Decorating Dilemma

decorating question  

If you have a Decorating Dilemma, put your question in writing by commenting below.  Tell me about the room in question and I’ll reply with some free advice.   

If your Decorating Dilemma is more complicated and you need further advice, I may need to see photos of the room.  In that case, I do offer virtual consultations for a small fee.  Contact me for more information.

Jill Denton


46 responses to “Decorating Dilemma

  1. Tamarraw Womack

    I just got a new house. Tthe family room is rectangular with the fireplace centered and the built in Tv/Entertainment area to the left of it when facing it head on. So basically the TV is up against the south east corner of the room. I have an L-shape sectional and I’m totally lost when it comes to furniture placement. currently it seems as if everything is at one end of the room. Please help.

  2. The key to arranging furniture in a rectangular shaped room is to divide the space into two areas. Do not divide the room in half, instead divide it into a 3/4 a 1/4 sized sections. The 3/4 section will be the main living space. Ideally it will have the fireplace, sectional and entertainment center there. If everything is already on one side of the room, you may have already filled the 3/4 space. Now you need to give the remaining 1/4 of the room a purpose. Think about how you would like to use the space. Maybe you could try a small table and chairs (for playing games, homework, doing art, etc), or try a second seating area or reading area with a couple of chairs. Can you email me a photo, so I can see the room? I’d like to see location of windows, doorways… then I’ll be able to give you some more ideas.

  3. My dining room meets the hallway into the bedrooms at a sharp corner. My dining room is a a terra cotta. What color should I paint this short dark hallway?

  4. I ‘d love to see a photo of your dining room/hallway, but here’s what comes off the top of my head.
    1. Continue the terra cotta. We don’t spend time in hallways, we just walk through them. Keeping it the same color as the dining room It will create flow.
    2. Paint one wall (the one that connects with the dining room) terra cotta and the other wall a neutral color.
    3. If the “dark” hallway bothers you and you’re concerned about painting any terra cotta. I would go with a neutral color. If you already use a neutral color in your home repeat it.
    4. If your home is filled with color … try a warm Dijon mustard.

    or you could even try adding a mirror or two to the hallway, add a light fixture or even a solar tube.

    Let me know what you decide to do.

  5. Our family room is in the middle of the house with a sloped ceiling that extends from the second floor balcony down to a height of about 12′ on the fireplace focal point wall. The floor space is
    17′ x 21′ with a pathway taking up about 4′ under the balcony area. This leaves a usable space of 17′ x 17′ . One thing we’re having difficulty with is deciding on furniture to put our 42″ plazma on. We have looked at plazma entertainment units that typically have a 22″ deep console base and a hutch with bookcases that are about 18″ deep and a total height from 55 to 78 inches. When we taped it off in the room, we think it will be too heavy a peice. We really like the idea of just a console, but then the height of the room makes us wonder how we could treat the surrounding space without it looking tacky. If we don’t treat it at all, it won’t look like it belongs. So how do we choose the right size, scale and look for our room when it comes to entertainment furniture? Thanks for your help!

  6. Jengi,
    Thank you for asking. It sounds like you’ve got a lot of angles going on it that room. Are you planning on putting the flat panel on the fireplace (lowest) ceiling point or on another wall?

    Is the layout set in stone or are you flexible?

    You can mount the flat panel on the wall and eliminate the 18″ deep sticking out from the wall. Simple, clean with a console below for your components.

    I have questions … so yo truly understand what’s going on, I’d need to see a photo. Please contact me again and include your email address.

  7. I don’t know how to choose one color from another. My Husband and I are redoing out bedroom. I like colors that are brown , orange, some yellows, tan, and burgandy . I have no idea what colors would look good with these colors. What color should I paint my ceiling and walls. I know that a small room needs a light color for the ceiling. I know that If I want to make a room look small I need to paint the ceiling a darker color. I don;t like white walls. I like terra cotta .The rooms we are painting are small rooms. I don’t like flowers, country, or girly colors. I like most of all a room to look like Old World. Can you give me some suggestions?
    Thank you

  8. Hi Alice,
    As I mentioned in several of my articles on color – lighting is key! What looks good in one home, may or may not look good in another. I guess that’s why there are soooooooo many colors to choose from, so you can get the right color for your home.

    A great place to start is with the colors you love/mentioned. It’s really hard without seeing the rooms in person. However, keep in mind the darker the color and more INTENSE the room will be. Therefore you need to be really committed to paint a color like one you mentioned, burgundy. Because you have to go all the way … if you don’t you end up with a shade of pink. Make sense?

    If you like the old world look, try a warm neutral (a tanish color with a little bit of burnt umber could be nice) or if you’re really looking for old world, try fauxing.

    As far as your ceiling goes, here are a couple of basic tips. If your ceiling is low, paint it a pale blue and it will appear taller. If your room is a little dark, try painting it a pale yellow to give a sun like glow to the room. If you choose a warm neutral for the walls, you could try a cream instead of a white. I know, it’s not much of a stretch, but it will look better than the contrast of a white ceiling.

    Let me know if you have any further questions. And remember, you can always hire a professional, like me, to come to your home for a color consultation. On average it takes about 1-2-3 hours do select colors for a home and it’s done. Don’t wait, start enjoying your home ASAP!

  9. Jill
    We are completing the inside of a condo which is being finished wwith traditional crown moulding, and cream colored traditional cabinetry.
    My dilemma is that I can’t seem to find traditional furniture that is done in light wood. Everything is dark which I dont want.
    Why is it presumed that we all want dark contemporary furniture?
    Is there somewhere I can look for light wood?
    I would also like a glass topped rectangular dining room table with a traditional light colored wood bottom or perhaps a glass bottom. It can’t be 84″ long as I haven’t got the space. 70″ would be great.
    If you have any suggestions it would be most helpful as I’m getting very discouraged at this point.

  10. I have med. oak woodwork, same color hardwood floors in our bedroom. Our furnitue is a med.brown wood. I have choosen an Amazon Moss for the walls. I have an area rug with red,green,blue and different shades of beiges and tans. What colors do I choose for bedspread,curtains and asessories? I was thinking of bringing in some blues and different shade of green than the walls. Thanks for any help you can give me Jean

  11. i have a open concept living/kitchen dining room area. my living room and kitchen/dining room share a large wall. right now my living room is red and the kitchen area is a golden yellow but this is separated by a line on the wall dividing the two colors (which looks odd!). I was thinking about painting the large wall a chocolate brown and the rest of the living room a greenish blue color. my couch is a light yellow. are these colors appropriate? what color should i paint the kitchen?

  12. My husband and I are remodeling our kitchen. We have light oak cabinets, with a granite-look counter top in grays, tans, and browns. My husband suggested a red accent on the bulkhead.

    Just wanted someone else’s opinion. I’m liking it. He thought it would pop. ?

  13. Mel,
    Without seeing your rooms it’s hard to say for sure, but here are some ideas that may help you.

    All colors are beautiful … it’s just about finding the right shade. I have a over 100 shades of white alone! To make it easier on you, go out and find some fabric (pillow, window treatment, pure fabric) that has all of the colors you’re thinking about and like. Then you can match the paint color to the fabric. And if you’re lucky enough to find a pillow with all three colors, it/they will create a nice connection between the colors.

    On a side note. If you end up with that line between the living room and kitchen, be creative! Here an ideas: paint a white strip; as if it were a piece of molding (probably you have some white trim [baseboards, doors, window sills] that are also white) visually it will divide the space.

    Best of luck,

  14. Sue,
    I believe everyone should paint their home in the colors they love! It’s hard for me to say without seeing your home, but I can suggest you get some sample colors and do a test. Kelly Moore for example can order 8.5 x 11 size color sample sheets. They cost a couple of dollars but make it much easier to select the right shade of red. And reds can be hard for most to choose. If you go for a lighter red, you get pink … and full reds can have many undertones: orange, black, brown, cherry, etc. You can also purchase sample size paints or quarts and paint on sample boards before to commit to a wall. Once you paint a wall red to repaint you’ll also need a good primer to cover the red … so I highly recommend samples to get the right shade the first time.
    I hope this helps,

  15. Hi Jill…I have a darker terracotta power room that I just painted I love the color but have absolutely no idea how to decorate it. I have just the standard golden oak vanity with cream countertops. I also have new marmoleum that is cream, with some terracotta and light blue colors in the floor. I assume something lighter in color like cream or tan for towels…but have no idea about pictures or other accessories to add. Thanks for your help. Krista

  16. Hi Krista,
    It’s hard to say for sure without seeing the powder room, but maybe some of these ideas will help you.

    You can’t go wrong with cream like towels, but since you have some blue in your floor I would look at adding some blue. The contrast of the blue with the terracotta can make it pop! Still add the cream, but use the blue as the third accent colors. As far as art goes, buy something you love. Just because it’s a bathroom doesn’t mean you have to hand “bathroom art”. With the beautiful warm terracotta, I’d suggest some art with that same warm feeling. If it is a bathroom where you use the shower the moisture can affect the art over time.

    Another thought … did you paint the ceiling? A blue ceiling could look fantastic.
    I hope this helped,

  17. jean pinnegar

    i would like some ideas on how to update my kitchen cabinets without spending a fortune. they are 35 years old and or made of birch wood. they have been varnished.

  18. Without seeing your kitchen, I can only speculate what could be done to update your kitchen but here are a couple things that come to mind.
    1. Paint. You mentioned they are varnished, so that would probably need to be sanded down, primed and then painted. Paint is the most affordable way to update a kitchen. And if you can do the work yourself, it is very cost effective.
    2. If your cabinets are plain, you could add some molding to give them more interest. Stain and varnish to match.

    Otherwise you’re looking at re-facing or a remodel.
    Best of luck!

  19. I need some advice on painting. I have an open concept living, dining and kitchen area. The living room has a cake box ceiling which makes me want to paint the ceiling in a similar color as the walls and then the cake box part in a different shade or another color in the same family (I’m leaning toward greens). I also wanted to paint at least one wall of the kitchen/ dining area a different color than the living room. Is there a way to do this given that I want to paint the ceiling or should I just choose one or the other? I.e. paint the ceilings or paint the kitchen/dining area walls a different color. I had thought about installing a beam or something similar between the “rooms” to give some distinction to the separate areas. Would that work?

  20. Nurhan Jaigirdar

    hi Jill,
    I have a room which is really small in size and is currently painted offwhite….as a 20 year old, i would like to make my room more lively and young but people say painting it with dark colours tend to make room smaller and on the other side painting it with lighter shades might just look ordinary and all the same..can you please suggest which colour i should prefer? i would also like to mention that i am a girl and hence would want something that would suit my cheerful character…

  21. Hello Nurhan,
    I hate to say it but don’t listen to your friends unless you have the SAME style and you LOVE what they’ve done to their place. Color is very personal. First of all select 1,2 or 3 basic colors that you’d like to paint a room. Then you need to either get a color consulation or go pick up a ton a paint swatches. Each color will look different in each room and from home to home. You’ll quickly find ones you don’t like, and just keep narrowing the field. You can purchase a quart or sample of the paint, buy a poster sixe piece of wall board from a home store and try it.

    One suggestion, go for colors you love, if bold just try to find bold colors that are more muted. This will give you more depth. Try painting the ceiling a pale blue to make the ceilings appear taller too.
    Good luck!

  22. We are building our new house. The style is Italian/mediterrean and are open to suggestions. We have a court yard at the entrance of the house that is high ceiing and we are going to have a water wall. The main door is from Morrocan.Do you have any photographs/suggestion on how to do this ceiling. We want something dramatic. Also any ideas for the water wall.

    Thanks so much!

  23. Hi Jill
    Me and my boyfriend just bought a house, but we are having trouble selecting a paint color and decorating ideas for our room. we have dark reddish furniture. We like darker colors but also want some color. We like browns, darker reds, dark greens. Our style, well we dont really have one. please help!

  24. Hi Jessica,
    I would love to help, but without seeing it in person I can only generalize.

    I say go for the colors you love! Find something (a pillow, bedding, artwork …) something that has the colors you love. If you already own it – even better. See if it goes with what you have in the room (unless you plan on replacing everything you want it to go with what you own). Then either try to match that color to paint (hard to do without having all the colors come to your home. Remember, lighting is key!) Or take your color inspiration down to be color matched.

    If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, go to a big home store and pick up a poster sized piece of wall board. Pick one or two and paint them. The beauty of the board is you don’t have to live with paint swatches all over your walls. If you’re going to do it yourself, it’s a bit of trial and error.

    To make easy and get right to the colors, I recommend you get a color consultation, it’s fun too.
    Best of luck!

    p.s. Don’t listen to your family or friends UNLESS you LOVE what they’ve done to their home.

  25. Hi Jill,
    I just happened across your website while searching ideas for decorating. My family room is a huge problem. It is the typical rectange, fireplace on the short wall. One long wall is a blank 2 story wall. My furniture just looks like it has been dumped there. If I bring them away from the walls, it does not look right. Worse yet is the lack of shelving to put any homey touches around. I love contemporary and modern looks. I would appreciate any hints you can give me to get me off and running.

  26. Hi Maria,
    I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to reply, but business is good. Without seeing the room I can only guess, but maybe this will help.

    The most important thing to remember in a rectangular shaped room is to set up TWO areas for living. Cut the room into to sections (3/4 of the room) and (1/4 of the room) use the 3/4 for the major living section and set up the 1/4 as a secondary seating area, with a game table, a piano … I think you get the idea.

    As far as your big wall goes, well big walls need big art. You don’t necessarily have to go all the way up, it’s okay to keep the eye down where the living is going on, just be sure the pieces are big. You could even try topping a piece of big piece of art with a shelf approximately the same width and then add some decorative touches to the shelf.

    Floating furniture. I love it! But the room needs to be very big to really make it look good. Sometimes you only need to float one piece. Don’t give up! Keep rearranging. Call some friends over (ones whose homes you love) and try all the ideas!
    I hope this helps,

  27. hi there Jill,

    My husband and I just bought a new house. I’m tearing my brains on how to decorate and model our house, especially the L-shape dining/living area. I dont even know where to start!!

    We just got married and we plan to start a family. I love those romantic/burlesque/neo/modern-french or modern retro looks but i feel that it wont be baby-friendly. We do expect entertaining guests a lot and eating in would be quite an event so I also want the space to be functional as it is beautiful.

    Help!! Here the layout of my living/dining area

    thanks Jill!

  28. HI Jill! Please help! My husband and I bought an L shaped sectioanl sofa a couple of years ago, and it is just too large for the area! We just loved it at first, but soon realized it was too big for our sitting room. It is a very pretty shade of pale yellow in canvas linen. We just hate to ahve to purchase something new, and wonder how we can separate it so we could at least use some of it! The problem is this… is L shaped and is in two separate pieces, but…..if we try to separate the two pieces, one of the ends has no Arm end and it looks weird on that end with no arm rest. Any ideas on a resolution to this, and what we could do to utilize this piece of furniture! Thanks for any advice or tips! or pictures!!! sincerely, Annie

  29. please could you help me im 13 years old and i love bright bold coloures like green orange red ect
    but my room is small and dark and my mum wants me to have warm coloures could you suggest any that would suite me and my mum thx

    • My best advise for you is to go shopping for or select something you already LOVE that has one, two or three of the colors you and your both will both like. Be sure to choose ONE item has ALL the colors in it. Then use one for the walls, one for the ceiling and one for an accent color. You the lighest color on the ceiling. (I like blues because they make the space fell taller and look like sky, yellow because it can brighten up a dark space and it feels like the sun). Use the brightest color as your accent color and spalsh around the room with art, pillows, lamps, etc. The thrid color (the one you want the most of) goes on the walls.

      Another idea, take the ceiling color down onto ONE wall (the most important wall – probably the one your bed will be on). This can also help make a space fell bigger.

      There are thousands of colors out there. If you can, I recommend a color consulataion, if not it’s trial and error. Finding that one peice that you love can really help in choosing the right colors and looking at magazines is another tried and true way to explore color.
      Best of luck!

  30. i’m doing a project in school about how the enviroment and our surroundings have an affect on peoples mood and behavior. do you have any information or good web sites that i could use?

  31. Tracy McFadden

    I have 20X20 living room with golden oak pcture-frame paneling and high ceiilng. I also have old builder’s beige carpet. I would like to remove the carpet and put in something besides carpet and use area rugs. I like wood / laminate, but don’t want to feel like I am living in a wooden box. My husband does not want to paint the paneling because he likes it. The paneling makes the room dark, so I don’t want to make it darker with the floor. Any suggestions?

    Thank you,

    • Hello Tracy,
      If your husband is not willing to remove or paint the old school paneling, then you’ll have to work it into the design. And you’re right, hardwood on the floor and the walls wouldn’t look or feel very good. That leaves you carpet or tile. Tile gives you the opportunity to add rugs and achieve the kinda of look you want.

      Can you talk him into painting a couple of walls? Maybe a compromise will work for both of you and then you can get what ever flooring you want.
      Best of luck,

  32. Hi Jill,
    I have a definite decorating dilemma. I live in a small century home where the front door opens directly into the small (12×12) living room. There really isn’t room to create a hallway using my couch, or by using a divider, are there other layout strategies that would work?


    • Hi Laura,
      It’s so hard to say with out seeing the layout of the room. Where is the door? Windows? Other doorways? Fireplace? If you can give me a little more details I will try to help. Jill

  33. Jill…probably a common dillemma, but here goes;
    recently purchased a 100 year old small dutch colonial which i am completely renovating. it has beautifull light oak woodwork which has not been molested and is amazing…the oak floor have been covered with carpet for the past 70 years and does require rehab…i know i can’t match the oak trim so what is your recommendation related to floor stain color…each room has large entry from adjoining room with this great woodwork the rooms are 15×15 12×12 and 11×11 that will be rehabbed..wall colors can be any color, because stripping house to the bones and new drywall to be hung.

  34. Hi Jill, My husband & I bought a home last year that was built in 1928. There is a door or window on every wall. In our bedroom, the only wall we could put our king size bed has a door that impedes on where a headboard should be by 1/4 of the bed. I have entertained several things but nothing seems to be going together for me. Any suggestions are welcome! I am not opposed to recycled things ie: old door etc. Thank you! I could take a photo if you need one.

    • Hi Cris,
      Older homes are full of charm but were not built for king sized beds. That being said, with a little creativity, we can come up with a resolution.

      Without seeing the home, I can just give you an ideas that may work for your space. Here’s what comes to mind. Start by putting headboard on a window wall, where you can fully open the door. Then PRETEND that entire wall is a window and hang drapery across the entire wall! It will give the illusion of window, balance the room, make your bed look like it belongs and look very rich! Be generous with the fabric! Another option, depending on where the window is located on the wall, you may also be able to use the same concept by creating a fake window, the same size of the real one, with drapery, again balancing out the wall. Make sense?

  35. I just moved into a home (renting) with a very frustrating living room lay out. There are two main walls, a fireplace and a built in wall space for an entertainment center. The fireplace is not centered, it’s next to the built in wall (right side of room) The largest wall faces the kitchen (middle of room) with a door to the left (leads to backyard). Hallway runs in between right wall and main wall. The second wall (left side of room) has two windows with a space in between large enough for a couch. However, remember the backyard door is between these two walls. I am very frustrated because I can’t even use the built in wall for an entertainment ctr or armoire, because it’s not even centered and watching television there is VERY awkward. What can I do?? Please help!!!

  36. Hi Jill, I purchase a new home and I am in the process of decorating the living room, it’s a large rectangular room, 30′ x20′, with one large window and a tall corner fireplace on the same wall… I am having a difficult time trying to arrange the furniture in this room. I have tried creating to sitting areas but nothing seems to look right. My furniture is Brown and the walls are a butterscotch color and the floors are dark hard wood. HELP!!!

    • Hi Monica,
      It’s so hard to say without seeing the space and I do not understand the layout. Please tell me from the point of entry. Standing as you enter the room, straight head is the a wall with ______, the right wall has _____, etc. Please include the basic size of the room as well and I will do my best to help!

    • Hi Evelyn,
      I always have to start by saying without seeing the room I can only give you some basic suggestions that I hope will help. Search my article on this blog about arranging furniture in a rectangular shaped room. That may help, but with a corner fireplace, we’ll have to adjust the ideas.

      The fireplace is the focal point of the room. Have you tried placing furniture around the fireplace? You can also try looking at the fireplace and window as ONE and place the furnishings around that again as one unit.

      The key with a rectanglular shaped room is to divide the space into approx 2/3 and 1/3. 2/3 is the living space and the 1/3 is a piano, a game table, a reading nook, whatever it is that you and your family enjoying doing.

      I really do want to help and have just decided to start offering on-line consultattions. You send me photos and measurements and I’ll send you more concrete ideas!
      Good luck!

  37. I have a white stuccoed ceiling in my dining room/kitchen. I would like to do something interesting with it,using paint. The walls are green, and there are Colonial moldings (white) all around. Any ideas?

    • It’s so hard to say without seeing the room, but I can say … do something! Nothing more boring than a white ceiling! Go with the style of the home and embellish the ceiling! Depending on how artistic you are it could be a simple blue ceiling to make the ceiling recede, yellow to brighten the room … or a piece of art. Just go for it! Worst case scenario, you have to paint over and try again. Be creative!

  38. Jill, my husband and I have nearly completed a fairly large basement family room that is rectangular in shape. Stairs come down into the middle of the room. Off the bottom left corner of the room is a hallway leading to a bathroom. In the lower right corner of this room is a small stand alone gas stove. There will be a flat screen TV on the wall on the right side of the room where the gas stove is in the corner. Other than that, the room is all open. We entertain frequently so lots of seating area is needed. How do we furnish this room with lots of seating but not getting that cluttered furniture look. Thanks so much Jill. Perplexed Valerie

    • Hi Valerie,
      Without seeing the room, I can only advise that you keep it simple. Do not repeat the furniture over and over, but get pieces that coordinate. Keep the style and fabric simple so you can in essence rearrange the furniture from one area to another. Try to choose pieces that can have more than one function. For example, a cushy ottoman can double as additional seating.
      Best of luck!

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