Candice Olson gives 1980s family room a fresh look

Scripps Howard News ServiceNovember 23, 2013 

Anita and Jeff’s family room was a 1980s eyesore.

Everywhere you looked there was wood – wooden shelving, wooden shutters, wooden cabinets. It was just way too much.

Anita and Jeff actually liked the wood because it made their family room feel warm and cozy, but I persuaded them that, in this case, less would be more.

I wasn’t out to banish the wood from this space, but I was definitely looking to tone it down. Anita and Jeff agreed – albeit nervously – to let me paint all of the wood, with the exception of the shutters. The problem with this room was not that they used wood, but, rather, that they used way too much of it in the wrong places. My plan would keep that warm feeling by reintroducing modern wooden touches in new places.

We started from the ground up by tossing the tired old carpeting, replacing it with wide-plank wooden flooring. The dated popcorn-plaster ceiling was concealed by a fresh layer of drywall. We added recessed ceiling lighting as well to help brighten up this family room.

Next, we tackled the wood.

Our painter spent four days on site. He painted the trim, wainscoting, crown moulding, baseboards and doors. Before he tackled the built-in cabinetry, we removed the arched and very dated fascia. Then, the lower cabinetry was treated to a couple of coats of sea glass, while the upper shelving was painted a creamy mascarpone color for contrast.

The focal point of this room is the newly renovated fireplace, where once again we called upon the skills of our trusty painter to paint the brick fireplace surround. Above a warm wooden mantel, we paneled over the brick with moldings to frame a mirror with built-in sconces.

We needed an area rug to anchor the space, so we chose a neutral, geometric print to bring the room together. A comfy sectional in oregano green was layered with throw pillows in shades of cream, teal and sea foam. A round glass-topped coffee table with an airy open base gives Anita and Jeff a place to set down their coffee.

One of the big challenges of doing a room like this is figuring out how to incorporate the homeowners’ sentimental items. These are the things that give a room personality, but often they’re also the most difficult items to work into a design scheme. In this case, Anita and Jeff had two must-haves: a quirky lamp with a base shaped like a pile of books and a stuffed owl that came from Anita’s grandfather. A new shade restored the lamp, while the stuffed owl found a new perch on the stylish new media console, which we positioned under Jeff’s wall-mounted TV.

The old shutters made a comeback in their original form, bringing yet another touch of wood back into this space. I softened them up with drapery panels that bring out the warm colors of the room while introducing a subtle pattern.

Anita and Jeff wanted to make sure their updated family room was still a warm retreat. By introducing wood in new places and new tones – floor, mantle, media console – we’ve kept that welcoming feeling. At the same time, we’ve updated the tired aspects of this room, such as the cabinetry, trim and moulding. The soft paint colors we selected, as well as the wonderful textured grass-cloth wallpaper we used, also introduce natural warmth and texture.

Their family room feels fresh, modern and inviting. And to finish it all off, a selection of framed family photos puts the “family” back into family room.

Olson is host of HGTV’s “Candice Tells All.”

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