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Every morning when Mary Demos went downstairs to make coffee, she looked at her living room and knew it could be a lot better. But her travel schedule (she’s a senior marketing manager for a large corporation) and her fear of making a decorating mistake kept her from taking the plunge. “Basically, I just used my living room to work in or watch TV at night, ” says Mary.

The Pro-Sister Steps in

Luckily her sister, Elizabeth, an interior designer and stylist in Savannah, had her eye on the space ever since Mary (left) moved into the Atlanta, GA, home. She already helped Mary choose the sofa, chairs, and coffee table. So all the room needed was some sisterly love—plus paint, curtains, bookshelves, a pretty rug, art, and lots of pillows!

Sofa and Chairs

Mary bought the linen sofa and swivel armchairs from Bungalow Classic, a home store in Atlanta, more than a year ago. Elizabeth’s tip: Don’t just buy what’s at the store. Choose the fabric you want, even if it takes 10 weeks for delivery. “Trust me. It’s worth the wait.” The pillows are made with inexpensive fabrics (

Built-in Bookshelves

“The very first time I walked into this room, I said, ‘You need built-in bookcases, and they need to go all the way up to the ceiling, ’” says Elizabeth. That done, she papered the backs with temporary wallpaper ( “If Mary gets bored with it in a few years, she can just peel it off.”


Using simple blue velvet panels from IKEA ($70 a pair), Elizabeth had pleated curtains made. They were sewn together to be extra wide, and lined so they look plush.

Coffee Table

“I love a big coffee table, ” Elizabeth says. “It feels more casual than a delicate one.” She and Mary chose this 54-inch-by-36-inch one when Mary moved in. To finish it off, Elizabeth added baskets to the shelf and topped it with stacks of books, a decorative box, a tray, and flowers.


Mary likes to have friends over to watch football, so Elizabeth mounted the TV over the fireplace for easy viewing. The fire screen ( is hand-forged iron.

Light Fixture

The “all-wrong ceiling fan” (Elizabeth’s words) got replaced with a simple flush-mount fixture (

Area Rug

Elizabeth swapped the small 8-foot-by-10-foot rug for a pale gray wool blend dhurrie from Pottery Barn that’s 9 feet by 12 feet. “I like a rug to be large enough that you can put all the furniture on it, ” she says.

Art Wall

Mary’s once-bare wall now holds a collection of art in a variety of frame shapes and sizes. “I told Mary that every time she travels, she should pick up a postcard or a little piece of art, have it framed, and change up the wall, ” says Elizabeth.

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