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Before and After: A $500 Living Room Redo Will Make You a Conversation Pit Convert

published Apr 2, 2021
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Before: Sunken living room surrounded by dated oak railing

While some retro home trends are better left in the past — looking at you, carpeted walls — others are deserving of a comeback. Take the conversation pit, a trendy mid-century home feature that created a sunken living room area surrounded by cozy seating. What could be dreamier than a cushy hangout that feels both intimate and open?

In fact, the conversation pit was one thing that attracted homeowner Betcha Dela Cruz-Atabug (@chairfaire) to her current place. “We loved the house when we saw it,” she says. “The idea of a sunken living room/conversation pit was exciting. You don’t see that in newly built houses anymore.”

The one thing she and her husband didn’t love: the conversation pit’s dated railing. “The vibe was very ’80s baby crib,” Betcha says — not exactly the mid-century style they were after.

“A lot of people were advising to just remove the area and level it with the entire living room,” Betcha says. “However, the idea of having our own conversation pit where my hubby and I can relax, and listen to music, won.”

Quotes for having the railing removed were “ridiculously high,” Betcha says, so after confirming that the ceiling-height white pole in one corner was not load-bearing, she, her husband, and their 17-year-old son broke out some power tools and removed the railing themselves.

It took the family a whole weekend to remove the railing, sand the simple wood border that was left, and re-stain it in a darker, more modern tone.

The cushions needed to be replaced, too, Betcha says — but a quote for new custom ones came in at $5,000. Not ready to spend that much, she hunted online for something that might work and found floor cushions from World Market that were the exact right size.

With the sleek new surround, new rust-colored cushions, and plenty of colorful throw pillows, the conversation pit is now the cozy escape Betcha had imagined. And the cost for all of it came to about $500 — a serious steal, especially considering Betcha was quoted 10 times that for the cushions alone.

“We are definitely no handymen,” Betcha says. “We have to call someone every time something’s broken. So being able to do this on our own is a big accomplishment for us.”

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