Series – What would you do? A Reader Needs Help!

I occasionally post about design dilemmas from readers, under this title.  May I involve you in the solution?  A reader wants your suggestions!  Ready for a challenge?

Lori is a friend from high school.  She lives in Houston with her husband and their three precious girls.   All of her girls have the initials TAM – because Lori and her husband graduated from Texas A&M.  Being a longhorn (which translates to college enemy), I may secretly wish their last name didn’t start with an “M” making this so easy for them.  No, really, I actually adore it.

Lori has a beautiful new home and needs help making the open plan on the bottom floor cohesive.  Her family room is more contemporary while her breakfast and dining areas are more country.  The color schemes are also quite different.  She needs help marrying the spaces.  And, is open to general decorating advice.  Below is a photo she sent.


Question from Lori:
How do I make the family room which is mostly black, red and white and a little contemporary go well with the breakfast and dining areas which currently have a different color scheme?  I don’t want to make any big changes like painting walls. Any suggestions?  I am also open to general decorating advice or tweaks that I can make.

Now for a tour of the space.

Here is her family room.  (Click on the photos for a larger image.)

lorifamily lorifam3


The family room is open to the kitchen/ breakfast area.

loirfamkitch lorikitchbreak

loribreakfast lorifamdining

The dining room is just down the hall off the entry.  It has the same paint color as the kitchen area and the same general feel.  She prefers the more contemporary feel or a blend of the two.

loridining loridining2


The low down from Lori:
- No painting walls.
- No new furniture other than maybe something simple or small like one chair or some storage cubes.  So, this means the sofas, chairs, tv, tables and all stay.
- Sofas are black.
- Must have this much seating in the family room.
- Is open to a new rug or changing up the color scheme.
- Open to changing curtains in the family room.  They are currently black.
- Cannot sew and doesn’t want a ton of diy projects if possible.
- Wants to add some warmth to the family room.
- Wants to add some sort of art over the tv to even out the heights on that wall.
- Cannot paint tables or china cabinet.  MAY be open to getting new pieces, but not for a while.
- Is willing to change out art/ buy new art.
- Is open to new pillows.
- Is open to a window seat and curtains in the breakfast and dining spaces.
- Is open to moving furniture.
- Is open to adding or changing accessories.
- Her husband is very practical and likes function over beauty, if he had to prioritize.

My suggestions:
She and I have talked about bringing red and black into other rooms, while softening and warming up the family room.  Here is a peek of a storyboard we threw together for the dining area.  This is just to get your wheels turning. I am convinced you may have some even better ideas or specific ideas for the other rooms!

Such a pretty house, huh?  What would you do within her parameters?   And, THEN, if you could do anything, what would you do?  Be as specific as possible.

This is a tough one! Remember, click on each photo to see a larger view.

Please leave a comment with your suggestions. Can’t wait to hear your ideas!


If you are interested in a design dilemma in your home to be featured in this series, please email me.


  1. Hmmm… initial thoughts: cushions on dining chairs and table runner that incorporate zebra and/or red and black and white. Slipcover the couches perhaps? (I didn’t see the idea of slipcovers addressed.) Some kind of coordinating curtains in both rooms. They don’t need to match, but complement each other.
    But I’m not an expert, so those are just my thoughts!

  2. But, I do LOVE the living room. Zebra print makes me swoon, especially with bold colors!

  3. Pretty rooms! My initial thought is to bring in some pops of color to the kitchen with red and black accents: like throws, art, pillows, floral, etc. I think the living room could use some pops of the wall color she has in the kitchen. It would be interesting to see what she does!

  4. You are right Kristy it is a great space so this is what I would do.

    1. Incorporate red in the kitchen/dining area.
    2. Incorporate tan-caramel color into the living room.
    3. Instead of lemons & limes maybe put red decorative balls or use round red platter.
    4. Inside the hutch I would put a few red goodies in there.
    5. The console table in the entry switch out the lampshades for red ones.
    6. Put the zebra rug in either the kitchen/dining (maybe).
    7. Put the plants into red flower pots.
    8. I would change the pillows to a red print instead of a solid.
    9. Purchase a larger rug for the entry with red in it.
    just a thought…..have a great day and have fun changing it up!!

    • I like this idea myself – I had not the faintest idea what she should do when I looked at the pictures :) But I think red would look really good with the caramel color she has in the kitchen and dining areas and it would be fairly easy to implement.

  5. The absolute easiest and cheapest thing to do would be to carry some of the pops of red into the breakfast, kitchen, and dining areas with a few carefully chosen accessories. I’m thinking a new lighting fixture over the breakfast nook, perhaps a drum shade with bits of red like this one. I’d also get simple white slipcovers and linens for the dining room and do a cool red vase centerpiece.

  6. i am going to ditto what has been said… i think the colors should be brought into the dining/kitchen area by cushions, accessories, or painting the dining set black. if she doesn’t want to change that area as much and is more focused on the family room, then i would change the rug, even though i love zebra, to something that encorporated black, red, and a tan. i also think throwing some tan pillows onto the couch would be nice, and maybe nixing the red completely or using it less. black and tan is a classic combination.

  7. What I would do is bring some of the bold colors of her living room into to the other area, and then bring in some browns and greens into the living room area. I loved someones idea for slipcovers for the sofas, and the idea for patterned pillows. I would also bring in some black and white patterned seat cushions for the chairs in the kitchen and or the dining room. I would bring in things with the modern clean lines into the rest of the house. for example, I would ditch the current center piece at the breakfast nook, and replace it with a square glass vase and put red apples in it or decor balls. For the dinning room table I would use three modern cube vases (at different heights) and put one flower in each, using the colors red, and white.

    Well these are just a few ideas. Most of the others have shared some of the same ideas that I would have shared anyway.
    I love her space btw!!!

  8. Great ideas! Keep them coming! And, now, you can comment on specific comments by hitting reply under them – so if you have feedback for a certain person, that’s perfect. Thanks so much.

    • Lori is actually out buying some of the things you suggested right now! She got red filler items for the vase, red win glasses and a lamp with a zebra shade for the entry. What other ideas do you have? I’m cool with you posting links to things as well. And, don’t forget to say what you’d do if there were no parameters!

  9. I haven read though all the comments so someone may have already suggested this. But what about painting the base of her kitchen table black and keeping the top wood-tone and either painting or changing out the chairs to black or even adding those gunmetal style chairs to mix things up. Of course your biggest impacts with the least amount of money is pillows and curtains. You can even buy rectangle table cloths from stores like TJMaxx and HomeGoods and use them as curtain panels -its a cheap and quick way to instill some color to a room.
    Great blog by the way- I just found you from Ala’mode . looking forward to reading more.
    Have a great day!

  10. If Lori isn’t into painting her furniture (which I think could look amazing in the mixture of wood with a charcoal grey almost black) then I think she needs to add some linens to her table to break up the solid wood of table, chairs, kitchen cabinets, dining table, and hutch, and similar colored walls. I also think she needs to bring a little more dimension into her black, red, and white color scheme she has going on in her family room. Perhaps some grey and white patterned pillows, or some more textures and patterns to further enhance the zebra print but not have it overly zebra-ish.. Perhaps this table cloth:

    And these pillows:

    Then add pops of red to the kitchen and center piece.

    I would also remove one of the red chairs from the family area as there seems to be too mcuh furniture in this space. Maybe add a functional coffee table that had plenty of storage for kiddo things. Then I would center the sofa directly across from the fireplace and love seat 90 degrees to it so it is actually floating on a diagnal against the window wall.

    The entry wall also looks like it would be an amazing space for a gallery wall.

    And I love the curtains Christy has already suggested.

    A beautiful space not far from being stunning.

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