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Let’s Makeover Your Living Room: Using the Things You Already Have!

It’s a great day for a makeover Mama. Let’s do something about your living room andI’m going to show you how I make over my clients’ and my own homes, using the things you already have!

The use-what-you-have decorating concept started, to my best knowledge, with Lauri Ward who wrote “Use What You Have Decorating”. Her book had before and after photo’s that showed some definite improvements using just the furniture and accessories the clients as the title said, already had. 

Whether you like the rooms or not, the concept is good and has worked for me for many years even as a prerequisite to some of my full service projects. I know without a doubt it will work beautifully for you because you’ll be working with things you’re already accustomed to. 

(My Six Week Virtual Design Classes are ready, where you learn interior design, hands on, one on one with me while working on your design project as a team! Click through to see what you get, what we’ll do, pricing, introductory offers and more.)

Why it Works

First and most obvious, it makes your house look and feel better immediately. Every member of the family benefits from this and I promise if you rearrange it in a very good way, they will flock there. A new energy will be felt. You’ll keep gravitating there to catch one more glimpse, even when you’re busy doing other things. It’s quite powerful.

Second, is that when it’s done you can actually see for yourself what your home is missing. By that I mean it will become obvious to you through the process of rearranging, which pieces need to replaced, and which if any need to be discarded. This in turn saves money, time and frustration. A quality makeover keeps you from buying the wrong things and even helps you plan for future purchases.


What You Will be Doing
Placing furniture in warm and inviting conversation areas; hanging artwork; placing ambient lighting (table and floor lamps); editing out unnecessary or unattractive items; moving in new items from other, less used rooms; and arranging accessories in the most beautiful and natural ways. 

Fair warning. You will be repurposing all the best stuff to your living room and entry. That pair of beautiful lamps in the guest room? The stunning vase in the master bath? Those just got put on hold with “Living Room’s” name on them.

Identify and arrange for one to two people in the house to help you do the heavy lifting. Make it very clear to them that you will be “moving furniture around” from place to place to identify the best floor plan otherwise they will think that you’re constantly changing your mind and potentially become aggravated with you. Let them be in on the fun. Everyone wants to be a designer, husbands and sons included and quite frankly they’re often better at design than many of my female clients because they urge you to be practical and practical is key when arranging furniture. 

STEP TWO is to identify a service area, also called a staging area, such as a nearby spare bedroom or hall or kitchen table and set up a table for all the extra accessories you will be picking and choosing from.

STEP THREE is to bring out any and all old accessories including artwork from your cupboards and storage. Even include the things you don’t really care for. You can use them as visual aids if nothing else, and later replace them with more attractive versions. Pull out hard bound books. Hard bound books work beautifully on table tops! Pull out any candles, clean ones only. Pull out baskets, stacks of dishes, plants, pots and serving pieces.

STEP FOUR is to go to the spare rooms and bathrooms and bring out any favorite items that have been under appreciated there for too long. 

STEP FIVE is to gather your tools. You’ll need a pencil, picture hangers preferably in three sizes, a tape measure, a hammer, glass cleaner, paper towels, and a rag. Yes, part of a makeover often includes cleaning! 
STEP SIX is to completely un-decorate your room. Set all those items aside in a safe spot, preferably the staging area where you can easily access them without risking bumping into them.

STEP SEVEN Begin moving furniture. Please be careful not to trip, it’s a common problem with this particular type of project. When you back up to assess your work, be sure to always look behind you for the dog, cat, kid, and errant chair. I’ve had every accident imaginable doing this in my lifetime.


Practicality and scale are top priorities when placing furniture. Scale is really an important one to address and probably the one you want to do the least. Every room needs at least one fairly large, what I call ‘anchoring’ piece.

For instance in my small entry I placed a very large sideboard. It just barely fit the wall I placed it against with two inches to spare yet that piece ‘makes’ the entry. In my tiny home office, I placed a large pine hutch between two windows with no spare space on either end. My mom and husband warned me it wouldn’t fit. Yet it was absolutely perfect and again, ‘made’ that room too. So don’t be shy. Take chances!

Observe your natural foot traffic. Always have a clear path from door to door ideally with a minimum of 36 inches of clearance. You can have a turn or two but if getting from door to door means zigzagging or stepping over something, then it’s not functional and dysfunction always looks silly.

Always begin with the living room and entry simultaneously. Choose a piece of furniture for the entry that best defines the space. For a recent client, I took a small buffet out of the breakfast area and repurposed it to the entry. I topped it with a lamp, a large artwork for the wall above, two candlesticks, some hard bound books, and a few nicely framed family photos. 

The boldest changes are often the ones that take your home to that next level.

Step Eight

Once you’re positive the furniture is placed in the most practical yet striking ways, it’s time to gild the lily with accessories.

Again, scale is your friend so start with scale first. In my own entry I mentioned earlier, I took two very large, upright, footed ceramic pots, placed a pair of tall, faux triple myrtle topiary in them and in between placed a stack of hardbound design books and a tray with a silver service on it surrounded by smaller knick knacks.

Step back as you work (looking behind you) and assess how it looks. If it doesn’t jump out at you as feeling amazing, it probably isn’t. Keep trying. As a rule, it takes me four to ten times before I get a table arrangement just right. I spend the extra time because I want it to look unstudied. It’s contradictory I know!

More Tips

Don’t be afraid to remove area rugs and end tables that aren’t working. Often a clean look is more energizing.

Don’t shy away from ‘stuff’, use all the things you love but use them in a few, well thought out arrangements. Not all over the room. 

Leave some places for the eye to rest. These let the room ‘breathe’.

Mix up scale using large things which add feelings of permanence and stability and small things which are so thoughtful and often sentimental.

Don’t feel bad for being tired of the farmhouse look. Me too! But if you have the Farmhouse look, you can update it by getting rid of all the signs, all the corrugated steel accessories and bring in some warm colored baskets. Touches of emerald green, ochre (a saffron yellow) and red can provide some really nice updates.

If your room is missing something, it’s usually scale, texture or greenery.

Stay well my friend. Scroll through the blog for more wellness ideas. Find the one on soup.  It’s a goodie. 

Learn all the elements and principals of interior design as it pertains to your project in my Six Week Virtual Design Classes while you work with me one on one as a design team! Or you can always jump on a free 15 minute discovery call with me and address your one most pressing design question!

Live beautifully. Eat beautifully, Shiree’