Do you love a good Cinderella story? A before and then a happily ever after complete with a wave of a magic wand? Oh good. Because I have a few that I am going to be sharing over the next month or so. Starting with a peek at the living room in all of that ‘before’ glory from back in the day…
Do you have a junk drawer? One that has bits of random ‘junk’ that somehow seems to multiply while in there? And then before you know it- that handful of junk becomes a drawer full. Well, the good news is that junk drawer is a junk drawer no more.
And in other news- tucked inside that drawer I found several tidbits of treasures from the past. And even better- I found several rooms full of those before shots- including the little cottage bedroom- which you might not believe when you see it.
But today it is all about the Living Room.
You see the living room often here- it is a main room that we live in often and so, I am always styling it or grabbing a simple photo to share. And today- I am showing you what it looked like BEFORE the fairy Godmother and her magic wand came along… unfinished ceilings, broken windows, and single light bulbs on a wire & all.
Of course that magic wand looks like a lot more like elbow grease, blood, sweat and tears and years of work. And while the living room was not nearly as in disrepair as the rest of the house (the bathrooms were a full of things that make you shudder) it did have those same broken windows, water damaged hardwood floors and unfinished ceilings as the rest of the house.
But you know what… I didn’t see all of that. I mean, I did see it of course, I just looked past it and focused on the good points. The knotty pine walls. The hardwood floors. The huge fireplace. And the view outside those tiny windows that looked out to the back acreage of the property.
It is a good thing that I was able to focus on those good points- because now I know just how much work it was to get this basket case of a house to be livable and knowing that now- I might have paused before jumping in. Or maybe not. I do like a good diamond in the rough and tend to believe whole heartedly in something that just needs some love to shine.
So come on in and see the house as we saw it back in the day- minus all the broken old furniture that was in this room- which we removed right after we closed.
If you are new here- the house was a vacation home in the country and was never lived-in full time. When no one was here- it appears to have been vandalized over the 60 years it sat here.
The Front Door
We had two of them really.
One right next to the other on a different wall. One entered into the kitchen and had a padlock to keep it closed. The second was this door complete with carved ‘Crests’ on it that entered into the living room.
We affectionately have called it the Viking Door- because our realtor said ‘Nice door… if you are a viking’ when we first looked at the house. The viking door did not have a key and was not functional. You had to unlock the padlocked door and lock it back up when leaving until the front door was fixed.
The door was thick old wood- but heavily damaged and you could actually look right through some of the cracks and see inside. (trying to show close ups of details is not easy when you didn’t take close ups back.in.the.day.)
The Living Room Before
Once inside- you can see the room was full of old knotty pine walls and that lovely shade of orange stain. And no crown trim on that unfinished ceiling.
Which at first- we weren’t too concerned about living with until we could afford to buy all new trim for the house. Until a week after we moved in. We were sitting on the sofa with the kids watching t.v. one evening when a bat flew out from the attic through the cracks at the top of the boards- right from that corner over there behind the door. It flew round and round in the living room while I grabbed the kids and ran to the bathroom and locked us all in the shower until my husband could get it out of the house. Apparently I tend to believe that if you hide in the bathroom when a bat gets in the house – you are safe. I have no reasoning for that but I have done it twice now. We didn’t realize that the knotty pine boards simply stopped at the top- and there were small gaps above them and above the top sill boards – open to the attic space and the outside of the house.
We spent the better part of the rest of that night with allllll the lights in the house on -while we ‘stuffed’ all of the tops of those boards with newspaper and insulation – and yes, the new trim boards moved to the TOP of the list on things we were going to tackle first and were covered up immediately.
Fun fact- when we pulled the top trim off to see what was under that sheetrock ceiling many years later- we found that quick fix newspaper ‘insulation’ again. The ceiling was unfinished sheetrock- at the time we didn’t think much about the sheetrock either- but it was not in all the rooms- most of them had wood ceilings or an acoustic type ceiling tile. But it appears that someone along the way started to update a couple things.
Unfinished Ceilings & single bulbs
Along with that unfinished ceiling- came that lovely trademark that was in almost every one of the rooms. A single lightbulb hanging from a wire for the lighting. I have no reasoning for the thinking behind those light ‘fixtures’ either. haha. On the other side of the room- a large window and a small window on the end wall were all that was there. You can’t see from the photos too well but the flooring was quite water damaged unfortunately- and the bid to have it professionally refinished meant we were waiting a bit or tackling it ourselves. Another FUN project.
Really, though, as I mentioned- this room was in fairly decent shape compared to the rest of the house. Aside from the things that were unfinished and the broken windows- it was mostly functional and the fireplace and heater worked perfectly.
So it was a diamond in the rough- but not nearly as rough as the other rooms in the house. So what does the living room look like now? You are probably already very familiar with how it looks but I will show you a few comparisons to really show how much it changed. (some photos are from my book)
The Front Door
The viking door is now a dutch door- and is just a door to the front patio area. We have added an entry and french doors at the other end of the room where there used to be a small window.
Style Tip: A charming door like a dutch door is perfect for adding French farmhouse charm to your home.
The French Doors
This is the small window and air conditioner view-
now French doors and the dining room. We added two sets of French doors- one on each side of the fireplace that replaced two small windows. Aside from adding a ton of light- they are also wonderful for opening up the room and letting the breeze in.
Style Tip: French doors in place of windows are a good way to bring in more sunshine and light- and also connect the inside living spaces with the outdoor living spaces.
That light bulb and unfinished ceiling? Now exposed beams and a chandelier. We uncovered the beams under that unfinished sheetrock and brought them back out into the open. The original ceiling area is 4″ wood pine planks that we painted Simply White.
Style Tip: Exposed beam ceilings are quintessential French style. Whether you have original beams, new beams or faux beams- adding those can make your room feel completely different. You can also use a ceiling finish such as planked wood, beaded board or even wallpaper and add that interest as well.
The fireplace is the same- we did re-do some of the wood front back.in.the.day- but getting ready for a change there again.
Style Tip: A fireplace is a focal point in a room in addition to being something that brings ambiance and warmth. If you don’t have a wood burning fireplace- you can create a similar warmth and look with a mantel and logs & twinkle lights in the ‘fire box’.
And the view into the new entry-which was once a window-(that small peek of a window on the right side of this photo) is now a room filled with windows and French doors and a large opening flanked with antique doors.
Style Tip: Use Architectural elements like old antique doors – they add interest and a French flair even if they are merely decorative.
As I mentioned- we had to re-do the floors. They were quite gouged and damaged from water – we sanded them down and refinished them twice and are not able to sand down again- the individual hardwood pieces sit directly on the floor joists- no underlayment in the house.
The wrap up
All in all- this room was not too terrible in the overall of the house. Some of the rooms were absolutely downright what in the world happened here scary looking. With a bit of vision and a a few gallons of primer and paint- this room became what we thought it could be.
I love the old and original of this room and am so glad that we didn’t try to take it into the ‘modern’ look that everyone thought it needed to be beautiful. And I love that we were able to incorporate some of that ‘vintage and French style’ that I love so much with various elements and decor.
What do you think of how this room turned out? Stay tuned for the next installment of ‘Before & After’ and if you find that elusive magic wand anywhere- send it my way. We have a few fun projects coming up that would be great to wave a few sprinkles of magic and fairy dust on to wrap up. 🙂
You can see more of our living room and home in my books