decorating dilemma | joy’s family room

by | Apr 24, 2016 | All Things Home, Decorating, decorating dilemmas | 27 comments

I got a text a few nights ago.

Hey there! OK, decorating question…we have a big two-story family room with plenty of natural light. Everything is brown now and I want to lighten it up with some greige paint. But I have oak trim that my husband won’t let me paint. Do you have a favorite greige color that would go with oak?

Trying to think who in my life knows paint…

Oh, right….I know a professional paint enthusiast!!!”

This led to a lengthy virtual makeover through texts, pins and links.  I mean, how can I just pick a wall color and leave it at that?!

This ended up being a perfect space for me to share as a decorating dilemma post.

Here is the color palette and some ideas I put together for Joy’s space…

Joy's Room Collage

Here is the family room as it is now…


I love that there are kids loafing around.  Clearly, this has to be a comfy room that can stand up to kids, pets and a busy life.  It has to be functional.  But Joy wants it prettier, lighter, and she is over the rust, orange and beige color scheme.


Some things Joy wants for the space –

  • Old doors
  • found objects
  • farmhouse style
  • color palette of greige, red and pale turquoise
  • comfy, family-friendly
  • ideas to make the awkward fireplace feel less awkward

They plan to live in this house for the foreseeable future, so they are open to big changes when the time is right to tackle them and are also ready to dive into changes they can make right away.

I browsed around for a pretty gray-beige (aka “greige”) that will freshen up her expansive walls.  Wall color was the question that started all of this, after all, and I landed on Edgecomb Gray by Benjamin Moore.


Here’s how it looks in a room…  I like that it’s a very warm gray, but it’ll feel brighter than the current wall color.  I think it will play nice with warm and cool colors.


(source – Holly Mathis Interiors)

Originally, painting the trim was off the table.  I did a bit of digging as to why and it is not because of the trim, but because of the nice wood-framed windows.


No problem.

You can still paint the trim white and leave the windows wood.  I actually love how it looks like a mat and a frame for a picture.  I think it looks pretty sharp!



I’m not always about painting trim, but this trim looks dinky compared to those high ceilings and would look so much better if they were beefed up and scaled to the size of the room.  That’s easy to do by placing a small piece of trim a few inches above the baseboard and then painting the trim, baseboard, and the wall in between all the same color.

Since Joy wanted a new color palette that still included red, but also some cool colors like turquoise or light blue, I hunted for a rug that will tie those together.  It also has to be durable, because of the kids and pets.

I selected this one from Overstock


Safavieh Valencia Rug in Red

The style is fairly neutral and it pulls in all of the colors Joy wants to use in the space.  From there, I picked out some fabrics.  I looked for patterns that are casual, cheerful, and, of course, tied in with the color palette.


1 | Covington Barnegat Plaid Lobster

2 | Waverly Valentina/Circa Vapor

3 | Waverly Button Up Moonstone

4 | monogrammed antique hemp sheet

Now that we’ve got a wall color, a rug and fabric options, let’s talk about my ideas for the space.  Here’s what it looks like now…


…and my lovely little pencil sketch…


The biggest challenge is that wonky fireplace!  When Joy sent me the picture, I was about ready to type, “Who in the world thought that fireplace arrangement was a good idea!?”  But, then I realized it might be a custom-built home and Joy was the one who thought it was a good idea!  Well, she wasn’t and she hates it, too.

They do use the fireplace, though, so I wanted to figure out how to make more of a feature out of it.  After a few hours of pondering it, it finally hit me.  What makes it awkward isn’t so much that it’s not centered, but that what’s around it doesn’t feature it.  It detracts from it.  What about adding built-ins around the existing niches and a beam “mantle” that connects the fireplace with the niches/shelves?  A cabinet over the fireplace will provide closed storage and will take away the awkwardness of the off-centered recess.  Trim will even things out as well.

(The large “crockpot” (as Jeff called it) on the shelf next to the fireplace is actually Joy’s copper tub that’s on the plant shelf right now.  I do better with sketches than Photoshop, but sometimes copper tubs look like crockpots or antique sleds look like trashcans.)

Anyway, some other things I changed/added…

  • This room has huge ceilings, which means everything you put in the room immediately shrinks and looks dinky.  I want Joy to focus on fewer BIG things that will have a greater impact in the space than lots of little things.  One example is to use bigger lamps with large drum shades.
  • I could see all through the space that family is very important to Joy.  I suggested adding a large, custom painted “family” sign over the window to draw the eye up and add interest over the window.  (I totally didn’t ask her about this and may be putting her on the spot, but I would suggest contacting Susie Harris about a custom sign…)


(This is one she did for The Lettered Cottage.)

  • Move her antique mirror over the sideboard and surround it with found or collected family plates/china to beef it up.
  • Use just a few big pieces on the plant shelf, so they really make a statement.  I even like the idea of a cool vintage bike, farm implement, or antique salvage.
  • Joy wanted to bring in old doors and likes the idea of flanking the large window with them.  Again, they will have a bigger impact than a collection of small frames.  I envision painting (or finding) doors that are chippy turquoise/light blue, like these…


(photo source)

Here’s a look at the room from another angle…


I asked if Joy wanted to replace the furniture and, while she’s open to it, we both thought it looked fine and they could focus their decorating money other places.  I suggested turning the chairs in towards the sofa a bit more, to make it feel more conducive to conversations.  Right now, the chairs are all in a row, pointed at the TV, which would be good for a movie night or video game session, but it emphasizes the length of the room and the fact that there is a traffic path between the sofa and TV.


Angling the chairs in will make it feel more cozy.  I also think adding a comfy ottoman will anchor the seating arrangement.  A lightweight ottoman or one that is on casters would be ideal, so it’s easy to move for lounging on the floor, wrestling, etc.  (I have two boys, so I always think of how wrestle-friendly a coffee table is!)

I also drew in an oversized lidded basket as a side table on the right and a matching lamp.  Having a side table on both sides of the sofa is practical for snacks, drinks, remotes, etc. and it brings some symmetry to the arrangement, even though the chairs flanking the sofa are different.

I didn’t do a sketch for the TV wall, but I suggested adding oversized windmill wall art over the TV unit…


I found this one on Etsy and I think the price is reasonable and I like how large it is.  It definitely won’t look dinky!  (I’m even looking around my house wondering where I can put one of these!)


(source – weathered finished etsy shop)

And, if the shelves flanking the TV are just catch-alls, not really storage or intentional display, just remove them.  I think sometimes we use things a certain way, because that’s the way they are “supposed to be”, but they are not the most functional.  If Joy wants to keep them, I would style them with pretty books, magazines, baskets, antique items, etc. to make those shelves earn their keep.

As always, these are just some ideas and suggestions for the space.  They are meant to give Joy some options and then she can run with them in any way that works with her style, tastes and what will be functional for her family.

The day after Joy and I texted, she sent me pictures of a sample of Edgecomb Gray painted on the walls and said the painters are coming this week.  She’s clearly motivated and hopefully we’ll get updates!


  1. Lotte

    Joy, a lot of your framed family pictures would be displaced by bigger pieces. I agree that the proportions of bigger pieces will fit the room, so…have you thought of getting a big family portrait made, maybe casual to match the style of the room/family? You can have it mounted on a canvas, like a painting, and it wouldn’t even need a heavy frame. Good luck!

  2. Kim

    Oh yes, please share your updates with us Joy ! What an amazing space you have to work with. Can’t wait to see more ,thanks,kim

  3. Kaille

    Love the color palette you have chosen – so fresh!

  4. Ashley

    This may be way too involved or not feasible at all, depending on the size of the space, but in looking at the plant shelf, would there be a way to build a small loft area for your kids up there? My husband just build a small loft area in our living room where we had very high ceilings (wasted space), and it has been a marvelous game changer for our family. We call it the lego loft, and all the lego live up there, which is fabulous for this momma’s feet! We also put a few bean bags up there for reading, and it gives the kids their space to hang out in the same room with us.

  5. Marsha Kern

    I love this-you are so talented!!

  6. Arlene

    Great advice! I’m in love with windmills as wall decor, so this was right up my alley! The new configuration for the fireplace wall will make a huge difference.

  7. Jennifer

    I really like that weather windmill and the red/turquoise accents. Great job, Marian!

  8. Lisa Nash

    I just had most of the interior of my house painted in Edgecomb Gray – great choice! I love this colour! I had my powder room painted in Revere Pewter, which looks wonderful as well. I can’t wait to see Joy’s family room completed!

  9. Carla

    I love the fabrics you chose Marian.

  10. Kathleen W.

    Great color palette ! I have been thinking about a new interior color, will have to check out Edgecomb Gray.

  11. Amy K

    Great ideas Marian! I think I just saw someone else out there in blog land with a DIY windmill. I’m thinking it was Craftberry Bush. She might want to check there for instructions.

  12. MCM

    I do love your plan, but wondered if you considered a different furniture arrangement? I would like to see the couch and chairs positioned so that people could see out the window, view the fireplace and TV. It would not be perfect, because that fire place is wonky, but it would be interesting to come up with a design that had the TV on the fireplace wall – perhaps above it? That big TV piece doesn’t seem to leverage the space it takes up. On that wall you could use the windmill piece and maybe some other larger scale pieces, or rustic large shelves or even a desk.

  13. Ruth

    I’d like the tv over the fireplace also and turn the room to enjoy both and the outside.

  14. Ruth

    I love reading everyone’s ideas for this space! I, too, have a husband who doesn’t want our oak trim painted. And even though we have six sets of six-foot sliders on our main level, the house remains dark because the entire ceiling is oak. I know that painting our trim and ceiling would work wonders, but don’t know how to convince my husband. Anyway, great job, Marian!

  15. Sheila

    What is it with men and wood? If you were talking about old moldings in an antique house, I’d understand not painting it but that looks like bottom of the barrel, builder grade molding. Paint those suckers.

  16. Diane

    I Love your ideas, Marion! Please keep us posted as Joy makes the changes!

  17. Jenni

    I really enjoyed this discussion. I have the same issue with the trim, and have thought about beefing it up and painting it white. We also have a lovely wood patio sliding door which I would not want to paint, but I DO want to paint the trim around it white. I look forward to seeing the changes she’s made!

    In the meantime, back to de-upholstering our sofa – I am almost down to the very last few staples!

  18. Alison G

    Really great post. These decorating dilemma post’s are my favorite. You do great work and have wonderful vision and ideas. Your sketches are good. Is there anything you are not good at? You sing, sew, upholster, draw, paint, write, decorate, stylist, photographer. I am sure I have missed something. You are a talented gal for sure. I am envious.

  19. shouser

    I would rework the fireplace area and large top area so that the TV would be where the mirror is above the fireplace use a beam fir a mantal etc etc. The wall where the TV is now place windmill. Move the furniture to face the fireplace and TV room. Replace the big window with French doors to the outside hopefully it is ground floor flank the new french doors with rustic doors with half barn hardware. And put small pop lights in high ceiling . Love the color pallet

  20. Linda Greiss

    I really enjoyed this post! Thanks for sharing such wonderful ideas and details with photos!

  21. Cathi

    Joy is so lucky to have Marion’s suggestions! We are redoing our backyard and I am struggling terribly how to design/decorate. You are welcome to message me too ? I do think I will order the windmill for my backyard for sure!

  22. Naomi S.

    I was thinking the same thing MCM suggested in her comment. It seems a waste to have that fireplace and not have a way to gather around it comfortably. Plus, like MCM noted, the view from the large windows is wasted, also. Yes, I think turning the furniture around to face the fireplace wall would be good. I was thinking that the wall the TV is on now could have a “game table” with chairs or a lamp and a couple comfy chairs for reading or conversation. Just some ideas. Hard to suggest without being in the room and getting a sense of its actual space and size plus the feeling of its energy. It will be fun to get Joy’s updates and watch it all come together.

  23. Kim

    Joy, run-don’t walk- to Lucketts Market and buy the Schwinn with that darling basket to display in your plant shelf!!!

  24. Charlotte

    Also love the ideas — especially the windmill art. Like the paint color, but I’ve used Sherwin Williams’ Maison Blanche which is similar.

  25. Pam

    I agree with several other commenters that the TV belongs over the fireplace on that long shelf, and all the components on the smaller shelves below. The room needs to be re-oriented in that direction. They would have a great view of the TV, and be able to enjoy the view out the big windows also. It would help greatly with sun glare on the TV also. I would possibly put the sofa on the wall where the TV is now, and put 2 comfy chairs in an L shape facing the TV. That way the room functions as more than just a TV spot. The color scheme is really bright and happy, love red and gray!

  26. liz

    You have such a great eye. I love your ideas and would like to text you for help with my humble cottage! thank you for all of your inspiration.

  27. Susan

    LOVE LOVE LOVE these kind of posts, Marian! I wish this were a weekly feature. Too bad you already have a thriving business (ha!) because you could become an online consultant. Everything you suggested for Joy is spot-on. Have fun with it, Joy, and please share after pix.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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