One Room Challenge

Before and After: A “Secret Garden” Redo Makes This Plain Living Room Feel Cozier

published Jun 1, 2023
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About this before & after
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living/family room before makeover. Dark gray sectional, beige curtains, large window, gray walls with white trim

Physically, the easiest time to paint a room is before you move in, when it’s totally empty — but that time can often feel rushed with everything else there is to do in a new home. That was Mehr Niazi’s (@blueorchidliving) experience with her family’s living room. When they moved into their home in 2018, they had just enough time to give the living space a quick coat of gray paint before filling it with cozy furniture so that it could serve as a family hangout spot.

But a few years later, Mehr gave the space a second look. “That all-the-rage gray no longer looked fresh or appealing,” she says, so she set out to give the living room a more inviting look that would still keep all the coziness.

“I wanted [it] to be a space where we felt creative, relaxed, and also comfortable,” Mehr says. Key to that goal would be getting rid of all that gray in favor of colors that felt lighter and breezier.

As part of the One Room Challenge, Mehr decided to give this living room a totally new look inspired by gardens and French style. The process — a total DIY — took eight weeks.

A huge part of the transformation was getting rid of that gray paint. Instead, Mehr hung a garden-inspired wallpaper. “It set the stage for the room and everything else followed,” Mehr says. Rather than letting the baseboards and crown molding blend in, Mehr chose a light green for both (Farrow & Ball’s Whirlybird) that helps them pop. 

Mehr wanted to outfit this room with furniture from Facebook Marketplace (a smart way to save big on furnishings), but that meant she had to make tweaks to her plan based on what she could find. For example, she says, “I wanted a Ming-style coffee table in this room, but had to make adjustments due to what was available.” Persistence helped her snag the right mix of pieces, including the coffee table, side tables, and bookshelf. Because she saved on those, Mehr says, she was able to splurge on the sofa.

The “after” is all cozy, welcoming vibes. “I love how inviting and fun this room is,” Mehr says. “It truly feels like you are in a secret garden. It has an air of sophistication but still is as functional as it was before.”

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

Inspired? Submit your own project here.