Living Room Makeover on a Budget: before and after photos

I received another photo from a reader who wants a quick makeover and a new living room.  I’m sharing the before and after photos.  There’s nothing wrong with the before photo, that’s not the point.  She is just looking for the easiest way to update her living room.  

BEFORE (scroll down to see the after)

living room makeover before

Sometimes fixing up one room at a time is the best way to gradually makeover your style as it changes.  I ask for a few inspirational photos because that helps me to see what look you’re going for. It’s not necessarily important to put a “name” to your style, but a few pins of living rooms that you like is a great way to get started.  

I like these examples because you can see that you can make a huge difference in your decor without doing anything major.  We didn’t even look at painting the walls or anything that requires a contractor.  You can give a room a completely new look even on a tight budget.  

Step 1 – Find Inspiration Photos

Sometimes what people don’t realize when they look at inspirational photos is that what they are drawn to can be architectural elements that can’t necessarily be duplicated.  Giant floor-to-ceiling windows streaming tons of natural light is always stunning, but might not be possible in your living space.  

Right picture is from Nesting With Grace (one to follow).

When you are looking for inspirational photos, try to choose a few that are just regular rooms without a lot of architectural wow.  

What CAN’T Use from Inspo Photos 

Both of these photos have very high wood plank vaulted ceilings.  Adding wood beams can accent the vaulted ceiling.

Both photos also have large round pendant light fixtures, I used a big arched floor lamp which also takes up a lot of visual space.

Both images have big black windows and no window treatments, partly to accent the view.  If the view isn’t that great, it’s not necessarily a good idea to highlight it.  

What CAN Use from Inspo Photos 

Both images have lots of warm wood accent pieces, which can easily be added.  They have a color palette full of neutrals.  Both images more modern furniture and a muted rug.  

Step 2.  Identify Your Color Palette

Choosing colors is not just a matter of looking at your Pinterest images.  You have to consider what works in your house.  

If you have dark hardwood floors throughout your home the extra cost to change those is not the best budget decision.  You can lighten up with room by choosing light colors for furniture.  

color palette

Step 3:  New Furniture

You don’t always need to get rid of all of your furniture to get a whole new look.   And you don’t need to use a lick of paint, since the walls are already a warm neutral.  If you have classic pieces like a neutral sofa, you can use them (example here) and just add a few pillow covers from your palette.  


living room makeover

One of the first things I like to add to a new room is an area rug.  Rugs are an affordable way to incorporate the color scheme and they make a big impact.  This rug has the muted colors that you see in the inspirational living area.  Be sure to get a rug that is large enough that all of the furniture can at least fit the front legs on the rug (see this rug size guide).

The second big piece is a new sofa.  Sofas are investment pieces, I often recommend getting them in a neutral color for that reason.  That said, this client chose several inspirational images that had a colorful modern sofa, so I chose a blue one in the color palette. 

The accent chairs are neutral more modern swivel chairs, also from Interior Define.  

I replaced the wall art with something inexpensive with a wood frame to go along with the other new accent pieces like the coffee table and the sideboard.  

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What I didn’t add (because I’m not that good with Photoshop) is the small details, like coordinating throw pillows on the chairs or a throw blanket.  These details are an easy way to sprinkle more of your colors into a room in an inexpensive way.  

These small touches are things that I like to find at the local thrift store.  It feels more unique when there is a mix of new pieces and vintage or one-of-a-kind pieces.  

If she had a bigger budget, I would replace the mantel with something more minimalist since this is a natural focal point.  This mantel has a very traditional feeling, but that didn’t fit in this budget living room makeover.  

If you liked this post you might like how to choose a color palette or this modern cottage dining room transformation.

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One Comment

  1. Fabulous, Andrea! I love how you reimagined the room – so light and bright – and the blue sofa is great. I love the wood trim on the ceiling too. You thought of so many ways to incorporate the inspiration pieces. Lovely!

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