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It was the quintessential surburban home -- shady porch, pitched roof, mom, dad, sister, baby brother. But it had to be comfortable enough so kids could plop down and company could drop in. The only thing that needed to be redone was the frontmost part: the stairs in the foyer and the living room. In short, the entryway needed energizing.
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The desired look: clean, serene, and uncluttered. The current look: an indistinct style and a lack of storage or surfaces (for the inevitable foyer clutter).
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The oh-wow change was relatively small: The stair-runner was replaced. The old carpeting was red, which was too dark to be inviting. A striped runner replaced the red -- the pattern would still mask tracked-in dirt.
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A key part of transforming the foyer was getting its proportions right, from the scale of the furniture to the size of the items on the wall. The pictures were put in frames that were subtle variations of the wall color, so that the arrangment didn't look so disjointed.
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In lieu of a chair, there's a bench that seats two for putting on shoes (which can be corralled on the streamlined boot tray).
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With their backs to the archway, these two teal chairs became a default border between foyer and living room. But it makes sense to treat the two areas as a single visual space. The best way to unify the look: paint! To make the parts of the room more agreeable, they went with a light tan for the walls, clean white for the trim, and a very pale sky-blue for the ceiling.
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The entryway decor was replaced with sharper, more elegant pieces. The original sconces were too colonial, so they were replaced with sleek, modern (but still slightly traditional) light fixtures. The old carved mirror was too fussy and small, so it was replaced with a larger plaster-framed mirror that rests atop the cabinet.
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The vintage curved-pine cupboard serves as both an elegant statement piece and a de-clutterer. Inside, there are tidy baskets for efficient organizing. Front-room necessities, such as keys, slippers, or miscellaneous school supplies, can easily fit inside.
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Before: A Lackadaisical Living Room
The cumbersome brown velvet couch was a placeholder that had never been replaced. It clashed heavily with the few high-quality pieces (like the chairs) in the living room. In addition, there was a painting of Venice -- a splurge -- that had never even been hung.
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The painting, which had been in storage, is now the focal point of the room. It also sets the palette. An additional lamp sheds a light on the new arrangement and in lieu of a coffee table (which has non-kid-friendly sharp edges) a pillow-soft ottoman has both storage and a surface for books.
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Getting Classy with Glass
To lighten the look of the side tables, bevel-edged glass was cut to fit the tops and a decorative paper was slipped underneath. The glass protects against nicks and also serves as a coaster.
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The room needed light in the corner, and a standing lamp fit where a table would not. The front door used to have ruched sheers on either side, but now those windows are bare to let in more sunlight. The uncovered windows also provide a nice lookout so that the family can see who's pulling in the driveway.
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The Right Rug
A pale-pink rug with a floral print keeps the room light -- It covers the dark wood that would otherwise drag down the color scheme.
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With kids comes an abundance of kid "stuff" -- and it should surprise exactly no one that the things kids love aren't always lovely to look at. The baskets' open tops give the kids easy access to the toys and make for a quick cleanup.
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Plush, round pillows are toys for the kids and eclectic accent pieces for the room. And just in case: The covers come off for cleaning.
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The problem with the house was mainly confusion: The house had an assortment of hand-me-down furniture combined with beloved pieces. It wasn't making a clear, sensible statement as a unified home. Having similar problems? To get a sense of how you need to renovate, look at how you live: When you come in, where do you put on your coats? Do the kids play in the living room? Where do you spend the most time? Find out what is most important to you and work from there.