Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Design Challenge #3 Charlotte's Great Room

Hi Everyone, Time for another Design Challenge!

is hoping for some good advice on how she can achieve a softer, casual,
updated look for her Great Room.

She has great elements that are a little masculine and rustic,
and needs our help to bring in a little chic.
Take a look, and think about her ideas.
Lets' see what we can suggest!

In Charlotte's Own Words

1. Being on a budget, I need to handle this re-do in stages.

2. I love all things white due to the inspiration of decorating blogs such as "White Ironstone Cottage", "My Romantic Home", "Common Ground", "Faded Charm" and many others.

3. I love country French and that casual elegance of some lovely flowers in an old bucket.

4. Casual but elegant. Not fussy.

5. I need HELP arranging items on my mantle and built in book case. I have never figured out what to do to make it pretty and not so cluttered looking.

6. My sofa is reddish brown leather. Is there a way to accessorize to brighten it ?

7. Thanks to you all for your help!


This is Charlotte's Entry.
Don't you love the lighter brighter wall color,
and that great blue console table?

I can see where this lighter color could be incorporated in to the rest of the Great Room.

Thanks so much for all your great design advice and ideas,
I know the recipients really appreciate you all taking the time to weigh in!
OK, let's share our thoughts and help Charlotte get started!

And a special "Thankyou" gift will be going out to
for spreading the word about Design Challenge!



  1. I see lighter brighter walls first. Maybe a gray beige or greige. Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore is a really pretty color. White or natural colored slips on the chairs. That bookcase would look great painted white. Add color with pillows and throws and your accessories. Hang the drapes almost to the ceiling and add textured woven shades high behind the panels. This would really look good. Best way to learn how to accessorize the bookcases and mantel is through decor books and magazines and design blogs. Learn to layer and group items. Such a nice large and bright room to work with. I would probably add some colored or patterned window panels and then a nice large rug in the room with the colors in it, too.

  2. Hi Charlotte! The biggest impact can come with those lighter walls. I wouldn't do stark white, but a lighter "putty" or taupe would be what I'd choose. Then while you have everything off the wall, I'd only put back what has the desired look you're going for. The dark iron pieces and indian inspired art should be replaced with more neutral options. Get on Pottery Barn, and Restoration Hardware websites and take a look at their "display" rooms. Leather can be used to your advantage with some of their looks. Grain sack, burlap and heavy nubby pillows would be what I'd use. I think your drape panels could go back then. Do slipcovers or even drop cloth slipcovers to go on your double chairs.
    Your mantle needs some variation in height, maybe stack some books then "group" your wonderful ironstone, then a little faux greenery would help soften it also.
    You may not want to paint the bookcases, but painting your coffeetable a light color or weathered antique white or grayish-white would be another strong impact piece. You have some great things to work with, neutrals and less pattern will head you in the right direction.
    xoxo Debra

  3. I agree with Kim, paint the walls a lighter color first, and dare I suggest painting the wood trim? I think it would look fabulous in a white or off white.

    Also, you could paint the bookcase white to match the trim.

    As for the furniture, slip covers would be great! I think they would lighten the space.

    The fireplace is great, I love it. Check out kims blog, she has great vingettes where beautiful things are layered. This week she used a little chest that use to be in her kitchen, and I believe last week she showed a book case with a new sheep painting.

    There are a lot of ways you can transform your place on a budget, paint being the least expensive. A word of warning, slip covers can be pricy unless you a a sewer. There are great tutorials online for making your own, even ones from painters cloth.

    I think you are going to get some great ideas.

    I love the entry color and the cute table! Looks great and could be the color base for this room too. Good luck, I cannot wait to see what is suggested.

  4. I think you can up date the TV cabinet by adding some moldings, especially a crown to the top, maybe some 1/2 rounds on the doors. They paint it. I would do a color on the inside and off white on the outside. The leather sofa could be softened by a quilt throw. The chairs in white cotton duck slip covers. I see a sisal rug and the fireplace needs lots more accessories, layers and height and perhaps a piece of architectural salvage above the mantle. The room could be painted a pale French light gray to blend in more with the stones on the fireplace. That would soften the fireplace and make it blend in, not jump out. Good luck. I know you can do it.Richard from My Old Historic House.

  5. Hi Charlotte! I agree with the posts about the lighter walls. I like the color already there but a lighter color will open it up and brighten it at the same time. Great room and pieces tho! I suggest painting and distressing your bookshelves and coffee table. And slipcovering your chairs in basic white slipcovers. You may want ruffles or a nice linen texture to add detail. Then get some great throw pillows that are lighter in color. Check out etsy for great scores! The French thing is really big right now. I personally love the pillows that look like old postcards or are made from mattress ticking or burlap. That blue table is priceless! The shelves just need a lil decluttering but the shelves themselves are a treasure! Remove all jacket covers. Display some books traditionally and some stacked. Try to opt for lighter colors to keep the bright feel. Maybe a few baskets or wire bins to contain anything random. Vintage stores and auctions are great places for budgets! Also want to add that I love the mirror above the couch! Good luck!

  6. wow, I am just so thrilled that I am getting some great advice here! I see a common thread is to paint the walls a lighter more neutral color. I get that and it will be easy since my husband loves to paint. Since taking these pictures, I have added two French inspired burlap pillows, 22 inch square to my sofa. I like the idea of a quilt as a throw on the sofa also.
    I need to digest and process all of these wonderful ideas.
    Thanks to you all!!

  7. Hi Charlotte -
    You have a beautiful space to work with. Many would envy this large room with its hardwood floors and rustic fireplace. Lucky girl!

    By the time I get around to putting my thoughts together, someone else may already have made these suggestions!.....( and now I see they have!)

    Paint is the most economical way to change out a room.

    You mention liking the "shabby white look" so I'd start with paint.

    Have you noticed that those rooms have a very limited color palette?
    The large spaces are neutral with a color in the accents.

    So limit your color selections and repeat them around the room.

    I'm going to use your foyer as inspiration.

    1. the walls:
    Would the color under the chair rail in you foyer look good on the walls of your great room? The color would visually link these two areas together nicely and white accessories would look great against that color.

    2. the built-ins:
    Painting your bookcases would change the room greatly. Do you want them be a focal point in the room? Then paint them 'off white, with a little sanding to distress. Do you want them to be less obvious? Then paint them a shade lighter or darker than the wall color.

    Men often cringe when we want to paint wood. So if painting the book cases isn't possible, then give them a face-lift by painting a thin piece of wood cut to fit the back of each shelf space. Or install some wallpaper back there. Neither would be permanent.

    3. the coffee table:
    This too could be painted white....but wouldn't the denim blue color from your foyer table be more interesting?

    Blue could be one of your accent colors. Do I see some blue striped pillows in the sunroom beyond the fireplace?

    4. Accents and accessories:
    Just a few thoughts. Other's will have better suggestions, I'm sure.

    Edit. Less is more! Fewer pieces of pottery on each shelf and organize your hard cover books by color. A few wicker storage baskets, maybe?

    Take your white pottery from the mantle and put it in the bookcases.

    Use only 1-2 pieces of art and keep them in your limited color palette.

    Neutral slip cover for the chairs & ottoman, and a neutral (or blue?) soft throw on the couch.

    You may want to change out the mirror over the couch for an oversized clock (check overstock.com), or put together an assemblage of rusty metal stuff....

    Best wishes, you've got a great room to work with. Have fun with it!

  8. Hi Charlotte,
    What a great room!! I agree that a lighter color would be better for the look you want, but I would go just a little lighter than the stones in your fireplace so it does not contrast too much. I agree, you mantel looks great, all it needs is something "green" Litte ferns will do amazing things and are so easy to find now. For the bookcases, I would try first getting posterboard and painting it the same color as you put on the walls and attach to the backs of the shelves with double stick tape. It will make you room appear wider and your accessories will pop against it. Also, for the chair and ottman by the fireplace, maybe angleing it more into the room and put the round table with the lamp on the fireplace side of the chair. Maybe you could have a round of mdf cut to fit over your coffee table top to get a curved piece into the room and paint it out white. Love the old buffet, would be so beautiful against a grey color. Good luck, and I will be anxious to see the results!!

  9. Hi Charlotte! I've got lots of ideas, but I will try to keep myself in check here! : ) I could see myself just moving a lot of your accessories around, so before I get to paint or anything like that, I would suggest that you group your white pieces together for a bigger impact. Either on the mantel or the side table. On the mantel, I could see all those pitchers in a cluster down one end and your other pieces {off the grey table with the bunny} down toward the other end. To vary the height, I might put the white planter on top of that white pedestal dish to raise it up. I would also add some of your books over here.

    If you decide to paint your bookcase, you could get some decorative molding {which I believe was mentioned already} and easily attach it to the sectioned areas and the top. For the decorative aspect, it looks like there are more books to the right side than left and I would even that out using your accessories on the same shelf as some books. Mix it up basically.

    I would paint your coffee table and think about the cream color in your rug for the walls. I might do a grey or a mix of grey and white on the bookcases. Also, you can get those great grain sack looking pillows at stores like Home Goods that are decently priced to add to the leather couch and chairs.

  10. You need an accent color after deciding on base color for room - perhaps bring in shades of the blue on the console. I would suggest cutting down the number of items on your bookshelf and mantle..you can remove/add items every so often. Group books and decorative items together creating small vignettes..you do not have to cover every spot on every shelf. Perhaps stack books by color. For mantel try grouping in threes.You need some soft furnishings like a throw and throw pillows as you have more of the hard surfaces and masculine edges and a lot of framed pieces..maybe something on canvas. Add accessories to coffee table over time - something in accent color, some candles perhaps. Lighten wall color and yes, try to paint trim too. I am wondering if your rug is a little small for the space. Perhaps move it closer to leather couch? Lots of possibilities - have fun working through it!

  11. Sooooo many fabulous ideas from these talented ladies! I won't reiterate them but just had to say that you have a wonderful room to work with already and I know it will be beautiful with your lighter and brighter approach! :-)

  12. Hello Debra & Charlotte,
    I just wanted to throw my 2 cents in there. I have leather couches too, they are about the same brown/reddish color as yours, my walls are a light tan color and I also added some light beige pillows, not too many just a few and they look great. I think that if you change the floor mat for a lighter one and without too much design, will make the room look lighter.
    Thank you ladies and good luck with the makeover, can't wait to see it!
    XXX Ido

  13. I am not a designer so I hesitate to add my 'two cents'. So far, there are some great suggestions!

    Some ways to change it up without spending much (or anything, depending on what you have on hand). Paint the frame on the mirror behind the sofa white and hang horizontally. Center the sofa on that wall. Move the rug over so the edge is under the front of the sofa. Paint the coffee table white/ distressed. Maybe even put a french graphic on it if you're talented like that. :)

    Some other things that would look nice - drop cloth slip covers (tutorial on Miss Mustard Seed - http://missmustardseed.blogspot.com/) on the red slip covered chairs.

    The other suggestions are great - I like the idea of painting the trim and the bookcases. A subtle damask stenciled in the back of the bookcase....? Love your stone chimney with white on the mantle. Can't wait to see what you come up with! :)

  14. I would also paint a lighter neutral color....pillows and throws on the sofa would soften that up and I would also paint the coffee table and distress it. Also, my favorite thing is to add some plants in pretty planters...maybe a maidenhair fern in a terra cotta pot on the coffee table, with some books and candlesticks! Whatever you do it is going to be FAB! You have great bones already!

    Lou Cinda :)

  15. This is a lovely and warm, inviting room to begin with. The things that sticks out the most to be is the wall color. I say go for a cream color such as the cream that's in the rug. It would really brighten the room. The sofa could be softened with a chenille throw in a soft color.

    That's my two cents!


  16. Hi Charlotte! You have a ton of great stuff to work with! Love the fireplace, the couch, the built-in and those high ceilings!! Not to sound like a broken record, but I think painting the room in cream or french grey and painting the built-in bookshelf and coffee table white will be a good start! I bet your french pillows look great on that sofa! Once painted, you can re-accessorize with stuff you already have and edit things that don't fit the new design. I usually reference magazines when I'm styling a bookshelf....group like items, keep the colors similar, and layer layer layer! Have fun! Can't wait to see the end result!!

  17. Hi Charlotte-

    The things that come to my mind are very do-able and budget friendly.

    I have never done anything in my home that wasn't! That creates the fun.

    To gain perspective, I would strip the room of all accessories, and I would separate those accessories into
    piles of dark and light.

    Then I would divide those two stacks into large items and small.

    Your den is like a great room and can handle large accessories.

    Back to the empty room. Because your ceilings are pitched and high- which is really nice, I would paint the walls and ceiling the same color- in say a soft white.

    I would also paint the built-ins (after someone handy in your family adds crown moulding at the top) and your coffee and end tables in a creamy white as well.

    Now hang on- because this is tricky.

    I would look at the dark couch (which I love) and the stone work and your mantel, and I would find a palette of soft whites (for paint choices) that work with those pieces.

    In fact you could also add another color to anchor your built-ins by painting the backs of the shelves with a color like Kilim Beige by Sherwin Williams.

    With the white ironstone you own
    arranged on your built-in shelves with some old books (remove the book jackets) and some organic things for texture and it would look amazing.

    The other color you might enjoy on the backs of your built-ins is a soft robin's egg blue.

    I wouldn't accessorize the couch.

    The nail head is a wonderful accessory.

    The feature wall across from the fireplace would be filled with vintage mirrors.

    I would shop my house for something lighter than red to cover your club chairs and I would angle them on either end of the couch.
    I have used white matelesse bedspreads to 'cover' chairs before.

    I think you would also enjoy having simple, thrift store lamps with white shades on your couch end tables.

    Whew...I get carried away.

    It is going to look amazing-
    you have so many wonderful things.

    Sorry if this is too much information.

    White Spray Paint

  18. Charlotte, What a great area you have to decorate. And you have some very very lovely pieces!!!!
    Your fireplace is one I would LOVE to have. Leave it alone! It is the best focal point!!!
    The easiest thing you can do that will give you a huge decor punch is to paint your walls! I would paint them a soft taupe, beige or cream. Stark white will be very hard to live with and won't compliment your fireplace or sofa. HOWEVER, I would paint all the trim a clean and bright white. Wow, that would look gorgeous with your fireplace.

    YOur sofa is really wonderful! A classic! Embrace it's great causal look. Pull the rug and the sofa closer to the fireplace to make a cozy sitting area. Add a wonderful throw to your sofa and some BIG pillows.

    You have a really nice conversation corner with your chairs that are covered with the red throws. I would slipcover them and the ottomen in a white duckcloth or a sailcloth. Add monogrammed pillows and a small rattan tray on the ottoman.

    Paint the bookshelves... here is where you can go many ways. White OR a great taupe, black or even a deep blue. The stone in your fireplace has some yellows/golds in it, how about painting your bookcase a burnt gold and antiquing it to make it look old? Whatever you paint that I would also paint the mirror behind the sofa. Stain the coffee table a deep coffee color ( you need some wood with all the painted pieces you will have) on the top and paint the legs soft white. Paint some of your accent tables white.

    Hang your curtains almost to the ceiling~ on an iron or oil rubbed bronze rod. I love what you have on the windows now. Maybe you could add a piece to the bottom in a great faded graphic~ for a little pizzaz!

    YOur ironstone is fabulous! Group it to one side of your mantle and add a few tall lanterns to the other side.
    Wow, this was so much fun! You have a whole lot of great things to work with!!!! What a blessing! I can't wait to see what you decide!
    Now you need to come to my home. I have 4 bedrooms that need a facelift! Want to help?

  19. My opinion, for what it's worth. LOVE the fireplace, leather couch and ironstone collection. Like the rug too, but it seems to me like it's too neutral for the room, as decorated. I would paint first, either lighten the yellow (if you're wanting a frenchy yellow) or go with the color of the large stone under the 2 pitchers on the mantel (or a taupe that matches the stones of your mantel). I don't even mind the wood color of the bookcases, but would change the color of other furniture, if you don't paint the bookcases. It seems to have too much of the same wood and the artwork doesn't seem to give off the frenchy feel you're wanting. Like the foyer, but I wouldn't paint the walls the foyer color. Would also pull the couch out from the wall. I'm a big fan of pottery, so I would bring in some color with a few pieces of pottery and also some type of woven baskets or old suitcases for accessories. I also think it would be nice to add some architectural salvage or iron wall hanging (similar to the cross). There is lots of Etsy websites with great pillows or pillow covers. Just put 'pillow's and search under handmade. Pinterest and Houzz would be helpful sources for getting ideas. Just a few of my thoughts on it. Hope it helps! Best of luck.

  20. BTW, I meant 'there are', I don't usually say 'there is'. LOL! It's late!

  21. Great room you have Charlotte. My favorite piece is the vintage buffet on the one wall. That goes nicely with your leather sofa. You said you needed a plan that went in stages. So here is my idea.
    Stage 1. Paint the large mirror frame white and lean or hang sideways on top of the mantel, with 2 or 3 pieces of your white ironstone on either side nothing in the middle
    Stage 2. Paint the walls the same color or similar to the top half of the entry. It seems to have a hint of sage like the rug I noticed in your second pic.
    Stage 3. Slipcover the club chair and ottoman by fireplace in white or pale sage green. Target has reasonably priced simply shabby chic slipcovers if you don't sew. Do the other 2 chairs in white or a sandy neutral, and throw pillows for the couch in a sandy neutral. I like the idea above with the Frenchy postcard look.
    Stage 4.. Paint the coffee table, end table and bookcase a distressed white. Your woodwork and floors are beautiful together, and I think they will be a great accent to these lighter additions.
    Stage 5. Put the old dog photo that is over the fireplace, above that gorgeous lyre legged table you have in the corner where you now have the Native American art. And add the old bucket or porcelain pot filled with flowers in the corner next to that favorite buffet, where the Native American spear is, and also at the bottom of the fireplace, maybe a big old frenchy urn. Maybe you can display the NA art in another room or group it in the foyer. It is some great stuff.

    P.S. Thanks Debra for the shout out, you are too sweet.

  22. Great space and wonderful fireplace. The few things that popped out to me were the walls, fireplace and curtains. If you like lighter and brighter start with the wall color. You could even keep in the yellow family with a lighter variation of yellow. You could paint the fireplace mantel an old white color. The curtain rods should be hung higher to make the ceilings appear higher. Slip covers for the chairs and some pretty french country pillows.

  23. The first thing I noticed in your room was the wall color, I'd go a lighter color that would go with your fireplace stone, maybe a light gray! Next I'd paint the coffee table and bookcase an Cottage White by Behr and distress them. I like the idea of adding moulding to it too! I read that you have already purchased the postcard pillows, great choice! I'd add a throw to that look! A couple baskets on the hearth would give you a different texture as would books for height on the mantel! I can't wait to see what you do with the room, it is a really nice sized one!

  24. Hi Charlotte! I agree with everyone on painting the walls a light cream or possibly a pale gray. Just pick up colors from the fireplace stone. I would add molding to the bookcase and then paint it an off white. A sisal or natural fiber rug would also help lighten the room as would white slipcovers on the red chairs and a pretty throw on the sofa. Check out decor magazines, blogs and Pinterest for accessories and how they are displayed. Most importantly...it's your home so only do what YOU Love.

  25. My thoughts are white slipcovers and wall paint.

    You have some great ideas here from some talented gals, I can't improve on them one bit!


  26. Lighter wall color and change your slipcovers to a lighter fabric along with lots of pillows. I like the brown contrast ansd use it throughout my own home. Maybe adding some garden related items to lighten things up as well:-)

    This room has great bones and I can't wait to see what you come up with.


  27. Wow...you have a great room that looks like it gets nice light!

    I too would start by painting the walls and I would pick a neutral color from the beautiful stones in your fireplace. Then I would slipcover your furniture. I love how all the talented bloggers use drop cloths and add ruffles! Take away all decorative items and start from scratch adding only a few items that you love and perhaps revamping some that you don't!

    Most importantly...have fun!

  28. First, let me establish that I am not a decorator. Just a "wannabe". But here are my thoughts. You have beautiful natural elements in this room like your trim, doors, floors and the stone fireplace. The big bookcase/entertainment center is definitely competing with this being that it is oak. I would recommend painting that an antique white (or even black)and distressing it a bit to give it depth. Oak distresses well. Same thing with the coffee table. The walls should be a color that will compliment the natural elements. Perhaps a beige like Softer Tan by Sherwin Williams or a pale gray. I love pops of red and gold (pillows and accessories) to liven up all of the neutrals and these can easily be changed with the seasons. I also love using natural color slip covers (e.g. duck cloth) and would recommend that for the chairs AND the ottomon. Can't offer much help on the mantle. i always struggle with that myself. you have a great space! Can't wait to see what you come up with.

  29. Hi Charlotte, I'm not sure if it's too late to submit a few suggestions about your room or not, but if not, let me start by saying you have a fabulous room to start with.

    I have read pretty much all of the suggestions and have noticed that hardly no one has mentioned furniture placement. Your room has more than one focal point which can be very hard to deal with but with the correct furniture placement it could be a plus for you. I think rearranging the furniture would give give the room a much better flow. Try placing the sofa where the red chairs are currently. Place the red chairs over in front of the bookshelves with a small table in between topped with reading lamp(like a small reading area). The other chair and ottoman, depending on floor space may fit into the corner over where you currently have the buffet. Then move the beautiful buffet to the center of the wall where your sofa currently resides.

    Center the large mirror over the buffet OR over the fireplace. If you center the mirror over the fireplace then center the picture that is currently above the mantle over the buffet(did that make sense?). If you use the mirror over the mantle or keep the framed print there, you might try just sitting the piece on the mantle itself, leaned against the wall instead of hanging it. That way you can change out pieces from time to time (for holidays and such) without having to measure and hang. Plus it would be a more casual look and feel. As far as the mantle, the suggestion to group things and vary heights is good solid advice. Also you don't have to fill the entire expanse of the mantle with objects, leaving some open space there will generate a less cluttered feel. If you like symmetry, place a group of items on either side of the framed art (or mirror) but close enough to the art to make it part of the grouping. You can also do an assymetrical look with just one grouping off to either side of the framed art but close enough to the art to tie it together.

    As far as a paint color for the room, I think my favorite Antique white by Colorplace (yes Wal-Mart paint, just as good as the pricier stuff, really!) would go best with your fireplace and leather sofa. It's a creamy white that just goes well with everything and is already premixed. You may have to prime first since your current color is a little dark. Then use Colorplace Country white for the ceiling. It's just one shade lighter than the Antique white.

    Anyway, Charlotte I am not a designer by trade and those are just my humble suggestions. You have a great room already and several great pieces to work with. With a little tweaking I think you will get a room you love.


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