Before and After: A “Band-Aid Beige” Living Room Gets a Cozy, Retro Makeover

published Dec 29, 2023
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If you fantasize about the mid-century modern architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Williams, Eileen Gray, and more, you should know one thing: If or when you purchase a mid-century modern home, sometimes it’s in pristine condition and has been so lovingly cared for that very few changes need to be made. But most of the time, these bygone homes have fallen by the wayside and need to be brought back to their original glory (with a few modern touches, too). Often with great bones in place, like amazing stone fireplaces and large entryways, mid-century homes are worth updating.

That was certainly the case for interior designer Rebecca Plumb (@studioplumb). She says that when she moved into her home along with her husband, 9-year-old daughter, and labradoodle, “Everything was the color of a Band-Aid,” from the carpet to the popcorn ceilings to the crumbling drapery. But there were certain features in the living room that caught her eye. For instance, she says, “I loved the original breeze block wall and the view to our yard.” She painted the room blue in 2020 and adored the hue, but the rest of the room never felt quite right, despite trying various layouts over the years. It wasn’t until 2023 during the One Room Challenge that she finally landed on a design that was ideal for her style and her family’s needs.

Credit: Studio Plumb

This living room redo is all about an eye for the extra details.

As a design pro, Rebecca knew to start with the floor plan of the room before doing anything else. She was also ready to invest in some “quality upholstered furniture,” and when she had the pieces, she tried several different layouts to maximize the seating without cutting off the room, as it’s located in the middle of the house. 

Next, she says that adding finishing details to the areas outside of the seating really helped the room feel complete. “We added plants to our integrated planter in the entry, retiled the fireplace hearth to feel like its mid-century roots, and applied peel-and-stick wallpaper to the built-in bookshelves,” Rebecca says.

Credit: Studio Plumb

The focal point fireplace got a little new tile.

When moving into a mid-century home, it can feel as if you’re betraying the home’s history if you update it with modern-day materials, especially if you’re a purist. But some materials here and there can absolutely be switched out to reflect your style. 

Within Rebecca’s design, she knew that the hearth tiles could go. They weren’t original to the impressive stone fireplace, and the overall appearance needed some updating. Rebecca went with a concrete terrazzo that was thicker than the old tiles and certainly showed off more character and color than the terracotta tile that preceded it.

Credit: Studio Plumb

Layered lighting makes it homey.

In the center of the room, Rebecca converted one of the recessed can lights in the living room into a spot for a statement-making flush mount fixture from Mitzi. “Our new fixture is softer than can lights,” Rebecca shares.

The brass Sputnik mid-century fixture near the breeze blocks weaves additional personality into the space and provides better light as well.

Going even bolder with blue adds drama. 

Having previously swathed the walls in a denim blue (Behr’s Blueprint), Rebecca chose to take the color to the ceiling in her latest living room makeover. She advises: “Don’t be afraid to paint the ceiling and walls a deep color, especially with low ceilings. If I had left our ceilings white, it would be the first thing you’d notice. Instead, your eyes stay low, and you’re enveloped in a cozy den.”

This project was completed for the Fall 2023 One Room Challenge, in partnership with Apartment Therapy. See even more of the One Room Challenge before and afters here.