Before & After: Decorating a “Tiny Box” of a Living Room

beforeWhen Amy moved into her new house, she says she was “a bit nervous to sign the lease” because it was smaller than she was used to–990 square feet to be exact. One of her biggest concerns was the living room–she sent me this “before” photo of it, saying, “It looked like a teeny tiny little box!”

Small Living Room Before-Blissful Bee blog

All the windows and doors around the room didn’t help, but she managed to turn the “tiny box” of a space into a warm and welcoming living room. Here’s how it looks now:

small living room after-Blissful Bee blog

She says, “It’s pretty amazing how some thoughtful furniture placement can really make a difference. This living room is less than half the size of the one in our previous home, but you really don’t feel like it when you’re in the space.”

small living room after-Blissful Bee blog 2

small living room-TV

Inspired by something she saw at Restoration Hardware, Amy created her own factory cart-style coffee table. You can read how she made it here.

DIY Factory Cart in small living room

She found that vintage wicker chair for $65 and says it was “the color of a band-aid.” But she loved the shape of it and it was in great condition, so she painted it red. Here’s a photo of it in mid-transformation:

spray painting wicker chair red

You can read more about the chair’s makeover here. It really makes a statement in red. And because it’s more tall than wide, it doesn’t take up too much space in the corner:

red wicker chair-Blissful Bee

The bookshelves were another DIY project of hers. She got them at Target and says they “aren’t what you’d call the highest of quality. They are the kind of shelving that you put together yourself, and the backing is not the prettiest. It’s that terrible cardboard covered in a fake wood veneer.”

DIY bookshelf makeover with fabric

So she covered the backs of them with a patterned fabric that would give that side of the room a little more “punch.” You can read the DIY tutorial about how she did it here.

decorating a small living room-Blissful Bee

small living room after-Blissful Bee blog 3

decorating a small living room-Blissful Bee 2

Here’s another photo of the room taken before they moved in:

Small Living Room Before-Blissful Bee blog 2

And here’s how that corner looks now:

small living room after-Blissful Bee blog 2

For more photos of Amy’s house, check out her charming blog The Blissful Bee, where she writes about her adventures in DIY, interior design and photography.

Julia signature 3

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  1. Alie B says

    Very nice! What a transformation of this previously blah room. I’m trying to decide on a name for Amy’s decorating style….Contemporary Country maybe? Or perhaps Rustic Transitional? Whatever it’s called, it’s fantastic! :-)

  2. Stephanie says

    The link for that amazing coffee table DIY doesn’t seem to work.. :(

  3. Lisa says

    Ohh, love it! Amy’s girl after my own heart – she moves her accessories around as the mood strikes. :) The fabric bookcase backing is such a fabulous idea! (*filing that one away in my bag of decorating tricks.*)

    Julia, can you tell us what the square footage of just that room is?

  4. Neesha says

    Lovely! This is such an inspiring transformation. I wish I could do something like this to my rental. But I am too lazy and not as creative. Also no budget LOL My living space is living vicariously through this living room. (lots of ‘living’ there)

  5. Chris says

    First of all, I just want to say that I come to this site almost every day and absolutely love it! I realized that it was a bit unfair to continue to enjoy the site without letting you know just how much I look forward to reading it.
    Before finding this, I thought I was the only one who watched certain movies just because I loved the houses featured! One of my favorite movie houses of all time was the little cottage featured in a Cary Grant movie – “Every Girl Should be Married” I know, terrible (and actually misleading) title.

    I love this little room makeover. You would never imagine that much furniture in the space and yet it still looks spacious! I have a long, rectangular room and I find it so difficult to visualize it in any other way than the way it’s been for many years. That’s another reason I like to come here – great new ideas!

    • Jonia says

      Cottage, you had me at cottage. Thank you online retailers :)

      • Anne says

        I agree Chris. I also stop in every day and really enjoy the posts. I think that this room is so creative and cozy. What I like the best is when people use their talents to create something wonderful and on a budget.

        Ok, so now I am going to have to look for the Cary Grant cottage!

        • Amanda says

          Me too! This blog has become my favorite, and not just because my kitchen is in the contest. All the posts are fun to read, but the tv/movie posts are my favorites. Now, when I watch a movie, I pay attention to who the production designer is and try to imagine what they were thinking when they planned their vision of the sets. Almost gets in the way of the plot!! Thanks Julia!

    • Lisa says

      Chris, I also love the cottage in “Every Girl Should Be Married” – it’s one of my absolute favorites! The entrance to the front door with the low hanging scalloped house trim is so adorable. Someday I hope to live in a house like that.

  6. Jennifer says

    Ooh my goodness I LOVE this! The red wicker chair is absolutely gorgeous and I love the coffee table! Love that they’ve managed to make such a small space look much bigger and brighter!

  7. June says

    It’s funny what Americans call “small”. For someone living in Germany, like me, 990 square feet is a good sized house. We are used to smaller spaces and I don’t think the room is “tiny” at all! :)

    • says

      It’s so true–“small” is relative. For her it was less than half the size of the living room she used to have. But for someone coming from a smaller place, this could seem spacious! :-)

      • says

        I agree, it is relative. At almost 300 sf, the cottage that I and my husband live in could just about fit in there 😉
        Though Amy’s living room is smaller than the average American home, she did a great job making it bright and inviting. Looks more spacious in fact.

        • says

          Ack! I meant smaller than the average American *Living room*….not home, which is kind of a given LOL, sorry :)

  8. says

    I love what Amy has done with the space. Her use of red on the chair gives the room a pop of color that adds interest and creates a focal point. What a unique idea to add fabric to the back of the book cases. Anyone would love coming home to this room!!!

  9. says

    She looks like a fabulous thrifty shopper, very vintage vibe! I love the red wicker, and pallet-style coffee table! 😉

  10. says

    I love seeing small spaces transformed like this. What a beautiful job she did! There used to be a show called “Small Space Big Style” on HGTV that I really enjoyed – I wish they’d bring it back. I’m a new subscriber!

  11. Asia says

    I love this room, it does not seem small at all and there is tons of seating. I am always inspired when people decorate spaces to their full potential.

  12. Nancy says

    The curtains and shelves make the window look twice as Big. I need to remember that.

  13. Jen says

    Thank goodness lapop seems o work again ha
    Anyway i love this it always amazes how much you can do I adore the coffee table & the chair

  14. Amy W says

    Sometimes size doesn’t matter. And with a smaller space it’s a lot more affordable and probably easier to decorate it! Getting ideas on Houzz is such a fun learning experience! Nicely done!

  15. says

    It looks great! I used to decorate model apartments when I was a property manager. It’s amazing how that floor plan would be 100% occupied within a couple of months since people could picture it with their own furniture.

  16. Esther George says

    Hi Julia this is wonderful. Amy my hats off to you. Thank you for sharing. My lounge room is not a bad size and I made sure I didn’t over furnish but if you see it at this moment it looks like a bomb hit it. My son is to blame his guitars and school books everywhere. I had to have a darling conversation with him before he went to school this morning. Till next time Regards Esther from Sydney. Before I forget Have. Wonderful Weekend.

    • says

      I can relate to that, Esther! My son takes over the family room with his books and papers and stuff, and there’s always a guitar lying around. It’s looking better now that he’s done with school, though, and I banished all his piles to his desk. Ha. Happy weekend to you, too! :)

  17. Laura says

    I really like this room – the red chair, couch, shelves, coffee table, etc. I guess I’m old school in that I don’t care for a big TV out in the open, but everything else is great. I’m kind of confused by the pictures, though – where is that fireplace?

  18. wendy says

    oh, yes, that fireplace. when i couldn’t place it, i went to the and found that it’s actually from their previous home (which is also beautifully decorated).

    • says

      Oops! I found that photo in the post about her coffee table and didn’t realize it was from a different house. I just removed it but you can see it on her blog if you follow the link. Thanks for pointing that out, Wendy. Sorry for the confusion! -Julia

  19. says

    Amy needs her own show on HGTV. Seriously! These are the kind of transformations that I used to love to watch back in the good old days of HGTV. It seems totally plausible and realistic on a budget, and the results here are stunning. So warm and inviting!I lived in a 900 sq. ft. house for ten years with hubby and two boys. It was cozy!

    • Jonia says

      Yes Maryrose, it is cozy :) We are on our eleventh year and it is interesting with the drums, guitars, punching bag and Kung Fu moves. Winters here are very long and cold so having a little space to spread out (like a farm) is in the near future. With ya on the HGTV series!

      • says

        When we decided to get a puppy (labrador retriever puppy!), that’s when we realized we’d officially outgrown the house! We lived in Michigan at the time, and those were some cold and claustrophobic winters, too!

  20. Jonia says

    Absolutely scrumptious! I hope she shows what she’s done with the rest of her place. I’m going to go take a peek!

  21. says


    I LOVE this! She’s so creative and smart. I will try her DIY bookshelf. Fantastic idea!

    Also, I want to thank you for stopping by the other day. What a nice surprise!!! :-)

    Wishing you and your family a very blessed weekend.


    Luciane at

  22. says

    I love the idea of covering the backs of shelving units with patterns, it makes your furniture more alive, yet on a budget. You’ve suggested using fabric, but what about using think decorative paper, such as wrapping paper?

    • says

      That’s what I thought it was at first–I was surprised to learn it was fabric! I’ve seen people use wallpaper and things like that, too.

  23. Billy says

    Another great find.

    I like the way the fabric pattern in the bookcase is repeated in the TV stand.

  24. Rosemarie says

    Wow! Amazing job! What an inspiration. Love the color and the whole feel to it.

  25. Kim says

    Great job to Amy for transforming her living room. It looks fabulous. I love the different patterns and colors of the accessories.

  26. says

    Wow! What a transformation! I love the charm and ease of the room. Painting the wicker chair was a great idea.

  27. stef says

    Amy…your room transformation is absolutely charming! So warm and inviting.

    Now this is the type of home I’d love to see more of. (:

  28. Maggy says

    WOW .. Hands down, an excellent job! It was hard to get a true perspective of just how small that living room space was until I saw the photo w/ someone standing at the entry.

    Great job, Amy!! I love the eclectic vibe you gave it, and your ideas re: the Target shelving were wonderful! You’ve got ‘interior designer’ written all over you :-)

    As always, a wonderful post, Julia!!

  29. Rebecca C. says

    Oh wow. That doesn’t look like the same room. Great job. I love the bookshelf idea. I have two bookshelves that I’m looking at as I type this. And tons of fabric. I cannot wait to try this idea!

  30. Angie Perry says

    Love the sofa! Great job – a little busy for me – maybe put less in the room – but great paint selections and coffee table is fab!

  31. Dorothy says

    Better late than never here! :) My living room is right around the same size, with similar windows (and even more doorways!). I love what you’ve done with the bookcases on that one wall. I have two bookcases still in their boxes that I can use to duplicate that look … and I hadn’t even thought of putting them in the living room (but I had run out of space for them elsewhere!). Thanks for the inspiration. :)

  32. karen says

    That is one cute little “box”.

    I am still referring back to the eye candy a few weeks ago. The small 600and something square foot house. That place was/is delightful and thankks for sharing it with us. Mid March , I believe was the post.