One Room Challenge

Before and After: DIY Built-Ins and a Totally Unique Paint Job Luxe Up a Plain Living Area

published Jan 2, 2023
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Homes aren’t meant to be static. Your space will shift over time to reflect changes to your family, relationships, jobs, and more. What was once a home office might become a nursery, or what was once a playroom might become a hangout space for teens.

At DIYer Michelle Tomasello’s home, a shuffle offered a change-up for multiple spaces. It started with her husband moving from working in the home’s loft to working in the guest bedroom; what was previously the loft office turned into a family hangout space.

“My husband works from home, and it was very challenging for him to work in that space because it’s open to the entire home,” Michelle explains. “We have children and keeping them quiet was also a challenge.” Moving the office to a guest bedroom offered him a little more privacy, thanks to a door, but the area that was left behind was less than inspiring. “We were left with a blank, boring space,” Michelle says, but what they wanted was a space that could serve as both a family hangout space — for watching movies, playing games, and more — and a place for guests.

The couch in the loft is features a pull-out bed, which covers the guests’ sleeping needs, but Michelle also wanted to cozy up the space and build an entertainment center. She took on the project for the One Room Challenge, pulling off the transformation over seven weeks.

Michelle’s original vision was to create built-in bookshelves around a central TV, but after taping it out, she decided it would be too congested. Instead, she made a backup plan that still involved lower cabinetry but scrapped the top portion so as not to overwhelm the space.

First, Michelle started with a fresh coat of paint in a rich green (Sherwin-Williams’ Rosemary). She helped the arched windows pop by painting their sills creamy white (Dunn-Edwards’ Swiss Coffee), which matches the rest of the room’s trim. Then, Michelle turned her attention to creating the entertainment center.

Michelle then began with her painted mural. For a truly seamless look, she taped off a painting area that extended about 5 inches below where she planned to install her cabinetry — no harsh cutoff lines here! Michelle used water, a sponge, and a paint brush to create her marbled paint effect. She started with the lightest color (white), and then blended in darker shades to create the deep hand-painted veining. Once the paint was dry, she went in with gold leafing to add subtle hints of sparkly, geode-like detail.

After the mural was complete, Michelle stained a set of unfinished cabinets, which took longer than expected because of dry time. But once that was complete, Michelle and her husband, Frank, installed them. They made a template for our butcher block top for the countertop, which Frank cut to size. “Installing the counter was a little challenging because our walls were not flush with the counter,” Michelle recalls. In order to get a tight fit, they had to cut out some of the drywall to insert the counter to make it flush. Michelle caulked all around the cabinet to eliminate any visible seams.

“Last, I wanted to add a special detail to the side panel of the cabinet,” Michelle says. “I was inspired by our front door which has a reeded detail.” She added the same touch to the cabinet using half round moulding, which she glued to the side panel and stained to match the cabinets. “It truly elevated the cabinets and made it look custom,” she says.

On the opposite wall, Michelle also created a small feature moment by adding black paint (Sherwin Williams’ Tricorn Black) and vertical wood slats in varying lengths.

Once the three big changes (paint, TV wall, and wood slat wall) were done, Michelle completed the room’s decor with accessories from Tuesday Morning, Target, Amazon, TJ Maxx, and HomeGoods. “l love that our family now has a cozy place to have movie nights and play board games,” Michelle says. “Our guests also have a warm and inviting space to stay when they visit.”

And all of that came out of a plan that evolved over time, with incredible results. When it comes to any DIY, Michelle notes, “my advice would be to be flexible. Your original plan may have to change once you get to work, like mine did. It just might turn out better than you expected.”

This project was completed for the Fall 2022 One Room Challenge, in partnership with Apartment Therapy. See even more of the One Room Challenge before and afters here.