Settle in, this is a long post, describing every tip and trick I’ve used so far to make over my living room as inexpensively as possible.  Get a coffee.  Better yet, a pumpkin latte.

This is what goes on around here pretty much once or twice a year.  And because I am extremely psychic (everybody says so) I’m going to predict that this is what goes on in your house too.

I declare the house a disaster and start doing what I *think* is decluttering, but is really just moving things from the one room into another room until the cluttery room becomes decluttered and the other room (which was decluttered) becomes cluttery.  Understand?

On and on this goes in a never ending carousel of cluttering and uncluttering the same rooms.  Room to room, room to basement, basement to room, room to closet.  And repeat.

See?  Psychic.  I’m still working on bending spoons with my mind (mainly so I can evolve the trick into moving spoons into the dishwasher with my mind.)


A couple of months ago I started the process of making over the lower floor of my house, including the foyer, living room and dining room, with just paint and rearranging furniture.  I might have to buy and sell a couple of things, but basically I decided to change as much as I could with what I had.

The above photo is the before shot believe it or not.  I know.  It looks pretty good.  But the shag carpet from Costco was a disgusting, flattened, haggy mess.  Not shaggy … haggy.  It lost it’s shag about 2 years ago.

There were maybe 12 too many lamps in the room.  Living in an old house with little to no overhead lights gives you an unnatural affinity and need for lamps.  In this small living room I had 8 lamps.  EIGHT.

The side panel curtains were cheap, like really cheap, and I got them when I first made over my house.  They almost matched the couch, but not quite.  But for $16.99, almost was fantastic!  As you can see they’re a curious shade of rose/taupe.

I’ve never liked that coffee table (which yes I got on sale) but it fits the space perfectly.  That table is pretty but it ain’t got no soul.  Even though I’d love to have a huge square coffee table the room just won’t allow it.  Because the room is a jerk.  So I’ve kept the coffee table.

The couch? I’d love to replace it with something a little less puffy but for now it stays.  In the back of my mind I have something either a bit more country or a velvet or leather Chesterfield sofa.  Probably in sectional format because again, it’s what works best in my jerk of a room.

I still love the idea of the gallery wall but these prints were every single thing I could find in my basement, most of them not even framed properly.  They weren’t necessarily artwork I loved.  Just stuff.  That happened to look fairy good when grouped together.

So with all that in mind, my new decluttered living room.  The makeover is not complete, the canvas has been cleaned up a bit, waiting for some fresh, new brush strokes.  It may take a month, it may take a year, but it is on its way to completion.


I know. It looks empty.  And naked. And almost the same.  Don’t be alarmed.  It’s because it’s missing the number one most important ingredient to successfully decorating; layering.  That’s what the new brush strokes on the room will do.  They’ll add layers which is what makes a “nice” room a “jawdropping” room.

Take a look at one of my inspiration shots from Ellen Degeneres’ home.


There’s layering.  Different colours, textures, styles and periods.  There are interesting pieces and billion dollar Hermes blankets (substitute with Hudson’s Bay blankets my Canadian friends), flea market finds.  It. Is. A. Layered. Room.

So don’t worry (as if you are), I’m going to get that layered look again, it just might take a while to get it the way I want it.

So what have I done?

I got rid of the rug.  I threw the damn rug out.  I may never even get another rug.  My living room looks kind of bald in the photograph, but in real life it  looks clean and calm without another element to busy it up.

Don’t worry.  I’ll mess and clutter it all up as soon as I declutter my dining room.

I have scaled down the number of lamps from a whopping 8 to a paltry 7.  I know.  Living by the light of 7 lamps.  I feel like a bat.

As you might know, I painted the trim.  You couldn’t see a lot of the trim in the living room because of the rose/taupe drapes, but now that they’re down you can see the architecture of the woodwork.  There are a few different directions I could go in terms of window treatments (more on that further down in the post) but for now I’m still getting a thrill out of looking at the naked painted trim.

So far we’ve ascertained that my new living room is batty, bald and naked.

I’ve kept my 3 favourite prints up on the walls and I’m going to get the Picasso on the right, properly framed. As it is now, it’s just sitting in a gold frame.  As in, just set on the edge of the inner lip of the gold frame, not even inside of it.

I was considering getting it set into a much bigger frame so it would take up more wall space and be more dramatic, but from my Photoshopped version of it below, I feel like it would draw all the attention to the frame and not the Picasso.  I keep saying Picasso as if it isn’t just a print from the 60’s that my Uncle bought at a carnival.  I think it was a carnival anyway.  I have no idea why I think that, but since I’m psychic, I think you can believe me.


I might paint that table too, I haven’t decided.  Not the little ends of cut wood, just the surrounding veneer.

The other end of the room holds the corner you don’t often (if ever) see on this blog.  Why?  Because for the first few years of this blog I STILL had a Fred Flintstone sized television taking up the entire corner.  Yes I did.  I didn’t want to show it off and make you all feel jealous.

Then I had my famous furry chair there, but it never looked very good there either.  Loved the chair, but the corner was always icky and I couldn’t get it right for the life of me.

Which corner?  This corner.


It’s right now.

That’s a settee that I’ve owned for years.  For a few years it was classing up my mother’s garage, but a couple of years ago I brought it back home and put it in my foyer.  Where it didn’t really fit.

I love it with all of my heart in the living room, but it’s not going to be able to stay there.  Why?  It isn’t what you’d call curl up comfortable.  It’s not uncomfortable, it just isn’t the kind of thing you’re likely to fall asleep on while holding a book, a string of saliva reaching from your mouth to a puddle of drool on the floor.  I like things to look pretty but I LOVE things to be useful and comfortable.

Am I right?

Part of what I love about the look of the settee in the room are the different materials used in it like the caning and wood frame and the interesting shape of it.  It’s not just a big lump of fabric in the corner.  So it may take me a while to find something that has the look I want with the comfort I need.

Part of the mini-makeover included a COMPLETE overhaul on my bookshelves.  Since I’ve installed an entire 3 walls of bookcases in my dining room I could take some of the books out of the living room bookcases and put things I love in there with a bit of space around them so you can actually see them.


I removed the 2 rectangular Homesense (Homegoods) lamps on my sofa table and replaced them with the one lamp that I’ve always loved.  It wasn’t a cheap lamp but I still love this Crate & Barrel Cleo lamp 10 years after buying it.  Plus they’re still selling it and it’s gone up in price so basically it’s an investment. I think.



The Cleo lamp has moved and for now the rest of the sofa table behind the couch is empty.  Until I find things I really want there other than  my favourite wood carved Buddha.

Rearranging things also gave me the chance to change up another corner you don’t see a lot of, in behind my couch.




As you can see I haven’t yet dealt with the squirrel’s nest of cords at the bottom of my dresser but I’ll get to it.

Actually one of the things that took the MOST time in this room and had the biggest impact was rerunning and concealing cords, especially the ones around the fireplace that run the television, speakers and turntable.


You can see at the top of my bookcases there are 2 speakers, one on either side.  There are another 4 speakers (and their stupid wires) around the room.  It was my mission to hide them all. Part of what makes a room look messy are wires everywhere.  But when you live in an old house with plaster walls, running wires through walls isn’t so easy.

So after living with wire nests everywhere for 17 years I did my best to hide them.  This included painting them and using finishing nails and 2 way tape to conceal them in existing trim.  Like on the fireplace.

And no.  I didn’t paint my fireplace black.  Yet.


This wire wasn’t quite long enough to run where I wanted it to, so I had to hammer in a staple to hold it in place.  But I have glued, yes GLUED this wire to my fireplace trim.  You notice it here obviously because I’m pointing it out and it’s a close up shot, but in real life you don’t notice the painted wires at ALL.  Doing this will neaten up any room.  Just painting your wires the colour of whatever it is they’re sitting against or on top of.

I also drilled holes through the floor down to my basement so I could run my television cable in behind my bookcases.

I still have some wires to deal with as you can see down by my baseboard.  These I’ll paint, bind together and then attach them to the baseboard so they just blendish in.



The lamp on this table (which replaces the Crate & Barrel lamp that was there) used to be on the blue dresser.

Finally, to help hide wires I even drilled into my bookcases to run wires down and inside of the bookcase instead of over them which makes them much less noticeable.  I pulled the lamp forward a bit here so you could see what I’d done better.



O.K., if anyone needs to go to the bathroom or give their legs a stretch now’s the time.  You can have one little break and then we’ll talk about the window treatment options.

Here we go.

To the right we have my old rose/taupe curtain panels.  To the left, nothing at all.


I could throw caution to the wind and have nothing on my windows at all but since this isn’t a Frank Lloyd Wright home and I’m not living in the middle of nowhere, I’ll probably opt for some sort of window covering.

My first instinct was to just switch out the rose/taupe side panels for white ones so everything just sort of disappeared, but then I thought … what if I tried the opposite?  What if I tried dark grey, almost black?


And I love it.

But maybe I should just try the white, just in case.



And I love it.

But maybe I should think about recessed interior shutters (on the left, below) and painting the cold, chrome coffee table (on the left and right, below) black.



And I love it.  I really like it all.

Interior, wood, Shaker style shutters would be appropriate for the age of my house (1840) plus Shaker style compliments another love of mine, Mid-Century Modern.

Needless to say I haven’t got anywhere with the whole window treatment thing. I’m in that decorating stage known as frozen.

For a quick 1-2 month mini-makeover I’m happy with it. The living room is the room that’s going through the smallest transformation of my 3 rooms because it was pretty good as it was. Plus, because I didn’t buy anything, and just cleaned everything up, I feel like now I can slowly, as time and money permit, layer the room up until it’s perfect.

Or in layman’s terms, clutter it up until it’s perfect.



  1. Benjamin says:

    The only thing I saw so far that struck my aesthectic nerve is the two pictures left of the window lined up like that as opposed to the other side. I don’t exactly know the answer but for some reason this bothers my eye. Not the pictures themselves but the arrangement of the hanging of them. Maybe two on each side with alternate scale and display? Or at least make the two picture side not line up so directly that it’s weird with so much other open real estate bare on the sides? Hope I’m not being too critical, just my opinion with what I see.

  2. I just moved to a house in the middle of nowhere, and most of our windows are now covered in smooth linen (natural) drapes from Rough Linen. They. Are. Amazing.

    Maybe you should visit Rough Linen (again) and buy some curtains?

  3. Marti says:

    Two questions. Considering one of those Costco rugs myself. How long did it take you to utterly destroy it? Far less foot traffic at my place than at yours, so I’m just wondering.

    Second, any idea what that bit round thing in the middle of Ellen DeG’s wall is? It ought to be a big plow thing that goes around an ox’s head and neck, but… there aren’t any ox with heads that big or that round. Just… curious.

    You’re light years ahead of me in decorating.

    • Karen says:

      It was great for the first couple of years Marti and then it started to get quite smushed and discoloured. Part of the discolouration is because it was right in front of my fireplace though. Fireplaces are notoriously dirty. Like German Porn. I did read about that big circle but I can’t remember what it was. I think it’s wood and for some bizarre reason I feel like it’s Mexican, lol. ~ karen!

      • Marti says:

        Yeah, I had a fireplace once. I actually started that rug on fire. So… it seems I’m ahead of you in the whole pyromania issue. (I’ve started SEVERAL carpets on fire. Me. Carpet. Popcorn oil. Fireplaces. Yep. Literally SMOKING HOT!!)

        And German porn. Oddly, I was just taunting a friend of mine about using German sentence structure in his digital communications. So much culture for one little former world force.

        I want that big round thing. Can you do a DIY on big round wall things? Maybe it’s the dried lips of a sperm whale? Something like that? I have an Enso fixation.

      • Karen says:

        It is an 18th century Spanish wood ring. http://www.today.com/home/ellen-degeneres-gives-tour-horse-ranch-home-book-see-inside-t52146 So, not entirely Mexican. ~ karen!

      • Marti says:

        Chewing gum. Used vintage farm implements. Bits of wire and spray paint. What do you bet we could make something very similar?

        And of course with more personal meaning.

  4. Janelle says:

    Well, I just think this whole path you’re on is brill-zees. You arrived on this path, I presume, because you are wise. I landed there by accident. We’re building a house and so we’ve moved into a temporary place and I refuse to unpack any of my decor items, only to repack and move them six months later… and I found that I actually like just my furniture, a couple of necessary lamps and a lap quilt or two. I think it’s a smart place to start any decorating undertaking. The walls and corners that need a little something more will start to show themselves. Home makeover shows have perhaps led us to believe that we have to instantly have a fully decorated room, but to me the results of those efforts seem soulless and inauthentic. As I am about to blow my entire life’s wad on a new house and probably won’t be able to decorate it all at once, this is a comforting ethos – thanks for sharing!

  5. Julie Willeford says:

    I’m so glad to see that I’m not the only one clearing then slowly adding layers to my living room. I’ve always admired your before living room & know that you will create a stunning after too. Not that you asked but… I’d love a tutorial on the interior shutters if you do decide to go with them. I like the idea of hanging white curtains in summer & charcoal ones in the winter. It’s a lot of work but have you thought about shutters with seasonally changing the curtains? Love yours style & cant wait to see the evolution of this space.

    • Karen says:

      I think it would be more of an either/or thing Julie. Either shutters or curtains. Having both would kind of be like wearing contact lenses and glasses at the same time. ;) I still haven’t decided which. ~ karen!

  6. Jan in Waterdown says:

    OK, more thoughts by me, like you haven’t had enough already . . . yes! to painting the fireplace surround and the wall above it black which will help to unfocal (defocal?) point the tv monitor and add some drama. And while I love black accents, personally I think the black drapes (or any other drapes for that matter) do nothing for that wall. The eye candy there is the art and the drapes are screaming ” look at me, look at me!” That’s it for now, but no promises lol! Apparently we Jans have discerning taste. ?

  7. Heather Sykora says:

    Thank you for sharing your thought process with us!! I enjoy thinking along and seeing ” through” your eyes. I love, love how open and spacious the new version looks!!
    My thoughts : one more vote for the white wood inset panel shutters. Also I agree panting the table black will ground the room. Painting the fireplace black will add calm and gravitas to the space. Really like that idea.
    It could be fun to hang slim dark velvet, floor length drapes outside the window trim during winter season.
    Really love that you hid the cables- it does really make a difference!
    One idea: husband and I could not figure out how to position our sectional in front of the fireplace until he had an epiphany and brought home a drawing with one sofa and two comfy chairs on either side of the fireplace. We realized that layout fit our space perfectly as it needs the visual line from door to window or the space feels truncated. My dream chairs are Barcelona chairs…… Sigh…. Not in this year’s budget!
    Just an idea to play with!

  8. Thera says:

    I just separated from my husband (my choice and btw, how do I word that better so people know it was my choice without saying “I just kicked my husband out of the house”) and my living room is empty and bare and some would say sad, but I am loving being able to just breathe right now!
    So I love your empty living room too!

  9. Jan in Waterdown says:

    OK, now that we’ve bonded over light bulbs @ Costco, I would like to offer a few a few thoughts.
    1. your “Picasso” should not be matted
    2. those window shutters look fab, they show off the window trim/frame which ties in better with the framed art or you could consider hobbled roman shades in linen
    3. do you like kilim rugs? they look great on hardwood floors and come in gorgeous colours

  10. Heather says:

    I think something rather plain, inside the window frame. Maybe even just a half curtain at the bottom. Linen sounds perfect.

  11. Alena says:

    I do like the almost black drapes. Never realized the existing ones were that rosy until today’s picture. And I also vote for painting the chrome table black.

    My living room has a monster-sized window, almost 3 meters wide x 2 meters tall (not that the house is big, just that one window is). When I bought the house 11 yrs ago is still had the orig. window from the 1960’s were you could open only 2 tiny sections and that milky streaks of moisture between the glass panels. A new window went in a year later, it’s divided into 3 vertical sections. The best thing I ever did was to buy honey comb blinds that are totally cordless and collapse into a tiny frame at the top when not pulled down. I happened to find (without looking for them) some discontinued ones at the first store I went to. There were around $60 each so with taxes it was a smidge over $200 for all three. A bit more than your $16.99 ones but I really love them and they help to keep the room warmer during the arctic winter nights. Otherwise, I have linen drapes (on the sides) in natural which I swap for a bit thicker ones in winter.

  12. Ronda says:

    a number of years ago, I bought a set of light weight embroidered panels, and a set of velvet (?) panels from Ikea, thinking I would switch with the seasons. nope. The velvet panles have been in place for years. Save your $$ and time, and stick with one set that you love!
    AND, think outside the box! I also have a single panel in my dining room that started life as a table cloth! With 10ft ceilings, the 108inch table cloth fits perfectly. Homesense to the rescue!

    • Karen says:

      I’ve been eyeing those velvet panels from Ikea Ronda! And I know … As much as I’d love to have summer and winter curtains it’s never going to happen. I wouldn’t even have room to store them. It is a great way to dramatically change a room for the seasons though! ~ karen

  13. Dana Studer says:

    I think the dark curtains will look great with your fireplace if & when it is painted black. We moved a month ago & have horizontal blinds. Eventually we will go with dropcloth curtains & probably black or conduit rods & black curtain clips.

  14. Valerie says:

    As you add and subtract items from your lovely living room please oh please do not add antlers or an animal skin rug. I have never understood the preoccupation with dead animal parts particularly when there is so much spectacular art available either originals or reprints beautifully framed.

  15. Gretchen says:

    Finally got time to read this excellent post!! I feel validated that even you must go through the chaos of uncluttering and moving and shifting before things eventually fall into the right place and feel completed!
    It’s looking great! Can’t wait to see what you have in store for the next round!

  16. J.B. from Boston says:

    I LOVE the shutters. Clean and simple but impactful. And they’ll be an additional layer of insulation against the cold air. And the sun on hot days. But I REALLY love the settee! Please leave it there in that pretty room. You’ll have a big comfy couch to read and drool on. The settee is perfect for extra seating, and I’m sure it’s perfectly comfortable for that. It’s really lovely, and you love it, and it deserves to be featured in a nice room.

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