Sometimes I find inspiration when I least expect it. But when it appears, it's important not to ignore it and to simply hang on for the ride. 

Last week I found myself in the Kingstowne neighborhood of Alexandria, dropping off a housewarming gift for a client who just purchased her first home. Afterwards, I felt the invisible but very real draw of the nearby Home Goods. I was passing it on the way home, so what's the harm in just stopping by? Over the years I've stumbled upon some great finds at this particular location, so I I decided to make a quick pit stop on the way home, you know, to see what I'd see.

What was intended to be a quick perusal through the store, perhaps finding something for the new house or as a staging item I could use in one of my listings, instead led to the discovery of the catalyst to an unexpected whole room redo. 

When exploring the rug selection, I noticed the edge of the pictured gray and cream geometric rug peeking out from behind the hanging row of rugs. Upon exposing it, I was instantly smitten and wracked my brain to think where I might be able to use it. My inner dialog went as follows:

"Dining room at the new house? Nope, already have a rug for that room picked out. Hrm...what about the guest room? Nah, too big. Do I have any friends who are looking? Can't think of anyone."

As I gave the beauty a final glance over my shoulder, and it truly pained me to do so, I opted to walk away and finish my lap around the store, though I was already feeling regret. 

When I reached the bedding section, I couldn't help but look back and admire the rug from afar. I really loved it, and wanted to make it work somewhere, but where? Well...just maybe I had an idea.

Alex and I have long been talking about sprucing up our family room, but all redecorating projects in Old Town have taken a back seat to the new house, or to the bathroom cabinetry and other little punch list items we have. But this rug could be perfect. 

In the nearly 13 years we've owned our home, our family room has taken on many looks and uses. It actually started out as our dining room, and remained this way for the first year and a half we were in the house.

Later we decided it would better serve us as a family room, and we painted it a sage green color to tie in with the oriental rug we purchased for the space. 

The room then changed again when we purchased new slip covers, bought a flat screen television, and hung matching curtains and pillows.

The problem is that I never really liked the green color, especially in the evening when it looked like a bowl of melted mint chocolate chip ice cream. So we repainted it several years back to "Monroe Bisque" and swapped out the mirror over the sofa for a framed bull terrier poster Alex gave me for my birthday.

It was a nice change, but over the last several years I've been itching to redecorate the living, dining and family rooms of the house. While I loved the red eight to ten years ago, I'd like to update it to something a bit more neutral, but I've been worried that one small change could mean a complete overhaul, which we're not ready to take on due to everything else. 

But let's get back to the HomeGoods rug that was calling out to me and had to be had. I kept working through how I could incorporate it into the space, without it being the pebble that causes the avalanche of an entire expensive makeover. (Sort of like the time I found a great rug on clearance, and it kicked off our entire sun porch and kitchen remodel a few years ago.)

Oddly enough, I find that taking a photo of an object helps me to better evaluate it, whether it's a rug, furniture, or even an article of clothing. Seeing it in a photo somehow allows me to step away and view it more objectively.

Because of the cream accent in the rug, I felt I could make it work with our cream paint and oat colored slip covers. I've been dying to take down the dark red curtains in the room but still like the bamboo shades. While I love the privacy of the curtains, I've long been thinking about replacing them with a lighter fabric. Recently a friend gave me several sets of curtains from her old house that won't work in her new home, so I have a new stash of curtains to pull from without making the investment in new ones.

So what it really boiled down to was that I'd want to change out two pieces of art, the painted stool I rescued from a neighbor's trash several years ago, and the throw pillows. Hmm. That didn't sound too terrible. And as long as we kept the warm colored furniture, it would still tie in with the same warm tones of the adjacent dining room rug. (And after the photo above was taken but prior to the unexpected redecorating, we had moved our living room coffee table into this room in order to try to visually lighten the space.)

I made my way over to the pillow aisle and grabbed some simple pillows that could work to pull together the gray and cream tones. After a little trial and error, I felt I had a mix that could work. 

With some assistance from a helpful employee and 10% off the rug because of a pull in the yarn, I quickly checked out and was on my way home, rug and pillows in tow, and even had a friend on her way over to help me move furniture.

While I was hoping to have everything in place by the time Alex arrived home from work, things didn't go quite as smoothly as I envisioned. I forgot just how heavy the marble-topped television cabinet is (we're talking 300 pounds plus fully loaded), and it was everything my friend and I could do to get the old rug out from under it, let alone move it far enough to lay the larger new rug.

After running out of time before an evening appointment, I left the house in complete disarray and forgot my phone in my haste to make an appointment. What greeted Alex looked like someone had ransacked our home and had taken me with them, leaving my cell phone behind as evidence. And he couldn't even call me to ask, "What have you done?"

It's a good thing he's the more patient one of the two of us (and realized the litter of HomeGoods bags meant I had a project in the works and I wasn't abducted), as he took it in stride, and picked up where I left off.

When I came home a few hours later, he had successfully moved the larger pieces of furniture and had vacuumed the Mel and Lulu tumbleweed of pet hair that had accumulated behind the sofa. Totally gross! 

Together we spent about an hour positioning the rug and furniture. That includes the time spent when we put the rug in place under the very heavy antique buffet and then realized it needed to move six inches to the left. I swapped out the red stool with a cream ceramic garden stool we had in our guest room that I purchased last fall on clearance at Target and brought down an additional pillow from the guest room. As we moved things around, Lulu and Mel were running and jumping all over the place. It was like a giant jungle gym for them.

For window treatments I decided to try out a set of Pottery Barn curtains, now discontinued, from the stash that my friend had given me. I'm not sure how it happened, and the design gods must have been smiling down on me, but these curtain panels are absolutely the perfect length. Unfortunately I only have two panels instead of four, but scaling back to one panel per window actually lets in more light and makes the room feel a lot bigger while still allowing for privacy if we want it.

I decided to seize the opportunity to declutter, and am thinking about relocating Lulu's toy basket as well as the magazine rack. We also tried a couple of different options when looking to replace the art above the couch. My first shot was using the Sanborn fire map of our neighborhood (currently hanging in our dining room), but it seemed way too small for the space.

After looking at the other hanging art in our house, I realized that our map of DC, which has been hanging in our upstairs hallway for years, is the perfect size and color for the new family room look. So this came down down from the hallway, and the Bull Terrier will take its place upstairs. 

The slip covers on the couch and chair also came off to get a much overdue run through the washing machine, and the room not only looks more fresh, it also smells like a basket of clean laundry. 

All in all I spent roughly $350 and have a completely transformed room. (I just need to find something different to hang over the leather chair.) Even Alex is really excited about the change, and commented the first morning downstairs after the makeover that he loved it. We both agree that it feels much brighter, less formal, and more "us." 

While I hadn't set out to make such a dramatic change, I'm a firm believer that when you stumble on something you love, sometimes it's worth going for it. It's the room of our house that we spend most of our waking hours, where both of us usually work from home, and where we eat dinner many nights. I'd say it was well worth the money to create a space that makes us feel happy and at home. But I'd be lying if I said that glimpse of red in the dining room isn't calling out as the next room that needs a little makeover.

Comments 23


Melissa @ HOUSEography
9/22/2015 at 4:49 PM

Wendy! WOW! Looks amazing!! Feels like you got all new furniture and painted too. We had a similar curtain situation for a long time and I loved it- does let in more light. Now we just have the bamboo shades because I needed it to be even lighter!! And we have the same DC map in our dining room. Everyone always comment so it. I love showing everyone where Arlington isAlt smile And I love how your wine rack NEVER moves!


Thank you so much, Melissa! I appreciate the compliments, and love that we have the same DC map.Alt smile

9/22/2015 at 10:47 PM

I scrolled back and forth btwn before/after several times; the difference is amazing. It truly is so much brighter. and cozy. and welcoming. I too love that the wine rack is "non-transferable"


Thanks, Sheila! And yes, we take our wine situation very seriously in this house. ;)

9/23/2015 at 6:09 AM

It looks very nice. It does look much brighter. Home Goods is sometimes impossible to resist.Alt smile


Thanks, Stacy! And I completely agree re: HomeGoods. It's hit or miss for me, but some days you just can't pass up the unexpected find.

9/23/2015 at 9:01 AM

The room looks really great. Thanks for explaining your process and the evolution of your room's look--I find it very helpful. Sometimes I just don't know where to start.


Thanks, Joan! And I agree completely. It's tough sometimes to figure out where/how to start!

Laura C
9/23/2015 at 9:23 AM

Looks much better. I think there was a bit too much yellow/off-white/cream going on in that room. It desperately needed a darker-colored rug to anchor everything.


Totally agree, Laura! It's a much needed change.

9/23/2015 at 1:30 PM

So lovely. I also noticed the wine rack that stays put LOL.

The old rug is very pretty, though. Hopefully it will find a home elsewhere.


Ha! Yep, that wine rack isn't going anywhere. Perhaps because of our love of wine, or maybe because of how securely it's anchored to the wall.Alt smile

I'm not sure where the rug will end up yet. Maybe Craig's List?

9/23/2015 at 2:18 PM

Looks really wonderful, fresh and light, yet cozy. I really like the contrast of the darker rug, and how it grounds the room. Lucky finds like that are the best!

What are you going to do with the old rug? It's really beautiful, and would probably feel utterly luxurious in a bedroom. Will it find a place in the new house?


Thanks, Judith! We're not sure about the old rug yet. We might try it in our guest room upstairs, or may try to sell it on Craig's List. I don't think it will be headed to the new house though. It's a lot more formal than the look I'm going for.

9/24/2015 at 10:40 PM

WOW! What a refreshing change!

9/25/2015 at 1:53 PM

The curtains being the right length was a sure sign it was all meant to come together. Seriously, has that ever happened to anyone and will it ever happen again? I think not.

Love the room that was meant to be.


I know, right?! I think this must be the only room in our house that has standard 84" window height!

9/25/2015 at 9:16 PM

About the pulled thread. It looks like something that would interest Mel. I'm guessing that it landed under furniture, and that you knew it would, but did you do anything to it first, like glue it down?


Great question, Sheila. Rather than a thread sticking up out of the rug, it's more like a horizontal pull that runs across the rug. (You see it in the photo with the shopping cart and pillows. It runs across the rug just under the ball of lint.) It makes the design look a little bumpy/distorted. Now that we have it mostly hidden under the furniture, thankfully you can only see it if you're really looking for it.Alt smile

9/27/2015 at 4:55 PM

OK, ball of lint! I thought that was the end of the thread pull and that cat claws would have fun pulling and pulling. So that when you returned home one day, you'd have a door-mat-size left!

Andrea Bachinski
5/19/2016 at 10:02 PM
Love the change! The rug pattern really updates the room!
Holly Laffoon
5/19/2016 at 10:02 PM
Curious if your dog will adjust to his toy box in a new location. We moved our dog's crate once and he wouldn't even go in it, and kept lying down where it used to be, so we moved it back!
Cara Burke
5/19/2016 at 10:02 PM
Love it! What a difference a few small changes can make. Now I just think you should paint the adjacent dining room gray to tie into the new gray tones in here! ??
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