From the April/May 2016 Issue  

Makeover Takeover

Writer Meg Fox  |  Photographer Marisa Pellegrini  |  Designer Libby Langdon
  • “I want people to be comfortable and to be able to use every square inch of their house,” designer Libby Langdon says. She created a warm, comfortable and inviting setting with a more efficient layout using most of the homeowners’ existing upholstered furniture along with some new cleaned-lined pieces, casegoods and accessories. BEFORE: Precious space went unused in Betsy and Eric Flaim’s long, narrow living room. “When we tried to cozy up the room by floating the couch closer to the fireplace with chairs flanking, we had huge empty spaces to the left and right of the room,” Betsy Flaim says.

  • A new generously sized area rug visually expands the room and unites the multiple conversation areas. “It makes a huge difference” and makes the room look and live larger, the homeowner says. “Sometimes people worry about putting too much furniture in a room,” Langdon adds, “but a room this size can take it.” BEFORE: An undersized area rug chopped up the room and left large portions of the living area out in the cold.

  • Left: Cube ottomans can be moved easily around the room wherever extra seating is needed. Or they can hold a tray and drinks when entertain­ing, Langdon says. Right: Homeowner Betsy Flaim tries out one of her new chairs. Looking on are designer Libby Langdon (left) and Design NJ Associate Editor Meg Fox.

  • Left: The bookcase/ shelving unit offers attractive display space and helps anchor an area opposite the home­owners’ grandfather clock. Mitchell chairs— which Libby Lang­don designed for Braxton Culler—circle the game table and do double duty as occasional chairs. Right: Langdon carved out a spot for enjoying the backyard view, reading or quiet conversation. The two-tone accent table in a distressed wood finish took the place of a more formal metal and glass-topped piece. French-style chairs (one shown) belonged to the homeowners and were relocated from one area of the room to another.

Designer, author and makeover television personality Libby Langdon helps turn homeowners’ decorating dilemma into an easy, elegant, stylish solution


Every home has its challenges, but “sometimes it’s just one room that needs a makeover,” says designer Libby Langdon, who invited Design NJ for a behind-the-scenes look and final reveal of a living room makeover in Summit. The challenge? Turn an underperforming living room with a tricky floor plan into a comfortable, stylish retreat for homeowners Betsy and Eric Flaim, the parents of three school-age children.

Long and narrow with a center fireplace and multiple doorways and windows, “it was a design challenge from the very beginning,” Betsy Flaim says. “When we tried to cozy up the room by floating the couch closer to the fireplace with chairs flanking, we had huge empty spaces to the left and right of the room that we didn’t know what to do with.”

The homeowners faced another design conundrum: They wanted to incorporate their existing traditional-inspired furniture into the makeover and still get a fresh, updated look. “I was hoping for a more transitional feel” with cleaner lines that could also work with existing pieces, Flaim says. Langdon addressed these concerns and more with a plan to build upon what the owners wished to keep with new furniture and accents that would deliver the style and function they envisioned.

Problem Solver
Sure, the room was long and shallow with the added challenge of three entryways, but “there are ways to make spaces work,” Langdon says. “Sometimes people just need a fresh set of eyes.” Part of the fun, she adds, is being able to share with people, “Come on, you can do this!”

Because the layout for any room “is the very first place that you start,” Langdon proposed a variety of floor-plan options that would optimize the room’s potential but still keep traffic patterns open. “For me, it’s all about getting people to use the square footage in their home,” she says. The Flaims chose a layout that uses every square inch with spaces designed for reading, relaxing and entertaining. Uniting the new multiple seating areas is a space-enhancing area rug — cut and bound from broadloom carpet — that spans almost the full length of the room. Together, “It makes a huge difference” and helps the room look and live larger, Flaim says.

Another unifying element is what Langdon refers to as a “connector” fabric that launched the room’s design direction and tied all of the colors of the room together in shades of pale blue, cream, gray, beige and brown. “It was our jumping off point,” Langdon says of the modern flame-stich pattern from Kravet. Used sparingly on accent pillows and cube ottomans, it facilitated the layering of other fabrics and textures, including chic geometric prints of varying scale. Flaim, initially uneasy mixing patterns on her own for fear they would clash, says: “Libby taught me that you can have fun with a room and mix various patterns as long as they are complementary tones.”

Flexible & Multifunctional
Chairs and ottomans are designed to be mobile. “If it’s the holidays and you have a huge group and you’re playing charades,” Langdon says, “you can pull the chairs around where needed.” A new game table — in a distressed finish — can also pinch hit as a dining, buffet or homework surface for the kids. Among other additions is a tall bookcase for stylish display of books, decorative objects and family photos. “It’s the rock star piece in the room,” Langdon says, along with a vintage grandfather clock, a prized piece handed down from Betsy Flaim’s parents.

Existing traditional-inspired upholstery — a solid textured sofa, French-style chairs and wing chairs— all played well with new additions. “Sometimes people aren’t sure how to take what they have and incorporate something new,” Langdon says. “They might think, ‘Oh the arm on that sofa is way too traditional to mix with these [clean-lined] chairs.’ But it’s fine! You don’t have to have all one look.” She cites examples of how a mix of styles, metals or wood finishes adds dimension and depth to a room. “If there’s something you really adore and its silver but you have all these other gold things in the room, don’t limit yourself.”

Easy, Elegant, Everyday Style
Case goods and accents came from a wide variety of vendors, but as far as new upholstery additions, Flaim says she naturally gravitated to the clean lines, fabric selections and transitional feel of Libby Langdon’s collection for Braxton Culler. At the time she made her selections from among a variety of options, “I had no idea it was her line, “ says Flaim, who also “loved the whole Made in America concept.” Langdon chimes in from across the room, “Made in Sophia, North Carolina, with pride! Easy, elegant, everyday style. That’s my mantra.”

The Flaims say they are thrilled with the living room transformation. “It feels finished and polished yet also cozy,” Flaim says. “I have not changed a thing since the first reveal. The room is perfect.”

Follow the links below to Quick tips, Progress shots and Product highlights
Libby Langdon Shares Tips, Quips, & Tricks

Behind the Scenes of a One-Day Makeover

Supporting Role of Casegoods and Accents