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Give your living room a face-lift

Just like your wardrobe, your home can look dated if nothing has changed for a decade. We took away what seemed “tired” and revived this room with quick, easy changes.

Too often, living rooms are static spaces, decorated once, and then never changed for decades. Dan and Alice Hurley, two writers who live in Montclair, NJ, had a living room that was stuck in the classic decorating doldrums. A beige damask sofa was covered with a red-and-white blanket to camouflage threadbare cushions and the juice stains made by the kids in their 3-year-old daughter Annie’s play group. An oversize plaid chair seemed better suited to a den. Wall-to-wall carpeting, inherited with the house, also showed its age. A big TV teetered atop a too-small table, and every surface was cluttered. White walls played it safe and did nothing to enhance the space.

New York interior designer Laura Bohn revived this living room in less than three weeks while spending little cash and recycling much of the original furniture.

* First, the walls were painted a soothing celadon green, a favorite of Bohn’s for its clean, calming effect. Cool colors such as green recede, helping a small room feel larger.

* Next, the wall-to-wall carpeting was removed, the wood floor was polished, and a neutral-hued, soft nylon sisal-look area rug (childproofed with Scotchgard) from Pottery Barn was put in place for a lighter, fresher look.

* The Hurleys’ existing furniture was slipcovered to help harmonize mismatched pieces: The sofa was covered in a plush but durable moss-colored velvet, with pillows in a mix of Waverly fabrics–lemon-yellow, bold blue, and the same airy leaf print that transformed the club chair. “Using an assortment of pillows, rather than the matching ones that usually come with sofas, is an instant way to make any couch look more interesting and inviting,” points out Kevin Fitzpatrick of City Workroom in New York City, which made the slipcovers.

* Bohn tried a novel storage idea: A wicker dresser from Pier 1 Imports, more typically ensconced in a bedroom, slides in neatly beneath the window to hold the television while concealing clutter–videos, magazines, extra table linens–in its drawers. Using one ample piece rather than a hodgepodge of small tables is an ideal way to streamline a space.

* Instead of a traditional coffee table, a textured leather ottoman from Ethan Allen offers extra seating, a great place to put your feet up, and a surface for serving (with the help of a tray).

* At the windows, fussy lace curtains with poufy valances were replaced with clean-lined wooden blinds that complement the strong architectural detail of the room.

“I can’t believe how much more serene this room feels now,” says Alice. “I look forward to coming home and relaxing in here with my family at the end of the day. Dan says it feels like we’re staying in a beautiful country inn!”


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