Homes Photo Credit: Tracey Ayton Photography, original photo on Houzz

Design Inspo: Beachy, Scandinavian-Inspired Living Room

How designer Lori Steeves used Scandinavian decor and a white-and-blue palette to freshen up a once-dark living space.

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Looking through their belongings and listening to the family talk about design let interior designer Lori Steeves determine their design style. Their 1950s home was dark and felt cramped, and she could see they were craving a fresh take on Scandinavian mid-century modern design. Using gallons of white paint, light woods, a mix of metal finishes and soft grey-blue and light gold hues, she transformed their living room into a light, welcoming space.

(Photo: Tracey Ayton Photography, original photo on Houzz.)

At a Glance

What happens here: A family of four entertains, reads, talks and plays
Location: Kitsilano
Size: 187 square feet
Designer: Lori Steeves of Simply Home Decorating


This tall family of four felt as though they were bursting out of their modest-size home, but they loved their neighborhood, the schools and the proximity to the beach, so they opted to renovate and redecorate rather than move. Steeves helped them find a Scandinavian-inspired style they loved, and used it to lighten up the living room while nodding to the home’s mid-century modern roots. Comfortable seating and multipurpose furnishings gave them the function they needed—room to seat all of them as well as guests comfortably. The room also flows into their small dining room, so Steeves designed the two in tandem for an easy flow.

“One of the homeowners is of Scandinavian descent and was drawn to that look,” she says. “I could see from their belongings and their art that they had a penchant for it but also wanted to go a little more modern by using lighter woods.”

Steeves got a lucky break with these chairs. They arrived with damage to the felt upholstery, and the company gave her a big discount. She used the savings to reupholster them in a tweedy grey-blue fabric.

Rather than going with the teakwood used in classic Scandinavian mid-century modern design, Steeves updated the look by choosing less-orangey woods like ash, pine and white oak. These woods pop up on furniture legs, the lamp, the bench and the tables.

“It was too expensive to change the fireplace surround, which was an awful 1950s red brick,” Steeves says. With new white paint on the surround and mantel, the room was instantly lightened. The original terracotta tiles blend right in with the wood floors—it was not worth the expense to replace them. A convex mirror reflects the rest of the room.

(Photo: Tracey Ayton Photography, original photo on Houzz.)

The designer made the most of the large south-facing window. The console underneath provides storage and is sturdy enough to double as a bench when extra seating is needed.

The rug has a large-scale flame stitch pattern on it and helps to lighten up the floors. Steeves opted for wool because it is naturally stain-resistant.

The original architecture included lovely coved ceilings, and the family didn’t want to risk damaging it with pot lights. Instead, they went with two white disk ceiling lights.

“I love drapes, because they are a great way to bring in a lot of pattern and texture,” Steeves says. “This was the first pattern I chose for the room.” The pattern looks like abstract tree branches and has a freshened-up mid-century modern feel.

(Photo: Tracey Ayton Photography, original photo on Houzz.)

The sectional was the first piece of furniture Steeves chose. She sought out one with deep seating because everyone in the family is tall. “We were going grey in the kitchen renovation at the same time, so using grey hues in here helped with the continuity,” she says. This particular grey has blue tones.

The coffee table throws an interesting mid-century-modern-inspired shape into the room, along with a mix of ash wood and a metal base. The large painting provides a focal point. “It’s kind of boat-shaped,” the designer says. “We gave the room a beachy palette but didn’t give it that theme—there are no shells in here!”

She brought in more colour via throw pillows in silvery grey, white and muted gold.

The door seen here leads to the entryway; you can see the front door on the left.(Photo: Tracey Ayton Photography, original photo on Houzz.)
(Photo: Tracey Ayton Photography, original photo on Houzz.)

Needing to fill this large wall, Steeves found an aged brass reproduction of a mid-century modern seagull wall sculpture. “I didn’t want another painting here, because it would have competed with the one over the sofa,” she says. “The sculpture is ethereal and provides a nice view from the front door.”

(Photo: Tracey Ayton Photography, original photo on Houzz.)

Because the space in the adjacent dining room is tight, at 9-by-9 feet, Steeves came up with a good space-saving seating strategy. First, the table is extendable. Second, the bench next to the fireplace is a dining bench that seats three on one side of the table when guests are visiting.

An iconic mid-century modern pendant hangs over the dining room table. The two rooms flow together beautifully.

Thanks to the new bright and comfortable design, the family feel like they have more space and are glad they stayed put in their beloved neighborhood.


More from Houzz

Expandable Dining Room Sets for Your Small Space

Strategic Layouts for Living Room Furniture

More Modern Scandinavian Style Pendant Lights to Choose From


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