I called my mom to ask her how I could get your advice, and she told me about your blog! My husband and I just moved into an older home with a heavy, dark feel. We want to brighten it up as much as possible. We plan on improving the lighting with a tube skylight and recessed lighting, but need help with painting and furniture ideas (don't worry, that couch is definitely a goner). We would like to put in a sectional couch and an upright piano. We won't be able to change the blinds or do any remodeling for a while. I'll send a short video in a 2nd email.
Thanks for writing in, so sorry that it took me so long to respond.
Let's start with that firepace. I found a great before and after on a blog called Velvet and Linen. With this fireplace, they plastered over the river rock, and then painted it a nice white. You still don't want it to stand out, and painting the walls next to it the same white is the way to do that.
Keep your beam wood, but paint everything else white. China Doll or Swiss Coffee are some of my favorite whites.
From there- let me give you some pointers on your furniture arrangement. Start with a central focal point. That means either mounting the television over the fireplace, or having it next to the fireplace. Having it on the opposite wall, where it currently is, leaves the room feeling "off". If the television is the main use of the room, let it be the focal point. if you rarely use it, move it to a different room, and avoid the issue altogether. You will notice in the floorplan that I put the television right in front of the skinny window. That was on purpose. Those windows have no redeeming qualities that deserve any attention. Ignore them. Moving your television to the side will only only make it too wide a focal for your furniture arrangement. The room is off center. I was trying to straighten it out a bit by widening the central focal point.
Below is a rough floorplan for you:
Now for colors. Remember that you are young and fun. Find some terrific pillows and wall decor that express that.
I would add a large area rug right over the carpet to give the space more personality.
I put a series of decorative shelves opposite the fireplace. The height will give the room some rhythm and interest, and you can find some cool sculpture, combine it with some books and photos and make a great wall out of it.
I would add to the project list replacing the door trim and baseboards. They are dark and small. I would have them much much larger.
For your upright piano, find an inexpensive second hand piano. Spend some money making sure it sounds good, then take a chalk paint class and make it super fun.
Don't forget to upholster the bench with a fun fabric.