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When Houston-based design firm, Marie Flanigan Interiors, sent over a file of their favorite redesigns, our jaws hit the floor. Literally. So we spoke with Marie Flanigan, the firm’s award-winning principal designer, to get all of her transformation tips to share with you. Keep reading for lessons that will carry you through any redesigning of ANY space.

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This home office had the right idea, taking a risk with a colorful ceiling. Unfortunately, the color scheme lent a dated feel to the room.

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after

An unbelievable transformation. With added moulding details and a lighter paint shade, Marie and her team were able to completely change the aesthetic of the room.

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The cabinets located on either side of the archway over the sink made the whole space feel heavy.

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Sometimes, construction is necessary. Like in this kitchen, the space is so much more open, bright, and welcoming than before. We also love how the kitchen cabinets and surfaces are opposite of the island’s.

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The beige carpet, walls, and accessories are made worse by the yellow lighting found in this bedroom.

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Notice how this bedroom repurposes many of the initial big furniture pieces and features a similar, but updated, take on neutrals. Marie pointed out that if a client, “has good existing pieces, there’s nothing wrong with refreshing those.”

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Though the detail in the ceiling caught our eye, the bright yellow walls proved as the focal point of the room.

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There are so many lessons to learn from this one room alone. First, it’s multifunctional, which is every client’s dream come true. Second, breathtaking built-in bookshelves have been constructed, creating a nice, natural space for seating. The grid gallery wall is inspiring, there’s texture and pattern, all incorporated into a neutral color palette… Must we continue?

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The dark ceiling, which matches the darker brown-beige walls, is cringeworthy. And that ceiling fan! 

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It’s hard to compare the two spaces, as they are so polar opposite. The expert use of color in this room has us smiling ear-to-ear. Don’t even get us started on that statement sofa…

We asked Marie about her feelings on white walls vs. more colorful hues, to which she replied, “We want a space to create a mood and kind of become an evocative experience. And I feel like white, so often, is the purest of colors and creates just a blank palette for creating the room around it. It creates some sort of, a lot of subtlety in a lot of ways. That being said, we love a dramatic room and we love dark colors, but we really like to keep to an organic palette, whether it’s like saturated neutrals or just kind of muted tones. Because a lot of our work is inspired by nature.”

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There’s no denying this ceiling is striking and natural light plentiful, but these design elements are definitely not being used to their full potential here.

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after

It’s amazing what difference a few changes can make. The updated windows, light fixture, bold, black wall color, and hardware floor installation are just a fraction of what makes this room so stunning.

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Bathrooms are the perfect place to make a statement. Unfortunately, this small bathroom falls flat.

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By adding wallpaper, a modern vanity, sconces, and mixed metal accessories, this tiny space was able to be transformed.

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This formal dining room has architectural potential, but feels “blah” due to the outdated chandelier and wall color.

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Just wow. 

Marie says of going darker with the wall color, “I think going dark on the walls is a great experience for some drama, if you want to create some mood in the room, it’s kind of the perfect way to do it. And just because you’re going really dark on the walls doesn’t mean the room has to be dark.”

The proof is in the room. Though the walls, curtains, and many chairs are all a deep, rich blue, the room still feels light and open.

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There’s nothing glaringly terrible about this room, but it could definitely use a facelift. 

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Which was provided by means of a playful, floral-printed wallpaper. 

Marie says, “I love wallpaper. I think if you keep it classic and timeless, I think that it can add a beautiful texture to the space. And you know, if you want to go bold, it’s a fun way to add art to a room, basically.”

Agreed.

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While we’re jealous of this kitchen for its size, we are not fans of the wood stain, countertops, backsplash, or flooring… Which is more or less every design element.

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after

Can you believe it? Blue-painted cabinets, a white countertop, an updated, lighter backsplash, hardware floors, contemporary pulls, unique lighting, and even a vintage-inspired rug make this space almost unrecognizable. 

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Everything in this spacious master bathroom feels heavy and dark.

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In contrast, now everything is light,. One of Marie’s favorite ways to instantly change a space is by manipulating the lighting. Whether it’s switching out a light fixture, looking to the natural light potential, or brightening up the space with a lighter paint color, it always works.

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This clunky, sad bedroom needed help.

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Again, you can see the more traditional bed frame was kept, but many other furniture pieces and accessories were given a more contemporary update. 

Marie says, “Don’t be afraid to mix styles. A lot of people feel like if they have a traditional home, they have to use traditional furniture. But I would tell people to incorporate pieces that they love, and not be afraid to mix in different styles, because it creates this layered, interesting contrast.”

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The grand, architectural design of this living room has so much potential, but in this state, falls so short.

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Take notice how the fireplace was given a full makeover, the built-in entertainment center a contemporary update, and the window treatments completely changed. What a jaw-dropping transformation. 

With stunning spaces like these that simply need nudging in the right direction, Marie says she asks, “What is the architecture already saying in the home and how can you speak the same language in this room to make it feel even more special?”

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This space has a few problems, but the most notable two are the lack of lighting and an issue of scale—the tables are so high, and seating so low.

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By turning this into a functional dining space, Marie and her team were able to create a bright, welcoming space that guests and family members can actually gather around to converse. 

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before

We can see a family sharing a rushed breakfast (or leisurely weekend coffee!) in this corner space. It’s too bad the lighting and built-in elements feel heavy and in the way.

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after

Not any more. The power of white paint is proven yet again. Lighter (and more!) cabinets and trendy open shelving create more storage and less of an eyesore. We also love how the original chairs and table were incorporated into the new design.

This space is also a great example of one of Marie’s other favorite transformation tips: Mixing up textures. She says, “Look around your room. If all your key pieces are wood and all your upholstery is leather, try and bring in more elements. Go down the list of the different types of elements like glass, hyde, limestone, metal. And think about all those different textures and how you can layer in different textures with different pieces. We like a space to feel layered over time, not like it all came from the same collection.”

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Another breakfast nook that with a few changes, could be the cutest corner of the entire home.

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All it took was some brightening—and a change of function.

Marie says the first thing she does when meeting with clients is to listen and learn what each room of the house is used for. We’re assuming this breakfast nook was used more as a reading our lounging space, which is why a traditional table is no more.

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Because entryways need help, too. After all, they welcome guests into your home.

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Similar idea, but different execution. There is still a storage opportunity with the desk, but the lighter floors, walls, and metallic accents create a totally different aesthetic for the home.

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