the living room reveal

So I have been searching high and low for better ‘before’ pictures of our living room, but to no avail. We both swore up and down that we had pictures of the staircase, but couldn’t find great examples for you all. So what I cannot share with you via images, I’ll describe. I’m also going to give a full description of the changes we’ve made to the space. Without further adieu, here are the (dramatic) before and after (aka progress) photos:


livingroom1IMG_2822 IMG_3210photo(3) IMG_2568



As you can probably tell, we’re still working. But here’s the breakdown of all our projects:

The staircase was in desperate need of being exposed, so we tore down the half wall and strange closet with a stout bifold door that enclosed the stairs. This, of course, left an unfinished stair edge, and we designed the new bullnosing. We built it ourselves after designing it, using 1.5″ x 1.5″ pine boards and a big piece of sustainable plywood with a nice striped detail. The 1.5″ pine boards were all cut by Ellen using her compound miter saw and we used a jigsaw to cut the plywood to fit snugly beneath the 1.5″ pieces, which we screwed together, top to bottom, bottom to top, starting at the very bottom. We first attached the plywood using a nail gun and a few drilled screws, and then attached the top piece using screws. We stained and painted after attaching. We want to eventually refinish the stairs and add a railing, possibly a cable railing. This is still being discussed.

We did quite a bit of removal. We chose to get rid of the crown molding and ornate corbels entirely, as well as some shutters covering the windows flanking the chimney wall. This raised the height of the ceiling and immediately made the room feel much bigger.

I’ve already spoken a great deal about the chimney and how we came about finding the brick, so I won’t go on further, except to say that it required quite a bit of cleaning (using warm water, a rag, and a wire brush). We then framed out the top and bottom (water damage had eaten away at the mantel, leaving a big gap between the mantel and brick on the left side of the fireplace). Above the fireplace wall, the previous owners had covered water damage on the ceiling with a big piece of beadboard. We know that eventually we’ll have to have a professional come out and assess the ceiling water damage, but knew it was far too big a job to tackle ourselves, especially right before our housewarming party, so we left it there and painted it white to blend with the ceiling. We tore down the ornate molding around the beadboard and added new, neat, simple trim that matches the rest of the house’s arts and crafts detail. Around the windows, we tore out paneling and rotten plaster and put in some fresh drywall on both sides.

We painted the room in Behr’s Cottage White, using non-VOC paint in eggshell finish, and the trim was all painted and/or touched up with a basic clean white in semi-gloss. We painted the lower brick of the fireplace in white (the brick was too different from the top brick, we felt that white on white for the mantel, fireplace, and hearth would help disguise it). We began caulking throughout the room, covering up major cracks between the bookshelves and walls or mantel and bookshelves, trim and walls, you name it. We still have some caulking and trim touch-ups, as well as a few bits of painting to do on the ceiling. We had to scrape some peeling paint from the ceiling as well, and there is some leftover paint from the previous owners’ messy paint job. We also need to research how to fill some gaps in the mortar between the bricks on the fireplace surround, you can see these gaps clearly in the photos.

We have to thank Ellen’s dad and mom for coming to help out a bit, we are so thankful for their help. Ellen’s mom rerouted a light switch from the bottom of the stairs to the top. Ellen’s dad was essential for thinking things through and giving great advice and helping when we needed an extra set of hands. All in all, we did all of this work, including cleanup and putting the room back together, in 26 days. Pretty impressive for two girls, eh?

Keep posted for some other reveals (we didn’t just work on the living room, we put up new shelving in the kitchen, painted a bedroom, and hung pictures throughout the house). We bought some chairs and hosted a housewarming party and a birthday party all in one weekend. We’ve been busy! So as I write this, we’re snuggled on the couch with a few glasses of wine, chocolate, and a movie, enjoying this incredible new room and relaxing after a whirlwind of a month.

10 thoughts on “the living room reveal

  1. OMG KATE! You are simply amazing at this! I am not kidding when I say this: You will be the one I call when I have my own home and real money to decorate my house! You and Ellen did a fantastic job. I am so proud of you!

  2. Looks great! What a fun adventure! Enjoy the other adventures and memories that you’ll make in your new home. Happy for you. :)

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