Dark living room

Before: A Musty Mess

The dark mantle on this fireplace was too heavy for the small space, and the low ceilings contributed to the room's cavelike atmosphere.

Wicker chairs with blue, white, and yellow cushions
Terry Pommett

After: Bright White

A simple hearth inlaid with wave-motif tiles is a more appropriate scale for the room. New windows flank the fireplace and allow in plenty of natural light, while a coffered ceiling gives the illusion of additional height. Oversize wicker chairs arranged in a pinwheel are just right for both lounging and entertaining.

Tip: Add windows and doors to let in light and open the house to the outdoors.

Uninviting patio furniture

Before: Uninviting Porch

This condo patio had fantastic ocean views, but no charm.

Wicker furniture and beach-theme accessories
Colleen Duffley

After: Cozy Spot for Coffee

Turning the concrete terrace into an outdoor room, complete with tile floors and weather-resistant furniture, expanded the condo's living space.

Tip: When updating a space filled with standard builder's materials, replace them to achieve a custom look. If the property is coastal, durable surfaces, such as stone and hardwoods, will stand up to wet towels and sandy feet.

Dark wood-filled living room

Before: Darkness Prevailed

Dark wood trim and ceiling beams and a slippery tile floor didn't suit the needs or the aesthetic of this coastal cottage.

White sofa with red pillows
Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

After: Open to the Sea

A coat of white paint on the ceiling beams lightened the space dramatically. New, retractable doors open the room to the lawn and sea beyond, and give prime-time shows stiff competition. Plush chenille upholsters the sofa, and vibrant throw pillows offer color.

Replacing the tile with wood engineered to be moisture resistant makes the space safer for wet feet.

Room with a view

Before: Boring Bedroom

Lacking character, this condo bedroom inspired less-than-sweet dreams.

Neutral bedroom with a metal bed
Colleen Duffley

After: Inviting Slumber

Replacing the drywall with painted paneling gave this bedroom a dose of cottage style. Window treatments hung almost to the ceiling and a tall metal bed give the illusion of height and make the entire space seem larger. A simple, neutral color palette focuses attention on the view out the patio doors.

Dark entry and stair hall

Before: Drab Entry

This foyer and stair hall were less than welcoming. Dark wood on the stairs, floor, trim, and doors robbed the space of any natural light. Open shelving beneath the stairs invited clutter.

Bold blue rugs and bright, white walls
Terry Pommett

After: Bright and Welcoming

Several coats of white paint lightened the hallway dramatically, and a cheerful runner in the hall and on the stairs introduces color.

Clutter is now banished behind the closed doors of a piece of accent furniture. At the end of the hall, new French doors frame the view.

Dark dining room

Before: Closed-Off Kitchen

A wall between the kitchen and dining room wasn't ideal for the family-style entertaining favored by the homeowners.

Large dining area with purple hydrangeas
Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

After: An Open Space

Tripling the size of the archway opened the dining area to the sunny kitchen. A round table supplements the banquette and assorted stools, easily accomodating a crowd.

Sliding glass doors and white walls

Before: Plain Space

Standard-issue condo materials didn't create the beach-cottage feel the homeowner craved.

Neutral, beachy living room with natural materials
Colleen Duffley

After: Beachy Chic

Sea-grass carpet, wicker furniture, terra-cotta tiles, and plantation shutters (that slide back during the day to reveal a sunny terrace) make the space feel more like a home.

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