OUR LIVING ROOM RENOVATION.
*This post features a gifted collaboration with West Elm.
Covid has apparently unleashed a decorating beast in me. And now I’m itching to get every room in the house feeling more like us.
I’m so pleased to say the living room has now been ticked off that list!
When we viewed the house, everything was perfectly liveable. There’s not really going to be any garish makeovers here. The previous decoration is pleasant enough. But it definitely doesn’t have our stamp on it. Which is something I feel is really important to making a house a home. I want to feel my personality within the walls, feel calm and peaceful when I enter a room and ultimately feel proud of our space.
I wasn’t sure whether to share this transformation on here. When we decided on what we were doing, it didn’t really feel like as much of a project as the bathroom. But now it’s complete, I can’t believe how wildly different it feels. And I thought it might be beneficial to share those little finite details with you, too. I suppose I’m learning a renovation doesn’t have to mean knocking walls down to make it a big impact.
So I’ll stop babbling and get to it.
Sure, it has our furniture in. But I can’t explain how far away it felt from our kind of space. Blue denim wallpaper is getting a solid no from me. Although, I have been super surprised by how many people have really loved it in real life! It’s funny how our tastes differ so drastically isn’t it?
This room was a true case of suck it and see.
Immediately I knew the carpet had to go. With three corgis the fluff levels are rife. And the previous owner had a dog too. The carpet was filled with dirt and dust and the colour just meant it never came up looking anything other than a bit shabby. We actually ripped the carpet up at the beginning of lockdown, so had the bare floorboards for a while before this work started!
Adding character felt important to us. It’s a victorian property, and apart from the high ceilings and fireplaces, you wouldn’t necessarily know that when you’re inside. I didn’t want to go crazy, so opted for a picture rail and ceiling rose to inject some period character whilst remaining modern in aesthetic.
Both Jamie and I love an exposed brick wall and it was with quick agreement we decided to see what laid beneath the denim wallpaper and plaster on the chimney breast. It’s a risky business, because you can never guarantee what state the bricks will be in underneath and it could involve a hell of a lot of work if it’s not in a good state. But, we’re chancers and you’ll have to continue reading to see if the risk paid off.
Radiators. Who knew they’d be such a bone of contention? The ones throughout the house remind me of the style you’d find in university halls. They heat the house, but they look pretty hideous. We made the decision that as we decorated each room, we would replace the radiators one by one. Keeping initial costs down but keeping continuity throughout. And they absolutely have more of an impact on design that you’d think.
So, they’re the main design choices. Seemingly simple, but I think all have made a huge impact.
WHAT LIES BENEATH?
We were incredibly lucky that the original floorboards were underneath the carpet. In impeccable condition, varnished and ready to go. I honestly can’t believe anyone would cover them up. There were a few repairs needed to one of the corners; but asides from sinking the nail heads, they were perfect.
The chimney breast. What a messy little monkey that was. When exposing a wall, be prepared for a hell of a lot of dust. We removed all of the furniture from the living room, but in all honesty we could’ve done with a completely empty house. The dust was everywhere. But, we struck gold again with what was underneath. A few blown bricks, sure. But for me they added character and as a whole, we couldn’t have asked for more.
A top tip (passed on from my aunty!) – when dust is going to be an issue, have a water bottle at the ready. Pop it on a mist sprits and spray into the air throughout the day. It helps to catch the dust in the air and bring it to settle on the floor, rather than the walls and other objects!
The main wall underneath the wallpaper was also in great condition. The previous owners had applied the paper straight onto the plaster and Jamie managed to get it off really easily, leaving us with a blank canvas for him to paint.
We were fortunate enough to work with West Elm on the furniture side of things. Any pieces from them are gifted and we’re so grateful for their support. They’ve really helped bring this room to life.
With regards to delivery and the pandemic, we couldn’t have asked for more. They arrived on a specific day, chosen by us. We were given a time slot closer to the day and they called when they were half an hour away. Both guys wore masks, and entered the house only through the back into the lounge, so they didn’t need to go into any other rooms. They brought all the furniture inside, checked it off and built anything that needed assembling. It was seamless and stress free.
The furniture itself is of such brilliant quality – I already own quite a few staple pieces from them and they really stand the test of time. I’ll link everything individually for you at the end of the post if you’d like to browse the collection in further detail. I couldn’t recommend them enough!
We kept a few pieces of our old furniture, too. The tv unit, coffee table and armchair are all things we really love. And they still fit seamlessly in the new design.
The Chimney Breast
The chimney breast. My new love. LOOK AT IT. I’m obsessed. We had our usual decorator do this part of the job for us. Although he’s used to wallpapering and painting, he’s also a dab hand at literally everything else. He was really excited about exposing the wall and he’s done a stellar job.
Once all the plaster was off, he repointed the brickwork and applied new mortar. I chose a lighter shade to brighten up the bricks and I think it looks gorgeous. The previous owners had used white paint on the inside of the chimney breast (WHY) and it was incredibly difficult to get off. At one point we thought we were going to have to tile the fireplace, which I was quite bummed about. But, he did it!! It took a whole working day to remove it with power tools and metal plates, but I’m really grateful for the hard work because the finished product is so lovely.
The bricks were then covered in a sealant. To help keep their quality and to reduce that nasty dust coming off them. The walls surrounding it were then re-plastered ready for painting.
The need for a new woodburner was actually what inspired us re-doing the living room. When we first moved in we had an absolute nightmare with our fireplace and stove. We had to have a lot of work done, including a new flu to the chimney – and we got Rich in to do the job. Once it was fixed, he advised us to look at getting a new woodburner. The current stove was too large for the room. It wouldn’t burn efficiently because the room didn’t have the suitable ventilation to power it – I mean, it’s blooming massive isn’t it?! Once we’d saved enough to replace the stove and get the building works done it was all systems go. We replaced the dodgy concrete hearth with some simple black tiles. I really wanted to let the chimney breast do the talking here!
We picked the ceiling rose and picture rails from B&Q – cheap and cheerful. I really love how the period features of both, along with the floorboards, balance out the more minimalistic style we’ve gone for with the furniture.
THE END RESULT
And that’s it! What do you think of the transformation? I’m so pleased with how it’s all come together. Sitting in here feels so tranquil and lovely now.
I’m so incredibly grateful to have collaborated with West Elm on this room. So a huge thank you to them for bringing my vision to life and to our tradesmen who went above and beyond to achieve the finished look.