This Designer Turned on the Midcentury Charm in a '50s Era Living Room - Here's How

makeover of the week - 1950s living room

Design: Michelle Boudreau, Graphics: Amy Sheehan for MyDomaine

If there’s something we never get tired of seeing, it’s a great makeover. Whether it’s transforming a retro bathroom into a modern oasis or giving a lackluster bedroom a fresh look, pros perform these design miracles all the time.

To give designers a chance to showcase their favorite makeovers—and to bring you plenty of inspiration for your own home—we’re sharing the best before and afters we’ve seen in our series, Makeover of the Week. Take notes for your next renovation.

My clients purchased this holiday home so they could enjoy the vibrant lifestyle of Palm Springs, and it was this living room that sold them on the house," interior designer Michelle Boudreau says. "The 40 foot floor-to-ceiling windows offer stunning views of the San Jacinto mountains, and a landscaped backyard that features a beautiful pool, rich green desert plants, and rock sculptures."

Meet the Expert

Designer Michelle Boudreau is the owner of Michelle Boudreau Design in Palm Springs, California. She is passionate about midcentury modern design, architecture, and culture, striving to keep the original integrity of her projects while showcasing them in a new light. 

Before:

Before shot of bland midcentury living room.

Courtesy of Michelle Boudreau

“The living room hadn’t been renovated for years, and felt dark and cold,” Boudreau notes. “It had raw, worn concrete floors, the windows were covered in a dingy cream drapery that blocked natural light from entering the room, and the stained tongue and groove wood ceilings had water stains due to leaks. Plus, there were no ceiling lights, so this amazing room pretty much went dark once the sun went down.”

After:

After shot of midcentury inspired living room with pink velvet chairs.

Design: Michelle Boudreau; Photo: Lance Gerber

“My goal was to respect the room’s original architecture while giving the space a modern touch along with creating a brighter and more inviting environment," Boudreau notes. "My clients love to sail, so I included various shades of watercolors that flow throughout the room and reflect the pool on the other side of the windows. I also mixed in whites and wood tones to warm things up. The furniture was thoughtfully curated to reflect a modernist aesthetic with a nod to the midcentury era, and was strategically placed so the owners could enjoy the outdoor views, including the pink mountain sunsets.”

What Changed:

  • Color theme: Vibrant shades of turquoise, cobalt, and navy are paired with warm touches of corals and blush.
  • Sofa: The curved shape of the mohair sofa makes for more intimate seating and softens the room’s linear details.
  • Chairs: Coral velvet armchairs have a chic brass base and swivel to capture the outdoor views from every angle. 
  • Pillows: The pillows on the chairs and sofa are contrasting textures, shapes, and colors.
  • Floor: The concrete was covered in large linear grey stone tiles with subtle white veining; brass inlays between the tiles add a metallic touch.
  • Floating chairs: Bubble chairs, accented with white velveteen cushions and round velvet dusty rose pillows, provide a playful way for the homeowners to cocoon in comfort and enjoy the outdoor view.
  • Lighting: A cluster of globe pendants was hung at different heights for visual interest. 
  • Wooden wall: Brass inserts are integrated between walnut wood slats to create a wall that pays homage to the home’s midcentury past. 
  • Rug: Multi tones of blue and gray in the wool rug tie all the colors in the room together. 
  • Round tables: Circular tables of differing shapes, materials, colors, and sizes, are used throughout the room for entertaining. 
  • Ceiling: The tongue and grove was painted white to brighten up the space and cover up imperfections.
  • Fireplace: The original light gray brick was painted a bright white to contrast with the fireplace’s black interior. 
  • Wall art: Multiple colored discs over the fireplace create a modern porthole and add dimension to the fireplace.
  • Curtains: The windows are covered in a rippled-fold sheer fabric that has a darker panel of linen fabric integrated at each fold, allowing in soft light when opened and privacy when closed.
  • Ottoman: The large white pouf, with its brass angled legs, is wrapped in soft shearling and can be used as a resting spot for drinks or feet.
  • Painting: An abstract painting by artist Stefan Szczesny reflects the room’s color palette and the home’s spirit.

Shop the Look:

Two hanging bubble chairs in living room.

Design: Michelle Boudreau; Photo: Lance Gerber

Alto Cord 12"
Cedar & Moss Alto Cord 12" $279
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“I love taking a classic design and interpreting it in a new way, in this case installing multiple pendants to make a statement,” Boudreau says.

Marseille Sofa in Velvet
Modshop Marseille Sofa in Velvet $4,495 $3146
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"The sofa’s unique form reminds me of a stylish hug,” Boudreau says.

Hanging Bubble Chair
Modholic Hanging Bubble Chair $1,671 $740
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These chairs add a sophisticated playfulness to any space,” Boudreau says.

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