Most Embarrassing Living Room

HGTV Magazine teamed up with HGTV's Meg Caswell to give two lucky homeowners a major makeover.
By: Jennifer Berno DeCleene

Photo By: David A. Land

Photo By: David A. Land

Photo By: David A. Land

Photo By: David A. Land

Photo By: David A. Land

Photo By: David A. Land

Photo By: David A. Land

Photo By: David A. Land

Photo By: David A. Land

All Smiles

Daryl Jelle and Nicole Bieniek were all smiles after winning our nationwide search. When Nicole and her fiancé, Daryl, heard about our hunt for The Most Embarrassing Living Room in America, they had a hunch their self-described "room of randomness" could take the prize. The couple bought their split-level home in Burnsville, Minn., right out of college in October 2011 and furnished the living room on the cheap with hand-me-downs and quirky online finds.

Cringe-Inducing Decor

They ignored the green carpet that came with the house, set up a big-screen TV and a pool table, and hung a collection of road signs on the walls, but nothing gelled. "What we really wanted was to combine both of our styles in a comfy room, but we had a strict budget," says Nicole.

Makeover Wish List

When they found out they won a makeover from HGTV designer Meg Caswell, they were ecstatic! They immediately wrote out their wish list: Nix the carpet, add lots of color and create a space where friends would want to hang out. So long, green carpet! Meg couldn't rip it up fast enough.

Colorful Hangout

"I really wanted to give them a fun, energetic space," says Meg. "Luckily I convinced Daryl to get rid of that pool table." She chose Brazilian Koa engineered hardwood, which looks like solid wood but stands up better to moisture and temperature change. Meg added a durable charcoal-gray wool rug from West Elm. They also ditched the hand-me-down furniture for a pair of striped armchairs from West Elm, and custom yellow ottomans and orangey-red poufs. Pillows on the sofa pull all the hues together. Now friends can hang out comfortably — the ottomans scooch around to make extra seating.

Customized From Top to Bottom

"The whole space felt dark and dingy," says Meg. So she played up the natural light from the wide bank of windows (behind the striped chairs) by hanging unlined white curtain panels, and she spread can lights across the ceiling. Meg's wallpaper choice has a trellis pattern in the same subtle shades.

Ivory Built-in Bookcase

Meg designed a built-in bookcase to camouflage the tiny window (previous page) and hold the TV. Meg and HGTV carpenter Marc Bartolomeo used beams and trim molding to create a dramatic coffered ceiling, which completely changed the blank box room. The wood is painted ivory (White River by Benjamin Moore) to stand out against the cool gray ceiling (Stingray by Benjamin Moore).

A Showoff Spot

Meg filled the shelves with accessories that wink at the makeover. For instance, the pool table didn't make the cut, but Meg arranged the billiard balls (along with colored light bulbs) in glass vases. As a nod to Nicole's hunting hobby, she hung a set of antlers, spray-painted gold, on the back of the shelf.

Fun Gallery Wall

A panel of frame-patterned wallpaper is surrounded by more reclaimed wood. Nicole and Daryl can tape photos right onto the frame-patterned wallpaper.

A Cozy Place for Parties

Nicole and Daryl's new bar is made of reclaimed wood and a mashup of signs. Meg and her carpenter, Marc, propped it up on wheels so it can roll out into the room and Daryl can play bartender. A counter-height table with stools is a cool gathering spot. "We've had people over a lot since the makeover," says Nicole. "And no one misses that pool table!"

Meg's "Forever Home" Transformation

HGTV designer Meg Caswell transformed Daryl and Nicole's living room. "When they saw the finished room, Daryl told me I turned their 'starter home' into a 'forever home' because they'll never want to move," says Meg. "Now that's a great compliment." 

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