Before and After: This Rental’s Living Room Went from Dark and Sad to Bright and Cozy

updated Nov 11, 2019
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Not every rental is in the care of a flexible landlord. But sometimes you can luck out, like Tiffany Hollon of The Nest Theory did. When she moved into her rental two years ago, it had black trim, a blue fireplace, and “lights that had been up since the previous year’s Christmas,” she says. “Thankfully the landlord was very laid-back and told me I could do whatever I wanted with the place. A renter’s dream!”

Even though dark and moody is not Tiffany’s typical aesthetic, she decided to lean into the living room’s existing features and focus on making the space relaxed and comfy.

Over about three months, Tiffany painted—bye, blue fireplace—and purchased and installed furniture. (She turned the black trim white right away, but in retrospect, she thinks she should have painted the walls as well before layering in the furniture.) Tiffany says she’s “been tweaking the space ever since—adding a new coffee table a few months ago and new pillows to freshen up the space when I feel it needs it.”

The total cost of her living room’s new look was $3,500, including the aforementioned coffee table, a new sofa, rug, lighting, and a faux fur throw. She already had the curtains and rods, chairs, and some additional decor.

And how’s this for a smart move? “When I realized how difficult it would be to install a pendant lamp into a 50-year-old wood ceiling—the electrician basically just laughed at me—I had the Sculptural Glass Globe Pendant I had bought from West Elm customized into a swag lamp at a local lighting store,” Tiffany says. “Now I can even take it with me when I move!”

According to Tiffany, one of the most frustrating aspects of the upgrade was managing the room’s layout. “The second ‘Before’ photo shows an early attempt at arranging the furniture and TV so that the light from the beautiful picture window wouldn’t be compromised while also displaying the fireplace,” she says. “Sadly, I determined that the hearth had to be sacrificed in favor of bringing in much needed light to the space.”

Now that she’s got her “After,” Tiffany says you shouldn’t be afraid about thinking outside your own aesthetic box. “My typical style is a minimal light and bright space with clean lines,” she says. “I’m so glad I took a leap and worked with the unique and special characteristics of this space. I now find myself bringing a cozier, more comfortable vibe to my current projects, and I love them so much better for it.”