Have you ever been in the middle of a DIY home decorating project and just stopped? For whatever the reason–insufficient supplies, shortage of funds, lack of motivation, sheer exhaustion–your work just came to a halt. Sounds familiar, right? Whether a DIY home makeover involves major renovations or minor redecorating, it still requires your time, energy, and money. These Real Simple readers were caught in the middle of three very different room makeover projects that they never finished. That is, until our team of experts–armed with paint brushes and fresh ideas–came to the rescue.
The “before” story: After a whole-house renovation was completed in October 2009, stay-at-home mom Erin Pruitt (her boys are Alexander, 11, Nicholas, 8, and William, 6) began decorating the bedroom. “We bought the bed and the custom window treatments—the Schumacher fabric is by designer Celerie Kemble, whom I love—and I got the armoire from my mother’s basement,” she says.
Why Erin stalled: The following March, the family was hit by tragedy: Erin’s husband passed away suddenly. Understandably, work on the house completely stopped. “I didn’t do anything after that,” she says.
What she hoped for: “The room is big—20 by 20 feet. I wanted to make it feel cozier and be a comfortable place where my kids and I could hang out.”
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Erin's Bedroom: After
Let the viney chandelier and the floral curtains serve as a jumping-off point for a glamorous but understated magic-garden vibe.
Moss green walls make the room cocoonlike. Dark colors can be risky, but those from nature tend to be less so. This shade is inspired by the leaves in the curtains. A pale pink ceiling is a pretty surprise, and more restful than white.
White lacquer on the bed and armoire creates a feminine feel despite dark walls and keeps the space from looking gloomy. (Hire a pro, or do it yourself by applying several layers of high-gloss oil-based paint to a sanded piece.)
Space fillers make a giant room cozier. Forget function and attack square footage. A folding screen eats up a corner, a writing desk fills a window nook, and a tufted bench, just right for the boys to watch TV on, anchors the bed.
Luxurious touches, like a satin duvet, a cloisonné lamp, wall art that looks like alliums in bloom, a framed butterfly, and a wild topiary, offer smatterings of enchantment. The result is peaceful, with plenty to engage the senses.
The “before” story: After changing apartments abruptly (only months after settling into her previous space, which was burglarized), Shanta Speller, a Web project manager, outfitted the living room of her prewar one-bedroom apartment with a sofa and a love seat. “I tend to play it safe, buying matched sets of furniture and making sure all the woods go together. I like color but don’t feel confident about using it,” she explains.
Why Shanta stalled: Moving twice in six months made money tight, and she was simply worn-out: “I wasn’t quite up to the task of decorating.”
What she hoped for: “I wanted it to feel like a real home—lived-in and with plenty of style and character.”
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Shanta's Living Room: After
Energize the muted space with color, and bring a happier, more intimate feel to the large seating area.
Patterned curtains with solid furniture (or vice versa) is a simple formula for making a room feel alive but not frenetic. Extended an extra foot on either side of the window, the graphic print sets a playful mood, masks plain white walls, and gives the space a clear focal point.
Mixing a TV with art is a smart solution to a standard challenge. Here, the frames are all dark to blend with the screen but slightly varied. Map your plan on the floor before hanging, using a large sheet of paper to represent the television.
Layered rugs bring dimension to the room and make it feel cozier. Inexpen-sive, solid broadloom frames a neutral pattern, which adds spice without being overwhelming. (Buy broadloom cut to length and ask to have the edges “bound to match.”)
Orange and turquoise is a youthful, beachy combo that makes a room feel spirited and fun.
Light, leggy pieces, like glass side tables, delicate lamps, and a floaty book-shelf, counter the weight of the hefty sofa and love seat, giving the room much needed buoyancy.
A dash of symmetry brings order to a space with lots of pattern. But in a casual room, the odd-ball pieces that shake up symmetry (here, the drum table and the orange stool) are just as important.
The “before” story: Tami Shaw and her husband, Ken, renovated their 1983 Spanish Colonial a few years back. “We gutted the house, but when we redecorated, the dining room was last on the list,” she says.
Why Tami stalled: The budget ran out. So Tami and Ken painted the dining room themselves, using a leftover brown. “In the bedroom, it was cozy, but here it felt dark,” says Tami. She threw in random pieces of furniture “to fill up space.” With a vaulted ceiling and stone floors, the room was echoey—“too loud for conversation,” says Tami. “Ken used it occasionally as an office, but we never entertained there.”
What she hoped for: “A beautiful, comfortable, uncluttered place to host family holiday meals and dinner parties.”
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Tami's Dining Room: After
Use warm tones and summery textures to create an inviting atmosphere without sacrificing airiness.
Sunny yellow walls take advantage of natural light and balance the coldness of a travertine floor. Bright buttercup works with the home’s Spanish architecture and the earthy colors of its other rooms.
Crisp hacienda curves on the chandelier and the table base pick up on Tami’s chair backs and create drama against the yellow backdrop.
Low art and sconces, plus a mirror, align to visually “lower” an awkward sloped ceiling and makethe space feel more intimate. (Candle sconces require no wiring and work just as well.)
A lively rug anchors the table, warms up the floor, and eliminates the echo. Stone is a neutral, so any pattern, like this southwestern stripe, can work with it. A flat weave is smart in a dining room because it lets chairs slide easily. Use a rug pad or tape down the corners to keep the rug in place.
Sheer curtains add softness and show off the arched window by high-lighting its shape. The Shaws are a casual family with three kids, and formal curtains would have clashed with their lifestyle.
A simple sideboard that blends quietly with the decor (but doesn’t match exactly) brings some eclectic cool and adds storage.