A No-Fail Decorating Plan In Time for Christmas

Dear Laurel,

Oh, I hope you can do a blog post about this. I searched high and low on your blog, and I can’t find anything for a no-fail decorating plan.


But, please let me explain.


Earlier today, I was talking to a friend who ordered a couple of pieces of furniture last January, and it still hasn’t arrived.

She was expecting it in early June, but here it is three months after that date.

But, here’s my problem. I just found out that my daughter is getting married, and she wants to have her wedding on December 26th.


At home.


Westgate Place, Windy Hills, KY - beautiful property


Well, not everything here, but the evening festivities after the wedding and luncheon following.

She absolutely adores the Christmas season, as do we all, and figures everyone will be around anyway. Plus, both she and her fiance have that week off from work. It’s not going to be a large wedding, in any case: just our families and a few very close friends.

But, Laurel. I guess I’ve already given away the problem.

It’s the house. The furniture. The decor. The lighting. It really needs some attention!


But, there’s more.


We’re Catholic, although not terribly religious. However, the groom, who’s a doll, is Jewish and also not super religious. However, our daughter Catharine has suggested that we go easy on the Christmas decorations. And, frankly, there won’t be room for a tree, anyway.

The point is, we can’t hide the meager, dated furnishings behind a lot of glitzy Christmas decor.

So, I’m thinking lots of greens on the mantel with faux candles. And, also some real candles. That will help with the lighting. Ugh, it’s always been bad.


Okay, so what I’m thinking is this. Is there some sort of lovely, fairly generic, but super-stylish, no-fail decorating plan one can implement?


Oh, and we can’t spend more than $10,000. That will include the living room, dining room, and maybe some help for one of the bedrooms.

Our home is a center hall late Federal period. It has an addition; however, the original home was built in 1820.


Laurel, I hope you’ll understand.


We bought this place about 15 years ago. Our three daughters were 8, 13, and 15. Good God, the baby, just graduated college last June. I haven’t had a chance to breathe, it seems.

What I’m trying to say is this: We haven’t done a damn thing to this place. Most of the furniture came from neighborhood tag/moving sales.

Here you can see what I’m talking about.


No Fail Decorating Plan Living Room - red walls - Federal Home


The walls were this color when we moved in. We only repainted about 8 years ago; the same color. I can live with it, but I don’t have to.


No Fail Decorating Plan Family room


This is actually the family room. But, no one was watching TV in here, and there was a horrid sectional we got rid of. I thought we’d set up tables for our party in here.


Federal Home Wallpaper - entry front door



The entry. Laurel, I’m seriously sick of this paper. And, there’s so much of it. Can you paint over the wallpaper?



Jolly Krissmus




Hi Jolly,

I see… so you want a lovely, fairly generic, super stylish, no-fail decorating plan that costs no more than $10,000.00? Plus, you’re planning on hosting an evening party. And you need it all done in less than four months?

Anything else? ;]


Please know that Jolly is a fictitious character.

The house is fabricated, too. Well, not exactly. It IS a real house, somewhere in the middle of the United States.



Before I go any further…


NO, you cannot paint over wallpaper. Well, you shouldn’t paint over it. I guarantee that you’ll never take it all down, and the people you sell your home to will hate you forever.

Okay, it’s time to answer Jolly’s primary question.


Is there such a thing as a no-fail decorating plan?


Or, maybe I should say a decorating formula that works every time? And, especially a no-fail decorating plan that one can put together in a hurry.

Truth be told, I’m more concerned about the time-crunch than anything else. I wish this wedding were going to be in December 2022, not in less than four months.

However, did you notice how I made the son-in-law connected to a builder? He can pull some strings.




But still. We are not going to go hog wild with any renovations. We don’t have to. This is already a gorgeous home! Obviously, it went through a major renovation. As you can see, the home is pretty devoid of mouldings.

Is that how the home was originally? Well, I don’t know for sure. But, since this is the oldest home in the neighborhood, and this is not in the town center. This was undoubtedly a farmhouse, not a formal Federal city house which would’ve been more formal.


Actually, this is on the cusp between the Federal and Greek Revival. They are very similar, in any case.


So, the first thing to address is the overriding issue is one of time.

Jolly wants a fast, no-fail decorating plan. And, one that doesn’t cost more than $10,000.00.

Plus, she needs to have it all finished, let’s say, in 15 weeks, or preferably sooner.

In other words, Jolly doesn’t have any time to lose.


Wait, Laurel! Are you saying that there IS such a thing as a no-fail decorating plan? And, if so, WHY on earth have you been hiding it from us all of this time?


Guys, please, calm the freak down. I’m not hiding anything. It’s been out in the open this entire time. Well, no, I haven’t said:


However, this time, I am saying just that. But, please know, it’s *my* no-fail plan. It’s my opinion that this plan always looks good. Some of you might hate it. And, besides, what fun would it be to have a blog that always has just one thing? You wouldn’t read it. You’d already know exactly what I’m going to say and what I’m going to show you.

Besides, I like a lot of different things.


So, Laurel, can we get on with it already? We have shopping to do. The sales are ahhhhmazing this weekend, and we don’t want to miss out.


Yes, I know that. ;]

Okay, but before I give you my no-fail decorating plan, there’s one five-word phrase you need to hear or see before you place an order. Are you ready?




Do not, and I repeat, do not be seduced by “in stock by such and such a date.” And, that holds even if that date is in a week or two.

The reason for this is, like Jolly’s friend, that date might not hold. Unfortunately, this has become more the rule than the exception. And, what was expected to be in stock by September 15th could easily get pushed back to October 15th and then November 15th or March 15th. Anything can and does happen.

Oh, and what if the missing pieces are the end tables for your table lamps.

It’s a bloody drag when you have to use orange crates for end tables at your daughter’s wedding.

However, in addition, to the timeframe, the 10k budget is also a problem.


Many of you know this axiom.


good, fast, cheap - You can pick only two. no-fail decorating plan


Well, darling Jolly wants all three, plus stylish.

Okay, we already know that Jolly absolutely has to have fast. And, based on her budget, it has to be cheap.


Does that mean it won’t be good?


Well, it’s not like she needs all of this by September 26th. However, she does need to be mindful.

Okay, so here’s the no-fail decorating plan. Please note that the home here is a very loose guide. And, if some of you use this plan, you will have to adapt it for your unique situation.


victoria-hagan-slipcovered-sofa - Best Shades of White Paint - Pratt and Lambert Ancestral - no-fail decorating plan

Above and below is Victoria Hagan’s home in the Long Island Hamptons from around 1995. This room, like Barbara Barry around the same time, influenced me hugely.


Victoria Hagan - White linen gauze curtains - Neutral color - no-fail decorating planscheme

The floors above are light, and yes, I love that. If you’re doing a no-fail beach house, then light is a great choice.




They are hardwood, and except for the above, I usually recommend a deep, rich, warm brown for an antique home. Minwax’s English Chestnut is perfect. Jolly’s floors look a shade lighter. However, I’m fine if she doesn’t change them.

If the floors are to be refinished, I would do them first. Wait at least one week to paint. Then cover the floors with thick cardboard. They will still be drying under the cardboard. Here’s a good post about floor finishes.


Paint the walls white.


Please see this post about the white trim and wall color that works every time.


What if we want to do a pale gray paint color, Laurel?


Haha. That’s a different post. The point of this post about a no-fail decorating plan is I’m going to give you as few choices as possible. You don’t have to do them. This is my blue jeans and a white t-shirt room.

Of course, Jolly, could easily keep her red walls, and her gorgeous Persian rugs. My no-fail decorating scheme calls for something else. But, you’ll see how it would still work, in a bit.


Well, what about adding mouldings?


Well, yes, if you can line someone up to do that by the end of the month and they don’t dilly-dally. But, first, I would have all of the wallpaper removed. It all looks a bit ditzy to me. I think that the only room that really needs mouldings is the entry. I would do panel moulding (wainscoting) and take it up the stairs. And, then do some panel moulding on the walls.

We need to keep going.


Floor covering


Seagrass rug(s). Yes, you can do jute or even sisal, now. But, I very much recommend Seagrass as they are not expensive and you can always find one in stock.

By the way, if you don’t already have my 333 Hard to Find Decorating Rules & Tips Guide, You Need to Know. It’s an invaluable guide that tells you what sizes to get of just about everything, where to put it, high, how low, etc.




Okay, you STILL do need to make a little floorplan. This is a crucial step. Please do not skip it. You can see how to do that here in the 12-Step Decorating Plan.

Let’s begin with upholstery. It depends on what you have. This post goes over some great ways to save money. But, let’s say you have furniture that you like, but it’s just seen better days.

I very much recommend white or off-white *CUSTOM slipcovers. (that links to a fairly recent post that gives the ultimate guide for frugal decorating.) For the slipcovers, 12 oz cotton duck is excellent. It needs to be preshrunk before it is fabricated into slipcovers.


*The only exception to slipcovers is if your furniture is well-known and there are ready-made slipcovers in existence.


Otherwise, a local fabricator is probably best.

However, if that’s not an option, there are some sources on Etsy that can make a slipcover without having the physical piece. You take photos and measurements. They will send you all the deets to accomplish that.

Another possibility is to paint your upholstered furniture.

Yes, PAINT the fabric.


What if you need new upholstered furniture?


Well, if you need cheap and fast, then I would first look on Facebook Marketplace.

In fact, you can look there for all of the furniture, first.

In addition, I am very much recommending both Etsy and Chairish as terrific sources for vintage and new furniture.

You need enough seating for six to eight people in your living room. So, usually, that means a sofa and four club and/or occasional chairs. Please look at this post for some great room layout ideas.


As soon as you can, you need to figure out window treatments.


The Ultimate window treatment guide is here. (it’s free, BTW)

You don’t have to change them, but I would do white Roman Shades if you like. In this case, for the windows with the beautiful mouldings, I don’t recommend drapes because I think it’s a shame to cover that up.

But, for the rest of you, I love plain white curtains. These days there are many great sources for ready-made curtains, as well as custom. However, for custom, you need to order this week.

Please see the post about Roman Shades.

You will need a coffee table and end tables.

Here are some great ideas for end tables.


Here are some more


Family room furnishings - Opium coffee table - no-fail decorating planI love what this reader did with her family room. It’s a fantastic transformation.

Well, you cannot go wrong with a ming or opium table in a deep rich brown or black. There are more on the vintage Hot Sales page.


And, tons of them on Chairish.


But, Laurel. I can’t have all of this cast-off stuff. I mean, these are very wealthy people. Oh, I feel so ashamed.


Jolly, I understand, but it is going to look fantastic and not at all cast-off. Besides, have you seen her home? I mean, just because people have money doesn’t mean they have taste. baaaalieve me on that one.

Gosh, your home is already gorgeous! And besides, your new sister-in-law is likely to be far more concerned with whatever is bothering her.

She might have crippling anxiety, hemorrhoids, indigestion. You have no idea. Maybe she’s gained 15 pounds, and none of her clothes fit. You really don’t know what goes on with other people.

If anything, she’s going to be impressed with how clever you are. And, if she’s not, then so be it.


Alright, what’s left?


Oh yeah, all of the stuff that’s going to make your room sensational.

Also, please look at this post all about Chinoiserie Decor.




You want two smashing table lamps for your end tables. Please check out these fantastic lamps. And, then at least two more lamps, sconces or a floor lamp or two. This is an addition to any recessed lighting you have. Please make sure they are on a dimmer switch if you have the latter and keep them on very low.

Please use warm LED lighting. This post will help with that.



For your coffee table, use coffee table books (yes, I know some of you hate that idea), a tray, a small beautiful box, and one smashing blue and white Chinoiserie blue and white ginger or temple jar. (see above) Fill a beautiful white porcelain bowl with fresh clementines. (+ more coffee table styling)


Now, I want you to go and get some fantastic throw pillows.


The beauty of doing all of the white is that you can easily change the colors out with the throw pillows and accessories if you like.


There is a recent post with many lovely throw pillow combinations, which you can see here, plus more info about inserts, sizes, etc.

I would put up some large beautiful mirrors with gold frames over the fireplace mantels.


In addition, I also recommend some art and art walls. This link will give a ton of help with that.

By the way, if you’re ever looking for a particular topic, please use the search box in the blog sidebar. You will need a desktop computer or a tablet for that feature.


no-fail decorating plan @stevecordony - eclectic interiors - new trad living room Rosedale Farm gorgeous crystal chandeliers - white slipcovers - white-on-white

Rosedale Farm, the home of stylist Steve Cordony.


But, also review how to get the Steve Cordony look. His style embodies this aesthetic perfectly.

And, definitely follow Steve on Instagram.


Oh, that reminds me. Furlow Gatewood just had his 100th birthday party!


You can see some pics on Bunny Williams insta.  Gosh, she looks phenomenal! I don’t see Furlow, however. Maybe they are only getting ready for the party. Darling James T Farmer is there too!


Well, Jolly, I hope you’re feeling better. Is that a little smile I’m seeing? Good.


None of this is a matter of life and death. Your home would be gorgeous if you did nothing at all.

I would find a stylish pro to do the holiday decor and flowers if you can swing it. Of course, you will have a caterer. We had one once who did everything. So talented, she was.

Please also see 50 living room decorating rules.

And this recent post about eclectic interiors.


Gosh. I’m beginning to believe my own fantasy. There isn’t really a Jolly or a wedding.


Or, is there?

I bet somewhere, there is. In any case, some people don’t want to have to think a lot about decorating. They just want to be told what to do. I feel that way about some things. If you don’t, that’s okay, too.

Okay, please enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend, and if you like,


The HOT SALES are stupendous!


Chairish - Living Room - no-fail decorating plan

The above room is not what this post is about. I found it on Chairish. I think this is fantastic too. However, it would be impossible to pull off for 10k.



This is a huge shopping weekend if you missed that. Also, there are many classic items in the HOT SALES widgets, plus the best sales this weekend.


37 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel, I love reading your blog. I read about the woman who is anxious about having her daughter’s wedding in her home. I just had my daughter’s wedding in my 113 year old home and with the help of a great florist, a caterer and a wedding rental company, it turned out beautifully. There was a write up about it on a wedding planning site if you would like me to send it to you. It was very meaningful for me that we used my grandmother’s china that she received as a wedding gift. She passed away while I was pregnant with my daughter. Let me know how to send the write up with photos if you are interested. Sincerely, Carol Bonilla

  2. It’s actually pronounced Luh-voul, like you have marbles in your mouth 🙂 You have to make sure out of towners have to ask you to say it at least twice 😀

  3. I’m a huge fan of Facebook Marketplace and Etsy, and if I had more money, I’d buy from Chairish all the time. (Tip: you can often get the prices on Chairish WAY down by making an offer. I find that many pieces are ridiculously overpriced.) Jolly could furnish all of these rooms with beautiful high(er) end, gently used pieces and it would be extremely (even insanely) affordable, with very short turnaround time for delivery. I have found barely used $10k sofas for less than $500, pairs of designer club chairs for practically nothing. Huge vintage mirrors for $25. It would look much classier, IMO, to have an eclectic but classic blend of furnishings and decor, with a touch of patina. Also, salmon wall is beautiful. Remove wallpaper in foyer and paint white. Splurge on custom window treatments and a professional to do all the painting/wallpaper removal.

  4. My 1928 colonial has ever cracking plaster walls. The rooms that were wall papered were the only ones that didn’t show the cracks. Where I removed the wallpaper to paint, the large ensuing cracks despite extensive work by the painter made me crazy. Next step, skim coat any paper I wanted gone, and paint away! I don’t regret one minute of it.

  5. In one of my old houses, I started removing wallpaper in the entry, only to find a second layer of wallpaper. And that bottom wallpaper was pasted directly on the sheet rock (no primer or anything). So I smoothed things out and hired someone to retexture the wall over the wallpaper. Probably not a solution for every situation, but it worked really well in that house.

  6. I would add to use pairs of tasteful items, because symmetry always looks upscale and thought out. I would also save about twenty percent of my budget for a great florist and unscented candles. Beautiful greenery is a great distraction.

  7. “NO, you cannot paint over wallpaper. Well, you shouldn’t paint over it. I guarantee that you’ll never take it all down, and the people you sell your home to will hate you forever.”

    I can confirm this is true, especially if you have painted over wallpaper on the DOOR FRAME. That’s right. When trying to strip old layers of paint from upstairs trim, we discovered wallpaper underneath.

  8. If Christmas tree(s) are used at a interfaith winter wedding, a star of David would be beautiful on top. Love your site! Thanks for your great suggestions.

    I have worked for a top NYC decorator and also produced concerts and events in Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. On a tight budget, no less! For receptions, opera openings, concert debuts, etc., I used light-weight columns with silver plated candelabras and 30″ candles–portable props that create great atmosphere. Good luck on your projects!

  9. I feel your pain, I bought Laurel’s Painting Guide (all her guides actually) and thought I was so armed! But our contractor only uses Sherwin Williams. I went with Aesthetic White for the entire house as we are just trying to get in.
    The south facing rooms are pretty nice, the north side is dingy. Sooner rather than later, I will buy my own Benjamin Williams paint and have it repainted.

  10. This was hilarious! I love the house you chose to be Jolly’s house also, it’s lovely.

    And stagers! Our house was so gorgeous after staging, I was sad to leave.

  11. Hello Laurel,
    This post is not a comment on the blog, although I want to first thank you for the immense enjoyment I’ve derived from each and every post you’ve written. I find myself reading many of them over and over, that’s how fun and informative they are.
    I recently decided to repaint my living room and, armed with your wonderful painting guides, thought I could do no wrong. Wrong! I chose BM Cloud White and decided I’d use that color for everything, walls, ceilings, trim and doors. The first snag was that the painter was comfortable only with Sherwin Williams, although he offered to have the BM color copied to SW. No way! I researched SW for a similar color to Cloud White and found Wnitetail, which indeed ended up looking lovely on the walls. We ended up deciding to use a lighter color on the doors and trim, which worked out very well. What turned out to be a horrible mistake was using Whitetail on the ceiling. The room faces north, has an arched walkway outside the window and also has green trees and bushes facing it. My beautiful wall color looks several shades darker, and also rather dirty and dingy, during most of the day, on the ceiling. I should have had the ceiling painted the same lighter color as the trim, but I thought I had read that most of the time when using a white color on the walls you continue it on the ceiling. I wonder if that is true for most room orientations but not for a north-facing rooms, or of course it may just be due to the unique situation of my(blasted) living room. I should mention there’s no dark wood, or dark rug or furnishings, in the room that would adversely affect the ceiling color. As much as I’ve pored over your blogs and guides, it seems there is always more to learn!
    Kind best wishes,

  12. How about: family, friends, good food, flowers, and a stager… no painting or anything major until
    2022-2023 when supply chains are normalized.
    (If you recover, then you’re waiting on fabric.) It’ll be easier to implement your intelligent suggestions…

  13. For 10K, you are quite limited. 1. The old floors look fine. Retouch scratches as necessary, but do not blow the budget. Minwax makes a good touch up stain marker. DO NOT stain floors dark as they will show every speck of dust. 2. There are oil based primers which will cover wallpaper. Let your painter decide. Subscribe to Estatesales.net and auction houses for reasonably priced furniture. Use the sources listed for new. An experienced local decorator can help. Good luck!

  14. This post threw me off as I first thought it was a TRUE person’s actual dilemma, in which you used other photos as an example. If the photos shown were the actual spaces of the hypothetical dilemma, I thoroughly agree with others who say keep the salmon wallcolor. I would get rid of the flamestitch pattern wallpaper and paint those walls a color, not white, perhaps Loggia SW9136 a pale blueish gray with high gloss white woodwork and Ultra White ceilings. This neutral but fresh color would not compete with the dramatic salmon living room color. While the photo of Steve Cordony’s white room is gorgeous, to throw a space together quickly at minimal expense expecting that look, IMO, is going to look like just that and not as nice or elegant as the rooms presently do. To switch out that gorgeous rug with a basic seagrass rug seems to be a travesty, and clearly one that is popular today. But why follow trends? There are design elements that remain classic and timeless. Rooms can be made fresh with change of accents and accessories. It is unfortunate there is this current trend in favor of neutralizing color (which does have its place, but not everywhere as many seem to think) and many things that give personality and life to a home, in favor of sterile environments. Trends never last and grey is hanging on by a thread, fortunately warmer grays are taking over from the dreary day grays and color is showing up in the 2022 charts. At least white is bright, but we shouldn’t be ashamed or feel our homes will look dated if we choose colors, even vivid ones. Those salmon walls are gorgeous despite being popular quite some time ago. Any color works if all else around it is chosen accordingly. Christmas decorations alone, garlands, lights, etc., can transform a space and add ambiance especially with those dramatic salmon walls, plus the space needed for people milling around, (IMO) there is only a minimal amount of work really necessary there. The family room however could be focused on as I feel it needs the most updating and that could benefit from a fresh look of new paint color, (not white, same as the foyer idea (SW Loggia with gloss white trim, SW Ultra White ceilings) would be fresh and not compete with the living room), wainscoting would make it upscale while the rest could be elegantly casual with white slipcovers, accent pillows, wall art / gilt framed mirrors, seagrass rugs, etc., along the lines of Steve Cordony’s space. Accents of chinoserie jars and perhaps pillows would be classic and easy to obtain quickly. The chandelier seems a bit small for the space and a larger more dramatic chandelier could be quite a statement piece. The room is large enough that an elegant folding screen could make a great accent as well. But the rest of the house aside from the flame stitch design wall covering, would be a beautiful dramatic space for an elegant party. As far as downplaying the Christmas decorations because the husband is Jewish, WHY? Christmas is not a bad thing. Besides, Hanukkah is Nov. 28th to Dec. 6th this year, so no conflict of holidays in which case a menorrah display could be added, but after Dec. 6th could seem patronizing. Do you think his family would put up a Christmas tree because their new daughter-in-law is Catholic and celebrates Christmas? Maybe, and that would be great, but for either family to MINIMIZE decorations for their own celebrations because new in-laws are of a different faith, is just wrong. Why not embrace each other’s traditions. If anything, go all out and decorate because that’s what we do at Christmas time and even more so with guests there to celebrate the wedding. There is plenty of room for a grand Christmas tree in that family room. We should all take joy in every celebration, not view them as an offense to those who celebrate different traditions. I enjoy learning about other’s traditions, let’s all celebrate and enjoy, not try to diminish others or allow anyone to force us to diminish our own celebrations. Just sayin’! In summary, update the family room and foyer and decorate the rest for a big Christmas/Wedding party! It’s a gorgeous house!

    1. Jackie,

      I’m not disagreeing with you. So, I guess I did a pretty good job of making my made-up characters believable. haha People do all sorts of things I don’t understand. However, just because I made something up doesn’t mean it’s what *I* would do. I’m sure we’ve all read books where we’ve not agreed with a character’s choices.

      Frankly, I would just get some great pillows and beautiful styling and decor, and call it a day. But, then I wouldn’t have much of a blog post.

      I looked at, at least a dozen houses. All of them had issues that didn’t 100% fit the narrative in my head. But, I could see a small wedding reception happening here for about 25-30 people. And, it is a very nice house. Obviously, or at least to me, it was staged to sell which is one reason why there’s not a lot of furniture.

      Also, I don’t expect people to read every post I write. I try to link to the relevant posts. In this case, I’ve written many times about how to make a predominantly white room NOT look sterile. I’ve loved white on white for the last 40 years. If others are just catching on, that’s fine. But, I think they’re an enduring classic. Again, not the only solution. Far from it. But, I do think they always look great– IF done correctly.

  15. My daughter was married just 4 months after we moved into a new home that we’d taken down to the foundation and re-built. The exterior property was literally just dirt – everywhere – and of course, the interior furnishings were far from complete. We prioritized getting the yard installed. Two months after moving in, I hosted her bridal shower and we hosted her rehearsal dinner on the eve of the wedding, both outdoors.

    My advice to Jolly is to prioritize just a few things to tackle and forget about a big redecorating project. I’d leave the salmon room as is (it looks quite appropriate for the lovely house) and perhaps remove some of the wallpaper; there is a bit too much of it. The furniture looks fine in that home as do the rugs. I’d concentrate on adding mirrors, wall decor (the walls look pretty naked!) updating lamps, and adding accessories; and much of this can be purchased online. Perhaps the furniture could be better arranged for warmth, flow, and conversation. Winter greenery, garlands, etc. would be gorgeous – seasonal without screaming Christmas. She could work with a stager or a good, honest friend with an eye for decorating. This is a lovely home that just needs some fine-tuning for her daughter’s wedding. Her guests are coming for the wedding, not the house!

  16. Great post, Laurel. I thoroughly enjoyed the ficticious story, and agree with others – tell Jolly to keep her gorgeous hardwoods just as they are, and the salmon living room, too. Decked with holiday greens, it will be stunning. The only thing I’d do is remove the wallpaper from the foyer and paint it white. Then relax, take a deep breath and focus on the wedding.

    1. Yeah, I agree Kate; the entry wallpaper is pretty icky poo for this home. I could see it possibly in a tiny entry foyer in a more contemporary urban home. And, yes, lots of GREEN! I wanted to include the kitchen and may expand on the other areas. In this case, the kitchen is a bright apple green. And, again, a wallpaper that’s dragging the space down, IMO. I think you can see a tiny sliver of the kitchen from the family room.

  17. I agree Rhonda. Given the givens, I would invest in the backdrop, i.e. get rid of the wallpaper and then paint. Then, I would get with a florist to do a glass, white and silver color scheme over fresh greens. Try to create an ice palace look. If there IS a color the bride wants, use it to punctuate the neutral background. Keep it simple in every way.

  18. I am a Kentucky native. You would be surprised how many Kentucky homes have some shade of red living room, especially older or more high-end homes. This isn’t a new trend. “Jolly” needs to leave the living room paint color alone and focus on getting rid of the wallpaper. Delightful post full of very useful information, per usual. We have a family wedding coming up and I plan to implement some of these ideas.

  19. Love the post! I am so glad you mentioned Marketplace! You would not believe the stuff I have seen listed for pennies on the dollar. Baker case goods, Lillian August, Lee Industries, CR Laine sofas, Hand knotted oriental rugs, custom draperies…I could go on forever. I get so excited when I see something fabulous that I know the original owner paid thousands for and it’s listed for practically nothing. Alas, I wish I had a dozen homes to furnish but I only have the one and no need for more furniture. Old school Pottery Barn is my jam and occasionally, I will see someone list something that I just have to snag. Love Marketplace as a source.

  20. A version of Jolly’s predicament actually happened to me. Daughter got married December 30, and our home was the site for a dinner for all family who had flown in–kind of a meet and greet. Well, that meant we had to do all these things to the house to prepare. Not only did I have that to plan and supervise, but also wedding details to address, since my daughter was living out of state. By the time the wedding rolled around, I was a wreck. If I had to do it over again, the house would have remained in its original state. No one cared anyway. Everyone was focused on the bride and groom, and meeting and making new friends. So silly to focus on “things.” Erma Bombeck’s words on life’s regrets, shared above by another commenter, TSIPPI, are so true. Being a genuine hostess is more important than having a stylish house.

  21. Oh my, what a thought provoking blog. I am caught in a triangle of Ann, Marlene, and you. Great ideas that I would merge. You all have such wisdom. So, ask the daughter if she is partial to anything, then call a stager and give her YOUR ideas! Trifecta!!
    Thanks for a fun Sunday read.

  22. Hmmm, we discovered that our bedroom existed on painted over wallpaper. A decorator friend told us, whatever you do, DO NOT remove the wallpaper! Well, we had no choice. Fortunately, after 40 years of painting…it came off well. When I had someone come in to paint it, taking over from my husband’s and my diligent efforts to hand treat and scrape any remaining vestiges of wallpaper. What a surprise when the contractor came in, tented the room and covered the floor and went to work with a sander. Sander? Why had that never occurred to me? It was done in a jiffy. That flame style wallpaper is over 30 years old and the glue should be crumbling behind it. I don’t see it as onerous a job as envisioned. If she doesn’t like it, remove it and paint! She can decide what she likes better, later.

    1. Just one thing, concerns me when dealing with the removal of layers of paint and wallpaper.


      If there’s old lead paint under the wallpaper that is not something to mess with. So, I would very much recommend anyone wish to scrapes, sand, etc, anything put up before 1980, to have the walls tested for lead.

  23. Sorry, I’m not with you on most of these suggested changes — glad it’s a hypothetical client. Her hypothetical daughter wants to be married in the house she grew up in — not something that has been transformed into a totally different look — which the owner may or may not like once the wedding is over. The floors are amazing, original to 1820 and light enough to show variations in the grain of the wood. Leave them alone. The living room is a vibrant salmon color that may be one of the daughter’s favorite memories about that room. If the owner hates the wallpaper, maybe change that, but the guests aren’t going to care about any of this — apart from appropriate furniture for the event (and I second the vote for a stager).

    1. Hi Ann,

      Of course, she can leave the walls as they are; I believe I alluded to that possibility. I realize that not everyone is going to like this.

      This is an exercise giving a no-fail plan. The beauty of it, which I probably didn’t emphasize is that the walls can be ANY color. However, I chose white as the default, not red. It’s meant to be thought-provoking, and fun.

  24. Poor Jolly. My guess is that she won’t be sleeping well until after the wedding. I cannot imagine wedding planning plus getting the house in order. My only suggestion to compliment Laurel’s design recommendations would be to invest some of the money in a stager. A few of my neighbors have recently sold their homes and used a stager. It is amazing what they have done – one of my friends even thought about not selling upon seeing the results. And using a stager with Laurel’s ideas might allow focus on the wedding instead worrying about what the new in-laws will think of Jolly’s home.

  25. Hi Laurel,
    So “In stock & ready to ship” is meaningless? How do stores get away with stating it then?
    I’ve been shopping online for a sofa & have seen that phrase many times or it will state it’s “quick ship”.
    This is frustrating. #stupidcovid
    I love the plan for Jolly that you’ve come up with. Im going to take your advice with it. I’m moving into a home soon (once renovations are completed). I’ll be needing some furniture so I better start hitting up Facebook Marketplace & my local consignment stores.

  26. Right before she died, humorist Erma Bombeck published a list of her life’s regrets. Near the top of the list was that she wished she had worried less about whether her house was clean or presentable and just had people over anyway. As a lackadaisical cleaner and a perfectionist, I’ve tried to remember Bombeck’s advice. No one cares what your house looks like or that you still haven’t fixed that hole in the wall or if you cooked everything from scratch. They’re just touched that you invited them into your home.

  27. Good post Laurel. This would be a fun project challenge! To get the biggest bang for buck, I would leave the wood floor color throughout the house, rug and wall color in the LR, and skip the drapes/Romans (and just remove the swags). Moulding in the entry, painting the DR and TV room white and bringing in seagrass rugs for both, adding vintage coffee table and some end tables and slipcovers would go a long way (although I’ve been trying to get something slipcovered for months and can’t even get anyone to respond to me). Then spend the rest of the budget on lamps, art and accessories to pull it all together. I think this alone would cost the $10k?

  28. Great post, Laurel! I love that house and would be thrilled to have Jolly as a client!
    Given the long lead times on new furniture, especially from overseas, is it possible that new homeowners will start liking all their mothers’ and grandmothers’ “brown furniture” again? My son and daughter in law just bought a beautiful Colonial in Richmond, Virginia, and she furnished the dining room with estate sale table and chairs. The table is a mahogany double pedestal and the chair upholstered French Louis XVI style. Beautiful and very reasonably priced. By installing new wallpaper and a new modern shagreen console and keeping the crystal chandelier from the prior owners, she has a gorgeous dining room, done in a few months, for about $8,000. All ready for Thanksgiving!

  29. I was going to recommend Pottery Barn because their furniture is made in my home state, North Carolina. However who knows what kind of holdups they are having with getting wood and fabric? So I will just repeat: IN STOCK AND READY TO SHIP. Great post Laurel!

  30. Finding and getting furniture these days is next to impossible unless you by second hand or auction.
    Local resources that ship are hard to find without a recommendation. There’s a great store near me that sells ,and ships, furniture and accessories. Check out HDMarigold in Timonium MD. Run by interior designer, Liz Smith. She specializes in chinoiserie and blue and white. She’s on Facebook, Instagram and she has a website. About 1/4 of my home decor has come from there.

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