A Lovely Living Room
A local designer takes an odd-shaped room and creates a functional and stylish living space that doesn't cost a fortune
Photography by Ken Stabile
Like many rooms in a lot of homes, this living room brought challenges. For one thing, the space is long. It also has several openings, which makes furniture placement difficult. Westchester designer and TV personality Lorri Dyner was tasked with maximizing the room while making it look pretty.
She started by dividing the space in two. The back of the sectional created the divide, with a conversation area on one side and an entry/landing on the other.
Though the homeowners have small children, they opted for a white slipcovered sofa from Pottery Barn. Dyner says that choice is not as surprising as it might seem. “The point is to remove the covers and wash/bleach them,” Dyner says. “I personally love a light-colored couch, so I say bring it on.”
The designer kept the overall palette simple: white, navy, and kelly green. Dyner says it works because the space is meant to feel fresh, sunny, and bright, and those colors combine to create that feeling. A great way to add interest without adding additional color, she adds, is to bring in metallic and natural elements. “In this case, bamboo shades did the trick, as well as numerous brass accents,” she says. “I love the look of Roman shades, plus curtains. It just makes the whole room feel pulled together.”
Dyner’s favorite element of the design is a DIY project. “I love that the room is slightly preppy and beachy in feel, a nod to the home’s location [which is by the beach],” she says. “But my absolute favorite element is the Ikea Vittsjo [shelf] spray-painted gold. It’s so elegant, so on trend, and it costs so little.”
Dyner says there are two common mistakes homeowners make when designing spaces in their homes. First, “People are often afraid to purchase an area rug that really fills the space. I can’t believe how many dinky rugs I’ve seen in my lifetime,” she says. There is no hard-and-fast rule for the proper-size rug, she says, but in general she suggests starting with a rug that accommodates the front two legs of all your furniture.
Second, she says, “I find people are constantly pushing their furniture up against the walls, when in so many cases it would look much better floating in the center of the room.”
Read on for more tips on getting this breezy and budget-friendly look.
Get the Look
Style Your Bookshelves
Less really is more. Though you want to fill the space, you don’t want to go overboard. “For these built-ins, we used only a handful of accessories,” says Dyner. “I love using stacks of books. The trick is to place them on a zigzag.” Also try finding accessories that are different shapes, to add texture and interest, she adds.
Dyner took Ikea’s Vittsjo shelf in white and sprayed it gold for a brand-new look. The shelf cost only $80, and she used five cans of spray paint.
Get Designer Pillows for Less
You can find almost any designer fabric on Etsy.com, especially when it comes to pillows. So you don’t have to have pillows custom made, which can be pricey, Dyner says.
Double Down on Rugs
If you’re working with a very large room, choose two rugs in the same print. A rug made to fit a huge space can cost a fortune. In this room, Dyner used two 8’x10’ rugs for a custom look without a custom price tag.
Choose a Coffee-Table Alternative
Homeowners with young families are often hesitant to spring for a coffee table because of sharp edges, not to mention glass, Dyner says. Other spaces are so tight you can’t accommodate a proper coffee table. In either case, consider using something else entirely. In this room, Dyner opted for a gold Moroccan pouf.
Go With Smart Accessories
It doesn’t matter where you get your accessories; what’s important is how they look in the room. Dyner shops at Target, West Elm, Wayfair.com, and Home Goods for small items that make a big impact on a room—not on a budget.
Try DIY Window Treatments
Stores like Lowe’s and JCPenney have an incredible selection of bamboo Roman shades. You can get them cut to your window size for a fraction of the cost of a custom bamboo shade. The owner of this project purchased simple linen curtains from West Elm and had navy trim tape added at an upholstery shop. The look is custom yet half of what you might pay to have drapes made.
Designer Lorri Dyner’s 3 Best Tips
1. Define conversation areas.
Pick the main point of interest in the room and arrange furniture around it. In this case, Dyner used a sectional sofa to create a conversation area that faced the fireplace and TV. A U-shaped arrangement is typical. “Don’t try to get fancy by deviating from this formula. It rarely works out,” Dyner says.
2. Be real about how you will use the space.
Dyner says clients often have fantasies of a game table in their living room or a chaise lounge in a living room corner for afternoon naps, but the reality is those pieces will probably never get used, which just means wasted space. “My favorite—and most controversial—suggestion for young families is to consider doing away with the formal dining room and having a second family room/playroom, at least until the kids get a little older.”
3. Mix and match styles.
You may love midcentury modern, but you probably don’t want your house to look like the set of Mad Men. To ensure you don’t go overboard, Dyner suggests keeping your preferred style to 30 percent or less of your furniture. That way, no one style dominates.