Margaret "Carol" Harrison’s family room. (Leah L. Jones/For The Washington Post)

Margaret Harrison, left, wants to brighten and update the long, narrow family room of her Mechanicsville home. She’d like a comfortable space where she can relax but is struggling to arrange furniture around the sliding glass doors and the fireplace.


The solution. (Julius Goyanko for The Washington Post)

Designer Sharon Hayden uses paint to warm the room and brighten the paneling, and adds a long sectional to increase seating without blocking movement. Hayden, of Studio Starrs Interiors (571-212-8431, www.studiostarrs. com), is based in Vienna.

Warm up the walls with a beige, such as Benjamin Moore’s Pittsfield Buff. Use a diluted version of this color on the paneling and ceiling.

Install neutral, low-pile carpeting in place of the existing red, and layer an area rug on top to define the seating space.

Replace the blinds with panel drapes to add color to the room and soften the large sliding glass doors.

Upholstered chairs brighten the room and add seating.

Place a small bookcase next to the sectional to increase storage and double as a sofa table.

A set of colorful prints above the sectional creates a focal point for the room.

Use modular pieces to build a sectional that creates room for sitting and lounging, without blocking the walkway.


Furniture: Prime media console ($699,; Buchanan square-arm swivel armchair in Nutmeg suede ($949) and Bedford two-shelf bookcase in Espresso ($519), both from; Colton chair with nailhead trim in green ($300, www.bedbathand
); Alec coffee table in brown ($211,; double-wide 72-inch bookcase in Espresso ($265,

Accessories: Chantilly rug in beige and rust ($599 for 8-by-8-foot rug,; set of nine framed Tuscan wall panels ($163,; Garrison 95-inch curtains in Moss ($60 per panel), Impressions throw pillow ($25) and Montauk throw pillow in Olive ($15), all from; braided velvet pillow in Bittersweet ($110, www.companyc.
); Inca sunburst mirror in antique gold ($150,; brushed steel open window table lamp ($90,; Loran metal wall sconce ($218,; black metal pillar candlestick ($10,


(Pottery Barn)

(Pottery Barn)

Buchanan build-your-own roll-arm sectional in Walnut textured twill (as shown $2,926, www.pottery

Winslow arc sectional floor lamp ($599,

. . . OR SAVE


(Home Decorators)

Kivik corner sofa in Isunda brown ($1,249,

Phillips arch floor lamp in black ($179, www.

More from Home & Garden:

Tell us about your own design challenge here

See past room makeovers by local designers here