A happily ever after living room

The story of Leslie and Dan’s house could have ended so differently. This charming family home could have been reduced to a pile of rubble, wiped out to make room for a sparkling new house. But after sitting vacant for nine long years, the house has been lovingly brought back to life, room by room, by this visionary pair. Today, I can’t want to show you around the living room, which perfectly reflects all the energy and enthusiasm of their family of six.


When Leslie first saw this painting by Kansas City, Mo., artist Jill Opelka, her heart started to hammer. It was love at first sight. She knew this vibrant depiction of a pond teaming with koi had to be the focal point in her living room, which she was just beginning to decorate after the home’s major remodel. “It all went from there. It was the inspiration for the design,” Leslie says.

The story of a room usually starts this way. You have a blank page, and there are so many directions you can go with your design, you’re not sure where to start. Then, lightning strikes. You see a fabric, a piece of furniture, a rug, a painting or an accent that lights up your imagination, and you’re off. When customers come into Nell Hill’s, and they aren’t sure what they want in their spaces, our designers will walk through the store with them, seeing what they spark to, and start there.


Leslie had the vision for this fabulous room. But some of the space’s odd ticks were throwing her a curve. Case in point: this bay window. Leslie wasn’t finding a window covering solution she liked.

Anne, one of our designers who also loves bright colors and happy patterns, helped Leslie design these marvelous window coverings that addressed Leslie’s concerns and showcase the windows beautifully. The two hit it off and worked closely on the rest of the room’s design.


The living room is at the front of the house, one of the first places visitors see. Leslie not only wanted the living room to welcome friends and family with a warm embrace, she wanted the room to be so inviting, people would gather here, not pass right by. Playful colors, a tumble of fun textiles and intriguing accents are the powerful lures that draws us all in to this splendid spot.

“I love, love, love bold color,” Leslie declares. “I always have.” The inspiration painting gave her lots of wonderful hues to splash around the living room. She chose a cheery shade of red and blue.

Anne helped Leslie decide which pieces she already owned would work well with the room’s scale and style, and what new pieces she should add to take it to the next level. The wingbacks chairs are a great example. Leslie had a set of smaller chairs in the space, but they just didn’t feel right to her.

Anne spotted the problem: The spaced called for a larger scale chair. When Leslie saw these great chairs Anne suggested, she knew they were spot-on. “It makes all the difference in my living room,” Leslie says. “I get more compliments on these chairs.”


Leslie and I share a love of interior spaces that are a wild mix of styles. Just like I do in my lake cottage, Leslie curates her rooms so they look like they have evolved over time. Look at the wonderful way she styled the matched set of chests, which stand on either side of the door. Above, the red chinoiserie mirror and gold box are bright and bold. Then, she tucked in a bird’s nest under a cloche, a quiet nod to nature.

The large modern painting is lovely balanced with the traditional chest of drawers, with its bamboo trim. The more modern lamp is a nice contrast to the old world charm of the transferware plate used as art on the table.


One of Leslie’s favorite hobbies is scouting for great finds in antique malls. She just has a knack for spotting treasures that everyone else overlooks, restoring them and weaving them into her home to help tell her family’s story. When it came time to finish the room’s design space, adding in the final accents, Anne felt like a kid in a candy store. There was so much for the two of them to work with. I think they nailed it beautifully.


This column was adapted from Mary Carol Garrity's blog at www.nellhills.com

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