Before and After: A Fresh Paint Job Makes This Plain White Living Room Sing

updated Mar 3, 2021
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Before: living room with all white walls and shelves
Credit: Celine Gill

White paint is a go-to for designers — and for good reason since it can instantly make a space feel brighter, bigger, and fresher. But sometimes white just isn’t the right fit, as Celine Gill (Style at No 5) found in her home’s sitting room.

This space, in the middle of the house, gets little natural light and initially wasn’t exactly welcoming. “The room seemed dark and felt oppressive,” Celine says. “Our first change in here was to paint the room in brilliant white which made it cleaner and fresher.”

But, she says, it still felt a little cold. “The white paint didn’t make the change I had hoped for in here, so I decided to go darker,” Celine says.

Credit: Celine Gill

Celine’s design started with wallpaper: a gray-and-rose-gold geometric paper from Erica Wakerly that Celine says she fell in love with. She used it on the fireplace wall, which — thanks to removing the mantel — now looks like a modern centerpiece.

Another big change to the fireplace wall? An actual fireplace. Before, the mantel was only decorative, but Celine wanted the room to be warm and cozy even in winter. An inset stove with a new black stone hearth makes the room functional year-round.

Credit: Celine Gill

To complement the wallpaper, Celine wanted to use a dark blue paint. While she loved Farrow and Ball’s Hague Blue and Stiffkey Blue, when she tried them on the walls they looked much darker than she’d wanted. In the end, Celine chose Little Greene’s Woad, which she says is a “warmer, brighter blue.” Celine and her husband, Alan, painted it on three of the living room’s four walls.

Some new furniture — including a gray sofa and an upcycled writing desk placed to the left of the fireplace — help the room feel extra inviting, as do “natural” touches like the faux plants.

Celine’s happy with how round two of her redo turned out. For anyone designing a similar space that doesn’t receive much light, she has some advice: “I would say embrace darker colors in small rooms that get little natural light. They will never feel bright and airy, even if you paint them white,” she says. “Also as plants may not thrive in a darker room you can get good faux plants now and dried flowers to bring in some nature to the space.”

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