Decorating Dilemma: Anita’s Living Room

So, let’s kick off this new series with a living room dilemma from Anita, who lives right here in Georgia.  Her mother recently moved into assisted living, so Anita got her sofa and loveseat, which are in great condition and are very neutral, a very good thing, in my opinion.  One of the things I tell people that I’ve done myself is to buy mostly neutral when it comes to large pieces of furniture, like sofas.  Anita’s living room appears not to be that big, so let’s see what we can do in decorating a small living room like this and bringing in some color and interest.

How many bold print sofas have you seen from 10 to 20 years ago, where you could judge the age of the sofa by the wild print that was on it?  I’ve seen that happen lots of times, so staying neutral on a sofa is a big plus.

anita living room

This is a good sofa to use for a starting point, in good shape.   Anita recently painted the room from red to this warm neutral, so that’s all good too.  Anita’s dilemma is how to add warmth, coziness, and color to her space with accessories.

One thing I see in the above pic, is that the artwork is hanging too high above the sofa.  You want to bring it down, so that it relates to the sofa below without having so much space between.  I’d say bring the art down at least 10 to 12 inches from where it is now.  The bottom of the print should be about 6-8″ above the top of the sofa, but look at it visually when you move it to be sure it looks good.  I eyeball things, so hardly ever measure.

living room

This wall is a good focal point for artwork too, so I’d go for something more modern on this wall to liven things up.

living room2

It looks like there is not a lot of room for a coffee table and side table over by the window, so I might suggest moving that round table in the middle in between the 2 chairs and pull them closer together in front of the window.  I’d add a nice lamp to that table too.  If there’s room, then think about a glass coffee table.  Glass visually is light and airy and doesn’t seem nearly as heavy as wood.


The drapes look to be in great shape too with nice colors, so Anita, if you still like those, then pull colors from those drapes and bring it into your room.  I think adding a colorful rug over your carpet would be a nice starting point.  Not sure how big your room is, but a 5 x 7’ rug might be big enough, I’d make sure the front edge of both sofa and loveseat come to the edge of the rug, so measure your space and see what size will work.  If not 5 x 7, then try an 8×10. That would really add a lot of color to your space.

Looks like you might have enough room for a few plants and enough light coming in to add some real plants to your space.  I love a nice tree or plant by the window.  Add one on an end table too for lots more life in a room.

So, here’s an Olioboard I put together showing how adding just a few things to the room will change it up and add much needed color. Olioboard is a free site that you can use to put together moodboards. I pulled items from the site and made a board for Anita and it shows all the items below and you can click to see where they came from.

Anita, keep in mind when you are looking at rugs, to check the tones against your drapes, if those are staying (and they totally can, the colors are great to pull from).  You’d want to make sure the reds all line up well in tone.

Anita's Living Room

This is a fun way to create inspiration for a room and hopefully you can see what a difference just adding few things can make in a room.  The rug, pillows, artwork and accessories will really liven it up. Changing out lamps to a bit more modern would also be a great look, since the room is so traditional. I’ve loved evolving in style myself and I’m not stuck on all traditional anymore. Adding some modern elements to a room just kicks it up a notch and makes it so much more interesting.  It’s all a learning process, isn’t it!?

Anita, what do you think? I hope you like my ideas.  All of the rest of you are welcome to chime in too.

What do you see in Anita’s room that she can change to bring in more coziness, warmth, and color. These are my ideas, feel free to add your own!

- Rhoda


  1. Nice going, Rhoda, and since you ask – those two wooden armed chairs could do with a pop of colour – paint the wood in a colour you really love, and then change the upholstery to bright and cheery.

  2. I’d add a mirror to reflect some of that nice light coming in the windows.

  3. Love it Rhoda! I also agree with Susan, paint the wood chairs a bright and happy color and go with a fun print or geometric fabric on the seat would take them to a whole other level…and it’s easy to repaint or change the fabric down the road.

  4. Marianne in Mo. says:

    I agree about the chairs needing recovering, not sure I’d Chang the finish just yet. And a smallish mirror sounds good, just not a big one. One of those round ones is what I’m thinking. Color in pillows and art definitely needed to wake up the space. I even think painting the ceiling a deeper color would add some style, although most people are scared to do it! Love your choices, esp. the lamps.

  5. Becky in SC says:

    I agree with you Rhoda, Anita’s space definitely needs some live plants.
    I’m super excited about this new series! I think we can all learn from your wonderful ideas. Can’t wait for future posts in this series.
    ♥ Becky in SC ♥

  6. Rhoda, your ideas are amazing. This is going to be a great blog series!

    I was wondering if the round table would go in the corner between the sofa and loveseat. That might give a few more inches for the loveseat to move toward the sofa wall. And the plants would definitely add warmth!

  7. Hi Rhoda.
    I absolutely love your ideas!!! I also love reading the comments from others!! I am so excited to get this room going:) Y’all are so great!!
    I do not have to keep the same window treatments so any ideas would be wonderful!!
    I will be going to Home Goods this week for sure:) Keep the ideas coming!!
    Thank You Again Rhoda!! I will send you a picture of the finished look soon!!

    • Great, Anita, I’m glad you are inspired. I went back and added drapes and a throw for more color. All of these things will make a huge difference. I think recovering those chairs would update your room a lot, thought about that, but didn’t know how much you would want to change. From now on, I’ll just throw it all out there and let everyone decide what they want to do.

    • Susan from GA says:

      Anita, Isn’t it wonderful to get GREAT “hand me downs? 🙂 Just thought I would add a comment. Moving into assisted care is such a difficult transition sometimes. It would be wonderful if you could purposefully place something your mother treasured in this room. Perhaps a framed photo of family (she and your dad?)….or something like that. That way, when she visits it may give her a little lift to see that you cherish something that she cherished. I don’t think it has to be anything BIG or esp. decorative….just something that might put a grin on her face. BTW….great ideas from all “commenters”!

      Susan from GA

      • Susan from GA says:

        Meant to add an idea before I “sent” (oops)….maybe a plate on the wall she used when she cooked for her family….

    • Julie Rocha says:

      Please tell me the name of the brick used in the cedar hill farmhouse by the mantel.

  8. I LOVE your ideas of recovering the chairs and I would really consider painting them too:) I did put the round table between the sofa and love seat but the table gets lost because of it being much lower than the sofa and love seat! That was a great idea!!:) I am truly a happy lady tonight from all of your ideas:)

    • Anita, is that round table something that you consider precious? If not, I’d consider painting that a color. You might be able to paint the table and not the chairs, but changing the fabrics on the chairs would make a huge difference even if you don’t paint them.

  9. Hi, I definitely think a large mirror over the couch would look great. I also would like to see 2 curtains panels per window.

  10. Rhoda, I would tell Anita, to pull from the colors of the drapes, add a dark tone curtain rod , lightly distressed, paint the chairs in a neutral tone but find a fun fabric that incorporates the red and gold tones with a pop of blue green. These colors are not together now and there are fabrics out there now that feature that palette. I think all rooms need a combination of painted furniture, rich wood, and mirror. A mercury glass coffee table or glass top in an oval shape would visually make the room look larger and give a good surface for placing decorative objects. Plants always warm the rooms and give it life, but real plants pleased less they are high quality silk. Nothing is worse than dust collector fake plants. LOL!!! Lasti would add a side table in the blue green color to tie the fabrics together. The addition of blue greens and squash with red and golds immediately update the room. But most of all, have fun Anita and enjoy the process.

  11. Hi Ladies,
    I have a few ideas to chime in I would paint the chairs and table white (then distress the edges). If the table is too short I would set a few small squares of wood under the legs to lift it up.
    I would change the curtains to an airy white. I think I would get turquoise pillows and white pillows and throw for the sofa that is also turquoise.
    Behind the sofa I would put a large silver frame with chicken wire behind it and then hang snapshots of your family in black and white on the chicken wire.
    Behind the love seat I would hang a large silvery mirror and a few mercury glass candlesticks or white candles with burlap wrapped around them.
    I love the furniture and when your recover the chairs I would make them neutral as well so they match when you change the pillows and throw to a different color.
    HTH Dianntha

  12. Rhoda, Great job on the tips for her room! I love that you gave her the mood board, but she can also make her own choices. And you used what she already had, which is a huge plus, too. I can already tell I’m going to love this new series. 🙂

  13. Rhoda and Anita, After looking more closely at Rhoda’s ideas–I love the table painted a warm blue and the blue drapes. Wow!

  14. Those windows are gorgeous and I would showcase them. I would extend the rods and put panels of both sides of each window but have them barely touch the window so you see the full window. Then the beautiful piece between the window wouldn’t look so lost.
    Also, from what I can see from the rest of the house it leans towards a more traditional/FC look. Do you want a different look in this room? I would change out the curtains so your not locked into that color scheme and go lighter and brighter since the furniture is so light. I think the current drapes and couch and love seat don’t blend well at all, even though they are all lovely. I would do a mirror/gallery wall over the couch. Shop around your home first.

    I really like Rhoda’s idea of a glass coffee table and an area rug over the carpet. And covering the pillows in a new fabric will break up the all cream, but mostly I think you need to start with the drapes. I just see them at war with the couch!
    I hope your mother is doing well in her new residence. Looking forward to seeing what you do. Love this new feature Rhoda!

  15. I love Rhoda’s ideas. I would definitely paint the chairs and add new fabric to the seats. I think the room needs one trendy color that you splash around the room and get rid of it when the next trend hits you. My choice for trendy would be turquoise!

  16. Great post and awesome ideas. Anita’s living room looks great as it is but your suggestions as I’ve visualized made it look so much better. I’d agree with Mary with the curtains though. You can easily see the contrast at the second pic — it’s too dark and heavily opposes the couch’s neutral color so I’d go with lighter drapes. Pastels maybe?

  17. Donna Duffy says:

    I think like others change the chairs fabric something to grab more of the cranberry in the curtains. And add cranberry popping pillows to couches. I think that color adds warmth to go with the wood tables. And new pics on all walls too. Have fun decorating.

  18. Hi Rhoda. Love the new series!
    Anita, the taller “center” table is a great look. It breaks up “height boredom” relative to all the seat-height planes going on in the room. I would relocate that heavy, round one from in front of the sofas. Think “oblong”, whether oval or rectangle, to kill the end table vibe. Something like this: It’s light and airy, has a small footprint, gives a good color pop against your neutral sofas. Could be in any color that says “hello” to other elements in the room.

  19. Thank You Ladies for all the great ideas!! I am just smiling from ear to ear and so excited to get going on this room:) I do LOVE the idea of painting the round table and I do want to recover the chairs to a brighter fabric!! All of you are so great!! Can not wait to play around with panels for the windows from all the ideas!!!
    Thank You Again!!!
    I am one happy lady in Georgia!!:)

  20. I love all of the previous ideas ladies!

    Those windows are beautiful! I would also go with 2 panels on each window and pull them WIDE open to get the full amount of light that they will let into the room. To add an extra layer of interest to the window, perhaps Anita could add two leaded art glass panels on chains to the windows near the top? Something frameless, but kind of like this:

  21. Also, what about having a mirror cut as a tabletop for that round table now or after it is painted?

  22. Hi Rhoda and Anita, The room will be just great -you have a good beginning and Rhoda’a ideas are great. I have an additional thought. Unless the art in the room is sentimental or important, replace it but take your time and look around – find something that moves you or excites. It can be from Homegoods or an art show or a flea market but make it the focal. Middle of the focal should be about 60 inches to eye level. Do you have a photograph of a place you love? It can be blown up to make it larger. A large mirror over the loveseat will bring that end of the room some interest. I would look for a dark frame to add some visual weight on the wall. Have fun ! Iris

  23. Rhoda….LOVE your mood board! Great colors and ideas!

  24. good suggestions Rhoda and I like the little end table you chose for her. While I agree that the artwork needs to be lowered, I think I might add a mirrored screen to that corner to capture the light from the window and also compliment the height of the window. remove one of those wooden arm chairs and recover the other one in a fun and colorful pattern that coordinates with the striped drapes, which I agree are a great color inspiration. Look forward to seeing the finished room.

  25. Well, I might be a little late to the party with my ideas, but how about putting the loveseat across from the sofa, where the two chairs are, and then putting the two chairs where the love seat is. Just a thought. Hugs, Marty

  26. There are a lot of great ideas here, but I would be careful about putting too much furniture and too many accessories in this room since it is small and cozy. For example, unless you can find a very very narrow coffee table, I would skip it. As long as everyone has a place to set a drink, you don’t really need it and it could cause the room to be cramped. I would also be careful about deviating too much from the more traditional feel of the room. Although combining a few modern pieces with antiques makes for an interesting room, you still want the room to reflect your taste and for it to fit in with the general feel of the whole house.
    As several others have said, I would start with the curtains and use four panels rather than two (by the way, I love the fabric and think it is well-suited for this room). The object in between the windows could be used in a grouping of pictures on another wall. I would also look at some way to fill the dead space between the top of the windows and the curtain rods. Joni from Cote de Texas uses bamboo shades which I love but I’m sure there are other options.
    The room also needs some height for balance. Since there is no room for bookshelves or an antique armoire, I would create heighth with artwork, a large architectural piece, or floating shelves that can be used to display treasures and plants. The lamp that you have is perfectly fine, but could be updated with a more modern shade. I don’t think the chairs necessarily have to be recoverd either, but I would definitely swap out the matching pillows on the seating with more colorful options. A mix of rich velvets with interesting trim (Charlotte Moss has a great line of trim for Calico Corners), or colorful needlepoint pillows, again with eye-catching trim would be pleasing and would fit with the general feel of the room. Hope this gives you some alternative ideas and good luck.

  27. Last thing from me…I really like the existing curtains. I’m pretty sure that anyone with basic sewing skills could “split” the panel and make two panels for each window.

  28. Hi-I don’t usually comment but I had a room so similar that I will this time. I had a short side wall, too, that made my sofa hang over the edge of the wall by the entry. I put my large sofa centered on the far wall (yes, it will take up the whole wall). I then put a large mirror over it -low-about 8″ above the back of the sofa-(this reflects the room and light back and makes it look larger) and I put wall mounted lights on each side of it so someone could read on the sofa if they wanted to. That way you can also put a small glass coffee table in front of the sofa without impeding the flow of traffic. I would then put the love seat on the wall the sofa took up with a very flat table between the love seat and the short wall into the foyer….wish I could draw a picture…I would put those three pictures grouped tight together and low (6-8″) above the love seat. I would keep your side chairs where they are-maybe moved more to be closer to the window closest to the entry with the table between them.
    If I did a rug at all it would be one with a muted horizontal line that would make your room look wider…and as Rhoda said- some green plants where you can.
    If you love the drapes I would use them and pick up the colors in pillows and rug. If you don’t I would go with something neutral-or even wispy white- and keep the room kind of monochromatic because it would look larger.
    As I said, I had a room like this and that is pretty much what I did. Good luck and just do what makes YOU happy in there- xo Diana

  29. I agree that the room needs height which will add some drama. If you want to keep the art work above the sofa together, regardless of where you put it, I would hang the larger piece to one side with the two smaller pieces stacked next to it. You could add other objects to the arrangement for balance if necessary (and definitely lower as Rhoda suggested). I think it would look more unified.

    And although I generally would place the sofa on the far wall in a rectangular room (which makes it seem more square), I think it would be too tight here. I like the furniture placed as it is.

    I would turn the end table that sits diagonally so it is square to the corner. If you decide to change your coffee table, I would consider a round table for the corner. And I, too, would like to see drapery panels on either side of the windows. Then pick up colors from the drapes for the chairs, accent pillows or a pretty throw. (I’d also eliminate some or all of the white throw pillows). Best of luck with it.

  30. I love your ideas and think that they will work perfect Rhoda. Most definitely the art has to come down lower, I have a post in draft all about art in interiors, this reminds me to finish it off.

    I started reading this post and was thinking to myself, I should tell Rhoda about Olioboard, and low and behold you used it further down. I use it all the time when I am helping people with room makeovers.

    I think if they plan to keep the curtains, which look perfectly fine, then I would go for a lighter wall colour, maybe a 1/4 of the strength of the existing colour. Then as you suggested pull in some of the colours from the drapes in the form of accessories, pillows etc. It’s hard to tell if it is a red or burnt orange shade in the drapes.

    I would move the larger sofa against the wall where there is no picture at the moment, then use a large mirror above it to help create a sense of more space. A glass coffee so as to make space seem as large as possible as you mentioned is a great idea. I am buying a glass table myself which is molded all in one piece like a tunnel with a flat top and sides, if you know what I mean. You could then use two small side tables

    If ever they were to replace the sofas then definitely ones with feet, where you can see more of the floor, mind you they are lovely sofas but the more floor you can see, the more spacious it will feel. I have a small open plan living area which has been a huge challenge to me and I have learned by my mistakes.

    Maybe the two matching chairs could be lightened up with a French wash finish and reupholstered in a jazzy fabric similar to the rug you chose, drawing the colour from the curtain.

    I think you have got it right Rhoda and I am sure the room will look fabulous with minimal expense.

  31. Wonderful ideas. The thing I might consider is a wall of white..not too deep.. book shelves on the love seat wall…if there’s room. I would put doors on the bottom 1/3. This would add storage, display space and architectural interest. It would also make the room appear much wider. That’s what I did to my deep, narrow living room. Made a huge difference.

  32. Seems we all have rooms like this that need a little creativity. Couches have good bones…side tables and coffee table are dating the room. Love your ideas and would for sure get those accent chairs recovered in a chevron or ikat pattern. Would really change the look. Some cool artwork is so important. Black and white or 3 white ikea framed prints would look great. Agree a nice ficus tree or a live plant that is easy to take care of would work in this sunlit room. Turq and corals are fab!

  33. Lots of great ideas. If she would like to keep things on the traditional side I wouldn’t paint the furniture. However I do think the chairs could be updated with a new fabric. Although the drapes are pretty and appear to be in good shape they too are a little dated. I would replace them. Then add some pillows to tie it all together. I like the idea of adding a mirror to the room. I would hang it over the sofa to reflect the light and move the present artwork to above the loveseat. Moving the table to between the chair and adding a lamp would work too. A rug would really liven up the room.

  34. I agree with Mary’s idea about having two curtain panels per window. I think you should really make the most of your windows. Pick out a curtain YOU really like and let that be your guide. I also love the idea of the mirror/wall gallery opposite the windows! That would really bring in drama and reflect all the free plants outside and bring your curtain color/print into your room. Try placing your sofa on the wall facing you when you enter the room and have the loveseat facing the sofa. You could place your two chairs facing out to your windows having the mirror/wall gallery above the chairs. I like the rug idea but that can be tricky with existing carpet. If you don’t have a table on top of the rug it won’t bunch up. Also pillow covers are your friend! That will bring lots of color and pattern.

  35. I am so excited to see the finished product!!!

  36. Melesa Garrison says:

    Great suggestions, Rhoda. I would definitely get a large mirror over the couch.

    To Anita..I would like to ask where she got the curtains as I happen to like them and the colors would go very well in my living room.

  37. Melissa I purchased the panels at Pier One. They do still have them!!
    Still loving the ideas from all of you wonderful women!!!

  38. I don’t know olioboard, so I need to check those out. I love the suggestions you had for Anita, I mean the other Anita.

  39. Coming in late to this one – great sofas, great space. I think the curtains should stay and pull the colors from that. For starters – too many throw pillows!! I know this is a look, but you’d be much better off having an upholsterer (or do it yourself if you can) making 2 back cushions for each sofa (you can probably reuse the stuffing from the throw pillows and supplement. Once you do that, bring in 3 throw pillows (those smaller sized ones on the sofas now) and recover them as follows: One in a large floral, one in a small floral, one in polka dots for whimsy or a diamond if you prefer traditional (put 2 pillows on the larger sofa, 1 on the loveseat). One chair is enough for this space, keep the one in stripe – DON’T paint the frame, you want some wood tones to warm up the space – the fabric already works, but you could update it if you wanted to a more modern print or fun color to change up the traditional feel. I agree with a previous poster that you should put a mirror in here – above the loveseat. Put a fiddle fig tree in the corner by the window/loveseat. A small little squareish stand would look good between the windows and you could put a little table lamp on it – the stripe chair would go to the left of it angled into the room. I like the larger print in the center over the sofa, but not the other two. This could be a great gallery wall – I would get 4 smaller frames and put 2 on each side of the center one (make a rectangle with all of them). I agree with Rhoda, bring in a glass top table to keep the space light and airy. Paint the lamp base red to match the curtains for a pop of color. I’m not a fan of an area rug on carpet, so I nix that idea. And yes, lower the artwork, it’s too high.

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