Skip Nav
The Real Housewives of Orange County
Heather Dubrow's New Mansion Will Knock Your Manolos Off
Affordable Decor
My Secret Source For Affordable Stoneware Dishes Isn't What You'd Expect
Flip or Flop's Christina Shares Her Brilliant Hack For Getting Expensive Kitchen Backsplash on a Budget

Ask Casa: Help With My New Living Room

Hi Casa,

I recently rented my first apartment and now I have to furnish and make it my own space. Eeek! I feel like I need some serious help. The apartment is not very big and I'm not allowed to paint the walls so they must remain white. Right now I'm focused on the living area. As of right now I have a couch, chair, and an accent table. I'm need of a coffee table, but I was thinking instead of going the table route, of doing a cocktail ottoman. I found one at Target, the Kerry Rectangle Ottoman, I thought might work well. If you could give me some pointers I would be truly grateful. I've included a picture so you can get some idea of what I'm working with. Thanks, xnieves

To hear my suggestions for xnieves,


Hi xnieves,

Thanks for writing in! How fun? Your first apartment! The space looks great. Your parquet floors are gorgeous, and that fireplace nook is great.

It's too bad you can't paint the walls, but you do have some alternatives. If you're allowed to, hang large-scale artwork to instantly bring color to the space. The wall above that fireplace is just begging for a big, bright painting. You can also hang textiles, tapestries, or curtains to bring in color. Another great trick is to wallpaper boards of plywood and just lean them against your walls — see what I mean here.


While I do like the idea of using an ottoman instead of a coffee table, I'm afraid it will be too hefty for this small space, especially in that dark brown color of the Kerry ottoman. If you really want one, I'd recommend getting two small ottoman cubes instead — something more like this. But honestly, I think the space would really benefit from a coffee table that's much lighter visually, such as a glass or Lucite one. For instance, the CB2 Smart Coffee Table ($199) would look great (and let those parquet floors peek through).

The biggest problem I see already here though is that you're headed in a very beige and brown direction, which is not very inspiring or intriguing. You need color in this space. I recommend adding colorful throw pillows to the couch, and maybe a small one to the chair as well. Since you can't paint the walls, your furnishings should take the lead on adding color and personality. You should also dress up that fireplace nook; read my post on Decorating a Nonworking Fireplace for ideas. Bring in color with accessories, too, such a candlesticks, books, vases, etc.

Hope that helps!


Join The Conversation
Monaco2279742 Monaco2279742 7 years
Hi: It looks like you need some color! My suggestion would be adding a colorful round rug - bright blue, green or even yellow and adding some pillows on the couch that pop (with color). Dress up the fireplace - put something colorful in the hearth. You may want to check out wallpaper that you can put up and take off easily - no mess. I may have seen that on a previous posting here. But, an idea for color on the walls might be a big Impressionist painting (or abstract - your choice obviously) or a rug or textile that can cover a big space and look really chic. Hope this helps! Good luck!
mletrav mletrav 7 years
Some plants would bring life to your room, and color, too! (Not to mention eliminate odors and improve air quality.)
Betty-M Betty-M 7 years
Use that fantastic chair as the basis for your colour scheme.
ella1978 ella1978 7 years
1. If you are allowed to hang things, you could look into getting a solid block of wood mantle. Mantles are great for decorating. 2. Artwork. It doesn't even have to be real artwork. Frame fabrics, buy blank canvases and paint them all one color (ie. 4 small canvases painted fushia and hung 2 over 2 on the wall) 3. Mirrors. I have a big mirror over my fireplace, and it really gives some sparlke to the room. 4. Throws, Pillows & Rugs. Easy ways to bring color to neutral furniture and room. Depending on your style, you can find dozens of area rugs just to tie the furniture together. 5. Fireplace Decor - Whether you want to fill it with candles, cut wood, or stage fake logs - you can really warm up the space. It really all comes down to your personal style. Shabby chic - Lots of mirrors, shag rug, mirrored table, white mantle, cashmere throws & pillows and lots of candles - on the mantle, in the fire place, etc. Minimalist - Simple artwork, geometric rug, slab table, large arched dome lamp in the corner. Contemporary - Great throws, comfortable rug, simple mirror over the fireplace, wood mantle, Colored candles in glass holders.. The possibilities are endless. Best of luck!
c4rolin3 c4rolin3 7 years
i love the parquet flooring and the fireplace too! you could do so much with this space, such a blank canvas. definitely just colour accents and wall hangings spring to mind :) i'm sure there's been a post before about things to do to decorate when you're renting :)
Choco-cat Choco-cat 7 years
i like CasaSugar's suggestion of the 2 (light colored) ottomans - and the idea of decorating the fireplace. my mother has a nice candle aubra in her's (now that it doesn't work). as for the walls, i've lived in a LOT of apartments where they won't let you paint. i suggest a art print, a large framed photo, or a type of fabric tapestry. we have a Picasso print that we bought a frame at Joanne Fabrics (or maybe Michaels) and framed ourselves so it wasn't too pricey. Also, we have a Hmong tapestry decorating another wall. and, lastly, my husband does some photography so we blow up those and frame them ourselves. to add a little color, buy some throw pillows and throw blanket. target, pier 1, ikea...those tend to be the places i find pillows at a decent price.
Lowe's Living Room Makeover
Best Cheap Area Rugs
How to Burglarproof Your Home
Easy Old Home Updates
From Our Partners
Latest Home & Garden
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds