For eight years, Rachel Larris has shared her 936-square-foot Arlington apartment with a roommate. Now she has the space to herself. To celebrate, she wants to “spiff up” the living room by upgrading her furniture and hanging art. But she is not allowed to paint.


With colorful accessories and a wall of bookcases and storage, designer Caroline McCandlish makes the small, plain room live large.

Make the most of wall space. A tall media storage unit draws the eyes up.

Emphasize ceiling height by placing a tall floor lamp in the corner.

Rachel Larris (Leah L. Jones/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Anchor the sofa and chairs with a rug that stretches the length of the room. The vertical stripes will make the room feel larger.

Conceal the radiator. A wooden cover can double as a console table.

Trick the eye into thinking the windows are larger by hanging curtains outside the frame.

Add lighting. Swing-arm wall lamps can highlight art and provide light for reading.

Add color through accessories. Pick throw pillows based on colors found in the wall art.

McCandlish Design (703-689-3481, www.mccandlishdesign.com) is based in Reston.


Furniture: Valeta gray coffee table ($1,100, www.arhaus.com); Grayson chair in khaki ($900, www.crateandbarrel.com); Rusted Iron media center ($1,700, stores.homestead.com/hudsongoods); Chestnut Hill radiator cover (priced according to size, www.fichman.com).

Lighting: Cone pivot shade wall lamps in vintage bronze ($290 each, www.shadesoflight.com); tripod wood floor lamp ($250, www.westelm.com).

Accessories: Zig Zag Spice throw pillows by Room Service (no longer available, www.amazon.com); silk grommet window panel in Rose Hip ($100 for 84-inch panel, www.westelm.com); red Lisbon pedestal table ($70, www.worldmarket.com); “Carnivale” giclee print ($40) and “Abracadabra” giclee print ($30), both from www.art.com.


Tibetan 100 area rug in rust and beige ($1,955, www.rugs-direct.com).

Petrie sofa in Camden ($1,700, www.crateandbarrel.com).

Bedford chair in Cafe linen cotton weave ($2,050, www.williams-sonoma.com).

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Petra area rug in sunset stripe ($700 for 8-by-10 feet, www.rugs-direct.com).

Chester tufted sofa in Otter performance velvet ($1,100, www.westelm.com).

Essex chair with casters in natural ($1,300, www.crateandbarrel.com).

Tell us about your design challenge.

Send photos, room dimensions and contact information to makeover@washpost.com.