Living Room Design is Elegant, Balanced

Designer Kristen Pawlak creates the right scale and color palette for a challenging living room space.
Gray Transitional Living Room With Large White Mantel

Gray Transitional Living Room With Large White Mantel

Photo courtesy of Accent Photography

Photo courtesy of Accent Photography

By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Working with a client who struggled to commit to a look for her space, designer Kristen Pawlak worked through challenges of size and scale as well as some requests from the homeowner to create a beautiful living room. The end result is an elegant, comfortable space that flows well from one room to the next.

What were the main items on the family’s wish list?

The homeowner wanted a refreshed design featuring a contemporary, clean-lined, uncluttered look with new color palette. The room was to be impressive for guests, provide ample seating for entertaining and also flow with the open, adjacent kitchen which was recently remodeled. A recliner for the husband was also on the wish list for the room. Concerned with making costly mistakes and the size and scale of furnishings, the client sought the assistance of a professional decorator.

An Elegant, Balanced Living Room Design

See All Photos

Before: Dark and Dreary

The dark color choices and oversized furniture made the living room seem small and dreary before.


After: Vibrant and Balanced

A lighter color palette and properly scaled furniture creates a space that feels more balanced and welcoming.

Extra-Long Entertainment Center

An extra-long entertainment center balances the length of the oversized leather sofa on the opposite wall.

Wall Art Lends a Finishing Touch

Coordinating artwork creates visual flow between the design of the living room and the adjacent kitchen and unites the overall design.

Semi-Custom Throw Pillows

The budget could not accommodate custom pillows, so ready made pillows were purchased and customized instead. Their color helps break up the look of the extra-long sofa.

Funky, Fresh, Floral Upholstery

Armless chairs upholstered in a modern floral fabric offer the homeowner the contemporary design she was seeking.

What was the single largest issue you wanted to address for the owner?

The open kitchen adjacent to the family room provided a challenge for “flow,” as the two spaces are visually almost one room. A long pass-through wall in the kitchen leading to the family room was not wide enough for furniture, yet needed something to tie the two rooms together. It was also important this wall be visually appealing as it is what the homeowner first sees when they enter into the home from the garage.

What was the biggest obstacle in this space and how did you overcome it?

Just prior to meeting me, the client purchased a dark brown, extra-long leather sofa -- ample for seating but visually heavy, going from almost one wall to the other! I balanced out the room with an extra-long entertainment console across the room. Plus, I visually brought the sofa in with an arrangement of multiple pillows.

How does the end result match up with your original vision for the space?

The end result pretty much came together as planned! One thing that is often a challenge, however, is the client’s budget. I did not have the budget for five custom pillows for the sofa, yet it was important to have that many. I purchased ready-made pillows and customized them to be ready for this room!

What surprised you the most about the project?

My client was a self-admitted “hand wringer.” After presenting the design, which she agreed to, she was very unsure and questioned everything on a return visit, almost changing her mind! I learned you sometimes just have to hold a hand and assure them — this will work great! So I did, and it does — she loves it!

What are the hidden gems in your plan?

This room is all about color and repetition. The citrus color palette is in the multiple pieces of art around the room, which unites the design. The sofa’s chocolate color is repeated in details including the metal arms of the recliner and rug binding. The basketweave pattern of the mirror frame over the fireplaces makes a cool shadow on the wall when only the overhead recessed light is on.

Keep Reading

Next Up

A Lived-In Living Room Update

Learn how designer Tony Stavish gave this Chicago living room a collected-over-time look, making it the perfect blend of old and new.

Inviting Living Room in Lake Tahoe Retreat

Designer Linda McCall creates a charming place for family and friends to gather in this couple's traditional Lake Tahoe getaway.

Contemporary Living With a Rustic Flair

To open up this condo and make one large living space, designer Rachel James worked her demo and designer magic, resulting in an open living space full of bright colors and cool accent pieces.

Casual Kitchen and Living Space

San Francisco designer Tineke Triggs makes a smaller home feel more spacious by creating a light and airy great room.

A Designer's Home Gets a Contemporary Makeover

Designer Beth Davidson reworks her own living and dining rooms with a colorful, contemporary look, pops of red and original art.

Dining Room Designed for Art

For an artist whose paintings were left to gather dust, a gallery-style dining room designed by Kristie Barnett created the perfect place to put them on display.

Transitional Living and Dining Rooms

Designer Maria Toczylowski blends contemporary and traditional styles with a touch of rustic charm to create comfortable, family-friendly living and dining rooms.

Modern Kitchen Redesign

Designer Shirry Dolgin reconfigures a kitchen to create a functional design with plenty of storage and workspace.

Elegant Home Redesign

Designer Vanessa DeLeon used plush fabrics and deep gray accent pieces to put a glamorous spin on this complete home remodel.

Elegant, Transitional Living Room

Designer Susan Jamieson mixes natural handmade furnishings with modern pieces for a sophisticated living area in a 1900s row house.

Kristen Pawlak

Decorating Den Interiors