A Dark Living Room Gets a Fresh Coastal Vibe

When I saw Julia Ryan’s beautiful living room makeover on her blog Pawleys Island Posh, it was such a dramatic before and after that I had to share it with you. It’s so light and pretty now that you won’t believe how dark and dated it was when she first saw it!

Here’s how that same wall looked when the former owners lived there:

That just wouldn’t do for a home in coastal South Carolina! After moving into it, Julia started brightening things up. Here’s the fireplace wall before:

And after the fireplace got a much-needed makeover:

You can buy chairs like these at Target. I want them in every color–especially the orange, which I’ve seen on Matthew Perry’s sitcom “Mr. Sunshine,” and the yellow, which would look fab in my sunroom! You may also recognize that the same blue and white fabric from the bar stools on Courteney Cox’s kitchen set on  “Cougar Town.”

Here’s how the entry hall looked from the living room back then:

Love the paint color she used on the walls–it’s Sherwin Williams “Tidewater” (SW6477). Here’s how it looks now:

That’s a pretty amazing difference! Thanks to Julia for letting me share it with you. You can see the rest of her photos and read more about the makeover here: Pawleys Island Posh

Julia-simple teal signature

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  1. Luciane at Homebunch.com says


    This is a HUGE transformation! I went to her site before (she’s a sweetheart btw!) and I saw how talented this young woman is. I’m in love with her living room and I also love the wall color. Isn’t it so calming and fresh?

    Have a wonderful Day!

    Going to volunteer at my son’s school today. I always have the best time there!!!


    Luciane at HomeBunch.com

    PS: I love when you show beautiful homes here! It makes my day! :-)

  2. says

    Wow! Now this is a transformation! Love what they’ve done and how it’s so much brighter. They must have opened the draperies! :)
    Happy St. Paddy’s Day!
    Be a sweetie too,
    Shelia 😉

  3. says

    I’m back Julia! I thought you may want to come and see my daughter’s house they’ve just bought that I’ve posted. It’s a mid century ranch and a 1958 Better Homes and Gardens Idea house! It’s pretty cool. I’m mainly showing their kitchen which is just awesome – although very green – well it is St. Patrick’s Day! :)
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia 😉

  4. says

    Such a major change! I know the homeowners are quite pleased with the end results. There are so many wonderful elements in this space. Although we can’t see them all, I know the other spaces in the house reflect this same greatness.

    I wonder if they kept the secretary in the before picture and updated it?

    Mr. Goodwill Hunting

  5. Katie says

    We just bought a new house with a fireplace similiar to the old one pictured above. We have been debating what to do with it, so I was super excited to see this post this morning. The wood frame makes a huge difference.

  6. says

    julia! these are so beautiful! :) there is hope for me and my dark, dreary living room yet! thanks for sharing and happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

  7. says

    Oh I LOVE it! We live near the beach as well and I’m trying my best to update our boring 80’s ranch into a beachy chic cottage. Just two days ago I taped a Tidewater paint chip to my living room wall and have been loving it, I think it’s “the one”.

    Thanks for introducing me to PIP, she has such amazing style!!

  8. says

    LOVE this!!! Thanks for showing this – I am going light and bright everywhere too. This is a perfect way to show my hubby what is in my mind.

  9. says

    I’m sorry but I have to say that the before pictures were taking with a regular camera and the after pictures were taken in another time of the day with a profetional camera. Although when the owners changed the dark furniture for new bright ones, new windows, white trims, and new painting it really made the difference. Is really a fantastic transformation. From sad to exciting!

    • hookedonhouses says

      Very true–good lighting and photography always help! I’m not sure the room would have looked that much better before, though, even with a better camera. -Julia

      • marieDee says

        I wondered if they cut down some trees or something. A huge amount of light is coming from the direction of the windows in the “after” shots. Regardless, it is still a beautiful makeover. Thanks for posting it.

    • says

      I’m actually the photographer for both shots as well. The one major “technical” difference was the use of a wide angle lens in the after shots versus the kit lens in the befores. I also shot in automatic with a flash before and only recently have turned my flash off and switched to manual. If you read my original post I mention the removal of several tree limbs in the front of our home as well as taking off the window screens to bring in more light. There was no professional lighting or switcheroo in shooting times. Anyone who’s been in our home before we began renovations can attest that it was truly dark and dingy before, no tricks there!

  10. nanne says


    she even made that bad light fixture in the foyer look good. definately a cinderella story.

    thanks for sharing!

    nanne in columbus, indiana

  11. says

    What a dramatic transformation. It just goes to show what can be done with a little vision, determination and hard work.

  12. says

    What a fabulous makeover. Looks like a magazine spread for Coastal Living. Thanks for sharing this. I must go check out some more.

  13. says

    Love, love, love these pictures! Looking forward to heading over to her blog for more! One of the first things I noticed were the paintings… a traditional landscape painting above the sofa and a more modern abstract one above the fireplace. I have such trouble with artwork in general. Everything from trusting myself to pick it out and choose the right frame to knowing where to hang. This room provides good inspiration, I think.


  14. Rosemary says

    Amazing change. Thanks for sharing. P.S.Not crazy about Home Depot ad popping up. Have a hard time making it go away. Usually wind up at HD instead of your next page. Guess that’s the point!Could do without it, though………..

    • hookedonhouses says

      Yeah, you should be able to “click through to site,” but sometimes I think they get stuck or something. Sorry about that!

  15. Mike says

    Wow! I just adore the new wainscoting. That’s what we want to do in our living room.

  16. 2sillymonkeys says

    Hi Julia! Just discovered your blog and LOVE starting my day with you–you’re a better waker-upper than my coffee. I’m “hooked”! :o) Got a jolt when I saw she painted her living room the same color as my dining room. Is it wrong to feel smug over a paint chip???

    Thanks again for the marvy posts!

  17. ShabbyChick says

    A wonderfully balanced combination of pattern and texture here! It’s subtle, soft and sophisticated, with just the right amount of pizzazz! I’ll have to check out her blog!

  18. says

    AMAZING!! She is really talented! And I love how she just painted the ugly old chandelier instead of replacing it!
    Thanks Julia!
    Its warm and sunny in KY hope you’re enjoying the same!


  19. Marney says

    I have a vacation home at Pawleys and only wish I could have had Julia help with the decorating instead of the decorator I used who never keeps up to date fabrics and furnishings. I love how fresh this room is and how it reflects the light and airy feel of the coastal area. It really is an amazing transformation.

  20. Sandy says

    Very pretty! Didn’t see what color # was chosen for the walls, am looking for the same hue of paint for a bedroom. Would love to know it!

  21. Sandy says

    oh nevermind about the paint color! scrolling up I saw it (was looking for it on the original blog post :-)

  22. Lisa says

    Can I just say how much I am in love with those Target chairs? There I said it. :) I feel so much better. Love them! Beautiful house… Sigh…

  23. says

    I simply love what Julia has created, a haven of light and coziness.It is beautiful!

    Come and enter to win my Spring “Green “ Gift”.

    Art by Karena

  24. says

    Wow! What an unbelievable transformation! It doesn’t even look like the same house! It’s so open, fresh, and inviting now. They did a beautiful job. I love anything coastal inspired and they really nailed it with this makeover. It’s amazing what some paint and fantastic furniture can do for a home.

    P.S. LOVE the Target chairs, I want them all too!

  25. Gabbie says

    I like that they left the original brick alone and built a pretty new mantle around it. It really looks good!

  26. says

    Julia, Oh how I love paint, it is an amazing decorating tool and the cheapest update around. I have purchased this same chair from Target in a different print and was quite impressed with it. It is a nice little comfy chair. Love Tidewater,Kathysue

  27. says

    Wow. WOW! I have so much to say I don’t know where to start. First of all, small detail but I love that she recycled the ceiling fixture by painting it. SO clever! And the paint color is awesome — looks like Tidewater is very similar to BM’s Patriotic White, which I love for a seashorey house. The curved sofa is so brilliant for that room…what a great way to take advantage of the fireplace. Two BIG thumbs up!

  28. says

    Beautiful room…love how much brighter it is! Feels fresh and perfect for spring! Can you tell I have serious spring fever?

  29. Designer Tinks, NZ says

    Wow – stunning.

    Blues are always my first choice to add a bit of personality too – you just can’t go wrong with them!

    I’m currently renovating a lounge (living room) which previously comprised Lockwood panels (sort of polyurethaned timber) and white wallpaper. I’ve painted over the panels with a warm cream and am am accenting the skirting boards with deep chocolate and the walls with soft turquoise. It looks SO much better already! :)

  30. says

    Pretty changes. With the big chairs before, it was very overwhelming. I went and admired the chairs at Target.com after seeing them. I like the chair in “surf” best.

    I am so impressed with the overall styling because it is lovely without being too much. It still looks like a home, rather than a magazine spread. Not my home, of course, not enough clutter! ;o)

    • Designer Tinks, NZ says

      Wow your cheque book cover looks fabulous – very clever! :)

      (And my favourite colour combinations).

    • says

      Don’t worry Holley, I put away the excersaucer, baby toys and last week’s mail before I took the pictures. However, we were mindful to create a space that our whole family, including our seven month old, could enjoy. No museum quality living for us :)

  31. Designer Tinks, NZ says

    PS: It helps that the furniture is lovely and soft too, in that picture. My budget doesn’t go so far as to ditch a brown couch but I’m replacing the squab with a turquoise fabric and injecting some more turquoise in the form of cushions.

    I do love your website, Julia – it’s the first thing I look at when coming back home each night! (Or sneaking home early on a Friday afternoon) :)

  32. hally says

    so gorgeous! awesome transformation, it makes me feel better just looking at it!

  33. says

    Wow.. doesn’t seem the same house!!! LLLOVE before/after pics :-)
    Thank you again for the Elena’s home pics.. u’re unique!

  34. Designer Tinks, NZ says

    I just had another look at it (can’t sleep!) … it’s not just the blue that gives it the fabulous look – it’s the warm tones of the ceiling colour too. Wow – love it!

  35. says

    WOW!!! I am SO OVERWHELMED with all the sweet words about my living room . Thank you so much Julia for feauturing my space! We absolutly adore spending time in our home now that it truly feels like “us”!

  36. says

    I am crazy about Julie’s living room. It is only a matter of time before it is published in a home decor magazine! Julie is such an amazing photographer and artist. She certainly has an eye for style:)

  37. says

    Amazing transformation! Beautiful. I have that same secretary – the one in the before pictures – and I hope mine looks better in my house than that one does!

  38. Allison says

    Love this room! Could you share the color on the ceiling?