Before and After: A Living Room Redo Filled with Light-Optimizing Tricks (and a Smart $30 DIY)

published Nov 2, 2021
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About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Living Room
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Before: Drop cloth on oak floors

Natural light can work wonders for a space, but even if you don’t have a ton of windows, there are several ways to make a room feel brighter and airier. White paint, sheer curtains, and mirrors, anyone?

Architect Kristin Fogarty-Yi’s living room wasn’t lacking for windows before, but it didn’t feel very bright, thanks to dark paint and a large dark sectional. Kristin (@objektarch_kristinfogartyyi) made several smart changes to make the space feel brighter, lighter, and airier.

“In 1991, the building was converted to a condo building and the interiors were stripped of all the original details and finished cost-effectively,” she says of her place before, which is in a historic building but had no uniqueness after the 1991 changes.

To make the space look brighter, Kristin painted the walls an eggshell shade, swapped her charcoal sofa for a soft cream-colored one from West Elm, and replaced all of the windows with new vinyl ones, trimming out the drywall openings with a contemporary design and using sheer curtain panels to let the light shine through. She also traded the stained oak floors for a lighter gray wood option.

“I’m sooooooo happy to be rid of that stained orange floor from the ’90s,” Kristin wrote in an Instagram post about her home’s transformation.

Kristin tiled her fireplace surround with Carrara tiles and framed it with black to make it pop. She also added an eye-catching blue credenza from CB2 with a one-of-a-kind light installation on the wall above.

“At first my husband and I were looking for the right large art piece, but couldn’t find what we were looking for,” Kristin explains.  “I had been exploring an outdoor light installation with flexible LED at another project, so I had the concept in my head.” 

She happened to have three sets of wire LED lights — bought at the end of the season for $15 — and installed them on the wall with tiny finishing nails, “creating twists and turns as [she] wrapped them around randomly placed nails.”

A bonus that you can’t see from the photos? The lights are connected to smart outlets (purchased on Amazon for about $15), so Kristin can turn them on and off with her Google Home’s voice command. 

“It also functions to create great ambient light in the space as well,” she says.

The new living room feels more spacious, and more character-rich, too — and all without changing its size at all.