Her Open Floor Plan is an Excedrin Headache Nightmare!

Hi Everyone! I know that you’re busy and I know that I promised to cover painting an open floor plan. But last night, I was thinking about that and realized that I just can’t do it. I can’t. So, I went back to doing my pinterest feed.

And even this morning, I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about.

But, a little nagging voice inside my head keeps reminding me about Laura. Remember? The talented, flute tooting Laura with the two adorable cherubs (aka: pretend children) and pipe organ playing hubby? If you need a refresher, click here.


Merry Christmas Laura! (She doesn’t know I’m doing this because I usually don’t tell people.)


Bookcases open floor plan - family room


You may also recall that they have one massive family room which is threatening to swallow them all up whole, it’s so imposing.


Laura open floor plan - kitchen - family room


green sofa - open floor plan


entrance - Laura open floor plan

I mean, that’s how this huuuuuge open floor plan feels. It’s dark, oppressive and despite all the warmth of the wood, is just not working.


Now, that’s not entirely the room’s fault. Right now, there is some functional furniture, the aforementioned grand piano and that’s about it. There is no art. And, no paint color is going to look good without these layered accents.


And, I also realize that Laura hasn’t bothered with that yet because this is a room in progress.


However, to drive the point home, looking at Sunday’s post featuring the extraordinary home and styling of Maura Endres, it is evident that it’s the details that matter most.


cherry kitchen - too heavy

To compound the issues, there’s a cherry wood kitchen in this home of mixed identities. Is it a Victorian or a Craftsman? Victoriman doesn’t quite cut it.

In addition, I got the Dear Laurel letter to end all Dear Laurel letters. And I am not faulting Laura one bit. And she is not bugging me or presuming that I’m going to do anything to help her.


In fact, I told her that this one is so fraught with problems that it’s giving me a giant headache, and therefore, we shouldn’t hope for too much. haha But alas, here we are.


First, let’s go back, if you haven’t already, and view the post about the charming music room. I have to say that this was one of the most successful posts and the images that y’all have pinned to pinterest are doing super well!


Naturally, who doesn’t love the idea of being able to decorate beautifully without spending a full college tuition for two! And, Laura spent more like the supplies needed for one semester. Really awesome! Plus, it’s beautiful and home-y.


I just went through Laura’s email and my eyes started glazing over by the time I got to the kitchen, so for now, I am going to leave most of that out.


There are a few other details that I’m leaving out as well, because they are specific to their needs as professional musicians and they aren’t huge issues, in any case. But, since they wouldn’t be of interest to most people, and there’s much to cover, I’m leaving them out.


Below is the letter. My comments along with Laura’s images are within the letter.


Laura is in normal print or bold italics.

Laurel is in teal italics like this.


Hi Laurel,


Hopefully you’re still intrigued with my not-uncommon problems with my massive open floor plan family room, dining area and kitchen.


I hope you know, but to be clear, I have NO expectations from you whatsoever!

Thank you. I appreciate that.

What I am doing here, is laying out ALL OF THE DESIGN PROBLEMS/ROADBLOCKS that I think a lot of us face.

Hubs and I talked about it and will budget considerably more for this whole area— it is so important to get the heart of our home right.

oh phew! Good thing and I agree!

I’ll still only be able to move at the pace I can find things at prices that make sense to me. But working in our favor, my father-in-law restores and paints antique cars for fun, so we basically have a pro painter, paint booth and commercial sprayer at our disposal.

And, my brother-in-law is a retired cabinet-maker, so he is willing to help us tweak things on the kitchen or the built-ins (but he’s not up for major overhauls).

Family for the WIN.

I’ll say!!! You’re very, extremely lucky!




So, I know you know Studio McGee because I didn’t know about them until reading your blog.

I clicked over to them and discovered they completely remodeled a house nearly identical to mine- the Windsong house ( #windsongproject on instagram) likely the exact same original house plan.


Laura Home exterior

Our house.

Windsong House Before - Studio McGeeThe Windsong house before.


Studio+McGee's - Windsong - white+brick-black+windows.

The Studio McGee Windsong house after.

Holy Crap!!! But, yes, I can see that it’s the same basic model. Stunning transformation.


Studio McGee remodel #windsong open floor plan - open concept living room kitchen

Studio McGee

You’d think a totally remodeled open floor plan, beautifully done, those awesome designers would be all the inspiration we’d need to move forward, but they were able to do things with their deeper pocketed clients than is within reach for us in the next 10 years.


I hear ya!


Plus, we have a lot of antique elements we want to incorporate, and will need to find more of a neo-traditional balance, style-wise. And, I like/NEED a lot more color.




Living+room+design+||+Studio+McGee - Windsong - Open Floor Plan - Studio McGee


I looove white, like is everywhere in the Studio McGee project, but I need to make sure there are ‘life-giving’ colors infused throughout my everyday living. I’m already an Arizonan living in the SNIRT capitol of the world, but like so many others, have some health issues that need consideration in my surroundings.

We discovered a while back that my physical environment plays a huge part in my sense of well-being, and are big believers in color/light as therapy.

I believe that!


Another interesting note: my husband did some post-doctoral work on chromesthesia (so fascinating) motivated by the fact that *to some degree*, we both “see” the music we make in colors. And the reverse being true, that colors around us inspire different music.


Yes, I have heard of this phenomenon. Cool!


Basically what it boils down to: we like color… AND white.


I love the organ room because it has some great saturated colors, and as you said, “greens love greens”, so it still manages to deliver a peaceful, monochromatic feeling.




1. ALL THE WOOD. it’s just too much.

Ya think? ;]


Laura open floor plan -window wall


Originally, we were drawn to the richness of the family room ceiling, and I’d really love to keep that wood, (maybe changing the color) if it makes sense.

I can see the ceiling being balanced out by a wood floor, and painting everything else. But I can’t believe the solution here is actually add more wood!? Lol!  But to be honest, I have no idea. I have puzzled over this for months. Finding that exact right formula to make sure one element doesn’t feel too heavy is daunting!


2. WOOD ANTIQUES: clocks, record players, phonographs, music boxes, instruments- everything my husband loves is wood color.


So how do I accessorize a head to toe open concept wood room with more wood antiques?? Ugh.

Good point.


3. THE NICHES/TV: I hate that there is no focal point because there are 100 focal points. I’ve thought about putting just 1 amazing piece of art in each niche, but I have a hard time knowing what images I’d love THAT big and be so much of a focus  and make it still feel like me. And to fill them with shelves and books just feels awfully heavy considering all the doors and wood work around them. And how do I keep the fireplace a focal point? Ugh. So hard for me.

Well, your predecessors haven’t made it easy for you.



4. KID SPACE: I’d really like to keep a couple of cabinets dedicated for kid use/toys. But most importantly (because this is the stage of life we are in), we need a home for the doll house. When Santa found a vintage Playmobil Victorian Mansion doll house with adorable furnishings and crazy awesome details, he knew it’d be something I wouldn’t mind sharing living space with.  And it occupies the girls imagination for hours.


I love that! It will be a cherished memory for all of you!


BY THE WAY- The only things that must stay in this room are the piano and doll house.

Okay! Bring in the futons!

(yes, I’m genuinely laughing out loud)


It’d be nice to have some of his antiques, but not critical. And the main furniture for sure goes away! I do have some antique accent chairs from hubby’s mom that I’ve been thinking about using and reupholstering in something awesome and bold.


5. FURNITURE: my husband is 6’4”, I am 5’9” and we’re not petite. I need more human-sized furniture, but we still want it to feel relaxing for all. These large chair-&-1/2s were actually super great in our old living room because they functioned as sofas there. (I know it sounds nuts, but it worked).

Actually, I don’t think it sounds nuts at all!


They were comfy for one, kids could climb up in them with you, and even my husband and I could snuggle into one of them to enjoy a fire. I got both of them barely used for $150, but didn’t love them, so I actually painted my living room a nice rich gold (close to the chair colors) so the chairs blended with the surroundings and didn’t look enormous. It was a shock moving them into this room. yuck.


But, my husband is reluctant to get rid of them because they were so comfy for us.

I’m listening…


He’s afraid all my modern ideas for furniture will not be cozy or will be too small to fit his legs. He likes the styles of it fine, he just likes to relax comfortably too.

The picture from last Christmas in our old house is just for you, so you can see we aren’t like enormous people, just not tiny. Lol. See what I mean about liking color? Very similar to Blair Gold from the Laurel Home Collection.

We didn’t really think we wanted this particular color again in this house. We’re trying to use less golds and reds this time, which unfortunately we are both innately drawn towards when making decisions which is THE EXACT reason why I bought your paint guide ;).


Thank you Laura. We need to stop for today, so that we can examine all of this.


Oh wait. That’s not true! I got another significant email a week ago from Laura, entitled


[insert ugly crying face].


Hi Laurel!

I wanted to give you an update on my family room, and I have to tell you, it’s not good news.

Uh oh… What happened???

I actually took your advice (though not faulting you at all ), and despite owning your paint guides and feeling pretty confident in choosing colors in general, I actually hired an interior designer to take a look at my space, and give me some recommendations.

I felt somewhat confused with her final analysis, but since I have been so stuck on moving forward, and I’m hosting our best friends with 6 kids for a week at Christmas, I just plowed full-steam ahead…

Oh no, Wawa; should I cover my eyes?!

After all, SHE was the expert, right? I should have known better, honestly, I was so desperate.

ummm… no, sweetie, you are frustrated and using deadlines to make rash decisions. And, now you know not to do that again. But, take heart. We all make this mistake at least once.


So instead of the soothing, relaxing, living room, with life-giving colors that harmoniously, yet somewhat monochromatically fills me with something other than pure dread, I have successfully punched up the overwhelming awfulness that IS my built-in. And it accentuates every glaring bright orange detail.


Right, it’s like Phillip Glass juxtaposed over Sergei Rachmaninoff?


Seriously, what the h*** was I thinking? 🙂

Well, don’t beat yourself up. Like I said, we all make mistakes. I’ve made plenty of them and hopefully not as many for clients. But that’s happened too and then I have to fix it. And, it’s always expensive. Yuck!

I was generally (and perhaps too safely) leaning towards something greige, maybe SW Dorian Gray. I felt like I needed to mellow out the orange not give it something to wake up with.

I’m afraid that gray or greige is not the answer, either.  It’s definitely not. The reason is that the wood is basically orange. Orange and gray are not going to look so great, especially with your lovely music room.

I knew I could always add “me” back into it with saturated furnishings.


We want as much light in there as possible, yet my instincts told me I needed something more medium to balance the color values of the ceiling and built in.


So, when the designer insisted Sherwin Williams Moody Blue was exactly the right choice, who was I to say it wouldn’t be daring, yet great?  (Her other option was SW Tin Lizzie, which didn’t work for me at all).

No comment which IS a comment. lol


But coming home to the newly painted living room now has me UGLY FACE CRYING.



And I knew you’d be the only one who could understand! Thank heavens for those that commiserate with us. 🙂


There, there now… dry your eyes dear child. Why, it’s ONLY paint! ;]


open floor plan navy wing chair


And to make things worse, I had also snagged 2 of these fabulous navy (bordering a dark royal) wingbacks + a matching ottoman for, wait for it, $200! They were supposed to be considered for the whole scheme… but um, nope, not working together. When we had the samples up, it really didn’t look bad. It looked much grayer and darker. But I think that is was just SO DARK in there, you couldn’t accurately see ANYTHING at all.


I feel for Laura. And I know that there are thousands of Lauras. Hell, millions, I’m sure. And I’m not going to beat her up. (too much), but what is the first rule of decorating???


Uhhh… Laura… hold on honey!


Where do you think you’re going? You haven’t been dismissed. ;] I know that you know the answer.


Uhhh… Please don’t be mad at me, Laurel… Uhhhhhh… I painted without having a plan?


Yes. And I’m not mad at you. I fully understand the situation. Kids, work, work, house, work, kids, house, in-laws, husband, house, work, company, fugly great room. Gotta do something NOW! But this is a complex situation with a lot of moving parts and they aren’t just the piano keys!


I have thought long and hard about this open concept floor plan and in summation, what I think is the main problem is that there is a disconnect between what is already here with what you really want to do.


One thing that sometimes works is to say to yourself. “If I were building a house from scratch, what would it look like?”

Now, I don’t think that you’d have built a family room that’s 22 x 24.

But, my first instinct way back in October, was to paint the wood.


And yes, you can have white walls AND floor and still have a very colorful home. We saw that here.

However, if you were to keep the wood, the best color to paint is something that’s actually close or closer to the color of the wood. I’m sure you’ve heard in music, well jazz. “If you play a wrong note, play it again and it won’t be wrong.” I learned that from one of my son’s music teachers way back.

Well, it’s like that with color. If you want a color to “disappear,” create MORE of it.

But, the over-riding problem is that there is soooooo much of it. And the coffered ceiling is big and heavy. Based on everything you’ve told me, I feel that you want light and bright.

That means paint.

What I think you want is something more along the lines of the studio McGee home but with more warmth and personality. And in truth, the McGee home as pretty as it is, perhaps lacks a certain element of soulfulness which is probably what is disturbing to some, but not others who want this clean “transitional” look. I see both points of view.


Some of you may be wondering if it IS the same home. Well, in the McGee home, it was built with the balcony and in this version as we can see, it doesn’t have that element. I think that the room was designed with that in mind which is why it ended up being extra deep.

And, like I said, I’m not going to address the kitchen specifically, but I also think that the space is too open.


Moving on with figuring this space out, there are three  main issues:


  • The wall color
  • The furniture
  • The space itself.


They all need to work in tandem.


So, before we jump in and try to figure out what the color and furniture will be, we need to work on the envelope. The bones of the room.


Remember, that ALWAYS comes first and it’s what hasn’t been addressed. That’s because the tendency with all things in life is to go with the path of least resistance, or to pick the low-hanging fruit. Same thing. We all do it. It’s human nature. However, in this case, it’s important to get the bones right, because right now, they need some tweaking.


In so doing, there’s a lot of “IFS.”

An excellent post to bookmark and refer to often is Laurel’s 12-step decorating program.”


However, check out below my favorite part of this space.

Those windows are pretty gorgeous! But, I see like in this home, some of the trim is stained and some is white. So weird.

Moving on… I listened very carefully to everything you said, Laura. And I am going to say some things that may surprise you and others that won’t.


The worst thing going on in this large open floor plan besides all of the heavy stained wood is the wall to wall greige-y carpeting.

It matters not what else you do, because until that’s been taken care of, this room is always going to fall short.


Wall-to-wall carpeting in a traditional, or classical living space is like doing Romeo and Juliet; only think Annette Funicello with Bobby Darren romping around on the beach in string bikinis going “Romeo Oh Romeo wherefore art thou Romeo?” Sure, you can do it. But should you? Probably not.

Therefore, I very much recommend that you put in a hardwood floor. Don’t worry about not being able to match it. Yes, it’s tricky but it’s not impossible. And if it’s a shade off, it won’t matter. Believe me. It won’t. It’ll be better for resale too.


Issue #two is the bookcase.


Now, something very interesting. The McGee fireplace wall, because of the balcony, is at least 8 feet shorter. And, that’s significant. The room according to your measurements is 24 feet long.

That’s a lotta lotta bookcase on either side. I would build it up to the ceiling and GET RID of all curves.


That means changing doors with curvy rails. They have no place anywhere in this home.

And, I’d paint everything a creamy white. Simply white that you used in the front room might be fine, but you’ll need to test.

Yes, paint everything.

But, we’re not done because the furniture is super important. And, this isn’t necessarily going to be the final answer. And we also need to look at the kitchen, but this is already one of the longest posts ever.

Actually, this is going to come as a surprise, I believe. But I think that you should keep your furniture– for now, that is. If you had a beautiful rug and some great pillows, lamps, accessories, artwork, the furniture could look great! And, I’d far rather you put your money into fixing up the kitchen, etc.

I do think that the coffee table is too dinky, however.

Below, I came up with two schematics floor plans.


family room - kitchen - dining - room layout

You can mostly ignore the colors. I can’t get into whether the fabrics will change, although that’s important. But I think that you could work with them as they are now. And yes, add in some red and a little blue, if you like. Maybe in pillows and/or accent pieces.

The reason that they look so badly right now, I feel very strongly is because of the carpeting.

family room -2 kitchen - dining

Option two.

(I’m sounding like Scott McGillivray. lol)

Is pretty much what you currently have, but a new coffee table and a table with a lamp between the two large chairs. The round things on the walls are sconces and the ones in the corners are floor lamps.

And yes, I added some little walls. Like Melissa Tardiff did in her charming New Jersey home.

You’re allowed to do that you know.

Okay, Laura. May *I* be dismissed?

I’m pooped!



PS: Please don’t forget to check out the hot sales. Things are really heating up now that Christmas is only two weeks away! Melissa and I have added a lot of new things mid-week.

76 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel,

    ANY information you share about paint and open floor plans is very helpful for me in a rental/studio apartment. I’ve used the search feature a lot.

    You may have more readers than you think who are in rentals but would like to have a beautiful home. I’m lucky, I can paint (well, they told me not to paint or put holes in the walls but a friend in another apartment has painted AND put up drapes, and I’ve put up drapes. And apartment management repeatedly uses our two units to show the owners/potential buyers and lenders — all of whom photograph our units.) My best guess is that painting and/or drapes will cost us our deposits should we move out. However, we’re both mid-60s, so I doubt we’re moving unless feet first.

    Here’s what we’re dealing with:
    Ultra cheap dark brown nylon carpet in living/dining and bedroom.
    Ultra cheap orange faux wood-look vinyl kitchen & bathroom floors (My cat’s nails scratch the color off the floor leaving white spots. It’s like the floor is just printed & wood textured on a white base.)
    The kitchen cabinets are like those vinyl and wood ones in your townhome 20+ years ago. T

  2. I’ve read this post three times and it finally “hit me.” That is, Laura’s decorator’s mistake is saving me from making an ugly-face crying mistake. I can clearly see how the deep blue walls (before) and the grayish green walls (after) with the wood won’t work—and I have been headed in that exact (wrong) direction with built-in maple cabinets, which my husband is not willing to paint. Laurel, your advice is so helpful. I think I’m rerouted in a better direction, Thanks for the post!!!

  3. Holy cow, I’m exhausted reading that. I totally agree with you Laurel. Take out the carpet and paint it all. It will be soo much nicer. I love simply white but Laura could go with an even creamier white if she wanted more warmth. The wood flooring will bring warmth and colour comes in via the furnishings, area carpet and art. I know hand knotted carpets are expensive, but they would really tie her furnishings together in this huge room and Laura seems to be pretty good at finding deals. Definitely change that horrible colour the designer chose. Yuk. Good luck Laura

  4. Hi Laurel and Laura!
    The post is great and each comment makes it even greater!!!
    I imagine this home painted as you showed on the post “Paralyzed By Perfection – Should She Paint Wood Paneling?”. I think in open plans the walls look like little bits so painting ALL the same maybe a good idea, ceilings, windows, trims and walls.
    I imagine the wall next to the doll house with a beautiful gallery wall by the talented Laura!
    In my living room which is also big 22×23, I did what PWF suggests, I bought a dining table and had the legs cut. Everyone loves it and there is plenty of room for styling. (I am far from expert! I would first do the 12 steps plan before buying or cutting)
    You are very talented Laura so enjoy your decorating journey!
    Thank you both for sharing.

  5. Is it me, or does the fireplace look like a wallflower in that large room? Like it’s trying to hide itself between the flanking cabinetry. If it were my room, I’d install a beefier mantel, and widen the fireplace surround and/or make it more distinct. I’d simultaneously reduce the impact of the cabinets and distinguish the fireplace with size, color, and/or materials. I’d also put the TV elsewhere and make a big, vertical statement with mantel decor.
    (This is in addition to everything Laurel said, obviously, not instead of.)

    1. Hi Janina,

      Making the fireplace surround is a wonderful idea and it is one I considered but didn’t mention because of the expense. However, ideally, I think it would look better and be more in proportion to have the mantel area emphasized. So, I’m glad that you brought it up.

      1. Hi Laurel,
        Yeah, I thought it might be cost prohibitive too. Or is the fireplace a small enough project the family carpenters would be willing to pitch in?

        I adore this post in general, I learn so much when you tackle difficult situations. And I have to say, I’d LOVE to have the problem of a living room that’s too big.

  6. I’m with the crew that wants to emphasize that this is a really nice home. It’s so much prettier than the Studio McGee one, which I have encountered on my own before and didn’t care much for. In this home, I love the wood ceiling and yet….I would love to see the carpet replaced with wood, but then that overloads an already overloaded room with even more wood, so something will have to be painted.I am anxious to see what you decide to do, Laura! I’m also on board with the idea of new doors and getting rid of arches. I do have a coffee table idea: Get a dining table on Craigslist and have your handy people cut the legs down, for a table that might fit the proportions of the room better. Maybe 40″ by 60″? Wouldn’t it be fun to have a huge tray on there with a vignette in it? An idea for the large niches: could you hang some antique instruments in them? Cellos, maybe? They would even be cool with a backlight, or on a backdrop of some sort, like a large piece of framed fabric.

  7. I haven’t read through all the comments but I think your advice is spot on. Something you said before about the “wall color being of little consequence” rings true here. If she has your palettes she should look at the super white palette on the bonus page. It would fit in with the current furniture too. It would be the inverse of the colors used in her front room (the olive room with white couch flowing into the room with olive couch and white walls ) it would all flow well. Also, maybe turn one of the nooks into a sitting bench for her kids to play with the doll house.

  8. Oh. My. Word. This is the world’s best blog! And not only because of the supremely talented host and the salient wisdom she imparts (or the surprise Christmas presents). What wonderful followers you all are! When talking about something so personal as the space my little family spends all our time and turning it into our forever home, it’s hard not to feel like I have friends all over the world rooting for my family room to succeed! And it’s not even like all you had to do was push a ‘Like’ button– the thought that has gone into every comment and idea is awesome. What good vibes you are all putting out into the universe! Have you ever thought about how amazing that feels for one like me? Gosh. This crazy corner of the www is truly the best! I have loved reading through each and every idea and am still trying to take it all in.

    Keeping the furniture for now was a pretty sly curve ball Laurel!! And is my only real stumbling block Lol! I totally get the rationale- it’s going to take A LOT more than 8 gallons of white paint and a little wood to get the kitchen in tempo for this tango. But, I will say, I’m a savvy enough Craigslister (and the new fb marketplace is awesome too) to feel like I can at least find myself a FRESH band aid! I know, I know, NO MORE BAND AIDS! I hear you. All of you. But thanks to Laurel, I know what styles to look for, and you can’t go wrong with something in the white family, right? ;] LOL!!!

    1. You had me for a second there Ms. Takingitallin! haha – Indeed, I am very blessed that so many kind, talented people are reading and wanting to help out. But, that’s how the world should be. Helping each other out. xoxo

  9. Hi,

    I love this house, and have to say that the music room post is inspirational and wonderful.

    I hope this helps you feel better, but at least in these pictures and on my screen, the new paint color is an improvement. And the white trim looks much nicer!

    I agree with Laurel that it’s a good idea to paint the ceiling, but if you want to compromise, maybe you can paint just the recessed areas.

    The new chairs are lovely, and I think they can work in this room if you use the right art on the walls and pillows. For some reason, this room is making me think of John Singer Seargent. Maura’s Instagram has indeed convinced me that it is the details which tie a room together. I made a Pinterest board because I’ve been thinking about this a lot today.


    Since your furniture is so comfortable, why not think about slipcovers? Ready-made slipcovers might give you some peace if the colors are paralyzing you.

    I also agree about the floor, and Laurel has linked this source before: 1800getarug.com they sell only hand knotted or hand loomed rugs and have a 50% sale right now. Even my grad student stipend was able to get a rug this sale 🙂 They have some lovely blue and beige Oushak rugs right now.

    You mentioned the bookcases and a relative who can help. I think those doors could be replaced or even removed. Maura’s lovely Instagram shows some images of bookcases where the shelves are full but there is still a focal point because she has a branch, or feathers, or a pheasant! something interesting in front of them. Also Lotte Meister – who has some lovely styled bookcases where she sorts them based on the color of the spine for a wonderful effect.

  10. Hi Laurel,
    I loved this post. And it seems everyone has an opinion about what needs to be done. I’ve enjoyed reading them.
    I do have to comment about the home designed by Studio McGee. It’s truly lovely. But is its true appearance depicted in the pictures?
    I’m always skeptical when I see pictures of homes painted all white. I never know if the photographer took liberties with it & lightened it up. I also think a white home needs a lot of sunshine coming in to make it sparkle. Otherwise it will feel drab & dingy.

    1. Hi Mary,

      The photo appears to be lightened up, either through additional lights the photographer brought in, or in the editing process or both. The photo is definitely edited. I edit mine too, but that one appears to be brighter than it really is.

  11. Dear Laurel,
    I loved this post. I learned a couple new things. 1. I’m not alone in wanting to get rid of arches/curves. I have a smallish home and I see six arched openings from where I’m sitting. Ugh. 2. The rug doesn’t have to be centered in front of the fireplace! I’m turning myself inside out to get everything all lined up. The corner of my couch is 32 inches from the corner of my island. I’m going to try moving that couch over a bit. Also, no one has mentioned the new wall between the kitchen and family room. These small walls make such a difference. I wish I had room for one too.

    I’m reading and measuring and planning feverishly before I start knocking out arches. Thanks so much for your help.

    1. Hi Jean,

      You’re welcome. In the 20s and 30s around here, a lot of the apartment buildings have arched doorways. If it’s a normal arch, I’m okay with that. It’s the horizontal rail, it’s called, that makes me nuts.

  12. Laurel, you are a genius. Of course the bones need fixing first, how could I not have seen it? If there is a decent bit of money budgeted then 100% get to work on the envelope and don’t keep trying to stick bandaids on top of what’s broken! Thank you so much – that is all.

  13. Hi Laurel, I have given this lots of thought today. And I vote for painting it all a white shade including the ceiling. I also think book shelves with bookks or ornaments would be nice. My two cents!

  14. This post covers a lot of very common decorating mistakes. That room has loads of bossy elements competing for centre stage but all we get is gridlock!
    I agree painting the wood can make a world of difference. The paint colour that is on the wall in both the before and “after” might possibly happen to be one of the worst choices given the colour of the wood. While a wood flour would look great, I was wondering about a light coloured stone floor, something craggy and rustic with a super nubly textured rug to anchor the furniture arrangement…. probably not the best choice for resale, but if this is a forever house… who cares? The stone would look especially snazzy if they opt to keep the wood and paint with colour that blends with the wood as you suggested. Adding some drapery panels with a huge scale pattern that has both blue and warm tones would tie in the furniture and and all of the wood. Large scale art is also a must. Painting everything white is an option as well …. just wondering as opposed to painting the cabinetry white, maybe paint it a blue or a green….. the sort of colour used in all of those bespoke kitchens we all envy as seen from across the pond. Either way, getting rid of that god awful carpeting, getting a wall colour that works and getting the furniture in the right place will make a phenomenal difference!

    1. Hi Lynn,

      Thanks so much for you input and I think that your initial assessment is right on the money. The stone floor is an interesting idea and very prevalent in English homes. That would be a tough sell in middle America, I think, but I do see where you’re going and that’s a valid choice, I think.

  15. I so agree with you Laurel about the carpeting. And the furniture, keep it except for that stray black chair. I’d put a gold/pale green print chair in its’ place. I would never paint that wood. I would do a dark cherry floor and stain the wood ceiling panels dark cherry, leaving the beams the original color. The cherry kitchen with the open plan demands more cherry in the great room, IMO. Then I’d put a quiet large patterned wallpaper into those niches on either side of the fireplace that has Celadon green and gold, probably a trellis design or chinoiserie. Add in an oriental style carpet with green, a touch of navy blue and lots of gold. And then I’d consider paint, something pale and greenish off-white (only you would know what shade) or a delicate Celadon green. The room simply needs more pattern. I’d also put a Celadon green tile backsplash in the kitchen and some rugs and accessories the same color. And I’d replace that island top with a pale green granite. I actually had a Victorian house like this years ago that I did a similar treatment with the golden wood and added walnut stain for the contrast, with Philadelphia cream walls that read as palest yellow.

    1. Ahhh… we’re getting ahead of ourselves here talking about the kitchen. :] But since you mentioned it, I don’t think that should be cherry either– in this case. I am thinking of the house as a whole and what is best for the situation as presented.

      And, I feel quite strongly, in this case, that the family room will be oh, so much nicer if it’s pale. And then it would be odd to have a cherry kitchen. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be color. Just, not so much orangey-wood.

  16. I love the wood ceiling. I also think you’re right that here the size and ceiling height make it so it’s always going to feel oppressive. But I would probably make all the other changes first and then evaluate again before making a final decision, because once you paint it there’s really no going back (well, not without lots of time, work, and money).

    One thing no one has talked about with the built-ins – could they be reconfigured so that the t.v. was next to the fireplace rather than above? Perhaps there’s a way to make one of those niches a t.v. niche? I’m not a fan of t.v.s on display over the fireplace – it puts too much focus on them and also puts them at an awkward viewing angle, thus underperforming in both form and function. (Actually, I’m not a fan of a t.v. in the family room, but I recognize that puts me wildly out of step with modern American culture). Creating a spot next to the fireplace could help solve what to do with one of the niches while also putting the t.v. in a better aesthetic and functional spot. Then you could put a nice mirror or lovely piece of art above the fireplace.

    1. Hi Kristin,

      It’s not a bad idea to be cautious, however, they can already see how fantastic the ceiling looks painted in the music room. And, you are definitely NOT alone when it comes to not having a TV in the family room. Sure, still the minority, but lots of people share this view.

  17. I think the immediate problem is that there is no one color that is repeated in multiple objects… so there is no appearance of unification in the room. Additionally, all the current colors are next to each other on the color wheel, and you need a contrast color (probably red).

    My thinking is that step one is to make what you have look more unified, even if it is not your magic happy plan. That buys you time to develop your plan, so that your next expenditures are positive steps toward that plan. If you don’t want to spend big $$ right now, then consider these changes: adopt Laurel’s first furniture layout; move the Christmas tree over in the upper left corner, and move the doll house between piano and the new blue chair.

    Then choose one “focus” color that makes you happy (or the least unhappy) from among the current colors in the room (dusty blue, royal blue, loden green, maize) and bring in some inexpensive large-ish objects that repeat that color and at least one of the other existing colors (e.g., replace upholstered brownish round ottoman with blue and white garden stool, or just drape with scarf; add throw or quilt over couch that focuses on shades of red, green and gold, or red, blue and white with green touches); add two large inexpensive art prints in the niches that repeat your focus color). Then add 3-5 objects to the room that contain red plus your focus color (as you’ve started to do with red star on mantel).

    Add some sparkle (probably gold, not silver) in picture frames, in bookshelves, on side tables. I agree with other comments that the fireplace wall should all be painted white to match the window and door frames, and that at least the ceiling between the beams should be painted white, or a lighter shade of the dusty blue walls. After wood floor and big area rug is installed, then paint beams white to match woodwork. I love Laurel’s blog because I can spend time dreaming about other people’s rooms instead of fixing my own 🙂

  18. I’m a confessed wood-lover- and I like that ceiling! To me, the room is conflicted- it has the wood elements of a library or study but in a family room setting. Laura clearly wants a bright family room and I love the advice here for that. I’m just throwing out the idea that an alternative for a different homeowner might be to embrace the English library/smoking room look and double down on dark & rich. Not that shade of blue for the walls but one of the other many no-fail paints that go with wood from the indispensable Laurel Paint Guides.

    To me, it’s the “Victoriman” (haha, brilliant term) look that is causing the main problem here- one could improve things considerably by identifying a clearly traditional style that harmonizes with the kitchen and stick with it. Then layer in all the cozy, rich traditional elements (more lighting!) and change out the transitional ones (like the carpet, some furniture, cabinet doors) as much as possible.

    The room IS big, but I could envision it as a somewhat stately yet cozy drawing room that embraces the wood elements.

    1. I hear you on a lot of this Danielle, but my thinking is that pulling this look off takes a lot of money and it doesn’t solve the problem of the cabinets. A gold wall color would be better, IF– But, I can’t get past the cabinets. It’s a difficult situation.

      Thank you so much for your lovely ideas and input!

  19. In my frenzy over the carpeting I forgot to mention that I totally agree with you that a major problem with the built-ins is the door style. The curved trim makes them look like kitchen cabinets. They should be replaced with something square or gotten rid of altogether and replaced with open shelves. (I assume there are shelves back there?) Even when painted, the current doors will look cheesy, not to mention the curved trim above. No, no, no.

    1. Hi Janet,

      Thank you for corroborating my aversion to curved trim on the rails and doors. Believe me. I’ve looked. I’ve looked at American, English, French, Italian decor from the 18th-19th centuries and I cannot find anything that looks remotely like the curves we see in late 20th – early 21st century designs in the U.S. Our ancestor furniture makers would be horrified to see what’s going on. And yet, the epidemic of tasteless design still proliferates through the land. It’s very tough to eradicate it and as of yet, no vaccine has been discovered. lol

      The best I can do and other designers who get it is to keep preaching that it is wrong!!!

  20. The wood ceiling is so beautiful, I understand the hesitancy to paint it. However the wiiiiiide dimensions of the room mean that the ceiling is always going to feel oppressive till it’s painted. With the cabinet maker relative, Laura is in such a great position to update that built in! Take all the doors off. Run the built in up to the ceiling. Run shelves actoss the top half, on the left and right side of the fireplace. Nice thick shelves — put a lip on them to make them look substantial. Put nice new doors on the bottom with proper rectangular detail. Add hardwood floor. Boom – life changed. No major construction. Love it. It’s going to radiate quality and good healthy vibes. Really, it’s going to be great.

  21. I was skimming faster and faster through the post in a state of torture because the moment I clapped eyes on the room I wanted to scream GET RID OF THE CARPET!!! I can’t tell you how relieved I was to finally see you say it. IMHO, that is the FIRST thing to do. Put in wood. Get a nice, richly-colored Persian rug, even if it is a fake one from India, but not one of those with obviously fake harsh blues or whatever. Look on ebay. The blue chairs will look lovely with it, as will the piano. Everything will fall into place. And normally I am violently opposed to painting wood, but in this case….

  22. I actually think that dollhouse is kind of cool and would use that as the springboard for the decor. Braided oval rugs, anyone?

    1. Hi Susie,

      Braided rugs reminds me of a family with seven children I grew up with in Evansville, IN. I always loved their home because it was so warm and home-y. They had a braided rug in their family room. It isn’t my taste, but I can appreciate them in certain situations.

  23. Hi there Laurel and Laura!
    I actually think you have the makings of a great room. I love moldings, built ins and the tall windows but agree that most should be painted white.
    I don’t think the hired designer did a terrible job with the colonial looking blue (and I think she was trying to de-orange everything.) But I agree more white and wood floors will make it great! Definitely like the suggestion of an oriental rug in the space to amp it up. I would also love to see some drapes. 🙂
    Laurel, I am addicted to your blog! Thanks for the great posts.

  24. If I can make one more suggestion; it’s often suggested that collections be gathered together and curated. Those niches are huge. Surely they have musical items to bring together here and the relative who is a woodworker could fashion boxes/shelves to display these loved items. Cathy

  25. Laurel, yes, absolutely must get rid of those curved rail doors! And the creamy white- perfect! Maybe BMoore Simply White or White Dove. Or even Navajo White. And I love the idea of just painting the ceiling white between the box beams that the readers have brought up.
    Then, not sure about the walls, but once you do all the creamy white wood maybe do some white bookshelves backed with navy ( like Van Deusen Blue or Hale Navy) . There’s something pleasing about those warm woods, creamy white cabinets and navy accents- maybe it’s because blue is opposite the orang-y wood on the color wheel! ;-). And then I can see lots of pretty blue and white chinoiserie on those shelves! Can you tell I read your blog all the time! Those navy chairs Laura bought would then have the perfect home.

  26. Laurel, you are spot on with the rug/hardwood floor recommendation.
    My last house was a log house with cream carpet in the family room…and it was oppressive to be in the large (but not nearly this large)room. I insisted that the wood ceiling would have to be painted (my husband was not a fan) but as soon as we put hardwood flooring down the ceiling wasn’t a problem- our wood floor was darker than the ceiling so we didn’t have the feeling that the dark ceiling was pressing down on us. Laura’s floor is not going to be dark but I would extend the wood floors and paint the rest of the room and see how the ceiling feels after that.
    I love these ‘work in progress’ posts. It helps me see the process of how to work through the problems we all face in one form or another

    1. Hi Maggie,

      Thanks so much for your ideas.

      This is part of how I came up with my remedy for the problem.

      The ceiling in the kitchen is white as is the ceiling in the music room which is also coffered and looks gorgeous. Imagine that room with a brown ceiling and I think it would not look nearly as fresh.

      I think given the size of the family room, painting the walls a light color with the dark heavy ceiling is going to feel strange. If the ceiling were much higher, it would probably be okay, but it’s not. It’s like it’s trying to be something it’s not.

  27. Paint it all Navajo White…after redoing floors for sure. Had same problem in our house w heart pine floors and lots of cherry stained molding. We gradually changed it form colonial shaker style to a European farm style with some more sophisticated elements. Work of love, but no regrets. Wood is beautiful painted. You will keep the texture and architecture and add warmth. Stay away from grays, browns…need the warm white. We ended up doing all trim/wood in Navajo white by BM and painting walls Bone White.

    1. Thank you so much Cindi. I always recommend testing. It’s difficult to test when everything is dark, however. In that case, maybe cover one wall with large sheets of white paper or cardboard.

  28. Laurel – you’ve done it again – great post… you have such an ability to see what will make the big difference – hardwood floors with a rug, reconfiguring the builtins and buckets of white paint (I agree paint everything) – I can see it, and think it would be beautiful, even without changing furniture. I would leave the kitchen alone for now if it were me, even though there will be a disconnect, but my guess is that if they follow your guidance, the kitchen project will be right behind this one (are you going to post about it? 🙂

    1. Thanks Kim. This is where my years of experience come into play. I don’t know it all, but I’ve seen a lot. Yes, I will tackle the kitchen, I’m pretty sure. Laura already has some excellent ideas in that regard.

  29. What a beautiful home! So lucky to have such problems, lol. Right now it doesn’t reflect Laura and her family’s warmth and inclusiveness. It’s just a huge open space. Laurel, you’re the best! So many great, thoughtful suggestions for a difficult space.

  30. Hello Laurel and Laura, Let’s face it, that ceiling is oppressive and that cabinetry wall is both overbearing and badly designed. The ceiling could be painted white, which would be a quick and relatively inexpensive improvement, but it really belongs in a taller room.

    In an old house, I would stand over the wood elements with a shotgun, defying anybody to touch them, but this is new “McMansion” wood, which some people think is by definition beautiful and sacrosanct. If Laura gets some practice with a crowbar in this family room, it might steel her nerve when she needs to get started on that kitchen.

    To think that it is for interiors like this that we are sacrificing Canada!

    By the way, that blue wall looks oddly like the exterior facade of a house, as though the family room were an open Hollywood set on the back lot. Even those switches next to the door (without focusing closely) look like a house number. And those first pictures of the similar house, which seem to solve the problem by putting a stick of dynamite in can of high gloss white paint, covered the darkness at the expense of creating an interior which is cold and uninviting. In Ohio we can get snow-blindness outside; no need to bring it indoors as well.
    p.s. Sorry about the grumpy tone here, but these new houses! Fixing one up is like making the proverbial silk purse out of a sow’s ear!

    1. Hi Jim,

      Actually, your “grumpy” comment made me chuckle. I laughed because it’s true. I didn’t realize this until I just checked, but the trim on the windows, was brown before the most recent change. And in the front room the window casings are brown and the ceiling is white. But here, we can see how GREAT the ceiling looks painted and this is a small room. It will lighten things up in the most beautiful way and actually make the contrast not be so great when there’s snow outside.

      This room is not light and bright under most circumstances and the glare of snow has remedies.

      The photography for the McGee interiors bugs me with it’s vastly over-exposed nature. In fact, I actually darken their images as much as I could, but it’s difficult to put back what’s not there to begin with. This is definitely a look and I’m sure saleable.

      The rooms themselves, architecturally, are beautiful and the furnishings are fine too. It’s often the styling touches– an antique tray, a Chinoiserie vase, a bunch of beautiful flowers, and art that are missing from their images. That’s just my opinion and of course, they are doing super-well without doing all of that, for their photo sessions. But, I think that they might reach an even wider audience, if they’d infuse some vintage and antique layering into some of their interiors. It wouldn’t have to be a lot. I’m thinking of the beautiful work of Loi Thai of Tone on Tone.

  31. From what I could see in the pics, I’d build a wall with pocket doors between the 2 windows and the transom patio door. The wood isn’t the problem imho, the size of the room is. Maybe I’d arrange it as kitchen with informal dining and formal dining with fireplace beyond pocket door.
    I’d rewind the clock living style wise. I’d keep the wood tones for the formal dining room with fireplace – who wouldn’t like that? Then the kitchen/informal dining area could be painted white if desired.

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      I didn’t want to put the floor plan in just yet because I didn’t want a lot of comments about the kitchen and I considered that, as well, but unless they blow out the entire kitchen and reconfigure, that’s not feasible. because there’s no real need for a hall. It might be possible to add some columns, but I’m not sure about that either because one of the beams intersects the doorway. I would’ve tried to avoid that. Ahh… yes, another reason a wall can’t be put there because logically, that would be where it goes.

      Apparently, most people with this model of home in her area, did put in the balcony sacrificing at least one of the bedrooms upstairs. As you can see in the McGee home that has the wall completely down between family room and kitchen, the family room is far smaller and therefore, in better proportion. That was the original design and any massive change in structure is going to be big bucks, at this point.

  32. Thank you for addressing those of us living in the SNIRT areas! My open-concept home gets a ton of light, and our currently white walls leave us blinded 6 months of the year.

    Thank goodness I found this blog before selecting paint color/colors. We’re low on funds, but at least we have a ton of original art to do a gallery wall.

    My designer brain has woken up, and I like to look at rooms to see how I’d change them.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      I sometimes play that game of how I’d change a house when I’m a passenger in a car. Usually, I think how much better it would look if it was painted white! Of course, that’s the outside, but even inside, it can equalize things. My apartment faces south and west and in the winter for a couple of hours it was blinding in here before I got shades. Talk about a headache!

  33. Since the blue and grey walls bring out the orange of the wood, I would suggest painting the wall unit white or off white and paint all window frames the same too. I would paint the walls a white or off white…can even be the same color as the wall unit, but in a different paint texture. Or, a similar but very slightly darker white. But no color.
    I would leave the ceiling as is. Put in a real hardwood floor.
    Get all the color you want through furnishings.
    Yes, these big houses can be hard to furnish, expensive to furnish..hard to clean (so much space).
    Also, on the wall unit, will would get rid of the big niches and put in shelves, where you can showcase more things than with just one big niche.. The big niches look odd.
    Nice house though.

    1. Thank you for the lovely comment Chris. I feel strongly about the ceiling being painted. It’s two things. The size of the room and height of the ceiling. It feels oppressive to me. It’s not the wood, per se.

  34. I agree with painting most of the wood and adding wood floor when she can. I would just paint the whole built-in until she can get the new doors, or maybe just take off some of the doors.

    Some sort of rug in the meantime might suffice. I got one nearly the color of the wall-to-wall and it made a difference until I can tear it all out.

    I would consider leaving the wood beams only and painting the wood paneling on the ceiling between the beams.

    I like floor plan II, and more lighting will make a big difference.

  35. I’m not a designer but I had a similar problem in my previous house(1910 craftsman). I decided to paint most of the wood creamy white except left the ceiling box beams the stained wood. That way, the wood stain of the ceiling beams connects to the kitchen and perhaps if you paint the two rooms the same color it will make sense. I would paint the ceiling between the box beams white as well. I agree that the carpet needs to go if you can. I would add a beautiful hand knotted rug to be the star of the room and go from there. If you get the right rug, it will make all the difference in my opinion. In the niches, I would try a gallery wall with artfully framed family photos and maybe some beautiful pottery and a real plant or two if you can get it to grow. Or paint the wall in there the same color as the walls and add some shelves with a few beautiful objects. All of these suggestions cost a ton of money so I totally get where you are coming from! Good luck!!

  36. Yep, agree with laurel, paint it all out. That was my first reaction, and I love wood. The coffered ceiling is oppressive. That room is fine for someone who watches tv whenever they’re there, but depressing if it’s you, that doesn’t and has to actually look at it.
    The grey is not working with that wood.

    1. Hi Liz,

      I’m 99% sure that I had asked Laura and she said, “no.” It’s common of homes built in the 20th (and probably this century too) to not have a finished hardwood floor and instead they put in the wall-to-wall. Saves the builder a lot of money and back-ache!

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