We Bought a Farmhouse

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

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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!


  1. I have done dry wall so I feel your pain but it is satisfying when it is done. Love following along on your journey!! We are building a small (1000 sq ft) house for a getaway and I am so glad someone else is doing all the work. Of course I am stressing over paint colors etc and the foundation was just dug today!! I think I have time to mull it over.

    1. That's so exciting! The little things like paint and such are very stressful (although, I feel they shouldn't be, but I always overthink them).

  2. I thought tearing down drywall was horrible, but you make plaster sound even worse. Looks like it was worth it though. You have a lovely home!

    1. Thank you so much! Oh my gosh, plaster demo is just awful. Hopefully you never have to do it :)

  3. The room looks beautiful! LOVE the window trim!! Your husband's dry wall skills are also really impressive--it's definitely a long process that I don't have the patience for;-)

    1. He's awfully talented :) The window trim was really easy to do - so thankful I found that tutorial! :)