Before and After: A “Garish” Living Room Gets a Soft, Dreamy Redo for $1,270

published Dec 21, 2023
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Many room makeovers on Apartment Therapy take a room with muted walls and make them more bold and colorful. Soome do the opposite and tone down a too-intense color. Both options can work, depending on what else is happening in the space. 

In Lou Crane’s (@notaperioddrama) living room, the extremely teal walls were competing with the architectural details and existing furniture. “The previous color was a cold and oppressive blue, and the beautiful, original parquet floor was hidden under layers of yellow varnish,” Lou says of her living room before. “The period features were lost behind garish blinds and mismatched furniture.”

Her aim for the living room, which she shares with her partner and their two cats, was to “let its features sing again,” including the flooring, the stained glass windows, the fireplace, and the high ceilings. 

Credit: Lou Crane

Soft pink paint and picture frame molding suit the old home’s details. 

Lou started by choosing a new, subtler color palette, “which is soft and cocooning,” she says — perfect for a living room. She adds that the new hues complement rather than overshadow. Her paint color choices are Rustoleum’s Homespun for everything below the picture rail, and Steamed Milk for the ceiling.

To elevate the walls even further, Lou added picture frame molding “to really highlight the height in here,” she explains. It was a first-time DIY for her, and it was tricky in a period home that, unsurprisingly, features a lot of irregularities. “I spent two days measuring and planning out all of the lengths and angles down to the smallest detail, but the house is so old that in practice, nothing is straight or has the same measurements,” Lou says. “In the end I just eyeballed it, and it worked perfectly.” 

Credit: Lou Crane
Credit: Lou Crane

The velvet sofa adds a pop of color.

Lou didn’t want her color palette to be totally muted, so she chose to go bold with her furniture. The biggest, boldest piece is the Facebook Marketplace velvet sofa, which Lou says was initially a bit out of her comfort zone. “The clash between burnt orange and soft pink is something I think is really unique,” she says, adding that the color combo has “a modern edge.” 

Lou’s best living room redecorating advice is to let Facebook Marketplace or other online secondhand goods groups be a source for creativity. “I never would have chosen this in a store, so scrolling through is a great idea for inspiration that you didn’t think would come,” she says. 

Lou also browsed YouTube videos and Instagram for inspo and bought a couple of new items, like the burnt orange footstool and beanbag, artwork, and a white-globed light fixture.

Credit: Lou Crane

Simplifying helped the vintage details sing. 

The same adage that Lou learned with the paint and picture frame molding also proved to be true for other details, like the windows and floors: Keep it simple. 

For her room reno, Lou sanded and stripped down the yellow varnish on the parquet floors and sealed them with a much more natural-looking raw oil, which was no small feat. In hindsight, she says, “I would 100 percent hire an industrial sander for the floor instead of trying to trudge along by hand; it takes so much time and makes so much mess that the quicker you can get it done, the better.”

Lou also removed the blinds to let the stained glass be an unobstructed feature in the space. Overall, she says that the best thing that she did with this project was to “go with her gut.” The philosophy helped her completely transform the look of her living room for around £1000, or roughly $1270. 

The result? “Such a calm space [that] makes the perfect family living room,” Lou says. “It feels so much bigger than it did before, and we’ve managed to lovingly restore all of the period features, making them the stars of the show.”