One Room Challenge

Before and After: A Closed-Off Living Room Gets an Airy, Open New Look

published Aug 5, 2022
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About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Living Room
Organic Modern
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Post Image

Some rooms come with great bones: high ceilings, lots of natural light, functional fireplaces, and so many other desirable features. Brittany McNab’s (@hurryhometoyou) living room was one such room, with ample space, large windows, and a stone fireplace.

One problem, though: There was a wall with a low threshold that cut the room off from the rest of the home. “We knew that if we took down the wall that separated it from our main floor, added beams, a bigger closet and built ins, and updated all the surfaces and trim, we could make it a statement room with a big impact,” Brittany says. “This room had so much potential.”

Over the course of five months, she and her husband (with some professional help) knocked out the wall, updated the beige trim on the windows, replaced the flooring with a lighter vinyl option, and modernized the corner fireplace, in addition to sprucing up the decor and adding some architectural interest.

“We brought in outside help for some of the electrical and the drywall taping,” Brittany says. “My husband Taylor is a carpenter, so he did all the framing, boarding, installs, and finishing of the space.”

Brittany and Taylor started by taking down the front wall, then took out the flooring and the trim. “I love that there is a beautiful sightline right from the front door,” Brittany says of the result.

Because they took out a coat closet when knocking out the front wall, they built a new closet and made space for built-in cabinet storage and a drywall arch on the righthand side of the room. “During this step, we roughed in the electrical for the integrated under-cabinet and under-shelf lighting and sconce that would be installed on the built-in wall,” Brittany adds. “We then boarded the arch and the closet and had a professional taper come in and do all the mudding work that needed to be done in the space.”

After that, the couple painted everything white (Sherwin-Williams’ Snowbound). Then they installed faux beams and stained them — Brittany’s least favorite parts of the project. “We would never recommend staining beams in place ever again,” she says. “There was a lot of reaching above our heads and getting on scaffolding and tall ladders in order to reach the top of our ceiling.”

After the beams were done, they moved on to installing the built-in storage, made from 15-inch IKEA kitchen cabinetry. “My husband made a little platform for them to sit on to raise them up, then we attached them in place,” Brittany says. “In between the built-ins, we thought that would be the perfect spot for an X-shaped wine rack. My husband made that wine rack, and as luck would have it, we had the exact color that matched our built-ins on hand, so we painted and sealed it and slid it into place. It had to be a very tight exact fit to fit into that spot, and it fit like a glove.”

The alcove is Taylor’s favorite part of the space. “Arches are tricky, and he’s really proud that he was able to build in that in and have it look like it really belongs with the house,” Brittany says.

Originally, they planned on adding a butcher block countertop to the built in cabinets, but then Brittany decided quartz would look better. “We reached out to a local place and were able to pick out a 16-inch deep remnant to use,” she says. The place we worked with was actually awesome. They were able to template, fabricate, and install in the same week!” To finish off the built-ins, Brittany and Taylor made floating floating oak shelves that are stained to match the floors.

“I had really wanted this beautiful sconce that I found, but it was $1,200, which was just way out of our budget,” Brittany says. “I ended up transforming a $25 sconce I grabbed from Amazon with Rub N’ Buff and an oversized globe light bulb. It looks so similar to the one I wanted for a fraction of the price!”

Another budget-friendly save was the fireplace. “We had to get creative,” Brittany says. “I wanted a white stone look that would fit into our light and bright aesthetic, so without really having any experience or seeing many projects like what I had in mind, I decided that I was going to over-grout the fireplace, and then paint it with a white wash. I got some large tile and stone grout and went to work essentially shoving it in all the large cracks of the stone fireplace like I was icing a very large, very craggy, cake. Then, I took some masonry paint which we had color-matched to our walls, watered it down, and painted it overtop the stone.”

Brittany’s experiment paid off: “The result was this really organic looking, white stone fireplace,” she says. “I assumed that anything would look better than what was there, but I never imagined we would like as much as we do now.”

The remainder of the room was completed for the One Room Challenge after a lot of the bones were set in place for the room. “We installed box trim, new lighting, made built-in wood storage, built our own side table and coffee tables, and furnished and styled the room for the challenge,” Brittany says. Her new decor includes a curvy black sconce from Article new rug and blanket ladder from Wayfair, and hand-sewn pillows.

She’s pleased with the total transformation of the room: “It looks so inviting and cozy at the same time. … We chose furnishings that were light and fresh but feel very warm and cozy. We love just sitting in this room, or being able to work in the kitchen and have our daughter play in this room right next to us. This is the first room you see when you enter our house and it really represents us and welcomes the people who enter our home … This room is one that we will hang out in with our family and friends, have fires in the winter, mix drinks on the bar, and listen to records together in. We decided not to put a TV in this room so it’s really a room that we can unplug in and connect in.”

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