The Washington Post

House Calls: Making a living room a sophisticated yet family-friendly space

AFTER: Designer Claire Schwab creates a kid-friendly living room that fit an adult lifestyle, too. (Sketch by Julius Goyanko/For The Washington Post)

“My husband and I have no eye for design,” says Martha Murray, mother of two young daughters, Maddie and Carrie. She’d like some ideas for the 12-by-24-foot living room, which she says is the hub of their family’s Great Falls home.


By using most of the existing furniture and adding color, pattern and architectural interest, designer Claire Schwab creates a sophisticated and family-friendly space.

Click through the before-and-after photos above and read the captions for more information.

Add crown moulding and ceiling beams painted white. The beams will help break up the large space. 

Bongo ceramic garden stool in chartreuse crackle ($350, and Arteriors cooper gold-leaf iron floor lamp ($660, (SPLURGE)

Use existing sofa, armchair, tables and curtain panels. Paint tables black to match curtain hardware.

A patterned area rug will define the seating area and disguise kid-related spills and stains.

Breathe life into the room by painting the walls a soft green: Shagreen by Sherwin Williams.

A pair of armless chairs add more seating but take up less space.

Paint the fireplace brick one shade darker than the walls: Ryegrass by Sherwin Williams.

Set up a kids area on the other side of the room (not shown).

Claire Schwab, of Claire Schwab Interior Design (703) 780-8767, is based in Alexandria, Va.

Do you have a design challenge? Send photos, room dimensions and contact information to



·Leyland armless chair in Moroccan stripe ($567,


·Sloan area rug, 7 1/2-by-9 1/2 foot ($900,

·St. James fireplace mantel ($350,

For the kids area (not shown):

·Shayne kitchen table in black ($699,

·Courbe storage ottoman ($427,

·Sloan gray leaning bookcase ($150,

·Basque java console table ($400,

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