From Empty Living Room to a Romantic Writer’s Retreat

Candice Olson creates a masterpiece design for a writer needing refuge.


After: Candice divided the space into a writing area, a meeting area and a seating area and created cohesion with a soft color palette, dramatic architecture and shimmery details. An ideal romantic retreat for a romance writer.


Teresa is a busy wife and mother, but, at every available opportunity, she escapes into a fantasy world. You see, Teresa is a romance writer, and her active imagination is helping her write her third novel.

But Teresa had a real-life problem. She lacked an inspiring place in which she could compose her novels. She spent most of her free time writing in a local coffee shop, but she really wanted a space at home in which she could write, and gather with fellow romance writers to work out ideas, celebrate victories and commiserate over rejection letters.

She had an empty living/dining room in her large, suburban home that suited the purpose perfectly, but the cold, blank slate of a room lacked passion – and furniture. I decided to bring in my team and transform the space into a sophisticated and romantic writing retreat for Teresa.



Before: A lone desk in an empty room isn’t much of an inspiration for the writer who calls this space home. She asked Candice Olson for decorating help.

The space had great bones: high ceilings, Palladian windows, crown moldings and hardwood floors, but was missing the “wow” factor. To help achieve this, I infused the room with a bit of color. I put up silvery, floral-patterned wallpaper in most of the space, and then painted the rest in a serene shade of cream.

Then, because the space was originally fashioned as two rooms (living and dining) and had columns that separated the two areas, I decided to divide the room into two functional spaces: a writer’s retreat and a meeting area.

In the writer’s retreat, I installed a new desk that blends function and fancy. The piece is a combination desk and bookcase done in a light cream with a beautiful dark wood work surface. I also added a great writer’s chair in a soft green that will be the perfect spot for Teresa to create masterpiece after masterpiece.

I worked in a little seating area for Teresa and her friends, which includes an L-shaped sectional in subtle, silvery linen, and a gorgeous gas fireplace that is surrounded with stone and has a stunning mirror above.

I hung soft, gauzy sheers with gold satin trim that diffuse light softly through the large windows at the front of the room. I then put the same sheers up to separate the writing space from the meeting space.

In the meeting area, I put in a beautiful wooden table where the romance writers can gather (and maybe Teresa’s family for the occasional meal), and chairs in a green patterned fabric and velvet. Along the back wall I put in a beautiful hutch that is backed in mirror, which serves to reflect the windows and detailing in the writer’s area.

Lighting is always a really effective way to add ambiance to a space. I installed two antique silver and crystal sconces above the fireplace, and installed an elegant silver and gold gilded crystal chandelier above the sectional. Above the table in the meeting room I installed another shimmery fixture that acts as a companion piece to the larger chandelier.

After adding some final romantic details – area rugs, vases, pictures and some books (Teresa’s books, of course!) – the redesign was complete.

This large, empty space was crying out for a happy ending. I gave it a dreamy makeover full of traditional details, cool colors and feminine inspirations. Now it’s the perfect blend of fantasy and reality – and is definitely number one on this year’s “best rooms” list. Now that’s divine!

To see where Candice shopped for this episode, you can find the resource guide at

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