Before and After: This 20-Year-Old Living Room Gets A Modern Makeover

published Jun 15, 2018
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(Image credit: Kelly Elko)

After 20 years, this living room was ready for an update. It didn’t need a gut job, just a refresh, a lightening, and perhaps even a brightening. Now the room still has all of its best elements, plus a few new ones that suit the space—and the times—perfectly.

(Image credit: Kelly Elko)

This is so streamlined and sophisticated now. It’s a clear evolution of the aesthetic seen in the image before, which is fascinating to see. There are still plenty of neutral; the fabulous blue sofa is reminiscent of the blue velvet throw pillows on the old sofa; the pale blue chairs have been relocated and replaced with lighter pieces; and the collection of colorful glass decanters has been moved around as well. Kelly Elko redecorated this living room, and I think the new look suits the sunny, flowing space perfectly.

(Image credit: Kelly Elko)

I can see why Kelly originally went with more formal furniture in this room, since it has an ornate fireplace, but I also totally understand the desire to freshen things up. Here’s the scoop:

The living room in my 1903 home is long—27 feet x 13 feet—and provided a decorating challenge. Before I updated the room I was living with furniture that didn’t fit the space. My overstuffed camelback sofa was way too formal and it dominated the room. The rug was way too small for the long room and seemed to cut the room in half.

I wanted something young and fresh and pieces that really fit the space. I’ve been married for over 20 years and my tastes have changed so I wanted the living room, which is smack dab in the the center of the house, to reflect a more relaxed style.

Let’s all think for a moment about what our taste was like 20 years ago…

(Image credit: Kelly Elko)

I really appreciate the way the wicker, rattan, and seagrass elements work with the large windows and french doors to create a beachy feel; the blue furniture and art add to the vibe. The blue chairs look like they were made for the window nook, and the chairs that replaced them by the fireplace are more relaxed, like Kelly wanted, but still elegant. Casual can be chic…

I usually don’t plan rooms in advance and prefer to just let them evolve and this was one of the first spaces I actually planned. It all started with a custom seagrass rug that unifies the entire long space. This alone made such a huge difference and replaced a small rug where the furniture seemed to be clinging on for dear life!

Next was the streamlined blue velvet sofa, which doesn’t dominate the room like the old overstuffed one but takes center stage across from the fireplace. I added a pair of mismatched chairs across from the sofa (one is an outdoor rattan chair) and kept my glass and brass coffee table. The only large pieces that I kept were the pair of vintage blue velvet chairs, large armoire, and glass coffee table. A large shelving unit displays things I like to collect and lots of plants add life.

That shelf unit has a cool industrial look that frames the vintage collections in a modern way.

(Image credit: Kelly Elko)

Is this home made of sunlight? That room we’re getting a glimpse of here is so dreamy. Anyway, this photo shows how the long, subtly striped rug draws the eye through the living room and makes the most of the long space. No surprise that it is a custom piece:

Consider going custom for a rug. It’s an investment but without it, the room just would not feel unified. Always add vintage finds to your spaces—this room would not be as interesting without the huge brass Moroccan tray on my coffee table, mid-century blue velvet chairs (in their original fabric) and colorful glass decanter collection.

There are vintage pieces out there to suit any style, and they can often be found for dirt cheap.

(Image credit: Kelly Elko)

The color combination of the chair’s blue and the pouf’s tan is so delicious, especially surrounded by all that green. And that ceramic cactus is delightfully quirky! Fortunately, Kelly is also pleased with all of that and more:

I love how the custom rug pulls everything together and of course the blue velvet sofa is fabulous! I wouldn’t change a thing.

Thank you, Kelly Elko!