Before and After: A Rustic-Themed Living Room Gets a Minimalist Redo Filled with DIYs

published May 3, 2023
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About this before & after
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Renovation with tin ceilings before renovation.

Whether you’re buying or renting, it’s totally valid to decorate a home for your own taste and not for a buyer or renter after you — after all, you’re the one spending time in your space every day, so you should create your dream home while you’re there! But since design taste is subjective, sometimes a dream “after” for one person is someone else’s “before.” While a previous homeowner may have loved their daring design choices, once they move out, the next person to move in might have totally different tastes and preferences.

When Preethi Nallalaguraja ( and her husband, Naveen, moved into their house, “the living room was designed with a ‘rustic cabin’ theme that was very picturesque and clearly required a lot of effort to create,” she says. “The walls were textured to resemble cement and had a variety of colors up close. The room also included stone cladding, weathered wood shelves, and a rusted metal sheet on the ceiling. Dried flowers were mixed with artificial plants and ferns hung from a rusted metal gutter, while a metal drain pipe was located in a corner.”

This wasn’t Preethi’s design style — she prefers something more minimalistic and airy — but she was able to look past the extreme rustic vibes and see the potential in the living room’s lofty cathedral-style ceilings and the natural light. “The rustic theme was very dark and heavy, with a lot of brown and earth tones,” she says. “It didn’t feel very inviting or welcoming to us. We wanted a space that was bright, open, and modern.” 

Preethi and Naveen also wanted a space that was comfortable and functional for spending time as a family. “The existing design had a lot of decorative items and did not fit our furniture style, which made it difficult to use the space effectively,” Naveen says.

The first step in making the living room more simple and family-friendly was ditching the metal ceiling detail. “Luckily my husband’s height came in handy, as he could reach everything with our 8-foot ladder,” Preethi says. Her husband had to be careful removing the rusty and sharp metal but did so unscathed, the only minor setback being that one of the metal pieces fell and took a chunk out of the floors. 

They had to patch screw holes, remove the plaster texture, and spray paint after removing the metal sheets, Preethi recalls. Once that was taken down, Preethi added shiplap to the ceiling. 

Preethi and Naveen also had to remove the texture on the wall; to do that, Preethi used a popcorn ceiling scraper, then applied drywall compound and sanded it down. Once the walls and ceiling in the “rustic section” were evened out, the rest of the redo was smooth sailing. 

Preethi and Naveen went with Behr’s Whisper White to refresh the walls and Ultra Pure White for the baseboards and trim. “I strived for balance in color, starting with a pure white base across the walls and drapes, which creates a sense of openness and airiness that blends equally well to a modern chic style.”

Next, it was time to move on to Preethi’s favorite part: furnishing the place. She made an epoxy and pine coffee table and a pine blanket ladder that doubles as a floor lamp. She also painted the large artwork beneath the landing — and she built the canvas! Finally, she DIYed the tray, test tube vase, basket-turned-side table, and the pampas grass decor. 

Preethi’s statement light fixture is from Amazon, and so are her sofa and accent chairs. “We intentionally avoided having a TV in the room, as we prefer to chat with each other and engage in conversations with friends and family,” Preethi says, adding that she’s proud of her calm-with-pops-of-color result.

“The pops of color come from wood tones, blacks, golds, and the lush green of live tropical plants scattered throughout the décor,” she says. “The design reflects our personalities, and the DIY elements add a touch of uniqueness and personality to the space.”

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