Patti and Todd Bender were at a loss for decorating ideas when it came to the living room in their mod 1950s tract house north of San Francisco. They bought a leather couch and a sleek armchair, hoping the pieces would update their pine furniture basics. Instead, they just made the room look hodgepodge.
Zero color: White walls and bland hues left the room lifeless.
Tired table: This boring pine design occupied center stage.
Random mix: A mod chair was mismatched with bulky furniture.
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Patti and Todd's living room has good light and space to spare―but an odd arrangement did nothing to maximize the room's assets.
No focus: Without art or a mantel, the fireplace was lost.
Open shelves: Ugly electronics and messy wires were left exposed.
Poor layout: Furniture placement didn't maximize the space.
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Add streamlined storage. Easy-to-install shelves make the most of a blank wall, adding storage without blocking light or taking up a lot of room. They are fashioned from two seven-foot aluminum standards ($25 each) and ten 12-inch brackets ($7 each, issdesigns.com). The actual shelves are made from precut oak stair treads ($25 each, homedepot.com for store locations).
Make a move. Pulling the sofa away from the wall instantly gives the room a focus.
Fluff it up. Throw pillows are a fast fix for an outdated sofa. Here, the pillows add warmth and texture while lightening the oversize brown couch.
Accessorize. Pick and choose your knickknacks so they add personality, not clutter. In a modern house like the Benders', simple, sculptural pieces work best.
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Reflect right: Before hanging a mirror, consider what it will reflect (preferably not a blank wall). This one is positioned across from glass doors leading to the backyard. The placement reflects the light and view, making the room appear brighter and larger.
Introduce color: White walls do nothing to define or enliven a room. Here, the Benders applied Benjamin Moore China Blue to mimic the sky. The color coordinates with as many shades as go-to neutrals, like beige and gray, do. Since the open-plan room has one shared wall and a windowed one, the Benders painted only two walls, to delineate the space.
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Instant Upgrade: TV-Stand Cover
Cut sheer floral curtain panels ($15 a panel, ikea.com) and white denim to match the unit's front dimensions, and add 1/2 inch on each side.
Place denim on top of the sheer fabric on a flat surface. Fold back 1/2 inch on each side and iron.
Place pieces of Stitch Witchery tape ($3 a roll, amazon.com) between the folded edges. Iron again to make it adhere.
Attach Ikea's Kvadrant bottom-rail kit ($6, instructions included) to the fabric to weigh it down.
Apply double-sided mounting tape to the inside top edge of the fabric panel, then stick it to the face of the unit.
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Instant Upgrade: Coffee Table
Flip the table over and prep the base with a latex wood primer.
When the primer is dry, paint the base. Apply a second coat if necessary.
Cut vinyl grass cloth to the dimensions of the top and add a few extra inches on each side.
Place the fabric facedown on the floor, then center the tabletop on the fabric. Wrap the fabric around one side and staple it to the table's underside. Repeat on the opposite side, keeping the fabric taut. Tuck in the corners (as if you were wrapping a gift) and secure the remaining two sides with staples.
Place the glass top (which can be cut to size at most hardware stores) on the table.
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Instant Upgrade: Chalk Art
Use a paintbrush to apply black chalkboard paint (available at hardware stores) to a stretched canvas (available at art-supply stores).
Wait 20 minutes for the first coat to dry, then add a second coat if necessary.
Use chalk to create your design. And remember: You can always erase it and try again.
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Instant Upgrade: Bookcase
Remove the shelves and apply latex wood primer to the exterior and the interior.
Paint the inside the same color as the walls. Paint the outside white.
Cut fabric (here, linen) large enough to wrap each shelf, securing it in the back with a staple gun.
Apply a second coat of paint.
Measure the front of the case. Cut three fabric panels (here, Ikea's Anno Inez curtain panels) so they overlap and cover the unit.
Install Ikea's Kvadrant triple-track rail kit ($17, instructions included) to the case's top and the top of the fabric panels.
Attach Ikea's Kvadrant bottom-rail kit ($6) to the bottom of each panel. Then hang the fabric panels by sliding them into the top of the track.
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To maximize your time, work on several projects simultaneously.
Friday, 6 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.
Cover window and door frames and trim with painter's tape; put down drop cloths (90 minutes*).
Paint trim with a brush (45 minutes**).
Paint walls with a roller (one hour).
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Prime bookcase and coffee table (90 minutes).
Paint second coat on walls (one hour).
Paint bookcase (one hour).
2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Paint coffee-table base (45 minutes).
Paint canvas (30 minutes).
Check paint job on walls; remove masking tape (35 minutes).
Draw chalk art (10 minutes).
Wrap bookshelves and coffee table with fabric (90 minutes).
Sunday, 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
Install bookshelf's track system and hang panels (90 minutes).
Measure, cut, and hang fabric panel for TV unit (30 minutes).
1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Mount standards and install wall brackets for shelving (45 minutes).
Arrange books, vases, and pillows (30 minutes).
Clean up (45 minutes).
*All times are approximate. **Walls and trim had been prepped with a latex primer the day before.