DIY Design
Trade in Your Family Room for a New Look

By Shandra Hill Smith
Photography: Doug Smith Photography

Got a taste of the five-year itch?

That's about how long it may take your family room -- or the living area you treat as a family room -- to grow on you, leaving you ready to trade in the space for something new.

"Family rooms normally take a lot more wear and tear -- particularly if there are kids and pets, or if it is the only community space in the home," says Angie Thompson, principal interior designer of ATLdesigns in Roswell. "In these cases, furniture, pillows and carpeting will start showing need of repair or replacement within five years." By refreshing the area with new touches such as from paint, decorative pillows and lamps, you may stretch it to seven years, Thompson adds. This is true, too, for the less-formal living room that serves as a family room in homes that don't include both.

If you forego hiring an interior designer to manage the project completely for you, you'll still benefit from a bit of design direction. Some professionals like Thompson offer services that help set do-it-yourself (DIY) homeowners on the right path.

So how do you know when you're ready to go it on your own, or you really could stand to leave the work exclusively to a professional? If you're up on design and have some sense of your personal style plus the patience it takes to pull it all together, you'll make an ideal DIY candidate, according to Thompson.

Getting started

Pick up copies of magazines that feature makeovers and identify those looks you like and dislike. Details such as these, along with outlining the function of the room and budget you're working with, can prove helpful to a designer providing general suggestions for your makeover.

From there, keep in mind a few general rules. These include getting exact measurements to determine the size and scale of your room. For those changing out furnishings as well as accessories, the sofa is the most likely starting point.

Go with a neutral-colored sofa -- beige, grey, chocolate -- and "top it with stronger color from pillows or accessories around it," Thompson suggests. When it's time for a fresh change, you'll find replacing those items less costly than replacing your sofa, she adds.

If a monotone setting is more your flavor, "vary the texture. Have some leather, have some linen; vary the color to a certain degree or vary the texture so the room does not blah out on you."

Also, take note of measurements, such as seat depth and height, on furniture that will serve as more than just accent pieces.


You fall more in the traditional category if you favor darker woods, carved and tufted pieces and trim on drapery, pillows and accessories. If lighter woods, little pattern, clean lines and neutrals are more your style, you gravitate toward contemporary. And if you prefer medium-toned woods, along with elements of traditional and modern, transitional is your style.


It's best to have two to three forms of lighting, advises Thompson. "You want overhead lighting, lighting on a chest or end table and task lighting. All of those are going to help with the mood of the room and the shadows in the room."


"A change in paint color completely changes the feel of the room. It is one of the cheapest ways to make a very dramatic change." Since it is one of the least expensive changes wait to choose paint colors at the end, Thompson says.

When selecting colors, be sure to pick up paint swatches, and aim to "go one color lighter because colors intensify. Darker colors make your wall come in and make your space smaller; lighter colors make the room look larger."

Also, use caution with beige and taupe choices, which could have a red or green hue, and yellows and pinks, which "change dramatically on the wall."


"Think odd numbers -- three or five -- of artwork hung horizontally across or vertically stacked. Still, "you don't have to have something on every wall. Your eye should have a resting place in the room."



Be careful not to skimp here as the investment in accents such as vases, finials, frames, candleholders and floral arrangements could prove your second biggest expense after furniture. "Otherwise it's just a stark room; it doesn't feel lived in," says Thompson.

Have fun with pillows, which could stand to be "changed out quite often." And don't worry about being matchy-matchy with furniture or accents. "Think about not having matching lamps or not having your pillows match exactly." With this asymmetrical approach, you have freedom from making one side of the room identical to the other.

"It just kind of adds a little bit more character, a bit more imperfection to the room. Just like people aren't perfect, spaces aren't perfect either."


ATLdesigns, 404-861-1393, Charles Schneider Webber Blue Fabric Sofa; Angelo: HOME Sutton Chair/Modern Lemongrass Paisley; Steve Silver Kennedy Cocktail and Sofa tables, Uttermost Family Circles; Vintage Camera Boxes; Succession Dimpled Box; Mini Flower Ottoman, Oxford Beige Linen Arm Chair; Nova Matilda Pecan Floor Lamp; Monkey Pod Wood Tung Oil-finished Oval Drum End Table; Hausmann Set of Three Monkey Pod Wood Decorative Wood Ball, Rhona Box; Olde World Three-Panel Fireplace Screen; Preserved Boxwood Balls; Fleur de Lis Finial II; Traditional Book Boxes; Mercury Glass Orb Finial; Flutter Pillow; Artichoke Ceramic Vase; Ceramic Cone Finial; Vivian Candleholders and Dimond Lighting, Farwell Table Lamp; Creedmor Table Lamp, Recycled Wine Barrel Side Table
Kohl', Uttermost Justus Wall Mirror; ELLE Décor Artificial Orchid Plant; Croft & Barrow Willow Tray
Steve Silver Co., Steve Silver Kennedy End Table, 24 X 36 and 36 X 48 canvas prints featuring travel scenes by Doug Smith, photography artwork (Doug Smith) and 11 X 14 canvas prints, Pane multi-photo desktop display; Winglet desktop; Voto frame: Simple Frame; Candid wall décor
West, Favorite Throw (in bean sprout and ivory colors)


To read more about DIY projects, see the digital issue of Season Magazine


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