My Living Room Makeover Doubled My Storage (It Looks So Much Bigger!)

published May 12, 2024
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
About this before & after
Project Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly

When two people move in together, they bring their habits and taste along with their literal belongings, and making room for both can be challenging. Before I moved into my boyfriend’s house, we discussed how to make his place feel like ours.

Most of the house was filled with predominantly brown-toned randomly acquired furniture, rugs, and decor, all of which my boyfriend described as “curbside pickups” and didn’t have much emotional attachment. We decided to replace a lot of it. I’d bring my furniture and decorative items, and we’d purchase anything else we needed.

Originally an early 20th-century New Orleans shotgun double (two separate houses) converted into a single home, the place lay vacant for several years after Hurricane Katrina. When my boyfriend — an experienced DIYer — moved in, he was able to salvage the old oak floors. After that, he gutted and renovated the whole house. When I moved in, we knew we’d be keeping the layout, but we wanted the home to feel more like a shared space. Our first project was the living room.

Credit: Robin Horton
Credit: Robin Horton

The first step was brightening the room. 

The living room started out dark and drab. Removing the curtains that covered the original exterior glass doors instantly brightened the space since it allowed so much more natural light inside. 

Even after that, though, the lackluster pink-tinged beige walls and a deep, somber gray one still left the room darker than we liked. A few coats of Benjamin Moore’s White Dove paint really did the trick and illuminated the whole space. 

Credit: Robin Horton
Credit: Robin Horton

I added pops of color to liven things up.  

I’d always gravitated toward earth tones, but as this was a new beginning for us, I thought it was time to break out of my comfort zone. Since the walls were white, I decided to go bold with the furniture.

Our first purchase was a rich cobalt velvet sofa from Interior Define. When it arrived, I thought, oh, what have I done! It took some getting used to, but I fell in love with it … and then decided to add more color!

A new mustard yellow slipper chair from Target fit perfectly into a small corner of the room, then I punched things up even more on the window seat with two budget-friendly fuchsia pink throw pillows from Amazon.

I also added a little bit of whimsy with a distressed brass accent table that features “dripping” edges. It now holds my vintage brass-and-glass table lamp.

Credit: Robin Horton
Credit: Robin Horton

Some of the furniture pulls double duty.

It’s a challenge in small rooms to squeeze in enough seating for guests, which is definitely something we wanted in our living room. 

Along with the new window seat, my oversized zebra-striped ottoman does double duty as a coffee table and provides extra seating if needed. 

Credit: Robin Horton
Credit: Robin Horton

Built-in storage is the major space saver in the room.

Perhaps most importantly, the 165-square-foot room needed storage space to display our collections of books and decorative objects. The next task was for me to design and for my boyfriend to build a wall of bookcases and cabinets flanking a center window. There’s a window seat below offering concealed storage. We fitted it with floating shelves above the base cabinets and left an open area for the TV.

My partner’s professional-quality DIY job of laying new floors and building the shelving unit saved us a lot of money — the total cost was around $4,000 for lumber, paint, hardware, and furniture. Of course, making this project a DIY did have its challenges: Everything can take a lot longer when you do it yourself. 

At the end of the process, though, we created a bright, cozy living room where we love spending time together — and with the new furniture and multifunctional pieces, we have room for guests, too!