Before and After: Fireplace and Flooring Redos Made This Living Room Feel Bright and New
In our DIY Makeover Issue, we offer project inspiration, instruction, and helpful tips and hacks for every DIYer, no matter your skill level or budget. We can’t wait to see what you create with your new skill set — find it all here. This content was created independently by our editorial team and generously underwritten by the new Ford Maverick™.
The living room is the focal point of a home. Often, it’s the first room you come into when entering, and it’s where you spend so many of your waking hours. So when it’s not warm and welcoming, it can throw off the vibes of the entire home.
Homeowner Kari Rezac knows this firsthand. In her living room, “the dark carpet and dated fireplace were not the inviting space I wanted,” Kari says. The layout wasn’t working for the home, either. “The room was long and skinny and needed the right furniture to help define where the living room ended and dining area started,” she adds.
Kari and her boyfriend renovated the entire house after they bought it, and she was excited for those makeover plans to include the living room. “We waited to do the living room toward the end because we didn’t want to put in our fresh new flooring before completing all of the upstairs reno work, which would have quickly put a lot of wear and tear on the floors,” she explains. “The thing that I hated most about our home was the carpet, so each day I went without tearing that up was a minor miracle.”
When they finally started work on the living room, the renovation took a few months because of Kari and her boyfriend’s full-time jobs. “The whole renovation was a true DIY, completed entirely by my boyfriend and myself,” Kari shares.
For the fireplace, they cut off the old mantel and replaced it with a wooden mantle that they lightened with Woca wood lye. They filled the facade with mortar for a smooth finish, and laid and then grouted small marble tiles. Next, they caulked around the edges and treated the tiles with a sealant for protection. For the firebox, they painted it with a high-heat-resistant black matte paint and added a black fire screen to replace the old, brassy cover.
Next came the flooring. Kari and her boyfriend ripped out the old carpet, which she describes as “the most glorious” step. They then used a self-leveler on the concrete subflooring to create a level surface for their laminate. While laying down the laminate, the couple learned something new. “One aspect I hadn’t thought about until we started laying the flooring was the transition from the edge of the flooring into the fireplace,” shares Kari. “When laying flooring, you need space around all sides so that the laminate can expand and contract without buckling the floors. In order to maintain the gap but allow for a seamless transition along the fireplace, we undercut the tiles on the fireplace so that we could slide the laminate underneath. This allowed for a gap between the flooring and fireplace but, once caulked, made the transition look seamless.”
The pair spent about $2,800 on the fireplace and floor makeovers.
And with the flooring and the fireplace done, it was time for furniture. The couple used a mix of new and thrifted items. They wanted to define the long space, so an L-shape sectional, matching chair, and a rug from Albany Park kept the space open but defined. The tables and consoles were Facebook Marketplace finds that they upgraded with a coat of paint.
“The goal for the artwork was to keep the budget low while also putting up art with meaning,” Kari says. The pair achieved this by finding thrift shop artwork that depicted their New Mexico landscape. And they made the biggest piece of art themselves with drywall mud and acrylic paint.
Once a dark space, the living room is now so much lighter. “I think the best thing about the room is how much brighter and more inviting it was than before. The sunlight reflects off the laminate flooring, the marble tile on the fireplace, and the newly painted white walls,” Kari says. “Now, when you walk into the house, the first impression is one of comfort and relaxation.”
Kari’s advice for people who are looking to renovate? “Don’t be afraid to DIY; if you mess up, you can always redo it and you’ll learn for the next time. There are nearly unlimited resources for DIYers, and by saving on labor, you give yourself some wiggle room in the budget when you find the perfect couch,” Kari points out.
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