Before and After: A Shabby Living Room Gets an Old-Meets-New Makeover

published Mar 30, 2022
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About this before & after
Project Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
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Credit: Lily Sawyer

Rental properties usually see a lot more residents over the years than homes that are owned, which can lead to some very understandable extra wear-and-tear. Take this living room in the home of Lily Sawyer, who blogs at Layered Home. Lily was in the generally enviable position of owning a two-bedroom home close to the seaside that was a rental before her family moved in. The living room in particular had fallen victim to extra foot traffic. “It was painted in chalky white throughout, and the carpets were really worn and dirty,” Lily says. 

Credit: Lily Sawyer

When Lily pictured how she wanted her family to use this living space, she imagined a room that was cozy and inviting. “The idea was that when we walked in, we could kick off our shoes and sink into a comfy sofa,” she says. “We would feel calm and enjoy the views.” With this image in mind, it was easier to point out the existing details that could join in. The living room was equipped with a wide front window, picture rails, and a tall ceiling, as well as a fireplace surrounded by an intricate mantel. Lily aimed to highlight these features using enveloping furniture and bright accessories, as well as the most dependable DIY tool there is: paint. 

Credit: Lily Sawyer

First, she painted the walls under the picture rail with leftover paint in a clay color so it contrasts with the white walls above. Keeping the shutters and window frames white helps them stand out. Lily also added a picture frame moulding accent on the room’s main wall for even more depth, and painted the bookcases in the same clay shade for cohesion. Lily then replaced the non-functional electric fireplace with a large mirror, and added fairy lights for a bit of fun. 

Credit: Lily Sawyer

“In terms of furniture, I wanted a contemporary feel that was light and fresh to contrast with the period features,” she says. “The corner sofa in soft teal is so comfy and provides ample seating for my family of five. It converts to a sofa bed for sleeping, too.” Beside it, Lily placed wood tables and contemporary lamps, and added a vibrant rug to the floor to help camouflage the old wall-to-wall carpet. And as a final step, she interspersed thrifted items with things she already owned on the shelves. 

“I love how the space feels so much more up to date while still retaining the original features of the home,” she says. “The clay-colored walls give a historic heritage feel, but the bright colors of the furniture and accessories inject a contemporary appeal.” 

As much as Lily is enjoying her refreshed living space, she’s picturing more changes in the future — all in the name of even more coziness, of course. “Eventually I would like to rip out the old carpet and perhaps fill the bookcases with lots of books and ceramics,” she says.