My Living Room / Dining Room Makeover With Curio Design Studio (Before And After)


Mike and I rented this cute little house um….four years ago now?  Sheesh.  The original plan was to rent it it for a year or so, then, when he’d mastered this job that he had desperately wanted to try, we’d head back to Denver.  Easy-peasy.

But this is Life, right?  So instead of progressing according to plan (HA!), Mike’s job grew into something exciting, I got cancer, he changed both company and career and VOILA.  Here we are. Still in our “temporary” rental.

At some point (like, a year ago) the writing was on the wall and I took one look around – with clear eyes – and realized that we needed help.  I had never taken the time to make this place a home and now I was lost.  I didn’t have the first clue how to begin.  Each new item I bought (random pieces of furniture, throw pillow, whatever) just seemed to add to the clutter.  Nothing was cohesive, there was no plan – even worse, there was no vision.  I wanted a Pinterest reality; I had a mess.

So we turned to our dear friend Alison over at Curio Design Studio.  Her business model is so smart:  she emails you instructions and graph paper, you measure everything (room size, furniture, whatever), take pictures of your space, create a Pinterest board of rooms that you like (here’s ours), set a budget…and wait for the result.

I was totally BLOWN AWAY by what Allison came up with.  Want to see?

Our Living Space – Before









Make no mistake:  our house rarely looked THIS clean.  And why so many chairs in the living room?  I mean seriously.   Also please note the crayon on the walls (the whole house was painted with MATTE paint GAH) and the entryway disaster.  (Not pictured?  The millions of boots/hats/crap that is all shoved into the closet or chest.)


The Curio Design Studio Package

In roughly a week or so, Allison sent us a back a PDF containing 3-D renderings, shopping lists (with pictures) and diagrams explaining where to put everything.  It. Was. Amazing.  Here are just a few pages from our packet:










What We Actually Did

Here’s the thing I really love about this type of design service:  it’s completely NO pressure.  You don’t feel like calling an electrician and installing a chandelier?  Skip that step.  Your husband has an aversion to wicker so you want to go with another chair?  Great.  Found an old side table in the basement that works good enough? Perfect!  The vision is there, the path to implementation is totally up to you.

And in the case of the couch….UGH.  Allison found a completely suitable blue couch well within our given budget.  However, Mike and I got…picky.  We didn’t want a cheap, stop-gap couch (no matter how affordable) so we searched for another.  And searched.  And searched.  In the end the couch we both fell in love with cost $3500, and by the time we saved up for it I was all “eff the couch let’s go to Puerto Rico” and off we went.

I’ve also learned (through this process) that our actual house will never, in any way, look as good as Allison’s designs simply because WE ACTUALLY LIVE IN IT.  Screw you, Pinterest.

In any case, I couldn’t be more thrilled with how our place turned out – terribly dirty couch and miss-matched belongings and all.  Here are some pics (and I’ve linked to a few of our favorite pieces below).



UPDATE:  I had originally put in the wrong butterfly chair!  Ours is the butterfly chair from PBTeen, $199!

Yellow lamp with black shade

Mirrored Coffee Table (perfect for Reggio-Emelia type play with magna tiles)

West Elm Wood Storage Crates (bottom row in the Ikea bookshelves)

Rugs are both Ikea

Paint color (cause it’s so hard to find a good white):  Benjamin Moore OC-117



The crappy table (above) is going to stay as long as we have messy, art-making boys.





Ugh.  Please ignore Mike’s projector.  It’s our ongoing argument about where the thing goes.  (I mean seriously the cord alone….)




World Market Madras Rectangular Baskets

Ikea Bench






A few final thoughts:

1.  Don’t judge Allison for our throw pillow situation.  I started buying the pillows she recommended (well…I bought ONE) and then the Great Blue Couch never happened and my husband is constantly trying to donate all of our throw pillows to Goodwill….SO.  I suspect Allison probably would’ve recommended something different if I had simply told her we’re keeping the dirty couch.  (Although….the one pillow I bought doesn’t look that bad, right?***)

2. We did the Classic Design Package and gave Allison a budget of….$3000?  $3500?  Something like that.  We ended up using a less because of the couch, chandelier and side table, but went with more expensive baskets (which were totally worth it for durability).  If I did this all over again….I’d think about upping the budget and just letting Allison know we wanted to slow-roll the updates.  IDK.  It all worked out pretty well in the end.

Anyway, check out Curio Design Studio, you guys.  Allison ROCKS (and, as I write this, is about to have her first baby shower – yay!!).



ps.  this post is in no way sponsored.  HA – if it was, it wouldn’t have taken me over a year to write.  🙂


***UPDATE – I just received the sweetest note from Allison.  She read this article, took one look at our dirty couch and sent back this pic:


Allison said: Check out this etsy pillow shop, Willa Skye Home — Some good options to add to your existing couch. Try using blue velvet pillows in place of the couch pillows.



  1. Girl, this is EXACTLY what we need. We’re also realizing we’re going to be in this house longer than we were planning to be, and now that I’m working from home (um, have been working from home for a year now), it’s time to make this space more usable and enjoyable. We got a new couch and have paint samples painted on our walls, and…that’s as far as we’ve gotten. Your place looks great! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing!

  2. You, Shana, deserve a fabulous blue couch. Find some fabric and have your existing one reupholstered. In Chicago, I have a guy who did that for me for about $350. The upholsterer can also fluff up your cushions so they look full. Do it! I promise you won’t regret it and you probably won’t even need another couch. I worked with Emily A. Clark several years ago on our old house: – (you do follow her cool blog, don’t you?). She made our last house fantastic on our budget. Of course, I have since moved twice (I get it about rentals – gah – being stuck with builder-grade light fixtures, etc. drove me CRAZY! We had 4 people, two cats and two gerbils in 1200 sq feet in a high rise. Emily has had mommy life throw her a few curve balls – go for baby #4 and instead get babies #4 and #5! I wonder if she doesn’t read you since she has great style. I heard on instagram you are thinking of moving….hope you find a great place!

    • I live in the Chicago area and was wondering if you could share the info for the upholsterer you used. I’ve been looking an have only found prices that are at least double what you paid.

  3. I love it! I was just thinking…what if you painted the projector cord with your wall paint? Maybe then it would blend a bit?

  4. I have two little boys and a love of white rugs and couches. Normally, I would just suffer with darker colors or patterns for the next ten years or so. But instead I made my rugs from and my couches from, and I’m pretty impressed.
    Everyone’s heard of carpet tiles but when I tell moms about how every single piece of fabric on my couch can be taken off and thrown into the washing machine, their eyes go wide. Then I mention how all the individual components can be easily replaced (if say, your puppy chews a bottom corner), the arms can replaced with a different style if you’re in the mood, and my HUGE sectional cost less than $2000 including delivery. That’s when they grab their phone to write down the website. Now, it’s not the most comfortable couch in the world (especially because my husband is also huge) and it took two days to put the enormous thing together, but it’s honestly one of the best purchases we’ve made. I have a huge sectional in the living room and a smaller sofa in the playroom.
    The only down side of being able to wash all the carpet and upholstery is that almost at all times there is a missing carpet tile or couch piece being washed or dried, but hey, at least I know it’s clean!

  5. What a cool service! I love that idea. And your place looks great.
    I was JUST looking at electrical cord solutions for my living room, right before seeing your post. I thought this was pretty awesome. Maybe you could do a smaller sorta version for your projector. (Maybe not the full braid since it’s so thick. But just one cover on the cord and a fun color, or a few?)
    Also, for the table (which believe me I get you keeping — there’s no way I’d have a new table around at this stage of the motherhood game), you’d be surprised what just running an old cloth dipped in a similar wood stain over a piece of furniture can do for it. (I’m guessing something like Minwax’s English Chestnut. A tiny half pint would be more than enough.) Do it after bedtime and let it dry overnight. I really shined up an antique I got at the thrift with just that. It’d make all the nicks on the edges of your table disappear. (This works permanently, well till it gets a new nick. Old English helps but just fades away.)

    • Um….WOW. Those cords look…cool? LOL – is that possible? And thank you for the tip on the table. I had just about given up. 🙂

  6. What are the little garlands hanging from the curtain rod in the living room? So cute and whimsical although I am worried the kids might yank them off…

    • I bought them in one of those after Christmas clearances sales at Crate and Barrel – they were garland originally, I think? Anyway, I knew I loved them and they were like $5 each so I bought a bunch. When I hired Allison I was all, “oh by the way, if you could incorporate these that would be great”. But they only went up in the last couple of months because we had to wait for Pax to get out of his yanking stage. 🙂

  7. What a great service! We have moved 5x in 3 years (two countries and three states). We have such a random collection of junky furniture. We have some artwork not properly displayed because of all the moving. I cannot wait to move into our own home (hopefully this summer) to contact Allison. Thanks for sharing. I love the finished product especially the leather corner chair and the white couch.

  8. Details on the little clear plastic boxes with different types of toys sorted out into them under the TV? And the photo-front cabinet? Is that a DIY? It’s pretty cool!

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  10. This is exactly what I needed! We keep waiting to get out of “sippie cup stage” before we get a new couch ,but we keep having kids and now 10 years have gone by and our couches look horrible! It makes me nervous to do expensive major updates on my own. You can’t exactly “return” a couch :). Thank you !

  11. Love this! Now if I can just talk my hubby into it. He thinks our living room is “fine” He’s wrong. It’s not.

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