Before and After: 3 Big Changes Call Attention to This Century-Old Living Room’s Best Features

published Feb 17, 2023
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Before: White-walled cabin libing room with rattan swinging chair
Credit: Meng Ai

If you’re a frequent reader of Apartment Therapy’s Before & After series, you’ll know that some “befores” are completely abysmal, and some “befores” are perfectly fine and functional — stylish even! — and the homeowners are just looking for a change of pace. (And sometimes, a “before” might look better than an “after” to you. And that’s OK! It’s not your home. Here are a few thoughts on that.)

This “before,” in the cabin of Meng Ai and his husband, Andrew, was perfectly stylish — and they actually liked a lot about it, including the wood-burning stove, the windows, and the wooden beams. The 100-year-old cabin certainly had charm! But it also had enough years behind it that other features, like a chair hanging from those century-old joists, needed a second look. The colors weren’t doing the space a lot of favors, either. “The white walls before always looked gray and dingy because the cabin is in a shaded area,” Meng says.

Credit: Meng Ai

Meng and Andrew wanted not just to keep the pieces of the living room that they loved, but highlight them. That meant letting nature be their guide in redesigning the space. “Since we were enveloped by trees and nature anyway, we decided to embrace that and go with a darker theme,” Meng says.

Credit: Meng Ai

For the new earthy green walls, Meng and Andrew ditched the white and the shiplap and went with Behr’s Ecological — a much better match for the view out the windows. “The overall aesthetic we wanted for the living room was moody but cozy, dark but inviting, and rustic but polished,” Meng says.

Another one of their goals was to make the old black stove more of a focal point in the space. To do this, Meng and Andrew installed heat-proof tile behind it. “The tile behind the fireplace started as a practical consideration (for fire safety), but we used it as a chance to tie the kitchen and living room design together,” Meng explains, noting that their cute cabin kitchen uses the same Cloé ceramic tile in a different shape.

Credit: Meng Ai

To replace the swing, which they liked but decided didn’t fit the new aesthetic, they went with two cane chairs. “They’re low to the ground, have a handsome profile, and fit perfectly in a small space,” Meng says.

Meng and Andrew’s living room redo is proof that just a few changes can change the vibe of a room — or make it feel more satisfying to sit in. Looking for even more ideas to make a space a bit more cozy, moody, and relaxing? Check out these approachable DIYs starting at $10.