In Home Style Tips

My contemporary living room makeover tour (Before & After)

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Did anyone say living room makeover? The first ever room reveal on the blog and the expectations are high. Have I delivered?

There’s only one way to find out. Join me as I show you around every corner of my contemporary living room with a mid-century modern twist.

Hallelujah, Juan! You did it

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Here it is at last. My living room makeover blog post. There have been several first-time experiences lately: the first time filling Mariana Trench-sized cracks, painting a room during a heatwave and completing a design from concept to styling. I hope you enjoy my living room makeover as much as I’ve enjoyed the design process.

A few months ago I shared the plans for this room on the blog (How to design a living room to maximise light and space). Including the challenges of designing in a dark compact Victorian house and a mood board with all the key pieces. Here’s a little extract from that post where I explain the concept behind my living room makeover:

“I wanted to translate the sense of freshness to the decorating style. Using crisp lines, simple finishes and colours. Balance was paramount to create a calm and collected look. For example, straight grid-like lines contrast against round furniture and accessories. Natural wood stain finishes are combined with plain white elements. And warm yellows work flawlessly with cool blues from ornaments and art.”

The life-changing magic of slow decorating

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Somehow I’ve become an ambassador for the slow decorating movement. If you remember the Find your happy at home blog post, doing one thing at a time and taking it easy have a positive impact on your wellbeing. It’s time to stop glorifying “busy” and approach design in a relaxed yet methodical manner.

I took two years to complete this room, focussing on one element at a time with no pressure. To be honest, 75% of the decorating was done in the last three months. The rest of the time I’ve been studying the space, the light and how the room is used throughout the year. The result? A living room that not only looks great, but is tailored to my needs.

Before & After: My summer living room makeover

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The room before

Behold this tragic and neglected batchelor TV room. There are many things I could point out that simply don’t work. But I know the previous owner was moving out when this photo was taken, so it’s not fair to comment. In fact, when I viewed the house it was already empty. Unfortunately, they left the curtains behind — just no.

The room after

Welcome to my relaxing summer living room! Full of natural light, a touch of happy colour and plenty of greenery. All the pieces and accessories are part of the overall puzzle of this room scheme. The decor leans towards minimalist more than maximalist for two reasons: I don’t own many things and the visual clutter would kill the chilled vibe of the room.

Room tour: A contemporary living room makeover with a mid-century modern twist

This is the part you’ve been looking for. All the tasty details, close-ups and room shots. I’ve organised the room tour in sections that describe the different layers of the space. And with double the amount of photos for your visual pleasure. Hope you’re comfortably seated, glasses on (if needed) and let’s scroll!

The perfect paint colour for small rooms

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Making the most of the available light was no easy task. On the ceiling, I used Dulux Light+Space in Frosted Dawn, a matt milky white. This paint has reflective particles to bounce the light around the room.

The walls are painted in Slaked Lime by Little Greene (Intelligent Eggshell finish). This colour is pure magic for small rooms. A pale grey that looks white to the eye, but behaves like a warm colour.

Seating with mid-century modern flavour

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One of the first pieces I bought was the Jefferson sofa by Swoon Editions. The streamlined look with tapered oak legs was the look I wanted from the beginning. And the soft grey colour of the wool blend is very forgiving with stains…

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Opposite, you’ll find a handsome pair of mid-century modern armchairs. The 366 chairs are made-to-order based on the original 1960s Polish design. They’re compact yet stylish. If you want to learn more, read The perfect mid-century armchair for small rooms.

Invisible storage

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Revelation. My coffee tables (vintage Ercol and IKEA Gladom) are not suitable for storage. Second revelation. The stunning Aero shelving unit by Swoon Editions is not for storage either. They’re features in their own right and look messy with too much stuff on them.

Solution? Modular storage!

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The Eket range from IKEA fits the alcove so well it looks custom-made. The units are no deeper than the alcove itself and the white fronts blend in with the walls. To stop it from looking like a kitchenette, I picked two modules in blue, aligned with the Aero shelving for symmetry.

Lighting: the harmony of high end and low end

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Two of the lamps in this room are old IKEA products — to the point they’ll be classed as vintage soon. But they work and fit the scheme. My favourite is the central pendant, the Artist by Nordlux. I’m so in love with it, I wrote a whole blog post about it: Why you should choose a low pendant light instead of a TV.

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On the other end of the spectrum, you have the black Panthella Mini by Louis Poulsen. A small-scale premium-tag version of the mid-century modern classic. With one key difference, it’s made of metal instead of plastic, as originally intended by Poulsen.

Textiles and textures

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The first thing I did when I moved in was to burn those curtains and scatter the ashes under the moonlight. Still, the window needs a layer of texture and something to make it look wider.

Enter linen curtains from IKEA.

STYLE TIP: Ready-made curtains are an affordable alternative if you don’t want to splurge on made-to-measure ones. But make sure you alter them to your desired length, whether they’re touching, breaking, sweeping or puddling.

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The white square rug, also from IKEA, helps frame the room and contrasts against the dark laminate flooring. Next, some extra touches are provided by carefully selected cushions. Including the yellow Rosette by Sian Elin, purchased at Home by Kirsty. Behind it, you can see the Aitta cushion designed by Saana ja Olli for Finish label Finarte.

Adding interest to the walls

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Undoubtedly, the star of the room is the vintage framed poster that takes centre stage. A limited edition David Hockney print from 1970, designed for the Munich Olympics. I was lucky to get mine from Travel on Paper. I met the owner, Karen, at the Midcentury Modern show in London and chose her shop as one of my top picks.

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After spending months studying the light in the room like a mad alchemist, I knew exactly where the mirrors would be placed. It’s not decor, it’s science. The Only Me mirror designed by Philippe Starck for Kartell brightens the alcove and echoes the colours from the Hockney print.

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Behind the sofa, there’s the oversized bevelled round mirror from West Elm. And no, it’s not centred. Here’s why. You get the best view of the garden from that spot on the sofa. If you place a mirror behind it… Surprise! You can enjoy the same view from other corners of the room.

Final styling touches

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You may recognise some ornaments used in previous blog posts. Basically, every single item that used to be on my Royal System shelving in the bedroom is now in the living room. Don’t ask about the state of the bedroom — when hygge goes wrong.

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We all love a good home decor book. But rather than scatter them throughout the house, I’ve put them all together for easy access when I need an inspiration fix. On the other alcove, I used a trio of ceramic vases (Hoa) from MADE. And I’m sure you’ve noticed the stunning 70s-inspired green glass vase on the mantelpiece.

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I took months to find the right wooden shelves for this corner, and Menu had the answer with the Gridy Fungi collection. It’s inspired by the fungus that grows on tree trunks. I paired it with a string of hearts plant from Home by Kirsty and Muji’s minimalist CD player.

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Show your love for Boreal Abode!

Have you enjoyed my living room makeover? There will be more! I’ve worked hard on this room design and also on every blog post I’ve published over the last year. If you find my words useful and feel inspired by my photos, I would be grateful if you could vote for Boreal Abode at the Amara Interior Blog Awards.

All you have to do is visit my voting page and pop your email address (no spam guaranteed). That’s it — 15 seconds. And if you LOVE Boreal Abode, please share my voting page link with your friends, family and followers. The more votes, the more chances of being shortlisted for the awards in London. Thank you so much for your support whether you’re a silent reader or an active commenter!

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50 Comments

  1. Abi | These Four Walls blog
    1 month ago

    Your living room looks stunning Juan! I love the colours you’ve chosen, and the balance between mid-century style and period features. And I absolutely adore that black shelving unit! Oh, and the photo sliders are brilliant!

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you so much for your comment, Abi! I didn’t want it to look too mid-century if you know what I mean. The black shelving unit is brilliant. The downside is that you can’t put too many things on it. Oh, glad you like the slider! It makes it look more dramatic, hehe.

      Reply
  2. Mon@secretgardenhome
    1 month ago

    Hola Juan,
    I love your living room transformation. A mid-century perfection!
    The lights, shelving and the main poster are my favourite pieces.
    Bests Monx

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you for much for popping by, Mon! There had to be some mid-century flavour in the room. And I agree with you, the poster is my favourite element of the design too. It brings everything together!

      Reply
  3. julie@decorlasting
    1 month ago

    The room looks great, I love it. By the way you have my vote so good luck 🙂

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you for your comment and vote, Julie! I really appreciate it. So glad you like the room 🙂

      Reply
  4. Jumi Awomosu
    1 month ago

    Wow Juan it has to be said you are a pure creative genius! So many little touches I love … the thought that went into the off-center mirror you’ve got the feng shui spot on! I love that vase! Where can I get that vase!!! Its divine! I also love the way you explain the concept and the thought behind all the little touches you’ve made I love the idea that you took the time to do it slowly so that the space is perfect for you… the styling is impeccable.. this is perfection… this is artful living!

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you so much for your comment, Jumi! It means a lot because I feel styling is my weakest skill. What vase are you referring to? Is it the glass one? I’m afraid I forgot the name of the Scandinavian brand, but I’ll let you know if I remember.

      Reply
  5. Vicki
    1 month ago

    Looks great Juan, love the wall mounted CD player! Everything is brought together beautifully. Well done.

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you for your comment, Vicki! The CD player is lovely. You just have to pull the cord and the music starts playing. A little analogue touch that makes a difference. Thanks for popping by!

      Reply
  6. Robin
    1 month ago

    Looks absolutely wonderful. Really love a bit of midcentury! You’ve done really well and good photography too.

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you for your comment, Robin! So glad you like the mid-century modern touches. I must say taking the photographs was a challenge and a steep learning curve 😅

      Reply
  7. Antonia Ludden
    1 month ago

    Juan, you are a genius. I totally love the room, it is so light, bright, fresh and welcoming. Studying the light and taking time to plan has really reaped the benefits, I don’t think you could improve upon this design one bit. Love the furniture and accessories. Well done! x

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Antonia! So glad you feel that way about the room. It’s exactly the goal I had in mind. Taking it easy was also good for my mental wellbeing, hehe.

      Reply
  8. Lin
    1 month ago

    Looks great Juan – love the shelves and the mid-century modern arm chairs. I believe in taking your time with decorating as it takes a while get a good feel for the space and decide how best to use it.

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you for your comment, Lin! You’re right. And when it’s your own space you’re always extra picky with all the small details. I’m glad I waited this long.

      Reply
  9. Caroline Edwards
    1 month ago

    Well it was certainly worth the wait! What a fantastic job 🌟 it’s just perfect! You must be over the moon with it. I love the styled shelving and David Hockney print you chose – it ties everything together beautifully.

    And of course you have my vote – best of luck. 🤞🏻

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you so much, Caroline! Thanks to the print more colours were introduced (the blues and greens) and makes all the difference. Also, I really appreciate your vote. Thank you!

      Reply
  10. Meera
    1 month ago

    Oh Juan, I am absolutely blown away! 😍 This reveal has been so worth the wait, I have been scrolling up and down this post for ages, soaking it all in. I love how you’ve thought through every detail, it’s all so beautifully balanced. I’ve previously used Slaked Lime in a client’s north facing room and it worked a treat, just as it does here. You are a smart cookie! The colours, the gorgeous timeless pieces, and the incredible way you’ve mixed budget items with high end is amazing. And all beautifully photographed! I’ve got my eye on the same shelving unit and it’s interesting that you say it’s not actually for storage, it looks best styled sparsely, because I styled it virtually and thought exactly the same, haha! I’m going to be popping back to this post every so often to see this amazing room again and again. 😃😍
    P. S. I’ve voted for you and have my fingers crossed for you to make the shortlist! xx

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Meera! It means a lot coming from a designer like you. I must say your living room makeover last year was an inspiration and it helped me introduce colours in the scheme. Thank you so much for voting too!

      Reply
  11. melanie lissack
    1 month ago

    This is a total triumph! I absolutely love it. I am AMAZED with the before and after (i also love that little slider thing you’ve got going on there!) Stunning photography and well written aswell. A+ for you Juan!!!! xx

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you for your comment, Melanie! To be honest, the room before was quite sad which adds to the dramatic makeover effect, haha. Painting has been the main difference. So happy to slowly be doing more DIY stuff. Next step, checking your “how to wallpaper” videos!

      Reply
  12. Lesley
    1 month ago

    Juan love it, the attention to detail is spot on the only thing you didn’t mention was the square lamp with detail where is that from? Fabulous job!

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you for your comment, Leslie! The square lamp is an old IKEA lamp (maybe more than 15 years), and I added a metal Barcelona skyline ornament on the bottom part. Glad you like it!

      Reply
  13. staylor
    1 month ago

    Hi Juan,

    its an incredible make over! Well done. Sorry if I’m being blind but I wanted to find out where you got the rug and couldn’t see it in the above post, would you mind letting me know?
    thank you!

    Sarah

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you for your comment, Sarah! I’m glad you like it. The rug is the IKEA Sanderum in white. But this colour is now discontinued. You still have the Sanderum in grey here. Hope it helps!

      Reply
  14. Marlene
    1 month ago

    The living room looks so fresh, modern and comfortable. I liked the slider too, really fun to play with this! Very nice details in this room indeed! Especially this black displayshelf on a white background, I love that!

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you for your comment, Marlene! The slider seems to be a favourite indeed. I’m glad you notice the small details as well.

      Reply
  15. Susan Earlam
    1 month ago

    When can I visit?! It’s stunning! So many elements I adore. Bravo!

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you for your comment, Susan! Glad you like it. You can pop in anytime. You’re always welcome 🙂

      Reply
  16. Fiona
    1 month ago

    I’ve been looking forward to seeing this and you’ve done such a great job. The living room looks so bright and stylish. I love the mix of mid century and contemporary furniture. Especially your armchairs. They are really lovely.

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you for your comment, Fiona! The armchairs are just lovely. Perfect for this small space, and much better than the old TV!

      Reply
  17. Donna Ford
    1 month ago

    Juan! Wow! What can I say. Amazing transformation – who cares how long it takes! totally worth it. Such a balance of colour, shape and texture and I feel it really embodies your natural style. I’m so glad you mentioned the star of the show because that print just makes the whole room. Well done, hope your enjoying it every day. Also I have everything crossed that we both get shortlisted so we can have a celebratory drink together. If we vote for each does that cancel each other out?! Donna x

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you for your comment, Donna! The print was the lightbulb moment I needed. It brought everything together nicely. I’ll be voting for you and I hope at least one of us small bloggers makes it to the shortlist.

      Reply
  18. Natalie Holden
    1 month ago

    I’m loving this so much! I love the colours, the varying heights, the contrast of old and new. It’s perfect x

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      1 month ago

      Thank you for your comment, Natalie! Mixing old and new definitely adds some charm to the space. So glad you like it!

      Reply
  19. Natalia Peel
    4 weeks ago

    Wow what a stunning living room! I love your clever mix of high-end and highstreet finds for a really personal style. Your use of paint, mirrors and lighting is super clever too!

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 weeks ago

      Thank you for your comment, Natalia! I’m glad you like the final result. It’s indeed a mixture of old and new.

      Reply
  20. Jenny Kakoudakis
    4 weeks ago

    i have never seen a room that I liked so much! Great photography but it’s the room that tells the story here.
    I cant decide which one is your piece de resistance! Love it all Boreal, a labour of love this room for sure!

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 weeks ago

      Thank you so much for your comment, Jenny! I struggled with the technical side of photography but I’m glad it looks OK now (just don’t zoom in, haha).

      Reply
  21. Sam | Dove Cottage Blog
    4 weeks ago

    What an amazing transformation! Well done you! I’m completely obsessed with the colour co-ordinated books too!

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 weeks ago

      Thank you for your comment, Sam! Because it’s a small home decor book collection I can go wild with the colour coordination. Now I need to find somewhere else to put the rest of the books!

      Reply
  22. Maria
    4 weeks ago

    Wowzers Juan! Absolutely adore everything about your living room makeover and your photography skills are to be admired too! This is my second time reading and pawing over this post 😉 You know you’ve got my vote and voted 😉

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 weeks ago

      Thank you for your comment and support, Maria! It really means a lot. So glad you enjoyed the makeover after months of waiting!

      Reply
  23. Stacey Sheppard
    4 weeks ago

    Juan, I’m actually speechless. Of course it’s not because I didn’t think you were capable but it’s just so unbelievably perfect. Every little detail has been so well thought out and planned and implemented. It all works so well together. The room isn’t actually that big is it? But the way you’ve done this makes it seem so much bigger and brighter and airier. The mirror placement is a touch of genius. Studying the light and taking your time has paid off big style. You must be so pleased. Ive got to say I love that little CD player. I wonder if I could sneak that in to my home past my husband? Its so small he may not notice lol.

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      4 weeks ago

      Thank you for your comment, Stacey! You’re right, he room is tiny. I encourage you to get that CD player. Wall-mounted stuff doesn’t count as clutter. That’s a rule, haha.

      Reply
  24. Rachel @ The Ordinary Lovely
    3 weeks ago

    Juan, this is a truly amazing transformation. I absolutely love it. And I think it’s brilliant that you’ve let the room evolve rather than rush it. It’s incredible and you must be so proud. P.S. I’ve had this post bookmarked to read for over a week now … children on summer holidays mean so much less reading, but it was so worth the wait, well done x

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      3 weeks ago

      Thank you so much for your comment, Rachel! I am indeed very happy with the result and so glad you like it too. Regarding bookmarked blog posts, I am the one who comments 6 weeks later, haha. Thanks again for checking it.

      Reply
  25. Milis
    2 days ago

    Juan te ha quedado genial la habitacion. Vaya cambio!!!!

    Reply
    1. Juan Sandiego
      2 days ago

      Gracias for comentar, Milis! Me alegro de que te guste. Ahora tendras que venir aqui a ver la habitation en persona.

      Reply

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