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Makeover of the Week: Designer Phoebe Howard Gives a Stuffy Living Room a Bright Refresh


outdated living room
Courtesy of Phoebe Howard

“This house had great bones, yet the décor needed major modernizing,” says interior decorator Phoebe Howard. “The formal living room paid homage to the '80s, when heavy drapery, fancy fringe, and gold accents ruled.” The goal, according to Howard, was to turn a stuffy space into an inviting retreat.

Meet the Expert

Phoebe Howard is a Florida-based interior designer known for her modern take on traditional style. She is the author of four books, owner of four retail stores (under the labels Mrs. Howard and Max & Company), and has a furniture collection with Sherrill Furniture.


green living room
Josh Gibson

“The original symmetrical layout still worked; we simply updated the room with new furniture and accessories,” says Howard. “The client loved bold hues, so we used an intense color on the walls.”

What Changed:

  • Color theme: A black and white scheme, including a geometric patterned rug and two slipper chairs covered in small-scale print, balance out the bright chartreuse walls.
  • Sofa: At over eight feet long, the curved white matelassé sofas face off to encourage conversation.
  • Window treatments: Room-brightening ivory curtains are lined in geometric black and white trim tape.
  • Fireplace: White accessories draw attention to the mantel, including an octagon-shaped mirror made of mother-of-pearl kabibe shells, milk glass sconces and matching ceramic urns.
  • Coffee table: The two squared antique glass tables have a modern vibe and a bottom shelf for accessories.
  • Side tables: Black piping pops on these cream-colored, turtle shell drink tables.
  • Wood accents: The stylish wood-trimmed bench and midcentury sideboard add warmth to the room.
  • Game table: A glossy lacquered square table is the perfect spot for family card games. The client’s mother-in-law’s antique floral print screen breaks up the solid walls. 

Shop the Space:

living room
Josh Gibson
gold sconce
Aerin Drunmore Single Sconce $415.00
dining chair
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Home Ada Side Dining Chair $1,220.00