Before and After: A Plain White Living Room Gets Lots More Color and Charm

published Oct 5, 2019
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Olivia Tinker, of A South London Style, lived with her boyfriend Tom in their new build for a year before they were able to redecorate. That might not sound terrible—but for Olivia, a lover of color and texture, coming home to a plain white living room wasn’t easy!

“We didn’t decorate anything for the first year we lived here. With a new build you have a year’s defect warranty, which meant if there were any problems and things needed to be fixed, they would return the room to its original state. Waiting for the year to be up was torture!”

After a year of blank walls, Olivia knew she wanted to go for blue paint. “I find it to be very calming and relaxing, and it’s a color I’ve never gotten bored of. Throughout my life I’ve always been drawn to the color blue! So I knew it was a personal choice and not just something I was choosing to follow a trend. I’ve tried to use the color blue throughout to link the space together.” She and Tom had a painter tackle the large wall blue; later, Olivia painted the smaller wall behind the dining area. Also blue: the small armchair and ottoman Olivia had her uncles reupholster for her in a lighter shade that contrasts beautifully with the dark walls.

Olivia and Tom wanted a space that felt “cozy and welcoming, somewhere to relax and socialize, but also somewhere that felt stylish and in keeping with the modern feel to the flat and building.” To give the room maximum gathering potential, Olivia’s family created and gifted her a very large sofa for the space from their upholstery business, Gibson and Gibson Furnishings. It acts as a divider between the kitchen and living room and, of course, provides lots of seating for friends when they visit.

The gallery wall has been a work in progress over the four years the couple has lived in the space. It’s filled with a mix of prints, photography, cards, and other things the couple loves, and Olivia plans to keep adding to it as their collection grows.

A savvy shopper, Olivia purchased the David Hockney poster that’s over the radiator from a thrift shop for just £15. For deals, she also picks up decor at antique stores as well as on eBay. Another one of her smart money-saving tips: The couple had Farrow and Ball’s Hague Blue mixed in a more affordable paint brand to save money—same color, but cheaper price point. And when Olivia found curtains she loved from French designer Sarah Lavoine that were out of budget, she purchased some of Lavoine’s linen fabric and had her nan sew it into curtains for her.

“I couldn’t get the width of fabric I needed for two curtains, which initially I saw as a set back,” says Olivia. “However, she made me three separate curtains and I hung them across two parallel poles, with one curtain in the center at the back, to fill the space. It’s created a really nice layered and textured feel and actually turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the room.”

All in, the remodel cost Olivia and Tom approximately £1250, including the rug, paint, cost of labor, and furniture (excluding the gifted sofa)—all of which bring in gobs of personality. Way to think outside the big white box, Olivia and Tom!