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

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. I had tried to find new drapery fabric then but came up empty-handed. Then I received the new Spring collection of Maxwell fabric books and that’s when I found the drapery and the coordinating coral gingham for the valances. Then I reapeated it 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)


To create the new vignette on the mantle, I re-arranged it about four times in the week leading up to the photoshoot. The night before, I couldn’t sleep, so I got up at 3:00 am and started flipping through Jeffrey Bilhuber’s and Barbara Barry’s coffee table books.

I was reminded again that each photo of an interior should tell a story about the owner who lives there.

This entry is much more interesting with the boots and shoes (below).

Interior by Jeffrey Bilhuber

This entry looks like the owner has just walked in from the garden  (below):

Barbara Barry

This also means that if you’re a designer, staging a dining room for a photo shoot and setting a table to look like a meal is being served, don’t leave out the napkins and flatware. Make it look like a meal is ready to be served (if that’s what you’re doing) instead of, this-is-obviously-staged-and-no-one-will -EVER-eat-here.

Eddie Ross is the master of the tablescape, you can get his book here. 

Here’s one Eddie decorated for Ballard Designs:

Eddie Ross for Ballard Designs

Far better to stack some plates with a vase of flowers (below) if you aren’t going to fully set the table:

Barbara Barry

So in the early morning, I texted Mom and said “Hey bring out your crystals so we can display them. Your mantle should look like YOU, not like a contrived vignette by your designer daughter.”

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.

Oops, one of my coffee table books did end up here because it matched the terra cotta pot, haha.

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 light green 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



leave aREPLY

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!!

  4. 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.

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

  6. 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.

  7. 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!.

  8. 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.

  9. 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! ?

  10. 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 .

  11. 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!

  12. 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 !