See how Susie and Matt Lights' drab condo went from boring to bright."This room wanted to be green." That's how Betsy Speert, our Makeover Team's interior designer, explained her choice of a color that transformed Susie and Matt Lights' drab condo from boring to bright.
"I feel like Kermit the Frog," Matt quipped when he first walked into the transformed space. All joking aside, Matt loved the new color and the furnishings Betsy had selected to go with the couple's new look. "When you live in a place, it's hard to grasp exactly what doesn't work," Matt observes. "But that's Betsy's job. She knew what we needed better than we did."
Using such an acidic, bold color (California Paint's Candy Lime) is not for the faint of heart, but for Betsy, finding this exact shade of green was what she needed to unlock the potential of the Lights' combination living/dining room.
"I'm always influenced by what I see in stores," says Betsy, who explains that there are color trends in home furnishings just as there are in fashion design. "I found a pair of bright green suede pillows at HomeGoods, and I knew right away I wanted to move in that direction." Susie was willing to trust her designer's instincts. "Initially, I thought, 'That's a lot of green,'" says Susie, especially when the shoppers discovered a snappy bar cabinet at Circle Furniture that was exactly the same bright shade.
"You have to understand," Betsy explains, "when you use a lot of one strong color in a room, it acts as a neutral. Green became our white." In order to soften the impact of all that color, Betsy chose white trim to contain and frame the room's green walls. Next, having banished all the couple's drab, brown furniture, Betsy replaced it with lighter, natural-stained or white pieces. This also served to soften the room and give it a clean, country feel.
What the space needed next was an accent color. The two women took one look at a Circle Furniture sofa covered in a Delft-blue, patterned fabric and they knew they'd found their color. The blue sofa, paired with two armchairs covered in blue ultra suede, transformed the living room.
"We never used to sit here," Susie admits. "Our old sofa was so big, it swamped the space, and there was no room for anything else. Now the addition of the two upholstered chairs means we actually have a conversation area."
Metal legs on the two blue armchairs, as well as their sleek lines, add a touch of modern to the country design.
"A modern piece can cut the cuteness of country," Betsy explains. "It makes the room edgier." The proper decorative accessories, such as contemporary lamps, storage baskets, and paintings she discovered at HomeGoods, can also cut the cuteness, she adds.
Another anchor in the new living room is a childfriendly upholstered ottoman, also from Circle Furniture, that functions as a coffee table. Covered in a sprightly bluegreen plaid, it's a key piece that blends the room's major colors.
"You need some pattern in any room to break up large color blocks," says the designer. "I chose this because it was so lively and young, just like this family."
New dimensions are also on view in the dining room. A dark wood dining table, too large for the space, was replaced with a smaller, round table finished in pale tones. Four white chairs with pale green upholstered seats surround it.
"They're a modern interpretation of traditional ladder-backs," says Betsy, who, again, wanted an undercurrent of modernism to complement the room's country style.
Perhaps the dining room's most striking addition is a seven-foot mirror, trimmed in white, which dramatically enlarges the small space.
"People make the mistake of using too-small mirrors in rooms," Betsy says. "They hang them horizontally over bureaus or sideboards. But what you really want is the impact of something big. It doubles the amount of light in the room."
Spaces that work
When Betsy first saw the Lights' living/dining room, there were lots of glass-topped tables that displayed the couple's family photos. "It was cluttered, and it wasn't an efficient use of space," she notes. "There was no place for Susie or Matt to sit down and work, no place to store dishes or other tableware."
To change things, Betsy replaced a hulking sideboard with a perky green cabinet that doubles as a bar for the young couple. In fact, Matt was so impressed with the new bar set-up, he's thinking of changing his drink of choice to a martini. "We became regulars at HomeGoods," the designer says. Among the many wonderful accents she found at the off-price home fashions retailer were "an extraordinary selection of unique tabletop items and glasses. Every time I visited I found something else to add to the mix," Speert notes, "including all of the cocktail shakers, ice bucket and other bar paraphernalia."
Susie's favorite new space is now furnished with a charming little blonde wood desk that Betsy set up along one wall in the dining area. Formerly occupied by Matt's favorite table-two carved greyhounds holding up a glass top ("I loved those greyhounds!" says Matt)-the area now allows Susie to pull up a dining chair and settle in to pay bills or write letters. "The whole room is so much more useful now," Susie says. For his part, Matt thinks that "it's great that Susie has someplace to work when I hog the office computer."
A new, oak floor
"The only place I ever want to see wall-to-wall carpeting is in a bedroom," Betsy exclaimed when she first spied the beige carpeting that covered the Light's living/dining area. Developers often opt for carpeting instead of wood because it's less expensive to install. But Betsy insisted that a wood floor would be prettier, easier to keep clean and much more functional in such a well-used part of the house. Working with representatives from National Lumber, Betsy and Susie chose red oak flooring with which to replace the carpet.
"Those red tones really add warmth to the room," Betsy notes.
"Working with Betsy showed me how important a designer can be," Susie says of her makeover shopping spree. "She taught me a whole new way of looking for furnishings, carrying around a plan and filling in the blanks. We were never random. We knew what we were looking for."
To locate just the right accessories, Betsy visited at least six of HomeGoods' 21 area stores more than a dozen times. "We receive new merchandise all the time, for every room, every style," says company spokesperson Robyn Arvedon, "so it pays to visit often because there is always something new and exciting to buy."
That's where Betsy found a variety of wooden picture frames, which do a much better job of setting off the couple's photographs than their old crystal frames. It's also where the designer located a pair of contemporary glass lamps that bracket the new blue sofa.
The overall effect of the new room accomplishes exactly what Betsy Speert set out to achieve. She wanted a room as bright and lively as the family that lived in it. And seeing Matt and Susie Light's pleasure as they surveyed their new digs, the makeover was an obvious success.
See how Susie and Matt Lights' drab condo went from boring to bright.