Corinne Abbott and Bob Schmitt of Vienna said their sunken living room has become a hazard. “We’ve had several accidents as guests who are unfamiliar with our home have lost their footing,” she wrote. She likes to entertain, so the room must be furnished to make the steps more visible.


By painting the steps in a contrasting faux wood stain and putting the lights on dimmers, Wendy Danziger and Mary Biletnikoff make the space party-friendly.

Danziger and Biletnikoff (301-365-3300) are based in Bethesda.

Add paneling to the ceiling and walls to build architectural interest.

A console table can double as a display case. Use books and other accessories of varying heights.

Corinne Abbott and her husband Bob Schmitt. (Leah L. Jones/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Stain the step a contrasting color so that guests will notice it immediately.

Dimmable recessed lighting will provide a soft glow in the room.

Mix materials and textures such as wood, sisal, rattan, sea grass and metal.

A bold floor lamp can be a light source for reading and a statement piece.

Incorporate color through upholstery, pillows and artwork while keeping the rest of the space neutral.


Furniture: Paddington rattan armchairs ($349 each, www.potterybarn.com) upholstered in Talora Slate fabric by Robert Allen ($60 per yard, www.decoratorsbest.com); stacked sideboard in white ($329, www.wisteria.com); Ellery chair (no longer available, www.westelm.com); Nolan side table ($570, www.claytongrayhome.com).

Lighting: Adjustable metal floor lamp ($169, www.westelm.com).

Accessories: Trellis rug ($499 for 8 by 10 feet) and “Clouds at Sunset” giclees ($399), both from www.ballarddesigns.com; TeaOliveLiving pillow covers in chartreuse ikat ($40 each, www.etsy.com); Anthracite throw ($150, www.bambeco.com); Mercury glass vases ($12-$39, www.westelm.com); leaf basket bowl ($25, www.pier1.com).


Langley cocktail table available at And Beige, 202-234-1557 ($1,918, www.andbeige.com).

Hickory Monroe sofa available at And Beige ($4,560, www.andbeige.com).

. . . OR SAVE

Soto oval cocktail table in stainless steel and glass top ($549, www.roomandboard.com).

Silhouette sofa in Maya Ceylon ($1,099, www.crateandbarrel.com).

See past room makeovers by local designers.

Wanted: Photos of kids’ rooms for a House Calls makeover. Send photos, dimensions, ages and contact information to makeover@washpost.com.