Bright and airy family room makeover

What I wouldn’t do for this bright and airy family room, kids included. I want to get all fatal attraction on this family, sans the fatal part – and more love and appreciation than ‘attraction’. This room belongs to the family of the tween girl, adorable boy and the master bedroom that I redid and blogged about here, here and here. This room actually needed very little help when we got there, but I really wanted to do it mainly because I wanted to take credit for the bright architecture, that awesome leather sectional and the general good vibe. Its just such a happy room.

So, here’s where we started:


The sectional is awesome caramel leather goodness (I think its from Restoration Hardware), and then the dining table/chair situation is great so I had very little work to do, which I totally appreciate. They really just needed some pretty pillows, accessories, rug and a couple stools/poufs. The sofa is super deep so they didn’t need an ottoman to put their feet up on and they liked the idea of keeping it relatively open for the kids to play.


Hello, happy.  Sometimes all you need is some styling.  So here’s what we did:

1. We added the cowhide rug after MUCH debate on the perfect rug and size for the space.  The rug they had was strangely small (you can’t tell from that photo but the rug is wayyyyy too small), bad for kids because kids, being the reckless raccoons that they are, can just really cram those crumbs into the carpet and overall just kinda awkward.We didn’t want a dark rug because the rug is dark, but we didn’t want a light rug because they have kids. We didn’t want a rectangular rug because the space inside the sectional is square (the sectional is square) and ultimately it would come out awkward underneath the sofa, but if we got it really big so the whole sectional saw on the rug then it would be really expensive with a lot of wasted square footage underneath the rug. So the sculptural cowhide was perfect.


It fills the space visually, but in a really organic way.  We got this one from Ikea for $200.  That’s a very well spent $200 right there.

We added color through a couple major elements:

1. Trees to break up the horizontal space of white and engage the corners of the room.  Yes, i know. I like fiddle leaf figs. I’m dying, just DYING for my local nurseries to carry a different indoor tree that has the same impact as these fig trees.  They are just good.

2. Colorful occasional stools (put a book/tray on it and its a table) that the kids can play on and not hurt themselves and are relatively indestructable.  These are from Lawson Fenning, the worlds best local stores.


And then we wanted to address those built-ins so we styled them out with succulents naturally.  My plant obsession is getting towards Angelina Jolie having children proportions  - i should stop collecting them, but i really like them, I’m kinda really good at buying them, and while I know its becoming kinda trite, i just can’t stop.

But to make it look more collected I added a bunch of framed family photos in oh-so chic frames from Target and the terrariums from West Elm.





I actually really liked the pillows they had, but they were made the vintage kilim rugs and its like rubbing your face on roof shingles.  They are more ‘looking at pillows’ and less ‘rubbing cheeks on sofa’ kinda pillows.  I have 1 myself and I like to style it, shoot it and arrange it, but when it comes to my tv watching bearcat cuddling hours, those kilim pillows just don’t cut it.  But You know what does? The mohair pillows from West Elm.  The throw and the blue/white pillows i bought from my favorite store, Lawson Fenning.


Meanwhile on the other side of the room is their little breakfast table.


They have great taste and had already bought the saarinen table from DWR and the chippendale chairs from Jonathan Adler, basically all I did was add the tree and take the credit.

In fact if you or someone you know has a well decorated house and you want me to come and add a frame and a plant and take credit for it, go ahead and give me a call.


Literally the before photo of this would be the exact same photo, with an iphone camera with bad lighting, and no props, but basically the exactly the same.  Its just such a pretty and simple vignette so I wanted to capture that.

So thank you, lovely clients, for already have many wonderful items in a room that I want to spend all day in.

Shoot produced/styled/art directed by me, shot by the WONDERFUL Zeke Ruelas with the help of the lovely Orlando Soria.

  1. Emily

    I dream about those West Elm mohair pillows, oohhhh myyyy.

  2. Esther

    Where are those planters for the fiddle leafs from? It’s so hard to find a large white planter!

    • Emily

      From my local nursery, but yes i think they were like $75. I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, some day i’m going to make my millions by manufacturing inexpensive and good readymade pots. They are just so expensive. xx

  3. Ann Frederick

    I LOVE it! Really love the colorful little tables. We have a living room that definitely needs YOU!

  4. Corrie

    Love it! Love everything you do! Come take credit for my place! I have some beautiful little nuggets, but I definitely need you to come spice it up! Next time you are in Brooklyn!

  5. marina

    Perfection. The glass/metal enclosed terrarium is just what I need! Can you tell me where it’s from?

    • Sarah

      It’s from
      Lawson Fenning

      I’m placing an order for all the loot emily featured here from their store.

  6. Lily

    Oh my my, the natural light in this space is killing me…as is the combo of caramel leather with all of those luscious plants! Looks like the perfect family room, well done!

  7. I have the same photo frames and the same grey cat looking succulent plant dish. Love em! Great space.

  8. Looks like a cozy space. I love those trees, so I don’t mind if you keep using them. Are they easy to keep alive? (I seem to kill everything.)

  9. Kristin

    I love the white planters. I have had such a difficult time trying to find some. Can you tell the name of the nursery where you purchased them? Perhaps they would consider shipping them.

    • Emily

      sunset nursery, but man they will be SOOOO expensive to ship (which is why they are expensive in the first place).

  10. Jane

    Hi Emily!
    <3 the fiddle leaf fig trees. We want to put one in our breakfast nook (just like in the pics above). Since you are the MOST experienced fig tree decorator, do these trees have to have tons of light? We face east and get 0 southern exposure. Advice?

    Also … you should take credit for the fig tree planters. WAY COOL. The white ties in perfectly with their built-ins AND the iconic DWR table. Info on them?

  11. You did a great job enhancing this space but isn’t it crazy what a difference some lighting and great photography makes? I’m convinced my house is actually amazing but I’m a tool with a camera and I can never get the lighting just right.

    • Emily

      ha! Yes it is. download afterlight – i use that app for photos and everything looks WAYY better.

  12. Wouldn’t that be amazing to have so much light? I especially love all the plants with the trendy frames. Such a nice little vignette.

  13. cynthia

    Jane – I also love Fiddle Leaf Figs and own two! They like to be in sunny rooms, but no direct light — i.e., no sun beams shining directly onto the leaves. Some people put their Figs outside –in the shade(!!)–during the summer to encourage growth. I’m trying it this summer with one of them.

    Also, Emily, can you please provide links for the terrariums and picture frames? Also, someday you should do a post on combining picture frames. I am terrible at it.

  14. cynthia

    Oh and I almost forgot to say: LOVE YOUR WORK! As always.

  15. emily

    i love the all the contrast between dark and light in this room: dark chairs/white walls, black and white picture frame, black and white cowhide, blue and white pillows…it makes this room super interesting, but still so simple. lovely job as always emily!

    • Emily

      Oh yes, good points. I should have mentioned that!

  16. Renee Lindberg

    Emily – I have placed a few succulents in a glass bowl just like this one, but a little smaller. It doe not have a drainage hole, so I am careful when watering, but I noticed a little bit of white stuff (mold) growing on the top of the soil. When Googling terrariums, all of the how-to sites instructed to use a container with a drainage hole at the bottom. Could this be why I am getting mold? Also, I used organic soil, not a mix of charcoal or soil made especially for terrariums… perhaps I should try that!? I also watched your tutorial on your blog and you did not seem to specify any particular soil. Thanks! Love your work and sense of humor!

    • katie

      Renee- using charcoal will help and use a squirt bottle to water them lightly. Clean out your terrarium to get rid of mold and start with fresh rocks on bottom.

  17. Alison

    Beautiful! Can you comment on the roller shades? Are they solar shades? They seem so practical for a sunroom type situation (especially with young kids since they’re cordless) but I’ve wondered how they look in person. Do they scream “roller shade” or just kind of fade into the background and do their job??

    • angelina

      Yes, would love to know more about the window treatments! They look gorgeous…and would love to know how you’re liking them (and where you got them!). Thanks

      • Sarah

        I third that request, pretty please

  18. Megan

    Love it! Now could we please discuss the ceiling lights?

  19. Sarah

    There’s hope for me!
    I have the table and chairs (although they’re not black…yet!), cowhide and a leatger sofa…now I just need the emiky magic (talent/drive/ hardworking).
    Thanks for staring.

  20. I love seeing a Saarinen table surrounded by do many different chair styles. Ours was initially set with simple dark black squared chairs… old ones we had from a previous table and loved. Then we move to Victoria Ghost Chairs in black and now to simple white Eames eiffel leg ones. Great job.. I love those air plants too!

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  22. Lucy

    Emily, how do you get past the “icky” factor when it comes to cowhide rugs? I really like the look but when my husband and I were in Ikea recently we both felt the same way about having an animal skin on our floor. I even returned two of their sheep skins and bought the less awesome synthetic one instead for the same reason. Neither of us are vegetarians and I have a leather chair and wear leather shoes so I’m not sure what the problem is. Anyone else feel the same way?

  23. Kimberly

    Is there any information about their really cool ceiling fixture? I haven’t seen that one before but it’s really neat looking. Would love to know the manufacturer or where I can buy it. So glad to see you use the cowhide. Just bought mine at Brimfield in gold shades and love it so much. Mine is in the dining room and the gold capiz chandelier from ZGallerie looks even better with the cowhide below it:)

  24. Rachel

    This is probably basically the same question as the others’ regarding the fiddle leaf fig planters, but where did the smaller white planters with succulents in them on the built-ins? I assume they also came from your local nursery, but it’s always best to ask! Thanks!

  25. Kristin

    I love the glass and metal terrarium. Can you tell me where you purchased it. Thanks!

    • Sarah

      It’s from
      Lawson Fenning

      I’m placing an order for all the loot emily featured here from their store.

  26. Brandy

    Just love your funny.

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  28. Emily, I love this gorgeous yet simple room! Can you tell me where you found that black and white throw resting on the sofa arm? I just love it!! It would add the perfect touch to my space! Unless of course you styled my room, that would be even more perfect :)

    Best Wishes,


    • s

      it’s from lawson.. it is actually navy

  29. Kelly

    Can you tell me where that white pig (I think it’s a pig?) planter came from?

    • Sarah

      It was from west elm. No longer available.

  30. Maddie

    Hi Emily!! I love your blog and especially love seeing your makeovers! Would you ever show just really simple floor plans with furniture so we can get a better sense of the rooms? Thanks!!

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  32. Love seeing your work Emily, great job! And I may just steal your phrase, “reckless raccoons!” : ) Totally true. Just scrubbed marker out of my cream carpeting this a.m.

  33. Anyone know for sure about this couch? Is it Restoration Hardware? Leather color? Need it.

    • Sarah

      Hi Kristin,
      I’m looking too. It doesn’t really look like anything in RH website.
      Will you share if you fighter it out? I’ll do the same.

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