Mark and Ann Shankroff of McLean are struggling to decorate their formal living room. It’s the first area guests see when they enter the house. But with separate family and toy rooms for their three sons, they aren’t sure what to do with it. It should look comfortable, traditional and “put together,” they wrote.


By arranging the furniture to emphasize the fireplace, designer Shanon Munn makes the room feel formal yet cozy.

Munn, of Ambi Design Studio (703-597-8401, www.ambidesignstudio.com), is based in McLean.

Invest in an area rug to make the room appear larger. Anchor all of the furniture on top of it.

Paint the ceiling a few shades lighter than the walls. Walls are Persian Melon, ceiling is Beachcrest Sand, both by Benjamin Moore.

Mark Shankroff and his wife Ann. (Leah L. Jones/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Float the sofa in the middle of the room facing the fireplace. This will give the space a focal point.

Placing a console table behind the sofa provides an additional landing surface for the house’s entryway.

Build a sense of symmetry. Flank the fireplace with two bookshelves and hang a sconce on either side of the mirror.

Be unpredictable. A pair of indigo high back chairs bring a punch of unexpected color into the traditional space.


Furniture: Platinum chairs in Vance indigo ($999 each), Kieran mocha end table ($549) and Kieran mocha console table ($899), all from www.arhaus.com; Belle Collection 85-inch sofa ($2,230, www.mgbwhome.com); Clairemont coffee table ($699, www.crateandbarrel.com); Nadine metal etageres ($699 each, www.ballarddesigns.com).

Lighting: Arteriors Agatha oval iron mirror sconces ($240 each, www.qualitybath.com); Currey and Co. Artois glass table lamps with cream silk shades ($563 each, www.lightingdirect.com).

Accessories: Peyton linen and cotton drapes in chestnut ($92 each) and forged iron drape rods ($89 each), both from www.potterybarn.com.


Nourison area rug in aqua ($4,599 for 12-by-15, www1.macys.

Wells wood and iron mirror ($1,200, www.decorinteriorsus.com).

. . . OR SAVE

Mythos Callisto area rug in sea green and light gold ($1,580 for 12-by-15, www.paylessrugs.com).

Upton mirror ($299, www.potterybarn.com).

See past room makeovers by local designers.

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All prices accurate as of July 24.