Formal Living Room – Before and After

Who wants to see some house projects?

I do, I do, I do!!!!

For you, Soren? Anything! 😉

But for the rest of you, this is a long, wordy, probably boring post. But this project has been 7 months in the working so it deserves some history & lots of details.

So, back in December of 2011, my friend super talented (she’s an amazing photographer, sewer, baker, DIY’er and more), super generous friend, Mandi came over for a visit which gradually led to a design consultation. I can’t remember the original intent of her hour + drive over to my house but she patiently listened to me whine and whine some more. If I remember correctly, I explained how I had given up trying to decorate on my own. No rug or paint color I was trying (& I had tried several, let me tell you) was working to give me the feel I wanted and I desperately needed her expert help!!!! She patiently and politely took everything in, giving it much thought and then awhile later, as the kids were playing in the girls room, just when I thought she agreed there was no hope for my room, she asked sorta boldly, sorta hesitantly, “Have you ever considered painting your bookcases white?”. I explained how I always dreamed of white bookcases but never considered painting them because 1) I simply wasn’t brave enough and 2) I didn’t think I could tackle a project that big solo (& that was assuming I could get the kids away for long enough to do it) I love her brave, spontaneous, go for it, attitude. She responded with a chuckle, “what’s the worst thing that can happen? You hate it and you have to re-paint them or strip them and stain them.. Big deal” Sounded like even more work but she had a point. So, after a lot of back and forth, she pointed out that there were too many competing browns/woods and that’s why nothing was working. I had to eliminate one of the elements (& it wasn’t gonna be the furniture we had just bought or the hardwood floors) so to paint the bookcases it was! Genius. This was the room before her magic…

Dark, depressing, cluttered, outdated, too blah, and a little too “old” feeling.

And here it is now…

Oops, Ottoman not quite centered 😉

Quite a big change improvement, wouldn’t you say?

Mandi then offered insisted to come help me paint since she likes this sort of stuff as much as I do 😉 so since I was too chicken to tell my parents what I was up to, the next time my mom offered to have the girls over, we coordinated a secret visit and went for it! Rebels, we are! Looking back at these pictures, it was so fun for me! We had some frustrating, humbling (like when I had to call my dad at school to tell him I thought I broke his compressor when I only needed to turn the switch on) moments but we, or at least I, (I shouldn’t speak for her) had a blast and some good laughs along the way 😉

And, anyone willing to endure hours of paint fumes and white paint on every follicle of their upper body is a true friend 😉 Seriously girl, you rock!!!! I was reminded looking through these pictures that we had Soren to watch over but he was so good, sleeping most of the time, even through the terribly noisy compressor.

I did some love tagging for Mandi when she stepped out for some fresh air to clear those lungs 😉

Her second trip out was to help with a wall gallery and to “style” the bookcases.

Originally, I wanted the random interesting “eclectic”  type of gallery. That’s what Mandi gave me and I loved it! But when I started going through pictures to display, I realized I didn’t have enough that I liked in the same orientation (horizontal or vertical) hanging. (Note to anyone wanting to make a gallery, pick your pictures 1st). Then, when researching how to display family photos, I ran across this idea on the House of Smiths blog

Notice how they use the gallery as a piece of artwork pulling colors from there to accent the room. I can do that!

So, of course I changed my mind and decided for a more symmetrical look. I wasn’t about to ask Mandi to make the long trip over just to change up her hard work 😉 so, enter the scene: designer Martha who helped create this using old frames we gathered from both of our houses and spray painted white:

Around this time, we were planning, prepping, and purging for a big huge garage sale. 7 years worth of crap unwanted treasures cluttering our garage to the point that I could barely do laundry any more. We also gladly accepted items from family members who graciously donated to our cause without even accepting their earnings and almost $500 later, I had a nice little stash of cash to splurge on a few finishing touches for the room like the pillows, a side table, a mirror, vase and the pieces for the ottoman (I used the rest for the birthday party and our dining room/office redo which I’ll show you next!).

The ottoman in her past life was a square honey oak coffee table I found on Craigslist ($30 but I talked the guy down to $20, woot!). I’ve wanted a big, square ottoman for a loooong time now but even if I found one in the stores, it was too expensive and in a fabric that didn’t even match my decor so I decided to make one! Can’t be that hard right? 😉 It actually wasn’t. I spray painted the bottom half in a dark espresso brown. I also discovered some old outdoor patio cushions that I was saving for a rainy day (that is, I couldn’t even get rid of them at the garage sale and I think they were FREE!) but boy am I glad because they came in handy and saved me a ton of money. I cut them to fit the top of the table (yes, that’s a butcher knife you see pictured),  glued them on and lay some batting over it all and stapled it underneath the table.

I had ordered 2 yards of fabric from Etsy in the ever trendy chevron stripe ($21 with shipping) originally to sew up some pillow covers, but it was the perfect size for this so I decided to use it! I still need to figure out how to finish off the corners better but for now it works and we already use it so much, either to set a drink and book on, to kick up our feet, to fold laundry on or a baby-friendly place to set toys on and bang hands on without making a sound! 😉

– I found the pillows at my favorite store, Home Goods, of course!

-And I painted the back of the bookshelves a darker shade of the wall color and dressed them up as best I could using Mandi’s tips…

Decorating the fireplace mantel was another fun little project. We knew we wanted to get rid of the TV to force invite an environment for reading, sitting and sharing, relaxing. But when it was gone, I was a little intimidated that I was faced with another blank spot to fill and decorate! I only used things I already had stashed in the garage that I hid from Dean when he was hauling everything out for the garage sale 😉

– an old chalkboard I made awhile back using chalkboard paint over a really old scratched up piece of plexi-glass, the frame got yet another coat of paint (I think that makes it #5 or 6)

-some star fish we used to have in our bedroom and a metal tumbler thing with some sticks from IKEA

On the opposite side of the room, I made a bunch of changes to tie both sides together:

Inspired by Mandi’s creation here and using her awesome tutorial, I made a Starburst mirror for about $35 when the cheapest one I could find was $59 in a comparable size. Love it! 🙂

I am realizing more and more, I definitely have a passion for creating!

And then my $20 Craigslist hallway table got a make-over as well..

I closed my eyes, made a wish and *poof* my fairy God-mother appeared, eager to do most of the painting 😉

The details really do make all the difference.

When I think about all the shopping trips, painting, sanding, stapling, moving, did I mention painting? that went on in the last couple weeks to pull this together before we had a house full of people, no wonder I am still pooped! (& the fact that I’ve gone out past 10:30pm 2 of the last 3 nights for some awesome women time) But, I was inspired and motivated and on a roll and I’m SOOOO glad I can say it’s finally DONE!!!! We are now enjoying the front living room so much more than we ever have!

It’s now Dean’s and my favorite place to retreat to with a glass of wine and a book and the best thing is that not only does it look pretty but it’s also so kid-proof! The rug is light, yes, but hides dirt and crumbs so well! And it’s so soft and cozy, the girls make pretend snow angels from time to time 😉 The couches are 1/2 leather, 1/2 synthetic material so they wipe up any mess with a wet rag and the ottoman is free of any sharp corners!  Not to mention, every time I look up at our family photo gallery, I am  automatically called to thank God for His incredible blessings and, even though I thought the photo shoot was a chaotic disaster at the time, all I am reminded of now when I see them is the peace in our family, the harmony, the joy & it immediately puts a smile on my face and calms me since more often than not, I’m probably frustrated or impatient at the moment! 😉

A VERY BIG “Thank you” to Mandi, DIY extraordinaire who jump started this whole thing…I don’t think I would’ve ever attempted this on my own. I’d still be complaining about a dark, depressing, ugly room that doesn’t get used enough and because of her help and encouragement, I am so happy with this big part of our home (& it’s the 1st room you see)!

On to the next space!

PS – Dad, I promise you this will stay this way for at least 6 months 😉 hehe…kidding.

4 Responses to Formal Living Room – Before and After

  1. LOVE it!! I know you’re stoked to finally see it completed 🙂 great job !! Everything looks great. Thanks for the shout outs 🙂 You know I love doing that sort of thing. Now I need to come see it in person!! Play date!

  2. Awesome, awesome, awesome!! You girls did a fabulous job! Mandi, I love your ideas and having the “whole picture” in your head so marisa could just run and be creative. marisa, you did awesome with your craigs list/etsy steals and I love how you decorated those photo albums possibly? with the same fabric as the ottoman. and your photo wall does look better symetrical rather than artsy. I Love that you dont have that unnecessary tv still there (what with the one in the FUN family room). You girls totally ROCK!! Ummm come do my house next!!!

  3. Maris, I LOVE your house!!! I love every room- it really makes such a difference when you are hanging out from one room to another, the decor sets the tone and it’s special because your creative touch is EVERYWHERE!! You have such a talent! And it’s so fun! Just for the record, (ahem) I do vaguely recall back in the day recommending more neutral grey-ish paint tones… 🙂 haha! Seriously, what you have done with the house is amazing! Can I hire you??

  4. It seems that Mom’s and my philosophy that a home has to be a reflection of the people living there has had some influence on you! But is doesn’t surprise me as I reflect on you growing up. You were never content with average or mediocre in any aspect of your life and you were always willing to do whatever it took to realize your dreams, whatever sacrifice necessary. Now, all grown up, you continue in this commitment to excellence as your home, your family and your total envrironment reflects that part of you. Change and transition has always stimulated and driven you and so it still does today. I marvel and admire your diligence to achieving your goal and never being content with less than your expectation, although sometimes it takes time and many modifications to realize it. Consequently, I, like Miranda, love your house and feel so comfortable and “at home” whenever I am there. “You” are in every room and in every crook and cranny. I can’t wait to dive into the next phase! (closet converstion/laundry room/???????).

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