DIY

Our $5 Living Room Make-Under

June 21, 2018  —  Written by Julia Marcum 

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Befores, afters, mood boards, plans, failures, wins. We’ve done a lot of projects, and they’re all here. 

We have a long-standing relationship with DIY, and love rolling our sleeves up and making it happen. 

Even when you don’t want to rip down a wall, you can make that space in your home better. Right now.

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I’ve been really craving a lightness in our home lately. I pulled up the Persian rug in the kitchen. I purged half the toy room. I tucked away a lot of baskets of throws and magazines. I took down a few pictures that were hanging on walls. I told Chris, “I just feel like I need some blank surfaces, I don’t know what it is–I just want to space to breathe a little more.” And he nailed it when he responded, “no one wants layers on in the summer.” And I think he’s right! The warm air is making me want to shed a few of the layers around our home–for who knows how long.

I wanted to share a few simple changes I made this week in the living room that made a large impact.

1. I spray-painted our arc lamp’s base black. This CB2 arc lamp is one of the oldest decor items we have! We have had it for 6-7 years and the thing I love about it is it makes our standard 8ft ceilings look taller and feel grander by bringing the eye up. However, the satin nickel base (not my favorite finish) always got lost in our putty-colored walls. I tried a few other lamps in its place, but the shape of this one was best.

So, I purchased one can of Rust-oleum’s Universal All Surface Spray Paint in Satin Black (which reads a lot like the popular matte black fixtures trending all over) and sprayed her down. Before doing so, I removed the shade (and vacuumed it really well), extended the arc all the way, and gave the rod a really good wipe down. The spray paint is a paint and primer in one and only took a few coats and not even a full can before it was completely transformed.

It’s definitely one of those projects I wish I didn’t wait so long to do. I love the way it pops and looks so much cleaner.

2. I removed the large end table that was between our two leather chairs (it was actually used as a coffee table in our last home!) that held a large lamp and so much decor and simplified it to allow the space to breathe.

This move (or remove) was largely inspired by this home featured in Architectural Digest that reminded me of our home in some ways.

I loved the simplicity and the restraint. I don’t need or even want a large surface between our two chairs anymore. At one point, it was functional because we didn’t have any overhead lighting so we needed to scatter lamps around, but now we have dimmable recessed lights and use lamps to accent that.

I pulled the drum side table from Polly’s room, where it was no longer being used as much since I’m no longer nursing her. I don’t know if it’s THE table for right there, but I wanted to do this mini-make under for nothing–well, the cost of spray paint…so for $5!

3. I removed 5 throw pillows, 3 baskets and two throw blankets from the room. Gah!! It’s so freeing! Our leather chairs are oversized and I always struggled with a throw pillow size for them. Do I need a 24″? Should I just layer a few? I’ve done both. This week, I put one on one of the chairs, (didn’t have a matching one) and packed up the rest, including two additional pillows that were in a basket hanging out by the sofa for decoration purposes only. I’m loving the simplicity of one normal sized pillow.

4. I removed a lamp I never loved and put our faux fiddle leaf in a larger, more proportional basket.

That first thing that happened in this corner–removing a lamp I never loved–is such an important step. The lamp that was here had a creamy white base with a zig zag pattern and white shade. It was very non-offensive and fine. But I never loved it. Removing it from the room as an option allowed me to see that this large gray lamp that we had (it used to be on the big coffee/end table in between the leather chairs) and I did love would work great over here!

I also pulled this basket we got last year from Article that has been outside, into the room and put our fiddle leaf in it. I love the scale and the texture and the color–it just works and is a welcomed change. I do need to put some sort of moss or something in the basket because you can pretty clearly see the fake base when you look inside.

To know me is to know our home is ever-evolving. I don’t really decorate for various holidays or bring out my “fall decor” or “spring wreaths.” To me, seasonal decorating really applies more to our lives. And in this season, I’m craving a little less stuff and a little more breathing room. I also love that changes like these don’t have to cost a thing! Shop your house, move things around. Try removing something and live with it for a couple hours. It might feel empty at first, but that’s not always a bad thing.

SOURCES

Wall Color: Benjamin Moore Hazy Skies
Dark Planked Wall Color
Area Rug
Coffee Table
Sofa (in Rain)
Leather Chairs
Drum side table
Barcelona Vase
Silver Dollar Eucalyptus
Art Ledge
Faux Fiddle Leaf Fig
Tree Basket
Dark Blue Velvet Pillow
Tree Cut Print Art
Art Light
Tripod End Table 
Arc Floor Lamp
Bamboo Blinds
Curtain Rod
White Grommet Curtains
Coffee Table Tray
Black Star Sculpture
Striped Throw Blanket
Faux Pencil Succulent

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What do you think?

  1. Lauren says:

    Hi, I stumbled on your site after searching for living room inspiration. Do you remember where you got your picture ledge from? Thank you!

  2. Kelly says:

    Hi Julia,

    How is your lamp paint holding up? I love the arc lamp and have it in my cart but I too am not crazy about the finish. We also have a cheaper target version in the playroom and I’d like to keep from looking like we have 2 very similar lamps in the same finish. I’m afraid to paint a brand new lamp and have it ruined. I understand it won’t be touched most of the time but I don’t want to be freaked out whenever the kids go near it. Thanks and have a great day!

    • Julia says:

      It still looks perfect! I think because you don’t have to ever touch the lamp to turn it on–there’s no real way for it to get scratched up. Either way, no regrets!

  3. Chris says:

    Which leather finish are those chairs from PB? Are they the 36″ or the 42″ chairs? Thanks!

  4. Sarah says:

    Would you share the dimension of this space? I have a long narrow house and I’m hoping to open up the main floor, wanted to compare what you have here to my space. Have always loved your kitchen, dining, living combo.

  5. Angela Deneka says:

    What size is your Barcelona vase? 12.5″, 14″ or 18″? Thank you for sharing all your details on most everything..love your style!!

  6. Could you tell me where the sketch of the hand holding the flowers is from!? I’m obsessed !!

  7. Lauren says:

    You could wrap your fake tree with burlap or a plaid blanket inside the basket instead of moss. Just thinking of your dog and Polly getting into the moss.
    I love shopping my house too, however it is a skill that takes practice. If your budget is $0, then that skill really gets honed :).
    Great post, love the summer cleansing.

  8. Paige says:

    Can you tell me what exact leather color you chose for your Turner chairs? Would you choose that same color now?

    • Julia says:

      We have the burnished walnut. We got them from an outlet and they were kind of worn in already and I love the look! Would choose them again in a heartbeat.

      • Paige says:

        What a score from the Outlet! While you’re in Austin, you should dart over to the San Marcos Pottery Barn outlet!!! It’s the best!!!!!!!! :) Thanks for the info!

  9. Patricia Hall says:

    I recently summer-ized our living room as well. I packed away the throw blanket and recovered several pillows; some with blue batik fabric and some with fabric left over from reupholstering the dining room chairs. The touches of blue feel very summer to me yet I can blend with leopard print in the fall. My refresh wasn’t quite as frugal; I spent about $40 on pillows and fabric, but I feel I got a lot of bang for my bucks.

  10. Pam says:

    Looks great. Have you considered a big lumbar pillow for each of the leather chairs? The IKEA 16 x 26” inserts are substantial enough for those chairs and you might like them better than square ones.

  11. Jennifer says:

    I just cleaned off my whole covered patio, plants and all, planning to rearrange what I have – an outdoor makeover for free! Love your inspiration post!

  12. Caroline says:

    I can so relate to your need for less right now! I just took a whole carload of stuff to Salvation Army and it was freeing. In it were a couple throw pillows that I just didn’t love and that had kept ending up on the floor when my kids played. It’s so nice to have more breathing room on the couch and less pillows to pick up. Now I’m looking around trying to find another carload worth of stuff to donate. I’m just desperate for more open space in our house.

  13. Grace says:

    Great refresh! Do you need a lamp on both sides of the couch? Honestly, the corner with the fiddle leaf is still reading a little crowded in my opinion. I do really like that lamp, but maybe it’s not needed in that particular spot?
    Would never have thought to spray paint a floor lamp base! I have a generic nickel floor lamp I’m going to try this with!

  14. Amber Wallace says:

    I love the simple changes! And I love hearing that someone besides me doesn’t like to seasonally decorate. It almost always seems cluttered to me. Plus, I’m always up for a $5 makeover!!

  15. Alison says:

    Its perfect. light and airy just goes with summer for sure :)

  16. Meredith says:

    Love this! So often, I get caught up in thinking about the big, expensive things I want to change in my apartment, and I don’t do the million, small, affordable things that would really help the space. Your blog (and podcast) have always been a great reminder to do what I can, with what I have, where I am… and this is no exception!

  17. Ann says:

    Julia, I just have to say, I love everything you do, but your hatred of nickel finish is so funny to me! It’s going to come back around soon. Start giving yourself a little dose every day so you get inoculated. It really is due for the next big resurgence. When we bought our first home it had brass everywhere. Everyone who came in was like…..ewwwww gross. Wished I would have saved that brass…… haha! P.S. I really do like the black lamp better anyway.

    • Julia says:

      I love nickel! We just put polished nickel as the main metal in our bathroom. But brushed nickel–brushed anything really–just looks fake to me.

  18. Tara C says:

    Could you post a before pic or do a gift so we can see how the room has been simplified more easily? Thanks!

  19. Bethany G Lewis says:

    Can you share sources for the rest of the art on the ledge? I’m in love with the big photo in the middle and the print with 3 big circles!

  20. Betsy says:

    Less is always more in my book! But I live in an 848 sq. ft. house. I too, am always trying to edit out the “fluff” in my house. Makes me feel so much better.

    Love the changes! The lamp re-do is spot on.

  21. AlisonG says:

    Much better…I always thought it a shame you were covering up those beautiful chairs with those hairy big pillows. Maybe it would be fitting to have a larger rug so that all the legs, surfaces were sitting on the rug? Just a photo observation. I really like your coffee table succulent, but I gasped when I followed your link $45 yikes. Ever seen any budget options by chance? The saying less is more rings true here. Very nice. Have a great weekend.

    • Julia says:

      Thanks, Alison! We’ve had that succulent forever–maybe 3 years? and it’s always sat on the coffee table. I think we got it half off.

      • AlisonG says:

        Kim from The Yellow Brick home just did a faux plant post. I ordered the cactus that is on her coffee table for only $4!!!!!

  22. Lindsey Aylward says:

    I bet that your health being sort of chaotic lately has also caused the need for more simplicity. Every time there is a big change or event I feel the need to simplify and purge in another area. I’m sure that there is a psychological reason. The house looks great though, I love that fiddle leaf and basket combo.

    • MelissaB says:

      Ha, I remember reading that somewhere in reference to women making big life changes (job, marriage, divorce, kids…etc.) and changing their hair! I’ve noticed this in myself at turning points in life as well!

  23. Patti A Thomas says:

    Love the picture on the shelf, the second one from the left with the large circles…please, please where is this from?

    Thank you, love, love your style.

    Patti

  24. Courtney says:

    It would be awesome to see the evolution of this room in photos…. like some side by side pictures

  25. Hibben says:

    I love that big grey lamp! Can you share where that is from as well??

  26. Samantha says:

    Can you please come style my house!

  27. Corrie says:

    Loving the simple changes! I recently did a similar paint job to my curtain rods! It was so easy and going from nickle to matte black made such a difference!

  28. Elizabeth says:

    Love the result and the mindset behind it. I have tried to do seasonal decorating and I never love it but this, this is great!

  29. susan says:

    Hi there. This is off-topic, but I’m trying to find a good air purifier. I could swear you posted about one but I cannot find it. Did you? Seems to me in was in a post you did about your bedroom. Could you point me to it? I’d be forever grateful. There are so many on the market and I trust your recommendations.

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