Emily writes:

Hi AB,

I got over-enthusiastic about painting when we bought our house and somehow my living room turned into a Taqueria. And while I love tacos, I'm not sure I need any help with thinking about them 24/7. I'm trying to figure out what color to paint this room and would love to paint it white so as to be able to switch art/colors/pillows etc more easily, but it doesn't get very much light (it has a big window but the window is covered by a porch overhang and then a big tree and I have a sinking feeling that white wouldn't work. Like it would look like crazy-insane-asylum at night.)

The room opens up to our dining room which has wood paneling the same color as the floor and the entryway (that orange splotch to the left). It doesn't have to stay orange. All my friends and family are enamored of the taqueria look and refuse to help me pick a new color.

Like Chao Camp, our home is headquarters to lots of parties and gatherings so we like things to feel fun and cozy.

Feel free to share rug suggestions if you are feeling generous.  Obviously we need one, but I'm paralyzed by indecision/the reality of managing a rug with a toddler and a puppy. Actually feel free to share any suggestions at all if you are feeling compassionate!



PS. Living Room-Current colors are BM Blushing Red and BM Lavender-Blue. Please ignore embarrassing coffee table/stroller combo in front of the fireplace. We moved it there temporarily to thwart our toddler.

Hi Emily,

Your house is adorable! I can tell you've done a bunch of work on it already. I love the way you did your gallery wall -- the spacing is perfect! What you need now are a few luxe touches to glam it up, and a couple of textural items to warm it up.

Let's talk about the fireplace picture first. I definitely think the red has got to go, and since it's such a small space, you should be able to splash out on some fabulous wallpaper, even if you're on a budget. You also need some lighting over there, ideally in the form of sconces. Now, do not be afraid of sconces -- many of them come with plugs and cord covers. However, if you call an electrician to come and give you an estimate of how much it would cost to hard-wire the fixtures, I think you'll be surprised at how little it will set you back -- especially if you have outlets sharing the same wall as where you want the lights to go.

I also think you could not go wrong painting the other walls white. I really don't know why people are scared of it, since it makes everything look fresh and clean and modern, and -- as long as you have a warm enough white -- not like an insane asylum. My favorite white ever is Super White by Benjamin Moore. It's very white, but warm enough to look great both day or night. Go over and get a sample, paint a big swatch on the wall, and live with it a few days if you're worried.

So, I have given you a couple of different options for your fireplace wall. I've broken the combinations into high and low, just for fun and so you can see how great design doesn't have to cost a million dollars. Here is the first high/low combo:

I love this wallpaper designed by the darling Oh Joy. It's metallic and cream, which will add a little glamour to your room without being too over-the-top. The design is organic, yet restrained, which I really love and feel will be great for your living room. The sconce is a polished silver (glam!) with a classic cream shade edged in silver. The mirror is 34" in diameter, a perfect size for your space. (You'd put a sconce on either side of the mirror, still within the mantel's width or maybe just outside.) Now let's look at the LOW version.

Here we have that workhorse of textures, a grasscloth wallpaper. If you don't like the color, it's OK because grasscloth comes in just about every color you can imagine -- and it's way inexpensive. It's a great way to add elegance and texture to a room without spending a fortune. The sconce is from Laura Ashley and is a great alternative to the Circa Lighting sconce. Classic, plain, silver, BAM.

Are you tired of sunburst mirrors? I'm not. They are great under the right circumstances, and this one is pretty awesome for $80. It is also 34" in diameter.

Oh, what. You want some color? OK. Let's go.

I notice that you have several red accents in your living room, which makes me so happy, because I am in total agreement with Albert Hadley, who said every room should have a touch of red. This lacquered mirror is super red hot shiny awesomeness. Dimensions are 21" x 35". Also, the mirror is made by Howard Elliot and not Harold Miller. I don't know what happened when I wrote that. I do not even know a Harold Miller. However, it is pretty pricy, so let's look at another option. Hello, LOW.

Same grasscloth, same sconce, with the addition of a fabulous red capiz mirror. This mirror's diameter is also 34".

Any of these things could be mixed and matched, of course. I would enjoy seeing the Oh Joy wallpaper with the Laura sconce and the red Pier 1 mirror, myself.  But let's talk about other options, and the rest of the room. What if you decide you are super hating on sconces, and you want a lamp to go on each side of your mantel? And what of a new rug for under the coffee table? Perhaps a new light fixture to replace your track lighting? Please see below.

Fun yellow lights flanking the mantel, a flush mount light for the ceiling, and a super comfy shaggy rug near the sofa for delicate baby knees. There, you're done. Oh wait, one more thing. Let's re-upholster those awesome chairs you have. Do you know how much it costs to re-upholster a chair? A lot, right? NO! Not a lot, especially if you buy a few yards of affordable fabric. How about one of these?

Yes, I think those will do nicely. (My favorite is the houndstooth.) Have it corded in a contrasting color -- and if your upholsterer says that will be extra, call someone else.

I hope that helped, Emily! And I hope that you will do everything I said and then write me back and send "after" pictures.

To all of my other readers: Do YOU have a question? Maybe I can help. Send an email with a photo to abchao@hashai.com. Subject line "Help me, AB Chao!" A photo is required, so don't be forgetting that part.

AuthorAB Chao