Two Inspiring Before and After Room Transformations

As the summer winds down, many of us, especially “home lovers like you and me” who adore the cozy comforts and thrive on nesting are beginning to think ahead with plans of what we want the rooms in our homes to be like come autumn.

You may already be checking out fall decorating ideas on blogs, Pinterest and fall issues of magazines that are just starting to hit the magazine racks with many ideas from beautifully decorated homes.

Lidded basket on floor

I know that to create a room we love no matter the season – the first thing we need to do is clear out the clutter before bringing in anything new or we will simply create an unfocused hodgepodge of stuff, not only in our home space but in our head space as well.

Besides changing up our seasonal decor, another time you may yearn to redecorate a room is when you are not happy with a room(s) in your home, so much so that when you walk into it, you begin to feel overwhelmed or just not yourself, instead of what you should be feeling… happy and your best.

Living room that needs to be decluttered
Living Room BEFORE

Earlier this summer,  I went to visit my sisters, Carol and Laura, who live in Pennsylvania. I stayed at my twin sister Carol’s house. A year ago she came to a decorating crossroads when she realized that her living and dining rooms no longer spoke to her.

The rooms hadn’t been to her liking for quite a long time, but life and other things kept her from doing anything about it.

A living room that needs a decorating makeover.
Living Room BEFORE

Last year she decided it was finally time to take action and transform her living and dining rooms into the rooms she has always dreamed about. 

Living room that needs a decorating update
Living Room BEFORE

The decorating makeover is quite a dramatic change that I found very inspiring and I  think you will, too.

Dining room that needs a decorating makeover
My sister’s dining room BEFORE

When I walked into Carol’s house I was expecting it to look as it always has (above photos) for the past 20 years, but instead, I saw a big “style shift” that delighted my eyes. 

Living Room Makeover – AFTER

Carol thought she was only going to declutter to get the rooms to her liking, but once she removed everything that didn’t make her smile, she realized it still wasn’t right.

She then decided she needed to start from scratch and began to look for new and affordable furnishings that would fit her budget.

She ended up getting rid of everything in the rooms, even the wall-to-wall carpet and ceiling light fixtures. She took both rooms down to the bare bones and built them back by adding only items that were needed for the room to function and that made her and her family smile.

Living room decorated with items from IKEA
Living Room AFTER

The biggest change was not only how the rooms looked fresh and new, but how happy the changes made my sister and her family. They finally created the rooms that fit their life + style.

Carol and I like white walls with lots of color pops in a room. It is the look of the house we grew up in so we gravitate to it. It makes us feel at home.

My brother-in-law is a professional house painter and likes using Benjamin Moore paint. The color of the paint on the walls is called Bistro White 7006-4. It is a Valspar color that he had made up in the BEN line of Benjamin Moore paint. He used satin on the walls and semi-gloss on the trim.

White living room decorated with IKEA furniture

Carol likes modern furnishings, where I favor a casual cottage/beach style.

Note: The decorating style of a room is not what I am trying to point out in this post. I only bring it up to share that you should decorate rooms with only items you love and in a style that makes you feel good when in them.

Red sofa from IKEA

What is important is… that no matter what color or style of decor you like, you should work towards making it happen in your home.  It doesn’t matter whether it is dark and moody, light and airy or anything in between as long as it makes you feel good.

White furniture in living room from IKEA

Carol’s Decorating Plan of Action

Here are a few of the things Carol had to deal with to make the changes needed. Do any of these questions sound familiar?

  • She works full-time and needed to carve out time to make the changes happen.  She set up time to plan and shop on her calendar, just as she would an important appointment or meeting.
  • She had to figure out a budget.  She did a lot of research and found affordable furniture options and items at IKEA or on clearance at these online stores – Wayfair, Overstock and West Elm
  • She had to come to terms on how to discard the many items that she no longer wanted. This included large pieces of furniture like her dining room set and the items that were given to her from family or in-laws. Many of these items she kept over the years to make them happy, even though they never fit her decorating style. 
  • She found that the furnishings/items she had would not bring in a lot of money in the resale market, so she donated all of it to a local shelter.
  • Then came the fun part, putting a plan together to get the new furniture and accessories bought and installed.
Silver side table from IKEA

Always evolving. It has been a year now since she made the changes, but she still is tweaking to get things right for the rooms. For instance when I was there, I helped her try a few different pieces of large art for the far wall in the dining room. You can see one we tried is a Boat House row in Philadelphia print that is in some of the photos. She ended up not keeping this and found another large piece of art after I left.

Dining Room Makeover – AFTER

Dining room with dog art on wall

Carol wanted simple and modern pieces and didn’t want anything to look like a “set”. Her husband found the oversized canvas with the dog on a beach at Wayfair. They love that he makes the space fun and unexpected.

Dining room table from West Elm on seagrass rug

The dining table and bench were bought on clearance at West Elm. The ghost chairs are from IKEA. The faux plant is from HomeGoods.

White dining room with dog art above sideboard

She gave away almost everything she had in her previous china cabinet which included collectibles and various sets of china and glassware. She only kept what she needs when she entertains. It all fits into this buffet style cabinet from IKEA.

seagrass rug with neutral border

She had always known that beautiful hardwood was under the carpet in both rooms, even on the staircase. Removing it and having the floors refinished made the biggest change to the open concept space. She added seagrass area rugs to both rooms.

How to Begin Transforming a Room

Before you begin redecorating a room no matter if you are starting from scratch or using what you already own, here are a few tips that will help you successfully get any room in your home into a room that you love.

How to decorate a small foyer


To transform a room in your home you can’t simply declutter it by organizing the contents in it. If you simply organize your stuff, it will be cluttered again in a short amount of time.

To successfully declutter a room, you must first decide:

  1. What is the main function the room will be used for?
  2. What do you want your life to be like when in the room?

Once you know the answers to these questions then you need to begin the decluttering process and discard:

  1. Items that no longer have a role for the function of the room.
  2. Items that no longer bring you joy.


When you have removed the items that are no longer needed for the functionality of the room and that do not put a smile on your face, this is now the time to organize what is left.

West Elm dining table

New Furnishings Are Not Needed For Decorating Success

Maybe you can’t do a complete style-shift by getting new furniture like my sister did, but you can still make big changes in your own home and here is how:

EDIT – Ask yourself:

  • Does it have a purpose?
  • Does this item really make me happy?
  • Does it really add value to my life?
  • Do I still like this item?
  • Have I used it in the last year?

If the answer is no to any of these questions, then you should discard or move the item to another room until you can make the final decision as to how to discard it.

If you still can’t decide on a few items, ask yourself:  Why am I keeping this? Is it for sentimental reasons?

Items that triggered happy memories are tough. They spark real joy, remind you of someone or a certain time or event in your life. So, yes they make you feel happy, but do you really need the item to treasure that memory?  Try to think of these items in this way:  Nobody can take away a memory. If everything was lost in a fire or a flood, the memories would always remain.

If you can’t part with an item, then try to think of a creative way to use it so that it is not just a pile of stuff. For instance, a game you played as a child. Does it have a playing board that could be made into a tabletop or hung on the wall as art?  Think of how to use the item in a decorative way.


If you don’t have the budget for new furniture, you can still make a huge difference to a room by removing everything in the room. At the same time you can do a deep cleaning. :-)

Decide what furniture needs to go back into the room. Change the placement of the items.  Look at the furniture in every room in your house. Would a sideboard in your dining room look better or be more useful placed behind a sofa in your living room to be used as a sofa table with storage?

  • Do you have an area rug in another room?  Move it and layer it over wall-to-wall carpet in another.
  • Instead of hanging smaller pieces of art or photos by themselves, group them together on a wall to create more impact.
  • Use a tray from your kitchen to group smaller items together on a coffee table.
  • Stack books to raise the height of a lamp.
  • Do you have a pretty quilt stored in a linen closet. Bring it out and place on the back of a sofa.

You get the idea, allow your mind to think of new ways to use everything you own in new and unique ways


Don’t second guess yourself and your ideas about how to use furnishings. Try things out, some will not work, but keep moving and playing with all the furnishings until you like what you have created.


Your home is a living space, not a storage space.  Decluttering and decorating is not a once and done process. Life will change, new items will be brought in throughout the year. Take a hard look at the room seasonally to keep things in check to make sure they always make you smile.

West Elm dining table and benches

Carol has shelves in her basement where she organizes her decorative accessories that are not in use. For instance, when summer is over she may place this faux plant there and replace it with a large blue and white vase filled with orange mums.

Modern dining room with unexpected art on walls

I realize not everyone can start redecorating a room from scratch,  but even by making a few small changes in a room using what you already own you may be able to make a big difference that will make you smile.

With the fall season soon upon us, why not experiment a little to see what you can come up with to create a cozy fall room you will enjoy all season long.

Furnishing RESOURCES

Dining Room:

Dining Table and Benches  – West Elm – No longer available

IKEA Ghost Chair 

Dog Art Print Wrapped Canvas

Sideboard: IKEA

Seagrass Rugs 

Living Room: All from IKEA

IKEA side table

Before-and-After-Dining and Living Room-Makeovers

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  1. Diane,

    Happy Birthday to you and Carol🎉

    Loved the picture of the two of you.

    What a fun project for Carol and her family. Her rooms turned out just beautiful. Very serene even with those pops of color.

    Wishing you all a wonderful Fourth of July🇺🇸🎆

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi June – Thank you for the b-day greetings. :-) Hope you have a wonderful 4th as well. XO

  2. Anonymous says:

    Seems I was too wordy and lost all of my comments.
    In a nutshell, beautiful transformation. I personally would just balance the color in your LR more. A little color heavy on the sofa side.
    In the DR, remove a few of the white “hard” items from the sideboard and add a little color glass vase with a slower or fern stem and something with texture.
    Again, my personally opinion.
    These spaces would make me smile, too!

  3. Difficult to believe they are the same rooms! Particularly the lounge, stunning!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Roselyne – It was a big change, one that both my sister and her husband really wanted. When seeing it in person, the rooms look so fresh and alive. Another reason they like the change is that they both work and having minimal stuff around to take care of is a time saver.

  4. WOW!
    What a beautiful transformation.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      HI Sharon – It was a dramatic style and color change that came out great.

  5. Heather Katherine says:

    This is a room I just want to come and sit in…………and stay. Love it !

  6. Aquaguard ro service center says:

    thanks for sharing this post i am very happy with that and its very importent for me

  7. Commercial RO says:

    Great design and you really work on content and its helpful.

  8. Home Staging Training Online says:

    Good job, inspiring transformation of the rooms.

  9. Sue Bauman says:

    Incredible improvements all around! I bet your sister and her family feel at least 30 years younger every time they enter one of these rooms! Just stunning looking! What an inspiring transformation!

  10. Handy Squad says:

    Excellent article Diane, thanks ever so much for sharing this.

    It’s incredible how much life and vibrancy the room has now after the interior design was put in place!

  11. Aquaguard RO Service says:

    Awesome ideas of room transformations. Thanks for sharing these ideas.

  12. Lovely place I especially love the doge picture on the wall.

  13. Kari Rogers-Miller says:

    So pretty Diane…I love the changes your sister made. So clean, crisp and airy. Good for her in getting rid of her “stuff”, it is sometimes difficult to part with our “treasures”.

  14. What a beautiful transformation! I hope your sister and her family are very happy in their “ new” rooms!

  15. Diane, thanks for sharing! I love the redecorating that your sister did. I like the sea grass rugs, too. What texture are they? Soft or not? Hubby loves to sit on the floor and the dog digs in carpets – do you think the rug would be comfortable to sit on and durable for our 15 lb dog to dig in? Carpets with loops definitively don’t work, but this might :-). Thanks!! Linnea

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Linnea – The texture of the seagrass rug is stiff, not soft. I love seagrass for many reasons over other natural rugs… sisal or jute. Jute is soft, but smells like burlap and needs a rug pad so it won’t slip on the floor. Sisal is a bit more rigid than jute, but smooth. Easier to sit on, but hard to clean since the color is light and stains seem to settle in. Seagrass is very easy to clean and vacuum. It has a woven texture that will imprint on bare skin when you sit on it, so I am not sure it would be comfy for Jim to sit on with the dogs. It is super durable though, I have had one in my living room for about 6 years now. Ed does not like walking on it in his bare feet, but likes that it never looks stained or dirty. I hope this helps. XO

      1. Yes, this will help us decide. Thank you for the information.

  16. Marvelous change! The old rooms were nice at one time, and I imagine lots of happy memories were created there over the years, but eventually our things become dated or just worn out! It’s especially great when you have hardwood floors underneath the old carpet–sure wish I did! The rooms are cheerful, airy, and friendly in style, and I think it all looks very fresh in a way that will last for quite a few years, with seasonal tweaking, etc. Great job!

  17. Hello Diane, the first thing that caught my eye was the seagrass rug. I am redecorating my house (recently retired) because it is time and has gone too long without changes. I am taking the redecorating one room at a time. I have finished my bathroom, almost done with my kitchen and my granddaughter’s room when she visits. I will be working on my living/dining rooms soon and I want to replace my living room rug. I have hardwood floors throughout my house. What size rug do you recommend for a 15′ x 15′ living room?

    I really enjoyed visiting your sister’s house and seeing the transformation. After I finished my bathroom I would walk in there and smile, maybe not outwardly, but in my mind, I was smiling. It is true, your home should make you smile when you walk into each room. It’s happening in my kitchen and my granddaughter’s room. It’s a great feeling!

    Recently I got rid of my 79 Ford Bronco. My husband always wanted to rebuild it, but he passed away before he could get to it. My son did all the work of advertising it and meeting with the person that wanted it. Of course, he wanted it for parts because they were all original. It was sad seeing it go. My son said the same thing you did. He said, “Mom, he’s not taking your memories, you’ll always have those.”

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Mary Jean –

      The size of the area rug really depends on what furnishings are in the room. If you have a conversional grouping in the room -sofa, coffee table and chairs, then you want to make sure that all of these are on the rug and there is a little extra extending past the sofa and chairs, or at least the chairs. What you don’t want is too small a rug that sits in the middle of the room, but does not go under the sofa and chairs. I would look at 8′ x 10′ or even a 9′ x 11′.

      1. Thanks, Diane! Good to know. BTW, I love the print with the dog!


  18. Jill Katz says:


    I am a Professional Organizer by trade and appreciate how you detailed your sister’s journey by including a stage for goal-setting and for decluttering. Decorating is not just a creative undertaking but also a methodical process with a plan to see it through from beginning to end. Kudos to your sister. Her rooms look beautiful!

  19. Tell your sister I absolutely love her modern style. If I could take my rooms back to the ceilings, floors and walls, I would decorate in a like manner. Her dining room table, the ghost chairs and the perfect dog at the beach artwork will stay with me as inspiration for a long time.

  20. Laura at Duke manor farm says:

    Amazing!!!!! Bravo ?

  21. How nice she had those beautiful hardwood floors under the carpeting, and the sisal rugs are just the right touch. Everything looks fresh and open. She did a wonderful job and she did it “In Her Own Style”…

  22. Such wonderful information for those who are struggling with a ‘redo’ in one room or a whole house!

    One thing I thought you’d mention is “If the budget is really tight, sometimes painting a piece of furniture you truly need (but don’t especially like ‘as is’) will do wonders!….until you can afford something else.”

    Paint and fabric, as you have so wonderfully shown your readers in the past, are the some of simplest things to get big results from.

    Great post Diane!

  23. Love before and after posts and this one did not disappoint!! Your sister made so many changes and came out with a truly beautiful “new” room. How lucky to have the hardwood floors under the carpet :).

  24. Barbara H. says:

    Your sister is a brave talented woman. It is a daunting task to completely strip rooms and start over, but it sounds like she made her plan and followed through to end up with space that speaks to her and her family. It’s so fresh and enlivening now – what a joy to come home to for all of them. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing this with us. I am right in the middle of this very thing – I have Habitat for Humanity coming this week to pick up my old living room furniture and have new items being delivered. It is so exciting – I’ve lived in this house for 15 years and it has never really felt like ‘me’ (the house came with the husband!), so this is the anniversary present to ourselves.

  26. Romeogirl says:

    Bravo Carol! Well done!!

  27. 1960s girl says:

    This post inspires me to go ahead with the makeover of my dining room, that does not make me smile anymore. It is too dark. I will have to keep the furniture because they are family heirlooms, but I will need to use lighter decor to light up the room.
    I will follow your advice on clearing the room from the items I do not need.
    And congrats to your sister. Good taste runs in the family I guess! :)

  28. Kimberly Bruhn says:

    ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. Your sister’s style is not mine but my goodness it looks so fresh and I’m sure it truly reflects what she loves! I’ve been toying with trying your technique…and have already removed a few things to see what I find “sparks my joy!” Thank you, thank you again for your inspiration!

  29. Amazing!!! Can’t believe the difference, your sister must be thrilled. Thank you so much for sharing the transformation. Very inspiring. I recently have switched from heavy dark furnishings, to white & lighter woods, I love the Scandinavian look which is so light & airy as your sisters rooms look now.

  30. What a wonderful transformation. The decor is so fresh, clean and simple. Love your style!

  31. Gilmer Gal says:

    The new look is so clean and fresh – rooms you can BREATHE in! Congrats to your sister for taking the leap!

  32. I love the changes. Do you know the exact color and brand of the white she used on woodwork and walls. It looks beautiful and so fresh.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Rebecca – My brother-in-law is a professional house painter and likes using Benjamin Moore paint. The color of the paint is called Bistro White 7006-4. It is a Valspar color that he had made up in the BEN line of Benjamin Moore paint. He used satin on the walls and semi-gloss on the trim. I wrote about using it when I turned one of my daughters rooms into a fitness room. You can see that here:

  33. Carrot Gravy says:

    thanks for the before and after post; they are always fun to read. I thought, overall, it fell short of your true creative powers and looks a bit amateurish, like too many trips to Home Goods and Ikea. The red couch and colorful pillows were a delightful surprise in a sea of white. And that soft blue chair and ottoman are so very pretty.

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      When I write about my house I always like to share my creative and DIY tips, but since this is my sister’s home, I wrote it following how she went about decorating. She does not DIY at all and buys the items she needed.

      I hope this post helps readers like her, ones that don’t have the time or skills to DIY for themselves. If she lived closer to me, instead of 11 hours away, I would have loved to help her with doing some creative DIY.

      It was such a dramatic transformation for me to see that I wanted to share it on the blog.

  34. I needed this push today, thank you! Everything about it just makes me smile and I’ll bet your sister and her husband just grin when they come in the door too. I’m looking around my house with fresh eyes. Just beautiful!

    1. Diane Henkler says:

      Hi Amanda – I posted this to do just that – give a little nudge and inspire readers who may be wanting to change a room or a few things in their home to fit their style better. When I first walked into my sister’s house when I visited, I smiled big time. It is now perfect for her and her family.