Here is the before and after living room renovation post!
Finally, I’m able to be posting the before and after posts of our whole house renovation. A few months ago I started with the front hall and the closet transformed into a library, (here is that hallway/library post). Then, a couple weeks ago was the front entry before & after post, (you can see that front entry post here if you missed it). Today, I’m showing you the next room from there, which is the living room.
BTW: for all the posts relating to this whole house renovation, check out this page, it has the complete compendium of posts for the renovation.
In this post, not only will I show you the before and after living room renovation, I’ll also give you some design tips for creating a balanced, defined room in an open concept space. Another important thought in re-designing this space was to create some interesting character in a fairly plain house. As I went through each room planning the design for the renovation, I planned a ‘special character piece’ of sorts. A little further down in this post, I’ll show you what this rooms ‘character piece’ would be.
List of Changes for this Room:
The room was very defined, actually, the whole main floor of this late mid-century home had very defined spaces. Each room, kitchen, dining, family room, living room etc. was completely separated from the others with walls and narrow doorways.
In the living room, there would be two walls to tear out, and one wall getting filled in. The wall behind the sofa would be coming down, completely opening up this living room to what would be the new dining/hearth room and the kitchen beyond, (you can read more about the dining room fireplace renovation here) The other wall coming down isn’t visible in the picture, but it’s the wall between the front hallway and the living room, (in the front entry post you can see a picture of that wall better).
Floor Raised Up
In the before pic, (I’m standing in the front hallway looking into the living room) as you can see, the living room floor was sunken. Though a sunken living room floor can offer some interesting character to a space, in this case it needed to be raised up to the same level as the rest of the main floor, (it impaired the height of the room below, and it also interfered with allowing an open concept on the main floor).
Popcorn Ceiling Changed
The ceiling of every room on the main floor was coated with a popcorn type texture. Some rooms we were able to soak it with water and scrape it off, (here’s a super popular post I wrote highlighting the steps to change popcorn ceiling to knockdown). In this room, the popcorn had been painted, and it wasn’t budging. I’ll show you how we dealt with that.
Wall Closed Off & Character Added
The far steps of the sunken living room floor went up into a narrow room the previous owners used as a dining room, (we would be changing that to an office). Since there is a door leading from that soon-to-be office from the kitchen, this wide doorway could be closed off, which is great given my floor plan for this room, (it needed one wall for the TV) This wall would also be the wall I used to create the special character piece on.
Another change that was needing to take place was the windows! They were large picture windows that could not be opened to let in the fresh breeze. (you can read more about the window and door decisions here) I love the usability of double hung windows. Plus, since the floor was coming up 12″ the windows needed to be shortened to allow for that elevation change.
A Gazillion Other Changes
Like light fixtures, flooring, window treatments, wall color, trim replaced etc…
Inside, the gap would be covered with drywall, taped and mudded, no biggie, when it was done, there’d be no trace the windows prior were a different height. But on the outside of the house, it was a different story… it is a brick facade… Here, on the ‘front porch addition’ post, you can see how we treated that gap difference on the front porch brick facade).
This is the lovely pond view we have out our front windows.
It really is a beautiful element to the whole main level of the house, especially now that we have taken the interior walls down so that it is more visible throughout the main rooms.
In this picture below, I was standing in the soon-to-be dining/hearth room looking towards the living room. On the other side of this wall, (that’s half gone) would have been where that grey sofa was in the ‘before’ pic.
Removing the walls was a laborious job. Our carpenter(s), which at times was only 1 guy, usually 2 guys, (rarely with a third guy offering an extra hand every now and then), showed me how the walls were built with the narrow horizontal strips of drywall, covered with heavy metal netting lathe, which was covered with heavy plaster. One little section at a time, and those sections were very heavy.
In the picture below, with the plaster removed from both sides of that wall, you can start to visualize how opening up the space will give such a beautiful view of the outside to the whole main floor.
After they finished removing the plaster, they had to install a laminated beam to replace this center supporting wall. Once that was secure, and the house didn’t fall in…
It was time to bring that sunken floor up to the right level.
Funny, (sort of?) story about the sunken floor…
We have friends that love mid-century modern and run a fantastic shop in our town, ‘Up Your Alley Vintage‘. It’s definitely worth a drive to visit!! I think they thought it was nearly sinful for me to remove the sunken floor. (it really did need to be done, not only for the open concept on the main level, but our 2 sons couldn’t even walk standing up in the lower level because the ceiling height was lowered due to the sunken floor above it.) I jokingly told our friends they were more than welcome to take the sunken floor if they had a use for it… (insert bad-joke-drum-sound… BA-DUM-BUM-CHING!)
Well, they didn’t take it, so our carpenters had to remove it, joists and all!
The above pic was taken when I was standing in the front entry of the main level, looking across the living room, towards what used to be the steps to the soon-to-be office. The living room floor is completely gone and you could see the full view of the lower level!
In this camera angle below, I was standing in the lower level of that far basement corner looking up towards the hearth dining room:
That’s a good shot of that laminated beam I was talking about too.
It was exciting to see this change of the floor level finally start, but it was a little freaky too… Fortunately, it was only ‘open’ like this for a few days as they worked on setting the new joists at the correct height.
In the pic below, the new joists and subfloor were in. The walls that we were planning to take down are totally removed. The new wall for the entry is getting built, and some new drywall and taping was already happening in the living room:
Remember that popcorn ceiling that was painted and wouldn’t budge off? I decided to cover it with beadboard! We used beadboard in several other parts of the main floor design, so it was great to repeat that in this room. Also, the living room ceiling is vaulted, so treating it with beadboard, where the rest of the house was plaster, felt like a perfectly special treatment to highlight that vault.
I used 4 x 8 plywood sheets of beadboard. It goes up much faster than tongue and groove boards, and for this application it was great. Here’s a tip for painting it:
Prime and paint as much as you can on the floor before it’s installed! It sure saves you a neck ache. We still had to caulk the joints and fill the nail holes and do a final coat of paint after it was up, but the primer coat and first coat were done at a more reasonable level.
Let’s talk floor plan for a second…
Creating Intersecting Axises
Our living room has a huge wall of windows that overlook that lovely pond, but this is also the main TV viewing room. That’s two focal points that can feel like they’re competing with each other. Therefore what I did is to create an axis with the TV at the center point on one wall, flanked by built-in bookshelves and vintage casement interior windows above them, (the special ‘character piece’ of the room). Adjacent to that axis, is the wall of windows, creating an intersecting axis. There is a fair amount of math in decorating!
The rug and furniture are centered on those axises, creating a symmetrical and visual anchor, even in an open concept space. Having it designed that way makes the room feel balanced, both when the TV is on and when it’s off.
Special ‘Character’ Piece
The wall in the pic below, shows the ‘special character adding piece’ for the living room. My overall design for the house was to create a house that felt vintage… like a house built in the Colonial Revival style c1940’s… interspersing some farmhouse cottage in there as well.
Caulking makes a difference!
After the beadboard ceiling and all the trim was installed. I caulked everything! Here you can read a post I wrote with painting and caulking tips. Caulking all the seams and cracks of the woodwork before you paint it, makes a world of difference in how the finished project looks.
Vintage Interior Windows
I had found some antique swinging casement windows I wanted to incorporate into this wall. Though we needed to close off the large doorway between the two rooms, (the living room and soon-to-be office) I didn’t want to completely close off the two spaces. By having interior windows that could actually open and close, I could control how ‘open’ one room would be to the next. I had purchased the vintage windows many months prior to when the carpenter actually built the wall for them.
The TV would be in the center of the wall sitting on an antique cupboard I had. We referred to the measurements of the antique cupboard, as well as the size of the antique windows as this wall was framed and trimmed out. That’s why I always recommend getting those components as soon as possible to have on hand when construction starts.
The wide plank pine floor we had installed on the main level was installed and the baseboard was installed on top of it. I then did the final caulking and painting of the base trim.
The swinging casement window sashes, (the actual glass panes in the wooden frame part) were one of the last things to go in. I specified for the windows to swing out, towards the office side, since I would have items sitting on the top of the newly built-in bookshelves in the living room side.
That was nearing the end of the living room renovation. The light fixture was installed and the face plates put on…
The ‘After’ Open Concept
Now the living room, anchored by the intersecting axises, and defined by the furniture layout, is visually open to the main floor:
From the hearth/dining room we can easily see out the front window across to the pond. From the living room we can feel part of the dining and kitchen area, and enjoy light and view of the backyard.
The $30 narrow sofa table I redid in this post, is still serving me well, it fits perfect in this space.
The vintage light fixture, (you can read more about that in this post) in it’s natural wood tones, warms up the white beadboard ceiling. The roman shade window treatments on the large bank of windows pull up, out of the way, to not cover up an inch of that lovely front view, (I’ll do a whole post about the window treatments some time, but in the meantime, if you’re looking for custom roman shades, like mine, I highly recommend these! Great options, fantastic customer service, and quick turn-around time.) The laminated beam, replacing that dividing wall between the living room and dining room, is now covered with a barnwood beam, (more on that little secret coming up in a future post!).
I have used interior windows in many of my projects, (in fact I have a whole page full of posts on different interior windows here!). This house has a few interior windows too, (I showed you the one in the hallway in this post).
I love being able to incorporate an antique window sash into a new space, creating an instant vintage feel.
Now from the front entry hall, there is an open view to the living room. The far wall of the living room, with the flanking antique windows and built-in bookcases adds interesting vintage character to the space.
The furnishings are my favorite juxtaposition mixes… there are some luxuriously formal pieces contrasted with others that have a rustic vintage vibe.
The end result is a room that I find appealing to my eye and is a comfy place to relax in.
Thanks so much for stopping by! Please feel free to follow and share this blog with your friends, as well as on Facebook, Pinterest, Flipboard, Bloglovin, YouTube and Instagram! I appreciate you reading along.
Thanks for the shout out Vintage Charm!