Ada’s Living Room Design Dilemma

By Kate Riley April 20, 2015

Ada’s email landed in my inbox last week and with it a design dilemma. She is looking for a new coffee table for her living room and also suggestions to spruce her space on a budget. Here are Ada’s questions:

“I need help choosing the right coffee table for my living room, the coffee table that I have is taller than the sofa and I think it doesn’t look good in the space. Should I go with a round table or maybe an ottoman? Also do you think adding some decorations in blue, teal, or green goes with the living room? Could you please help me, I’m on a budget and any suggestions are welcomed.”

Ada’s living room already has some great pieces: the modern tufted sofa, the wingback chair, and leather accent chair form a great conversation area. The rug is the right size, and she has also brought in some yellow accents as well, it is warm and inviting but also very tan and neutral and could benefit from more color and pattern.

adas living room

Ada doesn’t necessarily needs a round coffee table since curved lines already exist in the wingback chair, leather chair, and side table. A coffee table in any shape will work whether rectangular, oval, or round, the issue is not so much the shape of the coffee table but the bulk of it.

There are modern versions that possess clean lines and a slim profile and for under $350. Metallic finishes add glamour, wood brings warmth, any of these options are visually less heavy and would modernize the space.

modern coffee tables

latte lacquer / whitewashed mango / oval marble top / gold and glassoval wood top / white and chrome


The tufted sofa and wingback chair are more formal pieces so a coffee table is a good choice for this space however Ada could opt for a tailored upholstered ottoman to add softness or to introduce a new pattern.

ottoman options

chain link ottoman / navy ottoman / neutral ottoman / octagonal ottoman


She could bring in accent pillows in blues and greens or mix in any of these shapely lamps.

blue green lamps pillows


shibori pillow / gourd lamp / dwell pillow / posner pillow / blue ikat / white lamp / aqua lamp / blue green ikat / blue spots


More budget friendly suggestions for adding colorful detail to Ada’s living room:

1) Add colorful trim to store bought plain window panels, consider tassels, Greek key, a geometric fabric, or grosgrain ribbon. No sewing necessary with the use of fabric glue, hot glue, or fusible web bonding tape.

trimmed window panels

curtain trim ideas: love maegan / oakland avenue / recently


2) Paint the side table so that it isn’t the same brown as the leather chair, perhaps an off white to coordinate with the wingback chair or a more vibrant color that plays off the accent pillows.

side table makeovers

white side table makeover / painted blue side table


3) Add a border to the rug with paint or fabric, add stripes with painter’s tape, or use a stencil for allover color.

stenciled rugs

striped painted rug / stenciled rug


4) Elevate the indoor plants with larger planters, or embellish the planter baskets with metallic or colorful paint.

painted baskets

silver painted baskets / striped basket / ombre baskets

Have you recently spied any great coffee tables or decorative accents that Ada might add to her space? Feel free to share your suggestions!..


  1. Great tips Kate!
    Lately I have seen a lot of things at Target I really like. Also, keep checking T.J. Maxx and those type of stores for some neat pieces. When I looked at her room I immediately thought about raising the room because it has really high ceilings. Right now, the eye sort of sits right around the grouping. I would raise the curtains a little and use a bolder print pulling in the colors wanted. You could even buy two shorter store-bought options and add (or have a seamstress) add a neutral to the bottom to ground them but raise the eye. Another option that immediately hit me was to make a focal point of the wall behind the sofa. What about painting and trimming out a large rectangle behind the couch several shades lighter than the wall (you can just mix in white paint to your current paint)? Or, if you want to go bolder, buy some inexpensive long rectangles of MDF and upholster them in a bold fabric. Hang them on the wall for a “wallpaper” feel without the committment.Using 45″ home decor fabric is much cheaper and there are some great prints. Sorry this is so long…I can’t help but look at a space and have a million ideas.

  2. I love your ideas for this space, Kate! Here is another great option for a coffee table that has clean lines, And it’s only $62! I also think replacing the brown throw with a colored/ patterned throw would be nice. There are some really cute throws in aqua so, blues, and corals at Target right now for under $25. Lastly, a great inexpensive way to update decorative items you already have is to paint them a new fresh color. I’ve done this a lot and it makes a huge difference. You can check out examples of this and more inexpensive decorating ideas on my blog

  3. I love that curvy gold table– very pretty!

    I’d like to see a little color up on the walls, too.

  4. I don’t know what the “rules” are for table heights, etc….but I actually like the existing coffee table.
    I would recommend replacing the artwork with something more colorful that appeals to you….including colors with greens, yellows, and blues, which you can incorporate the different accents with those colors. Perhaps change the tan pillow covers on the couch with something blue/teal. Also, just a little bit of tweaking on the styling of the coffee table and end table would make a big difference as well (ie. the taller object on the end table could be placed in back, with the shorter frame in front).

  5. These are great suggestions! I love how you explain WHY and HOW you chose the pieces above, it really helps me to picture my own room/changes I could make. Thank you!

    Good luck, Ada! I think you have a great start :)

  6. Love all your ideas. Would also suggest adding a big pop of color to that neutral wing chair with a different throw…perhaps this greek key one from Pottery Barn in any color she chooses.
    Also like the idea of a piece of painted furniture in place of all that dark and think that a set of nesting tables would add some interest and allow her to scoot a table up next to the wing chair when needed and add a little “depth” to all that furniture. Fun series!

  7. I love the gold and glass table you suggested and also the Walmart coffee table that Tamara linked to. I really like the idea of picking out a couple of bold colorful pillows and taking one color from them and painting the side table the same color. Painting the rug is a great idea, or layering a smaller colorful rug under the new coffee table would be nice too. Definitely replace the throw with something more fun and colorful (Target has a great selection). Look at places like Home Goods and TJ Max for some planters, or I love the thought of spray painting them something metallic.

  8. Kate, thank so much for helping me with my dilemma, those are lovely and wonderful ideas and you explained how to use them so well. At first I wanted to paint the coffee table in a lighter color and put glass as a top but I do think the tabke looks heavy in the space. I want to thank everyone for all your suggestions and ideas.


  9. I agree with Nancy with an accent wall. If she doesn’t want to paint she can make a collage of frames or use an old window in white on a ledge with some accent pieces. Something that would bring the eye up. Also if she wanted add texture. A fuzzy pillow, rope around a hurricane candle holder, etc.
    Neutrals can be less boring with the add of texture. I’ve seen some great pillows using burlap and painters cloth on Pintrest that would look awesome as well! I also like the idea of a tall plant. Greenery can give any space the much needed life!

  10. Love your suggestions especially to disperse more color throughout the room! But don’t buy a coffee table when Craigslist has a gazillion different types of coffee tables which can always be panted or reupholstered!

  11. I love all these ideas. I would persoanlly move the round side table to the other side of the sofa and put that larger plant somewhere behind the wingback, then put the shorter plant next to the sofa. I like the baskets they’re already in. I think this would help balance out the darker leather chair. Just painting the side table leaves the chair as the only dark element. i like the coffee table suggestions, but prefer the first grouping as she has a lot of upholstered pieces in this space. I love the suggestion to raise the drapes and ad a decorative trim to them and more colorful pillows to spread the colour around. I like the artwork…it’s restful to my eyes.

  12. Ada, you can also consider swapping out the shade of your table lamp for a plain shade, so it doesn’t clash with the new accessories.
    You have a lovely room and some great pieces!

  13. Kate, once again thank you for taking the time to help me and post my dilemma. All of the suggestions are nice. I’m going to start looking for accents and coffee table or maybe painting the existing one in a light color?I don’t mind painting the wall behind the sofa, but it is the same wall that goes to the dining room. Thank you Nancy and Tamara, I like the idea of painting some items that I already have like Kate and some of you suggested . Kim I like the idea of collage frames. Thank you everyone, for sure I’m going to change the throw for a more colorful one and the pillows too.

    Thank you :)

  14. Hi Susan, I will do that, that lamp I found for $5 and it was place there temporarily. Once in a while I go to a thrift store to see if I can find something nice.Thank you.

  15. To edit this space a bit, I would remove the fake plants and flowers.
    Instead, add a real plant in a low container (maybe succulents?) to the coffee table.
    Also, the white chair is against the white curtains. I would switch the chairs to balance the light and dark out. Once you add the color, it will look great! Just go for it!

  16. I think all of the suggestions for a new coffee table and other tweaks are great but I feel the biggest obstacle to bringing color into the room is that dramatic but color-less pic over the couch that’s begging me, “Please ask her to move me to somewhere else in the house where I can get the attention I’m due.” Once that’s done, you can cut loose with all these great ideas, and I think you’ll find it much easier to bring in color. And you don’t have to make a decision about new artwork immediately unless you find something you love immediately. Thanks, Kate, for sharing Ada’s design dilemma. Much more friendly, helpful and practical than HOUZZ can be at times.

  17. I’m normally a quiet lurker on blogs but I wanted to chime in and say that I love this post, and this kind of posts. They make everything so real and accessible. Thank you!

  18. Hahaha, Hi Sandyc, you made me laugh with the begging picture comment . I’ll definitely need to find another art to bring more color to the room. Thank you for your suggestion.


  19. I would have Ada choose a different piece of art that has color in it to hang over her sofa. From that piece of art I’d have her choose out her accent colors. I agree with rearranging the plant tables, different colored throw blanket that all others mentioned. And Kate you gave her wonderful suggestions of her ways to add color but I think she should find that piece of art first to give her a start.

  20. Fantastic post! Just imagine it with colors other than blue and green :). Really like the design dilemmas.

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