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Before and After: Living Room Makeover

Living Room Makeover With Homepolish

Two summers after my husband, son and I moved in, our Brooklyn apartment was finally feeling like a true family home. We’d painted, changed out old light fixtures and found a place for all the toys. But the living room still needed some love. Why is the last 10% of any project always the hardest? For help crossing the finish line, I recently turned to Homepolish, the interior design service. Here’s the before and after, if you’d like to peek…

Living Room Makeover With Homepolish

First, the before shot. Our charcoal gray rug (layered under a smaller one) was invisible against the new apartment’s floors, and our dark sofa and lounge chairs weren’t looking great. Also, we’d given up on our coffee table, with its kid-unfriendly glass top. Overall, the space somehow looked simultaneously empty and overcrowded.

Living Room Makeover With Homepolish

To help, Homepolish set me up with Amy Row. As soon as we started swapping ideas, she felt like my design fairy godmother. She took all of my opinions seriously, gently guided my choices and sent hilarious gifs in response to my texts. “We reached decisions together, but the space really feels like yours,” Amy told me. “I had so much fun working with you, and my relationships with clients are a huge part of why I do interior design. It’s an incredible feeling to have an impact on someone’s home.”

Living Room Makeover With Homepolish

Paintings: Karina Bania. Framing: Simply Framed. Sofa: B&B Italia. Throw pillows: Hedgehouse. Rug: Armadillo & Co. Credenza: Organic Modernism. White chair: Lulu & Georgia. Coffee table: DWR. Blue ribbed vase: West Elm. Urn-shaped vase: The Maryn. Purple jar: Nalata Nalata. White wall paint: Farrow & Ball All White.

On lighter colors: One of the biggest changes Amy made was brightening up the room’s color palette. For example, she recommended a light rug (its speckled wool and low pile make it easy to keep looking clean) and pale linen throw pillows to soften the dark sofa.

On choosing artwork: I was already hunting for a painting to fill the empty wall over the sofa when Amy and I got started. We scoured artists’ Instagrams together, and I really loved the work of California painter Karina Bania. We were able to tell her which colors would work best and which paintings in her portfolio were most similar to our vision. Shipping large paintings across the country can be pricey, but Karina was able to roll up her canvases in tubes and send them to Simply Framed, which has discounted pricing, for re-stretching and framing. We’re thrilled with the end result — commissioning original paintings was much less intimidating than I had imagined.

On everlasting flora: One of my favorite things in the room is the magnolia branch in the corner here. It’s faux! My best new trick is to turn the vase over and watch friends’ faces as they realize the “water” doesn’t spill. It looks so convincing. As Amy says, “It’s unreal. Literally.”

Living Room Makeover With Homepolish

Print: Matthew Johnson. Wall light: OneFortyThree. Throw blanket: The Citizenry. Side table: vintage from EBTH. Gray chair: vintage from RePop. Mustard pillow: similar.

On creating vignettes: Since we wanted to keep most of the big furniture pieces from our last apartment, it was a challenge to figure out how to reorganize everything. Amy was a genius at editing and pushed to make the room airy and open even as we added a few new pieces. “When everything has a place and purpose, a room will have a lighter touch,” she said. “Instead of over-decorating, we considered the function of each seating area and created sweet moments like the wall light, black-and-white print and reading chair.”

Living Room Makeover With Homepolish

Chandelier: Etsy. Dining table: DWR. Chairs: vintage from eBay, Etsy and flea markets; similar. Window shades: The Shade Store. Candlesticks: The Maryn. Carafe and glasses: Ikea.

Living Room Makeover With Homepolish

Olive tree and planter: Terrain. Tall cabinet: Urban Outfitters. Brass tray: Schoolhouse Electric.

On choosing house plants: Amy thought our old fiddle leaf fig was too heavy looking for this corner. To change things up, she recommended a wispier olive tree with a rustic planter. “Don’t forget that plants bring in a pop of color, so you want to choose one that fits well with the rest of the decor,” she said. “This soft tree is perfect for your room.”

On woven furniture: I love the rattan Urban Outfitters cabinet we found — the quality is great — and there are some other woven furniture touches in the room, too. (This pretty cabinet from Ikea was a close contender.) Something about the open weave of these pieces makes them feel light and relaxed to me.

Living Room Makeover With Homepolish

Mirror: CB2. Bench: Article. Vases: Canvas. Brass lamp: Schoolhouse Electric. Throw blanket: Parachute. Sheepskin rug: Jenni Kayne.

On fireside seating: Before, there was nowhere to sit and enjoy the fireplace. Last winter, I would lie down on the floor in front of it every night (basically on the hearth) to warm up! Now, we use this new Article bench constantly — it’s the perfect little perch. Our three-year-old son loves to lie on it with his hands behind his head, relaxing like a boss. I’m excited to make this my spot once it’s fireplace weather.

Living Room Makeover With Homepolish

Framed print: 20×200. Child’s chair, left: vintage from EBTH. Child’s chair, right: Vintage Fine Objects.

On the mayor of our home: One thing we didn’t change is Bowie’s dog bed and its exact location in the room. He watched from this position as the project unfolded around him. (At 11 years old, he and his bed are our version of Marty and his chair from Frasier.)

Living Room Makeover With Homepolish

Wood glove mannequin: vintage from EBTH. Green dachshund: Brimful. Tool kit toy: Amazon. Antique mirror panels: Walter’s Mirror. Gray paint: Farrow & Ball Lamp Room Gray.

On transforming an unused corner: Finally, we tackled a small construction project. The living room side of our kitchen peninsula was outfitted for bar stools, which we didn’t need. So, we turned it into a bookcase and swapped the frosted glass cabinet fronts for antique mirrors. After painting everything gray to complement the stone countertop, we love how it feels like a great furniture piece that helps separate the kitchen from the living area. It also softly reflects light back into the living room.


I’m so happy with the final result. What to do you think? I’d highly recommend Homepolish if you’re thinking about redecorating. They have hundreds of top designers nationwide who can take on projects soup to nuts, ranging from simple room refreshes (starting at $130/hour) to full-on remodels involving architects and general contractors. They also offer by-video design, so you can work with a designer virtually wherever you are. The best thing about Homepolish is how personalized their service is, from the moment they match you with a likeminded designer to making sure you’re totally satisfied with the final result. You can check out all their services, portfolio and beautiful design magazine here.

Thank you so much, Homepolish!

(Photos by Julia Robbs for Cup of Jo. Styling for the photos by Elizabeth MacLennen. This post is sponsored by Homepolish, which makes decorating projects easy and fun.)

  1. Jenny Rose says...

    Very pretty. Have to say I cannot have fake plants/branches/flowers. It seems so very strange that one would pay $200 for a fake branch and fake water. Real branches, flowers, plants make a space feel, well, real.

  2. It’s definitely a nice makeover although the photo before is too dark and not taken from similar angles. The rug made a huge difference. It’s the one thing that makes a room or breaks it. I really liked the olive tree and tall cabinet addition and the art is really lovely. However, the built-in bookcase needs a little more punch to it in my opinion. Perhaps another color?! :)

  3. loos says...

    I always wonder why the “before” photos have to be taken with such poor light and bad angles compared to the “after” ones. I end up feeling skeptical, even if I like the makeover, like this one.

  4. Amanda Tudor says...

    I love the olive tree idea! When I looked on terrain I didn’t see anything like that. Did you get it at their actual store? Thanks!

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Hi Amanda! Yes, I got it from their Westport, Connecticut store. You can order the planter online and their other nursery for trees is in Glenn Mills, PA. There are some great online options for olive trees, like this http://amzn.to/2fKzVXL Good luck!

  5. Jay says...

    Love the way it turned out!

    Question: is your apartment very echoey? We are updating our living and dining area right now, too, and I worry if I don’t have enough rugs and curtains that the acoustics in the flat will be terrible (we have hardwood floors).

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Thanks, Jay! No, it’s not an echo-y apartment. I think a lot of it has to do with the walls and general insulation. The building is from 1920 and has really solid walls.

  6. RashmiK says...

    Absolutely love the house!!! What a lovely cozy place to live!
    There was one thing that surprised me – do people actually buy art that matches their rooms and the furniture? For me whatever we love goes on the wall – I somehow never stopped to think if it matches the rest of the decor. I just never looked at art as decor. Surprising, the things you learn!

  7. Abbie says...

    Lovely makeover! I know this is crazy…but I love your little dog bed. Maybe it’s just a great photo, but it actually looks like a cool/high-quality (non-hideous) one…as opposed to all of the horrible ones I am used to seeing. I’d LOVE a post about stylish dog/cat furniture or accessories sometime! :) Did you purchase it recently? Bowie is adorable too, of course!

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Hi Abbie, his bed is from the NYC store Canvas a long time ago and they don’t make dog beds anymore, sadly. I like the striped beds here: https://www.thefoggydog.com/ You’re right it’s a tough thing to find! Thanks so much for your note.

  8. Sierra says...

    Can you share where you found your dog bed?

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Hi Sierra, it’s from the NYC store Canvas but probably 5 years ago and they don’t make them anymore, sadly. I’m looking for a new one for our bedroom (the one in there is even older and falling apart) and having a hard time finding one I love. Please share any great leads.

  9. Absolutely stunning update! I love the paintings – they look SO expensive and sophisticated. And that cabinet from Urban Outfitters is really unexpected. I’m drooling over that bench too! Everything looks great!

  10. Absolutely gorgeous and so much inspiration! We just moved and I’m currently re-designing the whole house. Overwhelming for sure but loving every minute!

  11. Cheryl Hollingsworth says...

    It looks very nice, chic & modern. I like it.

  12. Karen says...

    Love it! Does anyone have an idea how much the paintings from Karina Bania are approximately?

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Hi Karen, she sells some of her paintings directly on her site https://www.karinabania.com/shop/ (some with prices and some you’d have to email) and some of her prints are newly available at Anthropologie. xo

  13. Carly says...

    I think everyone’s thinking this, but Lexi, we need a full home tour next PA-LEASE!

  14. liz says...

    would it be possible to do something similar with landscape design? showcase a company that does similar service? Room looks fantastic.

  15. erin says...

    this looks so beautiful, it would be fun to see a simple iphone photo a week or so in to show how it looks once it’s lived in/ not photographed so professionally. right now it is beautiful but still seems a bit innaccessible- everyone’s home looks great with a stylist and photographer. what do homepolish projects look like IRL?

    • Julia says...

      I guess, nobody has the courage to actually post such a real picture to anybody else than a soul mate ;-) What about a “messy home – tidied-up-home story? It would be a great motivation for me !!!

  16. Anna says...

    Lovely! Really enjoyed this post. I’d love to know where Amy’s dress and belt are from, if she’s willing to share? So easy and polished all at once. Thanks!

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Anna, I asked her and both are vintage! She’s a really talented scouter of all things.

    • Anna says...

      Bummer for me but very cool for her! Thanks for checking.

  17. Fresh flowers and plants make such a wonderful addition to any room!

  18. Erin Brady says...

    Beautiful home. I’m wondering if you know the name of the vintage chairs you found on eBay? They’re amazing. I’d love to track them down myself !

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Hi Erin! They are bentwood chairs by Thonet and are pretty easy to find, but just look closely at the pictures to make sure they’re not cracked. Here’s a good one for sale right now: http://tidd.ly/fd281d07 You should expect to pay between $75-125 for one, though a couple of mine I got for $25 so hunt around! Mine are reupholstered in faux leather that’s so easy with a kid. They just wipe down to clean. Good luck!

    • Kate says...

      It looks to me as though your Thonet back rests are on upside down! An easy fix, however… Love those chairs.

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Omg, that would be so funny. The back screws only go in one way (they’re closer together at the top), so fingers crossed they are right. I love the idea that we’ve lived with them wrong for years, though. Thank you!

    • Kate says...

      Haha, yep, you could blame the upholsterer for that! Once they covered the original holes with the new fabric they may not have been able to re-locate them… I’ve recovered and assembled many of these chairs and it’s an easy mistake to make;)

  19. Lane says...

    This room looks so lovely! I’m interested to know how that white carpet does with the kids though.

    • Courtney says...

      We recently got a big, kinda shaggy white wool rug that is very similar to this one. We don’t have kids, but were worried about dirt and stains on a white rug, anyway. You can get a protective coat sprayed on. It’s amazing. It keeps it from absorbing dirt and stains, and comes with cleaners for spot cleaning. I’ve cleaned up wine and coffee spots and it’s super easy, since there’s a sealant! I was worried that the sealant would affect the texture of the rug, but it didn’t. It was wet for a day, then soaked in and you don’t notice it. Definitely worth the extra hundred or so, if you’re getting a white rug.

  20. Bryce says...

    Interesting idea converting the under-bartop to a bookshelf. We are about to move into a house with two separate bartops in the kitchen (regular and breakfast bar). That could be an idea, since we know we won’t use Both!

  21. Alice says...

    I think it’s beautiful and personal – you’ll have so many good times in that room. BUT there’s no picture of that brilliant bubbletastic chandelier lit up at night, what a tease you are! The lighting in general looks really cosy.

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Ha! It gives off a soft glittery light (there are only three big lightbulbs under all those glass bubbles). I love it — we installed it about 1.5 years ago. Thank you!

    • Jackie says...

      Yes, where is this beautiful chandelier from?

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Hi Jackie, it’s from this Etsy seller: http://tidd.ly/b8a9ddcf That link goes to a bigger size than mine is but there’s no current listing for that size (I think mine was “large”). The maker is wonderful to work with and can customize things. Cheers!

  22. Rachel Simmons says...

    Looks gorgeous. Wish there were better “before” pics though.

  23. Looks fab! I’m happy to see your son is still enjoying his little green dachshund. 💚

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Thank you so much! It was a baby gift from a close relative who has now passed away so I’m definitely keeping track of it for him.

  24. It was a pleasure designing a chandelier for you Lexi! It looks amazing over your dining table!

    My (almost three year old) son would love the little book nook you created for yours. Beautiful work! Xo

  25. jeannie says...

    i loved this makeover! your apartment looks amazing.

  26. ECH says...

    Lovely and inspiring! Lots of good tips. Thank you!

  27. Rebecca says...

    Love that you changed the bar stool area to shelves and cabinets!! Such a good idea! Looks beautiful!

  28. KF says...

    Lovely. I think I clicked on every source. I also enjoyed the designers tips you sprinkled in. Well written design post. Thanks for sharing.

  29. Jean says...

    Wow. All I can focus on is how beautiful and effortless Amy’s outfit is. Simple, elegant, and barefoot!

  30. kim says...

    beautiful! 1 question – in the photo the gorgeous bubble light fixture in the dining room looks very high – did you consider lowering it?

  31. Your living room looks so beautiful! I especially love the artwork above the sofa and the wicker storage cabinet, they are amazing!

  32. As an artist I LOVE seeing art being commissioned for homes!!! Even when commissions and original art are out if the price range, there’s so many great print options out there (I’m actually hoping to do a round up of some sources soon on ramblingsketcher.com). Seeing what people put on their walls is always my favorite part of your house tours! The room looks fantastic!!!

    • Laura says...

      Katie I’m digging your paintings!!

  33. Greta says...

    I love this post! Your home is beautiful, and I really appreciate how much you shared about the process of designing the last 10%. It is amazing how all those details and additions really bring everything together.

  34. love how this all came together! and that dog is seriously adorable

  35. I loved this!! Lexi’s home is beautiful. I noticed today that she (and Stella) follow Meaghan Looram, who’s been one of my favorites on Instagram for a while; Meaghan only ever shows glimpses of her home on Instagram, but I can tell it’s lovely! Do you think you could get her to do a house tour? And she’d be a fantastic candidate for a beauty uniform segment as well!

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Hahah, Lauren. Meaghan is one of my close friends, which is how Stella knows her too. I would love to convince her to do a house tour! I’ll ask. (And yes, she would be great for a beauty uniform and very flattered that you said so.)

    • Yes please, yes please!! Also her cats and her baby daughter: I’m in love with them. Thank you for asking her!!

  36. Kelly says...

    I was literally just asking friends about affordable interior design services that would help us figure out how to turn our now finished basement into a play area for a toddler and lounge area for my husband and I. I have no experience with interior design though so if anyone has comments on the relative affordability of Homepolish versus similar services I’m all ears! (I live in DC). Thanks!

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      I think Homepolish is a good value if you want some designer help. Several friends have used them to great effect and everyone has had a positive experience. One thing about working with a designer is that you can often take advantage of discounts to the trade, which can really help offset the cost of having a professional designer if you’re thinking you might need to buy some new furniture. Good luck with your basement project!

    • Emily says...

      Kelly,

      If you’re looking for a lower hourly rate, you could also consider searching your area on ASID or houzz https://www.asid.org/find-a-pro

      or contact a local design school (for instance http://arts.vcu.edu/interiordesign/) to see if they have any recent grads they’d recommend for your project!

      Lexi, the house looks awesome and THANK YOU for hiring an interior designer and for understanding/valuing the design profession! We all (even those of us who don’t work for Homepolish) appreciate the publicity and support!

    • Shira says...

      I tried to use Homepolish for a project we’re doing at our house. They couldn’t find any local designers with availability, so they recommended an online designer, for the same cost! I thought it was ridiculous. I’m happy to have other places to check out – thanks, Emily!

    • Kelly says...

      Thanks so much Lexi and Emily!

  37. Bethany says...

    Could you share how many Homepolish design hours this project took? The results are stunning!

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Hi Bethany! It’s hard to say exactly in this case, but I just asked Amy and she says a project like this with a typical client might take 20 hours of design time. Thanks so much!

  38. Sarah says...

    this is essentially my dream apartment. it looks like a danish treehouse.

  39. Erin says...

    Such a beautiful apartment, thanks for sharing. The idea to turn the peninsula into a bookcase is pure genius!

  40. that cabinet from urban is a dreaaaaaam. I wish I was around when that Ikea cabinet was still for sale. That would be perfect for my room.

    EBTH, be still my heart. New favorite online store.

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      The Ikea cabinet is actually not for sale yet — you didn’t miss it! October…

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      EBTH has the most incredible deals! some good search terms are “danish modern” and “mid century” or looking for a specific designer. good luck! xo

  41. Laurel says...

    Gorgeous!

  42. Stef says...

    I love the makeover but everything is so expensive! Even the throw blanket ($229… eesh). I would love to see more homes decorated on a budget.

    • t says...

      I understand what you are saying but it likely was decorated on a budget. Maybe it is more than your budget but I would assume Lexi had a budget. $229 is an expensive throw for many but many others decorate with Hermes throws that cost $1600.

      It seems that every time there is a post on decorating or a home tour this is a big complaint. You can still feel inspired by the overall look even if it is out of your budget and you can try to source comparable things for less or used versions of the items you like. And many of the homes featured do have pieces sourced for free or made or found on craigslist.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you for your comment, stef! here are some homes with lower price points, which you might like. (we aim to feature a mix of homes, styles, budgets, family structures, ages, etc.) we have many more coming up, too!

      https://cupofjo.com/2016/01/15-tips-for-living-in-a-small-space-with-a-baby/

      https://cupofjo.com/2016/10/new-hampshire-house-tour/

      https://cupofjo.com/2016/09/chicago-home-tour/

      https://cupofjo.com/2017/04/elizabeth-suzann-house-tour/

      https://cupofjo.com/2017/08/san-francisco-apartment-budget/

      thanks again xoxo

    • I was thinking the same — that fake magnolia branch is $209. What?! I love the inspiration but wish many of these things were more affordable!

    • K says...

      I agree with T. That is how inspirations work.
      Also, why is it considered RUDE to point out people’s spending if they are less expensive or cheaper but it is completely ok to judge or comment on people’s spending when it is higher than one’s expenditure.
      I guess it starts at home, not only is it important to teach kids to live within means but also to be ok and not judgemental about others way of life.
      I live a humble life but have a good taste. I can’t afford most things in this house tour but thoroughly enjoy looking at it.

  43. Cynthia says...

    I like all the windows, as well as using antique mirrors for the doors on the bookcase. I don’t have a rug under my dining table, either, and it makes my dining room look larger and it’s easy to sweep up after a meal. I took up the dining room rug after our dog had some accidents on it, as I was afraid of the hardwood floor underneath being ruined.

  44. Amy P says...

    What a change! It looks amazing. Love the rattan cupboards!

  45. Rob says...

    Love it!! Esp. love the frames for those paintings.

  46. Lily says...

    Your place is beautiful, Lexi! Fun post.

  47. Celeste says...

    Love this living room! Currently trying to figure out how to lighten up my front room, but I think I do actually have too many big pieces in there. haha Inspired to reach out to an artist to create custom art, too!