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4 Keys to Fresh Christmas Decor (Even with Brown Furniture)

By 12/18/2017November 20th, 202037 Comments


Kelly Parkinson

Shortly after we hired Kelly (above) as my personal/design assistant a little over one year ago, she bought a new house with her husband Mike.

They did the same kind of renovation I did with my house, replaced all the floors, moulding and the kitchen. You’ll see the full before and afters in the new year, but we did post the before pics here when they first bought the house.

After Kelly had worked with me for a while and really started to understand the world of colour trends, she confided that she was not very happy that they had (quite recently) invested in an espresso brown leather sofa, loveseat and chair.

I told her not to worry, we would make it look fresh in her new house!

Here are four ways to do it including the holiday tour of Kelly’s entry and living room:

When you choose new flooring for your house, keep it consistent throughout and choose a timeless colour

Kelly’s dad and brothers were the contractors for the renovation. Her Dad had some simple black spindles from another job that they used for the new contemporary staircase. Kelly also selected a classic and timeless pale engineered flooring with no grey in sight. As it should be.

Related post: The New Timeless Hardwood Floor


This is the entry table located across from the staircase. Kelly said this cutting from a Laurel shrub outside has been in this urn for three months!

Replace your old and dated area rugs with seagrass for a light and fresh look (and the price is right)

Kelly loved my flocked tree so she bought one as well.  After the renovation, they were on a budget for decorating so I told her to get some seagrass rugs, and layer a cowhide on the top along with some leopard pillows and off-white cushions to keep the look fresh and clean.

The paint colour is SW Shoji White.

I specified the herringbone subway tile on her fireplace surround (see the before pic here).

After Kelly had watched me assemble many a vignette, she went out to a used bookstore and bought a bunch of coffee table books to use as pedestals. I loved her penguins!

Leopard prints pick up your existing gold beige/earthy tones so even if you don’t have the budget to paint out your dark tuscan walls, you can add them along with some white pillows to create a fresh look.

Kelly added the oval mirror, along with other wooden accessories to repeat the warm tones of the leopard pillows. We also added fresh Eucalyptus to the faux garland around the fireplace to make it look real!

The dyed cream poinsettia repeats the turquoise accents.

Drapery does not have to be expensive

Kelly added some inexpensive off-white IKEA curtains to soften the windows throughout the main floor. Keep in mind when you are using grommet drapes they CANNOT puddle. The look is contemporary, so make sure you hem them so they are custom to your interior.

Photos by Maria Killam

Creating a fresh look with your espresso brown furniture is easy to do, here are the links again:

source: 1, 2, 3 4

Hope you enjoyed the tour! Christmas is so close, have you finished your shopping yet?

PS. I have a favour to ask! I would love it if you’d post a review on Houzz if you’ve done business with Maria Killam Inc in the past here. That would be a great Christmas present! Thanks so much!


Related posts:

Holiday Tour of my House (Family Room) 2017 (See my Colour Chip Ornaments)





27 pins


  • Karen says:

    Hi Maria and Kelly,

    I am not a brown person at all and would never, not ever, purchase any dark brown furniture. Nothing in case-goods and nothing in upholstered either. Nothing, Never. Having made myself clear I want to tell you: Congratulations on how you’ve decorated around the dark brown leather furniture in Kelly’s house!!! I really do like how you’ve brought in the cleaner colors and classic finishes to not allow the eye to focus on the brown. I’m sure that many of your readers will rejoice! Good for you!

  • Nancy says:

    So pretty and you made the brown leather work !
    Love all your pretty Christmas decorations !!
    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

  • Joanne Michael says:

    I met Kelly at the LA Colour Training. She is incredible. It’s nice to see her new home reflect her evolving style. The combination of white, blue, brown and yellow beige are a fresh holiday combo. Love it.

  • Lana says:

    I was impressed with the decorating in Kelly’s home. I would be interested in the knowing the manufacture of her timeless engineered floor and the colour. The light and bright colour is refreshing. A Merry Christmas to you. Thank you

    • Kelly says:

      Thanks Lana! The laminate flooring mfg. is InHaus, it’s called Precious Highland, Hemlock colour 12mm. Very high quality.
      We’re very happy with it!

  • Ginger says:

    Beautiful home! Everyone involved did a fantastic job.

  • Beth says:

    As someone who owns a chocolate brown couch and loveseat in unfortunately great condition that we purchased 15+ years ago, I jumped to read this entry. Beautiful crisp job!

    And I had to laugh at the thought of puddled drapes. With our pets, puddling would mean full-out fur-covered drape bottoms – but maybe that would go with the cow-y rug? ; ) (I did not mean the other type of pet puddling; our animals only go where they should.)

  • Gary says:

    What color did you paint the ceiling?

  • babs.loyd says:

    We bought a place which had brown leather couches, I like the touches you added to the Parkinson’s new house. The leopard print picks up the pretty floor colors. Another delightful post, Maria. Merry Christmas.

  • Lorri says:

    It’s so true that adding fresh greenery to fake greenery makes it all look real. I know someone who adds cedar branches to her fake wreath every year and it looks stunning.

  • Carol says:

    This is a really beautiful way of making brown seem fresh!

    Would love to know the exact engineered hardwood flooring used, please.

    • Kelly Parkinson says:

      Thanks Carol! We purchased the laminate flooring from a local supplier here in BC. Here are the details… Flooring mfg. is InHaus, it’s called Precious Highland, Colour is Hemlock, 12mm wide planks.

  • Barbie says:

    So pretty!

  • Joanna says:

    Would some turquoise pillows not add a feminine touch to the masculine furniture and bring the accent colour in the foyer into the living room? I do love the leopard pillows though. You can’t go wrong with a little leopard.
    I personally think the cowhide rug adds to the masculine feel.
    Kelly’s floor choice is timeless and fits her young style. And, her accessories are spot on.
    I love Kelly’s posts!

  • Chris says:

    Nice young style.
    Good job making the brown couch work! Btw, cream colored poinsettias are natural not dyed… only the odd colors like blue, purple, orange ones are. Not important, just saying…

    • Maria Killam says:

      Thanks for your comment, I meant to say it was a dyed hydrangea. Not that the cream was dyed, haha, Maria

  • Carrie Smurthwaite says:


    Your house looks so beautiful!!


  • Mary-Illinois says:

    Thanks for the refresher on how to deal with brown furniture. My new neighbor has asked me to help her with their space. And they just bought a big brown sectional.
    Knowing your tips will help me look good when I start dispensing advice. Lol!!

  • Michelle says:

    Why all the hate on dark brown leather furniture? I have this exact same set and love it! You don’t need to feel like it was a mistake! There are tons of options to coordinate with that furniture, besides leopard print.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Michelle, there is absolutely nothing wrong with brown, it’s just that it doesn’t happen to be trendy so there are a lot of people who are looking to change it. Just like all the charcoal furniture that is being used right now because it happens to be current. This is why I specify colourful sofas in general. Hope that clarifies this! Thanks for your comment, Maria

  • Janice says:

    Simply beautiful! If you had not mentioned the sofa color in the post I could have left the post and never given dark brown a thought. Love the color of the blue chest. Purchased that way or painted? Would you share that color name please if it was painted?

    • Julie S says:

      Same here about the sofa color! Taking away some tips to use for the awesome yet sadly not cognac brown leather armchair I scored for our fireplace corner.

    • Kelly Parkinson says:

      Thanks Janice! It was a dark espresso brown chest. I recently painted it. I used the left over paint from our powder room that’s just down the hallway. It’s Benjamin Moore Kensington Blue and off-white chalk paint on the top.

  • Lucy Haines says:

    Oh Maria what a beautiful job! Her house looks so designerly and fresh. Love the colors that you chose and wow the garland is lush and perfect! I love it all, even the brown sofas. The accent colors will last all year and suggesting her to buy a sisal rug was a good idea especially with the brown furniture. I love layering rugs and the sisal is just a great basic for any accent rug. Great great job!!

  • Lindy says:

    Love. As with all advice you give Maria….this is beautifully crafted. I still love brown and it looks divine with her Christmas
    decor. Very pretty but nicely balanced…not too feminine nor masculine. Hope Kelly enjoys sharing her lovely home for the
    holidays and Merry Christmas to both of you !

  • Jessica says:

    This is really nice. I saw that you used SW Shoji White for the walls and SW Ceiling Bright White for the ceiling, but can I ask what color you used for the trim work and is it a different color trim for the staircase and the fireplace trim?

    Thank you so much. 🙂

    • Kelly Parkinson says:

      Hi Jessica, the trim throughout the house, cabinets and stair risers are painted in a true white, SW Extra White. Thank you!

      • Marie says:

        Thank you for your response! I’ve been considering Soji White for my home and am happy to have some thoughts on trim and ceiling color. Your home is beautiful!

  • Adelaide says:

    Your room looks great Kelly, the fresh turquoise lifts it, and with the bronzes and greenery of your Christmas decorations, you must be thrilled. My question is this: “when you put away the decorations will you trot out some other turquoise bits an pieces to keep the look? Do I spy deep turquoise dining chairs? Tank you for sharing.
    Season’s greetings to you and yours.

  • Becky says:

    Very nicely done. Love it all. Just a point of clarification. Maria referred to the floors as engineered. Kelly said they are laminate. Two different things. Engineered is real wood, laminate is not.

  • Jeanine Davis says:

    I purchased this lovely sea grass woven area rug for a den at Homegoods. The price was great. It was a nice weight and not flimsy. My problem with it was that an incredible amount of dirt collected beneath the rug and every two weeks I had to lift up this heavy rug to sweep under the thing. I could not just vacuum over it. At first I thought it was just sea grass dust or something but after a year I was so over that thing and heaving the rug around every two weeks. This room was not a high traffic area either, there was no real reason to have so much dirt. Am I the only one to experience this?

  • Ann says:


    I linked back to the August, 2016 post and saw the “before” photo of your fireplace. What a transformation! And inspiring to those of us who still have busy/bossy granite fascia 🙂 Do you recall what tile you used? It does not appear true white in the penguin vignette photo, but perhaps that’s misleading. Thanks.

  • Varsha Reddy says:

    I don’t think anyone could use brown so well. You transformed your home so great Kelly. Wonderful decoration and ornamentals. I specifically in soooo love with those small Christmas trees with snow on the desk. It looks so cool. Thanks for sharing. This is the first article I read here. Looking forward to visiting often.

  • Molly says:

    Oh, so fresh and, oh, so fine, ladies! What a gift to see the lovely, practical evolution of this room. It’s dreamy. Unlike others, leopard print feels off for me personally. I do have a dark brown, so comfortable like new sectional at our farm house I’d like to freshen up as I decorate the room with natural light brown oak floors & almost golden light brown alder wood frames and beams. Any other ideas besides animal prints to balance and contrast attractively with dark brown leather? I’m delighted to see these photos and learn more about the WHY of the carefully chosen elections. Thank you for sharing.

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