presence on the web!

  • I love the use of color in this home and the accessorizing is so well done. Beautiful makeover! I also appreciate seeing the variety of homes and their locations in these features.

  • So much to appreciate in this work here. I love the delicacy in all vignettes, they are so carefully done!! All the greenary, rich in patterns, textures and new colours… the rooms remain cozy but got much happier and intriguing to discover. I really love it.

  • Hi Grace,

    This is a beautiful transformation. Lots of pops of color now and I’m in love with the wallpaper. Can you tell me how to find it?

    Thank you! Mary

  • I love the ‘after’. It looks like a place people want to come home to, where they have a bit of fun and talk to each other. The ‘before’ could be the ‘before’ in one of those ads for antidepressants.