No matter what your personal taste and design aesthetic, unless you have a firm design eye and a healthy budget, the best way to transform a room to your liking is with a series of changes. You start with a soft neutral palette, add splashes of color and then, layer in contrasting hues and texture with accessories.
Decorating a room doesn’t have to be overwhelming or intimidating. Nor does it have to be expensive. In our room, many colorful accents are affordable DIY projects; some things are instant changes, like popping a fresh bouquet of flowers into a pretty vase. Work in steps that are doable for you and fit your lifestyle. Live with them awhile and see how they suit you. Depending on your comfort level and how you like your home to look, you can stop at any stage: Keep it neutral and lightly accented, or richly layered and colorful. The process of design becomes easy and accessible, and definitely you.


Living room phase 1

Stage 1, Serene Neutrals: A basic white wall, a neutral sofa and a sisal rug all create the perfect backdrop for decorating. As long as you bring in different textures and layers, neutrals can be beautiful without looking blah. Tone-on-tone patterns are perfect for adding interest, as are a mix of materials and the shimmer of metallics like our timeless gold and glass coffee table. A glass-top coffee table is visually light, letting the books and accents on it take on greater prominence.
A sheer white curtain tied with a black ribbon to one side creates a simple, relaxed look. Solid colored pillows pop against the sofa, and a cream throw blanket adds texture and warmth. A sisal rug with colorful fringe edging can easily go with almost any design scheme. For artwork, we placed a wallpaper remnant in a large $2 flea market frame that we painted white. You can make almost any frame look great when painted in a crisp white!


Inspiration board

To get started on refreshing a room, pull images from magazines, catalogues, and Pinterest to create an inspiration board. By gathering together what appeals to you visually, you can begin to see a color scheme and style emerge.


Room sketch

Sometimes it helps to get your ideas down on paper. If that’s your MO, draw up a sketch of how you envision the pieces coming together in your room. This is merely a guide—adjustments to the reality of the space are almost always necessary—but it may help you to make choices or rethink furnishings.


Living room phase 2

Stage 2, Bursts of Color: Changing the wall color from white to blue is an instant game changer. Now the canvas is bright and the neutral sofa stands out in crisp contrast.
The plain sisal rug has been exchanged for one with a large angular pattern that balances the more delicate patterns in the space and adds depth with grays and creams. Following the rule that a color should be used at least twice in a room, the gray is also picked up in the lampshade and throw.
More contrast is layered in with colorful accent pillows, trims, and accessories. The textural striped pillow ties together all the colors used together: the blues, teals, greens, blacks and whites. A playful pompom trim in black now edges the white curtain panel—a simple addition that makes a big difference.

Decorating tip: Sometimes all you need to pull a room’s color scheme together or to come up with one in the first place is the perfect pillow, curtain, or throw that will guide not only which colors you choose but also which hues dominate in your decor.


Painted bookshelf

Revamp any bookshelf using Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint (we chose Pure White and Paris Grey). The outside is painted white and sanded down slightly. We stenciled a white pattern over grey inside the bookshelf. Play with the positioning of the shelves—and don’t feel like you have to use all of them. We used just three shelves to divide up the space.
Crisp white statues, vessels, and boxes bring out the white pattern on the stenciled shelf backs. Stack books horizontally and vertically. If you want to unify the look, wrap the book spines in a paper that works with your color scheme. Place sculptural objects as bookends.


Stamped pillow

A touch of pink through flowers and a hand-stamped pillow inject a bit of flirty charm. To make your own, remove the pillow insert so that you have a flat surface to work with. Cut a triangle out of foam purchased from a sewing supply or craft store, dip the face of the triangle in a bright color (we recommend fabric paint but even acrylic paint can work) and stamp the shape onto the pillow cover. Repeat in either a regular or random pattern all over the cover. When dry, finish according to the paint manufacturer’s instructions (often requiring you to set the paint with heat from an iron) and replace the pillow insert.


Living room phase 3

Stage 3, Bright & Layered: We swapped the neutral patterned rug for one with a bold green lattice pattern, and the white curtain for an eye-catching ikat patterned panel. The neutral gray of the curtain provides balance for all the color in the rug, pillows, and wall. We also replaced the throw and lamp base with darker-hued pieces. The darker shades help to ground the palette. The space feels rich but not cluttered.

Decorating tip: Vary the sizes and types of pattern in your room for balance. For example, the rug is a lattice, geometric pattern, as is the zigzag woven basket, so we choice organic patterns for the artwork and curtain panel. We also opted for a pattern on the rug that is larger than the pattern on the curtain.


Living room phase 3 detail

We haven’t avoided neutrals entirely in our updates. A modern trellis pillow in cream and gray cotton adds pattern and movement without injecting more color amid the vibrant tones.
And don’t fret about the pieces you’re removing from the room as you bring in alternatives. Since they’re mostly neutral, you’ll probably be able to use them in other spaces in your home.


Framed paper

To create a gallery effect on the wall and bring more color to the corner, we added an asymmetrical arrangement of wallpaper artwork and a framed clock to the left of the larger, anchoring piece over the sofa.

Decorating tip: Change up the artwork in seconds with a different pattern—or print a black and white photo right over the top of the patterned paper! A sheet of colorful Japanese wrapping paper or a piece of fabric in a geometric or floral pattern would do the job as well.


Painted vase

Vases of flowers add an organic vibrancy to the room. Plain vessels put the focus on the flowers but you can inject an extra touch of glamour by adding a layer of gold. Get this look by masking off the bottom and inside rim of a white vase with painter’s tape. Wrap thick rubber bands in a random pattern around the top third of the vase. Spray with gold paint, let dry, and remove rubber bands and tape.


Product that may be of interest:
Wall color, stage 1—Crumb Cookie from Olympic
Wall color, stage 2 & 3—Lakeshore #6494 from Sherwin-Williams 
Wallpapers in framesYork Wallcoverings
Paint for bookshelf—Pure White and Paris Grey from Annie Sloan Chalk Paint® 
Side tableIKEA 
Glass and gilt coffee tableTarget 
Multistripe pillowAnthropologie


Produced by Katie Leporte
Photography by Adam Albright and Chris Hennessey


© Caruth Studio

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