Before and After: $850 Later, a Blank Living Room Is Unrecognizable — and Majorly Cozy

published May 2, 2023
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About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Living Room
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Media room with television on media console before renovation.
Credit: Darya Karas

To create a cozy space, you’ll need a few ingredients: natural textures, lots of seating, lots of cushions, and ways to create warmth — be it through blankets, lighting, or a fireplace (real or faux). Of course, that’s all just a starting point; for more ideas, check out these 10 little ways to make your space cozier.

DIYer Darya Karas’s living room redo uses all of those ingredients and more to create a quintessentially cozy room out of a blank box — and on a shoestring budget at that.

Credit: Darya Karas

“This room was about as lackluster as it could be when I first bought my home,” Darya explains. “Two outdated bright brass sconces, a typical overhead boob light, unfinished flooring, and bare walls really left the all-too-typical impression for every DIYer: ‘This space has so much potential!’”

Credit: Darya Karas

Darya liked that her living room was its own elevated space, and she knew she could create a cozy oasis with a little bit of ingenuity. She started with a fireplace: “A fireplace adds vibes to a room like nothing else,” Darya says. “A real gas or wood fireplace was out of the question for a number of reasons, but that’s the beauty of an electric fireplace! In the winter, I can have it blasting heat to warm up the room, and in the summer I can turn on the flames without raising the temp in the room any higher than it already is.” (And this was ideal for this room in particular, which used to be a porch and has very little temperature control.)

Once Darya found a fireplace on Facebook Marketplace for $500, her feature wall project began. “I built the entire thing myself other than the IKEA IVAR cabinets,” she says. “I started by building the framing for the fireplace wall, then covered that in cement backer board, glued on the faux brick, and then installed the cabinets and floating shelves and wrapped up with finish work like painting and installing the mantel.”

Credit: Darya Karas

Darya says she saved a lot of money on the project by sourcing materials secondhand. Her DIY advice is to “ALWAYS check Facebook Marketplace first for products and materials a week or two in advance depending on the timeline for a project.”

The supplies Darya bought for the project came in under $75, including the faux brick — both for inside and around the fireplace — the paint, and the TV mounting kit. (She used leftover plywood and lumber for the floating shelves and mantel, and she shopped her own home for the IVARs.)

Credit: Darya Karas

Darya says the easiest part of the project was tiling. “I found it almost therapeutic to glue each brick onto the wall,” she says. The most difficult part was working with the backer board and framing, especially because she was working with a slanted ceiling, which created some odd angles.

If she could change one thing about the project, it would be the paint and mortar finish on the brick. Her walls and cabinets are painted a creamy, cozy off-white (Sherwin-Williams’s Creamy), but the smear technique she used on the mortar “ended up being a little bit more farmhouse-looking than originally intended,” she says. “I was going for more of a modern traditional look.”

Credit: Darya Karas

Darya says she can always paint over it in the future for a more seamless look and that she’s still “obsessed with [her] choice to install an affordable faux brick.”

Five weeks later, at $850 total, and with added decor like books, artwork, plants, and lamps, Darya certainly created the cozy vibes she was after. “There’s nothing quite like cuddling up on a comfy couch with blankets and a fireplace,” she says.

Inspired? Submit your own project here.