Before and After: This Living Room Redo Is a Perfect Balance of Airy and Cozy
When tackling a project as big as a living room, it can be difficult to know where to start. Having an inspiration board (bulletin or virtual works) or even an inspirational phrase can help you pinpoint paint and decor choices and help communicate your vision to others.
For Sarah Bolton (@sittingprettyhomedecor), that inspirational phrase was “modern vintage.” Those two seemingly opposite ideas make total sense once you learn Sarah has a knack for refinishing vintage furniture and loves to blend white airy openness with dark drama.
But her 1990s living room’s beige walls, red brick fireplace, and honey oak floors didn’t quite encapsulate Sarah’s modern vintage vibe — so she and her husband, Gary, started revamping the room the first month they moved in.
“We did one small project at a time as life with five kiddos and budget allowed,” Sarah says. They brightened and modernized the room by painting the walls and fireplace white (Benjamin Moore’s White Dove) and added black paint (Behr’s Black Suede) on either side of the fireplace for a touch of the modern moodiness that Sarah loves. The paint trick also makes the fireplace look more front-and-center, as the windows fade into the background.
The fireplace itself took multiple weeks to turn into the focal point it is now. First, Sarah and Gary removed the old mantel; then, Gary mounted a wood frame to the brick so they could attach faux shiplap above the hearth.
“We used sheets of MDF to cut strips for the ‘shiplap’ and nickels to space them,” Sarah says. “The hardest part was maneuvering two ladders on either side so we could both hold the pieces up and nail them while keeping the nickels in place.”
To replace the old ‘90s-style mantel, Gary built a new simple one out of plywood. “We used veneer to make it appear to be one giant piece of wood,” Sarah says — a smart trick for anyone DIYing on a budget.
She also added spray-and-stick Magnolia wallpaper to a small wall to give the space a little more visual interest. A muted tan rug from Rugs USA and a 16-foot secondhand church pew blend modern with vintage.
“The original blueprints for this house indicated this space was built for living and dining, so this extra space behind the living area was awkward to find a use for,” Sarah says. “This old church pew we found on Facebook Marketplace fit the wall PERFECTLY and gave us extra seating for the kiddos! They love it for movie night.”
While the bright white walls and shiplap and new lighting make this space feel bright and airy, all the cozy textures work together to make it feel welcoming, too. And with the fireplace focal point, there’s no better place to kick back and relax as a family.
Inspired? Submit your own project here.