Contemporary Living Room Makeover

Designer Jean Larette shares her story of how she gave a contemporary update to a living room that was stuck in the past.


From: Jean Larette

By: Jeannie Matteucci
From: Jean Larette

After living in his home for almost 40 years, a Bay Area homeowner decided he was ready for a serious change and asked designer Jean Larette of Larette Design to give his living room a major makeover on a $20,000 budget. The room was designed for the homeowner to have a place to relax and entertain visiting family and friends.

Jean shares with us how she made strategic changes to create a warm and inviting living room that feels contemporary and updated without being cold or sterile.

What were the homeowner's design challenges?

It was a challenge to convince the homeowner that eliminating the heavy wooden plantation shutters would open up the room and allow light to illuminate and warm the space. This living room was also very dark. We were able to install lighting in the ceiling to highlight art and help the space overcome its cave-like quality.

Cozy Contemporary Living Room

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Rejuvenated Space

The upgrades made in this living room, including the hand-painted, soft, muted drapes with a vibrant palm pattern, add texture and interest to the room without overwhelming the space.

From: Jean Larette

Bland and Boring

The tired furniture and lack of interesting design details made the previous living room feel dull and dated.

From: Jean Larette

Rough Around the Edges

The dirty bricks and dated look of the existing fireplace made the rest of the room feel stuck in a time warp.

From: Jean Larette

Serious Style

A combination of Caesarstone in Blizzard for the mantel and Mocha for the hearth makes the upgraded fireplace a stylish focal point for the room.

From: Jean Larette

Subtle Contrast

Warm beige was used for the walls with a lighter tan on the ceiling. Clean white for the cabinetry, molding, window casings and interior doors adds a nice unifying element to the room.

From: Jean Larette

Describe the homeowner's wish list.

The owner had been living in the same home for nearly 40 years and said it was time to start fresh. He wanted every piece of furniture in his living room donated to a local charity and was ready to start with a completely clean slate. He wanted to create a living room he could use to entertain a group of friends, wanted a comfortable area for him to read on his own and it was very important that he could ignite the fireplace with the flick of a switch.

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

When we began to design the new fireplace we discovered the original design was not balanced, with one side slightly larger. We choose Caesarstone as our material for both the hearth and mantel and were able to disguise the imperfection. I think we achieved a beautiful result.

Describe the "hidden gems."

The homeowner found a forgotten painting that was stored in the garage and repurposed it. Now it sits prominently over the upgraded fireplace. Keep your eye out for hidden treasures in your garage and attic, because you never know what you may discover.

What surprised you most about this project?

I was surprised at how much fun it can be to start completely fresh in a space that was basically untouched for 40 years. I have found that many clients in their retirement years are in the mood to be really adventurous with their living space and can often be quite daring with their choices.

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Jean Larette

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Jean Larette Interior Design San Francisco, California