Before and After: $1,200 Later, a Stuck-in-the-’80s Living Room Has a Vibrant, Victorian-Inspired New Look

published Mar 11, 2023
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About this before & after
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Living room before renovation/makeover. Old, dark patterned carpet, off white textured walls

Often, when people choose a home or apartment, a deciding factor is the house’s bones — its big features that are more or less permanent, like the windows, fireplaces, staircases, layout, etc. For example, Jake Wilkinson and his partner, Megan, liked their living room’s bay window and central fireplace — but they weren’t keen on the fact that the original fireplace had been replaced with a faux gas one. They also weren’t in love with the “awful ’80s patterned carpet” or the textured ceiling (with the exception of the lovely ceiling medallion). “It hadn’t been changed since the 1980s from the previous owner,” Jake says of the overall vibe of the room.

Jake says his home “has loads of character on the outside,” and he wanted to reflect that on the inside, too. “I wanted to bring as much of the Victorian character back while incorporating our own colorful style,” he says.

Step one was removing the patterned carpet, sanding down the original floors, and painting them black. “I very much enjoyed the demolition stage of stripping it all back and seeing what I could keep and repurpose, such as the original flooring,” Jake says. One thing he didn’t account for, though, was the amount of dust involved. “I feel I am still cleaning It up months later!” he says.

After the floors, he plastered over the textured ceiling. “I have taught myself how to plaster, which really cut my costs.” Jake says. He also swapped in a new, more dramatic light fixture that calls attention to that ceiling medallion.

Another cost-cutting maneuver Jake employed was choosing MDF for creating his own built-ins. “Building your own cupboards is easier than you think,” Jake says. “I think it is worth trying yourself if you are DIY-inclined, as hiring it out can be very expensive.” Jake and Megan’s total living room reno cost was £1,000 or about $1,200 USD.

Jake and Megan decided to paint the built-ins —and the whole place! — a rich green (Leyland Trade’s Forest Storm, a UK-brand paint). “I have renovated smaller places I have owned, but often with the aim of selling it, so I have used very neutral colors before,” Jake says. “It was a big step for me to use much bolder colors, but I am very pleased with the result.”

His design advice? “At the end of the day, you can always repaint it if you aren’t happy, so if you fancy a more adventurous color, go for it!” Jake says. “If you have some bold style choices, stick to them, and don’t let other people try and dissuade you. It is your space to enjoy and not for others.”

Because the old bricked faux fireplace bothered him, Jake sourced a new (old) fireplace and mantel and found green tile inserts from a local salvage shop that perfectly match the wall paint.

Once the walls, floors, and ceilings were complete, Jake and Megan filled in the room with furniture, aiming to both match their personal style and complement the Victorian details of the room. “Most of the furniture has all been acquired from antique fairs or auctions,” Jake says. One of their luckiest finds, he notes, is the disco ball in the center of the fireplace which they found at a local refuse center.

If he could change anything about the space, Jake says he might start shopping for some larger, softer rugs “as the floor can be quite tough on bare feet,” and he’d add more electrical outlets in more convenient locations. But overall, he loves that he’s rescued his living room from the ’80s and added his and Megan’s personality to the space.

“We love using our living room now,” he says. “It has become such a cozy place for us to unwind.”