There are some things you can do that make a huge impact on a room. Painting the walls is certainly one of them, but to really change the character of a room, transforming a focal point like a fireplace mantel can make it seem like you're in a completely different home. The before pic below is a distant memory from how the room looks now.
This is the family room as it looked when we moved in. The bland wood mantel just didn't go with the look I was going for. It was masculine and yet flimsy looking, too dark for the pale wall color I had in mind, yet not rich enough to make an elegant statement.
Changing the mantel is the kind of change that gives you significant bang for your buck. When we moved into our home, there were some things I wanted to change but knew I could live with for a while. Others, like the mantel, had to go right away.
I will reveal the whole room in a separate post, but the single biggest change to the look of this room came when we had a new mantel installed. I selected a mantel with a classic design, including layered moldings and side columns. You can see a dentil detail below the mantel shelf and fluted columns for added interest.