Easy Tips for a Living Room Refresh

Easy Tips for Redecorating a RoomDo you ever find yourself noticing the widening gap between the home you want versus the home you have? Life happens, and like most people, I just don't have the mental space or physical dollars to think about the decor situation in my home—until it's late at night and I'm scrolling through my Pinterest feed pining for change. But then I wake up, and my baby's diaper is also pining for change, as are the sheets on the bed, the dirty dishes in the sink… you feel me!

This year I've been very aware of my decor restlessness, but also mindful of our family's goal to move to a new home in the next couple of years, which has made me reluctant to put any of our precious money into changing anything about our current space. But then I decided. Let's just make a few changes that would make a big impact in the enjoyment of our home while we're still here, and maybe we end up a couple of months behind on our goal to move. No biggie, right? Actually it was a big biggie… because we are so happy with how relaxing and cohesive our home feels now, and I'm tickled pink—like, actual pink—that beneath my tootsies is a gorgeous pink shag rug that makes me happy every single day! No regrets.

Revamping the decor in your space can be pretty daunting, especially if it's something you haven't worked on in quite some time. So let's talk a little bit about how I prioritized items in our living room refresh and how you can make big impact changes without spending a lot of money.

Easy Tips for Redecorating a RoomKEEPING DOWN THE COST OF REDECORATING

If you have a lot of things that you want to change about your space, think about breaking it up into two stages—one being the bones of the space and the other being the decorative details. What I'm sharing with you today is actually part two of fixing up our living room. The first part happened two years ago when we bought a sectional and installed the built-in office behind the sofa. At the time, we didn't think too much about the decorative details because we couldn't spend the money on it. So, much of what you see in the before pictures above was second-hand items, like thrifted art and hand-me-down furniture. They were placeholders that we liked enough to use before we were able to spend money on the things that we really wanted for the space.

When you're ready to pay attention to all of the decorative details in your space, the cost can certainly add up. Here are some suggestions that can save you money.

Sell Your Stuff
Clear out everything in your home that you don't love and don't need. Determine what you could sell for a good price and list it on Craigslist, eBay, or post it to your social media channels. I often will post something I'd like to sell on Facebook first and usually will get the asking price from a friend, without having to worry about shipping or having a stranger come to my house. In addition to selling your nicer things, have a garage sale (invite friends to contribute and also help with the sale) to get rid of everything else. Anything that doesn't sell—donate. You don't want that stuff back into your house cramping your style. Believe me.

Slipcover Your Furniture
I had been engaged in a love/hate relationship with our sofa for quite some time. It was perfect for the space, giving us the most seating for the area and separating the office from the other side of the room. But I've never been a fan of how "Ikea" it looked (because, well, it's from Ikea), and I've never loved the medium cool gray color. Obviously we weren't in the market for a new sofa, but I was able to completely change the look of it with an Ikea replacement slipcover made specifically for the Karlstad sectional, which Ikea no longer makes. I got my slipcover from Comfort Works, which is a company that specializes in Ikea and Pottery Barn slipcovers, but they make custom slipcovers as well. Slipcovers are so much more practical and environmentally responsible than buying new furniture for aesthetic reasons!

Host a Swap Party
My friends have had swap parties to get rid of clothes and accessories they no longer wear, but why not host a swap party for home goods? I know I'd love to shop my friends' home accessories that they're either tired of or no longer have room for in their own homes. So invite friends (preferably who share a similar style to you) to your home to bring some of the nicer things they'd like to get rid of, and swap with each other to get some new stuff for free.

Shop Thrift Stores, Flea Markets, Garage Sales, and Craigslist
It's easy to find a lot of stuff to love at your favorite home decorating stores, but it's more fun (and thrilling) to find unique treasures secondhand. Plus, it's usually so much less expensive. Mixing in secondhand or antique pieces is also a great way to build character into a space. If everything is new, it just seems to lack personality. Think of the difference between a room pictured in a catalog versus a room in your favorite home decorating magazine. Most likely the spaces you prefer are filled with things that have been collected over time, which is why redecorating is a process and not usually an event.

Make a Wish List
I always feel so uncomfortable when family members ask me what I'd like for Christmas or my birthday. But some people really stress out about gift giving, and because of their practical personalities would really love to give you something they know you'll use. The curtains in our home are actually Christmas gifts from family members who knew we wanted nice drapes but didn't have the money to spend on them.

Easy Tips for Redecorating a RoomSIMPLE DECOR CHANGES THAT MAKE A BIG IMPACT

As you can see, our living room serves so many purposes, and because of that, I wanted to focus the decor direction a bit to make it less eclectic and calmer. This space functions as our office, playroom, and sole living room. The only other rooms in our house are for bathing, sleeping, or eating. We have no den, basement, or "sitting room" to either exile our clutter to or escape from it. We desired organization and a calm style for our living room, which led me towards more subtle and neutral items in this revamp. Everyone's home is different, as is their personal style, but here are some objectives that I focused on which I knew would make a big impact in our living room.

Easy Tips for Redecorating a RoomEasy Tips for Redecorating a Room1. Consider a Cohesive Theme

In general, I don't do "themes" in a room (such as a beach theme or even simply a color scheme), but I definitely needed to decide what direction this room was taking, because while having a patterned rug, colorful pillows and furniture, and lots of busy artwork on the walls might work somewhere else, it was making this room feel chaotic. Narrowing down the colors in this space helped it feel calmer and more put-together. 

My desire for a calm and bright space, in addition to the small windows and our heavily wooded yard, led me to want mostly light colored objects for the furniture and walls (including curtains). We have a desk that's very visible, but it being all white helps it fade into the background, and lightening the sofa color made for less contrast, creating a more soothing view. I decided I would use mostly light colors with a base of white, lots of neutrals, and accents of orange and dusty pink, without too much contrast in their varying shades. This decision to focus the colors and reduce contrast made such a huge impact in this space!

Easy Tips for Redecorating a Room2. Reduce Visual Clutter

In addition to incorporating a more cohesive color scheme, I wanted to calm the space a bit more by decreasing some of the visual clutter. I thought the busy wall art, patterned rugs, wire-storage baskets, and gallery wall was all a bit too much for this space. So I sold some things and moved others to different spaces in our home. I swapped out the gallery wall for more wall shelves, which in combination with the TV cabinet, created a media center and a much-needed visual anchor in the room. I kept these shelves looking pretty neutral by choosing to store light-colored books on this side of the room, and darker books on the other side. Rather than selling or donating my old textbooks, I turned their spines to the wall and used them as decorative shelf-filler until my record collection grows vast enough to fill that entire shelf.

I still have a bit of a gallery wall in this room, but it takes up much less space visually, and isn't so busy with lots of color and pattern. This mini gallery is a great space to display some of our family's personality and also my kiddo's art projects. I'm not opposed to gallery walls, but I am more drawn to large, oversized art for this room because it is helpful to anchor zones in the space, while multiple smaller pieces were adding to the disjointed feel that had bothered me about this space before. And much like gallery walls, I love patterned rugs but just not in this room. A light, dusty pink rug still makes a statement, but anchors the seating area rather than adding to the visual clutter.

Easy Tips for Redecorating a RoomEasy Tips for Redecorating a RoomEasy Tips for Redecorating a RoomEasy Tips for Redecorating a Room3. Incorporate Stylish Storage Solutions

Focusing the color scheme and style of your space certainly helps tone down the visual clutter, but we all have actual clutter too, right? Or maybe that's just me. Nah, it's totally just my kids. Incorporating lots of nice-looking storage pieces was a high priority for this room. Our wall-mounted desk system is actually just a series of Ikea kitchen cabinets, so there's plenty of storage on that wall. I also made this long storage cabinet to organize toys behind our sofa, which also acts as a sofa table for drinks and snacks. The vintage sideboard that serves as the base of our media center holds the electronics and movies you might expect, but also extra blankets, extension cords and cables, and other household items in its drawers.

Another opportunity for me to reduce visual clutter was with what toys I allow into our living room. Just using the word "allow" might make you cringe, but if I'm going to put a play kitchen set and doll toys in our living room, I don't want them to be neon colored plastic monstrosities covered in garish stickers. I was able to find these nice-looking wooden items at garage sales and antique malls and added an on-theme curtain to cover the baskets of food toys that are stored beneath the kitchen "sink". Of course we also have plastic toys that beep and ding and are covered in stickers, but they don't sit out all the time, and are kept neatly stored away in the cabinet behind the sofa. I put more of an effort into the style and appearance of the larger toys that have become fixtures in our living room, and I think it makes such a big difference!

Easy Tips for Redecorating a RoomEasy Tips for Redecorating a RoomEasy Tips for Redecorating a Room4. Incorporate Layers and Texture with Decorative Accents

I didn't want a lot of color and contrast in this space, but I definitely didn't want the space to feel empty and cold. So I considered elements that would incorporate layers and texture to the room, warming it up and adding interest without adding clutter. For me, that meant choosing decorative items that might be more neutral, but very textural in their material—such as my pink rug, which blends looped jute fibers with shaggy pink fibers, a beige throw blanket with rows of fringe, knit, linen, and furry pillows, and ivory knit poufs that not only add interest, but also additional seating.

Another way to add life and texture to a space is to add houseplants. I've always enjoyed taking care of houseplants in other rooms of my home, but because this room also functions as a play room, I had really been hesitant to keep them in here too. I'm so glad I decided to move so much greenery into our living room finally, because wow—what a difference it makes! The girls have learned how to nicely touch the leaves and not dig in the dirt, and these plants really add a missing element of life and texture that this space needed.

Easy Tips for Redecorating a RoomEasy Tips for Redecorating a Room

While keeping in mind all of these goals, I did change very specific elements in the room, and figured it might be useful to list them all below:

Easy Tips for Redecorating a RoomThe itch for change and the creeping dissatisfaction with things can certainly be a slippery slope in my life. I do enjoy being in our home more now than I did before the living room revamp, but I really try to focus my brainpower on keeping the main thing the main thing—and that is the life that happens in these walls. (And I'm not just talking about my houseplants.) As cheesy as my words may be to read, it's so helpful to remember what's important and what you're grateful for when feelings of envy and discontentment come into your mind. Every day I remind myself of what I really treasure, and I gotta say, it's not my coffee table… as rad as it might be. –Mandi

Credits //Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with the NEW A Beautiful Mess actions.

  • wow your living room looks really nice! I might use some of these tips for my bedroom. I spend a lot of time in it and I get easily tired of the decor.

  • Love this! Your living room is gorgeous. I especially love the shelves above the TV!

  • Such a nice well-thought out, comprehensive post! Thanks Mandi! I definitely relate to that feeling you get when you want to change things around. I’m currently working on getting rid of everything that isn’t useful or isn’t beautiful in my home.

  • Mandi, this is great! I love when ABM shows homes that have an easygoing feel and yours is just perfect.

  • I love this post so much because it spoke directly to me and my current home situation! I am not in love with how my apartment looks and the gap seems to widen more with each passing month and year but I don’t want to invest because this isn’t our forever home! Thank you so much for these helpful tips! Planning a swap party ASAP! …also I already put in a consult request on Comfort Works! Slip covers! Duh!!!!! I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of that!

    xo, Heather

  • I got it at HomeGoods recently, actually. I was in Pittsburgh at the time, but I noticed they had the same one at the one in Canton too (where I live). So there’s a good chance you can find it at one near you. It was exactly what I was looking for! 🙂 -Mandi

  • Omg!! I am so so excited that you shared comfort works, I’ve been wanting to get a new slip cover for my ikea couch but the ikea options are all pretty meh.

    Thank you!

  • Well said! Re-decorating can be daunting, these tips are really helpful. Thanks! I need to tackle my living room as I just moved into a new home and really feel like I need to up my decor skills. Thanks for the inspo!

  • I love this! So fresh. I only disagree with the IKEA couch part. I think that shade of grey and those lines is one of the best things IKEA ever carried 😉 that new rug and coffee table look awesome!!! Thanks for the tips!!

  • Agreed. Mandi, I so appreciate your long-term vision and patience in planning! It always impresses me.

  • One of my favorite ABM posts in a while. Very thorough and practical, with totally achievable goals for the novice decorators out there like myself! I also love your style: clean yet lived-in, contemporary but not overly trendy, organic, personal, and creative.

  • Such a relateable post- it hits on the exact spot most of us feel. Most of us would love our homes to look Instagram or blog-worthy but few of us have the funds to do a complete overhaul. Thanks for writing a post about how we can make small, affordable changes but make us feel more at peace with our decor.

  • I love your posts Mandi! Thanks for contributing the best tips in an approachable, down to earth way. You’re talent is huge, and your practicality is quite grounding in this digital world. Thank you!

  • Hi Mandi!
    Can you share what fabric you used for your slipcover? I really love it and when looking at the site it’s hard to tell from the small swatches. Thanks!

  • A great post Mandi, thank you! On the slipcover note, if there’s readers in the UK, we used an ace company called Plumb’s. They will come to your home for free, with fabric swatches, and measure up if you want to proceed. It does sound a bit old-fashioned, but it’s such a good service! (I don’t work for them, I was just 100% happy with them) xx

  • This is an awesome post! I really appreciate all of the details and the before and after photos showing the change. It is really helpful to have a list of steps and things that you feel made the most difference, and I can really feel the calmness in your photos. Our house is pretty good, but is missing all of these decorative details that personalise the walls and make me feel at home. Thank you for writing such an informative and detailed post!

  • Thank you! What a lovely compliment! The keeping-up-with-the-Jones feelings run rampant in our digital world, and it’s easy to lose sight of all of the wonderful things we have and should be grateful for in our own lives. 🙂

  • It’s not super soft, but it’s definitely not scratchy. I should say it doesn’t feel plush, but it’s comfortable enough to sit on and feel like it’s a nice place to sit. 🙂 It’s much more comfortable then all jute rugs, and I like the combination of fluffy and earthy, if that makes sense!

  • Those Karlstad slipcovers look awesome, Mandi 🙂 The additional piping seems to give a more tailored overall look, especially compared to the original. Thanks so much for the shout out too, and we’re really excited to read all about your living room revamp.

  • Ahhh where did you get your record player? Just searched your blog and unfortunately could not find the source 🙁 beautiful living room btw!!

  • It’s actually my dad’s old turntable that he purchased when he was in college in the ’70s! He hadn’t used it in a while so he offered it to me when he knew I was looking for a good one a few years ago. Now I’m just hoping he’ll get a new receiver and speaker set, because he has the matching chrome and walnut pieces that I’m dying to have too! Ha! -Mandi

  • This is exactly on the mind right now as the season is changing. Something else that’s great to do is change accent pillows and even pillowcases to newer seasonal but coordinating colors. It works every time!