Our Living Room From Beginning To End


Last week, I shared lots of before and after pics of our newly finished living room. I always love a good before and after, but those often fail to convey the struggle in getting from the before to the after. And while some rooms are pretty straightforward in the path from the original state to the finished state, that doesn’t describe my living room at all. There was nothing straightforward about the journey from original to finished in this room. I took so many winding paths, had so many failed attempts, and experienced so much frustration along the way.

It literally took years for me to find my vision for this room, and I know many of you can relate to that. So I wanted to take a look back and not just compare the original room to the final room, but actually take a look at the process along the way. It’s a very winding trail, and even this is only part of the story. These are just the highlights of years of misdirection, indecisiveness, failed attempts, all mixed with some true progress and necessary steps (like new drywall and lighting) all along the way.


August 2013

Here’s how the room looked when we moved in — green carpet, off-white walls, mismatched windows (some original, one aluminum), old curtains, polystyrene ceiling tiles, and a window unit air conditioner.

living room - before 2

September 2013

I removed all of the green carpet and refinished the hardwood floors underneath. This first time around, I used Waterlox on the floors. Waterlox has its advantages, but the floors got more orange as time went on.


November 2013

This was the first iteration of the living room. This was a quick fix, which I called Phase 1, and certainly not meant to be a permanent design. I just wanted to get paint and a chair rail on the walls, and get some furniture in the room so that it would be usable. But why did I go with brown walls? That doesn’t seem like me at all.


November 2013

I rearranged the furniture. I tried many different furniture arrangements after this, but interestingly, I wound up back at this arrangement in the end.


December 2013

I made window treatments for the living room — pinch-pleated draperies for the front windows, and relaxed Roman shades for the side windows, further solidifying this color palette that seems nothing like my style and taste.


January 2014

I finally had enough of the brown walls (thank goodness!) and painted the walls dark teal. While I no longer have dark teal walls in my living room, this color — Behr Mythic Forest — is prominent throughout our house.


February 2014

I built the original version of the fireplace. I wasn’t able to build the overmantel at this time because the eroom still had the original polystyrene ceiling tiles, so I didn’t want to build anything that would go all the way to the ceiling.


March 2014

The room still had the original mismatched windows and polystyrene ceiling tiles, so this was as finished as the living room was going to get at that time, complete with painted sofa.


October 2014

I added some trim to the fireplace to make it look much more traditional look.


April 2015

The polystyrene tiles (and old drywall) on the ceiling were finally gone! With the help of my father-in-law, we had all new drywall, as well as new recessed lights.


September 2015

My father-in-law came back, and we redrywalled the walls in the living room. Here’s with the old drywall removed and the shiplap underneath exposed.


September 2015

Before the new drywall went up, I decided that there needed to be an opening between the kitchen and the living room. It’s hard to believe that these rooms were so closed off from each other. Now, this opening seems like it was always there.


October 2015

The old windows were finally replaced with new windows.


January 2016

Since the room had new drywall, I was finally able to build an overmantel on the fireplace.


March 2016

I added picture frame molding to the walls, and painted all of the walls white. This was back when I tried to turn the room into a dining room. That didn’t quite work out. 😀


March 2016

I decided I couldn’t live with stark white walls, so I painted the walls above the chair rail a pale green.


May 2016

Still planning to use the room as a dining room, I made black and white striped draperies for the room.


November 2016

I decided to give up on the idea of turning the room into a dining room, and started making plans to use it as a living room.


November 2016

I painted the fireplace gray. It was a huge fail.


November 2016

I painted the fireplace a darker gray. It was much better than my first attempt.


December 2016

I made new draperies for the room. This was attempt #2 for the windows.


December 2016

I decided that picture frame molding just didn’t work in this room (there was too little wall space and way too many things like doorways, windows, and a fireplace to work around, so it looked way too busy).


December 2016

I painted the room…again. This time I went with an icy light blue.


February 2017

I refinished the floors for a second time, and this time I used a multi-step process using Minwax stain and polyurethane. The color turned out much better this second time.


November 2017

I had yet a new wall color (is this the fourth?) and some new furniture. I was still flailing a bit with the room, but I had at least finally stumbled upon the rug that would lead me to the final design of this room.


January 2018

I finally landed on the right fireplace color (for me). It’s a custom color that I mixed myself, and then had color matched at Benjamin Moore. Things were finally heading in the right direction.


April 2018

I tried one more window treatment idea that didn’t make the final cut – DIY lined draperies with Greek key trim.


October 2019

I got a new sofa and new fabric for the curtains. Things were finally starting to fall into place. BUT…I tried this furniture arrangement, which I loved at first, but didn’t work out in the long run.


November 2019

I got the pink curtains finished (except for the hem), and I really feel like this was the turning point. After seven years of struggling and struggling and being incredibly frustrated with this room, these pink curtains seemed to bring some long-needed clarity.


May 2021

With a new furniture arrangement, a few pieces of new furniture, and some finishing touches, the room was finally finished.

finished living room - 15

I was a long and winding path, and I struggled more with this room than I ever have with any other room in my life, but the struggle was worth it.

If you missed the before and after post (which just focuses on the lots of before pictures and many more after pictures, and not much of all of this in between), you can find that here.





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