Design Decisions and Dilemmas

I'm sharing a few pictures of our living room today. They're not styled or ready for bragging rights yet, so be warned! I have some design decisions and dilemmas in this room that I would love your help with and I'm ready to share our plans for this space. Let's start with a design board I created.

inspiration board

The difficult work of unpacking is (mostly) behind us and we are ready to start decorating and making our new home 'ours'. As with any house, there are design challenges. We brought most of our furniture and accessories with us, and now the challenge is to get them to work in this new space.

The main challenges we face in our new home (and believe me, I realize these are definitely 1st world challenges!) are the wall color and wall space. Let me explain.

The taupe color walls (with a hint of pink) makes my white furnishings and accessories look downright dingy. Plans are in the works to slowly change the wall color. Our past two homes had very high, soaring ceilings and lots of big wall space. Our current home is more cozy and the walls are regular height...which means I probably won't be able to hang many of my oversized pieces. I'm trying to take my time and decide what I truly love and want to use as well as clever ways to have rotating options.

The room I want to share with you today is our living room.

Here is the MLS picture of the space. I wish it was this bright in real life!

living room space

The living room is the largest room in the house. It's where we have our TV and where we'll hang out as a family the most. There is a double-sided fireplace and that 'wall' of the room opens up into a sun room. The sun room gets a lot of light with its large row of windows and skylights.

It's a great space, but it's soo dark. In fact, I've had the darndest time trying to get good pictures of this space! I think a new camera will be on my wishlist this year!

Here is how it currently looks.

living room

It still has the original paneling and that massive bookcase that takes up one whole wall. Initially I was thrilled because there is so much storage. Now that I'm actually trying to make it look good...I am frustrated because the shelves are stationary, and the top three rows of shelves are only about 8" tall. Too short for most books and decor.

I don't think these challenges are insurmountable, it's just going to take some work. So without further yakking, here are my design challenges and plans for this room.



This is the darkest room in the house. The original paneling adds to the dark feeling in the room. I want to lighten and brighten the whole space. I imagine that oak paneling painted a light, modern gray. I think it will add a fresh look to the whole room. We had great success with the Sherwin Williams color Mindful Gray in our previous home, but I think this room calls for something even lighter...something like SW Repose Gray.

wall paneling

Having never had a home with paneling before, I'm not sure if I can hang heavy objects. I believe it's floating on top of the drywall and the studs are few and far between, and once a hole is made, it won't be easy to patch. So we'll have to figure that out!


Again, original and very dark, and it feels uninspiring and gloomy to me!

outdated bookcase

The issue with the bookcases is two-fold:

1. The wood is dated and dark. I want to paint it bright white. Hopefully that will not only work to make it fresh and modern, but brighten up the whole room and help to make the items on the bookshelf look more attractive.

2. The shelves are stationary which adds a whole new level of frustration when it comes to decorating. Obviously there are books, but I'd like to add some other accessories up there. I'm thinking of removing a couple of the shelves to make the remaining shelf space larger, but they'll have to be cut out because they are solid. What would you do? Figure out a way to remove a few or leave them?

I've never had a bookshelf this size, and I'm not really sure quite HOW to tackle the distribution of objects. Spread the books out or keep them all on one side? Color code the books like I've done to make them more visually appealing or sort by subject? How to handle accessorizing this monster piece?!? If you have suggestions, I'd love to hear them!


I'm considering white-washing the fireplace. Surprisingly, Mr DIY is okay with this idea. While I don't hate the red brick, it adds to the overall dark and heavy feel of the room. A clean, light coat of paint would do wonders. Any white-washing success stories out there?


Such a bad picture, but it is just so dark! Here's a slightly better one.



Obviously what we currently have in the room is not working and is temporary! 

decision and dilemmas for brightening a dark room

We sold furniture when we moved and have yet to fully replace it. I found the IKEA sofa while we were at the beach house, so that's our main seating. I would like to add another sofa and place it along the back wall, creating an 'L-shape'. The other option would be a sectional, but I don't like the idea of having limited arranging options. The chairs are going to other rooms. What will not change is the light colored furniture. I will either get another Ektorp sofa or something similar. 

While much has been written about the affordability of the Ektorp sofa, I don't know if I'm sold. It's not terribly comfortable. So I'm in the market for one (or 2) comfortable, budget-friendly slipcovered sofas. If you have one and love it, please let me know in the comments section!

Now that you've seen the inspiration board as well as the current room, I would love your feedback.

inspiration for brightening a dark room

Can you image this room lightened and freshened up with paint? 

What would you do with the built-ins?

Any other ideas you have to create a brighter space?

I look forward to hearing from you!

bringing beauty to the ordinary,

Follow me here: Pinterest  |  FB  |  G+  |  Twitter  |  Instagram


share this post


  1. I have no doubt this will be fabulous!

    1. Thanks so much Stacey! The room has great 'bones', just needs a little love!

  2. Cindy what a magnificent space this is. I like all of your ideas and would suggest for the bookcase that you try breaking up the books all over the area and then fill in with your trinkets. Live with it for a while and if you are not happy then go ahead and cut the shelves. It will look bright and airy when you are done with the room.

    1. Thanks so much Mary, it is a great space! I know once it's painted and brightened up that it will be a fabulous room! Thanks for all your ideas!

  3. I agree with painting the bookshelf white. I did that with some built ins before and it really made a big difference. As for the shelves I would take some out. I think taking the 1st and 3rd shelves from the top would balance them out nicely. As for that middle shelf - that ones a dilemma. If you take any of the shelves out it won't be balanced. So short of taking them all out and then putting another one in the middle I don't know. This room is very "woody" right now, but when you are done painting it will look absolutely beautiful.

    1. Yes Pam, 'woody' is a great description for this room in its current state! Thanks for your ideas, I can't wait to deal with those bookshelves so that I can style it pretty!

  4. Your builtin will be a great feature painted white. I`d take the top shelf out of each section except for the center one. Your pitchers look great there. Maybe use another color on the back of the unit, a pale blue for example. I . also would spread the books throughout the shelves. If I had the great amount of space you have, a sectional would be coming to my house to live. It would look great with a couple of comfortable, cushy chairs. Have fun, I`m sure it will be beautiful.

    1. Thanks for the great ideas Lynn, I definitely agree that at least one shelf needs to go! I appreciate you taking the time to chime in with your thoughts!


Post a Comment

Your comments are like sunshine and chocolate! Thanks for taking the time to leave a nice one ;) I read all comments and love to respond if you leave your name and email! Otherwise, please look for my response under the post where you left it!