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Refresh of my Mom’s Kitchen and Sitting Room; Before & After

By 10/02/2017April 11th, 202354 Comments

Maria Killam and Mom Hellen (Junttila)

When I originally helped Mom decorate the first floor of her carriage house (built six years ago) we had found this area rug (below) as the inspiration starting point because she loves turquoise.

Then, we painted her upstairs living room coral and in the end, she much preferred the warmer colour.

This was the room she spent most of her time in, every time she went upstairs into her pink living room it felt so much warmer and happier to her.  As I said in my previous post, Mom could not be convinced to get a recliner that didn’t look like a recliner. She wanted comfort and that is what she got.


We had bought the new, colourful (below) round area rug almost a year ago,  then I had the drapery and the coordinating coral gingham for the valances custom made. I reapeated the gingham as banding in the drapery panels (below).

The round area rug worked much better for this small space than the former rectangular shaped rug. The old rug was too small, and one size up would have been too big.

But we still needed to paint the walls, so one weekend in early Spring, I said “Mom, let’s just do it”.


Also, Mom needed a third comfortable chair in here. I’d come over for coffee in the wee hours of the morning and then my sister Elizabeth would traipse through the wet grass through the backyard to join us (Mom’s carriage house is on the same property).

What kind of a chair do you buy that would look good with a brown recliner? A faux cowhide barrel chair! It is light, easy to move around (which was important here) and animal prints go with everything.

Mom had my sister Lea’s dog over for a visit and she posed beautifully for us that day (above).


 After (I found a vintage fishing basket for Mom’s knitting)



Mom had a gorgeous basket of hanging pink geraniums outside, so I brought over some small vases. I’ve never had enough geraniums to fill any size of vase so I wondered if they’d die immediately but they lasted over a week! So pretty!

She already had the tulip art, we just moved it from her living room upstairs.


Mom and Dad’s wedding photo.

Mom does massage, and this is where my turquoise art ended up (below). The only colour left in this painting besides turquoise was purple which matched her lavender massage room.  These are the old drapes from her sitting room.

Mom’s massage room


Mom decided she wanted white subway tile in her white kitchen (I know shocker). We repeated the boxed pleat valance above her window which was a nice way to bring the coral to the other side of the room.

She has pale grey laminate countertops which look quite white in these pictures.

Photography by Barry Calhoun


Mom often calls me over to have a glass of green juice from her abundant garden! Every summer her garden seems to get bigger and bigger. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up but my Mom knew how to spread the food budget so we always had plenty.

I think she got so used to cooking for a family of six, she still does that. She’ll make a huge stew or pot of soup and then tell us to drop by for lunch when we’re hungry.

Mom’s are the best!


This dining set (above), she inherited from her late brother who passed away eight years ago, so it has lots of sentimental value. She loved how comfortable the chairs were but the oval table was way too big for the space.

So we found this pretty round oak table (below) from Craigslist the same weekend I painted the walls. It also came with a leaf, so she didn’t have to give up the possibility of accommodated a bigger group of friends.

And she was happy when I said it would work with her existing chairs.

Mother is a truly nurturing soul! During the years before I discovered what my creative career, or purpose in life was, I suffered badly in corporate jobs. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been fired many times, not because I didn’t do the job well, but because I was never good at the politics that always seem to be a part of working for someone else.

Mom always took my calls in the middle of the night when I was upset about something and couldn’t wait until the morning to call her (not that I did that very often). Not only is she my Mom but I’m lucky to call her my best friend.

If I had known I had an entrepreneur personality back then, I would have felt so much better about myself.

Most of us learn our craft by working for other people. Even back then, when I turned 30 and decided I had to be creative or die, I still spent almost 10 more years working in different retail positions, building my experience.

It was tough being 35 years old and making a low hourly wage in a retail job selling furniture, and then later selling paint. But that’s what you’d have to do without education or a system. And then 10,000 hours later, I had created a system that I sure wish I knew back then.

Maria Killam and Hellen Junttila (Mother and Daughter Photography by Sarah St. Pierre)

I love you Mom, you are the best Mom in the world!

Related posts:

My Mom’s Sooo Easy, Famous Corn Salad

My Mom’s Fresh Carriage House

Three Things I Learned about Design while Decorating for my Mother
















5 pins


  • Tanya says:

    Love it!! It certainly does look…refreshed!! Great choices and even though I probably would never pick coral for myself I can see why your mom would gravitate to this color for a room refresh. I think warmer colors are going to come back. I’m finding myself gravitating towards warmer dirty mustard yellows and even some browns! I haven’t taken the plunge yet, but i could see it happening:)

  • I love the new look, but I love the old one too, and I’m thinking of painting my kitchen–and maybe some other rooms downstairs–turquoise. Can you tell me what color the old color was? Also, is there a rule of thumb about how far you take a paint color? If I paint the kitchen and family room blue, should the other rooms/hallway downstairs also be the same color?

  • Lisa D'Amico Groshens says:

    Inspirational! I want to teleport into that coral sitting room and chat with your mom in one of those recliners!!!! A space so fresh and energizing is yet warm and calm. Thanks for sharing!

  • june says:


    Love that last photo of you and your mom. My mom is gone… glad you two are able to enjoy each other’s company.

    I wish I had your VISION…..The soft green living room and kitchen were very nice. With my decorating timidity, I would have stopped there because I had something that was nice and “safe.” I love how you just keep improving on “good enough” until you get to WOW. You really added some ZING! Love the massage room, too!

  • Ana says:

    Beautiful post. Thank you.

  • Noni says:

    I love how you go to designer’s books for inspiration- it’s such a great idea. And I also love your reminder that the vignettes should say something about the person. I think that’s an important part of decorating that is often missed. You can’t buy your story at Homesense! And your Mom’s story is such an obvious part of her home. Its so beautiful.

  • Norma says:

    You and your mom are gorgeous! I love the refresh of your mom’s house. And I love good mama/daughter stories! You’re both very fortunate to have what you have together! I have it with my daughter as well and it is one of life’s best gifts!

  • diana says:

    I so love to read about you and your mother. She was such an encouragement to you and you never gave up. Now, your mom shares you with the world!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thank you.

  • Lucy Haines says:

    Oh such a happy room! The colors are just delicious! Amazing what we learn as we go along with this journeys. Interior design is the most exciting business that I can think of. You have done such a good job with staging the mantel and making it personal for your mom. The colors are so bright and cheerful that it doesn’t read ‘brown recliners”. The love of your mom just exudes from this makeover. Love it all!

  • Lucy Haines says:

    Oops “what we learn as we go along in this journey”.

  • Lucy Haines says:

    Oh such a happy room! The colors are just delicious! Amazing what we learn as we go along in this journey. Interior design is the most exciting business that I can think of. You have done such a good job with staging the mantel and making it personal for your mom. The colors are so bright and cheerful that it doesn’t read ‘brown recliners”. The love of your mom just exudes from this makeover. Love it all!

  • Sharon says:

    Lovely post, especially the photos of you and your mom! I really appreciate the mantel discussion. We have a shallow (5″ deep) mantel. We redid the fireplace surround and hearth in untreated soapstone that has a very gray-blue tone and painted the rest of the fireplace black. I’ve been trying to arrange things on this shallow mantel that forces them to be lined up (very different from our previous house’s deep mantel) and it’s been a challenge. I really like the idea of making the mantel an expression of self, so I’m going to be inspired by that idea to take another run at this!

  • Michelle says:

    Such a lovely story and a beautiful before and after. I love how you incorporated her crystals and her knitting!! I’m a big knitter and I’m always trying to hide my current project in a bag or something so it’s not on display. The massage room looks like a place to relax and let go. Nice color choices there as well. Looking forward to meeting you in November in LA.

  • Rosemary says:

    Lovely and you’re her mini-me!

  • Gery says:

    Your Mom has so much heart and vitality! You obviously inherited these and her taste for “clean crisp color.” A great reminder to keep home design personal. Thank you for this uplifting post.

  • Diane says:

    I love the colors! And you look so much like your mom.

  • Karen Elliott says:

    what a great story! always nice to see someone really enjoying and valuing her mumma ?
    love the refresh. especially as it is done with respect for her favourite pieces.

  • Fran says:

    I love your mom’s cheerful carriage house. What a lovely transformation! But even more than that, I love how you love your mom! Such a sweet blog post, Maria!

  • Nicola Warner says:

    I’ve been looking forward to seeing these photos. Such a colourful and happy room with lots of lovely things for your eyes to rest on. I really like the authenticity of a room that belongs to the person who lives there – that whole storytelling thing, but telling the story in a beautiful way.

  • Mary T. says:

    Love the colors. I had my eye on that same rug for my husband’s office, but he didn’t go for it. I really like the massage room as well. And that dog is beautiful.

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    This is such a sweet post to read today. A day filled with sadness. I love the relationship you have with your mother. I try to have that with my daughter. I want her to feel safe & loved.
    Helping your mom achieve a home that makes her feel comfortable & happy probably seems like an easy thing for you. But it must have a big impact on her. I admire the fact that she knows what she likes. And went for it!! The colors you selected for her are very pretty. Is the artwork over the mantel by the same artist that did your latest piece? It’s beautiful!

  • Jean says:

    Love the color! I am such a color person. I try to go neutral, tweak it until I’m happy and then I realize it is colorful again. But I always have a white kitchen! Thanks for such a good example.

  • Deb says:

    I just purchased 2 Lazy Boy recliner chairs in a very dark teal that would look stunning in your Mom’s room with the coral walls!

  • Penny says:

    Love what you did here for your Mom. You can just see her personality. I just saw the instagram post of you going to her house this morning. The look on her face thru the window when she saw you made me want to cry. I miss mine every day. . .

  • Susan S says:

    Ahhhhh, I can see why she loves the new refreshed look! It looks darling!

  • Helen says:

    I love it Maria! And what a lovely relationship you have with your Mum. You’re both truly blessed.

  • Kay Perret says:

    Such a fun post!! I love all these colors/textures/prints. 🙂

    You and your mom are so lucky to have each other.

  • B Arnau says:

    I think that this is the best post you have ever done!
    Thanks Maria 🙂

  • Jennifer Johnson says:

    Coral and turquoise are my favorite colors too! I love what you’ve done for your sweet mom!!

  • Love it so cheery…and love the stories of you and your mom! Treasure her, miss my mama!

  • Robin says:

    Enjoyed this post so very much. Sharing, caring, creating and nurturing…who could ask for more? 🙂

  • Mary says:

    Please oh please, what is the paint color of the walls in her kitchen?

  • Ange says:


  • Janelle says:

    Maria, this post is inspiring on so many levels. The spaces are absolutely beautiful! I love the coral. You clearly got your love of colour from your mum. Continue to cherish the relationship with your mum….you’re right: Moms are definitely the best! I’m inspired to make my home reflect me ..although that always seems easier to say than to do and I’m definitely inspired to cherish my mum. Thanks again and have a great workshop this week.

  • Michelle says:

    How beautiful…you, your mom, your relationship and her home!

  • Angela says:

    Such a lovely story. Thank you. I love the color in the sitting room. Also, great notes about your Mom.

  • Enjoyed your post so much – thanks for sharing your mom with us for a moment!

  • Kay says:

    The new color scheme makes the brown recliners recede–a good thing! Love the cowhide chair. I suspect that the much better look of the refreshed rooms has something to do with the photography.

  • Gina says:

    From lovely to WOW! So cheerful now. I can just imagine your mom two-stepping into that space every morning to start the day. Makes me miss my mom a bit. She’d have trusted me like your mom does. Have lots of fun in here, ladies!!

  • Barbara Harrison says:

    Thank you for sharing. Your post made me wistful for both my own mom (gone two years now) and a warm and welcoming place to call home.

    I recently purchased your “How To Choose Paint Colours” ebook and it has been so insightful. I wish I had discovered it and your blog earlier. Because I did not understand how undertones work, my new gray/beige floor tile is reading as a blotchy taupe/peach throughout my east facing house. It is too expensive to replace, so I must deal with it through paint, artwork and (large) area rugs. Your thoughts on a process to select corrective colors would be much appreciated. Thank you.

  • Ann says:

    I really enjoy reading your posts. They are interesting and enlightening. Love that pink color. The “after” of your mom’s kitchen is beautiful.

  • Lee Ann Lucas says:

    Beautifully related – thank you for sharing!

  • Sue Sinclair says:

    Your Mother is surrounded with evidence of her daughters love, it is wonderful you could use your creative gift to brighten her day. Many cups of tea to share with your Mother and listen to how happy she feels with her sparkling new design, it all looks loving and bright, cheerful and practical, amazing daughter you are.

  • sandyc says:

    Maria, your mom’s new coral living room just sings out “Hellen” now. It’s so beautiful and so special. I was charmed with her kitchen originally but I can see that the changes are the perfect complement to the living room and all the energies are so very good. Very well done!.

  • So sweet. I love that you get to hang w/your mom for early morning coffee. Her cottage is adorable, too.

  • Maria, I love the stories about your mom and the beautfiul relationship you have with her. She seems like such a kind, warm, nurturing person. I can only hope that one day, my daughter feels the same way about me.

  • Candice Hill says:

    Hi, Maria…I think our Mom’s are alot alike! Mine loves color, too! She has red accents in her kitchen, a lavender bedroom and bath, and pink and aqua living room!
    It’s so nice to read about your wonderful relationship with your mom! I’m so lucky, too! We laugh and have the best time,and she tries to feed me and everone else, too! Thank you for sharing! Another reason to love ya! ?

  • Nancy says:

    Maria .
    This Blog just melted my heart .
    I miss my mom .
    It’s priceless the gift of love you share with your mom .
    Loved what you did with her space !!
    Thank you for sharing .

  • Victoria says:

    You and your mom are extraordinarily blessed! Love seeing her in your posts and love what you have done with her sweet carriage home. It’s a beautiful example of the joy you both exude. Thank you for sharing her with us and sharing your amazing journey into the world of color and design with us!

  • Cindy says:

    I love your designs !! Thank you for sharing your expertise. I’m in the middle of a full remodel of our first floor due to a tidal flood on the northeast . It’s been hell but I love getting new ideas on Pinterest . Love your Mom’s Carriage House !

  • Diane says:

    Maria, what a nice post and lovely tribute to your mother. Lots of love there!!!
    I really like the “pink” room and the fabric for the curtains. Your mom’s place looks so inviting.

  • Stephanie Hanzlik says:

    Oh, I just LOVE your writings and musings about your mom. What a wonderful compound you must have w/ your sister and mom so close! I so enjoy the articles you write an the colors on your personal palette. Thanks so much! I’ve passed along your website to so many friends and my sister from the south, as I call her. She lives in Asheville, NC and is a lover of color too…. only in fabric. Our family women are full of sewists!

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