The Curbly Family Living room makeover

When I was a 22 year old waitress in New York, every single customer I had would say, ‘You’re so friendly … what are you from the MidWest or something?’ and I would say (in a VERY friendly voice, i’m sure), “Actually, I’m from Oregon.’ And they would say in a ‘like I said’ voice, ‘Yeah … the midwest’. That was before Portland was cool when there were a lot less people from the Midwest in New York, I suppose. They literally thought that Oregon was the Midwest.

Well last week I went to the real MidWest, Minnesota even (super midwest) –  possibly even for the first time. And yes, people there are VERY friendly. We (Orlando and I) went to redesign the family’s house  - a couple I had met at some Alt Summit parties the last two years. After meeting/hanging out with them I thought I liked them, sure, I like most people when I’m at a party if you know what I mean. But it was definitely a risk going there for 5 days without really knowing them. They could have been really weird, lame, have had really bad taste, or worse … really annoying.  And despite being super friendly, (most people even say ‘bubbly’ much to my torture), this girl can be strangely easy to annoy.  Ask, OH JUST ABOUT EVERYONE I KNOW. Except don’t because that sounds annoying.


Well i’m ecstatic to say that not only were these two friendly, but they were totally amazing in every way. In fact when everybody asks me how my trip was I say, ‘So great. It was actually the best case scenario possible’. That rarely happens, folks. Good people. Good design. Adorable kids. Satisfying work. Fun with Orlando. Just generally a GEERRAATTE week in the Twin Cities.

So welcome to the first part of a four part series documenting my Curbly home makeover. The whole makeover was sponsored by Sherwin-Williams, shot by Melissa Oholendt, produced by and art directed, designed and styled by me (and Orlando).

So here’s a before:  curbly-liiving-room-before

I mean, great bones, but REALLY BAD SKIN.  While a lot of people like their dark woodwork, I generally am not terribly into it. The burgundy and yellow/white however I love, if by ‘love’ I mean am by strongly repelled by.

So they totally renovated it (before I got there, obviously) and painted it this beautiful Aloof Gray by Sherwin-Williams. And then we came in and decorated it so it looked like this:

curbly living room

The intention behind this room was to be warm, inviting, comfortable, family friendly and yet young and modern. The house was a classic turn of the century craftsman, so there needed to be some elements of traditional design in it so it wasn’t a jarring departure, but mostly they loved eclectic midcentury design so we needed to combine all those styles together.

I absolutely love how it turned out. Its so happy and bright, and yet warm and comfortable. I can’t decide what my favorite element is – I LOVE that rug from Loloi, I LOVE those two custom plaid wool chairs. And just generally I love how you want to sit in every chair/sofa because they are all so comfortable.

emily henderson traditional

Here was our process:  First we talked style and needs for each room, then they created a pin board, and after a few skype conference calls, we started curating items from Craigslist and then supplemented with new pieces from my favorite resources.

Wall Color: Sherwin-Williams Aloof Gray SW 6197 | Sofa: Room&Board Anson Sofa in Vessel Cement |Danish Chairs: Vintage/CL (free/$80, plus $400 in fabric and upholstery) | Rug: Contemporary Luxe in Blue Steel from Loloi Rugs

campaign dresser

That campaign dresser for instance was found painted a sad dark brown, and Bruno sprayed it white when we were there. The midcentury chairs were a combo of craigslist and a family hand-me-down that we had recovered and restored.

white campaign dresser


room and board sofa

west elm pillow


mid-century desk

Laptop Side Table: Pix Table by OCD Furniture from Forage Modern Workshop | Lamp, Ikea |Desk/chair vintage | Rug: Contemporary Luxe in Blue Steel from Loloi Rugs 

mid-century plaid

brass coffee table

mid-century traditional

Roman Shades: Laura Ashley Soft Fold Roman shades in Casualle Milk from | Windsor Chair: Vintage, (Craigslist): free with dining table | Dimply Vase: Kabasa Vase from CB2 | 

mid-century traditional

All in all a WILD transformation and one that I didn’t want to leave. Its low maintenance, unfussy, yet totally pulled together and intentional. Almost like it was designed ….

Stay tuned for the dining room transformation, complete with my favorite family photo gallery yet. :)

Meanwhile check out this resource list; they are all here, folks. Get to shopping.

Wall Color: Sherwin-Williams Aloof Gray SW 6197 | Sofa: Room&Board Anson Sofa in Vessel Cement |Danish Chairs: Vintage/CL (free/$80, plus $400 in fabric and upholstery) | Rug: Contemporary Luxe in Blue Steel from Loloi Rugs | Kaleidoscope on mantel: Vintage (Loft Antiques) | Porcelain Succulents on mantel: Waterstone Succulents | Majorette: Vintage (Hunt & Gather | Pot for fern: Skars Tall bowl in white from CB2 | Candle Holder: Tri Taper Candle Holder from CB2 | Bronze Bust: vintage (Hunt & Gather) | Photo over mantel: Corncob Building by John Kingman | Books: Vintage ($20) | Blanket Basket: Vintage (Hunt & Gather) | 

Poof: West Elm, discontinued (here are some other good ones though!) | Coffee Table: Blue Ocean Traders | Bar Cart: Blue Ocean Traders | Giraffe Decanter: Vintage (Loft Antiques) | Marble Top Side Table: Blue Ocean Traders | White Table Lamp: Jayne Oat Beige Glazed Ceramic | Threaded House Art: Happy Red Fish | Wood triangular side tables: Vintage ($45) | Campaign Dresser: Vintage ($80) (painted with Sherwin-Williams Pure White SW 7005 Latex Enamel) | Boy Painting: Vintage (Loft Antiques) | Blinds: Laura Ashley Soft Fold Roman shades in Casualle Milk from | Windsor Chair: Vintage, (Craigslist): free with dining table | Dimply Vase: Kabasa Vase from CB2 | Flannel Pillow: Fairbault Wool Pillow Cover – Ticking Stripe from West Elm | Gold Star Pillow: Nate Berkus Star Ikat Pillow | Throw: Herringbone Throw by Brahms Mount from Forage Modern Workshop | Laptop Side Table: Pix Table by OCD Furniture from Forage Modern Workshop | Metal Drum Table: Vintage (Hunt & Gather)

This post was in partnership with Sherwin-Williams, but all design decisions, words and thoughts are all mine, folks. Thanks for supporting my partners that make these makeovers possible. 

All beautiful photos taken by Melissa Oholendt (Thank you, Melissa!!!), styled by me, produced by

  1. sarah

    LOVE!!! those plaid chairs…i die.

  2. Alex

    love everything! do you know where the throw on the plaid side chair is from?

    • Danny

      West Elm! 29.99 I think :)

  3. Annie

    Love all of it- What color is the woodwork painted?

  4. Angela N

    I have this exact color in the main part of my home. I love it! Everyone always compliments me on it. Great job! Love the space!

  5. Sarah L

    I am in love with all of this. I think this may be my favorite design of yours, and that is saying something.

    • Emily

      AHH, thanks Sarah!

    • Diane

      Hi Emily,
      This is a very nicely decorated room that is full of great ideas. After seeing the use of painted ceiling beams matching the ceiling once again, I have a weird question. We don’t have beams in our family room,now, but I wonder if they would help solve a problem I have.
      My husband is pretty easy going, but insists on having industrial looking plastic covers over florescent light bulbs in this room which is 24′x19′. We have two rows of 3 sets of these bulbs running the 19′ length of the room.. The bulbs are the type that simulate daylight and they give what may be a bluish cast to fabrics at night. Most of all they are ugly. Do you think putting up beams might detract from them? I know this is difficult to answer without seeing the room, but I am redoing the room(I wish without the lights) and have been wondering about this. Thanks for an opinion.

  6. Sarah

    I love it! Especially the plaid midcentury chairs. What a brilliant idea! I love midcentury but my plaid loving, bearded husband…not so much. They would be a great compromise for us though!
    Question! How in the world do you hide the cords from the lamps? I want to add a lamp on my side table next to my sofa, but it’s not up against a wall, so I have no idea how to go about it without it looking super messy. Any tips?

    • Stacey

      The HiSugarplum blog has a great tutorial on how to hide lamp cords

  7. WOW. wow. wow. wow. AH i love a good transformation, this is beautiful, as all your work is! glad you had a fabulous trip :)

    • Emily

      THANK YOU!!!!

  8. Glamour. I want to go back!

  9. I kind of just need you (and Orlando) to stop it. Its just too good.

  10. Oops! looks like melissa oholendt’s link actually links to sherwin williams instead of her page. would love to see her work

    • Emily

      SHoot!!!! So sorry. Will fix now!!!

  11. So pretty! Loving the campaign dresser and rug, especially. So wish you were back on HGTV. Any specials coming up? You had a fun Christmas one — they need you to do another.

  12. Alicia

    Wowzers! One of my favorites of all time!

  13. Z

    AMAZEBALLS!!!! Love everything.

  14. Wow it’s pretty! What a difference paint can make too. I’m glad they left the fireplace wood and not paint, it really makes it special.

  15. Bridget

    Emily, That room is so calming, light and airy and like you say TOTALLY livable for kids. Not one hard-edged piece of furniture. Just so so pretty. I sure hope my entry is selected so you and Orlando can work your magic on my sad, master bedroom. On a completely different note, have you ever thought of doing a “where’s waldo?” in your pictures. Like hide the same something in a room that you design and see if the home owners can spot it? I’m crazy, I know.Looking forward to the next installment!

    • Emily

      OOH, good luck. We’ll announce the winner on monday. xx

  16. Emily

    That’s another great room, Emily!!

    Do you know what white they used on the trim? We’re about to move into a new house, and I want to paint all the trim white (it’s cream right now, blah). I’m not sure the best paint/color/sheen to use for white trim though. Also, if you do white walls with white trim, do you usually use the same color white? Same color, but different sheens? I’ve never done white walls with white trim, but I want to litter the walls with colorful art. I’m so scared…but super excited too!!

  17. Julia

    This place is amazing. I’d love to see redo that incorporates kid play areas too!!!

    • Emily

      There is a sunroom that we redid for the playroom. Stay tuned next week!

  18. I totally had to do a few scrolls back and forth to the Before pic versus the After pics. It’s so amazing that I couldn’t tell it was actually the same room…I thought I’d missed something in the text (since I usually just look at the pictures first). So awesome.

  19. Deb

    Beautiful and calming, Emily and Orlando, another winner! You gave me an idea of what to do with my antique teacart which is just sorta rattling around; loved the fireplace mantel being left in its natural state with the bricks painted white. Speaking of which, did I miss the Curbly kitchen re-do? And I’m itchin’ to see the kitchen in your new house, Emily (by the way, thoroughly enjoyed you this a.m. on your live chat via NY Magazine; so pretty in pink!). Thank you for your continued design inspiration!

  20. Jen

    This is so lovely and fresh! What beautiful inspiration!

  21. Joanne

    I learn so much by watching you. It would have been easy for this room to go cold with all of the gray and white, but you totally warmed it up with your fabric and accessory choices and as always, you are a genius with THE PLANTS!
    Question – Does that paint color read blue at all? I’m looking for similar saturation/hue for my living room, but don’t want any blue. I have SW Silverplate in my guest bedroom and love, but it’s a little dark for my living space, so maybe mix it 50%?

  22. Katie

    Holy Amazeballs Wow, Emily! What an amazing job! I want to jump right in this room and never leave!

  23. Lesley

    Nailed It! This room prompted my first ever design blog comment to say well done Emily and Orlando, and to the homeowners on their amazing renovations–the windows and molding are making me weak at the knees. You achieved the perfect combination of classic, comfortable and electic design that can survive real life with a young family. This is the design that I’ve been waiting for….

    • Emily

      AHHH, thank you Lesley. And welcome to blog commenting. These comments are like crack to us so thank you so much for commenting. xx

    • James

      Nice find! I had no idea Target carried things like that.

  24. Brittany

    Emily, your work is so beautiful and inspiring! Job well done to you and Orlando! I love how this room is light and airy feeling, but at the same time totally cozy and warm…I’d love to come home there, and curl up with a good book in front of that fireplace in one of those wool plaid chairs (Oh, my! Those are a treat for the eyes!).

    I can’t wait to see more of this house!

  25. only you could make that sad sad room into something that amazing. every single time you do something i am more and more impressed, which is saying a lot because you are basically the most kick ass person ever already. (orlando too! ps, orlando, i want your navy velvet sofa sooooo bad. i’ll trade you a lifetime of cookies for it. deal?)

  26. MOUTH AGAPE! Oh, Emily, you’ve outdone yourself yet again. Every room you reveal is “OMG MY FAVORITE” and you do it every time.

    This is just incredible, the way it’s brand new (to them) but it looks like they’ve been layering for a decade. Well done.

  27. Risa

    Wow! What a dramatic difference. You have such beautiful vision. I absolutely love every single piece you chose for this room.

  28. Jessica

    Love EVERYTHING about that room! I hope hope hope that I win your contest (who doesn’t) and you can rock it like you did here!

  29. Anonymous

    ? Really ?

  30. I adore it – there are so many similar components to my own living room that I’ve been working on forever. It’s amazing that you pulled off such a layered, lived in look in such a short time.

    I’m most excited to see the adjacent dining room. That’s my stumbling block in my house now. I have the living room almost exactly like I want it, but the dining room is tricky, tricky. Maybe I should submit it in the contest.

  31. Anna

    Just wow. What a stunning room for a sweet you g family. Emily, you are a design diva. I can’t wait to see the rest of the rooms.

  32. Kate

    Emily: I’ve watched all your HGTV shows, and followed your blog forever. This is hands-down the most beautiful room you have ever done. It’s soft and lovely and masculine; timeless perfection. Truly stunning.

  33. margaret

    Love this! I love that the design of the room is quietly awesome, and doesn’t take attention away from the bones of that great house. That mantel is gorgeous- it really stands out now, with the rest of the woodwork painted white. Looks terrific!

  34. faith e

    totally sublime and the very best is
    how did you paint the bricks?
    I may have to get over my fear and paint my 1930′s yellow bricks
    you all totally rock

  35. Yep, the rug ties it all together nicely. Love the round coffee table too.

  36. Wow so fresh and airy!! Every time you design a new space it becomes my new favorite! I like the idea of keeping it a bit traditional. It is the midwest you’re talking about ;) Did you notice the strong “o” accent? So glad you loved Minnie! I live in northern Iowa so I’m just a couple hours from Minneapolis. Happy to see “good” design made it to the midwest! I believe all budgets are capable of good design and I’m making it my mission to help others accomplish it! Check out how I designed my studio apartment under $500! More pics to come

  37. rachael

    This is so beautiful, Emily! I rarely comment but I am just wondering how you decide window treatments. Like, when you would use curtains and when you would just use blinds like this design. This is so gorgeous I never once thought “Oh, it’s missing curtains!”

  38. Victoria

    More perfect than I imagined..
    and you even made growing up in the Midwest more ok.

  39. Leanne

    this is especially beautiful. and calming. it’s perfect.

  40. Tracy

    I think this is my first comment ever :) This is perfection! I have been watching for this post since the mood boards went up.

    I have totally fallen in love with everything you do Emily. You have given me so much inspiration. I have fallen in love with Vintage furniture and have sourced some beautiful pieces that have changed how I feel about our home.

    Also discovered West Elm through your blog (thankfully one has just opened here in Melbourne Australia). Thank you!

    Can’t wait to see the Dining room with that beautiful artwork (caught a little glimpse in one of the photos).

  41. Wow! I hopped over here from Forage’s fb page. !. I went to Alt – yay! 2. I’m from Minneapolis – yay! 3. This is amazingly better – well done – yay! Question: What did you do to the fireplace? Paint the brick in a high gloss or tile? I can’t tell from the picture, but it looks great and is EXACTLY what I need to do. Did you also paint the brick black on the floor? Please share.

    So glad you enjoyed your time here. If Minneapolis were on the West Coast it would be perfection eh? :)

  42. I mean, I know you’re pregs and all…and that you’re happily married… but I think that you and Orlando need to put those slight differences aside, and create millions of little MCM decorating inclined children to turn this world into a much more beautiful place.

    Just my opinion.


  43. patty blaettler

    Just absolutely great!

  44. Kelly

    This is going to sound crazy but can you tell me more about the Ikea desk lamp? Did you paint or customize it? Is it a recent purchase? I looked online and it wasn’t there. I am looking for a new desk lamp for my office at work and this would be perfect. Thank you!

  45. Eileen

    I am so tempted to paint my wood work now….what color is the trim?

  46. BURCU

    You are an amazing woman! Seriously, whatever you design, you make things more beautiful than they were before. You are such an inspiring woman. After I get to know you, I really want to be a designer aand I just want to have my own house and play with it everyday.
    Ahh God bless you!

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  48. Gbea

    Ha! I’m from Ory-gone too and went to college in Arkansas. No one there had any idea either. One day in the cafeteria, my sister and I were talking about how we missed going to the beach back home and the girl sitting next to us asked, “Ory-gone has beaches?” We thought she was kidding. She was not.
    Beautiful room and beautiful blog. Thanks for the ideas!

  49. I love the color palette of this room, from dark to bright, boring to enjoying. One thing I did notice, which is REALLY stupid and I can’t believe I am even typing it, but is that a bug in the coffered ceiling in the second picture? I am ashamed to say, but it was the first thing I saw when I looked at the picture, but then my eyes wondered down and was instantly distracted by the beautiful design of the whole room. Great job you guys!

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  51. k

    This is absolutely beautiful but maaaaaaaaaan. That’s me whining. I would have loved to see you do something with the dark woodwork because I have it all over my house and I don’t want to paint it. Selfish reasons obviously, but I always dream someday you’ll show up and design my living room and this might have been the closest I’d come to it if you had kept the woodwork. If anyone could make dark woodwork look amazing it would be you!

    • theresa

      I wish you would have worked with the dark woodwork too. I was disappointed that you painted it.

  52. jen

    stunning transformation. i love it!

  53. Jen

    Seriously amazing. Even thoughI peeked ahead onto Curbly’s page and seen their repainting job, I still didn’t believe it was the same room– I thought it was an inspiration pic.

    I’d love to hear the thought process on the room– maybe later you can write a follow-up post? As the Curbly folks pointed out, it is a weirdly shaped room with many doorways and an off-set bay window. And not very big, at least from the ‘before’ pics, but it looks huge in the afters– maybe b/c of the light palette, but also smaller details like the sofa that is up on those skinny legs to allow some breathing space, and the petite laptop desk, etc? You managed to pack so many things into this room, yet it feels large and light and uncluttered. Tell us how you worked that magic!!

  54. Katy

    Exceptional!! I really am into mid-century furniture that has a Shaker influence. I think you could be to blame.
    I have to say though, the statement about being annoyed easily made me almost vomit in my mouth. I guess I should be relieved as a reader that you were not stuck for 5 days with super nice people that didn’t meet your level of coolness. I mean, I was really sweating that one out.
    Sorry to be negative..truly I am . I could stop reading, but you are beyond talented. Perhaps I should just look at the purty pictures.

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  56. Paige

    Hi Emily –
    Great, great, stuff up there! Nicely done!
    ps- I went to check out the photographer’s work and realized the link is taking me to Sherwin Williams.


  57. Hi Emily-
    I have been looking for a coffee table for months – and the one you chose is exactly what I have been looking for !!!!! Exactly. I tried to look at it online but it is wholesale. Do you know how I can go about buying it and what the cost is?

    Any ideas would be appreciated . Thank you!

  58. Kelly

    Hi Emily,
    Omg, I am in LOVE with this room, bright airy and lovely. I recently found a campaign dresser for 20, and it’s amazing, only problem is it’s missing one pull. I’ve tried a few resources from online but I can’t find one anywhere. Do you have any ideas?
    Thank you in advance~

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  60. Susan Sportsman

    Love, love, love this room! It is the mark of a true decorator to have all elements of a room flow without being matchy-matchy! PLEASE share the trim color!

  61. Pingback: Emily Henderson: Curbly Makeover | Megan K Murphy

  62. Katie

    I’m insanely in love with every inch of this room – the walls are the perfect color, the roman shades are fresh and the MCM components are dreamy. BEAUTIFULLY done!!! I want to live here :)

  63. Emma Alden

    Love the mix of mid-century vintage and new pieces as always!! I would love to know where the blue and white blanket is from – I adore it!

  64. Nicole M.

    Such a bright and fresh space. I love that rug…it looks different at every angle. Great job as always Emily and team!

  65. Ashley

    Amazing! Love it all! I have been looking for side tables like those forever, I know they are vintage but are there any stores that you would recommend that might have some similar ones? Thanks!!

  66. Catherine

    Do you have any information on the plaid fabric? I NEED it!!

    Great room, such an inspiration!

  67. Pam

    Have to say this is my favorite out of all of the rooms you’ve done. I grew up in that area (now a SF Bay area girl) and after 20+ years the price of the homes there and your design make me want to move back. Wait – do they still have the same winters? Never mind.

    You have me so lusting after those plaid chairs! Wonderful job.

  68. Michelle

    I am loving that it looks so fresh! I have similar wood wrapped windows (except mine have a board and batten treatment underneath) and I don’t want to hang curtains because I love the clean look of the moulding around the windows. So, this picture validates me (because everyone asks me when I’m going to hang curtains)!
    So, what are your thoughts on curtains? When do they add to a room/take away from a room?

  69. lauren

    I also grew up in Oregon before Portland was cool! No one ever believes me, but I remember having to explain to people from other parts of the country that it was below Seattle but above California!

  70. Abby

    I’m a long-time fan and blog reader, and I think this is my favorite room you’ve ever done. I LOVE it and want to replicate it in my new house! Great job.

  71. Pingback: The Curbly Family Dining Room Makeover | Emily Henderson

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  73. Mary

    Love! What is the white used on the trim?

  74. I love that contemporary rug. The somewhat haphazard coloration (due to the shimmer) and the texture make it really pop. There is a definite quirkiness to the room, but everything is fits together in a sort of brotherhood of quirkiness. haha. This is a killer room.

    Plush Rugs

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  77. Jayne

    Agreed – what white is the trim? We have to paint out A LOT of woodwork at our house and are looking for a great white. Love the grey. Definitely going to use it in our living room!

  78. Danielle

    I love the space! What color is the trim? How did you get the brick on the fireplace so shiny?? I can’t wait see more of your rooms. Cheers!

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  82. In love with all the rooms you made over in the house. What is so striking is that each room is styled so perfectly that it makes you think that they should have looked that way all along. Everything fits the style of the house and is unfussy and simply wonderful. Y’all are truly talented.

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  85. 3

    Hi Emily – Is that Loloi rug soft or sort of hard like sisal? Thanks!

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  89. Erin

    I’m in love with that coffee table and need it! Any ideas for ones similar to it that public can buy? I don’t have an account with Blue Traders but really, really want that coffee table!

  90. Yay! So happy you loved our brrzzzzy but fun loving city! We are HUGE fans of yours (teeny bit obsessed with The Fig House design) and just love what you did with this home! So warm + chic. Please come back + visit us soon! We would love to collaborate!
    Nicole Liwienski
    White Peacock Styled Events | Minneapolis, MN

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