Living/Dining Room: Before + Inspiration

Apartment hunting in NYC meant that I looked at thousands of real estate listings to rent even before I went to see any, just to assess what was in my price range, what I could get as far as layout/square footage and what characteristics in an apartment turned me off before I even went to see it. Of course, in our crazy rental market, you usually have to submit an application the same day if you like a place so you have to be really, really sure you know what you want when you go see it. I fell in love with our apartment at first sight, primarily because the living/dining room was such a great size (with nice easterly light) and has an open kitchen that is slightly tucked away from the main living area. Naturally, when it came to decorating, the large living area was the first place I started scheming about.

The truly gorgeous ‘before’ real estate photo of the living/dining room (full of ‘wide angle’ magic). Spoilers: it’s not as gargantuan as this picture tries to suggest.

Unlike so many of the ‘before’ photos floating around the interwebs, this blank slate looks impeccable– it almost seems like it’s daring you to mess it up. And it also screams, “Wouldn’t I be a gorgeous, minimalist Scandinavian home?”

Okay, this is the ‘real’ before, including delightful tape on the floor that I used to map out the room

Unfortunately, that’s not at ALL my style, as lovely as it looks in a photograph. I am definitely eclectic, I love color and my preferences for furnishings are predominantly classical or art deco rather than modern. So I desperately needed some inspiration imagery to get any idea what I was going for.

Architectural Digest

I love the color scheme and layers of this extremely traditional image from Architectural Digest– but it needed to be much more contemporary and casual to fit in our open plan apartment with 8-ft ceilings.

Thomas Jayne

This room is also extremely traditional in feel (and I love the muted terracotta-colored accents) but what I took away from this image was the strong impact of a mural in creating atmosphere, especially on a long wall with relatively few features on it.

Apartment Therapy

This Apartment Therapy apartment is much more approachable and doable in the space we actually have (not whatever imaginary chateaus the previous photos were meant for). It also feels relaxed and modern while also looking put together.


The pink and green and blue and pattern on pattern are magical here. I also like how the Beni Ourain rug  and the cane backed chairs are a nod to boho in a traditional way.

Sophie Ashby

I love dining chairs upholstered in navy and white fabric. It’s contemporary but warm and has a good formal/casual balance, which is what I want for this ‘everything’ space I’m working with.

Studio Pepe

Yup, another mural + green velvet sofa + Beni Ourain rug. This image is so trendy right now, but it’s also a combination of the trends I like the most.

Colette van den Thillarts

The atmosphere of this room owes everything to the sophisticated color pairing and I want to curl up in here with a good book.

Apartment Therapy

This is definitely open plan inspiration and I’m jealous of all those fantastic tiles. I love the way benches/stools look for dining tables but I hate sitting on them. I feel like this room is a little more fun, which I wanted some of as well!

The World of Interiors

This is pretty and cozy and exactly the opposite of the feel in the apartment currently.


These are the ‘befores’ from when the previous owner decorated/staged it that I found on StreetEasy:

What do you think of the inspiration images? Do you have a favorite?

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Hmmmm, I like them all. That’s the thing with good design – as long as it’s done right, it tends to look great, regardless of the style. I am drawn to the House and Home photo with deep blue-green walls, because that’s currently my fav color. Though I only had the nerve to put that in the powder room, not the living room. My aging eyes appreciate light and bright spaces in living areas.

    1. So so true– I included them all because I love them all too! I love the atmosphere of a dark walled room (it seems so cozy) but light and bright can be so much more practical. I love how powder rooms always seem to get the most adventurous designs– why not, really, in such a small space?

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