BeforeJennifer and Linda are professional moms who are busy with careers and kids — not to mention a large dog, a new puppy, a hamster and a reptile named "Einstein." They all recently moved into their dream home, a beautiful 1920s arts-and-crafts fixer-upper.
Handywoman Jennifer worked her magic on most of the place, but was stumped about what to do with the living room.
The space, which was extremely rough around the edges, was used by the whole family for all manner of living. So it was clear from the get-go that this one room had to be all things to all people (and animals). It had to function as a living room for entertaining, a family room for casual gatherings and a library for reading and relaxing. It also had to serve as an exhibition space for one gigantic whalebone! You see, Jennifer is a biologist with an impressive bone collection, but she had never had a proper display area for her most-prized specimen.
My biggest challenge here was to make the room multifunctional, but keep it true to its arts-and-crafts origins by sticking to long and linear elements, traditional wood finishes and nature-inspired colors and fabrics.
AfterI kicked off the redesign by attending to the walls and ceilings. I covered the room in a fresh, neutral-colored paint, put up some new panel molding and then covered the dingy plaster ceiling with exquisite embossed wallpaper to bring the room back to its 1920s roots.
I then got to work on the accent colors and materials that would give the room a warm and inviting feel. I chose a color palette of peaceful, earthy tones like olive green and gold, and complemented them with nature-inspired botanical prints and rich, textured fabrics. These colors and textiles combined to create a lush feel on the windows, furnishings and accent pieces.
Next, I organized the various areas of the room: a library zone, a general living area with a fireplace, and a whalebone showcase space.
I chose the room's one awkward wall and turned it into a beautiful library that incorporates Jennifer and Linda's antique bookcases and features a unique ladder system to access all of their books.
For the general lounging and pet-snuggling area, I decided to stray from the traditional look of the rest of the room and give it some modern, customized comfort. I installed a gray sectional sofa, two kid-friendly distressed leather club chairs and a smattering of other multitasking pieces.
Then it was time to work on this area's focal point: the fireplace. The existing fireplace was nice, but it needed more panache. I gave it a beautiful new mantel and a sumptuous surround on top of it, both in a rich, dark wood to match the rest of the room.
The window and radiator shelf became a showcase area, with the creation of a double-decker case to display the whalebone in all of its gigantic glory.
To lighten and brighten up this space, I put in a ceiling full of adjustable, recessed lighting and then added a period-inspired ceiling fan with a light fixture for a bit of interest.
After a few final flourishes, this room was ready for the whole gang. By using natural finishes and fabrics, rich wood cabinetry and paneling, plus casual furnishings and accessories, I created a space that lives up to its 1920s heritage and will suit all creatures — large or small, living or extinct. Even the little dragon named Einstein thinks it looks smart — and divine.
(Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of Home & Garden Television's Divine Design.)