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Before & Afters: Going from neutral to color — layer by layer

by | Jan 26, 2010 | Decorating Inspiration, Details | 59 comments

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I found a fun slideshow at Better Homes & Gardens that loosely ties in with our discussion yesterday! {Can I just say that I’m really enjoying all of your comments on that post, by the way! You all give such thoughtful and interesting contributions, so thank you!}

I’ve always been fascinated by makeovers. LOVE before and afters. I really enjoy step by step photos of a room makeovers so I can see how things can evolve. It is fun to see how you could stop at any point and either be happy with the look or get really brave and keep going for a more dramatic layered result.

There are some good examples in the Better Homes & Gardens slideshow of taking a room from all neutral to adding texture, pattern and one or more colors.

Let’s check out some of the progression photos … starting with the dining room! Take your time and look at each one, noticing what they add (or take away!) and how it changes the feel of the room.

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Now, check out the bedroom … take your time again and don’t miss the details!

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And finally, check out this corner with a chair for a fairly simple makeover …

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This makes me want to add some more layers to my latest room makeovers, which I’ll be sharing soon! One of my attempts to add some layers had me laughing so hard I thought I was going to pass out. You won’t want to miss that post, trust me.

Wasn’t it fun to see the layers being added and noticing all the details? What did you think? Share your observations and thoughts! (Remember our old “observation game” posts?)

To see more of the slideshow, check it out at BH&G! Enjoy!

All images BH&G
Note:  Designer JOE RUGGIERO did this project in his daughter’s house in Los Angeles. The fabrics are from his collections for Sunbrella and most are available at the Calico Corners stores around the country (and many, but not all, are on line too)!

(Disclosure: I just happened to love these ideas — no one paid me to advertise for Calico Corners or BH&G. Although I would be happy to work with either of them as they are both some of my favorite sources of inspiration) :-)


  1. Theme Builder Layout

    Thanks for these posts, I am craving color lately. Maybe it is a desire for spring and renewal. I love a neatrul room, but like to be able to add layers and layers of color. I like how in each of these they added two colors, I wonder what the safe rule is for how many colors you can add before it looks like a box of crayons. Have you seen She does the most amazing job of using color. Thanks again, you are always such an inspiration personally and creatively.

    Cha Cha
    .-= Cha Cha´s last blog ..PENQUIN =-.

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    These pictures are awesome! I love how easy it is to imagine doing these same things to rooms in my house!

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    I love this! The color changes the room entirely. Although I sure do love those neutral striped drapes.
    .-= Jamie´s last blog ..January criminal =-.

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    I feel like this is something I could do in our apartment. We hope to be out and in our own home a year from now – so painting isn’t quite worth it. But this… I could definitely find some things to make good layers. Now I have a weekend project!
    .-= Kristen @ Beautifully Imperfect´s last blog ..Welcome to the World =-.

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    I do love layers and textures in rooms. It takes a while to get there though. We just moved into a new home and it is taking longer than I thought for it to become home. It all comes in time. (and some extra money:)
    .-= Melanie´s last blog ..Let’s take a vote. =-.

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    It’s amazing how something so simple as adding a pillow, changing a rug or a lampshade can give a room a whole new feel! Thanks for always sharing your wonderful finds and ideas!

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    Neutrals as a base enable you to change up the color in a room, depending on the season or your mood. Those were great progressions, adding color bit by bit in the accessories. Love it and yes! I’m going to take a look around here.
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..winter white sales =-.

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    It is amazing to see the difference each layer makes! Then you can choose which looks best to you. I love tools like this!
    .-= Richella´s last blog ..Rainy days and Mondays =-.

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    Love, love, love it!

    The layering is the key – my furniture is neutral and I can change the feel of the room by changing a throw or what’s on the coffee table…

    Fun stuff!
    .-= Deanna´s last blog ..My Living Room and Kitchen On A Rainy Day =-.

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    Cool slideshow! And I love how simple the changes are-nothing big but small changes really add up. I always remind myself to layer when composing an outfit, the same is true in my home. Thanks for sharing!
    .-= Gina´s last blog ..Dear Saturday =-.

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    These photos are just fantastic! I particularly love the dining room-I’m a sucker for a striped rug. Very cool post!

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    Fresh and pretty!

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    Amazing, I am so much into neutrals, but I found myself loving the addition of color in all the “afters”. Great post. This shows why layering is so important no matter what your chosen colors are.
    .-= Sandra@Botany’s´s last blog .. =-.

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    This was really amazing. I can’t believe what a difference a small change makes. I mean, it helps to have a fantastic looking room to begin with…but still…

    It makes me want to run right out and find a beautiful new throw for my very neutral living room chair!

    Thanks for the great post!
    .-= Lesley @ TheDesignFile´s last blog ..Home decor trends for 2010 =-.

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    I love using accessories, especially pillows, to bring color into a room.

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    Very intriguing…I was ready to stop at the first step of layering, though. Either that or run back to the neutral room as in the first picture. Perhaps it has more to do with the state of mind a person is in whether color is appreciated or seen as “noise.”
    .-= Vee´s last blog ..Up to Somethin’ =-.

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    Love the way you posted these! It was very cool to see the progression and realize where my color point is.
    .-= Flower Patch Farmgirl´s last blog ..Valentine Book Wreath =-.

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    Love the progression … color makes the world a beautiful place!

    Now if I could just get my bedroom picked up … argh!

    Happy Tuesday!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Intentional Family Time: Can you say No? =-.

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    Love how it shows the changes..but I’d say I am still leaning towards the clean neutral look. Guess with 4 kids I have had my share of color for a bit and want calm now. I do like a small spash of color in a pillow and such. But me, I’d keep it mainly neutral.

    .-= Tammy Hebert´s last blog ..Wiggled it out =-.

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    Gorgeous! I love neutrals but think that just a bit of color really adds something, makes it a bit cozier, I think!
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..Resurfacing. . . =-.

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    This is what I’m attempting to do in my own home as we speak. Only I’ve started with colored walls, like in yesterday’s post. One by one they’re being “neutralized” to a nice warm white. My furniture is already mostly neutral except for a couple of colorful arm chairs that may get slipped in something quieter. Then… I’ll add color back in but in smaller doses like the pics above. I’ve lived with colored walls in this house for almost sixteen years… seems you and I are going in opposite directions!
    .-= Tracy´s last blog ..A Closer Look: Randy Florke’s Farmhouse Style =-.

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    Melissa, another great post, this is a great example of how you can add color as you go through the process of decoating your home. Loved the pictures! Kathysue
    .-= kathysue´s last blog ..Design Quirks or Sensibilities? =-.

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    SO fun! I love a good punch of color on a neutral base! It makes it easy to change up your over-all look and feel of a space without spending a ton. It’s a lot better on my bank account to get new pillows rather than a new couch!! :)

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    This post answers the questions that I had for you yesterday! Thank you so much! I love how they put layers of color all the way down to the lamp shades and how the color doesn’t overwhelm the space in any way and how it is so easily changed. This is SO helpful especially for those of us working with rental space and children who’s behavior is so easily affected by lots of strong color. I think I can achieve a happy medium now. Can’t wait to get started, Thank you!
    .-= Mary Joy´s last blog ..Verse of the Day-1/26/10 =-.

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      You are very welcome!

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    I love before/after posts. . . even if I like the before better. It still gives you some “food for thought”.

    Your blog is great!

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    Wow-what a transformation! And with so little each time, but with such dramatic punch! Reading this gave me the idea of taking pictures of my current rooms to see them through a “staged” point-of-view.

    But, yes, color is so important for depth and impact.
    .-= Michele´s last blog ..I Get By with a Little Help from My Planners =-.

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    This is extremely helpful! What a great idea. I am even thinking of doing this, taking a picture and comparing all the before and afters of my own stuff!!!
    .-= Bethany´s last blog ..summer dessert =-.

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    Dear Melissa,
    The BH&G site should have credited these rooms to fabric and furniture designer JOE RUGGIERO who did this project in his daughter’s house in Los Angeles. The fabrics are from his collections for Sunbrella and most are available at the Calico Corners stores around the country (and many, but not all, are on line too).
    Jan Jessup, Calico Corners

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      Oh, good tip! These were so inspirational! I’ll add that info to the bottom of the post! I love Calico Corners.

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    Perfect springtime post! I love neutrals as I believe they are a good backbone for any room however, without color the room looks flat and boring. I love punches of color. It’s also the easiest and most cost effective way to switch up a room. Just change out drapery, pillows, flowers, etc. :)

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    I love this approach to room design. Especially when you have an entire house to paint. Pick your lovely neutral shades and pop the color in fabrics and accents. I love bold colored walls but find myself tired of them much sooner than I have the motivation to repaint them. With this approach you can quickly change the look of a room.

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    I love the way that you revealed the transformation in steps, it created a sense of anticipation.
    .-= Caroline B.´s last blog ..Help for Haiti =-.

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    Wow! I am so motivated to inject some bold spring colors into my home. thanks for the inspiration :)

    ~Emily N. from “too Blessed 2 Stress”
    .-= Emily N.´s last blog ..Share the Love – Take 2 =-.

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    The funny thing is, I live with a LOT of color in my home, and the neutrals were my favorites of these pictures. They were all nice though, and it is amazing what a few colored accessories did in the rooms. Very interesting post. laurie
    .-= laurie´s last blog ..WHERE IS MY BRAIN? =-.

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    Oh my, this is my life. It’s the only way I can really afford to change anything – with pillows, slipcovers, rugs and flowers! It does take a bit of storage space, though! I just love those photos, thanks for putting this together and sharing this post – It made me realize how much I’m readyfor some bright colors now – it’s been gray and stormy around here for too long now! The white’s just not cutting it anymore! Hope you’ll stop by sometime!
    Heidi – Heart and Home
    .-= Heidi – Heart and Home´s last blog ..Heart and Home and a Wet, White Winter =-.

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    Love how just a little change adds so much. I need more bright colors in my house. Need to think about this during my Spring decorating.
    .-= Liz@HoosierHomemade´s last blog ..Cupcake Tuesday ~ Raspberry Cordial Cupcakes =-.

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    I always think that I couldn’t go ‘neutral’ but seeing the pops of color shows how it could be done. I really liked the orange.
    .-= Melanie´s last blog ..Let’s take a vote. =-.

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    I love the green curtains in the dining room transformation, any idea if those are custom?

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    I like the chair one, because it taught me to think about using colors that don’t “match” but totally go good together! I usually go too matchy matchy with my color scheme I think.
    .-= gina´s last blog ..did you ever get the urge to do this… =-.

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    I also think that if color makes you nervous, these pictures show you how you could add it a little at a time, adding more once you feel comfortable with what you have!

    My question- would you still layer this much even in the summer? Maybe you could address this in a future post?
    .-= gina´s last blog ..romantic "lace" lights =-.

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      Yes, we could talk about that! Generally in summer I start taking away layers but I can think of some layers that are more “summery” than others. Great idea for a new post this spring!

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    oh I love it! That is why I LOVE neutral furniture-because then you can add your pop of color w/ accessories . And as much as I change my taste for color it makes for a cheap quick makeover. I have at least 3 sets of different pillows for my couch. great post!!
    .-= Amanda-TheEckLife´s last blog ..Where have I been? =-.

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    It’s always amazing to see how colors can change mood and atmosphere. As being synesthete I live a life in colors. Synesthesia means that I see colors when I see words and numbers.I transform this in paintings of names and birthdays.
    .-= Artist´s last blog ..Enchanted Seagulls =-.

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    So the whole time I was reading and looking at the pictures, I kept thinking, wow, I’ve never done this layering thing, I wouldn’t know how to start. And then your last example was a chair with a pillow, a throw and a vase next to it. The next time I walked through my living room I saw my glider rocking chair (which is brown, and was for several months only adorned with a brown pillow). Then I added a red pillow which made it much cheerier. After almost a year, I found a red and cream throw (for next to nothing at a thrift store) that matches the pillow perfectly and makes the chair SO much more inviting! So I guess I’ll start there and try to move on to rooms next!
    .-= Abbie´s last blog ..Chicken ‘n rice =-.

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      Yay, that is great! It is so fun to look at things with fresh eyes and realize you can so easily change something just with a new layer!! :-)

  43. Theme Builder Layout

    wow … what a difference a “pop” of color makes!!! love it and thank you!!!


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