We Bought a Farmhouse

stories of renovation, home decor inspiration & sprinkles of country life

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Living Room Before & After: The Details & A Semi-DIY TV Stand

In the last post, I talked about how fun it was to demo plaster walls, and the steps we had to take to get our living room back into shape.

But this post, my friends, is what we did to make this room our little downstairs sanctuary. Our style is pretty much all about feeling cozy. I love things to feel lived-in, have the look of randomness (even though every little detail is thought out way more than it needs to be because I have problems) and just be a place that's perfect for a weekend movie night, as well as an expression of us. Right now, everything isn't exactly how I'd like it. We still need to finish off our ceiling and floor molding, there's some trim we need to put up around our built-ins to hide some drywall seams that caulk won't fix and our bookcases are a little empty because we don't have that many things to fill them with. But, other than that, this is the most homey this room has been since moving in over a year ago.

Let's do a proper before & after:

For me, the best way to create maximum coziness is adding pillows and blankets ev-ery-where. I have so many pillow covers for different seasons, but these are my staples - neutral for Spring and Summer and easy to work into any design. Soon, I'll be changing them out for Autumn, but right now the neutral palette is giving me all the happy feelings.

We also spruced up our built-ins, coffee table and side table a little tiny bit. Over the summer, we went to the Country Living Fair in Rhinebeck and picked up a few things, including this old Main blueberry crate. The cutest older gentleman was selling them, and he told us all about his blueberry farm in Maine, and how these crates were actually used to harvest blueberries. So, you know, we had to buy one (it still has stains from the blueberries, which I kind of adore). I threw in our Cape Cod coasters we've collected over the years, some faux pear stems in a ceramic pitcher, some rope votive holders and an early Autumn addition - this White Pumpkin candle I have to get at Homegoods every year (I found it just a few days ago, and sometimes it can be a little elusive, so I jumped on it in August - one year I couldn't find it and I was beside myself).

When we lived in an apartment, we felt like we had so much stuff. We didn't have space for all the things we were accumulating and saving for when we had a house someday. Now, I feel like this big house is empty. Our built-ins look a little sad, but I've filled them with what we have for now. Over time, we'll continue to buy more books on vacation and gift them to each other at Christmas, and our bookcases will be filled with amazing stories (literally). But for now, they're half empty, and I'm okay with it.

Our little end table has a few books, some clear vases with faux anemone stems and some wooden coasters (I'm that person - Here! Have a coaster for that sweaty glass of yours! We don't want any drippies!). Just call me Monica.

We also plan to eventually replace this wood-burning stove with a smaller one that will fit inside the fireplace. We tested it this past Winter, and came to realize that it doesn't give off as much heat as we thought it would, and because it sits so far out into the room, we made the decision early this year to downsize it. I'm not sure when that will happen, though, but I kind of can't wait because it'll open up the room a lot.

We also wall-mounted our TV, and got a new TV cabinet. To add some ambiance at night, I hung some lanterns on either side of the TV with flameless candles that are timed to turn on around 5 p.m. every night. I accessorized with an aluminum bud vase tray, a ceramic pot with faux eucalyptus, a frame with a picture of Josh and I in our tree farm and a little terrarium with a potted topiary.

The lanterns lit at night. So cozy!

The actual TV isn't even (don't worry, I see it). Josh thinks it's because the house is uneven, but I think our measurements were just off when we mounted it. I'll take bets on who's right and let you all know.

Our old Hemnes Ikea TV stand just wasn't doin' anything for me anymore, and with our freshly painted new drywall, I was determined to find something that would pull the room together and fit with our style. I had seen a few photos on Pinterest of dressers and sideboards turned into TV stands, and I loved how warm they made the space feel. So I started to hunt for something similar, which took forever. I wanted something in a creamy white with a wood top and I wanted drawers on the top with cup pulls, and the option of open shelving on the bottom for our DVD player and Roku units. It was impossible to find anything within the budget I set for myself (everything seemed to be $1,000 and up for what I had in mind - craziness!), so I had to buy something that was nearly perfect, and make some changes to it. Isn't that always the way?

I found this Home Decorator's Collection Harwick buffet online at Home Depot, and the black color was 25% off, which made it right within my budget. The fact that it was black stressed me out because I knew I'd have to prime the heck out of it to paint it a creamy white, but it was the exact structure and style I was looking for, so I went for it.

Thankfully, it came in pieces, and I say thankfully because I wanted to build a new top for it and not put on the doors. Josh helped me get the planked wood top I wanted by cutting some 2x4's for me, and nailing it to the top of the buffet. I used a mix of Special Walnut and Provincial stains from Minwax, applied a few coats of poly to protect it and add shine, and then, just like that, we had a new top, which tied in with our coffee and side table perfectly.

With this project, I made my first foray into the world of chalk paint. I did a lot of research, and was originally going to use the Ben Moore Advance formula (the same one we used for our kitchen cabinets and built-ins), but there was just something about chalk paint that was piquing my curiosity, so I went for it. I liked that it was very low VOC and almost odor free, and that it was supposed to be very opaque coverage with a matte finish that gave the piece a little more of an older feel. One of the schticks of chalk paint is that you don't have to sand or prime your piece, but I decided to prime because the cabinet was black and I was going for a much lighter color. Also, chalk paint is kind of pricey, so I tried to minimize wasting it where I could. I did one generous coat of primer, and two coats of the chalk paint for a smooth finish, and sealed it all in with a clear wax coat. I used Annie Sloan's Pure White Mixed with Old White for the perfect crisp but creamy white I was looking for.

As a side note, I wasn't really impressed with chalk paint, and if I could do it all over again, I probably would have just gone with my original plan. I didn't find the coverage to be as opaque as it claims (most of the advertising says one-coat coverage) because after a good coat of primer, I needed two really good coats of the chalk paint - the same amount I would have needed if I had used a regular paint. And even then, there are still some spots where the coverage is uneven (but not for a lack of me trying!). Plus, I had to wax it for protection, which I wouldn't have had to do with the Advance formula. I'm glad I tried it, but I don't think it was worth it. The only perk was that it dried so fast that once I was done with the first coat, I was able to jump right into the second making it an easier project to finish in a day.

We put the top we built on the buffet, and voila! It was exactly what I visioned in my head. The buffet came with doors, but I wanted an open-shelving concept so I opted to not put them on. I love it when a project you've been thinking about for weeks becomes a reality and actually looks how you wanted it to. This isn't perfect - if you look at it real close, you can see some slight unevenness where the paint failed me, and also the top is a little crooked on one side because the wood wouldn't lay just right. But from two arm's lengths away, it looks just fine. I also bought the wrong screws for the drawer pulls, and since we live pretty far from things, I have to wait until I'm back in town to go to Home Depot and get the right ones, but once those are on, it'll be complete.

Finally, the gallery wall. Oh my goodness, you should have seen my mental state while designing this. Usually I can make decisions pretty quickly and stick with them, but I hemmed and hawed over this design for weeks. And by weeks, I mean literally every second of every day I wasn't in my real-job mode. I'm not sure why, exactly. Maybe it was because once it was done, I didn't want to have to rethink everything and make changes, or maybe it was because I wanted the look of total randomness, but even then, you have to have a plan and think about color and balance. So the moment I finalized the design in Photoshop, I was equal parts relieved and excited. Keep in mind that while it only took me five days or so to design this bad boy, I've been thinking about it off and on since moving in. I don't even think about our bathroom installation that much. I have problems.

Once I started installation, I had to make a few tweaks because even in Photoshop, I couldn't get exact measurements between each frame. But I had a lot of extra frames, so improvising was simple. Drinking wine while I did this make it a lot more fun (and slightly more difficult).

So, here it is. It helped to focus in on one theme, and I picked travel. Because this space is all about coziness and relaxation, I wanted to surround ourselves with photos from our travels because the ocean brings us (read: me more than Josh) a sense of calm, so it makes the room even more serene. I bought a vintage map of New England (reproduction, obviously) on Etsy, a wood planked cutout of New York State, a palette Home Sweet Home sign, added a clock, a mirror, the Nantucket sign we bought on vacation this year, layered in some of our favorite travel photos, and it was done.

Behind our sofa, we have some bookcases that my uncle built for us a few years ago, and on top of them, I put some wood and metal lanterns and one of my favorites vases we own with some faux eucalyptus and wildflowers. The bookcases are kind of a disaster right now - they're pretty much the same as when we moved in last year and just shoved a bunch of random stuff in them, so those aren't going to be shown today for obvious reasons.

In the corner next to the TV, I was able to find a home for the old wooden ladder we got in Rhinebeck this year (also at the Country Living Fair). I placed a wreath at the top and draped some of our throw blankets on the rest. I hung a clock on this wall as well, and on the floor, I added some crates just because the ladder looked kind of lonely by itself. This whole area is kind of a work in progress. I'm not even entirely sold on the crates - I may look into getting different ones. I also don't have anything for the bottom crate, either. So, we'll see. The whale weathervane was a gift from Josh. I spotted it at a boutique in the Cape one year, and because we didn't have a house yet, I passed on buying it, and Josh tracked it down and surprised me with it the following Christmas. It was one of the best gifts I ever received.

The book was left here by the previous owners, and it's called Samantha At The World's Fair.
I was so touched that they left it here for us. 
And that's our living room! For now. We'll be adding some more things here and there as time and the budget allows, which is good because I need to ponder some ideas before moving on. Once we added the new trim, I started to second-guess adding drapes to the two windows. That had always been my plan because I love how adding drapes to a room just adds a certain finishing touch that can't be denied. But at the same time, I'm not sure if we need to cover them up.

We also plan to install ceiling and floor trim. One of the past owners of our house didn't extend our hardwood floors to the edge of the plaster walls, so we have pretty wide gaps between where our floors stop, and where our wall begins around the perimeter of the room. It's a frustrating situation that has called for us needing to buy really, really thick molding for the room, and we're not quite done with that yet. But we're getting there. The ceiling trim isn't up yet because I can't seem to decide what I want up there, so that'll also take some time.

I also needed a break from designing wall galleries, but our TV wall definitely needs something, I feel like. There's a lot of empty space up there to play with, and I'm toying around with the idea of three or four symmetrical frames going across in a row, but we'll see where my mind takes me with that one. I'm currently taking suggestions.

List of all items shown that are still available:
Pillows: Basketweave at Pottery Barn* (gray color sold out); Stripe Clea and Poitier striped pillows from Birch Lane; Hammond knit pillow from Birch Lane.
Throws: Pottery Barn*, Target, stripe throws on ladder are no longer available.
Copper-Handled Wire Baskets: Target
Wood and Metal Lanterns: Large and Small can be found here and here, from Target.
Woven Baskets: Pottery Barn*
Bird Picture Frames: Joann Fabrics (couldn't find online)
Lanterns on Wall: Pottery Barn*
Bud Vase Tray: Joss and Main
Wall Gallery Frames: Antique White (no longer available) and Rustic Wood Gallery Frames from Pottery Barn*
Vintage New England Map Print: Etsy
Wood Planked New York State: Etsy
Wood Home Sweet Home Sign: Etsy
Faux Florals: I purchase most faux florals from AFloral and Factory Direct Craft; Faux Pear Stems old from Pottery Barn*
*I work for the Williams-Sonoma brand and received a discount on these items. 

Living Room Renovation: The Steps

This doesn't seem like the biggest makeover ever, but so much work went into updating this room, and I'm thrilled to have our little downstairs living space nearly complete. This project was totally unplanned and kind of threw us for a curveball because we thought we'd be tackling it 2-3 years from now. But now that's it's done, I'm ridiculously happy that we did it.

Let's rewind to last fall. Yeah, I said it. Last fall.

So about September or October of last year, I painted the built-in bookcases in our living room. One was super easy, which I talked about here. The other had to be totally reconfigured because it was built to be more like a desk/office space, which we didn't care for - largely because it didn't match the other one. We did a lot of work on it, but it's still not totally done just yet. At the very least, it's painted and functional, but it required Josh to literally take it out of the wall, restructure it, and put it back in. Fun times! We still need to build doors for the cabinets down below, and that'll get done eventually.

Built-ins when we moved in.

It's always fun to see what's behind stuff when you rip it out.
Then, we started the big overhaul. I was so starry-eyed for this house when we first saw it, and when we first moved in, I somehow didn't even notice that both our downstairs spaces had painted paneling on the walls. One day, after having lived here for a few weeks, I just looked up and noticed that our walls were bubbling and had texture. I remember running over to Josh and being all like, Seriously how did we not notice this?! It didn't bother me much until I realized that eventually, we'd have to rip it out, tear down the plaster underneath and install drywall. It was a project my brain couldn't even handle because we had already been knee-deep in our kitchen cabinet painting project, and were planning redoing our master suite and installing a bathroom. I just decided that we'd live with it for a few years, and in the meantime, before the holiday season kicked off last year, I'd paint the room to add a little warmth. So I did. And then 6 months later, we tore it all down.

Living room when we moved in.

Long story short, our contractor that installed the plumbing and electrical for our new guest bathroom highly suggested running the pipes through our living room wall. While him and Josh were talking about the project, Josh casually mentioned, "yeah, we plan on converting the plaster to drywall in a few years," to which the contractor replied, "I'd highly suggest you just do it now if you can to open up the wall for the pipes rather than drywalling around the pipes." Once he said it, we knew it had to be done, and we just went for it. A week or two later, we were clearing out the room, and we started to take down all the paneling, plaster and lathe. This is where I learned what my least favorite thing ever is (plaster demolition), and how messy plaster is. We've been living with plaster dust everywhere, and I think cleaning it all up once and for all was the one thing I was most excited about. Removing plaster and lathe actually isn't even that hard, it's just getting the plaster out of your house that really sucks. It's just a very, very boring and tedious process, and you're covered in dust the whole time. And, this particular kind of dust sucks every last drop of moisture out of your hair and skin. Josh learned this the hard way after his first plaster removal attempt, wherein his hair was so stiff, you couldn't even run fingers through it (I'm not even exaggerating). A few coconut oil applications helped, but we had to wear shower caps moving forward.

The paneling in this room was is really bad shape. The seams didn't line up, it was pulling away from the wall, and on the back wall (the one wall you see when you walk in), it stops abruptly, and was cut unevenly. It was very peculiar, so removing it all actually felt amazing.

The back wall, where the paneling just stopped mid-wall. Classy.

The paneling, which bubbled and pulled away from the walls.

Once all the plaster and lathe were down, Josh started to drywall the room. I kind of leave this up to him because he can do it faster than I could. This is where I go away and start designing the details. The biggest hold up for us has been the fact that we share a tiny little Honda Fit, so we needed to rent trucks to transport drywall back home, and that just takes time. So the project moved a little slower than I would have originally liked, but what are ya gonna do, right?

Paneling and plaster down! This is the wall where our contractor ran the bathroom pipes.
Our contractor started to run new electrical lines and plumbing through our walls once they were stripped down to the studs, so while the walls were open, we had him hardwire the living room for a ceiling light. Prior to that, the room light switches were wired to control outlets, but we both just prefer to be able to light a room from above, so that was such a nice update. We don't have air conditioning in our house, and we probably never will because we currently use electric baseboards for heat, so we went with a ceiling fan & light combo in this room. And to be honest, it's probably what we'll do in every room of the house. We went with the same ceiling fan we used in our bedroom, just in a bronze finish. The bronze came with an amber-tinted globe, which I don't like (of course), but the white globe is currently on backorder, so I'm just waiting for it to come in so we can replace it.

We also scraped down most of the popcorn ceiling. This ended up being kind of an ordeal because once we scraped it, it still looked pretty texturized. Josh had a really good idea of putting down a layer of joint compound to even it out a bit, and it worked! It's still not as smooth as fresh drywall, but it's such an improvement over the popcorn. We slapped on a layer on ceiling paint, and crossed that off our list.

Josh taped and sanded the drywall, and then we primed the walls to prep for paint. I desperately wanted to skip priming because it's pretty boring and it slows down the whole process, but after doing research where everyone and their cat said you needed to prime fresh drywall, we did.

Finally, we painted. I painted this room for a second time in a nine-month span. Fun, right? We used the same color, Wood Ash from Benjamin Moore, and I continue to have the hardest crush ever on this color. It's not a well-known color, but I adore how it's neutral, yet brightening and yet warm and cozy and it has the slightest, slightest, hint of gray which keeps it from pulling too warm. It's amazing, and it pairs so perfectly with our trim color, Bavarian Cream, also from Ben Moore. I know greiges are the thing right now, but this color says home to me.

Room during the drywall process.
We also updated the trim around the windows, since we had to rip out the existing trim during demolition. We copied this great tutorial from Love Grows Wild, and I'm thrilled with how it came out. There were a few hiccups along the way with installation, but overall, it was pretty easy and inexpensive, but gives a very upscale feel.

Finally, it was time to clean the floors (literally, we had to clean them like 10 times to really pick up all the dust), wash the slipcovers on our sofa and move back in! Here's a picture of the room as it is now. Not a dramatic change, right? We keep laughing about how we put so much work into this room, and it pretty much looks the same as is did a few months ago from a distance. But when you're there in person, it's a pretty big update.

We still need to put up the ceiling and floor trim, but we're still deciding what we want to do with that because as per usual, it's not straight forward in this room because of dimensions and other factors. But, it's totally livable in the meantime!

This weekend, we moved everything in, and while it's still not a complete room since we only managed to move our furniture back in, we started to put up some things on the walls (for the first time ever) to make it feel like a home. Over the next couple of days, we plan to have it completely done, and Part II will be our complete design. I'm hoping to get better photos - the light in this room is really bad because it faces East, so we never get direct sunlight and pictures come out cloudy. I'm workin' on that, though. Stay tuned!