'My goal for the space was to make it feel more traditional' – here's how Shea McGee transformed her modern rustic living room

Switching from modern rustic to traditional, these are the main decor changes Shea made in her living room

Shea McGee
(Image credit: Getty Images / NBC / Contributor)

Since Shea McGee unveiled her much-anticipated home remodel, we've been lucky enough to lean into the designer's decorating process for many of the rooms. From the dark and moody pantry to the wallpapered dining room, the McGee family home remodel is serving us every ounce of dreamy decor inspiration. 

The living room makes no exceptions, reflecting a pared-back and sophisticated interior that looks endlessly chic while serving as a functional space for the whole family. Here, we're taking a deep dive into the recently decorated space, exploring how the designer transitioned from a modern rustic aesthetic to traditional decor

‘My goal for the space was to make it feel more traditional, to have it feel dressed up, elevated, and also liveable at the same time,' Shea explains in a YouTube video where she walks us through the design and decor process of the living room. 

'One of the first things that I did in here was change the ceiling,' says Shea. Before the remodel, the high ceiling featured exposed wood and steel trusses which gave the room an 'industrial' look. To make the space feel more cozy, the designer decided to conceal the steel with wood and paint everything a light shade of warm-toned gray. ‘I wanted it to feel cozier because it felt very vast before,' she says.

The pendant light fixture was also switched from a rustic design to a far more delicate, black chandelier.

When it came to upgrading the furniture and furnishings, the overall vision was to lean into a more traditional look, while still retaining a relaxed, family-home feel. 'I loved the look of our old living room and I also love this look too,' says Shea. 'Right now I am loving a more traditional, elevated look.'

Arguably the star of the new space is the vintage rug pictured below which groups together the furniture and creates an instantly cozy living room. ‘The first thing I purchased for our living room was this vintage rug,' explains Shea. 'That served as the jumping-off point for the entire living room design.’

In terms of the room's layout and arrangement of furniture, it remains largely the same as before, since it already worked well for her family: 'When looking at layout options for our living room, some of the original layout just works for our family. Having a sofa that faces the television, like it or not, is important to us.'

However, the original sofas were swapped from contemporary, low-profile designs to ones of a more classical style, both of which are from McGee & Co.. The designer also opted to decorate with pattern through the sofa cushions, continuing the traditional theme. The pair of cushions on the larger sofa features a statement floral pattern in an earthy brown palette, of which the designer remarks: ‘It becomes what I call the hero textile of the room; the thing that brings it all together.’

Additional seating includes a pair of upholstered ottomans, facing toward the main sofa. ‘I’m always a fan of additional seating and little groupings of furniture,’ explains Shea. ‘I wanted to add some curve,' she says when comparing them to the original leather ones that channeled a far more boxy design.

Another major furniture change in the living room was switching from an upholstered ottoman to an antique wooden coffee table, which centers the room. ‘I actually thought that I would do another ottoman because I have a toddler but I couldn’t get over the idea that this room needed a coffee table,' says Shea. 'So I went with an antique coffee table because it had more eased edges because it’s been worn over time.' She also explains how the wooden surface provides some much-needed contrast to balance all of the room's upholstery.

Shea McGee
Shea McGee

Interior designer, Shea McGee founded her iconic design firm, Studio McGee, with her husband Syd in 2014. They later launched their e-commerce brand, McGee & Co, and starred in their very own Netflix show, Dream Home Makeover.

Behind the cream sofa, Shea opted to swap a wooden antique console table for a new oak one with a fluted design, which matches the color of the sofa and ensures it doesn't compete with the standout wooden coffee table. 

As a final touch to the living room, a modern, oversized brass floor lamp completes the look. ‘I loved that I got this brass and a geometric shape that feels like that modern surprise that every room needs,' adds Shea.

Shop Shea's living room

Shea's living room refresh is a lesson on blending new furniture and decorating with antiques for a layered look that has plenty of interest. The clever styling of various new additions gives the room a whole new feel while still feeling relaxed, cozy, and functional for her family. 

If you're as inspired as we are by Shea's new timeless living room that nods to traditional design, shop the below items that feature in the space. 

Paint & Color Editor

Emily is H&G's Paint & Color Editor, covering all things color across interior design and home decor. She joined the team in the summer of 2023, having studied Fashion Communication at university before working in various creative roles ahead of making the leap into interiors. She lives in Glasgow where she loves admiring the city's architecture, frequenting her favorite coffee spots, and sourcing vintage furniture for her tenement apartment. Emily's interior style is inspired by the simplicity of midcentury design, mixed with more playful modern pieces that inject small (but bold) doses of color.