Q: We need help sprucing up our living room. It’s the first room people see when they come into our home. We want it to be unique, while also comfortable and welcoming.
Aimee Gertsch, Orem, Utah
Aimee's living room is a nice canvas, and her furnishings are in good shape. She can easily add color and pizzazz with a coat of paint and a few good accessories.
First, she needs a “decorative connector” to tie the room together. I recommend a colorful, natural fiber accent rug on top of the wall-to-wall carpet. A large rug provides a lot of interest for the money, and it’s a quick design fix if you rent or don’t want a permanent change.
When choosing her rug, Aimee should consider what colors she could pull from it for the walls, throw pillows and accessories. (A rug that offers lots of options is always a good long-term investment.) Aimee’s transparent glass coffee table will allow the rug to be the focal point, and she can select almost any color and pattern because her furnishings and carpet are neutral.
Aimee should paint the back wall with the rug’s richest, most dominant color. For maximum depth and texture, I would use American Clay earth plaster.
I recommend removing a few pieces of furniture and rearranging the rest; furniture placed on a 45-degree angle creates interest and movement. If no one in the home plays the piano, Aimee should gift it to a worthy musician or move it to a less-confined space.
The art on Aimee’s back wall won’t be large enough to command the newly rich and luxurious accent walls; she should replace it with something much larger. Aimee could move the large candle holder to the side wall, where its spiraling geometry would help soften the furniture layout. She can relocate the smaller art to a new home.
Because the living room lacks height, a tall torchiere (floor lamp) will add interest and provide nice ambient lighting. To reduce the room’s “showroom” quality, Aimee should scout secondhand stores for a unique end table, plant pedestal and picture frames, and spruce up the pieces she already has. The glass end table could get textural interest with an organic cotton cloth. For tabletop décor, Aimee should select simple items that she loves. For the coffee table, a recycled copper bowl offers the room another texture, and in feng shui, metal encourages focus. Aimee can accent with pillows in the new color scheme.
The secret to good design is to put your personality into it. If your art, accessories and furniture aren’t defined by one style, then your style is simply “what I love.”
Every item in your home should have a story: “I got this on our vacation;” “This art reminds me of something wonderful;” “Even though this treasure only cost a dollar, I love it!” If you need a particular item (furniture, art, an accessory), never buy just anything to fill the space. Leave the hole empty until the perfect piece comes along (not withstanding the need for a good mattress and a proper place to eat).
Feng shui wisdom
If you rarely use or do not like any item in your home, donate it. Sending the item to a new home opens up room for something that you’ll love.
Declutter: Get rid of anything in your home that is not...
Functional: Does the item work and do you use it?
Beautiful: Do you like the item?
Beneficially Symbolic: Does the item’s “story” make you happy?
plaster and Maunaloa pigment: $90
nontoxic clay plaster
“Camellia” 10-inch copper bowl: $200
reclaimed copper, produced by fair-trade artisans
Garuda Woven Art
“Peacock” rug: $1,200
handwoven by fairly paid artisans; low-impact dyes
Beaux Arts Torchiere (69 inches tall): $294
Teak Lotus Panels: $300 to $500 per panel
handmade from reclaimed teak planks
Author and feng shui and interior design specialist Jami Lin
approaches each design project as if it were her own home. For help with your home, send a photo and description of your problem area to