Picture within picturesque

Almost two years ago, Mary Grace and Manesh moved from a condominium into a house. As you might expect, they didn’t have enough furniture to go around. Their living room was bare, and has stayed that way all this time, because the two of them had different visions of how they’d like to finish it off.

Manesh’s wishes weren’t all that complicated. All he really wanted was a big TV and a comfortable place to relax. Mary Grace wanted a room built for entertaining — her style is definitely sophisticated comfort with a bit of built-in bling. The challenge was to take this blank canvas of a room and turn it into the home’s social center, combining Manesh’s recipe for comfort with Mary Grace’s sense of style.

We kept some elements of the existing living room, including the floor and window shutters. Working from the top down, we scraped off the old popcorn ceiling and installed new recessed lighting to brighten things up.

When it comes to providing comfort and a lot of seating, you can’t beat a sectional sofa. We selected an L-shaped model and positioned it to face a new built-in media center, containing — you guessed it — Manesh’s TV.

Working down the room’s longest wall, we installed a gorgeous ethanol fireplace beside the TV, and finished up with more custom cabinetry housing a bar. The cabinets feature open shelving to show off pretty pieces and antique mirrored glass doors to hide the things that aren’t nice enough to display. To add the perfect finishing touch, we installed hardware with just a touch of bling — providing a bit of shine just for Mary Grace.

Beside the bar is a cozy lounge area, complete with two stylish armless chairs flanking a glass cocktail table. And, besides those chairs and the sofa, there are lots of other flexible seating options in this space. Two ottomans are in front of the fireplace, ready to be drawn into the conversational circle.

A front hall bench also provides even more seating when Mary Grace and Manesh are entertaining a large group. It will take just a minute to reposition these pieces to accommodate guests, and they can be tucked back in place when they’re not needed.

Mary Grace and Manesh love to travel, and they’ve accumulated quite a collection of photos. To inject this space with their personality, I decided to create a special gallery wall using custom molding to frame sections of elegant grasscloth wallpaper.

The wall covering is shimmery, but also natural and classic, and it provides the perfect backdrop to their treasured travel photos. This is the wall you see as soon as you come into the house, so it was important to add that personal touch.

Finally, we painted the staircase’s wooden spindles the same color that we used on the cabinetry, helping to pull it all together. This is a finicky job, but one well worth the effort.

It’s always a delicate balance when one half of a couple wants glitz and glamour, and the other half just wants, well, a big screen TV and a remote with good batteries. In this case, though, Mary Grace and Manesh agreed they wanted a living room that felt familiar and welcoming — a space perfect for entertaining larger groups and equally functional for those quiet movie nights.

We struck a good balance with this project by incorporating elegant touches — such as the fireplace, the mirrored glass and the shimmery wallpaper — with comfort pieces, such as the sofa and the familiar travel photos. It’s a wonderful place to come home to, but it’s also a welcoming place to visit.

I have a feeling Mary Grace and Manesh’s new living room will become the gathering place of choice for their circle of friends.

Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of HGTV’s “Candice Tells All.” For more ideas, information and show times visit Her column is syndicated by McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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