Living room before Nate, photo by John Coolidge

Shadowed by memories of a lost husband, Hilary and her living room needed an infusion of joy. How do you brighten the mood without painting over the past? That's where the brilliant and intuitive Nate Berkus comes in.

Tasteful and urbane, Hilary's living room has a few inspired flourishes, like the cowhide table cover. But the lighting is dingy, the palette is too subdued and the flat-screen TV is too dominant. More troubling still, the room is filled with painful reminders of Hilary's husband Joe's battle with cancer. Joe passed away shortly after his daughter Carly's first birthday, and Hilary hasn't been able to change the room. Nate's challenge, he says, is to help Hilary and Carly "find a new beginning while still honoring Joe's memory."
Nate Berkus makeover photo by Fernando Bengoechea

To brighten the room, Nate brings the outside inpainting the walls the color of sunshine, adding numerous lamps and sconces, and enlivening the space with flowers and trees. A Drexel Heritage credenza, which Nate paints black, provides what he calls "an extra spot to stash Carly's zoo" of stuffed animals.

In one of many gestures of tender genius, Nate mounts and frames a perfect white feather (on the far back wall). Feathers have been mysteriously floating into Hilary's life like silent messages from her late husband.

Hilary and Joe loved the beach, so Nate finds a terrarium lamp from Roost, fills it with sand and in the sand places keepsakes from their Caribbean honeymoon. Next to the lamp is a personalized photo album from Exposures. The album replaces a busy collection of framed snapshots that had cluttered the windowsill.
Living room before Nate makeover by John Coolidge

"Color and light have a profound effect on mood," says Nate. "This place needs an infusion of energy. The room should revolve around good conversation, not passive TV watching." Nate retires the gigantic gray sofa in favor of one with a washable linen slipcover and adds more seating, positioned to help make the television less of a focal point.
Nate Berkus makeover photo by Fernando Bengoechea

Nate breaks up Hilary's series of floral watercolors, yet keeps a continuous flow, placing two of them in the hallway leading to the living room and one in the room itself.

He also reupholsters two black slipper chairs in a chic cream-and-chocolate Lulu DK fabric, then adds brown felt bolsters.

See the list of products Nate used for this makeover.