Creating a Cozy Family Room without Buying New Furniture

How do you warm up a room, making it more functional and harmonious in color, texture, and style without replacing all the furniture? Today’s post addresses the steps you can take to turn your current space into a balanced, inviting place that says “welcome home,” every time you cross the threshold.

1. Establish the Mood

It all starts with the mood. Light and airy? Bohemian vibe? You need to think hard about how you want to feel every time you walk into the room. What it will take to feel comfortable and functional for you and your lifestyle? Are they in harmony? As you review the space and furnishings, think how they either accentuate or distract the mood.

I’m sharing this family room as my example.

This is how it looked the first time I saw it.

When I received the call to help them with this space, this sweet family of four (with two big dogs) said their biggest complaint was the mood of the room.

I thought it was a beautiful room. And I also thought its potential was yet to be met.

They wanted something more casual with that element of sophistication seen throughout their home. I’d call it “a little glam meets a little traditional”. In this family room, there’s studying, lounging, reading, talking, TV watching and just hanging out. It has to feel plop-worthy where conversations can flow and ease of movement is a cinch. And it has to feel more “put together”. That was our mission.

2. List the Room’s Positives

Write down what you love about the space. Look at the architectural elements. In this room, the positives are: lots of natural light, a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace, 15′ coffered ceilings. The wider plank wood floors are stunning. Their warm color adds depth and richness to the mood. The furniture is under three years old, and is in great shape.

3. Look at The Negatives

What’s driving you crazy? Take a good, hard look around the room, and write down whatever is bothering you. Everyone knows what they don’t like.

How’s the furniture? Do you still like it? Maybe the arrangement is all wrong. Does the room feel too crowded? Is it heavier on one side of the room? What about the wall color? Does it tie into your mood and furnishings? Can you move in and out of the space freely, or is there only way entrance and exit? Are there too many styles in the room? What about the furniture layout?

As you can see, the questions are endless. The more you dig, the closer you move to your solution.

4. Choose a Color Scheme

We knew those floral chairs and rug were part of the problem. They are not in harmony with a relaxing mood or color scheme. We want calm, peaceful colors in a relaxing space. The chairs are also too far apart to share an intimate conversation. Since the chairs are in great shape, we decided to reupholster them instead of buying new ones. And then we moved them.

Before: the fabric is not suitable for a calm, relaxing space. Doesn’t suit the mood!

We selected a fabric that doesn’t shout at you. A simple zig-zag pattern of gray and cream changes that mood! And now, there’s no competition with the fireplace. They support each other.

After: A toned-down color and pattern.

Next up, the rug. When you have a couple of big dogs in your home, you need a rug that can manage their paws, fur and general wear and tear. We knew we wanted something slightly vintage in mood and soft in color to balance against the existing leather sofa and coffee table. Since we we were changing the chair’s fabric and mood, the rug had to go. Here’s a look at the old rug and layout.

Now this rug really pulls the space together. It softens the room and adds that cozy element that was missing. The muted grays, greens, browns and blues do a better job masking dog hair, too!

Voila! Ironically, the dog prefers his cozy bed now!

4. Never Ignore the Focal Point of the Room.

Always a deal-breaker when you do. What is a focal point? It’s one of the most fundamental elements of the room! It’s where your eye is naturally drawn. And don’t worry. If you don’t have a focal point, create one! In this example, the floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace is our focal point. Rule of thumb: never ignore your fireplace. It is ALWAYS the focal point. While the art work and candles below are perfectly suitable for display, they feel like they are almost receding into the stones wall.


You can add new artwork, but mirrors are terrific over the mantle. They naturally draw you in. Check out the new look.

A beautifully-framed mirror sets the mood. Draws your eye in!

5. Color Scheme

Once the rugs and furnishings are selected, select a paint color for the walls. We could have stayed with the beige walls, but there’s enough beiges/browns in the space already (leather sofas, floors, coffee table, stone fireplace and rug). That’s enough!

Before. With the old paint color.
After. Notice how it works with all the furnishings?

It complements the space. And it feels lighter and updated. We wanted a neutral color that would connect to everything. We went with a warm gray, “Knitting Needles” from Sherwin Williams.

6. Don’t Forget Your Accessories

These come last, but they are just as important. After seeing my client this week, the final touch are the curtains, throw pillows and throws. We will throw in some teals and creams (seen in the painting behind the leather sofa and in the rug) to tie all the colors together. There’s already plenty of browns and beiges and grays. This little pop of color helps to create that cohesive scheme.

7. Put It All Together

There’s a lot to consider when you tackle a space. Hopefully, I’ve helped you appreciate the steps in achieving the mood you’re looking for. Putting a board together really helps you visualize the room’s potential. Collect your colors and fabrics, magazine rip-outs, etc. I use a digital software for my clients like the one below. Without it, my clients might struggle as I explain my vision.

Putting it all together. Mixing the new with the current.