Cottage-Style Makeover

A dark, cluttered great room is transformed into a bright, functional family space.

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After: Casual and Clean

The family told me they wanted a casual cottage feel, so starting with warm white and ivory, I chose a complementary palette of sandy tones, pale blues and light greens. Add some furnishings in distressed leather and wood and we have the makings of a room that's a beautiful extension of the natural surroundings.

But before we could start lightening things up, we needed to do some heavy lifting. We built faux beams and installed molding on the ceiling to add architectural interest, and we painted it all creamy ivory.

Then we took a jackhammer to that clunky hearth to open up some floor space. We built a mantel and painted the brick above it white. A gorgeous sandy-tone marble mosaic-tile surround and a new gas-log insert make this fireplace a beautiful focal point of the room.

We covered the rest of the overpowering dark brick wall with light-colored custom cabinetry, which also serves as storage for all the kid stuff and a display area for Cindy's Japanese dolls.

We hung a fan 36 inches below the ceiling to give the area a more intimate feel. A sectional sofa with washable slipcovers (slipcovers and kids are a match made in heaven) is a perfect place for the family to cozy up for some quality time. And where the hearth once awkwardly projected into the room, we now have an ideal space for a gorgeous leather armchair. Accent cushions, an area rug and a rustic coffee table complete the space.

In the dining area, I framed the windows (and that great ravine view) with striped cotton panels in white and wispy sky-blue. Woven grass blinds provide privacy and add texture to the space. Cindy and John's existing wood pedestal table took on a new look in these surroundings, complemented by soft, white upholstered dining chairs. Overhead, a mother-of-pearl chandelier is a natural but contemporary fixture that picks up all the colors of the room.

A few finishing touches, including track lighting and lamps to ensure that the family was never left in the dark again, and the room was complete.

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