Before and After: A Dreamy Terracotta Makeover Transforms This “White Box” Living Room

published Jan 15, 2024
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About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Living Room
Skill Level
Rental Friendly

Design inspiration can come from anywhere, at any time. For Diana Yen (@diana_yen_), her penchant for Spanish design style influenced her stunning living room makeover. 

“The living room was pretty generic — just a plain white box,” before, Diana explains, and although her two-bedroom house is technically more mid-century, “the arches throughout feel Spanish,” she says.

The arches — and the view of the mountains outside — were the only two things Diana loved about the “before,” and they spurred an entire design vision. Diana took inspiration from historic Spanish design for her living room makeover (think: warm earthy tones, textured walls, wooden and stone accents, and vibrant patterns).

Credit: Diana Yen

A terracotta treatment on the walls adds all-over character.

Diana used a DIY stone-like wash on all of the walls; she chose a terracotta paint mix from Kalklitir. While the color adds a ton of depth and character as-is, the application method is really what sets it apart. 

The color washed walls have a lived-in, textured finish that is typically achieved by feathering out the brush strokes and applying a glaze to the top layer of the paint. (The more frenetic your brush strokes are, the more successful the end result will be.) “I did it all by hand with a small paintbrush, and it gives my home a homemade quality,” Diana says of her living room walls. 

“I really love paint — I think it’s an incredible way to completely change the mood of a room, and it’s relatively inexpensive even if you use the best stuff,” Diana says. “I ended up going with an earthy pinkish terracotta shade that I love seeing transform from morning until night. Everyone always says it’s their favorite part of my house.”

Credit: Diana Yen

Plush furniture softens the space.

The room is filled with thoughtful accents that truly give the space its European elegance. Plush throw pillows line the down-filled couch from Sixpenny — which Diana notes was her biggest splurge of the $10,000 makeover — and striped or geometric details bring a playfulness to the side table, table lamp, seating area, and wall trim.

Some things didn’t go to plan; the furniture took a lot longer to arrive than expected. Diana was left using camping furniture until it arrived, but the end result was well worth the wait. “The furniture is low and deep; you can really sink in and relax. And I have a big Noguchi floor lamp to keep it feeling moody and warm,” Diana says. 

Her aim was to create a living space that felt inviting to everyone, and that’s exactly what she achieved. “I think it just feels so safe and comforting in my living room,” she says.