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Dull to delightful: 6 readers share their before-and-after living room transformations

Emily Westbrooks takes a look inside a selection of homes across the country.

WHEN I MOVED back from living abroad in 2018, our house had been rented for several years. We knew we were going to do some light renovations to make the space our own, but little did I know that would end up involving my husband wielding a jackhammer!

I thought we would remove the double doors to the living room, but instead we removed about 18 inches of wall, which has brightened the space considerably. When the dust had settled, it was just a matter of painting the fireplace white and banishing the magnolia wall paint in favour of a pale blue shade. 

emily Our before and after shots (spot my daughter in the second photo). Source: Emily Westbrooks

As part of our Real Homes issue, I asked a selection of readers around the country to give us a peek inside their own living room transformations. Some of the below examples went through extreme restructuring, while others needed a much lighter touch. 

Consider it design inspiration, combined with just a little bit of nosiness on our part. From a brightened family room in Cork to a darkened Dublin living area, you might just find yourself itching to pick up a paintbrush yourself next weekend…

agata Agata Kmuk's Cork transformation. Source: Agata Kmuk

Originally from Poland, Agata Kmuk now lives in Cork, where she has created a peaceful space for her family of boys. Her living room has been lovingly designed to suit the needs of her family, and is constantly evolving.

“This space is changing all the time. I love Scandinavian style with boho decorations and simple forms. Thanks to the white walls, the room does not overwhelm and seems much larger than it really is. My plan was to create a room that could change all the time with the needs of the family. The next step is to change sofas for something more cozy and practical. I love the base of this room because by changing the decor it takes on a new character.” 

niamh Niamh O'Carroll's Glasnevin makeover. Source: Niamh O'Carroll

PR specialist Niamh O’Carroll has lived with her husband and three kids in the Glasnevin home her father grew up in for twenty years. They recently undertook a renovation of the attached garage apartment, which she and her siblings and cousins had all lived in at one point or another during their college and early working years.

“I am lucky as my company works with a variety of different designers and interiors brands, so I see things to inspire me every day. I love interiors books and magazines and follow interior designers and enthusiasts on Instagram, so I am surrounded by inspiration.

“This is a small space, so I wanted it to be as streamlined as possible and not to look cluttered. I spent a lot of time browsing ‘small home living’ pins on Pinterest, and plenty of effort went into measuring and remeasuring! I made sure that the furniture was to scale and chose the Viv sofa from the DFS So Simple range that had legs off the floor which always makes a room look bigger.

“I kept to a palette of white, blues and gold, with white walls downstairs and a huge gold mirror (a steal from Done Deal) which bounces light around the room.”

jenny Jenny Roche's before-and-after. Source: Jenny Roche

Dublin-based Jenny Roche works in HR for a video tech company and recently set out to give the living room in their newly purchased home a taste of her and her husband’s personality, mixing modern elements with a hint of animal print. The walls went from pale to dark, and they welcomed a velvety sofa as a spot to relax in the evenings.

“We recently moved into a new home and really wanted to put our own stamp on the house. The house was pretty standard in terms of layout and decor. It was really nice but not our style, or mine, probably, to be more specific. I have quite a quirky style and love mixing modern touches with a more 70s style, and lots of animals and animal print touches. I have to reign it in sometimes!

“This area is separate to our main dining and living space and I wanted to to feel really cosy and personal, with a quirky feel. It’s somewhere we can really relax in the evenings or at the weekend. The dark colour on the walls is so cosy in the evening. But the orange sofas really brighten it up during the day. We really love how it turned out.”

caroline Caroline Beatley's gallery wall makeover. Source: Caroline Beatley

Healthcare student and interiors enthusiast Caroline Beatley has taken her living room from pale pink to deep dark over the last two years, deciding to finally embrace her love of strong colours. 

“My style has evolved so much since I started my Instagram page back in 2018. I always loved colour but I sometimes played it safe in case people thought I lost the plot! My children did think I lost my marbles when I painted our living room pink, and I loved it at the time but it was short lived as I knew it wasn’t really me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the colour pink but it wasn’t meant for our living room so I completely went over to the dark side and decided to paint our living room in Gatsby Blue by Dulux.

“I picked up our sideboard in our local charity shop for €20 euro and painted it a dark grey colour. I built up a selection of prints for a gallery wall and added lots of plants to soften. I love our gallery wall and I constantly faff with it. I can honestly say this is my favourite room to relax and chill.”

olga Olga Fay's long-awaited transformation. Source: Olga Fay

With second-hand finds and some handy help from family members, mum-of-three and sustainability supporter Olga Fay gave her family’s living room a fresh look. 

“We moved out of our house at the end of 2018 for pyrite remediation and realised that would give us the perfect opportunity to give the living room a little makeover. Sustainability is really important to me and I don’t often buy new things for the house. I’d much rather upcycle something old, so we decided to have our old sofas reupholstered.

“My husband made the storage units for either side of the chimney breast out of MDF and painted them white. This room only gets the sunshine very early in the morning, so to brighten it up we painted the room white and used wallpaper only in the alcoves. We bought the table second hand a few years ago, painted the legs white and stained the top. We use a mix of fake and real plants in this room, and to put my own stamp on it I added a few subtle splashes of pink. I wanted this room to be a place for us to feel cosy so we have lots of throws, cushions and candles. I even keep a basket of extra throws and cushions handy.

linda Linda Sheridan's light-filled living room update. Source: Linda Sheridan

Linda Sheridan brought her professional interior design skills to her own home, turning a renovated open-plan extension into a light-filled family space. Low furniture and a light colour palette work together to keep the space bright and airy.

“The goal was to create a social and contemporary, light-filled, open-plan living, dining and kitchen space that opened onto the garden. Open plan spaces can be tricky, so zoning helps define each area and keeps the space from looking too busy or cluttered. The area isn’t that wide so we zoned each area in a linear layout: kitchen followed by dining area, followed by living space at the back.

“We kept storage and furniture in the living room low and neat, and the colours are light and airy with accents of storm grey, mustard and pink. Light pours into the space all day long from the glass doors at the back and an overhead rooflight. All of these elements visually create space and an open feeling so we are very happy with the result! In the summer, we open the doors to the garden and in winter, we light the stove to make the area cosy — it’s a room for all seasons.”

More: ‘The rocket mural is wonky but he loves it’: 5 design fans share their kids’ bedrooms>

About the author:

Emily Westbrooks

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