Reader Design Dilemmas

Happy Thursday, friends! I’m excited to announce, I’m going to begin a series of 5 posts tackling YOUR design challenges! Want your problem solved or help with a room you’re renovating? Click through to share your dilemma, because I’ll be choosing 5 of my favorites to address over the next few months. 

This series was actually a reader suggestion and I thought it was a great idea that would allow me to share relevant design information, while helping out a handful of readers. I’m going to choose 5(!) projects from the comment section below based on the problem / design dilemma and offer a solution in the form of a blog post. Here’s the criteria and how to enter…

C R I T E R I A :
  • You must be willing to take before / after photographs of your space that I can share on the blog.
  • If you’re working on an in-depth project or larger room renovation, you must be willing to share the budget so readers are informed and I can solve accordingly.
  • You must communicate in a timely manner via email since it influences the blog content calendar.
E X A M P L E S :

If you’re not quite sure what the scope of this series will include, it’s anything and everything… here are some ideas to get your brain going:

  • Need help floor planning?
  • Choosing window treatments?
  • Determining the size of an area rug?
  • Styling built-ins?
  • Choosing finishes for your bathroom renovation?
  • Selecting paint colors?
  • Updating your kitchen on a budget?

… I could go on and on. Basically whatever you’re struggling with, comment below and I’ll choose 5 different projects to complete in the form of a blog post based on your actual space, budget, and criteria.

E N T E R :
  • Entering is super easy… comment below with a SHORT (1 sentence) description of the design dilemma or project you’d like help with.

Sound good? I’m excited for this new series! What do you guys think? Are you into the idea of me solving reader design problems and projects of varying sizes? I’m excited to see what you throw at me. Good luck to everyone who enters! I wish I could hand out free e-design advice to everyone, but then I’d have no money or time to renovate my own house. Ha!

I might also ask for more information and comment back while deciding which 5 projects the series will include, so keep an eye out for that. Looking forward to starting a fun new series!!

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  1. Geri Pagano says:

    This sounds great! I am trying to re style my dining room and “marry” my grandmother’s burl wood furniture in my Tudor house with my husbands traditional taste and my modern flair. Sounds fun right?!

  2. Melanie J. says:

    Hey there! We just moved into a 1930 bungalow in MA. The living room has me stumped – it’s on the smaller side but longer than it is wide, there is no wall without a window or door, it’s open to the entry and the dining room, there is an off-center fireplace, and there’s a radiator in front of a row of windows. I’d like to understand where furniture should go, where to put a TV, and how to manage the traffic flow through what will be both a well-used room and a pass-through. We currently have a small sectional and a side chair but are thinking we will need some new pieces for the space anyway. I’d love to work with you on this space! I’m a southwest girl originally and love your casual but polished style and the way you think about your home. Thanks!

  3. Barbara Guilbault says:

    My dilemma, redecorating my dining room which is open to the kitchen on one side, weird transition to the hallway on another and I can’t seem to be able to find a good way to make the spaces flow.

  4. Oh, me! me! My hubby and I rent a cute place just outside of DC – because we’re renting we are limited in what we can do (paint, structural changes, etc.). The room has some decent bones and I have all the big pieces, but styling this space has been challenging to really make it feel like me. Help!

  5. Heather f says:

    BASEMENT! Our home is about60 years old. we want to make a living space in a daylight type basement. the bath is tiny and right next to the stairwell. We want to enlarge the bath but don’t know how to solve the problem of entry door and bathroom wall dilemma. One dilemma of many down there!

  6. We live in a house built in 1890 with one (dysfunctional) full bath on the main level. It’s currently purple with a hideous gold-specked laminate countertop and pink bath/shower surround. 👌🏼

  7. This is a great idea! We need floor planning/overall design help with our living room/entry way. We have a family room with a tv and have no idea with this other living space.

  8. Help me! I have a small office (10×10) and there is literally an opening on 3 of the 4 walls. It needs to hold: metal shelving unit, a couch, and hopefully a desk. I don’t know where to put the furniture and how to hide the metal shelving unit.

  9. Family room coffee table(s): we have two sofas that measure 120″ each, and I am grappling with a coffee table(s)!

  10. This is awesome! My living room needs major help. I have some great furniture pieces and artwork (some of which I bought through this blog), but I feel like the layout is wrong, and it all just feels so blah (like, everything is just sitting against the wall around the room). Help! Ha!

  11. Ooo so fun! I’d love some help picking out tiling and paint for a bathroom re-do we’re working on. I’m going for a bold look…but would really love some expert advice if it’s going the route I’m hoping for, or if it would be too much.

  12. How to turn a bonus room at the back of our new house – that’s shaped kind of like half an octagon with three doorways and big windows – into a breakfast nook and mudroom (or any other ideas you may have!).

  13. This is awesome! I love your design aesthetic, Sarah. I need help picking window treatments for wall to wall windows in my living room. I keep going over options in my head but nothing seems like “IT”. Keeping this comment short but have pictures and more to share if you are interested in this dilemma!

  14. Amanda Fox says:

    Awesome! I have a very ugly kitchen that needs to be remodeled and would love help finding the best layout (there are window and door challenges) as well as timeless finishes that will complement my 1918 home.

  15. Well that’s a dream…will you come to my house and just look? So many different things that could be done. 1. paint color to brighten up the entire house. OR #2. master bedroom redo! textiles, furniture…HELP!

  16. So exciting! I have a formal living room that we want to use as a library/office and are having some major floor planning issues. The room has beautiful built-ins and is open to our entryway. The problem is the huge, off-center window that makes furniture placement tricky. We’re coming up on our 1-year anniversary in the house and, despite multiple attempts at furniture placement, it still looks unfinished like we just moved in. Please help!

  17. We need help with creating a cozy floor plan in our long rectangular-shaped living room that has a fireplace at one end, a pony wall at the other end and a wall of windows along the side.

  18. We have an entryway that flows directly into our living space and are desperately in need of savvy design for delineation of spaces!

    1. Heidi, we have the same problem! I’m hoping that she chooses one of our two spaces as I’m sure I could take some ideas from yours as well!

  19. We live in a center hall colonial with a long living room (about 13 by 25 feet). It has a beautiful brick fireplace, french doors, and built in shelves but I’m stumped on furniture layout and general style. We also painted it a color matched to BM linen white and it just looks yellow. The rest of the house is traditional + midcentury modern (George Nelson lamps etc) + industrial (my husband is a machinist). I would love your help, and I’m happy to provide pictures, actively make updates, and share budgets.

  20. This is a wonderful idea! We live in a tri-level home and the main floor has our open concept kitchen and a living room (which I am converting to a dining room) but with the conversion to a dining room, it will potentially eliminate the console entry table I had set up behind the couch. I am hoping you can help me design/style a tiny entry hallway that includes a coat closet, front door, AND garage door!
    Thanks so much for the consideration and I’m really looking forward to this series!

  21. We have a TINY entry way (with a coat closet, garage door, and front door) that flows directly into our dining room. I’d like to know how to separate the spaces and make our entry way feel less cluttered and have a “drop zone.”

  22. YEA!!!! So thrilled you’re doing this, Sarah and wow, you’ve gotten lots of great dilemma’s! Mine is our first floor full bath. We don’t want to convert it to a powder room, because we’ll be moving late next year, but we would really like to minimize the presence of the bathtub/shower and it’s 90’s floor to ceiling tile surround while leaving the high, off-center square window above it uncovered since we don’t get much light on that side of the house.

    It’s a small space and doesn’t need much design I don’t think so I totally understand if mine isn’t chosen! Good luck picking the five – they all sound pretty interesting and of course, I can’t wait to see your suggestions. Cheers!

  23. Help please! We have a 400 SF airbnb rental (open studio) where we have a queen bed, sofa bed, small dining table with chairs and L-shaped kitchen. A lot of the furniture is a mixture of hand me downs or IKEA. It is not cohesive at-all, and i want to give it a polished look and maybe some drama. There are two good size windows into the space and a walk-inish closet.

  24. Hi Sarah! We have a groovy 1967 house that we love, but the home’s many different owners over the years have left the house with a hodgepodge of finishes- how important do you think it is for the doors, trim, doorknobs, switch plates, cabinet hardware… to tell a consistent story throughout a house? Can I justify the investment or am I being obsessive? Thanks!

  25. This is so exciting! I live in an old victorian home. The living room has bay window, fireplace and two doors. Not a single ‘regular wall’ I’ve been struggling to furnish that room for 5 years now.

  26. Help! Currently remodeling a guest bedroom. Need help with the layout

  27. How exciting! I need help decorating above and balancing out my master bedroom makeup vanity (acting as a nightstand) and regular nightstand on the other side. Also looking to freshen up paint color and bedding!

  28. Lindsay MacDonnell says:

    Our kitchen desperately needs you! We bought our first home and two words: oak cabinets and red floors. HELP! 😂

  29. The last 10% of my guest room; I can’t pull the trigger on draperies, bed pillows, table lamps and accessories!

  30. Our circa 1978 ranch home has a california drift rock fireplace not in a corner, but covering 2/3 of a wall in the living room and I am havimg trouble arranging furniture! Think long rectangle, big window and little window and dated. Much. Help me channel my inner-bitchin-Sarah! Yikes!

  31. Lindsey F says:

    I need help laying out our living room that’s twice as long as it is wide, with a bulkhead down the middle and windows on both the short walls! Trying to make it feel like a cohesive space while still keeping the couch facing the tv and incorporating some kid play space and a big black upright piano.

  32. Ah me! I have a dining room with a gorgeous reclaimed walnut and metal framed table and… that’s about all I’ve done. The kicker is the room also really needs to function as an office for my husband who works from home most of the time. I need help with layout/storage solutions.

  33. Haaalp. I desperately need help with our 1920s four square entryway – we’re ready for some color (but can’t commit) and could use styling assistance for the table that my husband built. Ps – love this idea!!

  34. Tricia Cacace says:

    How exciting! I have a room that will eventually serve as both my art room and my meditation room. I need to find colors, decor, etc. that will encourage creativity while also creating a calm and peaceful atmosphere. Please help! The white walls are driving me bonkers!

  35. We recently bought a 1960s house and could definitely use your help planning our living room layout, style and window treatments…it’s long and a narrow with large windows!! :)

  36. I am really stuck on a small main bath – we renovated 85-90% of our house in two months and the main bath got a few updates but desperately needs finishing. I’m not sure I love the paint color so I’m open to that changing but I am so stuck about backsplash, lighting, mirror situation, hardware etc… I need help!

  37. Help! I have a dining table that I love because it was my grandmother’s, then my mother’s and now mine, but I’m ready for new dining chairs. I cannot find something that suits my style, the style of the table and is in fashion, affordable, and will stand up to a toddler. Help!

  38. I’m moving into a house this summer that has two distinct design dilemmas. 1- it has this incredible rock wall fireplace with a gorgeous mantle but that’s also the only place to put the TV in the room so how to put it there without feeling like it takes over the space. And the second dilemma, kitchen cabinets that are painted white and fine but would painting the lowers and island a different color and adding hardware possibly make the whole space feel on point or like a bad DIY?

  39. Hi! Love hearing all your design solutions and diy’s!! My fiancé and I just bought a house. It has really spectacular views from the living/ dining area, but the room is awkwardly long and narrow, making planning out furniture arrangement very tricky. We want to take full advantage of the views!

  40. This is wonderful Sarah. We are ready to replace our 25 year-old couches in the living room. It is a long rectangular room with a corner fireplace and it opens up into the dining room. I have scoured the internet looking for design inspiration dealing with corner fireplaces. We have also sat on so many couches and have a binder full of quotes but can’t seem to decide–two reasons: 1)not sure if best layout for the room consists of 2 couches or a combination of couch and chairs; 2) we are deathly afraid of choosing the wrong couches as they are expensive and we want to be environmentally conscious of getting something that will last. Thank you for your consideration.

  41. My design dilemma is how to style two long walls on either side of the bed. The room is long and narrow so the bed only fits one way but it seems overwhelming to put art on both sides.

  42. Jennie Slagerman says:

    What a great idea! Our master bedroom needs HELP! Basic room shape that we’ve painted greige and updated trim to white. Have a lot of the elements like a vintage style patterned rug, cream upholstered bed and white curtains, but a lot is still to be decided (ie – bought ikea dressers for nightstands but unsure what color to paint, need bedding and art and finishing touches and a ceiling fan that doesn’t look like grandmas)! The last 15% always stumps me so I leave rooms unfinished way too often! Budget isn’t huge but would love help making the space a cozy retreat from my littles!

  43. Kristin Bergman says:

    We just bought a home built recently but we hate the finishes. The Kitchen is all builder grade finishes and lacks personality. We are struggling to make it look modern and be more visually appealing without getting rid of fairly new cabinets.

  44. Lindsey F says:

    Our living room is twice as long as it is wide with 8 foot ceilings and a bulkhead splitting it in two with windows on both the narrow walls. I’m having trouble finding a layout that feels cohesive and keeps the room feeling large that also accommodates a children’s play area (aka lots of storage), and an upright piano while keeping the tv across from the couch.

  45. Hey there, we just moved into a cottage in MA built in 1820! We are almost finished renovating the kitchen and would like to move on to the funky upstairs, the bulk of the upstairs is made up of 3 awkward sized rooms with sloped ceilings (1 room was unheated storage that we want to turn into a bedroom and the 4th is a bathroom), we are looking for a functional floorplan on a budget as we like to diy most things and are looking at resale value as a major contributor! A scary project for sure!

  46. What shape and finish mirror (or really just what mirror) for my tiny powder room refresh where (a) the walls are 2/3 black painted matte finish beadboard from the bottom and the top 1/3 is wallpaper with big black boulder shapes on a white background; and(b)the faucet and sconces around mirror are rose gold?

    Also, how to backlight the stained glass window in that powder room?

  47. Pam Tanner says:

    I would love your help! I have a long wall
    with 3 small windows near the ceiling in our family room that needs some architectural interest. Don’t want to do wall paper or art but something different.

  48. Hi Sarah! I am having difficulty choosing a color to paint our bathroom. We have tan tiles on the floor and shower surround, the room is oddly shaped with one window and little natural light, the shower is in a nook, around the corner from the only window, and gets almost no light. I was afraid of going too dark, and now feel that I’ve swayed the other way and am going to light.

  49. Erica Boyer says:

    This is awesome! We are currently renovating our 1/2 story attic space (1930s tudor home in Minneapolis!) into a master suite and will be hitting the furniture selection/layout stage in the next several months (currently framing, plumbing, adding windows, etc.). I would love some help choosing furniture, deciding on layout, etc. because I am paralyzed with indecision!

  50. We just purchased a 1960’s cottage with a large utility room. The room is completely bare-bones, except for washer/dryer hookups and a small window. It’s long and narrow with plenty of room to become a multi-purpose space: laundry on one wall, mudroom built-ins on the opposite wall, and powder bath at the end. I’d love to have some help with budget friendly cabinet options, as well as cabinet arrangement, powder bath finishes, and mudroom storage. This series is such a good idea! Can’t wait to see the projects you choose!

  51. Hi! Timing couldn’t have been better! Our design dilemma: how to create something pretty AND useful to hide the tubes/pipes/motor of our underfloor heating system in our hallway? The only thing we’ve already decided on is the floor which will be Portugese tiles, so we’ll need to take those into account as well. Hope you’ll choose this dilemma!

  52. I could so use help with my bay window…….furniture placement and window treatments. Thanks for considering!

  53. Denise Kossan says:

    I have a large room that is my living area and kitchen. There is a large wood wall (very orange looking) that connects both rooms. My living room needs serious design help. The kitchen we re-did a couple years ago that is decent. I want to marry the rooms together. I love your Instagram feed and have confidence you can help me! I’m going with NO budget!

  54. I’m feeling bored with our master bedroom’s paint color – we’ve considered an accent wall to liven things up but need help choosing a color/potential wallpaper or texture (?)/which wall!

  55. Probably a common one, I live in an old school city row home that is long but not wide. Really hard to know appropriate size area rug to use without overwhelming the space in one direction.

  56. Christianne says:

    My husband and I are voracious readers, to the point that styling bookshelves seems impossible. They are full of actual books. We are also not willing to turn them backwards (we want to know where our favorites are!) or go the “rainbow spines” route (we sort by genre, a blue historical book next to blue fiction book sends shivers up my spine). Anyway, any ideas to make our hodge-podge of colors look intentional and fit well with our more muted-toned home?

  57. Elizabeth says:

    Multi-purpose coat closet in need of structure and organization for all of its current functions: coat storage, cleaning supply storage and placemat/cloth napkin storage!

  58. This sounds like a great series! I love seeing design solutions in “normal” homes like most of us have! We have a remodeled 1960’s ranch, and aside from a small entry, you basically walk straight in the dining room, totally open to a nice big kitchen, but it is also the walkway to the large family room. We’ve never figured out how to make it work as a dining space. The table always ends up as a dumping ground, and basically only gets used at holidays for anything other than piling up mail and shopping bags!

  59. Help- I have a halfway finished kitchen! I can’t pull the trigger on barstools and island lighting. Not to mention start the breakfast banquette! I need some personality in this kitchen quick before my husband loses his patience with me. :)

  60. Help! Our family of three has numerous projects to tackle in our 1961 split level home. We purchased from the original owner (a long-time family friend) and there are good bones but certain design challenges that accompany a home built in this era. The space I have in mind to make over and put our touch on is the living area downstairs.

  61. My 1920’s house in Ohio has a kitchen nook (approx 6′ x 5′) that is bare and either needs an island/table or built-ins.

  62. Meaghan Calhoun says:

    My house was built in 1937 and probably not updated since then except for refinished hardwood floors. The living room has red paneling covers the fireplace and the room is 13’ x 27’ with the fireplace at the end of one of the 27’ walls. What were they thinking?!

  63. Jennifer Scott says:

    My 4 almost 5 year old son’s room, floor plan, window treatments, color to paint bed, everything! Love your style and taste! Honestly, any room in my house, it’s all about to go down!

  64. Is it an entry? Is it a living room? Is it the entrance to the kitchen? Is it a dark cave?

  65. Would love help with picking finishes for my kitchen renovation which was down to the studs!

  66. Carlina Benitez says:

    Our master bath is lime green, need I say more?

  67. Help! We’re doing a whole house renovation on our newly purchased 1930’s bungalow and I’m struggling with how to layout our living room to maximize the small space and keep the fireplace/builtin bookcase as the feature while also making it a family friendly space.

    But lets be real – if you have advice on our master bath, kitchen or dining room, bring it on!

  68. Dilemma in Dallas: long rectangular living room in Colonial style home renders furniture layout somewhat difficult (large English roll arm sofa, Roi Soleil 2-seat sofa, velvet armchair.) Plus wires & routers behind 2-seater need a storage space that doesn’t interfere w/the large window to backyard. Was thinking a low rattan console of sorts but would appreciate the help.

  69. Gracie Krajesky says:

    Have recently (well within the past year) gutted and renovated my whole house. As you may know is pricey but can also save a ton of money when you do it yourself! Which we have. We are to the last(ish) stage of the home. The master bathroom. We have our shower tile and shower floor tile picked out (marble 4×12 for the walls and marble 2” hexagons for the floors. I am struggling finding a cost efficient bathroom tile for the floor. I want to do herringbone of some sort but am so indecisive Bc I don’t have cabinet colors picked out or sinks. Would love your opionion. And on mixing metals my shower faucets are the gold (by delta) but am going to have to put glass in so have no idea how to mix silver metals with gold!!

  70. Julie Daboub says:

    Been struggling for over a year with what flooring to put down in a non-insulated sunroom that doubles as a mudroom. Been told tile may be too cold with Chicago winters and haven’t seen good looking durable options. HELLLLLP!

  71. Jessica Davis says:

    This is awesome! I tagged you the space I’m having trouble with on Instagram @carcabaroad I am having trouble finding the perfect rug/runner for our bathroom. We have beautiful vintage barn doors as an entry that leads all the way to the tub and we need something to compliment but not take way from them. Help me pull this together and complete our favorite space !

  72. We have an empty kitchen nook awkwardly built onto the house that has three sets of windows, one of which looks into the back entry way; however we don’t know if we need it for seating, storage or both. #onesentence

  73. I am really struggling to style the etagere in my bedroom, I want it to be simple and pretty but am having a hard time figuring out the right balance!

    Another problem I have is what to do with the blank space above my couch. I have a more simplistic/minimalistic style and love the art you’ve created, but don’t know what’s best— a gallery wall or a diptych. And where I can get the art for a reasonable price!

  74. Yes! I love this idea!

    I’d love advice on furniture placement in. a long narrow space with dining at one end, living in the other end and a fireplace smack dab in the middle of the two spaces on a long blank wall. 🤯

  75. I’d love your help! We just purchased a family home with lots of potential. I’ve got lots of ideas for most of the rooms, but am completely stumped with the family room. It’s open to the kitchen on one side and a sun room on the adjacent wall. The other two walls are the tricky spots…One is lined with oak bookshelves and the other has an 8 foot sliding door to the backyard and a fireplace on the rightmost side. I’d love for this area to be inviting and comfortable for our family of four and a gathering spot for family and friends, but have no idea how this large open space can function with such a tricky layout. I’d love to have you take a look and offer some fresh ideas! Thank you! Love your blog and style.

  76. This is awesome! So many design dilemmas that I’d love input on. 1) we have a bonus room where we recently installed some super cool built-ins. I could use help on styling the almost 8 foot long floating shelves my husband built, selecting lighting for the room (sconces above the shelves?), and window treatments. 2) We have an awkward space by out back patio door that I don’t know what to do with. It’s an ear in kitchen between our kitchen and living room, but not enough room for a cool nook because of the patio doors. 3) Livingroom layout for a long room with a fireplace (styling with a tv). Thanks for considering it!!!

  77. Oh would love to get some help with one of the two things please, either our upstairs hallway which is pretty narrow but is also very bright and flows into the stairway with big windows. It’s hard to decide on what would look good and if to hang art/family pics on that wall. Other issue is selecting paint color palette for the house. It has been impossible to find the right colors.

    Really hope to be considered please.

  78. I’ve been thinking of it for so long that I forgot the obvious…master bathroom update with layout to design. Please help!!!!

  79. kayla yuditsky says:

    Our exterior garage door color! We just got a new black roof and our current garage door is poop brown so I’m struggling to find a color to marry beige siding, red brick, and a black roof.