Residential Color and Style from a Certified True Color Expert.

How to calm a busy family room

Now, what if you have TOO MUCH going on in the room, and want to quiet it down to something calmer like the below:

These are a few of my tips for calming a busy room:

1) Evaluate

I find that often people have lived with things so long, that they have completely tuned out something that is not working.  A pair of fresh eyes can be invaluable in guiding your decisions.


Here is where using the right neutrals can make all the difference.

Replacing a wall color or multiple wall colors (i.e. accent wall) with the “right” neutral can really calm down a space. What is the right neutral?  The one with the correct undertone.

After  True Color Expert training with Maria Killam,  I can see an undertone clashing a mile away. Even if you don’t understand undertones, you will know, “for some reason, that is not really working.”


This is to reduce visual clutter.

First place to start: personal framed photographs. Select a few that are particularly meaningful to keep out and display. Place the others  in a beautiful archival leather photo album, and have it within reach on your family room coffee table. You will now be able to see ALL your photos.


Ask a friend with a great eye, or engage a design professional for two hours on a one-time basis. ASK what is worth keeping and what should go? Which also might include storing dated pieces, perking  them up with a coat of paint, giving them away, or repurposing them.

There is hardly a room in existence that doesn’t benefit from a bit of freshening at least every 5 to 7 years. And, if you have consistently selected trendy over traditional, be prepared for an even shorter shelf life.


This is just one example, and happens to be something on my mind for a project.

Crown moulding should “read” as one piece.
This is what you want, below, trimmed out in one paint color from top of crown to  bottom.

Generally should be semi-gloss, though sometimes I spec high gloss:


And, this is what you don’t want:

Layers of moulding, broken by  layer(s) of painted sheetrock:


mouldingtrey ceiling

If you don’t have crown, a good design professional or your architect can tell you what is appropriate for adding this feature to your house. It will really add the finishing interest and elegance to a room to have the right crown moulding, properly chosen and installed.


Holding on to a lumpy sofa? Or a poorly made leather one?

Nothing dates a room faster.

Sofas need replacing or reupholstering about every six to eight years.  Washable slipcovers can extend this.

If your family room sofa has been in its current state for 10 years (or more), it’s probably time. 

6) Scale

Is your furniture the right scale for the space? Or, are you crowding every thing you own into a space, just because you have it?

7) Brickwork

Brickwork can be very tricky because it can date a room very quickly.

I know that many people (men) are hesitant to paint


Especially around a fireplace,

soot can and will darken the paint.

This is usually easily wiped off, but you can always touch-up

paint again when/if it gets really noticeable.

Take a look at fellow Color Expert Kristie Barnett of Nashville’s amazing before and after.

You can click to supersize the before shot (if you dare):

photo: The Decorologist

before and after photos: courtesy Kristie Barnett,

belgian chic after


 Establish ONE main focal point in the room, with subsidiary focal points appropriate to the space. (Professional guidance can get you there. This is what we are trained to do.)

 9) Take it easy on the pattern

To look “today” instead of “yesterday,” it is important to know how to lighten up a space weighed down by TOO MUCH pattern. Slipcovers can be a beautiful, cost-effective way to lighten the look without emptying the wallet.

10) FLOW

Is the traffic pattern working? A  bad traffic pattern can “build up” over the years. Again, you may have lived with something so long that you don’t realize something is not working.

A pair of FRESH EYES can help you see things the way guests see them when they enter your home.

If you need help in calming down a busy family room, it is probably a good idea to seek professional advice.

This is always money well-spent to keep you from making the same mistakes again.

Color Calling

4 responses

  1. Great advice all, Ellen, and we can’t hear it too often. Thank you for the refresher!

    February 25, 2013 at 9:38 am

  2. Thank you for the nice comment, Frances! Always great hearing from you.
    Best, Ellen

    February 25, 2013 at 9:58 am

  3. Hi Ellen,
    Great article, love the specific tips. I heartily agree that if you avoid too many patterns the room can feel soothing. Here’s a blog “Should I chose a print or a solid for my window treatments?”

    I just found your blog today, can’t wait to visit more often.

    February 25, 2013 at 4:23 pm

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