The living room has come a long way. Not all the way to completion mind you, oh no, not ever. But certainly a far cry from when I first laid eyes on it. We started here:

Looking at this picture is surreal. We were so full of excitement at homeownership, not yet jaded by costs and time and the general stress of it all. We were downright gleeful eating our McDonald’s and ripping out that carpet, sitting on those patio chairs. I purchased those two yellow pots for the front porch from Smith & Hawken before we even closed on the house. Silly me thought we’d be working on the yard in no time!

We gave everything a good scrub, took down those dusty curtains and hung temporary paper blinds in their place. (Little did we know those blinds would hang for two years!) Then we moved in.

What happened next was chronicled on this very blog oh so long ago, here, here and here.

After which we were left with this, and it stayed this way for a very long time. Until we found ourselves with a baby en route and simply could put it off no longer. It was straight-up dangerous with that exposed fireplace and no flooring.

Enter a good friend and carpenter who happened to stop by one afternoon to talk shop with Mike. He took a look at our wall and I told him my plans to replace the bookcases and add a mantle and somehow put the TV up there because the room is so small and we need all the floor space we can get, and how should I reframe those windows and blah blah blah. His response? I could do that for you, totally easy, no big deal.

Our jaws dropped. Are you serious? Are you some sort of angel sent from above? YES! YES! YES! Was our resounding reply.

What followed has been a couple years worth of random weekend drop-ins, each one with another step towards progress. I mean, he’s a busy man with a full-time job and a family and a serious commute. I get it. And we are very happy with the results. What’s left to do is attach plate rail across the windows/wall and trim out the bottom of the cases and we can call this a wrap.

Verdict: LOVE. They are aesthetically simple and very functional. The varied heights are more interesting than what was there. The glass doors are a nice touch and the bottom cupboards are great storage. Our friend built and installed the cabinets and mantle. What did Mike and I do?

• Cut the fireplace tile down by one and a half rows so that the TV wouldn’t be too high.
• Added insulation to the flue, sealed off the smoke chamber of the fireplace with a board since there was no damper. Should be added we also put a steel cap on the chimney outside, per our inspector’s suggestion.
• Caulked and painted everything—walls, trim, bookcases, mantle, tile and inside of the fireplace.
• Hung some doggone blinds, thank you very much

The built-in on the left houses our photo albums, some books and DVDs in the bottom. Baby-proofed or else I’d be picking up DVDs every. single. day.

The bookcase on the right gets a little more action, being near Thora’s play zone.

The top shelves I use to display objects inspiring to me—a collection of mini-zines, my favorite Campus Cuties etc. It’s a work-in-progress. These shelves are not nearly full enough!

The bottom is all Thora, all the time. Books, puzzles, crayons. This is her hub. She loves it. She opens those doors with ownership. She knows how not to pinch her fingers and sometimes, if I’m lucky, she’ll even put some stuff away.

The rest of the living room follows suit. Half for Thora, half for Mommy and Daddy. I hope to one day remodel the addition on the back of our house into a playroom/guest room/home office and all of this will move back there. Until then, this works out dandy.

Here is her little Kritter table and chairs set from Ikea. That doll was a birthday gift, handmade in my hometown and others are available here. Apparently her name is Meep.

On the opposite wall is an Expedit bookshelf full of toys. Expedit is a requirement for all 21st Century parents, don’t you think? This is one of two that we own. The other is in her room and doubles as a bench. That glider has got to go. It served its purpose for nursing and things, but today it is a hazard. I’d like to replace it with a pair of chairs and have been on the prowl for ages.

I love this lamp. What should I fill it with?

What’s next? After finishing the bookcase wall of course…

A new couch. I hate that couch. I am so over that couch. It’s a pullout that we bought when we first moved to Northern California. It was from the clearance section of a now-defunct Levitz. And I hate it. We used to have this amazing sofa from Williams Sonoma that I got off of craigslist when we lived in San Diego, but it didn’t fit in the moving truck! Tragedy.

Obviously, the floors need to be refinished. I’m actually glad we didn’t do this right away. If we had I would’ve stained them very dark. Today, I would do a lighter, slightly grey, walnut look. Cha-ching.

New windows of course. I’d like to do real wood windows here and in the dining room, since they are part of our curb appeal. Then vinyl throughout the rest of the house.

Decorate! We need art in this room. Bad. Some personalization would be ever clever.

Gone is the shag, the popcorn, and of course, the rotten wall. In its place is an in-between room, a make-do. Livable, but not designed. I think it’s a far cry from where we started!


  • Found you via AT this morning, and just want to tell you: I really like your blog. Love your aesthetic: livable but not designed. We have a similarly slow-but-steadily-in-progress home. OK, maybe not always steadily. But for sure usually slow! Looking forward to reading more.

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