Before and After: You Won’t Recognize This Living Space Now

published Jul 13, 2018
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(Image credit: Erika Thompson)

When reader Erika moved into this house, the living room was musty and dusty. But after four months and a ton of work (and a fair amount of money), this space is transformed and totally fresh.

It’s easy to look at that room before and assume the only issue with it is that it might not be someone’s taste. But here’s the truth, from reader Erika Thompson:

These are the pictures that were on the listing when we bought the house. It was so incredibly dated, smelled like dog pee, and literally everything had to go. The yellowy paint, crown molding and chair rails everywhere, the dusty and musty smelling drapes. There was nothing appealing about this room besides the large windows and amazing potential.

We bought this house knowing we would remodel the entire thing. This area was the first to go!

The windows are indeed fantastic—big windows on three sides of a room is such a luxury!

(Image credit: Erika Thompson)

If you’re a tiny bit confused about how this photo matches up with the top one, it might help to know that the wall dividing the kitchen from the living area was removed. Now there’s a lovely flow, and, more importantly, it’s possible to watch television while cooking and cleaning in the kitchen.

I love how the creamy walls help the natural light bounce around the space—they’re pale but not white—and how they’re balanced out by the warmth of the new wood (laminate) floor. The lovely rug adds coziness, and all of the black elements—the light fixtures, the legs of the stools and side table, the TV, the fireplace, the island—unite the various rooms. Black is enough of a neutral to not make the space look overly-coordinated, but bold enough to make an impact and draw the eye around.

(Image credit: Erika Thompson)

The living room is basically the first thing you see when you enter the home, which makes it even more understandable that redoing this area would be top priority. Erika shares what it took to transform the living room from musty to must-see:

From the day we tore down the main wall, to the day we finally finished the last details took just over four months. We spent about $20k and did the entire project ourselves with the help of lots of family and friends. Our biggest setback was [that] the wall we wanted to tear out was load bearing and required a beam. But now I could never imagine this space without the beam and LOVE the character it brings. Also the entire room was supposed to be open, but we found that the pipes for our radiant heating ran through the wall at the side of the island. We decided it wasn’t worth the money or time to move them so we had to leave a small wall that divides the kitchen and dining areas.

The results of the renovation are stunning, but of course they didn’t come cheaply—in time or labor: $20,000, plus Erika and Co. had to do all of the work themselves.

(Image credit: Erika Thompson)

There are some folks who hate the TV-above-the-fireplace thing, but I am not one of them. My philosophy is that sometimes it’s the only spot that makes sense to stick the television, having a TV and a fireplace is something to simply feel lucky about, and that it can look really cool, as it does here.

The new sofa is from Downeast, the rug is Safavieh from Amazon, the stools are Acme Furniture ACME Dora Oak Counter Height Chair (which appear to be out of stock everywhere), the floor is Home Decorators Collection from Home Depot, and the wall paint is BEHR Swiss Coffee.

IT’S SO HARD. I brought my newborn baby home to plywood floors and a half drywalled kitchen. But I knew it would all be worth it in the end. And it so is.

I love everything about the after. The space is so open and perfect for entertaining which is what we love to do.

Erika added a plot twist there at the end: the renovation was happening while a new baby was happening! That makes the timeline, and the results, all the more impressive.

Thank you, Erika!