Traditional, European Style Living Room

A young, urban couple's mid-century dream home gets a Divine Design update with traditional, European style. Get designer Candice Olson's tips and the products she used in this gorgeous room makeover.


Zoe and Lorne are passionate about Europe: Their familial roots are there, they have travelled there and they even named their dog "Strudel." The young, urban duo recently got married and moved into their mid-century dream home. While they liked the layout of their new house, they disliked the previous owners' style and color choices (let's just say there was a whole lot of pink to paint over!) and were hoping to inject some traditional, European style and sophistication into their adjoining living and dining rooms.


They wanted this large space to be traditional, but did not want it to appear formal or stuffy. So looking to all things European for my inspiration, I geared up to design an elegant living/dining room that will be stylish enough for Zoe and Lorne, but still comfortable enough for their modern, city-dwelling friends.

The rooms, which were open to one another, had two main problems: dated colors and furnishings, and absolutely no light fixtures.

I chose a palette of traditional colours: light celadon, dark teal, gentle beige and rich wood. I painted over the bubble gum pink walls in the living room with a more neutral shade and changed the dull tan dining room walls to a deep, lush teal. I selected fabrics for the drapes, furniture and accessories that were all tactile and textured, including luxurious velvets, smooth chennilles and delicate silks.

In the living room, I put down an area rug in all of the palette's colours. Around it I placed new furniture, including a high-back, celery-coloured sofa with tufted back detailing; a bar and media cabinet; a few neutral-coloured armchairs; and a dark chocolate ottoman. I left the room's existing fireplace, but surrounded it with inset panels of gorgeous, glass-beaded wallpaper.

The couple was anxious to have their new place be one where they could restore the art of conversation — sans television or video games. They did, however, want to be able to access some ambient music. So I decided on something unique: I chose two photos from the couple's European travels and had them transferred onto sound-permeable fabric that covers two new framed speakers. I then hid a small stereo unit in the bar/media cabinet and the whole system was, literally, out of sight.

In the dining room, I worked around the couple's existing dining room table and added new side chairs and upholstered head chairs in neutral fabrics, a stunning dark wood sideboard, and a feature wall of wood-framed mirrors arranged in a unique pattern.

Aside from the colors and furnishings, the main problem with the rooms was the lack of light fixtures. So, after running some wiring through the ceiling, I put up a ceiling medallion in each room to help anchor two European-inspired chandeliers. I put in a six-arm fixture in the dining room, a smaller four-arm fixture in the living room, two sconces on either side of the fireplace and a host of recessed lighting in both rooms.

The space was also lacking in architectural detail. I decided to add a variety of moldings to the archway between the two rooms, to the doors, and to the fireplace surround. The various layers of molding give the rooms some uniqueness and help tie them together.

After some final accessories, Zoe and Lorne's living/dining room was complete. The rich colors, elegant furnishings, dramatic lighting and unique details all combine to give the adjacent rooms a European flavour. Now the couple doesn't have to leave home to get that "across the pond" feeling. How divine!

(Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of Home & Garden Television's Divine Design. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.)

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