house projects: living room

A deviation from obsessing about training and the 13.1 that is inching ever closer...a house post!

When I moved into my house, it had stood empty for over 2 years.  It had been broken into and every appliance was stolen, along with every door inside the house.  There were no blinds on any windows, the floors and walls were a mess, and the people who had lived there last had done quite a bit of DIY which only made many things much, much worse.  The kitchen was an empty room with some pipes hanging out of the wall.  In the first floor bathroom, when you sat on the throne you could see directly into the living room of the house across the street.  And the day we moved in was hot and wet and the air conditioning didn't work.

Over 2 years later, it's still a hot mess, but it's getting there.  My "house to-do" list is a huge spreadsheet, and we try and balance what is necessary (roof) against what we want to do (baseboard molding).  

The only picture I have of the living room from the day we moved in is this one (you can click on any of these pictures to see a much larger version):
You can kind of see the disgusting fireplace and banged up walls.  Here's a close-up of the mantle.
Gorgeous construction, right?

So, after living in the house for a while, and once the kitchen was installed and the roof was replaced, I went after the walls.  They had been painted some shade of white many years earlier, but they were damaged and disgusting.  My reaction to this was to paint every room a strong bold color.  I chose a coffee-colored brown for the living room.
My parents were kind enough to come down for the weekend to help work on things.  My dad decided the mantle mess had to go.
So it went, but it was replaced with a temporary few pieces of wood that were just kind of sitting there.  
The wood surrounding the tile was falling apart, and you can still see the old baseboard molding, which was disgusting.  The baseboard molding was replaced about 6 months later, and then we started the project of the built-ins.  Before:
I was thrilled with the difference it made in the room, but then started lusting after a new couch.  And I realized that the couch I wanted would look awful in a brown room.  So one Friday afternoon I went and bought some paint samples.  
Looking at this, I actually can't remember which one we picked, but I think it was the top one.  In person, it was obvious which color was the right choice.  Two coats of primer+paint later, we had a new living room.  I'm in love with the way it turned out.  But then had to do something with the giant empty wall that we had been ignoring for months.  From several other DIY house blogs, I had the idea to do a photo collage.  4 trips to craft stores and 2 trips to pick up printed out photos later, the wall was no longer naked and alone.
I love the way this turned out (they are all crooked because every time the puppies wrestle into the wall they wiggle, and I've given up on straightening them).  I also love that we can continue to add to it - it is a story that is not over.

After stalking the Crate & Barrel outlet for 3+ weeks, we brought the couch home, and then a few days later a rug.  The living room isn't done - we need to stalk home the matching chair, and buy a new coffee table and an end table - but it's one of my favorite rooms in the house.  The couch itself is more comfortable than our own bed.  
And even though it's not done, it's one of the few rooms that I can sit in and look around and not start making a list of the things that need to be done to make it better.  We're getting there!


  1. Love love LOVE all the work you've done in your house. Can I hire you to decorate my place too?

  2. Can't wait to sprawl on your couch. And help you clean the kitchen counters 23432 times. And play with the doggies. And use your foam roller. BTW, I like the paint.

    The end.

  3. It looks great! I got to see the before/during/after, too.

    P.S. It's spelled mantel. No one ever does, though.

  4. dear katie's couch,

    i love you. see you april 15th for some major snuggling.

    love, emily

  5. I love the new livingroom! You've done an awesome job with it!

  6. You are really making some great changes. Everything looks fantastic!

  7. Super impressed that you could transform the room like that! I'll bet you love being in there now.

  8. The living room looks great! And I love the photo collage. I did that in my last apartment, but was too lazy to re-create it when I moved.

  9. I looks fantastic! Built-ins might be one of my favorite room accessories.

  10. that's quite the transformation. Nice work!

  11. Thanks for the comment! :) And I LOVE your living room and seeing the progress you made. Just my two cents. :P

  12. Love Crate & Barrel.... Outlet store? Score!!!!! We don't have C&B or Pottery Barn in my part of Canada :(

  13. First - your place looks great. Really nice work!

    Second - you got that couch at the C&B outlet??! That's the one I've been eyeing forever! Would you mind emailing me how much you got it for? THANK YOU!!!!

  14. Wow, great job with the renovations, it looks amazing! I can't wait to have my own place to decorate!

  15. I love the coffee brown color for the living room, that looks really fantastic! I wish I could be that bold in my house, but I have a very opinionated spouse.

  16. I covet your built-ins.
    There is such a great sense of satisfication in making your home "your own" with DIY projects. Looks like you really have a knack for it! Love the new color!


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